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Groundhog Night: The 66th Primetime Emmys

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 13 July 2015 12:04 AM, PDT

Sons of Anarchy” executive producer and director Paris Barclay once observed, “The Emmys are very, you know, generally monogamous…They fall in love with people, and they stick with them until they die.”

Confession: I opened an old blog post about another awards show with that quote. That’s the height of laziness — I’ll own that.  But in my defense, that statement was proven utterly true yet again on Monday night. How could I not dig it up for another go-round? Besides, I’m just taking cues from the habits of Academy of Television Arts and Sciences voters, whose all-too-familiar selections were revealed during NBC’s live telecast of The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards.

Honestly, why even bother considering that maybe, in a few categories, Emmy would shock us by actually rewarding fresh work and breakout performances? For that matter, why I am even pretending to be upset? Emmy has a longer history of playing it safe and boring than it does in exhibiting boldness. Even Seth Meyers fired right down the middle last night; he wasn’t the worst host, but he wasn’t particularly remarkable.  On the plus side, the show ended with minutes to spare, making Meyers an effective train conductor if not the frontrunner for next year’s Emmy host campaign. But when the funniest moment of the night is a make-out bit planted by nominees Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Bryan Cranston, that doesn’t reflect well on one’s writers.

Give credit where it’s due, though: that smooch was priceless.

Considering all of that, when I previously entertained the thought that either “Veep” or “Orange Is the New Black” would take the Outstanding Comedy award this year, that was just silly. Why reward either of those tremendous new shows when one can grant “Modern Family” its fifth win in the category?

Or when my gut told me that  Jim Parsons would take home another statue for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for “The Big Bang Theory”, but surmised that maybe Emmy would recognize Ricky Gervais’s stretching in a different direction in Netflix’s “Derek,” I should have heeded that warning. Parsons is easy to vote for. All the voters really need to see is the name, and THUNK! Rubber stamp, he’s back in.

In fact, Emmy, you were on such a roll…why not just shut “Orange,” “House of Cards  and “Derek” out of the Primetime Emmy Awards completely? Who watches Netflix, anyway?

Emmy also renewed its vows with “Modern Family’s” Ty Burrell, “Veep’s” Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “The Good Wife’s” Julianna Margulies  and it popped its cork for multiple Emmy award-winner Allison Janney twice this year — once for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on “Mom”, and once for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her role in Showtime’s “Masters of Sex”. Of course, a number of those repeat winners turned in worthy performances.

“Breaking Bad” also happens to be an encore winner in Outstanding Drama. Anyone who watched the final episodes would have no quibble with it taking home the Emmy even though nearly a year has passed since those hours first aired. The same argument can be made for the drama’s Emmy wins in individual performance categories: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn and Aaron Paul were unstoppable on Monday night.

Cranston’s win, actually, was something of a pleasant shock. His victory marks his fifth time taking home an Emmy for his portrayal of Walter White, but more significantly, Cranston bested “True Detective’s” Matthew McConaughey, who was presumed to have had a lock on this category. But old Rust Cohle said it himself: “You see, we all got what I call a life trap, a gene deep certainty that things will be different….” Emmy is nothing if not a trap for the hopeful.

Try looking at that particular turn of events, and Julia Roberts upset in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, in a positive light. There was a time that any A-list film actor or actress could descend from celebrity Valhalla and star in a worthwhile TV movie (or, nowadays, a series) and Emmy would fall all over itself to reward them for the favor. But both Oscar winners left empty-handed. That novelty has worn off, and the fact that Cranston has become a sought-after movie actor these days lends weight to the idea of TV’s elevated status as a place to do good work.

The true crime of Roberts’s defeat, however, was that it did not come at the hands of  “Fargo’s” Allison Tolman. Rather, Kathy Bates took home the gold for “American Horror Story”. Your guess is as good as mine as to how that happened. (Then again, let’s thank the Powers that Be that Emmy didn’t grant another kneejerk prize to Ellen Burstyn, nominated this time for Flowers in the Attic.)

Similarly unexpected were the multiple upsets provided by “Sherlock: His Last Vow”, including individual performance Emmys for Supporting Actor Martin Freeman and Lead Actor  Benedict Cumberbatch. Neither of them bothered to show up — probably because neither of them expected to best the presumed frontrunners in their categories, specifically Matt Bomer for The Normal Heart and — I’m sorry, but this is pure insanity –  Billy Bob Thornton and Mark Ruffalo. The Cumberbatch is to be adored, and “Sherlock” is still one of the best things on television, but season three was weaker in comparison to the first two and…really, Emmy? You thought The Cumberbatch was better than “Fargo’s” Lorne Malvo?

Thank goodness “Fargo” won Outstanding Miniseries. Yes, there’s that.

Including Steven Moffat’s win for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special, “Sherlock” helped PBS’s “Masterpiece” win the most Emmys for any single program this year, raking in a total of seven awards between the Primetime and Creative Arts ceremonies.

On the network side, CBS, FX and AMC tied with five Primetime Emmys apiece. HBO went home with four on Monday night, while ABC got three (thanks to “Modern Family”) and Comedy Central walked away with one, for “The Colbert Report”.

If you missed The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, you can check out our full list of winners as well as see photos from the show, enjoy the glamorous Red Carpet fashion and much more by visiting our Road to the Emmys section. You can also read our recap of the show to experience more highlights from the event.

Or just wait a year…odds are The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards will look a lot like this one.


“iZombie” Renewed for Season Two

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 6 May 2015 4:04 PM, PDT

Here’s some delicious news: A week ahead of its official upfront presentation in New York, The CW has renewed  “iZombie” for a second season. That makes “iZombie” the latest addition to a long list of early renewals for The CW, which re-upped most of its current primetime schedule months ago.

Created by Diane Ruggiero  and Rob Thomas, the man who gave us “Veronica Mars,” “iZombie” stars Rose McIver as Olivia Moore, a medical resident who throws away her promising career after becoming a zombie.  Liv gets a job as a coroner to enjoy the easy access to brains, the eating of which allows her to retain her human qualities. But along the way she discovers that the grey matter she consumes also gives her temporary access to the memories and abilities of the deceased…which enables her to help the cops solve crimes.

