Prepare to Be Jealous of All the Celebrity Sightings From My First Year in LA

As with all things at the ol’ blogging headquarters lately, the “I’ve been living in LA for one year” blog is going to be late, probably by a year or so. June 1st was officially the one-year anniversary of me executing my half-assed scheme of coming to LA, getting hired to write for TV immediately, and then drowning in money for the rest of my life. That flawless-sounding plan hasn’t gone exactly how I expected. But soon enough all the pieces will fall into place. Until then, I guess I’m stuck blogging for free for all you freeloading blog readers.

Since I don’t have time for a full recap of the first 365 glorious days of my new life, I figured you’d at least want to know about all the amazing celebrity sightings my girlfriend and I have experienced over that time.

After all, it seems like you’d have to be a complete loser not to constantly be seeing celebrities all around this area.

Let’s run through this murderer’s row of incredible celebrity sightings:

1). Will Arnett

will arnett

Yes, Will Arnett is the closest thing we’ve seen to an A-list actor since we arrived in LA. Which is to say we haven’t come close to seeing a true A-list actor yet. But for fans of Arrested Development, Blades of Glory and Up All Night (not sure any fans of that show actually exist), this is a big score. We saw Will while hiking with our dog one day. Usually our dog has to stop and play with every other dog she sees on the trails, but for some reason she completely ignored Will’s dog…the one time we wanted her to go after another dog so he would have to stop and talk to us. I was ready to start pitching TV pilots with great characters for him to play, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Apparently Will has a role in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot so his star is certainly on the rise.

2). Ian Gomez

ian gomez

You know it’s a pathetic list when the #2 person on it is someone Julie and I couldn’t even name when we saw him multiple times at our favorite sports bar in Culver City. It took Julie hours of collaboration via text message with a friend of hers for us to finally figure out who the hell we were staring at. He’s this high on the list because he’s a regular on Cougar Town. Just the fact that he’s on a current TV show puts him ahead of most of the others on this list. He’s mainly a TV actor who started out way back in the 90’s on shows like Murphy Brown and Melrose Place. He’s credited with appearing in over 70 shows or films, but Cougar Town seems to be his first extended run of success on a single show.

3). Blake Anderson

blake anderson

My personal favorite on this list. I’m not sure if it counts as a true sighting because I actually met him on the set of Workaholics when a friend of a friend brought me along to watch them tape an episode. So it wasn’t a random spotting around the city or anything. But we’ll count it. Besides, I got to shake his hand and tell him I’m a comedy writer. I missed a huge opportunity though by not making a joke during the 17 seconds we talked. A perfect joke there could have had me set for life as one of his writing partners. If you haven’t watched Workaholics and you’re not adverse to raunchy college stoner humor, you should give it a try on Netflix Instant immediately. The only reason I ranked him below Mr. Gomez is because Blake doesn’t have the longevity in acting that baldy has. But Blake’s star is on the rise big time, as any Arrested Development fans should remember seeing him and his Workaholic co-stars in episode 1 of the new season.

4). Gilles Marini

gilles marini

Oh, you’ve never heard of him either? I would have never spotted this “celebrity” on my own. We were hiking in Runyon Canyon one day, a place known for its celebrity sightings, and Julie is 98% sure we walked right by him. She didn’t know his actual name either, just that he was the hot neighbor from Sex and the City, the Movie. According to IMDB, that really is all he’s known for. It looks like he’s appeared in some  well-known TV shows like Modern Family, Castle and Brothers & Sisters.

5). Kerr Smith

kerr smith

Ten years ago, Mr. Smith might have been #1 on this list because his role as Jack McPhee on Dawson’s Creek would have been relevant back then. Another Julie sighting that might have gone unnoticed by me. We were at a Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica for Cinco de Mayo when she spotted him with a group of friends. We both decided that he must have given up acting in 2003 when Dawson’s ended, but to my surprise it looks as if he’s appeared in many TV shows and films since then. To me, he’ll always be the gay guy from Dawson’s Creek whose name I never bothered to remember.

