'The West Wing' turns 20 

iStock/izanoza(LOS ANGELES) -- Twenty years ago Sunday, America witnessed the start of the Bartlet administration as The West Wing debuted on NBC September 22, 1999.

Created by Aaron Sorkin and written almost exclusively by him for the first four of the show's seven seasons, The West Wing followed the two-term presidency of the fictional Democratic President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, and the lives and duties of the staffers who served with him in the White House.

The ensemble drama also starred John Spencer and Chief of Staff Leo McGarry; Bradley Whitford as McGarry's deputy, Josh Lyman; Allison Janney as press secretary C.J. Cregg; Richard Schiff as Communications Director Toby Ziegler and Rob Lowe as his deputy, Sam Seaborn; Dulé Hill as presidential aide Charlie Young; Janel Moloney as Donna Moss, Josh Lyman's assistant; and Stockard Channing as first lady Dr. Abby Bartlet.

Debuting during the final year of the Clinton administration and with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal still in full swing, The West Wing arguably presented an idealized view of a liberal, Democratic White House, with Bartlet depicted as a highly-educated, Bible-quoting devout Catholic, loyal husband and loving father. 

Ensuing seasons showed the West Wing staff dealing with real-world political hot-button issues, from government shutdowns over budget deadlocks, to terrorism, separation of church and state, campaign finance and even an assassination attempt on Bartlet's life.  It also demonstrated the toll public service exacted on the personal lives of its characters, with everything secondary to their service.

The final two seasons of The West Wing dealt with the impending end of the Bartlet administration and the election of a new president, with Jimmy Smits playing congressman and eventual Democratic nominee Matt Santos, and Leo McGarry stepping up as his vice-presidential running mate. 

During the seventh season, however, actor John Spencer died of a heart attack, echoing a heart attack his character had during a prior season.  Spencer's death was written into the show.  Alan Alda played against type as Santos' Republican opponent, Senator Arnold Vinick, who ultimately lost the race to Santos -- only to have Santos offer him secretary of state in a final moment of wishful bipartisanship lacking in real-world politics.

Despite frequent criticism from conservatives, who felt the show demonized them, and even some drubbing from liberals for what some said was its unapologetic left-wing bias and sometimes over-the-top idealism, The West Wing was widely hailed by real-life politicos for its realism, and for its showcasing of public service as a noble calling. 

The West Wing was a commercial and critical hit.  It won nine Emmy Awards its first season alone, the most ever won by a show in its inaugural outing.  By the time the final episode aired May 14, 2006, The West Wing had won 26 Emmys and two Peabody Awards. 

In the years since, The West Wing continues to earn critical praise and find new fans on streaming platforms, and is often cited as one of the greatest TV shows ever made.  Richard Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler, feels that's a telling reflection of the times.

"It's increasing in its intensity, especially because of the current state of our nation," Schiff tells ABC Radio.  "It's a refuge for people to go and remember what the country was supposed to be."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


'Big Bang' co-stars Mayim Bialik and Jim Parsons back together for 'Carla'

Michael Yarish/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved(LOS ANGELES) -- That didn't take long! The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik is reuniting with her former onscreen love interest Jim Parsons, barely four months after their sitcom's finale.

The two will co-executive produce the new Fox comedy Carla, in which Bialik is also attached to star, according to Variety.

Bialik will play the titular character, "a 39-year-old woman who struggles every day against society and her mother to prove that you cannot have everything you want and still be happy," according to the industry trade. She attempts to prove that by spending "the money her parents set aside for her wedding to open a Cat Café in Louisville, Kentucky."

Carla is slated to launch in 2020

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'Rambo: Last Blood,' 'Downton Abbey,' 'Ad Astra' hit theaters this weekend

Sylvester Stallone in "Rambo: Last Blood"; Yana Blajeva/Lionsgate(NEW YORK) -- Opening nationwide on Friday:

* Rambo: Last Blood -- The fifth and final chapter of the 37-year-old Rambo franchise, once again starring Sylvester Stallone as the title character, finds a still-troubled Rambo coming out of retirement to cross the Mexican border and face one of the country's most violent drug cartels, to save the daughter of a friend. Also starring Paz Vega.  Rated R.