Preposterous as the concept may sound, enough viewers bit to inspire The CW to stick with the show — for which we are grateful. Granted, “iZombie” is not a runaway hit on par with “Arrow” and “The Flash,” but it is a critical darling and among the network’s most-watched shows.

“iZombie” also stars David Anders, Robert Buckley, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli and Aly Michalka.

IMDbTV Pick: Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 2 May 2015 4:15 PM, PDT

The atmosphere hanging over London as season two of Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” begins is not heavy with horror, or despair; rather, it’s loneliness that clouds the air. Loneliness haunts its streets and parks. It drags down Miss Vanessa Ives’ beautiful face as she comes to realize, in the aftermath of season one’s lost battle to save her best friend, that instead of ridding herself of the darkness, she’s somehow been pulled closer to its center.

Loneliness threatens the very life of Victor Frankenstein as his creation grows more desperate for some connection to another soul, or lacking that, some body. It offers Ethan Chandler a solution against the danger he harbors inside his own skin, and creates a vulnerability in Sir Malcolm Murray’s armor.

That’s the subtle trick of Showtime’s gorgeous horror piece, as loyal viewers of the first season soon discovered. “Penny Dreadful” is far less about the blood, gore and the specter of gruesome death than the sharp pain and exhilarating pleasure of living, and the terror of feeling alone even in close company.

“Penny Dreadful’s” creator and executive producer John Logan has transformed our idea of the typical Gothic tale populated with demons and the undead into a broader, heartfelt story about family, both the ones we’re born into – and, in very specific ways, fail – and the ones we create.

True, there is goriness… and a lot of it. More prominent, however, is the beauty of “Penny Dreadful’s” world. Decadent set design and costuming make the show a perfect visual dessert on Sunday nights, but the hook is in the subtlety of Logan’s writing, and the soulfulness he lends to each of his characters.

Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) are damaged people clinging to one another for comfort against the chilly darkness, each running from crimes against their own bloodlines. Each also remains desperate to exorcise the evils within, whether tangible or imagined, as the story resumes. For Chandler, that desperation has real world consequences, as he awakens from the season finale’s blackout as a wanted man.

But lurking in the shadows is an even greater danger to Ives and company than a few vampires: the mysterious Evelyn Poole, aka Madame Kali, played by Helen McCrory.

We only met McCrory’s character as Madame Kali for a few moments during season one. But it was always Logan’s plan to prominently integrate the actress into the tale, and we’re glad he’s done so. McCrory makes Ms. Poole magnetic and dangerous, the kind of woman that is interesting to be around even if truly knowing her could kill you.

Logan could not have written a better nemesis for Vanessa Ives than Miss Poole. Though McCrory and Green do not share any significant exchanges as the second season begins, one sequence shows how well their talents are matched, as Poole writhes and growls praises to the devil in her luxurious home while elsewhere, inside a sparely appointed bedroom, Ives desperately shudders on her knees, pleading in Latin to a heaven that doesn’t appear to be hearing her. Vanessa Ives is in for a wretched journey this season.

Potentially just as interesting is the quandary that Sir Malcolm’s medical consultant Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) finds himself in by making a new creation out of Ethan’s dying lover Brona Croft (Billie Piper), as a mate for his Creature (Rory Kinnear). That obviously is due to cause conflict between Victor, Ethan and The Creature, but tossing a more interesting twist into the mix is the unpredictability of Victor’s emotional ties to both his creations.

The secondary story of The Creature’s struggle to be in the world stood apart from the main tale of Sir Malcolm, Miss Ives and Chandler during the first season, but season two connects the plots more closely. The Creature is an angry soul, but also poetic, sensitive and, yes, lonely. Brona’s return to the story in a new form not only sets up the inevitable crossing of paths with Ethan but a clash of wills. Does “creating” a life also give a person the ability to shape and channel said creation’s will? The answer lies in the viewing.

With “Penny Dreadful,” that’s a simple proposition, pervasive loneliness and all. The frights are real, and the gore can be shocking, but the more profound seduction is the emotional connection these characters make with their audience. They battle the darkness and each other. They claw and bleed, and our hearts go out to them every week, bringing us back for more.

Penny Dreadfulpremieres at 10pm Sunday, May 3, on Showtime.

“Daredevil” Renewed for Season Two

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 21 April 2015 6:17 PM, PDT

A week and a half after its premiere, Netflix has renewed “Daredevil” for a 13-episode second season. The action drama’s sophomore run will helmed by new showrunners Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez , who will be stepping in for departing executive producer Steven S. DeKnight.

“Daredevil’s” success means Netflix’s planned launch of four different TV series based on Marvel characters is on track.  Coming in the future are dramas that will focus on the adventures of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, all of whom will join Daredevil in an event series about the superhero team known as “The Defenders.”

Created by The Sinister Six‘s director Drew Goddard and based on the classic Marvel comic book series, “Daredevil” follows the crusades of blind lawyer Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), who secretly fights crime as a masked vigilante at night, protecting those who live in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen.

“Daredevil also stars Vincent D’Onofrio as Murdock’s nemesis Wilson Fisk, as well as Deborah Ann Woll, Rosario Dawson, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Elden Henson, Scott Glenn, Toby Leonard Moore and Ayelet Zurer.

“Fargo,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” “Jane the Virgin” Win Peabody Awards

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 16 April 2015 7:12 AM, PDT


The George Foster Peabody Awards always presents a diverse mixture of honorees, and the entertainment winners who will be celebrated at the 74th  annual awards ceremony in New York this May are no exception. Joining FX’s “Fargo” and “The Americans” in the winners circle are Comedy Central’s “Inside Amy Schumer“; HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver“; The CW’s “Jane the Virgin” (which has now netted the channel two major TV awards within its first season); SundanceTV’s “Rectify“; BBC’s “The Honorable Woman“;  Cinemax’s “The Knick“; and “Black Mirror” from the UK’s Channel 4.