6). Brian Wilson

brian wilson

Only at #6, and already we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. Maybe he should be higher on my list because his ridiculous beard coupled with the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 World Series run made him somewhat famous, but currently he’s not on a baseball team and has disappeared from the limelight entirely. So we’re sticking him at the (near) bottom. Another spotting from a Runyon Canyon hike. He was jogging and still had the long beard. Obviously that made him unmistakable. He was also wearing a lot of spandex at the time, in case that’s the type of detail that interests you.

7). Benjamin Patton

ben patton

Who the fuck is Ben Patton, right? Anyone who doesn’t have their own Wikipedia page can’t possibly be a celebrity, right? Well I present to you the 7th most exciting celebrity we’ve seen in LA: a reality show contestant whose 15 minutes of fame really did last about 15 minutes. Ready For Love, an NBC matchmaking reality show executive produced by Eva Longoria lasted all of a few episodes before it was cancelled. Since we had an actual connection to one of the contestants, we taped the show, and I can promise you it was horrific. Last July we went to a winery in Malibu and were pleasantly surprised to see that they were taping an episode of this show only a few feet away from our table. We were nearly kicked out for stalking all the people involved with the show, but not before we got to see some of the women that were vying for Ben’s affection start fighting with each other because they were so drunk off the unlimited supply of wine (not physically fighting, more like yelling at each other and crying to the producers behind each other’s backs).

So there you have it. Potentially the worst celebrity sightings list in the history of celebrities. At least we get to hear all the time about our luckier friends bumping into a Kardashian or an Oprah around town. Maybe in year two Julie and I will finally graduate from C-list sightings to B-list sightings? Fingers crossed.

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Back to School: Week Two…When All the Assholes Hijack My Writing Class

Heading to Week Three of Television Writing Class in just a bit, and I thought I could piece together a blog about my experiences so far. I blogged about my Week One Class, but never got a chance to check in after Week Two.

If Week One was all about everyone getting to know each other, then Week Two was all about people trying to prove their intelligence and show off their TV obsessions. Seriously, one minute the teacher is asking us what existing TV shows we’re thinking of writing a script for (the goal of the class, after all), and the next minute people are discussing how “Louie isn’t a sitcom; it’s a show full of existential vignettes.”

I’m not joking…someone actually said that.

Week two was a bit of a reality check because I was hoping all along that it was only in my previous life of being around sales people where there was always someone in the group who had to prove they were the smartest in the room. I wanted to think it was unique to typical sales guy douche baggery, but alas, it seems like every group has one…or three.

After a 15 minute tangent of a conversation between two people in class arguing about Louie and 30 Rock, the teacher finally asked, “So are either of you picking Louie or 30 Rock as your shows to write?”

Nope. Of course not. They just wanted to waste our time and hear themselves talk.

I honestly thought a room full of writers would make for a quiet setting, a bunch of recluses who are scared of public speaking and attention. I was very wrong.

I’m trying to figure out what I should do the next time a conversation is going off the rails. I might go with yelling out, “Can you two shut the fuck up so this guy (pointing at teacher) can teach us something?” But I was also thinking of going the less mature route of making a super loud farting noise to break up the discussion. I can’t decide which way to play it.

A few more random notes before I pack up my grapes and M&M’s and head off to class:

Arrested Development is the absolute gold standard of TV writing according to my classmates. If you try to say anything negative about this TV show, you will get ostracized from the group. Our teacher said one negative thing—that the writers of this show only wrote jokes for themselves, not for the general public—and I’m pretty sure at least five students are dropping out of his class because of it.

-If Arrested Development is the gold standard, then Whitney is…the poop standard? The pyrite standard? (ahh, that’s a thinker’s joke. You see, pyrite is a metal compound that’s often referred to as “fool’s gold” because it looks a lot like gold, but is actually worthless compared to gold.) Whatever the opposite of “gold standard” is, that’s Whitney, according to my class.

-The TV show I’m picking to write a script for is Happy Endings. If you don’t know it, give it a shot. It’s a good one. And if you do know it and happen to have some really brilliant ideas on what would make a good episode for that show, feel free to send it my way.

