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Executive Producer Michael Levitt Previews The Adorable 2019 ‘American Rescue Dog Show’

Photo: MLProds

Dog lovers everywhere get ready! Coming your way on Sunday, February 17th and Monday, February 18th, the good folks at the Hallmark Channel will air a two-night special event (8pmET/7pmCT) that puts a spin on the traditional competitive elite dog shows, while at the same time championing an important cause for man’s best friend.

The 2019 American Rescue Dog Show honors some of the cutest rescue dogs from around the country going paw-to-paw in categories that will tickle-your-funny-bone, bring a smile to your face, or, potentially shed a tear.  This marks the second year for this oh-so-heartwarming show, where in its first year, it beat the Westminster Dog Show in the ratings; much to the delight of rescue dogs and their families, who take these wonderful animals into their homes.

The brainchild behind the concept is the executive producer of the event. Michael Levitt (Skin Wars, Daytime Emmys, TV Land Awards), who spoke with Michael Fairman TV to give us all the inside dish and insight into why this dog show is so personally important to him, and how its goal is to create awareness about the plight of millions of abandoned dogs in shelters each year, and to inspire viewers to think about rescuing one of these loveable pups.

Levitt has a collection of notable hosts and judges along for the ride who bring this one-of-a-kind doggy competition to life from the world of TV, film, and animal advocacy.  So, for the lowdown on the competition and more, here’s what Michael shared.

Photo: Crown Media

For those who want to check out the two-night event, is the American Rescue Dog Show in the same vein as the Westminster Dog Show, where the dogs are competing? 

MICHAEL: The format of the show is similar to a fancy dog show, such as Westminster, however, on the American Rescue Dog Show, we aren’t “judging” the dog.  In our show, they all have to be rescue dogs that are spayed or neutered in order to compete, and we are not judging them based on their bloodlines, we are celebrating their cuteness in such categories as, “Best in Wiggle Butt,” “Best in Couch Potato,” “Best in Snoring,” “Best in Special Needs,” and  “Best in Senior Dog” – those are obviously some of the most important.   We have the fancy arena floor with the judges and the tuxedos.  We filmed it at the Pomona Fairplex, which is the same place that they film the Beverly Hills Dog Show.

And you have a bevy of dog-loving celebrity judges along for the ride, too!

MICHAEL: Yes, and this year we are lucky to have the support of celebrity animal advocates that include: Lisa Vanderpump, Debbie Gibson, Brandon McMillan, host of CBS’s Lucky Dog, Bill Berloni, who is the dog trainer to a lot of the dogs on Broadway, and Dirty Job’s Mike Rowe.  Our prerequisites for them to be a judge were: they all needed to be rescue-friendly.  So, they either needed to have a rescue dog of their own or support rescue in some way.  Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell are the hosts this year, along with Ross Matthews and Home & Family’s Larissa Wall, who served as co-hosts and cover all of the action ringside.

Photo: Crown Media

So, did the judges get along?  Did they differ on their top picks?

MICHAEL: The judges absolutely got along famously, but as a producer of the show, I was a fly on the wall listening to them when they were deliberating as they were picking a winner.  That was quite entertaining, because each of them had a strong point of view on the dog, or dogs that they thought should win the competition. We found ourselves throughout the filming just turning to each other and saying, “I don’t know how the judges are going to pick just one, because they are all just so incredibly special.”

How was Lisa Vanderpump? 

MICHAEL:  Lisa was wonderful!  When she was being interviewed by Rebecca and Jerry O’Connell, they asked her what she would say to a potential family that is about to buy a dog from a breeder, and it was such a profound moment, because as someone who comes from her socioeconomic level, from her privilege, to see that she has embraced rescue might be incredibly meaningful to someone who might think that rescue dogs are second-hand animals.  Lisa Vanderpump disproves that just by being there, and being a part of it.

Photo: Crown Media

How did you decide on Rebecca and Jerry as your hosts with the most?