The 18-member Peabody Board has always taken pride at being ahead of the curve when it comes to recognizing the best of the best in electronic media, be it radio, Internet-based or on television.* As such, each year’s eclectic selection of victors includes a number of TV series that may never get within sniffing distance of the Emmys (Miss Schumer, we’re looking in your direction…but with fondness) as well as a few that certainly will.

News and radio winners will be announced on Monday, April 20 on the official Peabody website, while recipients in the areas of documentary, public service, education, and children’s programming will be revealed on Thursday, April 23.

These winners will be honored at the 74th annual Peabody Awards gala on Sunday, May 31, which marks the first time the Peabody ceremony will be held at night, and as a red carpet event. Previous Peabody honoree Fred Armisen will host the event, which will be broadcast June 21 on Pivot TV.

The Peabody Awards, based at University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, are the oldest and one of the most selective prizes in electronic media, recognizing the finest work by radio and television stations, networks, webcasters, podcasters, producing organizations and individuals.

Keep reading for the written descriptions of each winner, taken from the University’s press release.

74th Peabodys — The Short Citations for Entertainment Winners

The Americans (FX)

Fox Television Studios and FX Productions

In this ingenious, addictive cliffhanger, Reagan-era Soviet spies – married with children and a seemingly endless supply of wigs — operate out of a lovely 3BR home in a suburb of Washington, D.C.  Between their nail-biter missions (and sometimes in the midst of them), the series contemplates duty, honor, parental responsibility, fidelity, both nationalistic and marital, and what it means to be an American.


Black Mirror (Channel 4)

Zeppotron/Channel 4
This cinematically arresting, brilliantly written series from England is an anthology of dark-side tales – dark as a black hole. If its narrative shocks don’t wreck your sleep pattern, its moral conundrums will.


Fargo (FX)

MGM and FX Productions

“Fargo,” the series, boasts the same snow-swept backdrop and dark, deadpan ambience as the Oscar-winning movie but tells a different, more complicated story. Its villain, Billy Bob Thornton’s mischievous, murderous, charismatic Lorne Malvo, is a character worthy of Norse mythology.


The Honorable Woman (Sundance TV)

BBC Worldwide, Drama Republic, Eight Rooks Productions, Sundance Channel

A visually rich, densely-plotted thriller set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, it suggests complexities and age-old vendettas that often escape even the best documentaries, to say nothing of the evening news.


Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)

Jax Media LLC

Schumer’s wholesome, disarming “Brady Bunch” looks belie and enhance a comic intelligence that’s smart, distinctively female and amiably profane, whether she’s applying it to sketch comedy, stand-up, or person-on-the-street interviews.


Jane the Virgin (The CW)

Eye Productions Inc., CBS Television Studios Inc., Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Electus; RCTV; Poppy Productions.

Immaculately conceived, it’s a smart, self-aware telenovela that knows when and how to wink at itself. Its Latina lead, Gina Rodriguez, is incandescent.

The Knick (Cinemax)

Cinemax Entertainment in association with Ambeg Productions, Anonymous Contend and Extension 765

Graphic, gripping, unapologetically grisly when it has to be, this lavish historical drama masterfully dissects surgical experimentation, doctors’ egos, race relations and socials mores in the New York City of 100 years ago.  It gives new meaning to the term “operating theater.”


Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

HBO Entertainment in association with Sixteen String Jack Productions and Avalon Television

A most worthy addition to the news-as-comedy genre, “Last Week Tonight” doesn’t just satirize the previous week’s news, it engages in fresh, feisty investigative reports that “real” news programs would do well to emulate.

Rectify (Sundance TV)
Gran Via Productions, Zip Works

A powerful, subtle dramatic series about a death-row inmate freed after nearly two decades thanks to new DNA evidence, it ponders whether what’s been lost can ever be repaid, not just to him but to everyone he and his alleged crimes touched.

*Full disclosure: IMDb TV Editor Melanie McFarland is a Peabody Board emeritus.

IMDbTV Pick: BBC America’s “Orphan Black”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 15 April 2015 10:59 PM, PDT

Orphan Black‘s” third season premiere opens in the midst of a sunny reunion, as four sisters — Sarah Manning, Helena, Cosima Niehaus and Alison Hendrix — gather to celebrate a milestone.  Most noteworthy about these siblings is how distinct they are from one another. Each moves in a different way. Each has a dissimilar accent, each her own unique personality. They’re so unlike each other that an outsider might mistake them for being friends as opposed to family… except for the fact that they share exactly the same DNA and the same face, belonging to the actress who portrays all of them: Tatiana Maslany.

Many a TV series has featured twins, clones, doppelgangers and the like. None could boast of having a cast as multifaceted as Maslany to carry the story. This is a woman who inhabits her various characters so completely that she can even pull off having one of her clones masquerade as another.  In Saturday’s premiere, there’s even a scene where she plays a clone disguised as one of her sisters, while facing down another sister clone who also is disguised as a yet another version of herself. Confusing? On paper, sure. But Maslany makes it  looks astoundingly effortless. It’s a tense, terrific scene even without this feat of acting acrobatics, but such detail on top of the wickedly bizarre storyline just takes everything up a level.

There’s too much going on in “Orphan Black” to catch a person up in a few short sentences, but all you really need to know is that in season two, the ladies we once referred to as the Clone Club discovered that their existence stems from a mysterious operation known as Project Leda, which is part of a much larger conspiracy still revealing itself. Season three adds a new wrinkle to the tale in the form of male clone counterparts, collectively known as Project Castor, all played by Ari Millen.  The Castor clones are violent and methodical, driven to hunt Sarah and her sisters, and they’re all part of the same crazy, lab-created extended brood.  Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that in Greek legend, Leda had two children by Zeus, one being Helen of Troy, and two by her human husband — one of them named Castor. In a series fond of mixing science fiction with intricately serialized mythology, this nugget could mean absolutely nothing, or everything. In any case, “Orphan Black” loves to redefine our idea of what a dysfunctional TV family can be, doesn’t it?

What’s abundantly clear is that the amped up action from season two is set to become even more heightened in these new episodes. In short order the various Castor clones demonstrate how driven and remorseless they are and, regrettably, how much catching up Millen has to do with Maslany in terms of showing off his dramatic flexibility. Aside from a few differences between the Castors — one has a pervy ‘stache! Another, red Xes over his eyes! — you never forget that it’s the same guy behind all of them. Perhaps that’s intentional, but it makes watching these new clones a little less of a treat.