-Finally, I think our professor has done too many drugs in the past. Why do I think this? Well, for one, he’s constantly referencing all the drugs he’s done in the past. And two, he seems to keep forgetting which class he’s teaching while he’s lecturing us. And in Week Two, he was supposed to bring in DVDs that had episodes of sitcoms on them for us to watch as a class, but he screwed up and brought only Portlandia episodes, which is a sketch comedy show. I’m trying to figure out how long until I’m allowed to scream out, “Hey, Prof, I’m paying for this class out of my own pocket. That’s right…not my parents’ pockets, not through some loans that I won’t see the repercussions of for years…MY. OWN. POCKET. So why don’t you get your head out of your ass and bring the right material to class?” It’s probably still too early to do that, but it’s coming.

Adventures in Relocating: Apartment Hunting, “Move-in Ready” Cleaning and Sexual Offenders

So the clock is ticking on the month of May as I have only eight more free days before June 1st to get my life from a state of chaos to a state of organized chaos.  While it seems ridiculous to be wasting this precious time blogging, maybe recapping the progress I’ve made so far will lower my stress level.

Here’s where things stand with the relocation efforts as of Friday morning, May 11th:

Apartment Hunting

-It was official yesterday: We have an apartment in Culver City locked up with a lease starting on June 1st.  It’s funny how location, a fancy-looking complex and an amazing sales guy can make you forget about your ideal budget for an apartment (but I swear I’ll use the pool and the gym all the time!)

-I almost panicked when one of the first people I mentioned the signed lease to said, “Culver City?  Why would you want to live in that shitty area?”  He’s someone who is supposedly very knowledgeable about LA, but then he said Culver City is in the “valley,” and I realized he’s actually just a fucking moron.  So I think I’m still happy with our location.

-No, I won’t include a link to the building we’re going to live in because it never seems like a good idea to put your exact address on the web.  You can email me and ask nicely if you really want to see.

-It took us two-and-a-half trips to LA to find the right apartment.  I consider my roundtrip to LA and back this past Tuesday a half trip because I was there for less than four hours (but was in the car driving down and back for over 11 hours).

-In total, we made 17 appointments to see apartments over the course of those LA visits.  I believe we only went into nine of them because the other eight ended up being “drive-bys.”  Drive-bys happened when we felt like either the apartment was too far removed from civilization or when we feared for our lives because the neighborhood it was located in probably experienced a lot of actual drive-by shootings.  Of the nine places we really looked at, three would only show us “model units” instead of the actual units we’d be living in.  Sorry, but you can’t convince me to sign a lease based on the theory of “your apartment could potentially be similar to this, but we’re not sure until you put a deposit down.”  If they had allowed us to live in a model unit Arrested Development style, that would be a different story.  A few other places just weren’t a good fit for whatever reason.  There was the in-law apartment where the owner who lived in the main house was about 92 years old.  I’m not living in a place where there’s a 95% chance that my landlord would die only a few feet away from me within the first month. There was the lovely homeowner who when I asked her how maintenance gets done in the apartment said, “Oh, that’s easy.  I’ll send you a YouTube video on how to fix things when they break.”  And finally, there was the leasing agent who told us he wouldn’t live in the area we were looking if he was us…as he’s showing us an apartment he theoretically should be trying to sell us on.  It’s a good thing the place we locked down worked out because it really doesn’t feel like we found too many other options.

-If there’s one thing I’m most excited about with a new apartment, it’s picking a junk drawer.  I’m actually bringing a box down to LA that’s filled with take-out menu’s, rubber bands, Sharpie’s missing their caps, some old Christmas cards that should have been thrown away five months ago, a stapler, a mouse trap and a deck of cards.  I cannot wait to fill up my new junk drawer.

Moving Logistics

I’ve secured a moving truck for us to drive down to LA on June 1st with all of our possessions.  I don’t have a lot of experience with this so I wasn’t sure what size truck to get.  I went with a 16-footer.  Since Julie isn’t yet an expert on driving a manual transmission, which my car has, she’ll be the one driving the semi down to LA.  My hope is that I’m not updating the blog on June 2nd with a picture like this:

Cleaning

-Unfortunately before I can pick my new junk drawer, there are things to do at the old apartment in San Francisco.  It would be nice to leave this apartment the same way my roommates and I left our college apartment at the end of senior year…basically without cleaning the place at all and then simply telling the landlord to use our security deposit as our final month’s rent.  I don’t know how we got away with that without a lawsuit, but I have a feeling my current landlord wouldn’t really be on board.

