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Tuning in to TV: Coffer tries hand at screenwriting

- - Sunday, April 29, 2012

When "Glee" star Chris Colfer was 8, he began writing a novel. He wrote two pages, called it the first chapter and proudly showed it to his grandmother.

"She said, 'OK, could use some development,' " laughed Mr. Colfer.

That memory was worked into his script for the movie "Struck by Lightning," which premiered at this year's Tribeca Film Festival.

Mr. Colfer wrote and stars in the movie. He plays Carson, an ambitious high school senior who blackmails his fellow students into helping him get into Northwestern University.

The 21-year-old actor came up with the idea for the story when he was a teen as a way to vent about his teachers and classmates.

Allison Janney plays his mother, and Mr. Colfer said he always pictured her in the part.

"I always had her voice in my head for some reason. Always, always," he said.

Miss Janney said she was unaware the part was written for her but loved it immediately.

"I was blown away by Chris' script," she said. "The writing has always been the most important thing to me, and I had an instant connection to his script. The characters were funny and flawed, especially the part of his mother. Then I met with him and was completely charmed by him. ... How can he be so talented and accomplished and charming and be so impossibly young? I can't wait to see what's next for him. Maybe directing?"

Dermot Mulroney, Christina Hendricks and Sarah Hyland also star in the movie.

Mr. Colfer just finished a psychological drama he hopes to shoot independently this summer. He also adapted a pilot for the Disney Channel based on Florence Laughlin's children's book "The Little Leftover Witch."

In addition, he has inked a deal to publish two children's books. "The Land of Stories," which will be in bookstores in July, is essentially the completion of that story he began writing when he was 8.

"It came from me being a young, curious kid holding a book in my hand and wishing with all my heart that I could just fall into the book and go on these adventures with all the characters," he said.

Mr. Colfer said he told his parents when he was growing up that he was going to write and act, and he has made good on those bold declarations. His portrayal of gay teen Kurt Hummel on the Fox show "Glee" has earned him a Golden Globe and two Emmy nominations.

- Associated Press

South Carolina teacher sent home on 'Idol'

Elise Testone won't be winning it all on "American Idol."

The rockin' 28-year-old teacher from Charleston, S.C., was revealed to have received the fewest viewer votes Thursday on the Fox singing competition. Ms. Testone delivered energetic renditions of Queen's "I Want It All" and Jimi Hendrix's "Bold as Love" on Wednesday but wasn't able evade eviction after appearing at the bottom of the pack six times this season.

Ms. Testone was joined in the bottom three Thursday by 18-year-old vocalist Hollie Cavanagh from McKinney, Texas, who tugged at the judges' heartstrings with Queen's "Save Me" and Miley Cyrus' "The Climb," and 18-year-old country rocker Skylar Laine from Brandon, Miss., who wowed with Queen's "The Show Must Go On" and Jason Aldean's "Tattoos on This Town."

An 11th season "Idol" champion is scheduled to be crowned May 23.

- Associated Press

'30 Rock' rocks out with live episode

In a break from its usual filmed style, NBC's "30 Rock" went live Thursday night with an episode that was full of fun and, yes, very lively.

As promised, the setup for the episode had boss Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) delivering the bad news that, as a cost-cutting measure, "TGS," the fictitious show-within-a-show produced by Liz Lemon (series star Tina Fey), would henceforth be filmed, not broadcast live.

"From now on," he said, "you write and shoot the season in two weeks, like 'Wheel of Fortune' and Fox News."

Liz erupted in protest.

" 'TGS' has to be live or it will lose all its excitement and spontaneity," she declared. "That's the beauty of live TV: Anything can happen!"

And at that moment, Kenneth the janitor (Jack McBrayer) entered Donaghy's office with Paul McCartney in tow, telling him, "Here's a bathroom you can use." Mr. McCartney disappeared into Donaghy's executive loo. Anything indeed.

Among the surprise guests were Amy Poehler, Jimmy Fallon and Jon Hamm.

Thursday's episode was the second such venture for "30 Rock," which aired live the first time in October 2010. As it did then, this half-hour was broadcast from NBC's Studio 8H — otherwise the home of "Saturday Night Live" — in front of a live studio audience.

The initial performance — telecast at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time — went smoothly, with no noticeable technical glitches and one minor flubbed line.

Three hours later, the cast and guest stars hit their marks once again for viewers in the Western time zone. One of the changes: instead of Sir Paul, reality queen Kim Kardashian made use of Donaghy's bathroom.

By the end of the episode, Donaghy was won over to the importance of live TV.

" 'TGS' is meant to be live," he concluded. "To make it more profitable, we'll just need to do more sponsored product placements. Or I'll just pay you all less."

Whereupon Mr. McCartney reappeared on stage, looking dazed.

"I slipped and hit my head in the bathroom," he said. "Who am I?"

"You're my boyfriend!" Liz Lemon told him as she gleefully led him away.

In the West Coast version, Miss Kardashian had the last word. When Liz remarked that 2.5 million viewers saw "TGS," Miss Kardashian strolled by and recorded the moment on video for her followers.

"Now, 14 million people just saw it. You're welcome," Ms. Kardashian said. "Oh, and also, I broke your toilet."

- Associated Press

George H.W. Bush subject of HBO film

HBO is producing a documentary on President George H.W. Bush to debut two days after his 88th birthday in June.

Titled "41," the film about the 41st president is being produced by Jerry Weintraub, a friend of the Bush family and himself the subject of "My Way," another HBO documentary. Jeffrey Roth, who made "The Wonder of It All" about Apollo moon walkers, is directing and writing the film.

It was made between September 2009 and February 2011.

HBO said Friday that Mr. Bush, father of the 43rd president, shares anecdotes about his youth, various jobs and term as president from 1989 to 1993. Its first airing is June 14.

- Associated Press