“Orphan Black” is one of those shows that people loved discovering in season one before converting others into fans in the second season. Now that we’re in season three… well, to be honest, Maslany still isn’t one of the most widely recognized stars in television. But enough people know enough about the tremendous work that she’s doing on this show to get incensed on her behalf when she gets snubbed on Emmy nominations morning.

Those who still haven’t been initiated into “Orphan’s” growing following will have ample opportunity to catch up this weekend. On Friday, Amazon is making the entire first season available to stream for free in the U.S. starting at midnight PT and ending at 11:59PT, on Amazon Instant Video apps for TVs, on the web, and via mobile and connected devices.

Additionally, IFC is marathoning the first two seasons of “Orphan Black” beginning at midnight on Friday, running episodes back-to-back for 21 hours.

Season three of “Orphan Black” premieres at 9pm Saturday, April 18 on BBC America. In keeping with the sister act theme, the premiere also airs at the same time on AMC, IFC, SundanceTV and WeTV.


“True Detective” Gets a Premiere Date

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 9 April 2015 10:54 AM, PDT

We’ve been waiting so long for significant details about season two of “True Detective” that HBO’s release today, which includes the first trailer, four photos and a premiere date of 9pm Sunday, June 21, made us want to collapse on a fainting couch and light up a Morley.

Mind you, the trailer is just a tease. But the glimpse it affords of Rachel McAdams as Ventura County Sheriff’s detective Ani Bezzerides gives a person hope that season two’s female characters will be written with as much depth as the men. Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, and Taylor Kitsch all look dangerous and brood fabulously in this minute-long first look, but McAdams also carries herself like Ani can hold her own just fine.

Here’s the season two description, taken from HBO’s press release:

“A bizarre murder brings together three law-enforcement officers and a career criminal, each of whom must navigate a web of conspiracy and betrayal in the scorched landscapes of California. Colin Farrell is Ray Velcoro, a compromised detective in the all-industrial City of Vinci, LA County. Vince Vaughn plays Frank Semyon, a criminal and entrepreneur in danger of losing his life’s work, while his wife and closest ally (Kelly Reilly), struggles with his choices and her own. Rachel McAdams is Ani Bezzerides, a Ventura County Sheriff’s detective often at odds with the system she serves, while Taylor Kitsch plays Paul Woodrugh, a war veteran and motorcycle cop for the California Highway Patrol who discovers a crime scene which triggers an investigation involving three law enforcement groups, multiple criminal collusions, and billions of dollars.”

Season two consists of eight episodes, once again to be written by series creator Nic PizzolattoJustin Lin (Fast & Furious 6) is set to direct the first two.

Again, that premiere date: 9pm Sunday, June 21.*

Click here to see photos, and here to watch the trailer.

*This post has been updated to include the official timeslot, which was not revealed in HBO’s first announcement.

Kathy Bates Confirmed For “American Horror Story: Hotel”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 8 April 2015 1:20 PM, PDT


Kathy Bates is running the Hotel,” tweeted “American Horror Story” creator Ryan Murphy on Wednesday afternoon.

To which the only proper response is, “Of course she is.” Can you imagine anyone else playing the proprietress of an evil inn? We can’t.

Bates has been a force to be reckoned with on FX’s “American Horror Story” since she first appeared in season three’s “Coven” arc. Long before that, though, she redefined the concept of hospitality in Misery and broke our hearts in Dolores Claiborne as a stoic, misunderstood domestic with a steel will and devoted heart.  For Ryan and his co-creator Brad Falchuk, pop culture students to the core, she’s the best and obvious choice.

Plus, she’s clearly having a wonderful time on this show. Bates played Ethel Darling, the Bearded Lady, in the most recent “Freak Show” installment of “American Horror Story,” and she snagged an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her portrayal of Madame Delphine LaLaurie in “Coven.” She’s the latest addition to “Hotel’s” growing guest roster, which currently includes Matt Bomer, Lady Gaga, and Cheyenne Jackson, as well as fellow “American Horror Story” alumni Chloë Sevigny and Wes Bentley.

No word yet on whether other stars from previous installments, including (but not limited to) Angela Bassett, Denis O’Hare, Evan PetersDanny Huston, Lily Rabe, Taissa Farmiga and Frances Conroy, are expected to check in to “American Horror Story: Hotel.“*

Jessica Lange, who starred in every season of the series since its debut, has confirmed that she will not be back.

Production on “American Horror Story: Hotel” begins this summer in Los Angeles. The 13-episode fifth installment is set for an October premiere on FX.

*UPDATE:  As of Monday, April 13, Sarah Paulson is confirmed to be participating in “American Horror Story: Hotel.”

Fox’s “Last Man on Earth” Survives for Another Season

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 8 April 2015 11:09 AM, PDT

Break out the kiddie pool margaritas, “The Last Man on Earth” fans! Fox has granted a second season to the quirky comedy starring Will Forte as Phil Miller, the titular last man… only, as recent episodes showed us, that designation isn’t accurate anymore.

As the series began, Phil discovered that he wasn’t really the last person alive on the planet — an annoyingly proper woman, Carol Pilbasian (Kristen Schaal) survived,  and persuaded Phil to commit himself to her because, well, she’s the last woman and he’s the last man, and… desperate times, etcetera, etcetera.

Fox showed critics the first few episodes of “Last Man” at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour in January, and at the time it was hard to imagine that this concept could be sustainable over the long term. However, a few twists in the story and the surprising addition of other characters, including the lovely Melissa Shart (played by “Mad Men‘s”  January Jones), into Phil’s tiny-but-growing social sphere quickly evolved the show into a wildly absurd comedy of manners. The laughs grow out of Phil allowing his desire to be liked to keep him imprisoned in horrible situations of his own making — mainly his relationship with Carol.

