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How to embarrass yourself in front of a star

Dalton’s back! On his mind: why he won’t talk to (most) celebs, the off-the-rails ”On the Lot,” and his recent absence from EW.com

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Andrew Eccles

How to embarrass yourself in front of a star

Here’s the question I get asked most often when I tell people I work at Entertainment Weekly: ”Really? Say, how does that Mary Hart stay so perky and delightful?” But after carefully explaining the difference between Entertainment Weekly and Entertainment Tonight, I am usually posed with this all-too-predictable follow-up: ”Yeah, whatever. Anyway, what celebrities do you know?” I make it a point to pause for a moment before answering, letting them enjoy their brief moment of bliss believing they are conversing with someone who actually converses with famous people on a regular basis. Then I hit them with the depressing truth: I know no one.

Well, not quite no one (see ”The Five” below), but it’s not like I could fill a room — or even a closet — with them. A good deal of this is because I spend 99 percent of my time on the job either chained to a desk or perfecting the dent in my couch as I slog through all manner of ridiculous reality television (National Bingo Night? Sure, why not!). But even on those rare occasions when I do find myself within striking distance of a famous person, I keep my comments to myself. It’s not that I am shy. Nor do I consider myself above them. On the contrary, I don’t talk to celebrities for one very good reason — they don’t want to talk to me.

I know this for a few reasons. First off, I am not beautiful. And secondly, I have nothing to impart from my life that could possibly be of any interest to them whatsoever (”Scarlett, this is crazy. Guess what happened to me as I was trying to wipe cat piss off my bathroom floor this morning. Instead of the all-purpose spray, I grabbed the bottle of shower curtain cleaner by mistake. Can you believe that? Shower-curtain cleaner!”). Yet, random people like you and me do this all the time. I can’t help but wonder what folks are thinking when they approach an actor and interrupt his dinner to chat him up about some action movie from 17 years ago where he waged war on a Jamaican drug kingpin named Screwface. Where does this compulsion come from? Sure, you might be able to say, ”Hey, I met Steven Seagal,” but is it really worth it when Steven Seagal is most likely calling in a restraining order? Or, even worse, kicking your ass?

Of course, I don’t always follow my own advice. Once, after a few too many (okay, seven) beers, I decided to bond with a famous musician (who shall remain nameless to protect me from further ridicule) who I knew to be born and bred in my hometown of Washington, D.C. I tried to impress him by talking about hardcore, emo, go-go, and all the hip musical movements that started in D.C., and even attempted to administer some sort of secret nation’s-capital handshake. Just one problem: He wasn’t actually from D.C. (He tried to tell me this several times throughout the conversation but I was too busy babbling on about the Smithsonian.)

Anyway, the point is, seven beers is way too many. Furthermore, even had I been chugging Fantas, we would both have been better off sticking among our own. You see, celebrities and us normal folk are different breeds. We go to parties and bring a bottle of wine. They go to parties and walk out with a $10,000 gift bag. I could go on and on with examples like this, but it’s simply too depressing. Suffice it to say, we just don’t share many experiences that lend themselves to bonding. So next time you’re thinking of approaching a celebrity, ask yourself: ”Does he really want to talk to me?” And if you’re absolutely, positively sure that he does, at least make sure to get his hometown right.

THE FIVE CELEBRITIES I DO ACTUALLY CORRESPOND WITH FROM TIME TO TIME

1. Eric Mabius
Poor guy. He has to talk to me, lest the incriminating pictures I took of him back in college make their way onto the back page of EW.

2. Jeff Probst
I think the host with the most is simply amused — and perhaps a bit frightened — by my Survivor obsessiveness. Also wears a lot of hats.

3. Bruce Campbell
I actually once travelled to Dunkirk to meet the Evil Dead star for a story, and I don’t travel to towns called Dunkirk for just anyone.

4. Leslie Grossman
The Popular actress is another college pal, proving all my friends turned out to be far more successful than I did. How completely depressing.

5. Jerry Buckner of Buckner & Garcia
C’mon, he totally counts as a celebrity. The dude wrote ”Pac-Man Fever” for crying out loud! Respect is due!

NEXT PAGE: Obsession of the Week and Reader Mail!

OBSESSION OF THE WEEK

My obsession this week is the sinking ship that is Fox’s On The Lot. This show came from heavyweights Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg, was promoted ad nauseam for the past month, and debuted in the plum post-Idol finale timeslot. One week in, it is already in serious free-fall. The blond host the first week has been replaced by someone named Adrianna Costa, judge Brett Ratner has also mysteriously disappeared, and viewers have vanished altogether. The latest episode was even beaten in the ratings by lame reality entries like The Real Wedding Crashers and The Ex-Wives Club. Truthfully, this venture was doomed to fail from the start. Nobody wants to see a collection of mediocre short films from slightly-below-average to slightly-above-average-directors, much less care enough about them to take to the phones to vote. Now what does Fox do? The show is tanking, yet with all these important people behind it and with all the money already invested, can the network kill it off just yet? I don’t know, but I suddenly find myself fascinated by this most unfascinating show and what sort of fate awaits it. Consider the On the Lot death watch in full swing!

