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Lucas Cruikshank and "Fred: The Show"
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First, there were short YouTube videos. Then there was a movie. Then there was another movie. Where does a talented teen and his strange, hyper, lovable alter ego go next? To a TV show, of course! "Fred: The Show" premieres on Nickelodeon starting Monday, February 20 at 8pm ET/PT. Each episode of this new series is 11 minutes long and builds on Fred's adventures from the films.

fred_series_17HR.jpgAs you can tell from our previous interviews with Lucas Cruikshank, we're fans of Fred. Not just because Fred is funny, but because there's more to him than meets the eye. He's one of those characters that reminds us, it's okay to be different, and that we should never give up on something we want. We can't help but root for Fred because he's the underdog. Plus, we love the fact that Lucas has had such success from something that he originally did just for fun, and that he's managed to stay totally down-to-earth and focused.

We checked in with Lucas about this next stage of Fred-dom!

IML: Where in the timeline of Fred's previous adventures does "Fred: The Show" fall?  

Lucas: Fred is now in high school.  I would say about a year has passed since when we last saw Fred in the second movie.

IML: Each episode is 11 minutes long. Is it challenging to come up with stories that can be told in that length of time?

Lucas: Coming up with ideas isn't really challenging.  In fact, it's been going really smoothly and the episodes are turning out great!

IML: Where do you get your ideas for each Fred "adventure"?

Lucas: Random things inspire me!  Sometimes, as I'm falling asleep, ideas for stories will just starting popping into my mind.

IML: How is the process of shooting and editing this series different from the previous videos you've done?

Lucas: The biggest difference between the online Fred videos and the series is that the show is a much longer process.  While making the Internet videos was a two hour process, shooting a TV episode is much more involved than that.

fred_series_18HR.JPGIML: Any hints on what we can expect from Fred -- is he going to try something different, meet someone new, or go somewhere exciting and strange?

Lucas: In the show, Fred is just experiencing high school and running into crazy situations.  There's never a dull day with Mr. Figglehorn.

IML: What's been your biggest "Fred highlight" of the last year?

Lucas: The premiere of "Fred 2"! I was so happy it did well and so thankful for everyone who watched it.

IML: What can you tell us about your next project with Nickelodeon, "Marvin, Marvin"? It sounds great!

Lucas: "Marvin, Marvin" is a TV show about an alien who comes to live with a human family.  Marvin is an odd guy trying to learn the ins and outs of our world...and he spontaneously bursts into dance every once in a while, too.

IML: Thanks, Lucas, and good luck!

Lucas:
Thanks!

You can check out our interviews with Lucas about "Fred: The Movie" and "Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred."


Celeb Scoop: Lucas Cruikshank
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lucas-cruikshank.jpgA year ago, we had an awesome chat with Lucas Cruikshank, aka Fred Figglehorn of YouTube fame, right before "Fred: The Movie" made a big splash on Nickelodeon. Now, Fred is back in "Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred," which premieres tomorrow night, Saturday, October 22 at 8pm ET/PT. As if we didn't love the title on its own, this new Fred adventure also stars "Modern Family"'s Ariel Winter as Talia and "Victorious"'s Daniella Monet as Bertha.

Lucas checked in with us recently, talking about his new movie, the lessons we can learn from Fred and how this loveably annoying character came out of his struggles to deal with middle school bullying.

IML: Hey, Lucas! It's great to chat with you again. So tell us a little bit about "Fred 2"!

Lucas: "Fred 2" is a continuation of the first Fred movie, and he's still the same obnoxious Fred. It was really fun to shoot, but weird because it has a Halloween vibe and we had to shoot it in spring! I was so happy with the script and the director, and things came together really well. In this story, Fred has a neighbor who moves in next door to him, and he's really suspicious of the guy. He thinks the neighbor is up to no good and he tries to convince everyone else. It's just Fred getting himself into another mess!

IML: How have things changed for you in the last year, since the first "Fred" movie came out, became a huge hit, and knocked Fred into a different orbit of popularity?

Lucas: I was so grateful to all the fans who loved the first "Fred" movie, and a lot of people discovered Fred that way. It makes me so happy when kids come up to me and say they love the movie. It's just cool how we were able to transition it from the Internet to a more mainstream audience. In terms of my life, my life hasn't changed too much. I don't notice if the fandom has become more intense, because I feel like I live in a little bubble in my small town in Nebraska. I've known everyone here since I was born. I'm just Lucas to them and it's no big deal for them to see me!