-Not only is our landlord expecting us to clean, but she told us it needs to be “move-in ready” in order for us to get our full security deposit back. To me that’s a very subjective measuring stick.  What’s move-in ready to me may not be move-in ready to her.  For instance, I have no problem moving into a place that has a giant circle of dried paint embedded into the carpet, and even better, the dried paint has a large piece of broken glass stuck inside it:

You may not be able to see this clearly, but it’s paint that’s been there for over six years with a large piece of glass trapped in it

-She may not think of that as “move-in ready,” but if I cover the entire carpet in white paint and then stick random pieces of glass in the paint, will she maybe think that’s the type of flooring she originally put into this apartment?  Luckily if she does tell us she needs to replace the whole carpet and that it’s coming out of our deposit, my Uncle Steve owns a furniture and carpet business in Massachusetts, and I’m sure he will gladly ship a nice carpet out here free of charge to help the cause.

Sexual Offenders in Your Area

-As I was reading through my new lease yesterday, I noticed a section about sexual offenders.  I didn’t really pay attention to what that section was telling me because I got distracted by this link they included: http://meganslaw.ca.gov/disclaimer.aspx

-The next thing I know it’s three hours later, and I’m still screwing around on that MegansLaw website.  Go ahead and give it a try, but just make sure you have some time on your hands.  I was searching for sexual offenders in my new LA neighborhood, my current SF neighborhood, and even the neighborhoods of some of my friends.  Once you’ve done the same, you’ll naturally start drilling into the individual offenders to see what they look like, what their crimes are and what documented scars and tattoos they have.  If you’re like me, your imagination will run wild when you read the crimes because the descriptions are vague.  For example several of the offenses I saw were tagged as: “LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS ACTS WITH A CHILD UNDER 14 YEARS OF AGE.”  I’d like to know what these acts were specifically and how much “under 14 years of age” were the children.

-For those of you worried about me and Julie, relax.  The closest sexual offender to our new apartment probably isn’t doing much offending these days:

That’s everything for now.  Time for me to re-read the manual for my new vacuum to see what setting will suck up a “dried paint and glass” combo.

Reviewing Three New TV Shows: The Bitch in Apt 23, Girls, Veep

Apparently female-led TV shows are all the rage these days.  When the new TV schedule launched last fall, people were praising all the shows that suddenly focused on women.  There are three shows in particular that women seem to have gravitated towards, but the only problem is that they are all differing levels of horrible.  There’s Whitney (Colossal Disaster), 2 Broke Girls (Regular-sized Disaster), and New Girl (Whatever one step below a disaster is).

I know what you’re thinking…how do I know so much about these “TV shows for women,” right?  Well, on my most unlucky nights, I’m sometimes forced to watch TV with women.  Unfortunately they don’t pick to watch the same NHL Network highlights over and over.  They pick the three shows mentioned above.  Whitney is so horrible that on one episode, you could actually hear boo’s coming from the automated laugh track.  2 Broke Girls is possibly the least funny sitcom anyone’s ever created.  And the only redeeming quality of New Girl is the hotness of its lead actress, Zooey Deschanel.  But even that isn’t enough to give the show any staying power in my mind.

I take most of my cues on what new shows to watch from Entertainment Weekly.  The magazine reminds you of every new show coming out on a weekly basis, and they make solid recommendations most of the time.  But I was naturally a little skeptical when I saw three more female-led shows hitting the TV within a couple weeks of each other.  EW gave all three solid reviews so I thought I’d try them all out and report back on my experience.

Here are my reviews and rankings of the three new shows in question:

3. Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 (Three episodes aired, Wednesdays at 9:30pm on ABC)

Terrible name.  Terrible show.

This sitcom is about June, a 26-year-old woman whose job as a mortgage broker transfers her from Indiana to New York.  The opening episode jams the theme of “naive midwesterner in a big, scary city” down our throats.  June’s life plan is to be married with a steady job by 26, have two kids by 30, blah blah blah…  All of that goes to shit when her office and apartment are seized by the feds because her boss is accused of embezzling money.  From there her life spirals out of control when she catches her fiance cheating on her with her new roommate, Chloe.