MICHAE:  I have a long history with Rebecca from producing my show, Skin Wars, which she hosts.  I knew that she and Jerry had four rescue dogs of their own, and that she is incredibly passionate about rescue and shedding light and creating awareness about the plight of animals that are sheltered.  They were not only organic and authentic to the cause, but they were a lot of fun and clearly had a lot of natural chemistry.  They also brought their own rescue dogs to the show, as did Lisa Vanderpump.  So that was fun.

You have two wonderful dogs of your own.  So, this is your passion project!

MICHAEL: This is a true labor of love for me, because in 2011 when my sister, Jennifer was dying of cancer, my partner and I decided to rescue a dog, and we rescued a pit bull named Trooper, and Trooper rocked our world.  My sister met him four days before she died, and it’s that old adage of “Who rescued who.”  Trooper really was there for me during a really difficult time of my life. I learned first-hand how special not only rescue dogs are, but pit bulls, and that really was the beginning of my animal advocacy.  I ended up taking a year off from producing just to rescue dogs.  I realized at the end of that year, that as a rescuer, I am saving one dog at a time, but as a producer, I could do so much more to bring awareness to the plight of animals in our shelters by creating rescue-themed programming.

Pit bulls seem to always get a bad rap.  Do you feel that way?

MICHAEL:  They absolutely get a bad rap, and after we rescued Trooper, we rescued another pit bull named Nelson, and it was really the two of them who inspired me to get heavily involved in rescue and to be an advocate for pit bulls.  With pit bulls it is such a unique human-animal bond that you don’t find with any other breed.  All they really want to do is please their humans, and it is absolutely true that when you hear these horrific stories about pit bulls on the news, these are rare incidents of pit bulls who have fallen into the hands of bad people who have treated them badly.  It’s really unfair to profile and entire breed of dog, because all dog breeds have some dogs that have behavioral problems.  I have come in contact with thousands of pit bulls, and I have only met one that was human-aggressive, and that dog was severely, severely abused.  Every other pit bull I have come in contact with has been nothing but incredibly sweet.

Photo: Crown Media

So, last year’s American Rescue Dog Show is currently in the running to earn a Daytime Emmy nomination in the ‘Special Class Special’ programming category!

MICHAEL:  Yes, “Special Class Special”. (Laughs)

You obviously know who wins this weekend’s American Rescue Dog Show competition.  Were you happy with the winner? 

MICHAEL:  Yes, but you can imagine how difficult it is for the judges to pick a winner because every single dog in the competition is beyond adorable. It is really the dogs who deliver on the show, and that’s what makes the show so heartwarming.  The real purpose of the show is to inspire the viewers to rescue their next dog from their local shelter, or rescue organization, so that people who are watching turn to the person they are with and say, “Honey, I didn’t know you could get a pure-bred dog at a shelter!  Let’s rescue our next dog!”  We have really powerful segments in the show about the joy of adopting a senior dog, or a special-needs dog.  We do a segment on debunking the myths about pit bulls, and we have messaging on why it is important to spay and neuter your dog.  So, through this wonderfully entertaining program, we are also educating people and hopefully touching their heart and their soul and inspiring them to be a part of the solution by rescuing their next dog; instead of being a part of the problem by purchasing a dog from a pet store or breeder.

Photo: Crown Media

When you look at what you have to take on as a producer when you do this type of show; as opposed to any other type of production you have helmed, what are the major differences?

MICHAEL: The biggest distinction is that on this show we are dealing with living animals, so I take that responsibility very seriously.  First and foremost: is the safety and well-being of the dogs that are participating on the show.  We have to consider everything from making sure that the animals are up-to-date with their vaccinations to having veterinarians on hand, having production personal on-hand standing by with treats and pooper-scoopers. This also means that the dogs are being treated like VIPs.  So, we have a VIP room, but that stands for “Very Important Pooch”, and all of the dogs that are participating have their own dressing rooms with a star on it and their name.  There were over 130 dogs that actually participated from all over the country.  In addition, we had a gifting suite like they do on the Oscars and Golden Globes, but on this show, they didn’t get swag bags, they got “Wag Bags”.

Knowing you as I do, it seems a lot this creative from the categories in the competition, to the backstage VIP room, are very YOU!