IML: Do you feel more pressure to do things you haven't done before with Fred? Do you have to keep giving him new challenges?

Lucas: I don't ever want to bore the fans and do the same old thing. That's why on the Internet recently I've been trying new things. Fred has a Web show called "Figgle Chat" which is Fred's Internet talk show where he asks guests really obnoxious questions, and that's a way for fans to see him in a format online that's not video blogging. I definitely want to try new things and keep it all fresh, and keep the fans excited and engaged.

IML: Last year we talked about why Fred is so appealing. You said it was because people like to root for the underdog and Fred never gives up on what he wants. He's so persistent, and that's kind of inspiring! Do you think he's influenced kids and teens in a positive way, in addition to just making them laugh?

Lucas: I think as a character, Fred is obviously different. Fred could, if he wanted to, just hide who he really is and go to school and pretend he's Kevin and Judy and all of them. But instead, he is who he is. He doesn't change himself for anyone. And I think that's a good thing for all of us to see. We're always trying to be what is "normal" and we're so scared of what our peers will think of us if we do something we want to do and don't know if everyone will approve of it. So I think that's a good lesson to put out there.

IML: It is nice to see Fred just keep doing his thing, no matter what people think! At this point, it's been a few years since you created Fred. Do you feel like you have a split personality sometimes?

Lucas: Yeah, I'm actually surprised that I don't have a mental disorder by now! I feel like most of the world knows me by a name that's not my own. It's the weirdest thing. What helps is that when I go to my school in my hometown, nobody really talks about Fred and I like it like that. I still feel weird when people talk about Fred at school. I don't want to be viewed as an entertainer or an actor. I don't take it personally that some younger viewers don't even know that there is a Lucas -- they think Fred is a real person.

IML: Has Fred helped you, as Lucas?

Lucas: Definitely. In middle school, I was always kind of a loser in my class. I was really shy and weird, and I only had a couple of friends. That's when I started making videos, and I think it was a way I could just turn all that negativity off. I coped with the bullying by making people laugh and doing comedy, and getting totally engulfed in the comedy world. It was something to do and not worry about the pressures of people at school. I could just make videos and be creative.

IML: And we're glad you did! Okay, here's a fun Halloween question before we let you go. What was the most memorable Halloween costume?

Lucas: I would usually dress up as something funny. But one year, for a change I dressed up as something scary -- I don't remember exactly what it was, a demon or something like that. That was totally the most memorable because I wouldn't take myself seriously but that night I did, and I feel like it was the one time in my life when I was actually scary!

IML: Thanks, Lucas! Good luck with the movie...and Happy Halloween!

Lucas: Thank you!

Learn more about "Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred" at www.nick.com/


Celeb Scoop: Lucas Cruikshank (aka Fred Figglehorn)
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In 2008, Nebraska teenager Lucas Cruikshank was just doing what he loved to do: creating wacky characters, shooting funny videos, and playing around with special effects. When he started "blogging" as a hyperactive, anger-challenged, goofily upbeat kid named Fred Figglehorn, Lucas never expected anything to come of it except a few YouTube fans.

fred-the-movie-01-hr.jpgQuick-cut to two years later, and it's safe to say that Fred is one of the most popular Internet characters ever, with most of his videos racking up over 5 million views a piece. Starting Saturday night, September 18, Fred will jump from one screen to another with the premiere of Nickeodeon's "Fred: The Movie." Yes, it's more Fred doing his thing. But it's also a sweet story where we meet Fred's eternal crush Judy (played by British pop star Pixie Lott), his nemesis Kevin (Jake Weary), his mom (Siobhan Fallon), his dad (WWE star John Cena), and neighbor Bertha ("iCarly" star Jennette McCurdy). IML got to catch a sneak preview of the movie and whether you're a Fred fan or not, it's a fun time.

Yesterday, we spoke to Lucas about all things Fred and what this new stage of Fred-dom means to him!

IML: Hi Lucas! This is an exciting week for you. How do you feel?

Lucas: I feel anxious, but in a good way. I can't wait for all the fans to see the movie. I can't wait to see how they react.