* Downton Abbey -- The Crawleys and their intrepid staff are back in this continuation of the popular British series that aired on PBS from 2011-2016. The film sees the Crawleys preparing for "the most important moment of their lives: a royal visit from the King and Queen of England which will "unleash scandal, romance and intrigue that will leave the future of Downton hanging in the balance," according to the movie's official description. The original principal cast, including Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Laura Carmichael and Allen Leech returns, along with new cast members Imelda Staunton, Geraldine James, Simon Jones, David Haig, Tuppence Middleton, Kate Phillips, and Stephen Campbell Moore. Rated PG.

* Ad Astra -- This space adventure stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut whose dad, played by Tommy Lee Jones, vanishes during a mission.  Decades later, Pitt follows in his father's footsteps, and learns that not only is his father still alive, but that his survival has world-changing implications.  Also starring Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland. Rated PG-13.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved. 


Oh. My. Gawd: 'Friends turns 25' this Sunday. Could we be any more nostalgic?

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- On September 22, 1994, NBC aired the pilot episode of a sitcom about six twentysomethings living in New York City -- which makes this Sunday the 25th anniversary of Friends. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, Friends aired on NBC from 1994-2004.

While the series had the early benefit of following Seinfeld, the anchor of NBC's legendary "Must-See TV" line-up, it soon attracted a rabid fanbase of its own. It inspired a hairstyle -- Aniston's "The Rachel" -- and spun off a hit single: The Rembrandts' "I'll Be There For You." It also made its stars the highest-paid cast on TV at the time, each earning a million bucks an episode.

The series was nominated for 62 Emmy Awards; in 2002, it was named Outstanding Comedy Series. Aniston and Kudrow snagged an Emmy each during the show's run.  The series finale on May 6, 2004 was watched by 52.5 million viewers: The fifth most-watched series finale in television history. 

These days, a whole new generation loves Friends, thanks to its streaming run on Netflix.  Maggie Wheeler, who played Chandler's nasal-voiced girlfriend Janice, tells ABC Radio she loves that younger viewers are tuning in.

"There's this young generation that lives with phones in their hands, that communicates with their friends by text...and here they have...this show...and there are no phones and nobody is looking down and everybody's talking to each other," she notes."And I just think how exciting that they get to see what that looked like."
James Michael Tyler, who played Central Perk barista Gunther, adds, "I think it's a testament just to the great writing and the great acting...It's kind of timeless. The wardrobes' dated, the hairstyles are dated, but the storylines aren't." 

In honor of the show's 25th anniversary, Cox, Kudrow, Schwimmer and Le Blanc each posted messages on their respective Instagram accounts, along with the same cast photo and the opening: “Celebrating a Thursday night 25 years ago,” before adding their own personal message.

“Thank you to all of our loyal fans across the world. You’ve certainly been there for us! I love these guys!” wrote Cox.

Kudrow noted that she and her cast members “might be in different places but we are connected.”

Schwimmer shared, “Celebrating a Thursday night 25 years ago… THANK YOU to all the fans out there!! We couldn’t have done it without you.”

And finally, Le Blanc added, “Seems like yesterday. Thanks to all the fans for watching.”

Aniston and Perry aren't on Instagram and so didn't participate in the tribute.

Here's each cast member's favorite episode, courtesy of People:

Matt LeBlanc (Joey) -- "The One with the Embryos"
Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe) -- "The One Hundredth"
Matthew Perry (Chandler) -- "The One with the Blackout"
Jennifer Aniston (Rachel) -- "The One Where Rachel Has a Baby (Parts I and II)"
David Schwimmer (Ross) -- "The One with the Prom Video"
Courteney Cox (Monica) -- "The One with the Embryos"

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved. 