READER MAIL

Okay, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve had a chance to answer some reader mail (explanation posted below), so let’s get right to your thoughts on ”Previously on…” segments, Heroes hiatuses, and the return of Friday Night Lights.

Dalton, Dalton, Dalton…how could you mention these upstart ”Previously on…”s and leave off your list the granddaddy of the current ”previously…” style, 24? It has it all…the ”stick-figure-y” lines forming the ”24,” the world-weary voice of Kiefer Sutherland intoning ”Previously on 24…”, followed by cutaways to remind viewers where they are in the story, even putting up ”title cards” of the players who either mattered LAST week, or WILL matter THIS week (like the mini-reminders about dear old dad and his brother’s hot widow last week, neither of whom we’d seen since almost Valentine’s Day!), without playing favorites (Jack Bauer usually gets ”carded” about halfway through the segment), and ending with the thematic ”swoosh” and Sutherland’s signature lead-in, ”The following takes place….” To me, it puts the others to shame. And it’s been the same (mostly) for 6 years now! Considering that Drive only had a total of 2 ”Previously on…”s before getting canned, 24 having over 140 of them is pretty good… —Ray Engler

You’re right, Ray, the 24 ”Previously on…” segments are classic, but for my column I was only reviewing ones on shows that I did not watch. See, I only wish I hadn’t sat through this past season of 24.

My favorite ”Previously” segment was the season Buffy the Vampire Slayer switched from the WB to UPN. Before the first episode, there was a frantic montage of ridiculously short highlights from the previous five years. —Maria Kaufman

What would have made it perfect is if they had started it out with the words ”Previously on…another network.” Unfortunately, network suit types don’t find things like that quite so funny.

Hey, Dalton! I think the reason Heroes lost some of its audience was the long hiatus. I personally didn’t mind waiting if it meant quality episodes when it returned — which so far it seems to have meant — but I wonder if next season they should make the mid-season break longer (?!?) or give them two shorter ”spring semester” breaks to avoid audience dropoff. —Mike Poteet

Well, Mike, by now you’ve probably heard the news about the Heroes spin-off titled Heroes: Origins that will air during the show’s break in season 2. I think this is a really smart move to keep fans tuning in, assuming it doesn’t suck. If it does suck, it could potentially drag down the mothership with it. We’ll see. Save the spin-off, save the world!

Why did NBC put FNL on Fridays at 10???? Who is going to stay in and watch TV on a FRIDAY? Do they want this show to fail? It is seriously the best show on television and has even surpassed Grey’s Anatomy on my list of the best things ever. To make my point, let’s look at other shows on Friday nights: The Ghost Whisperer (ick), National Bingo Night (seriously? national bingo night?) and one of the Law & Orders (does it even matter which one?). Sigh, NBC, huge disappointed sigh. —Shannon McGurrin

Actually, Shannon, not only does the timeslot not bug me, but I actually like it. Here’s why. First off, as fans of the show, we should just be happy it is coming back at all, because it certainly doesn’t warrant it based strictly on ratings. As long as it is on at some point during the week, we — or our DVRs — will find it. So why do I like the Friday-at-10 slot, when pretty much everyone is either asleep or out on the town? Because the expectations are minimal. You put this thing on Thursday night and it doesn’t perform, it’s gone after two weeks. On Friday at 10, hopefully the network will continue to be patient with it, knowing that nothing in that slot is going to do gangbusters. Even if the Friday slot only gives the show a few extra weeks of life, I’ll take every last hour I can get.

Is the Glutton no longer an every-Wednesday feature? That would be too bad. It’s my favorite EW.com feature. Thanks for writing it! —Kathy Higgins

Thanks, Kathy. Yes, the Glutton is still a regular Wednesday feature. The problem is, I’m just a lazy bastard. Well, that’s not entirely true. Just a very busy one. I was forced to leave you dear readers Glutton-less for a few weeks while I worked round the clock on our American Idol special issue. The good news is that said issue is done. The bad news is that means you all are once again stuck with me on a weekly basis. Be careful what you wish for!!!

Have a horrible celebrity encounter you’d like to share? Have any theories as to where On The Lot‘s Brett Ratner disappeared to? And what are your thoughts on Heroes: Origins? Send your questions, comments, and quibbles to theglutton@ew.com, or just fill out the handy-dandy form below. See ya next week. Yes, next week!