IML: What would you like viewers to get out of the movie?

Lucas: Well, I definitely want them to like it. It's just a really fun story about this awkward teenager who's stuck in the mentality of a six-year-old. It has a lot for people who have always watched the videos, but also for people who've never seen a Fred video. I think they'll still like it because it's a story for everyone.

IML: It seems like you've been able to develop this character much more fully.

Lucas: You do get to see so much more of Fred than you see in the videos. In the videos, he's just video blogging by himself. He's always got an intense emotion, he's always ranting about something. In the movie, you get to see him when he's not video blogging - going to school, doing normal stuff. You get to see all the different layers of Fred rather than just the one note.

IML: Have you been developing Fred this way for a while, or did it unfold as you were working on the film?

Lucas: I've always known pretty much everything about Fred when I was doing the videos. He has this really specific story and he has all these traits. Since I'm the one who created him, I know his whole entire personality!

IML: Did you have any input on the movie's story, the other characters, and even the dialogue? It seemed so organic to the videos.

Lucas: I was very involved. We had this writer named David A. Goodman who did a bunch of "Family Guy" stuff and even worked on "The Golden Girls" so he definitely has a lot of experience. I was really excited when we got him to be involved in the project. He understood Fred and came into the meeting knowing everything about Fred. He really knew my vision of what I wanted to do with the character. Even after he'd write a draft of the script, he'd send it to me along with the other people on the project, and we'd all give notes. I'd tell him if something didn't sound right or if something needed to be changed. He was really open to my ideas. It could have gone really wrong but the stars were aligned or something, because it felt like the perfect team to do the movie!

IML: The tone of the movie is great, and it's really funny. What was your favorite part of the whole experience?

Lucas: It was amazing to see all these characters I'd created in my head come to life and be portrayed by such talented people.

fred-the-movie-06-lr.jpgIML: Were they close to what you had imagined?

Lucas: The casting for the whole movie was so dead-on. Especially Judy and Kevin and Fred's mom. Even the characters who aren't in there very much, like the pet store owners, were perfect. I was so happy with all the casting.

IML: Besides the voice and his mentality, how are you and Fred different, and how are you alike?

Lucas: I think we're different because I don't think I'd be able to be as fearless as Fred. He can just go to school and even though he's kind of an outcast, he still has this amazing confidence and he's always himself. He never really gives up. I wish I was more confident like Fred, but I'm not. I think we're kind of the same because we're both quirky, and we both live in our heads sometimes. We're big daydreamers.

fred-the-movie-08-hr.jpgIML: Why do you think he's struck such a chord with viewers, especially young people?

Lucas: I think people like watching an underdog go for it. That's what Fred is. He never gives up and he knows what he wants, and he tries every single day to keep at it.

IML: Plus, he's funny and makes people happy! We heard that you originally created him as a parody of all these kids out there who do video blogging, putting themselves online and opening up all the gory details of their lives. Then you hear news stories where that kind of thing goes very wrong. How do you create a balance between expressing yourself and having fun, and being smart when it comes to safety and privacy?

Lucas: We learned in school about privacy on Facebook, MySpace, and AIM, etc. so I've always been aware of that stuff. From the beginning of my "YouTube career," my parents have always been very involved in watching what I put on. They made sure I didn't say something that was inappropriate or revealed something about where we lived, and would ask me to cut something out if they felt it might be a problem.

IML: What's your advice for kids who would like to shoot and edit their own videos like you do, but don't really know where to start?

Lucas: If you're into writing and making people laugh, or just want to video blog something, you should get a simple digital video camera. And all computers now come with an easy video editing software program. Just mess around with that for a little bit, try to figure it out, then just put stuff online and have fun. Never give up! I think a lot of people have this idea that if you put something on YouTube you'll get famous overnight. It would be really great if that was possible, but that's not really how it works. I made these videos for fun and I never thought anything would happen from them, and for a year and a half nothing did happen. I had maybe 20 fans following the videos. But over time, it spread. You really just have to be having fun with it because otherwise, it's not worth it.

IML: Do you have role models when it comes to filmmaking?

Lucas: I've always loved John Hughes and his movies, like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "The Breakfast Club." I think he's an amazing filmmaker. And more recently, Judd Apatow. I really like his movies.

