Wednesday, October 22, 2008
SitcomsOnline.com Exclusive: Interview with Chris Mann; We're Interviewed As Well on Retroality.TV!; Network Notes
We had the pleasure to interview Chris Mann, author, writer, and my friend. Chris Mann is a freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer and behind-the-scenes TV book author. He is best known for his marvelous work on the tell-all book Come and Knock on Our Door: A Hers and Hers and His Guide to Three's Company. He's also founder and editor of the pop culture webzine Retroality.TV. A former magazine art director, he sometimes produces and art directs cover and feature shoots for his celebrity health and fitness profiles. He also served as consulting producer on NBC's behind-the-scenes movie about Three's Company, and he's helped produce and write TV documentaries and DVD featurettes about the show and its late star, John Ritter. Chris is currently developing multiple media projects, including an in-depth biography about Ritter.
We thank Chris for taking the time to answer some of the most interesting questions we have for him...and his responses were so amazing. So it is time for another installment of SitcomsOnline's Seven Questions Series! We seriously STILL need a jingle. Any takers out there?
"Seven Questions with Chris Mann"
SitcomsOnline: Hello Chris! We thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview with us! We sincerely appreciate it and are honored in talking to you. I've known you for years and I'm also a big Three's Company fan (as you of course know), but I don't think many people know how you got started on your Three's Company book, Come and Knock on Our Door - A Hers and Hers and His Guide to Three's Company. Can you share with us why you wanted to write the book and how it all got started?
Chris Mann: I'm honored to do this interview. The amazing energy and effort you and Todd put into Sitcoms Online and your other TV sites has truly encouraged me!
In the early to mid '90s, before the Internet exploded, I had only an inkling how many other people hungered for info about retro TV. Since age 5 or so, I'd had an unbounded love for Three's Company, along with deep admiration for John Ritter and a growing fascination with the show's emotional backstage break-ups. My behind-the-scenes curiosity grew in part out of my journalistic mind -- I guess I just couldn't take Three's Company at face value! While editing The University of Tulsa's student newspaper -- itself a huge undertaking, especially given my intensive class load -- I realized I needed a creative, escapist outlet beyond cracking jokes in class and at work and watching Company reruns in my dorm room.
I'd recently interviewed and met Suzanne Somers during her visit to Tulsa to share her uplifting story of surviving family alcoholism and abuse. After publishing the story in the student newspaper, I recrafted it and designed a Three's Company where-are-they-now fanzine around her Q&A. I sent "The Roomie Report" to all ten cast members, along with letters saying I hoped the fanzine would one day lead to a behind-the-scenes book about the show. Almost none of them responded -- except John Ritter.
Imagine at age 19 getting a call from John saying how "touched and flattered" he was by my efforts and my letter. I was elated and infinitely inspired. So I did three more "Roomie Reports" during my sophomore year at Tulsa University -- the second issue included an exclusive, extremely candid interview with John wherein he broke his silence about his bitter break-up with Suzanne. I retired the "Report" during my junior and senior years, but I kept in touch with John's office. The day after I finished college in '95, I moved to LA. A week later, I interviewed John in person for the book. Doors began opening, along with the casts' emotional floodgates. I knew I had a great story not only about the show but about the price of fame, fortune and ego.
SitcomsOnline: I got your book the second it came out back in 1998. You know I think your book really inspired me to do the Three's Company website (Jack's Bistro) back in 1998 and it is still going today. I wanted to thank you for the hard work on the book on behalf of all fans out there. Can you share with us some of your fondest memories shortly after the book was released to the world? Did fans come up to you and thank you? Did the entire cast embrace it?