Forte, who created “Last Man,” admirably holds the center of this small-but-growing ensemble, and seeing him work with Schaal is a joy. But while “Mad Men” devotees know how funny  Jon Hamm and John Slattery can be, watching Jones show off her comedy chops after playing severe, uptight Betty Francis for seven seasons, has been a tremendous treat.

According to Fox, “The Last Man on Earth” is the top new comedy among adults 18-34 and men in the 18-49 demographic, and is the top-rated comedy in the Sunday 9:30pm time period among adults 18-49, 18-34, and teens. (Note that that Fox has been doubling up “Last Man” episodes on Sundays, so its timeslot actually begins at 9pm.)
Two new episodes of “The Last Man on Earth” air back-to-back starting at 9pm on Fox, and the only description that we’ve seen hints that Phil “finally has some good fortune headed his way.” Knowing that we’ll get a second season is probably enough of a boon to sustain its fans.

Lifetime to Air Nicole Kidman’s “Grace of Monaco”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 7 April 2015 4:29 PM, PDT

Wow, this is interesting. And awkward. And amazing… for Lifetime. Once famous for airing such woman-in-peril classics as Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? the cable channel is now the home of Grace of Monaco’s U.S. debut, airing 8pm on Monday, May 25. Yes, that’s Memorial Day. Starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, this is the film that left Cannes moviegoers dumbstruck — not in a good way — after its world premiere there in 2014. Here’s one succinct verdict from Empire Online: “The toxic reaction in Cannes should offer fair warning: Weinstein’s glossbuster is a bust.”

So why not Lifetime? Why not, indeed? The channel doesn’t shy away from airing schlocky biopics, the most famous recent example being the bane of the Houston family’s existence, Whitney. Based on what we’ve read, however, we’re hoping “Grace” bears more of a resemblance to the fabulously awfulsome Liz & Dick which, in case you’ve forgotten, included a bevy of jaw-dropping dramatics courtesy of Lindsay Lohan.  Savage reviews for these movies usually translate to healthy ratings for Lifetime because, honestly, it’s not as if enjoying these cheese-fests costs us anything more than the effort it takes to live-tweet the lunacy. That, and time…precious minutes and seconds that we can never, ever get back.

Here’s the description from Lifetime’s press release:

“Set in 1962, six years after her celebrated “wedding of the century,”  Grace of Monaco is an intimate snapshot of a year in the life of actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly as she reconciles her past as a Hollywood darling and her present as Prince Rainier III’s wife.  Yearning for a return to her acting career, Grace finds herself plunged into a personal crisis to decide the fate of her marriage while her husband is at political odds with France’s President Charles de Gaulle.  With a French invasion impending for Monaco, Grace must make the difficult decision whether to stand by the side of her husband and newfound country, or return to the bright lights of Hollywood.”

Directed by Olivier Dahan, “Grace of Monaco” also stars Tim Roth, Frank Langella, Parker Posey, Paz Vega and Milo Ventimiglia.

FX Renews “The Americans” & More

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 31 March 2015 1:47 PM, PDT

Let us toast, comrades! FX has rewarded its creatively fierce if ratings-challenged drama “The Americans” with a fourth season, on the heels of airing the third’s final quartet of episodes. The season finale is scheduled to air at 10pm Wednesday, April 22.

This season’s of the ’80s-era spy drama has been particularly electric, what with Soviet intelligence agents Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) maintaining their mission to subvert America’s efforts to derail the Motherland’s interests, all while living in deep cover as a normal American couple and pushing back against the KGB’s desires to indoctrinate their daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) into the family trade.

Yet fewer people have been tuning in this season compare to season two, according to FX’s press release, with season three taking a 4 percent dip in year over year averages in total viewers and nudging downward by 6 percent in the 18-49 demographic. But FX seems to be pleased by the numbers in delayed viewing, boasting of its 147 percent lift between live numbers and Live + 7, which factors in DVR usage.

Season four of “The Americans” will air in 2016. The next new episode airs 10pm Wednesday on FX.

UPDATE: Minutes after this posted, Showtime announced its renewal of “House of Lies, ” starring Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell, for a 10-episode fifth season debuting in 2016.

Review: TV Land’s “Younger”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 30 March 2015 4:59 PM, PDT

When TV Land announced that its tentpole comedy “Hot in Cleveland” was being cancelled, fans may not have understood the decision. “Hot” is a funny, well-written show that stars Betty White, for crying out loud. They cancelled Betty White’s show! Why?!

For the answer, take a look at “Younger,” premiering 10pm Tuesday, March 31 on TV Land.  The latest series from “Sex and the City” creator Darren Star is the prime example of the cable channel’s rebranding strategy: TV Land still is targeting 40-somethings, primarily women, but instead of mining the hoary idea that midlife is cougar territory, the danger zone between youth and decrepitude, the channel’s new vibe capitalizes on the more marketable concept that 40 is the new 20.

That’s “Younger” in a nutshell, with Sutton Foster (formerly of ABC Family’s “Bunheads” ) playing a newly divorced middle-aged mom with a kid in college, who restarts her once-promising career by lying about her age. For the record, Foster just turned 40…but you wouldn’t know it to look at her, which is this story’s hook. Foster’s character Liza is smart, self-assured and, thanks to leaving a promising career in publishing to raise a daughter, almost completely out of touch with social media and the evolution of her chosen field into fast-paced, technology-driven dogfight.

When a few humiliating interviews leave her with the impression that she’s aged out of publishing, Liza’s ready to give up…until she gets hit on by a much younger man at a bar. Egged on by her best friend Maggie (Debi Mazar), Liza decides to roll with that assumption because…why not? With an updated wardrobe and a few well-placed highlights, Liza ages herself down to 26, fumbling her way through understanding the online habits, casual dating practices, and depilatory requirements of millennials. A scene where two younger women react to seeing Liza’s bikini area which, shall we say, has never taken a trip to Brazil, is priceless.

It’s a ridiculous ploy, but somehow Liza is able to maintain the ruse, largely with help from Maggie and her new work friend Kelsey (Hilary Duff), who is in the dark about her new BFF’s true age. The contrast between Kelsey, a driven career woman in her twenties who often finds herself on the verge of numerous cringe-worthy mistakes, and Liza, who has lived through and learned from making similar mistakes (and many more), grants “Younger” a depth that defies its premise.