IML: Who do you look up to when it comes to comic actors?

Lucas: I would say Steve Martin, first of all. I've always loved his movie "The Jerk" and I think that influenced "Fred" a little. I love Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, and Ben Stiller, too.

IML: What's next for you?

Lucas: I have a deal with Nickelodeon for a sitcom, so I'm really excited about that. The cool thing for me is that I get to try something new. It's not going to be Fred, it's going to be a whole new character. It will be a chance for my fans to see me in a fresh way. I've met with a writer and right now they're working on the script, and we'll see what happens.

IML: We're sure people will like seeing you in a different role! That's probably good for your career, too. What would people be most surprised to know about you?

Lucas: "Fred" fans would be most surprised to know that when people meet me, they expect me to act like a crazy person, like Fred, but I'm really a normal guy and when I first meet you I'm sort of quiet. I'm not nearly as hyper as Fred. That always surprises people!

IML: It sounds like you have a lot of good things in store and we're sure people will like the movie. Congratulations! Thanks for taking the time to talk!

Lucas: Thank you!

You can get even more Fred-ified at www.nick.com/fred.

 




Celeb Scoop: Lauren Gottlieb
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Tonight! Will it be Lauren, or Kent, or Robert? Will there be stunning performances? Will Adam accidentally swear again? Will Mia be nice, or mean? Are you wondering what the heck we're talking about?

If you've been watching Season 7 of "So You Think You Can Dance" on Fox, then we don't sound so insane (hopefully). Tonight the final 3 dancers will compete for audience votes, and tomorrow we'll get to see the season's best routines performed again before the winner is announced. It's been a great season, in our opinion, with the addition of the "all-stars" (popular contestants from past seasons)...even though we still miss Alex Wong and found it a little strange that most of the girls got voted off first. If we had to bet, we'd put money on Kent Boyd as the champ, the "is he for real?" teen from Ohio; we would say, "Oh, he's just getting votes because all the young girls are crushing on him" but he's actually a fab dancer too.

lauren1.jpgFor us, the show has never been so much a competition as just a really great place to watch dancing, dancing, dancing. That's why we were extra-thrilled for the chance to chat with Lauren Gottlieb, an "all-star" who came back from Season 3 and who's gone on to develop a blooming career as a dancer, teacher, choreographer, and actor.

IML: What's it been like to come back to SYTYCD as an "all-star"?

Lauren: It's been so much more fun this time around than it was last time, as a contestant. We know the ropes now, we know what's happening. There's the fact that we're not getting judged or voted off, which is huge. With that weight off you, you can just perform and have fun. I'm also a teacher, so when you're with your contestant and you know what they need to work on from the week before, it's really exciting to try to pull that out of them, for the judges to look at them a completely different way.

IML: What kind of advice have you been giving to the contestants?

Lauren: Each person is totally different. For instance, when I did the Tyce Diorio jazz routine with Robert, we had lots of talks during the week we were partners. We talked about how his experience is, and how he feels, and it is very similar to how I felt on my season so I felt like I really knew who he was and what he's going through. I just really wanted him to forget about the judges when he went on stage and forget about the choreographers. It's really intimidating. You have some of the best choreographers in there watching you, and then you think about the millions of people who are also watching. It's overwhelming, but if you can get to a place where you can completely forget about that and just stay in the moment and have it be just you and your partner, you'll feel something completely different and magical and let yourself go. I would just talk to him and say, "When you stand up on stage, know you're a star, and when you give that aura off, people can't help but watch you." I was so happy because I saw Robert's eyes just light up and these walls sort of break down, and he went out and had his best week.

IML: As a teacher and a dance partner, that must have been a double experience for you.

Lauren: Yes...I love it. I feel like I've been there with each of one my partners. With Adechike, he had been so emotional in all his dances and when he got hip-hop with me, it was great to be goofy. I got to pull out the fun side in him. And Jose had never done contemporary and is not really a trained dancer, and to be like that and try to be intimate onstage, that was all something completely new to him. And fun to teach him.

IML: Do you have a favorite routine that you've done, and a fave that others have done?

Lauren: This season I think my favorite was that jazz routine with Robert because I just felt like we were really dancing. It wasn't about a story, it wasn't about gimmicks or anything. It was just true jazz, and it was fun to do that. Every one of them has been so memorable, though, in their own ways. The Stacey Tookey routine that Billy and Ade did was great, because their characters were so opposite and the contrast was great to watch. That was one of my favorites.