Chris Mann: Thank you for your support! As you know, I've always loved your Three's Company site, so it's cool to know Come and Knock on Our Door in turn inspired you. 1998 was a whirlwind year. The book, along with Suzanne's accompanying biography After the Fall, led to heated interviews with Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne on Extra, Inside Edition, ET, The O'Reilly Factor, etc. Joyce promoted my book while disputing Suzanne's. What a hoot to get that kind of publicity -- and how weird to suddenly be in the middle of controversy. Suzanne formally thanked me for sending her the book -- and she told Inside Edition I was a "really nice" guy -- but the battle lines were again being drawn, and it was Suzanne vs. Three's Company Part II.
John also took the book onto a few shows, including Donny and Marie's talk show and a TV Guide Truth Behind the Sitcom Scandals special. He and Joyce offered resounding public support, which was unexpected and thrilling. Joyce, Don Knotts, Richard Kline, Norman Fell and even Priscilla Barnes (the only cast member who didn't interview) did book signings with me -- and we all went out to dinner and celebrated with a bottle of champagne John sent me. Fans expressed love and appreciation at the book signings. Howard Stern's show harassed Joyce about Suzanne at a couple of these media-frenzied events. Suddenly, my book had become part of the story. Saying this entire experience was surreal and exciting is a understatement.
SitcomsOnline: Being involved with this book has made you the Three's Company king. All of the entertainment shows on Three's Company and its stars like the E! True Hollywood Story and A&E Biography have interviewed you. Your book was turned into a TV movie by NBC. You also got to produce special features for the Three's Company DVDs. How cool is that! How did you like all of that, though? What was your favorite out of all this?
Chris Mann: The Three's Company king...that's funny! Most of this six-year journey was a joy, and all of it was enlightening. The E! True Hollywood Story was my favorite project, though, by far. In summer 1998, I pitched the documentary to E! as their first THS exclusively about the backstage story of a TV show. They bit. Not to be immodest, but my book, interview and extensive production work were the documentary's basis and backbone. The entire surviving cast participated and were asked questions to elicit the same responses they'd given for the first time ever in the book. The end product was a two-hour video version of Come and Knock on Our Door. My book was everywhere in the show. It seemed like the perfect promotional tool. The THS reran enough times to keep Three's Company in the pop culture consciousness for the next few years. And it helped established the THS brand and lead to behind-the-scenes TV movies about TV shows.
The Three's Company TV movie eventually followed. Though Entertainment Weekly had reported NBC was adapting my book for this movie, things beyond my control (and, at the time, beyond my awareness) transpired and my book didn't get a "based on" credit. I did, however, end up getting a Consulting Producer main title credit, and the book was mentioned in the end titles instead of the main credits. Ultimately, this was a victory for me. This telefilm was one of the highest-rated TV movies of the season. I've since met with one of the movie's executive producers, Stan Brooks. We had a very nice and illuminating conversation. I'm glad he and NBC experienced more success with subsequent Behind the Camera movies.
The A&E shows had excellent producers. And the DVD featurettes offered a bittersweet ending, as I interviewed surviving cast members (minus Suzanne) about John's passing, which deeply saddened us all. I applaud DLT Entertainment and Anchor Bay for giving John his due on these DVDs. But with this project, I felt I'd said everything I could about the show -- and John's death really did devastate me -- so it was definitely time for me to separate from the Company drama.
SitcomsOnline: So we obviously know you love Three's Company and that is your all-time favorite show but what other sitcoms/shows did you love and grow up with and what about of today's shows? I know you are fan of the game show The Price is Right and you're also working on a book on that series as well. What can we expect there and any tentative date on release?
Chris Mann: I loved Ellen (I always saw her as the female Jack Tripper), Roseanne and The Golden Girls. I also grew up watching Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, The Jeffersons, All in the Family, Alice, Facts of Life, Diff'rent Strokes and One Day at a Time.
I thought Nell Carter was hysterical in Gimme a Break! Recently, I've thoroughly enjoyed Lisa Kudrow's HBO dramedy The Comeback and I like 30 Rock (Tina Fey is a genius) and, because of Molly Shannon, Kath & Kim. If someone would give SNL's Cheri Oteri a sitcom, I'd simmer down now and watch in a heartbeat.