It probably helps that Star has explored this territory before in “Sex and the City.” In fact, one memorable episode posited that youth wages war on maturity: Charlotte –  only in her 30s at the time– was rewarded for lying about her age by scoring a roll in the sheets with a younger man, and a terrible case of the crabs.  Even this was overshadowed by Carrie’s revelation that her great love, Mr. Big, had found new love with a younger girl. Her age? About 26.

“Sex and the City” ultimately handled that story by making Natasha a graceful character, albeit one who Carrie utterly crushed.  “Younger’s” writing has a similar balance of give and take: Liza learns a great deal from Kelsey, and is never overtaken by envy at her colleague’s youth and success. At the same time, Liza also comes to realize that the wisdom gained by life’s experiences, particularly those born out of pain, has just as much value as youthful ideals and enthusiasm.

Liza’s playing at her twenties again may be a gambit to pay the bills, and creates a lot of reasons to laugh throughout the first few episodes of “Younger,” but it also reminds viewers of a certain age of the optimism and daring afforded by youth, and how it’s never too late to reclaim those traits. In that sense, this clever new TVLand series is as inspiring as it is entertaining.

Younger” premieres at 10pm Tuesday, March 31 on TV Land.


“Vikings” Renewed for Season Four

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 26 March 2015 10:27 AM, PDT

One’s of TV’s great houses may be shutting down, but Ragnar Lothbrok’s Kattegat will remain open for another year. History has renewed “Vikings” for a fourth season, with production set to begin this spring in Ireland.

“Vikings’s” pick-up is a bit of a no-brainer for History, given that it has averaged 4.3 million viewers each week over season three’s first five episodes. The success of the channel’s first major scripted drama has inspired History to expand its slate to greenlight other originals, including the upcoming series “Knightfall,” co-produced by Jeremy Renner‘s company The Combine, which will dive into the world of the Knights Templar.

The news about “Vikings” arrives on the heels of PBS and Carnival Films’ announcement that “Downton Abbeywill end after season six.

New episodes of “Vikings” air Thursday nights at 10pm.


Showtime Picks Up “Billions” to Series

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 24 March 2015 1:11 PM, PDT

Damian Lewis is returning to Showtime for “Billions,” a one-hour drama which also stars Paul Giamatti.  On Tuesday, the premium cable channel announced it has picked up 12 episodes of the series, currently slated for a 2016 premiere.

Described as “a complex and contemporary drama about power politics in the New York world of high finance,” “Billions” pits Giamatti’s politically motivated U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades against hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, played by Lewis. The cast also includes Malin Akerman, Maggie Siff, Toby Leonard Moore, Condola Rashad and David Costabile.

Many films and TV series have drawn inspiration from the shark tank of politics and high finance, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s an environment teeming with morally-bankrupt characters, greed, backroom deals and, sometimes, good old-fashioned murder, all of which provide the makings of potential appointment viewing.

What makes us especially hopeful for “Billion’s” prospects is that executive producers Brian Koppelman and David Levien (who shared writing credits on Ocean’s Thirteen and Runner Runner), and financial reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin, who wrote the book upon which HBO’s 2011 movie Too Big to Fail was based, will be shaping its stories. We also can’t wait to experience the fireworks Giamatti and Lewis will create together in their adversarial roles.

“Billions” is Showtime’s latest addition to a scripted lineup that’s steadily growing in strength and reputation, led by the Emmy- and Golden Globe-award winning series “Homeland” and “The Affair.”  It also marks Lewis’s first regular series role since leaving “Homeland” after season three, although he’ll soon appear as Henry VIII in “Masterpiece’s” miniseries “Wolf Hall,” premiering at 10pm Sunday, April 5 on PBS member stations across the U.S.

Click here to see photos from “Billions.”

“Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” Enough Said.

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 18 March 2015 4:14 PM, PDT

Syfy’s third entry in its deliriously ridiculous “Sharknado” franchise finally has a premiere date and an outstanding official title: “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

“Sharknado 3″ premieres at 9pm Wednesday on July 22 on Syfy, and has already made headlines for casting announcements so whackadoodle that we have no choice but to watch. Honestly, even if you’re one of those viewers who prides herself in only viewing the very best in television programmes there’s probably some part of you — a part of your shadow self, deep down inside — that wants to see Jerry Springer get chewed into hammerhead chum.

No? What about watching Ann Coulter or David Hasselhoff become shark snacks? Or Bo Derek? Mark Cuban, anybody? These celebrities and others are set to take part in Syfy’s third annual celebration of The Death Aquatic, which once again stars Ian Ziering as Fin Shepard and Tara Reid as his right-handless lady friend April Wexler. The Hoff will play Fin’s father, by the way, while Bo Derek portrays April’s mom.

In “Sharknado 3,” thousands of angry, hungry CGI sharks will rise from the ocean in toothy funnel clouds to dine their way through our nation’s capitol before chomping down on the Eastern Seaboard, ending their bottomless people buffet by making a dessert out of Florida. If Syfy is smart, the channel will find out some way to incorporate Mega Python and Gatoroid into the storyline. That way, at long last, the United States can have its own chaotic, heroic monsters to cheer on as they fight other chaotic monsters, because that worked out incredibly well for Japan.

In other TV news, Fox has picked up “Sleepy Hollow” for a third season and named Clifton Campbell as the series’ new showrunner. Campbell previously created and executive produced “The Glades” for A&E, as well as serving as a co-executive producer on USA’s “White Collar.”

Amazon Renews “Bosch”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 18 March 2015 11:14 AM, PDT

Well, that was fast. Less than a month and a half after its debut, Amazon Studios’ hourlong cop drama “Bosch” has been renewed for a second season.

Although a second season pick-up was not necessarily a foregone conclusion, “Bosch” was one of the more highly-anticipated titles to premiere this year. It arrived with a ready-made fanbase of readers who have long been hooked on  Michael Connelly‘s best-selling Harry Bosch novels, and the casting of Titus Welliver in the title role further sealed the deal.