IML: How did you first get started dancing? When did you know you wanted to pursue it professionally?

lauren2.jpgLauren: I was seven when I started dancing. My mom put me in classes because I had two brothers, and I would run around and do the tomboy thing. Play baseball and karate and all that. She put me in dance and I really, really didn't like it. It was so closed up. I had a body like a gymnast so it was hard to move in certain ways. It took a long time. Actually, during my first recital I ran into the audience and my mom went to get me. She walked me out onstage and told me I had to finish it. She said when I came offstage I was completely different, I had a different look in my eyes. It never stopped from there. I jumped right into it. That moment, I'll never forget it and I still see it. I just knew it was what I was going to do.

IML: Was dance something you had to juggle with other things in your life?

Lauren: I felt like I needed to play catch-up and that's one of the reasons why I didn't like it at first, because everyone had been dancing since they were 3. Even though you can't really learn too much from age 3 to 7, I felt really behind. So I jumped right into being in a competition group, and I remember I would stay after all my classes and rehearsals and watch all the older girls and just kind of let everything soak in. And that was a big part of my training too, just to watch and be around it and study that way.

IML: Did you feel like you had to sacrifice other things as you got older?

Lauren: I sacrificed a lot at times, like when I got to high school. All throughout high school, I was traveling and assisting this dance convention. So I'd be gone almost every weekend. I'd come back on a Monday and everyone had inside jokes that I wasn't a part of and whatnot. I just kind of learned to accept that and know what I really loved to do. When I was dancing, the feeling that I got was so much more powerful than that. I had to let go of all the other stuff. As far as cheerleading and other things like that, I wasn't too interested. I don't feel like I gave up too much, and in the end it was totally worth it.

IML: What else did it add to your life back then?

Lauren: I felt like it was an outlet to let all of my hyper-ness and goofiness out in the beginning. It brought out a lot and taught me a lot about moving your body, knowing how your body moves to music, to really connect with yourself. And I was kind of fearless. As a dancer, you're throwing your body around so much, and when you walk around with bruises and battle wounds...you feel fearless. Most people growing up don't put up with that. Dancers are tough. It gives you this edge.

IML: Tell us a little bit about playing a member of rival show choir Vocal Adrenaline on "Glee." That must have been a really cool experience!

Lauren: It was really cool because we came in for the pilot. We had never seen the show before, and it was amazing to have Ryan Murphy (the show's creator) standing in front of you talking about how big this show's going to be. No ego involved, just true statement of fact. We just knew right away that the idea was brilliant, the choreography was great, and the characters were awesome. We just knew what it was going to be like. So to be on set and to work closely with all the actors and everyone, and see how generous everyone is after the take, when we're wrapped. Everyone is just friends. It was just a dream to be a part of it.

IML: Was it kind of like being in a real show choir? As a group you guys had to really come together to give off that energy.

Lauren: Totally. A couple episodes into it, we started being more and more into the Vocal Adrenaline part. We ended up having these cars with the license plates. We got our characters a little bit more and more, and then we did that great finale piece. We are like this big show choir!

IML: You've also been doing a lot of choreography. How does the process work, when you have to choreograph a certain style of dance for certain dancers?

Lauren: It's totally different for everyone, but the way I work, I get inspired by music. I think it's because I have to see the whole overall experience. When I was young, I always thought dance was just about the steps. But I'm realizing more and more how much of dance is about the moment and everything else comes into play. I kind of look at it more as a director, even the hair and the makeup and wardrobe...the right music and the right lighting. I'll start with a piece of music and kind of feel the vibe of it, and let it move me. I always want to be the instrument of the song and let it move me. That's how I work, but I know a lot of people who do steps first and then find the music.

IML: What else do you do to stay fit and healthy?

laurengottlieb_yoga.jpgLauren: I do yoga. It reminds me of some of my training when I was young. Because when you're in a dance studio and your teachers see you a few times a week, they really, really know you and watch over you. When I get into a yoga class, I feel like it's like that, plus yoga is as hard as you want to make it. It's completely up to you when you get in the zone and push yourself a lot more.