The Price is Right story is utterly fascinating. So much more happened backstage than the public knows. I've talked to the people who lived it and survived it -- producers, longtime Barker's Beauty models, production assistants who molded and shaped the show's formula (including its classic comedic moments) but who were erased from Price history in the recent "official" book about the show. Their stories are so compelling. Bob Barker's memoir will be published in April '09 -- under the banner of a publisher that salutes "traditional, wholesome entertainment" -- so his version of events will likely continue to reign for a while. He's an iconic host, so he deserves his accolades as a performer.
I think much of the audience still needs to believe that Bob, at almost 85, is the gift-bearing, grandfatherly/avuncular figure we grew up believing him to be for 35 years on Price. But he's so much more interesting than the one-dimensional showman his PR and legal machine has long portrayed him to be. In fact, his flaws and vulnerabilities, which probably won't emerge in his book, make his status as a legendary TV survivor even more remarkable. I may start to preview my book on Retroality.TV in 2009. I haven't really had time lately to do much with the book, so I look forward to telling that story when the time is right.
SitcomsOnline: Now your writing for quite a number of magazines and publications. You're such a good writer and you make me look tame compared to you. Can you share with us all some of the magazines and publications you write for and also what were you favorite stories for these?
Chris Mann: Thank you! I've had the good fortune to write stories for TV Guide, Emmy magazine, their web sites and Radar Online. Most of my freelance work this year has centered on celebrity health and fitness. I write and art direct/produce cover stories regularly for Muscle & Body, Get Active! and a newly-launched CVS magazine called Great Health. My favorite interviews have been Lynda Carter, Maureen McCormick, Dara Tores and Apolo Ohno. I'm looking forward to profiling Misty May-Treanor and Antonio Sabato Jr., too.
SitcomsOnline: As readers of our news blog know, you wrote the Three's Company book and you are now running the popular website Retroality.TV. We must ask how you came up with that idea and what made you think it would work? The stars you interview are astounding from Heather Thomas to Stacy Keibler to Olivia Newton-John. Do you have any favorites so far?
Chris Mann: I've wanted to do my own pop culture magazine for years. Retroality grew rather organically out of my passions for retro pop culture and celebreality TV, along with my recent focus on celeb health and fitness. I love survivor stories, and pop icons and retro stars who're still standing are certainly survivors. How have they survived? What have they overcome and learned? Why are they reinventing themselves at age 30, 40, 50, 60? What would they do differently now? Retroality is designed primarily to share these stories while promoting other pop culture enterprises -- such as Sitcoms Online -- that keep retro alive and well.
I want to do the stories that many lifestyle and entertainment magazines often overlook due to their obsession with teenagers, twigs and trainwrecks. Who over age 25 really cares if some 19-year-old CW star needs to eat a hamburger, or if Britney managed to fill her tank up with gas for the eighth time this week? I'd rather know how Lynda Carter found the inner strength and peace to conquer alcoholism, despite her image as Wonder Woman. Or why Heather Thomas uses her celebrity and money to influence politics, and how she's channeling her political fundraising experiences into a fun new novel. Or what breast cancer taught Olivia Newton-John, and how she's inspiring other women, including her daughter.
All of these celebs were once 19 years old, and some succumbed to addiction, eating disorders and other troubles. But they all made it to the other side and have fascinating stories to tell. Maureen McCormick is another example. Look how well her book's doing. I want Retroality to reflect the pop culture and sociopolitical interests of the vast majority of people who could care less about Miley Cyrus and (my nephew's gonna kill me) The O.C. or any of its derivatives.
SitcomsOnline: Finally, so what is coming up in the future for Chris Mann? We know Retroality.TV will be still going strong...any new stories or new features you'd like to tell everyone about the site? We also mentioned you're writing the Price is Right book and a book on the late legendary John Ritter. Can you share with us what you expect to do with the book on John?