MICHAEL:  I have an incredible team of producers who I collaborate with.  None of this would be possible without the good people at Hallmark being such incredible animal advocates.  Specifically, Bill Abbott, who is one of the few network executives in the industry who is really walking the walk and doing so much to be supportive of dogs and cats who need homes.  So, this is right up my alley, because creatively I am so passionate about it that it is so easy to come up with fun ideas that hopefully resonate with the viewers.

Photo: Crown Media

Are there any other fun moments that you can tease?

MICHAEL:  We are celebrating the perfectly imperfect.  So, we love when a dog decides to roll on his back in the middle of the arena and decide he wants to get a belly rub in the middle of the competition.  We had a dog decide that he had to go potty on the middle of a flower arrangement on the arena floor.  Those are the moments that give the show its heart and feel-good sensibility.  We had a couple of dogs in the “Best Wiggle Butt” category where one of their forever parent brings them out initially, and their other forever parent was on the other side of the area, and we removed their leash so that they can run from one parent to the other so that we can really see their butts moving, but … we had a few dogs get so excited that they ran right out of the arena! (Laughs)  They ran right through the tunnel off stage and come running back in, and the whole audience erupted into laughter.  It’s just magical.

How did you find these dogs to compete? 

MICHAEL:  We put out a call-to-action on social media, and we got thousands of responses. People submitted their rescue dogs in as many categories as they qualified for, and they submitted photos and videos. Then, we have a team of producers and rescue experts who go through all of the submissions, ultimately picking the top semi-finalists in each category who come to Los Angeles to compete.  We had a wonderful partnership with Pedigree Foundation in which they provided $100,000 in grant money for the dogs that win for the rescue that saved him or her.  So, in the ten semi-final categories, each winning dog received a $5,000 grant for the rescue that saved him or her, and then the ultimate winner of the competition, which is crowned the title, “Best in Rescue,” received an additional $30,000 for the rescue that saved him or her, again, courtesy of Pedigree Foundation.  We also had a partnership with adoptapet.com, which is the largest online resource for people to find rescue dogs in their own communities. Throughout the show, we have a call-to-action for people to go to hallmark.com/bestinrescue and look for the adopt a pet icon … they click it… then enter their zip code … and they are instantly linked to thousands of available dogs in their own community who are patiently waiting for a loving home.

Photo: Crown Media

The dog handlers are the owners of these pets?

MICHAEL:  Yes.  We call it a member of their “forever family”.  Several of the dogs on the show are service dogs now, or companion animals, working in senior homes or working with military service people suffering from PTSD.  We celebrate each and every one of them.

Is your hope to do a third annual show, and keep the dog rescue competition going?

MICHAEL:  Yes!  My hope is that this show continues to be on for many years to come and be a platform for the 8 million animals that enter our shelters each year and are patiently waiting for their forever home, and that we can continue to be a voice for these dogs that don’t have voices of their own.  Of all of the shows that I have produced over the years, this one is going to be the most meaningful to me, and is going to be my legacy, because it is such a beautiful thing that I can bring my work and my passion together to hopefully make a difference in the lives of all of these animals.  As a result of this show, we heard from numerous shelters across the country that there was a definite uptick in adoptions.  That warms my heart beyond compare.

In closing, you know what they say:  it’s easier to work with animals than humans! Thoughts? (Laughs)

MICHAEL:  Every show has its challenges, but I would much rather deal with a diva Chihuahua than a diva celebrity.  So, on that level, this show is pure joy to make.

So, will you be watching this heartwarming, creative two-night rescue dog event?  Share your thoughts via the comment section below, but first, check out this behind-the-scenes video of how the American Rescue Dog Show is put together with co-host, Ross Matthews.

General Hospital

GH’s Kin Shriner Talks on Franco’s Demise, Scott’s Budding Romance with Obrecht, and His Enduring On-Screen Partnership with Genie Francis

One of the most beloved actors in the history of General Hospital, Kin Shriner, currently finds his alter-ego, Scott Baldwin, in a new budding on-screen romance with none other than Liesl Obrecht (Kathleen Gati).

This comes on the heels of Scott learning the devastating news that his son, Franco Baldwin was shot and killed, thus writing-off the ABC daytime drama series, for now, popular actor, Roger Howarth.

