Now that the traditional broadcast television season is over, the USTownhall RoundTable podcast series will delve into topics of a more general nature from the worlds of pop culture and current events.
Click on the triangular "Play" button to listen to the podcast. After a few minutes, the file should be fully scannable backwards & forwards. You can pause and resume at any time as long as this page is not refreshed.
Sun, September 8, 2013: Pop Culture podcast topics - In what we hope is our final discussion on the American Idol judges, the panel discusses the addition of Harry Connick, Jr. to the show after talks with Dr. Luke fell through at the last minute. Also, more of Adam Lambert and Avicii, and we reveal the celebrities and professionals due to perform on this cycle of Dancing with the Stars. Then, we finish things off by giving our take on the MTV VMA Awards and Miley Cyrus's twerk heard 'round the world. Was she unfairly slammed by the media or did she take her image makeover too far?
Sun, August 25, 2013: Pop Culture podcast topics - American Idol selects Dr. Luke as final judge? Randy Jackson returns in Jimmy Iovine's mentor role? Also, more about Adam Lambert and Avicii, and the panel discusses Justin Guarini and his recent blog post about his hard times since his Idol days. Plus, the panel tries to figure out – with little success – exactly how Dancing with the Stars' once-a-week format will work in terms of the voting.
Current Events podcast topic - The panel pays tribute and discusses the recent death of Gale Chester Whittington, one of the flashpoints of the gay civil rights movement in the late 1960s and author of the memoir Beyond Normal: The Birth of Gay Pride.
You can learn more about Mr. Whittington at the following websites:
Sun, August 4, 2013: Pop Culture podcast topics - Adam Lambert joins forces with legendary music producer Nile Rodgers and Swedish producer and DJ, Avicii. Latest Hollywood casting news: Ellen DeGeneres hosts the Oscars; Derek Hough returns to Dancing with the Stars (along with Maxim Chmerkovskiy?); Keith Urban returns to American Idol (along with Jennifer Lopez and will.i.am?) — and much, much more!
Sun, July 14, 2013: Pop Culture podcast topics - Actor Cory Monteith of Glee dies, Adam Lambert joins cast and departs from record label.
Current Events podcast topic - George Zimmerman acquitted in Trayvon Martin case. Full analysis of events, evidence, verdict, and the handling of the case by the prosecution and defense. (Note that the date of the shooting incident is incorrectly stated during the podcast. It actually occurred on February 26, 2012).
Sun, July 7, 2013: Topics - Adam Lambert concerts in California and Florida / US Supreme Court decisions regarding California's Prop 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Sun, June 23, 2013: Topics - Summer Movies / Exodus International closes its doors / Mormon mom Prop 8 supporter discovers her son is gay
Wednesday, June 12, 2013: Topics - Adam Lambert receives "Hope of Los Angeles" award / Update on American Idol behind-the-scenes turnoil / Mariah Carey's #Beautiful song and video / changes in the music industry in the IPod age / Our suggestions as to how American Idol can be fixed re: theme nights, judges, mentors
Sunday, May 26, 2013: Topics - Pop culture events
USTownhall RealStories presents NICK LACHEY of The Winner Is
Written by Scott Katz
This summer, NBC premieres The Winner Is – a new kind of singing competition. The series, hosted by singer Nick Lachey, marries the talent search of traditional shows of this type with the fast pace and drama of a game show. In each episode, six contestants will be paired off to sing against each other. A panel of 101 music experts will judge the performances and decides who advances to the next round. Before the results are announced, the contestants are given a choice: leave the game immediately and take home a cash prize ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 or opt to stay in the game in the hope of advancing. If the contestant turns down the cash and the judges do not pick him or her to advance, the contestant goes home with nothing.
The contestant who survives the entire seven week competition will win the grand prize of one million dollars! Episodes begin airing June 10 and 17 before moving into its regular timeslot on July 11.
USTownhall RealStories speaks with Nick Lachey of The Winner Is:
USTH: Can you just talk a little bit about the process by which the show found these contestants? Was there some kind of audition process?
NICK LACHEY: We had a great scouting department that really searched the country for great talent. I can't emphasize enough that these are talented people from every walk of life. I mean, everything from an emergency room nurse to a chicken farmer to a 10-year-old 6th grader. I think we've really captured talent form all across the country. And so there were four or five different cities you could go and actually audition in. But in addition to that, we took submissions online. And again, the scouting department did a great job of finding truly the most talented people in the country and bringing them to LA for the show. So I really commend them for doing a great job.
USTH: If you were a contestant on the show, how much of a risk taker would you be? Would you try to go all the way or would there be a point where you would say you'll just take the money and leave the show?
NICK LACHEY: Well, I think that's the real captivating thing about this show. I think any performer who comes into this, they're coming in with the intention of going all the way and winning the $1 million. I mean, that's the goal.
But when you get in the heat of the battle and you just give them your performance and your opponent's giving a great performance, it's really tough to reason how the judges in the audience have voted the thing.
