ABC Family announces its ‘25 Days of Christmas’ lineup

"The Polar Express," quite possibly the creepiest Christmas movie ever made, features prominently in ABC Family's holiday lineup.
“The Polar Express,” quite possibly the creepiest Christmas movie ever made, features prominently in ABC Family’s holiday lineup.

Are you ready to get Grinchy wid it?

Hot on the heels of its “13 Nights of Halloween,” ABC Family has revealed its line-up for its annual “25 Days of Christmas” programming to Entertainment Weekly.

As always, my proposed “Day and a Half of Thanksgiving” gets ignored.

Highlights of this year’s televised presents include a dozen airings of the modern Will Ferrell classic, “Elf“; four showings of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the animated one, not the Jim Carrey clunker); and a “Toy Story” marathon on Dec. 13 featuring all three of the series’ motion pictures and the televised “Toy Story That Time Forgot” (yes, we know they’re not Christmas movies. Shh …).

Check out the full lineup here.

Same old Stephen Colbert debuts his CBS ‘Late Show’

Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush chats with Stephen on the premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. JEFFREY R. STAAB/CBS
Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush chats with Stephen Colbert on the premiere of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” JEFFREY R. STAAB/CBS

So, it turns out that out-of-character Stephen Colbert is a lot like in-character Stephen Colbert. And I’m okay with that.

The comedian/actor debuted his version of the CBS “Late Show” Tuesday with a new house band from a revamped Ed Sullivan Theater, but there was no shortage of hints for fans of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” that they might want to stick around.

For starters, there was the set, familiar in its red, white and blue color scheme. The Captain America shield from his old show’s digs hung on the wall. And the host (oddly acting as his own announcer thought the night) was decked out in the colors himself. He addressed the audience as “nation,” a “Colbert Report” staple, and even referenced “Jimmy,” the control room presence from his old show when asking for an on-screen graphic to be removed.

While Colbert made every effort to retain his left-leaning “Report” viewers, the theme of “let’s all just get along” welcomed those of differing political persuasions who might have been tuning in out of curiosity.

The host began the show with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” taped in locales across the country. At the end of the opening, a little league umpire ripped off his mask to reveal he was none other than former Colbert boss (and the new show’s executive producer) Jon Stewart.

He treated his second guest, Jeb Bush (following George Clooney, whose film career was gently mocked in a series of “scenes” from the fictional movie,”Decision Strike”) fairly, generously allowing him to tick off talking points from his Republican Presidential campaign. Admitting that he and his own brother (in the audience) had differing political opinions but could still get along, Colbert asked Bush where he disagreed politically from his sibling, George W. Bush (not conservative enough, Jeb said).

The host ended the show with an all-star, conciliatory rendition of Sly and the Family Stone’s soul staple “Everyday People” featuring vocals by Mavis Staples:

I am no better and neither are you/We are the same, whatever we do.

Oh, sha sha … so subtle.

Other highlights:

  • A short, standing monologue in which the host introduced his house band, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, led him to his desk (carved, he said, “out of a single piece of desk”) where he mocked Donald Trump, devoured a bag of Oreo cookies and  — at the command of a demonic, Assyrian firedog amulet — hawked Sabra brand hummus.
  • Colbert gave Clooney a wedding gift — a paperweight engraved with the phrase, “I don’t know you.”
  • The host envisioned Donald Trump’s proposed border wall as series of Trump skyscrapers knocked over onto their sides.
  • Colbert gave a short but sincere thank you to former “Late Show” host David Letterman by way of Letterman’s beloved stage manager, Biff Henderson.
  • CBS honcho Les Moonves sat in the audience in front of a console that would, ostensibly, allow him to flip the broadcast feed over to a rerun of “The Mentalist” in case of trouble.
  • It was awfully sweet of Colbert’s first audience to greet him with a standing ovation and the familiar, “Stephen! Stephen!” chant.
  • The host thanked the audience for joining him in making “television history. And, like most history,” he said, “it’s not on the History Channel.”
  • The Alamo Drafthouse tweeted this about Clooney’s fictional thriller:

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Fox’s ‘MasterChef’ is looking for Austin home cooks

"MasterChef" judges Christina Tosi, left, Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot
“MasterChef” judges Christina Tosi, left, Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot

As the current season of Fox’s reality competition “MasterChef” rolls on, producers are already planning for Season 7. They’ll be landing in 11 cities looking for talented home cooks to compete against each other for a prize of $250,000, their own cookbook, and a “MasterChef” trophy.