Photo: JPI

Throughout his now almost 44-year-run on the ABC daytime drama series, Kin Shriner has brought his unique acting chops that helped mold the character of legal eagle Scott Baldwin into the humorous, at times cutthroat, endearing and many times heartbreaking character we have all come to love.’

 

In a brand new exclusive virtual sit-down interview with Michael Fairman on You Tube’s The Michael Fairman Channel, Shriner opens up about his history with GH and the times he stepped away to take on roles on Texas and As the World Turns, and then back again to the town of Port Charles and GH.

Photo: ABC

As well, Kin reveals his reaction to learning the news that Roger Howarth would be exiting the show as his TV son and how he shot the key emotional scene where Laura (Genie Francis) tells Scott that Franco had died.  Shriner shares that he does not see how when Howarth returns to the show in as a yet-to-be-revealed character, that it would be a stretch if the two were some how related, but that he will miss working with the talented Howarth as a scene-partner.

Photo: JPI

As to the women in Scott’s life, Kin addresses each of them from: Lucy (Lynn Herring), Bobbie (Jackie Zeman), Dominque (Shell Danielson), Laura (Francis), Ava (Maura West) – to which the character could never get that close to – and now Liesl (Gati), and working opposite all the powerhouse actresses who portray them.

Photo: ABC

For fans of General Hospital who have watched the series for decades, Kin also shares memories of working with his late TV parents, Peter Hansen (Lee), Susan Brown (Gail) and his friend and former GH castmate John Reilly (Sean), plus backstage stories with his longtime scene partner, Genie Francis.

Watch the entire conversation with Kin below.

Now let us know, are you all for the Scott and Liesl romance? Will you miss scenes between Scott and Franco?  Would you ever want to see Scott and Laura reunite romantically? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Interviews

Y&R’s Newman Kids Talk 48th Anniversary, Storylines, Camaraderie, and Take the Trivia Challenge

On Friday, to celebrate the 48th anniversary of The Young and the Restless (which premiered back on March 26th,1973) Michael Fairman chatted virtually with the actors who comprise the adult Newman family children; Joshua Morrow (Nick), Amelia Heinle (Victoria), Mark Grossman (Adam), Hunter King (Summer) and Melissa Ordway (Abby).

During the conversation, on You Tube’s the Michael Fairman Channel, the actors discussed what it was like coming into the iconic Newman clan when they first debuted, behind-the-scenes moments and laughs they share working with each other, and what it has been like for them to share scenes with their iconic TV father, Eric Braeden (Victor) and for some of the kids, their on-screen mother, Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki).

In addition, each touch upon their current Y&R storyline where:Nick is involved with Phyllis again, Adam is on to Chelsea, Victoria is trying to be in the woman in charge of the company and she finds herself boyfriend-less, Summer has her hands full with the arrival of Tara Locke and Sally Spectra who may all destroy her relationship with Kyle, and Abby wanting to have a baby via surrogacy with the sperm donor being Devon.

Later, Michael plays a round of “Stump the Newman” trivia where the actors are put to the test to see just who knows the history of the Newman clan best. Watch what happens when the mention of the notorious and ill-fated reliquary storyline is brought up!

Joshua, Amelia, Mark, Hunter, and Melissa also express what it has meant to them to be a part of the legacy of The Young and the Restless, and still later Joshua’s daughter, Charlie, even makes a special guest appearance.

Now watch the conversation in full with the Newman kids below. 

Then let us know, what was your favorite moment of the interview? How do you hope their current storylines resolve? What was your favorite and least favorite storyline of all-time for Nick, Victoria, Adam, Abby, and Summer? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Interviews

Y&R’s Sharon Case, Mark Grossman & Jordi Vilasuso Talk Love and Betrayal in the Rey/Sharon/Adam Triangle

This week on The Young and the Restless, Sharon (Sharon Case) and Adam’s (Mark Grossman) kiss took centerstage and went viral when a photo of the passionate moment was seen by Sharon’s husband, Rey (Jordi Vilasuso), and fiancée Chelsea (Melissa Claire Egan), and many more citizens of Genoa City!