IML: We heard you're involved with an arts education foundation. What can you tell us about that?

Lauren: I'm involved with the Life Through Art Foundation, which helps hundreds of underprivileged kids per year. Kids who have the drive and the passion, but not the facilities or the right teachers. I've been doing a couple of things with them lately, teaching them and giving them dance classes. I put together this Michael Jackson medley number that we did at a charity event. I knew I wanted to make it extra fun and special for them, and to see their faces afterwards was amazing. They're so talented and it's so nice to go over there and give them something they're so worthy of.

IML: What is your advice for kids who want to get involved with dance but don't feel they have the talent?

Lauren: I've talked to a lot of people like that, and it's not necessarily that they don't feel they have the talent, but almost that it's too late for them to start dancing. So many people have the passion for it and can't stop talking about it, then they say, "I'm too old, I can't do it." You can start anywhere, and some of the most amazing people and successful dancers that I've met have actually started really late. I think it gives you a lot more of a commercial -- Mia Michaels would say "pedestrian" -- quality instead of being a trained technical dancer. I think if you want it, you take classes and let it sink in. It'll happen. Just enjoy it for what it is.

IML: If you're not clicking with a certain style, do you try to find another? How do you know what style of dance is right for you?

Lauren: You'll feel it. When I put heels on and do some ballroom, it's fun but it's not something that I feel like I would do every day. On the other hand, I love hip-hop. I love my tennis shoes, and dancing like a dude sometimes. I love that. Then you feel the soft contemporary and if you can connect to that, you'll feel it. I suggest trying every type of dance, because they're all totally different.

IML: What's next for you, after SYTYCD?

Lauren: I want to fulfill a couple of teaching arrangements that I have, maybe put together a few more. And then I'm getting a little bit more and more into acting. Hopefully I'll go further in that direction. I always say that the best dancers are the best actors. And being on the show this year has been a totally different experience than a couple of years ago. I feel like diving more and more into the characters. That's becoming the fun part of me. I'm looking forward to that!

IML: We're sure you'll continue to have a lot of interesting and exciting experiences doing that! Good luck with everything!

Lauren: Thank you!

Lauren answers advice and other questions from dancers and young people on her website, www.Lauren-Gottlieb.com.




"Glee" Season Wrap-up
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glee-cast.jpgDo you and your friends love "Glee"? Or are you already tired of hearing about it? Maybe you're not even allowed to watch it. Whatever your relationship with this phenomenon of a TV show, it's here for a while. Even though the season wrapped up last night, Fox will be rerunning episodes until fall and of course there will be a DVD release on top of all the songs already available on iTunes.

Over here at IML, we are solid "Gleeks". It's great entertainment, and we laugh and cry and sing along just like many of you probably do. Still, the show has its flaws, which can be frustrating. Now that McKinley High is out for the summer, we'd like to take a few moments to look at New Directions' first year.

The characters. One of the reasons why "Glee" works so well is the cast of characters (and the actors who play them). There's a good range of interesting personalities and backgrounds. Yes, a few of them are stereotypes. For instance, you could say Kurt is almost a caricature of a gay teen, but his struggle to be true to himself and his relationship with his dad is so compelling, we forgive him for being a little over-the-top. Mercedes and Brittany are also characters we've seen before. But sometimes good storytelling has to use characters like this in order to give the audience some familiar, relatable territory. For the most part, the "Glee" characters learn and grow, and occasionally surprise us. That's what keeps us watching.

The music. Well, duh. The music is awesome. Sometimes it's in a cheesy setting and sometimes it almost makes no sense. Like, the guys in the club are really going to completely dress up like Kiss and do a song? Mr. Schuester would really sing a sultry number to Sue Sylvester? Whatever. "Glee" is a musical, and like all musicals, you have to forget about reality and believability and just sway to the beat.