Tyler Perry writes open letter to his five-year-old self: "I love you. We made it."

/Ida Mae Astute(ATLANTA) -- After recently celebrating his 50th birthday, Tyler Perry has been taking the time to reflect, not only on his life, but on who he was as a boy.

In an Instagram post on Thursday, Perry wrote a open letter to his five-year-old self, where he thanks him for laying the foundation for who he is today.

"Dear 5 year old me," Perry begins. "May I just say, 'Thank you' to the little boy that I was. Thank you for all you went through to allow me to be the man I am today. I love you, and I am so thankful to God that you survived."

He continued, "Even when I didn’t want to, your pureness and innocence ushered me here. Thank you for these 50 years. I love you. We made it."

Perry then poses the question to others: "What would you say to your younger self?"

"This is just one paragraph of many pages that I've written to my younger self over the years," he reveals. "I often tell friends to write a letter to their younger self. I promise you, it will change your life."

Perry says the process of writing to your younger self "can be so healing."

Meanwhile, as Perry celebrates what he calls "a very young 50," the director-producer and studio owner is also celebrating the launch of BET's new streaming service, BET+, which will house many of his new projects.

"Well this is finally a dream come true," he wrote on Instagram, sharing a hilarious promo in which he explains BET+ to his Madea character.

"I’ve partnered with @BET to launch @BETplus. It’s easy to operate just like Netflix," he added. "And we have tons of content. I’m working on new shows and movies for it right now. Get @BETplus. You’re gonna love it!"

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Check out the trailer for Michael B. Jordan's superhero series 'Raising Dion'

Netflix(LOS ANGELES) -- Netflix has unveiled the first trailer for its Michael B. Jordan co-produced superhero drama Raising Dion.

Based on Dennis Liu's short film and comic book of the same name, the series follows a recently widowed mother who discovers her young son, Dion, has supernatural abilities.

Jordan produced the project through his Outlier Society production company, and also appears as Dion's dead father via video flashbacks left for his "special little man."

Newcomer Ja’Siah Young plays the boy, who has a curious control of the weather, and an ability to teleport.  His abilities make him the target of government agents who want to study supers like him.

Alisha Wainwright plays his mom, who will do anything to save her super-powered son. In the clip, she's seen tangling with some kind of weather monster.

Raising Dion also stars Jason Ritter and Jazmyn Simon.

The series, consisting of nine one-hour episodes, will launch on October 4 on Netflix.

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Cameron Mathison shares "very good news" after surgery to remove tumor

ABC(LOS ANGELES) -- Just one week after opening up about his diagnosis, TV host and actor Cameron Mathison says he's on the mend.

Following his surgery for kidney cancer, the 50-year-old told ABC's Good Morning America in a statement, "We got the pathology report back yesterday … and it's very good news. It's the least aggressive form of kidney cancer… with a] very low rate of recurring."

Robin Roberts and company shared the good news Thursday morning on GMA.

Doctors were able to remove the tumor on his right kidney completely, leaving him with 80% of the vital organ, according to Mathison.

Last week, Mathison opened up about his diagnosis to GMA, revealing that he had a 4.2 centimeter mass growing inside his right kidney and saying that it was “consistent to renal cell carcinoma.”

After his surgery last week, the former GMA contributor took to social media to thank well-wishers saying, "I've been very overwhelmed and grateful for all the supportive comments and prayers. The surgery went very well."

Today, the father of two is staying positive and even shared an image earlier this week showing the outpouring of support from well-wishers who have sent him cards, flowers, and even kidney beans.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Stephen King fans can get paid to watch 13 of his horror movies by Halloween

ABC/Jeff Niera(NEW YORK) -- Horror movie fans have a chance to get paid for doing what they love, or love to hate -- watching scary movies and sharing all the spooky details of their experience.