Chris Mann: From your fingertips to God's ears! I'm excited about Retroality's future. I've got a few stories in the works for late '08 -- our current cover story interview is Jaclyn Smith, and we should have a very Brady tell-all soon -- and I plan to add multimedia in the months ahead. Our video interview with Joyce DeWitt really sets the stage for what's to come in '09. She opens up about her spirituality, her splintered relationship with Suzanne and her final, healing experiences with John Ritter.
I also expect my book on John to be on the front burner in 2009. To this day, he still inspires me (as I know he does you), and it means a great deal to me to get the chance to tell his story. He'd be 60 this year, and I have to wonder what great things he'd be doing if he were still with us. He lives on, though, through his kids, his wives, his brother, his friends and his work. Many would argue he lived far more in not quite 55 years than some live in 85. Sadly, he didn't live long enough to win Lifetime Achievement awards, receive Hall of Fame inductions, make a trillion dollars or write a self-congratulatory memoir. But I really think he left the world a better, more light-hearted, richer place, and in the end, those contributions are priceless.
Our thanks to to Chris Mann we wish him continued success! Now I must go and do Chris' "show" in return...kind of like how Jimmy Kimmel and Jay Leno appeared on each other's talk shows on the same night earlier this year! Yes, Chris interviewed Todd and I for his wonderful website as well! So head on over to his website to see that as well! I hope we are interesting like he is! More info on us being interviewed is below.
Our apologies to Matt Damon, we ran out of time. For more information on Chris Mann, continue to stay with us for info and don't forget to view his website http://www.retroality.tv. So, stay tuned right here on the blog for continued news on Chris!
Who would of thunk it, but can you believe we were interviewed?? Both Todd and I have been interviewed by Chris Mann for his website Retroality.TV, as I mentioned above! I would have never imagined I would be interviewed for anything, and I'm sure Todd feels the same way! Thanks to Chris for suggesting this and I thank him for doing our "show" in return! Chris asks both Todd and I some interesting stuff, so I hope you all enjoy the interview and do learn something you didn't know about SitcomsOnline and to a lesser extent, about us. I know we're not stars, but after this interview we sort of feel like stars...just a lil' bit! So, I hope you all get a chance to read our interview. It is a proud moment for SitcomsOnline celebrating the last 10 years and the years to come!
Lots of network notes lately, as it is common this time of year. We have a full season order news for ABC's Private Practice. ABC has picked up the back nine episodes of the show, giving it 22 episodes this season. It was only ordered for 13 episodes originally for its second season. All of the shows that came back from the strike that didn't come back last season have suffered a bit in the ratings, but this show has done modestly better. The show's season premiere on Oct. 1was only at 8.16 million but jumped to 9.22 million when the seven-day DVR numbers came in and jumped from a 3.3 18-49 rating to a 3.8 18-49 rating, on par with its live+same day numbers for its finale last December. Still 9.22 million is not as much as the over 11 million the show was averaging last fall, but even still, it is not as big of a drop when you see these DVR ratings. Numbers for its second episode of this year in seven-day DVR will be known next week. But it seems after seeing the jump, ABC is invested in bringing us a whole year of Private Practice!
In other news, CBS has given two extra scripts for new sitcom Worst Week. The show has began to stabilize a bit and has gone up in the ratings the past two weeks, but still it is losing quite a bit of its Two and a Half Men lead-in. It is quite a funny show, though, my only concern is what will happen when the week ends? It's like on day four already.
New on DVD/Blu-ray (December/January)
12/06 - Family Guy - Season Fourteen
12/13 - American Dad! - Volume 11
12/13 - Newhart - The Complete Seventh Season
01/03 - Girls - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
01/10 - Broad City - Season 3
01/17 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized)
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume One
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two
01/24 - Hooperman - Season One
01/24 - Hooperman - Season Two
01/31 - Ballers - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest
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