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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 Chloe Lanier Talks On Nelle’s Twisted Plots, Her Co-Stars & That Cliffhanger “Ending”

Recently on ABC’s General Hospital, Chloe Lanier’s Nelle Benson created even more havoc for Carly (Laura Wright), Michael (Chad Duell), Julian (William deVry), Brook Lynn (Briana Lane), and of course, her son, Wiley.

However, is Nelle really gone after her ‘fall,’ which has left her MIA and Carly believing she is responsible for her sister’s ‘death’? But as we know with Nelle, she keeps secretly planning her next move and loves to slowly torture those who she believes have wronged her. There is also the ongoing mystery of just who is Nina’s (Cynthia Watros) daughter, especially since Nelle has the other half of the necklace so near and dear to Nina; leaving viewers pondering if it could mean they are mother and child, or is this all a red-herring?

One thing is for sure, Daytime Emmy winner, Chloe Lanier brings it each and every time she returns to GH. She gives always give the storylines a much needed injection of drama, drama and more drama. No one is quite like Lanier in the soaps either; she can play tough, vulnerable, manipulative, and street smart, like nobody’s business.

Michael Fairman TV caught up with Chloe to get her answers to some of our burning questions for her and her portrayal of naughty Nelle, and how one of her co-stars helped her through a very difficult time in her life.  Here’s what she had to say about it all.

Courtesy/ABC

What did you think of the courtroom antics of Nelle during the custody hearing for Wiley?

CHLOE:  I mean, showing up in a wedding dress was her first mistake. Then antagonizing everyone in the room was probably her second. But she’s so wounded—so broken from her childhood. She doesn’t have the proper emotional tools to combat her self-destructive behavior.

Which showdown or confrontation between Nelle and Michael stands out to you?

CHLOE:  I particularly loved the scenes where Nelle, nine months pregnant, leaves Michael in the rigged car, hoping it would explode. It’s rare that you’re given comedic material on a soap, so that was particularly exciting for me. Also, Chad’s reactions always make me laugh. He’s great.

Photo: ABC

What is it like working with Chad Duell as feuding exes and parents of Wiley? 

CHLOE:  Chad is so easy to work with. He’s been doing the show for so long and is very technically gifted. The writers graced us with some meaty material that we were able to sink our teeth into.

Photo: JPI

What does Nelle think of Willow (Katelyn MacMullen)? She really hates her, huh?

CHLOE: I don’t believe she hates her. She’s envious. Willow is the exact opposite and oftentimes we’re afraid of what we don’t understand. Particularly someone like Nelle, who was raised by a con artist and taught to exploit and manipulate anyone she comes across. So when she sees someone so pure, so innocent, she immediately distrusts her because that behavior is so far outside the lines of how she operates.

What was it like taping the fight scenes between Carly and Nelle, where Nelle “Plummets” to her death?  

CHLOE:  Shout out to Amanda Hall and Heather Bonomo, our amazing stunt doubles for those scenes. They were fantastic.

Courtesy/ABC

When you and Laura Wright get the scripts; where Carly and Nelle are having a huge showdown, are you thrilled about getting the chance to play the emotional beats of those moments? What if it’s a fight scene?

CHLOE:  Those scenes were such a joy, because we got to explore some of the deep roots of Nelle’s trauma, and Carly explicitly said, “I believe you love your son.” That, for me, was important.  Because despite all of her failings, she truly did love her son—in her own warped, off kilter, way.

Photo: Paul Smith

Nelle has really been blackmailing Julian, until he turned the tables on her on the pier?  What has it been like acting opposite Will deVry in those scenes?

CHLOE:  I love Will. He and I actually have the same acting coach, so our prep and how we’re working is from a similar place. What I love about Will is the confidence he has in his stillness. He’s lovely on camera, so connected.

Photo: ABC

Nelle has the other half of the necklace belonging to Nina.  What do you think if it turns out that Nelle is Nina’s daughter?  It is quite possible, tho, that she is not, and it’s all a red herring. How has it been working with Cynthia Watros?

CHLOE:  Cynthia is one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever met, truly. We haven’t known each other for long, but earlier this year, and not many people know this other than my close friends, I was having glaring mental health issues stemming from unresolved trauma. I was going going going for so long that I couldn’t run away from it anymore. I had never dealt with any of it. She saw it and could tell I was silently struggling and reached out. You don’t forget kindness like that. So I’m very grateful for Cynthia—and of course, therapy. I would be flattered if they decided to make Nelle Nina’s daughter.

Photo:ABC

What do you think about how the writers have kept finding ways to have plot points that get all the other characters in trouble and make it look like they did something to Nelle, but she ultimately has her own diabolical plans for them with her actions? She is pretty smart!