TV provider U.S. Dish came up with a new promotion that will pay one person $1,300 for watching 13 Stephen King films by Halloween and documenting the experience.

U.S. Dish said it wants to "help you achieve your dreams, or rather, face your nightmares" and is accepting applications for a limited time ahead of the release of King-based films, It: Chapter Two and Doctor Sleep.

The company narrowed down the must-watch King films to 13 titles, including Carrie, Children of the Corn, Christine, Creepshow, Cujo, Dreamcatcher, It, The Mist, Pet Sematary, Salem's Lot, The Shining, Thinner, and Misery.

U.S. Dish will give a worksheet to guide the lucky viewer through their documenting process so he or she can highlight all the hair-raising details.  The viewer must also wear a Fitbit -- courtesy of Dish -- to track his or her pulse during the scary scenes.

Dish will also equip the viewer with the proper DISH gear and package to watch the movies, complete with "a survival kit with a flashlight, blanket, popcorn, candy, and some Stephen King paraphernalia to set the stage for what is sure to be a terrifying experience."

Finally, fans will receive "a movie theater gift card to add a 14th King film to their list, either It: Chapter 2 or Doctor Sleep, whichever nightmare you prefer."

Once the person finishes watching, logging and reporting back, Dish will pay them $1,300.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Alec Baldwin's wife Hilaria reveals pregnancy five months after miscarriage

Walt Disney Television/Yolanda Perez(NEW YORK) -- Alec Baldwin and his wife Hilaria are expecting their fifth child, five months after experiencing a miscarriage.

The fitness guru revealed on Wednesday in an Instagram post that "it is still very early" in the pregnancy, but she wanted to share her news in the interest of transparency.

Hilaria also asked paparazzi to avoid taking her picture, as "getting chased around by cameras is not in the doctor's orders."

"The sound of this strong heart makes me so happy -- especially because of the loss we experienced in the spring," she wrote. "We want to share this news as we are excited and don’t want to hide the pregnancy. These first few months are tough with exhaustion and nausea...and I don’t want to have to pretend that I feel ok."

Hilaria, 35, and Alec, 61, are already parents to Carmen, six, Rafael, five, Leonardo, three, and Romeo, one. Baldwin is also the father of 23-year-old, Ireland, from his marriage to actress Kim Basinger.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Prognosis is good: 'ER' celebrates its 25th anniversary

"ER" season one cast; Jeff Katz/NBCU Photo Bank(NEW YORK) -- ER, the Emmy-winning medical drama that served as a launching pad for the likes of George Clooney and Julianna Margulies, celebrates its 25th anniversary Thursday.

Created by best-selling Jurassic Park novelist Michael Crichton, himself a medical doctor before turning full-time to writing, ER aired on NBC from September 19, 1994, to April 2, 2009, with a total of 331 episodes over 15 seasons. It followed the inner workings of the emergency room at the fictional County General Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.

Throughout its successful run, it racked up 23 Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series in 1996.

The season one cast featured Anthony Edwards as the empathetic chief resident Dr. Mark Greene, George Clooney as Dr. Doug Ross, Sherry Stringfield as Dr. Susan Lewis, Noah Wyle as medical student John Carter, Eriq La Salle as Carter's mentor, Dr. Peter Benton, and Julianna Margulies as Nurse Carol Hathaway, Dr. Ross' on-again, off-again love interest. In later seasons, the cast also featured Goran Visnjic, Ming-Na Wen, Maura Tierney, Linda Cardellini, John Stamos, Mekhi Phifer, Alex Kingston and others.

Margulies, who went on to star in The Good Wife, says ER is having a resurgence by finding a whole new audience, thanks to streaming services.

“Suddenly there’s this younger generation coming up going ‘Wait! Are you Nurse Hathaway?’” Margulies says. “And it’s this whole resurgence of a life I lived [over] 20 years ago. And it’s remarkable to see that that show is aging so beautifully, that it doesn’t really age at all.” 

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