The storylines. Our biggest annoyance with "Glee" is that there will often be a fantastic episode that ends on a great note, with what they call "story arcs" nicely wrapped up, and then parts of that story will be totally forgotten. For instance, take the episode where New Directions figured out that they could beat Vocal Adrenaline by doing a funk routine. This episode ended with Jesse St. James and his fellow club members admitting to themselves that they were, in fact, "soulless automatons" and they could lose. It was a great moment. But in the finale, there's no mention of doing a funk number; they do the "Journey" medley (and Vocal Adrenaline does "Bohemian Rhapsody" even though, in a previous episode, they were planning some Lady Gaga). Argh! Of course, the real reason why this happened is that the producers behind the show want to create as many different musical numbers as possible; the more musical numbers on the show, the more record sales. But storylines get glossed over too often, like Kurt's football career and Finn being totally betrayed by Puck and Quinn. And just when we think Santana and Brittany are true "Glee" clubbers, they do whatever Sue Sylvester tells them to. Although we love all the characters in "Glee," sometimes it does feel like there's too much going on for the producers, and the audience, to really invest in everything.

The mature stuff. "Glee" is not a Nickelodeon or Disney Channel show. It airs at 9pm and has teenage and adult characters. So there's teenage and adult subject matter, language, and humor. That's just the way it is. "Glee" never planned to be so popular with tweens. Plus, everything that happens usually ends with a lesson learned or an upbeat, inspiring message. When characters do something that's morally questionable, there are consequences and they eventually understand that (even if it's just for an episode). In the end, it's up to each individual family to figure out what's appropriate TV viewing and what isn't.

The first season "journey". Bravo to the "Glee" folks for keeping the finale from being predictable or unsatisfying. The members of New Directions lost Regionals, but won so much more, and we're glad the show choir competition itself ended up being pretty insignificant. Rachel and Finn found each other on equal terms. Quinn loved her baby but knew someone else would give her a better home (the fact that it was Shelby, Rachel's mother and the Vocal Adrenaline coach...a little melodramatic but oddly perfect). The club got another year (uh, was there any doubt?). And Sue Sylvester has always been one of the most complex "villains" on TV; only she and the audience know how her vote went. We love that! We didn't get a big final kiss from someone like we did at the mid-season point between Mr. Schue and Emma, but maybe that would have been cliche. A few things were dropped too quickly, like the Jesse/Rachel romance (didn't he say he was beginning to like her, then he ditched them all with no explanation?) and Shelby's relationship with Rachel (that went sour in minutes, as if the producers decided they didn't know what to do with it). We hope these loose ends get continued next season.

Like most pop culture sensations, "Glee" won't always be such a big deal. Maybe in another season or two (how long will these kids stay in high school, anyway?), we'll be talking about how the show has gone downhill and we're kind of over it. For now, it's fun to enjoy and take part in the buzz. It's not often that something gets to be fresh and different and trend-setting. When it does happen, it happens big. We like being part of that!

 
"American Idol" Finale: Crystal or Lee?
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Over here at IML we're getting excited to attend the performance finale of "American Idol" at the Nokia Theatre tomorrow night! That's right, we'll be there in the audience, screaming along with everyone else! We're psyched for it even though this season has not been, shall we say...exactly mindblowing. Maybe that's because of the contestants, or because it's Simon's last year, or because of Paula's absence, or because the previous two seasons were so great. Maybe that's because there's been a clear "front runner" from the beginning (Crystal Bowersox), if you're one of those viewers who focus on the competition aspect of the show. We think back to the Top 24 and maybe things would have been more interesting if certain people had made it into the Top 12 (uh...Alex Lambert? Katelyn Epperly? Lilly Scott?).

crystal-bowersox-american-idol.jpgOne reason why "American Idol" captures people's hearts and imaginations is that there's always a contestant you either (a) have a crush on or (b) identify with. Crystal is a unique and moving artist who genuinely seems to take everything in stride and stay true to herself. She's not perfect-looking, but she's beautiful. She's unconventional, but she has this "cool girl next door" thing going for her. Plus she's just an amazing and unique artist.

Lee DeWyze, on the other hand, started off shy and kind of overlooked. Nobody paid much attention to him at first. He didn't have a "story" the way some other contestants do (no baby, no diabetes); he was just a guy working at a paint store, making music on the side because he loved it. But he got more confident, picked terrific songs, and slowly emerged as someone fans could really connect with.

lee-dewyze-american-idol.jpgWhat we like about this finale is that it really seems to be about the music. Both Crystal and Lee are in their 20's; seasoned musicians who have been chasing a dream for years. It's not a question of younger versus older, or who's cuter, or who's been shaped and molded by stylists into something that doesn't resemble the person they started out as. When Crystal and Lee did their "Falling Slowly" duet two weeks ago, we knew these two were a great match in many ways. Whoever wins, both will have an amazing kick start to their careers (and only one will have to record this year's "American Idol" song; why does it always have to be so sappy?).