So, it becomes this really walking the fine line between being confident in your performance and in yourself and also trying to take yourself out of the situation enough to be objective and say, "All right, should I take the money? It'd be a shame to walk home with nothing right now. Should I take the money and leave with something in my pocket?"
So that's where the real drama comes into this whole thing. So it's tough to know. I mean, you like to think you'd go in and make the rational, smart decision but when you're in the heat of the battle – I think you can ask any performer. We have a great amount of pride in what we do. And it's tough to admit that you've been beaten, so to speak.
So, it becomes a real mental challenge to balance those things and make the right decisions so fast.
USTH: For this first season, do you know how many episodes it's going to run?
NICK LACHEY: Yes. For this first one I believe we have seven, which includes the $1 million finale. Or is that wrong, maybe six. I can't remember now offhand.
NIKKI LICHTERMAN (from NBC publicity): Seven.
NICK LACHEY: Seven, yeah. So there is seven. So there's six preliminary episodes and then the 7th one is the $1 million finale where we take the winner of the previous six and then they all compete for the chance at the $1 million. So that's what kind of makes up the first season.
USTH: As far as things are concerned right now, is the show just scheduled to be on just this one summer season or do you see it basically continuing as an ongoing series?
NICK LACHEY: Well, I love the show. I can speak honestly that in filming it we would all sit backstage and literally we'd have wagers going on as to whether people are going to take the money, not take the money. I think it's a really, really intriguing, captivating show that I think is really going to catch on, which would suggest that we come back for many more seasons. I think that's the hope.
USTH: And as you look back on these past seven episodes that you've filmed, what are your thoughts that you're left with about how this experience was for you?
NICK LACHEY: I had a blast shooting this show. I mean, that's what I really took away from it. Got to meet some very, very talented people, meet some great young singers and old singers for that matter. But more than anything, what I loved about doing this show was the ability for me to really be myself. I mean, I think more than you saw maybe on The Sing-Off in the past. In this show, I was able to really loosen up and be me and interject a little more and it was a looser kind of environment – just a different kind of show. So, I think each and every show you host – they're all different and they all kind of tap into a different part of your personality. And this one certainly did for me, but it was a lot of fun to be a part of and a lot of fun to do and certainly hope we get to do a lot more of them.
Our thanks to Nick Lachey for taking the time to speak with us. The Winner Is has two sneak peek episodes on Monday, June 10 and Monday, June 17 – both following NBC's hit series, The Voice. The Winner Is then returns for the remainder of its run on Thursday, July 11 at 9pm.
USTownhall RealStories presents DONALD TRUMP, TRACE ADKINS, & PENN JILLETTE of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice
Written by Scott Katz
Saturday, 18 May 2013 19:03
On Sunday, May 19, the sixth installment of The Celebrity Apprentice reaches its finale. After toiling away for weeks, the fourteen celebrities have been whittled down to the final two – country superstar Trace Adkins and magician/entertainer Penn Jillette.
In the final task, which began on the May 12 episode, Team Trace, led by Adkins, faces off against Team Penn, led by Jillette, in concoting a new flavor of ice cream for Walgreens Pharmacy's DeLish brand. Team Trace came up with "Maple Macadamia Mash-Up," while Team Penn created "Vanilla & Chocolate Magic Swirtle."
Additionally, each team must produce a promotional video and raise money for a launch event featuring its new flavor. Trace Adkins was joined by returning celebrities Lil Jon, Gary Busey, and Marilu Henner, while Penn Jillette had Lisa Rinna, La Toya Jackson, and Dennis Rodman assisting him.
Sunday's episode will show the conclusion of the task, which had been previously filmed, within a live setting where the final two will face Mr. Trump and await his decision on who performed the best and who will become the next Celebrity Apprentice.
USTownhall RealStories speaks with Donald Trump, Trace Adkins, and Penn Jillette of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice:
USTH: First of all, Mr. Trump, congratulations on Celebrity Apprentice being renewed for another season.
DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much.
USTH: Well deserved; it's a great show.
DONALD TRUMP: Thanks a lot; I appreciate it.
USTH: As you look back on this past season, how happy are you with the way it all turned out? What are your thoughts about the way the whole season developed?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, you know, I'm very happy with the final two. I actually took a lot of heat, fellows, I will tell you this because so many people liked Lil Jon. I have this very large Twitter account with millions of people, and I will tell you I took heat. Penn and Trace, [the people] loved Lil Jon and they were very disappointed. Now, it also was that he happened to say something at his little interview. He said, "Please Tweet Mr. Trump and say, 'You made a mistake,'" so maybe that had to do with it. That could very well have had to do with it. But a lot of people really felt very strongly about him, and I think the two guys would say he was terrific.
PENN JILLETTE: Absolutely.