Chloe is the “bitch” from the title.  She’s apparently a con artist that does whatever necessary to drive her roommates crazy (walk around naked, have loud parties on a Tuesday night, go to the bathroom while her roommate is in the bath tub).  These roommates inevitably get fed up and leave, and Chloe gets to keep their rent money and security deposit.

This premise seems halfway decent if the show was centered around Chloe and a revolving door of roommates, but instead it seems like June is the center of this show.  That’s unfortunate because it means we’re in for 10 more episodes of her bouncing back and forth between, “I’m 26 and my life plan isn’t on track anymore, poor me,” and, “You’re right, why do I care about my life plan so much?  Let’s be spontaneous.”

After watching all three episodes, I can confidently tell you not to bother with it.  The plots are horrible and all over the place; the characters haven’t been developed very well; the funny parts that are supposed to be centered around the outrageous Chloe and her antics fall more than flat (as an example, in episode 2, the “humor” was centered around Chloe calling her dad “Scott” and treating him like a friend instead of a dad).  And somehow, these two women who were ready to rip each other’s throats out in episode one are suddenly chummy and happy to coexist in episodes two and three.  It’s also beyond unbelievable that June would stay in this apartment with the stuff Chloe puts her through.

Best minor character: James Van Der Beek…played by James Van Der Beek.  I’d watch a show based purely on this guy looking for acting jobs, but unfortunately Don’t Trust the B only gives us three minutes of him per episode.

Status on my DVR: Cancelled effective immediately

2. Girls (Three episodes aired, Sundays at 10:30pm on HBO)

Go ahead.  Laugh at me for thinking I might enjoy a show titled “Girls.”  But I like HBO original programming, and I usually give most of their new shows a try.  I understood the premise to be, “young adult trying to find her niche in life struggles to get by in a recession-era New York City.”  I thought it would be a show that all young adults could relate to as they try to find their place in the world.  I was hoping for universal themes and plots.  Unfortunately, after three episodes, it seems like this is a show for women only.  Here are some of the main topics and issues the characters have dealt with so far:

-Unwanted pregnancy and the subsequent abortion

-Getting your period when you think you’re pregnant

-Getting tested for STD’s because the guy who you have sex with regularly may or may not always use a condom, and may or may not be sleeping with other women

-Being a virgin at the age of 20-something

And for the most part, these things weren’t dealt with in a humorous way.  I could maybe get on board with that.  It’s a particularly heavy show, and while it’s extremely well done, I just don’t think it’s for me (call me immature, but I really do need some laughs with my daily dose of abortion, periods, and STDs).  The reason I haven’t ditched the show entirely is because I’m amazed by Lena Dunham (not in a “she’s hot” kind of way like Zooey).  She plays the lead character, Hannah, but also is the creator/executive producer of the show, and she writes and directs the episodes too.  That’s pretty friggen amazing for a 25-year-old.

Best line so far: “There is seriously nothing flakier in this world than not showing up to your own abortion.”  See, now that’s abortion with a humorous twist!  If only more of the show could be that funny.

Status on my DVR: Not cancelled yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

1). Veep (Two episodes aired, Sundays at 10pm on HBO)

Brilliant.  The idea to create a show focused on the Vice President of the United States isn’t brilliant itself.  But the combination of the genre (comedy), the tone (hapless satire with just the right amount of subtlety) and the lead actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) make it extremely promising.

You could almost describe Veep as “Parks and Recreation in the White House.”  It has the politician who means well but tends to put her foot in her mouth far too often. And it has her surrounding staff of misfits who can simultaneously get her out of a jam while creating a whole new problem.  If you like Parks and Rec, The Office or Arrested Development, give this show a chance and I promise you won’t regret it.

Best Minor Character: Speaking of Arrested Development, Tony Hale, who plays Buster on that show, is cast as Gary, the VP’s body man.  I have no idea what a body man really does, but it apparently includes taking a “sneeze bullet” for the VP.  And while we’re talking about the minor characters, I have a feeling that if you watch Veep, you’ll enjoy the VP’s staff more than the VP herself.  They are all amazing in their own way.

Best line so far: “Did the President call? No?”  It’s a running question from the VP to her receptionist, and you have to watch to appreciate it.

Status on my DVR: Taping all episodes, on the rise as one of my favorite comedies.