What's your prediction? Who will you be voting for? And why IS "American Idol" so addictive?

We'll report back tomorrow after the big show!





 
TV Review: "E! Investigates: Bullying"
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There's been a definite spike these days in the buzz about bullying...and we think that's a good thing. The more aware young people, parents, school staff, and community members are of the problem and how to address it, the better!

einvestigates.jpgStarting tomorrow night (Wednesday, April 21), E! Entertainment Television's documentary series "E! Investigates" tackles this subject in a powerful and really informative episode that you may want to watch with friends and family members (it might kick off some interesting discussions afterwards!). The program highlights real-life stories from middle school and high school students who've experienced bullying, as well as advice from experts.

While E! Entertainment Television shows are mostly aimed at teens and adults, we feel we can recommend this particular one based on the clips we saw, and because we know that IML'ers are dealing with this topic on a daily basis. Many of the stories will hit home and although some are a little unsettling -- like the story of Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, Massachusetts -- they're the kinds of stories everyone should hear.

"E! Investigates: Bullying" can be seen throughout the week; check your TV listings.

As always, you can check out IML's advice on the subject of Bullies!

 
TV Review: "American Idol Season 9"
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So. Top Twelve!

Even though it feels like "American Idol" is just heating up, we're actually about halfway through the season. What do you think so far?

american-idol-logo.jpgAI is kind of a fascinating show for us because it's a lot of things at once. It's a talent contest. It's a drama. It's a comedy. It's one big commercial for the sponsors' products, other Fox TV shows or movies, the live tour, and past Idols' record albums. It's something that appeals to a gigantic age range of viewers. And mostly, at the end of it all, it's pure, simple, addictive entertainment.

Here's what we like about AI right now:

Ellen DeGeneres. We love Ellen so we were pretty psyched when we heard she was going to replace Paula Abdul. People have complained that so far, she's not funny enough. But we think she's just the right amount of funny, because any more funny and she'd come off as belittling the contestants' hard work. The fact that she's the only judge on the panel without any official music industry background makes her comments fair, refreshing, and possibly closest to those of the viewers.

Boys with guitars. Ever since the show started to let contestants play instruments, things have been more interesting. It makes for another choice in addition to picking the right song: Do I just sing or do I play too? Guys like Andrew Garcia and Casey James can bring their performances to a whole other level with their guitars; Michael Lynche and Tim Urban almost take on a new personality when they're playing versus just singing. It's fun to watch.

Alterna-chicks. How happy we are that Crystal Bowersox, Siobhan Magnus, Didi Benami, and Lacey Brown have made it in to the Top 12. (We believe Lilly Scott should have been there too; we are sad and kind of like "What?" about that.) They're different and fresh and seem to take pride in being themselves. In fact, for the first time ever as AI fans, we are more excited about the girls this year than the boys!

"Wunderkinds." Okay, Aaron Kelly and Katie Stevens. You can sing. Really well. Can you show us that as teens you have what Jordin Sparks had, or will young people just vote for you because you remind them of their BFF/crush/themselves?

Simon (Yes, Simon!). He can be a bully and snide and looks like he's pretty much over this whole AI thing already. But you have to admit he knows what he's talking about; when he does realize he was wrong about something, he owns up to it. We believe Simon is just preparing these contestants for life in the music industry, where people really can be that cruel and you need a tough skin. His job, underneath all that attitude, is to help the contestants grow into the artists they can potentially be.

It's not all about winning and losing. Although there are more "losers" than "winners" on this show in that someone goes home each week until only one contestant can be victorious, there is a lot of emphasis on that fact that it's the journey, not the destination, that can really be the prize. Contestants have amazing experiences and are exposed to lots of new opportunities, and can take pride in having come as far as they did. You just have to look at someone like Chris Daughtry or Jennifer Hudson to see that "losing" on this show was really just the first step on their path to success.

So, we'll be watching on Tuesday nights along with all you other AI fans out there. During commercial breaks, share your experiences on Idol-relevant You Said It pages like Performing For A Group, I Play An Instrument, and How I Express Myself.