That moment looks to be a game-changer.  Now what will Rey do? Will he continue to try to salvage his marriage to Sharon? Will wheelchair bound Chelsea, hatch a plan to payback Adam and Sharon? Will Adam and Sharon meet up for some dangerous liaisons? There’s so much to this story left to play out.

Photo: JPI

In a new interview on The Michael Fairman Channel, Sharon Case, Mark Grossman and Jordi Vilasuso chatted candidly about their on-screen love triangle and more including: what happened when Mark auditioned for the key role of Adam, the character of Sharon’s battle with breast cancer, and who Sharon feels is Sharon Newman’s true love, Nick (Joshua Morrow) or Adam? Plus, the trio share their reactions to the news that their castmate, Sasha Calle (Lola) was tapped as the first Latina ‘Supergirl’ in the upcoming DC Universe film, The Flash.

During the conversation, Vilasuso said Rey was not blindsided by Adam and Sharon’s ongoing attraction: “Rey’s known for a long time, c’mon!  I had somebody on Twitter post all the videos on how long I’ve known about Adam and Sharon. (Laughs)  I had still had a beard on the show back then!  What’s he going to do?  I think this Adam sickness, this addiction, this pathology that he has, I think Rey hopes he can just arrest him and he will just go away for ever.  That’s playing in the back of my mind, like, ‘there’s no way Adam can keep up this behavior for much longer’.  Rey is crazy about Sharon. T here’s also some ego involved here, too of, ‘I got to be the guy here.  I can’t lose to this guy’.  But man, does Rey have a threshold for dealing with this stuff.  Remember, his (ex) wife had sex with his brother, and then she did it again, and now they are having a child together… and Rey was still able to move on.”

Photo: JPI

Case clarified from her previous 25th anniversary interview with Fairman, just who is Sharon Newman’s ultimate love, Nick (Joshua Morrow) or Adam?  Case had stated Adam.  The actress explained:  “When you think about what the character’s have been through, the history of The Young and the Restless, how stories are usually told – and what I mean by all that is Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott) and Victor (Eric Braeden) have always been the “It” couple of the history of Y&R and they are very different.  They actually remind me more of Adam and Sharon then Nick and Sharon.  Nick turned out more to be the good son, while Adam was more in the image of his father, and it would be the obvious choice to guess that Nick and Sharon would be endgame.  I think soaps try to not go in the obvious way.  The two men that she has been married to, and were the biggest loves of her life, and both Victor’s kids, choosing between those that is why I said what I said, and why I think that’s true.  Sharon and Adam don’t have all of the pain, that Sharon and Nick have had from multiple cheatings and a loss of a child which is very hard for a couple to ever get past that.   I also think that Sharon and Nick are sort of together now anyways as co-parents and are such good friends.  They have a new relationship – they are not together in a romantic way – but their relationship is really great now and very full for what it is.”

Photo: JPI

Grossman shared that knowing Chelsea has a history of being con-artist, that she could potentially pull some stunts on Adam and Sharon to keep them apart:  “That’s always in the back of his mind.  You know, maybe she will start to con Adam and maybe he might pick up on it, maybe he doesn’t pick up on it, but obviously it’s a really sad situation that Adam is in.  There’s a lot going on in Adam’s life. It’s unfortunate that Connor (his son) is not there as he is off to boarding school, and then Adam wasn’t there because he went to Sharon’s wedding to peek his head in, and Chelsea had her stroke.  So there’s a lot of guilt there.  I think it’s really frustrating to him that he can’t have a conversation with this woman – who is his fiancée – and this is his fault and he caused all this.  But there’s always the underlying pull from Sharon, and after they kiss there are a lot of conflicted feelings there.”

Watch the entire interview with Sharon, Mark and Jordi below.

Now weigh-in: Are you Team Rey or Team Adam? Who do you want Sharon to ultimately wind up with? Share your thoughts and theories in the comment section.

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Y&R’s Joshua Morrow, Amelie Heinle, Mark Grossman, Hunter King and Melissa Ordway chat with Michael Fairman about being a part of and portraying the Newman Children as the show celebrates its 48th anniversary.Leave A Comment

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