DONALD TRUMP: I really like who we ended up with. I really like the season. It was a very good season. Very competitive from a lot of standpoints because there were so many [other series] – the Sunday night hours are very, very tough. You have all of the finales. You have all of the major Country Music awards, and there were so many different competitive shows, and yet we still did well. You had the Bible I guess in cable; you had [Game of Thrones]; you had everything. I think Sunday night has become – Sunday night used to be an easy night. I think it's now maybe the most competitive night on television. And despite that we did very well. We almost always won the 10:00 hour and we're really happy about it. But I like the way the season came out.
USTH: My next question is for Penn and Trace. Do you consider yourselves to be competitive by nature, or is this something new that came out of you while playing this game?
PENN JILLETTE: It's very new for me. I've never played sports. I've never been a game player. I've always kind of been in my own little world. And I've never really focused on any sort of competition thing. And I actually enjoyed it. Maybe I've got to start playing chess or something.
DONALD TRUMP: Get yourself into sports; you'd be great at sports. You don't play – you've never played sports? I didn't know that. Wow.
PENN JILLETTE: I've never been a sports player, no.
DONALD TRUMP: With that size you would think you'd be good.
PENN JILLETTE: I've always been a bit of a bookworm, I'm afraid.
TRACE ADKINS: I, on the other hand, am an old jock and yes, the competitiveness started at a very early age with me and it continues on today, really. I mean, the business that I'm in, country music, is a competitive business. To be relevant in this business means to be competitive, and that's how I continue to be relevant because I continue to be competitive.
USTH: On the first interview that we did before the season began, I asked Brett Michaels and LaToya Jackson to describe their charities and why it was important to them. You both have done a little bit of that on the show already, but I feel you can never talk about your charities too much. So I'd like to give you the opportunity once again to each of you to talk about your charity. What's the name of it, and why is it important to you?
TRACE ADKINS: Okay, I will just say at this point though you watch Sunday night because they give us ample opportunity to talk a lot about our charities. They spent a lot of time interviewing us and interviewing the people that we are representing. And so Sunday night, they go into our charities in great depth. So, that will all be on there Sunday night. But I'll just tell you quickly that the American Red Cross showed up at my office in June, 2011 when we had a house fire. Our house was a total loss, and right on the heels of the firefighters was the American Red Cross. And I was embarrassed at that time to learn that they respond to over 70,000 house fires a year in this country. I didn't know that. I thought the Red Cross was just the huge natural disaster response team, and I was embarrassed to learn that they – somewhere in this country right now, there's a Red Cross volunteer that's helping somebody. And, I just felt like I owed them something for being at my house when I wasn't there. I was in Alaska, so I play [Celebrity Apprentice] for the American Red Cross.
PENN JILLETTE: And I play for Opportunity Village, which is now a local charity in Las Vegas. [Penn and Teller] do a lot of stuff with charity in Vegas. The reason I chose Opportunity Village is I'm hoping that the idea will spread. It is for people with intellectual disabilities, and it is the idea of not warehousing these people or keeping them separate from us, but rather training them to have skills and [integrate] into the workplace and just not be part of an intellectual apartheid. And I'm hoping that that idea has been successful. One of the things that's wonderful about being on Celebrity Apprentice besides the fact that it helps Penn and Teller, a bigger fact is people from all over the country have called Opportunity Village and talked about starting them in other cities. And I need to add because –Mr. Trump cannot hear this enough – that it was Elvis Presley's favorite charity. Every scarf that he would wear in Vegas and wipe his brow and kiss and throw into the audience was made by the clients in Opportunity Village. And I will also say that they do a lot of stuff for Mr. Trump. At some of his hotels and properties, they do some packaging for him there. So, it's a wonderful charity to move people with intellectual disabilities into the mainstream and let them be part of us and let us love them and appreciate them.
USTH: That sounds great. Finally, as you guys look back on this past season, what are the feelings that you are left with, and are you surprised about anything that you learned about yourself?
PENN JILLETTE: Yes, I'm a little surprised that I believe I'm a little less of a creep than I thought. I've always seen myself as much more of an outsider, and I think Celebrity Apprentice let me deal with people that I normally wouldn't deal with and understand that I can get along a little better with them. That meant a lot to me. Also, after talking about the charity, this seems a little crass, but as well as we were doing in Vegas before [Celebrity Apprentice], we're doing much, much better now, [it] is the biggest bump we've ever seen.
TRACE ADKINS: Wow.
USTH: And Trace?
TRACE ADKINS: I'm not really surprised, but I have to say from day one when I showed up and I got to peruse the cast, I thought if I was going to win this thing that Penn was going to be the man I was going to have to beat. And that's why I chose him first when I was given the opportunity to choose my team. I picked him, and then I was going to pick Omarosa and use her to dispatch Penn. But Brett picked her, and I knew immediately he'd made a mistake, and she cut his throat the first week. Anyway what have I learned about myself? That I have more patience and tolerance than I thought I did.
USTH: Our thanks to Donald Trump, Trace Adkins, and Penn Jillette for taking the time to speak with us. The finale to All-Star Celebrity Apprentice airs live on Sunday, May 19 at 9pm Eastern on NBC.