According to a Studios press release, “Bosch” had the biggest debut weekend among all of Amazon’s original series and became the most-watched title on Prime Instant Video in its first four weeks. The series stars Welliver as Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective Harry Bosch, who started season one on trial for the fatal shooting of a suspected serial killer.

Co-stars Jamie Hector, who plays Harry Bosch’s partner Jerry Edgar, as well as Amy Aquino (Lt. Grace Billets), Lance Reddick (Deputy Chief Irvin Irving) and Sarah Clarke (Eleanor Wish) are all confirmed for season two.

Today’s release also revealed the second season’s main plot arc: “In the second season of “Bosch,” the relentless LAPD detective will investigate the murder of a Hollywood producer who laundered money for the mob. He will also pursue serial killer Chilton Hardy and the investigations take Bosch from the Hollywood Hills down through the gritty back streets of L.A. and Las Vegas, threatening those closest to him—his teenage daughter and ex-wife.”

Those who have read Connelly’s Bosch novels Trunk Music (2013) and The Drop (2012) may be familiar with these storylines. The first season combines plot details from Connelly’s books City of Bones (2002), The Concrete Blonde (1994) and Echo Park (2006).

Amazon’s original series are available for Prime members to stream at, at no additional cost to their membership. Pilot episodes for all of Amazon’s series can be viewed now by all customers.

Syfy’s “12 Monkeys” Gets a Second Season

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 13 March 2015 6:39 PM, PDT

The monkey business will continue on Syfy. The cable channel has picked up “12 Monkeys” for a second season, set to air in 2016, with co-executive producers Terry Matalas and  Travis Fickett  moving up to take over showrunner duties from Natalie Chaidez, who is stepping away to develop another Syfy series, “Hunters.”

Using the 1995 theatrical film directed by Terry Gilliam as a jumping off point, “12 Monkeys” expands the tale of a man sent back in time to stop a virus from destroying humanity, with Aaron Stanford playing as James Cole, the role originated in the movie by Bruce Willis.

The same-day ratings for “12 Monkeys” have been modest, at best, nine episodes into the season. But numbers gleaned via delayed viewing on DVRs have been impressive, which likely led to the March 6 episode achieving its highest rating  at that time, scoring a six percent increase over prior weeks with 1.5 million viewers tuning in.

Syfy has yet to reveal whether “Helix,” “12 Monkeys’” primetime partner on Friday nights,  will get a third season.

The CW Sets May Finales, Fox Announces Summer Premieres

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 11 March 2015 12:56 PM, PDT

That wonderful, terrible time of year has arrived again. It’s time to get excited about the shocking revelations and cliffhangers to be served up in the season finales of our favorite TV addictions, before sinking into our annual late-May, early-June funk at knowing we have to wait for months to see new episodes. The good news is that the whole season finale thing has a bit of a false ring to it these days, what with so many other shows premiering in late spring or early summer to see us through to the fall.

Here’s the quick breakdown of The CW’s big season finales — besides “The 100,” of course, which ends its second season tonight at 9pm.

Monday, May 11 brings the finales of “The Originals” at 8pm and “Jane the Virgin” at 9pm. Then, “Arrow‘s” season finale airs 8pm Wednesday, May 13, followed by the Thursday, May 14  finales of “The Vampire Diaries” at 8pm and “Reign” at 9pm.

Meanwhile, “Arrow’s” successful spinoff, “The Flash” ends its season run on Tuesday, May 19. That leaves “Supernatural.” The Winchester brothers will put Baby in the garage for the season at 9pm on May 20.

Not long after The CW’s season schedule comes to an end,  a number of premieres will hit broadcast and cable primetime schedules — including Fox’s, which was revealed in part earlier this week.

In addition to the previously announced May 14 premiere date for “Wayward Pines” (which has a 9pm timeslot), Fox set a two-hour premiere for “Masterchef” starting at 8pm Wednesday, May 20. Fox also is returning “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” to its schedule at 8pm Tuesday, May 26 followed by the 9pm premiere of the network’s summertime staple “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Monday, June 1 brings the two-hour return of “So You Think You Can Dance” at 8pm. Later in June comes the new quiz show “Boom!”, debuting at 8pm on Thursday, June 25.

Additional premiere and finale information will be coming soon from all the networks, so check back for updates.

AMC Gives Two Season Order to “Walking Dead” Spinoff

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 9 March 2015 12:33 PM, PDT

First the prison. Then, Woodbury. Now, AMC itself is going to be overrun by walkers.

The cable channel is perfectly content with that. So content, in fact, that it is launching the yet-to-be-titled spinoff of “The Walking Dead” with a two-season order, with the first six-episode season to air later this summer, followed by the second in 2016.

Not much is known about this companion series other than it will be set in Los Angeles and feature new characters and storylines. As previously announced, Cliff Curtis, Kim Dickens, Frank Dillane and Alycia Debnam Carey will star.

The executive producers of the original series, Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne HurdGreg Nicotero and David Alpert, serve as EPs on this spinoff, which also is produced by AMC Studios.

HBO To Launch Standalone Service in April

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 9 March 2015 11:53 AM, PDT

HBO just gave cord cutters another reason to celebrate. The premium cable channel announced that its standalone streaming service, HBO Now, is set to launch this April on Apple platforms, just in time for subscribers to catch the “Game of Thrones” fifth season premiere.

Although the service is initially being made available exclusively to Apple customers for $14.99 a month, along with a 30-day introductory trial period for those who sign up through Apple during the month of April, the network “continues to be in discussions with its existing network of distributors and new digital partners to offer HBO Now,” according to an HBO press release. HBO Now can be accessed via Apple TV or on iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices. Subscribers will also be able to access HBO Now on iOS devices and PCs.

This move has been expected for quite a while, particularly following HBO CEO Richard Plepler’s declaration last year that he wasn’t worried about existing subscribers sharing their HBO Go codes with their freeloading friends, declaring to BuzzFeed, “We’re in the business of creating addicts.” If this move has worked, $15 a month to secure one’s “Game of Thrones” fix doesn’t seem unreasonable.