CHLOE:  Nelle is the perfect victim, and her love language is sabotage. She’s also a narcissist, so she’s always going to think she’s the smartest person in the room. She’s basically a walking version of Taylor Swift’s song, Look What You Made Me Do. I love that the writers gifted me the opportunity work with almost everyone on the show. Josh (Swickard) and I always had a great time together. And Maurice (Benard)—god he’s hilarious. I would have loved to work with Briana Nicole Henry (Jordan) more though. I love watching her work. She’s going to have an amazing career.

Photo: ABC

Do you think Nelle can ever be redeemed at this point?

CHLOE:  Redemption is a weird one for me, because I don’t believe that people are inherently good or bad. We’re all human. We all have flaws, make mistakes, have regrets, experience shame. We have the ability to grow and we learn from our past. Nelle has done and felt all of those things, to a degree, but continued to do the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. A character either has to change or they die. So, I’ll say this—if Nelle is alive out there somewhere, I hope she’s going to therapy.

Photo: JPI

What has been the hardest scene for you to play emotionally in the time you have been playing Nelle?

CHLOE:  Probably the scene with the newborn, where Nelle runs into Brad on the side of the road. I had never held a newborn baby before, so I was TERRIFIED. I realized I was the only thing in that moment keeping that baby alive…a very bizarre and life altering feeling, I’ll say.

So, have you enjoyed Chloe’s performances? Do you think Nelle is plotting from afar?  What would you like to see happen in the storylines with  baby Wiley, Nina’s child, and more? Comment below.

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Days Of Our Lives

Chandler Massey & Freddie Smith Discuss Their Departure From DAYS, New Beginnings & WilSon’s Journey

This week, Days of our Lives viewers saw the highly-anticipated exit off the canvas, for now,  of Daytime Emmy-winners, Chandler Massey and Freddie Smith as Will and Sonny.

Tuesday marked their final airshow, while the actors found out they were being written-out of the show and had filmed their last six episodes over seven months ago, because at that time and before the pandemic, DAYS was taping far in advance of air.

Now with this leg of their journey complete as the popular Salem duo, Chandler and Freddie are embarking on new chapters of their lives, as Chandler details his move to Atlanta and Freddie in a few weeks to Florida.  But as they discuss in this very special conversation with Michael Fairman on You Tube’s Michael Fairman Channel, they are not stopping acting either.

During this “farewell for now” interview with Michael, the two actors open up about their final scripts, their last tape day, how both characters helped many individuals come out and come to terms with who they are via watching Will’s coming out story, Will and Sonny’s on-screen relationship and more.

In addition, Freddie discusses what happened when he auditioned for the role of Sonny and what he thinks helped land him the gig; Chandler shares a story about a fan that is very moving, and that his biggest regret was not getting to play the wedding scenes between Will and Sonny (Guy Wilson at that time had stepped into the role of Will).   The duo also reveal their favorite and least favorite storylines they were involved in, and much more.

Watch the full interview below.

So, what do you think about what Freddie and Chandler had to share during our conversation? Share your thoughts via the comment section below.

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Interviews

Y&R’s Melody Thomas Scott Talks Harrowing Childhood, Growing Up In Hollywood, Nikki’s Storylines

This week, The Young and the Restless’ iconic, Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki Newman) new memoir, Always Young & Restless: My Life on and Off off America’s #1 Daytime Drama,” from Diversion Books, is available everywhere.

For everyone that follows Melody, this book has been several years in the making with some starts and stops, but in it she does not hold back and reveals some very painful details and moments from her upbringing when she was raised by her unstable grandmother and more.

Courtesy/DiversionBooks

Melody also talks about reuniting with her estranged father when he suddenly awoke from his coma while she was by his side.  Throughout her lengthy career in Hollywood, Melody has worked with some of the greats including: Clint Eastwood, Brian DePalma and Alfred Hitchcock.

Now in a conversation with Michael Fairman on The Michael Fairman Channel on You Tube, Melody opens about her decision on the stories she told in the books, her favorite and least favorite storylines as Nikki on Y&R, working with Eric Braeden (Victor) and the entire company of the CBS daytime drama where she has been for over 40 years, and how she hopes her memoir might help others; including those stage moms and children considering life in front of the camera and more.

To watch the full interview with Melody, check it out below.

Then let us know, what have you been most surprised to learn about Melody this past week as her memoir has come out? What is your favorite or least favorite storylines of Nikki’s on Y&R over the years? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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B&B’s Heather Tom talks with Michael Fairman immediately following her record-tying win in the Lead Actress category during the 47th annual Daytime Emmy Awards.  Heather and Erika now hold the most wins for an actress with 6! Leave A Comment

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