Think what you’ve got to impress judges Gordon, Graham and Christina? Austin auditions are slated for Aug. 29. No location has been revealed, but the most current audition information can be found on the show’s casting website.

Here’s the complete list of audition cities and dates:

San Diego, Calif. Saturday, Aug. 15
Minneapolis, Minn. Saturday, Aug. 15
Las Vegas, Nev. Saturday, Aug. 22
Detroit, Mich. Saturday, Aug. 22
Austin, Tex. Saturday, Aug. 29
San Francisco, Calif. Saturday, Aug. 29
Chicago, Ill. Saturday, Sep. 26
Louisville, Ken. Saturday, Sep. 26
Jackson, Miss. Saturday, Oct. 3
New York City, Saturday, Oct. 3
Los Angeles, Calif. Saturday, Oct. 10

Casting directors discuss diversity at ATX TV Fest

Casting directors Tracy Lilienfield, left, Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd and Jen Euston. PHOTO: JESSICA MIMS
Casting directors Tracy Lilienfield, left, Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd and Jen Euston. PHOTO: JESSICA MIMS

You probably want to stay on Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd’s good side.

The casting director of “Moesha” and “Being Mary Jane” joined fellow casting directors Tracy Lilienfield (“Grace & Frankie,” “Dream On”), Jen Euston (“Girls,” “Orange is the New Black”) and Alyssa Weisberg (“Lost,” “Workaholics”) in a lively, alternately serious and funny discussion of television casting Friday during the ATX Television Festival.

“I don’t see myself in the future!” African-American Byrd said late in the discussion, making a point about the lack of racial diversity in science fiction programming and pointing out that casting directors are often hamstrung by the characters that writers create.

“I think somebody’s trying to tell me something. I’m just thinking, where are the black people? Obviously there are no black people in the future. Okay, who created that? There’s gonna be a black woman in your future in the parking lot!”

The line drew huge laughs from the (mostly white) crowd.

Byrd basically told the crowd (which surely included some aspiring television writers) that it you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

“We’ve become a culture of complainers instead of appreciators or changers,” she said, referring to people who complain about lack of diversity in television. “It’s easier to complain. But start creating some stuff; start writing some stuff. Create the change you want to see and write in those characters.”

Panelists also pointed out that diversity doesn’t just pertain to race.

“Change is slow,” said Lilienfield. “(But) we have a responsibility, because we are the next thing after it’s on the page. We have a big chance to keep saying, ‘what about women? What if it was African-American? What if the guy was gay?’. And we have to. Sometimes it feels a little forced, I think, but I think everything that is a seismic change is a little forced at first and then it becomes the norm and it becomes easier.” Lilienfield cast the groundbreaking network sitcom, “Will & Grace.”

The point drew sustained applause from the crowd.

Panelists agreed that diversity is much more common on cable shows (especially pay cable) because the heads of those networks trust creators more and let them push boundaries beyond the rigid confines of broadcast television, whose honchos routinely give casting mandates. And the current boom in diversity is partly due to the fact that the exploding number of outlets for video programming has created a seemingly endless need for fresh and original content. Finally, in television, success breeds imitation.

The casting directors also touched on the challenges of the career, with all but one of them confessing that they get little sleep and have no lives outside of the job.

“Trying to date is very challenging,” Byrd revealed, speaking for the female-dominated occupation. “You can’t go to the movies; I can’t even watch TV with a man. You don’t even understand. I’m like, ‘stop! Stop that commercial! Run it back. Oh, she’s really good!’”