With HBO having thrown down the gauntlet, how soon other premium providers like Showtime and Starz will follow suit? Cable customers have been clamoring for a la carte channel packages for years. With subscription costs on the rise and so many digital options available to purchase seasons of favorite series piecemeal, we may soon see a tipping point where it makes more sense to pay for a regular streaming service such as Prime Instant Video, Hulu and Netflix and augment with services like HBO Now versus paying for a full cable package.

But we may be getting ahead of ourselves. First, let’s see if customers take a bite out of HBO offer. Oh, what I am saying? Of course they will.

What’s be interesting to see, though, is what happens to the rogue sharing of those Go codes after Now rolls out.

NBC Sets Summer Premiere for “Hannibal,” More

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 6 March 2015 3:17 PM, PST

Hannibal” fans, we know you’ve been hungrily waiting for a season premiere date. NBC has served it up at long last, setting the table for 10pm Thursday, June 4.

Here’s some more fun: the title of the third season premiere is “Antipasto.”

This announcement is one of several summer premiere dates that the network revealed on Friday. A week prior to “Hannibal’s” return brings the two-hour series premiere of “Aquarius,” starring David Duchovny, at 9pm Thursday, May 28.  With that drama at 9pm and “Hannibal” airing at 10pm beginning on June 4, NBC has put together the complete serial killer package for viewers who are into that sort of thing.

“Aquarius” is set in 1967 and follows Duchovny’s LAPD Sgt. Sam Hodiak as he begins investigating the disappearance of an attorney’s teen daughter. As he follows the case, he soon finds himself on the trail of a magnetic figure who is seducing young women, a man the world will come to know as Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony).

Meanwhile, season three of “Hannibal” takes Will Graham’s (Hugh Dancy) hunt for Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and his surprising new partner in crime Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) to Europe, where Hannibal has assumed a new identity but still has…singular tastes. Not to mention many lovely open-air markets from which he can select the freshest ingredients. Mangia!

On the unscripted front, NBC is kicking off its summertime slate with the return of “American Ninja Warrior” at 8pm Monday, May 25, followed by the premiere of a new season of “America’s Got Talent” at 8pm Tuesday, May 26.

Review: ABC’s “American Crime”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 5 March 2015 4:55 PM, PST

Acclaimed film directors choosing to work in series television isn’t a new development. What’s new is that more of them are choosing to work in broadcast, a different and very demanding animal, as opposed to cable, where they can usually exert more control over their product. Cable channels can make series renewal decisions based on what’s good for their respective brand.

The broadcast TV machine, on the other hand, requires a show to pull in big audience numbers consistently, over the course of many weeks and months. To achieve that feat, a series has burn story at just the right pace and give us characters we want to welcome into our homes. Knowing how to roll out a story in two hours is a very different challenge from doing it over many weeks, and possibly multiple seasons.

This is not to imply that film directors can’t hack it in broadcast television; Oscar nominated-director Lee Daniels scored a monstrous hit for Fox with “Empire,” which he co-created with Emmy-winning screenwriter Danny Strong.  But “Empire” is a sizzling new take on a tried-and-true TV genre, the primetime soap. “American Crime,” on the other hand, is a hourlong drama created and executive produced by Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley with aspirations of being a Very Important Film, spun out over 11 hours of television.

An examination of race and class dynamics passed through the prism of a murder case, “American Crime” is likely draw more than a few comparisons to series such as “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “The Wire,” series that treat each episode like chapters of a novel, presenting characters with literary levels of depth.

But the stories and the people populating “American Crime” are dirty, raw and real, and the way the titular crime plays out makes the easily tied up cases of “Law & Order” look like a child’s fantasies. Nobody in this show comes out completely clean or unsympathetic– not the outwardly respectable family of the murder victim, or the haggard cops; not the hardworking Hispanic father whose son gets sucked into the vortex of the legal system; not the gangbangers, the meth heads or any of the criminals taking the blame for the crime.

Similarly, nothing about the crime in question is black and white, beyond that it happened, and that certain aspects of the case end up connecting very different people. Our gateway into this story is Russ Skokie (Timothy Hutton), who is summoned to Modesto, California to identify the remains of his son, Matt. The cops inform Russ that Matt was murdered in a home invasion and that his daughter-in-law, Gwen, sustained a brutal assault and is in a coma.

From there, Russ reaches out to his embittered ex-wife Barb (Felicity Huffman) and Gwen’s parents Tom (W. Earl Brown) and Eve (Penelope Ann Miller). As more details about the case emerge, the couples quickly become adversarial as they battle over details about their kids, and their relationships with each other, that have nothing to do with the crime.

The most interesting character in this faction is Huffman’s Barb, who is deeply damaged by her failed marriage to Russ. Barb wants to take out her grief-fueled anger on Russ and the suspects, and very soon her racial prejudices boil to the surface. But the police aren’t sure who is to blame: A menacing Latino gangbanger (Richard Cabral) looks good for the crime, but he quickly implicates an unstable meth head (Elvis Nolasco), an African American man in a co-dependent relationship with a white girl who’s also an addict. The police scoop up everybody, and for a while, it looks like nothing will get in the way of cleanly prosecuting the case. Until something does.

Drawn into this morass is the family of Alonzo Gutiérrez (Benito Martinez), a Mexican-American business owner trying to raise his kids by himself, who proudly distinguishes his hard-working family from illegals. He soon sees that society at large doesn’t honor that distinction when his son Tony’s (Johnny Ortiz) small act of rebellion ends up implicating him in the murder.

There’s a lot of story to service in “American Crime,” and with it, a ponderous amount of social commentary to parse. To his credit, Ridley interweaves and develops each storyline with a thoughtfulness and intricacy  rarely seen in primetime.

“American Crime” also illustrates the flaws in the system that favor citizens of higher economic status and penalize the working class. The Gutiérrez storyline, in particular, exposes how efforts to cooperate with police and do what one thinks is the right thing can end up incriminating the innocent nevertheless. More heartbreaking is the fallout of Alonzo’s actions, which lead to rifts within his family.

This is a series that allows its actors to flex every bit of their range to illuminate the case’s complexities. But the cinematic artistry at work here, particularly visible in the framing of each camera shot, makes “American Crime” something truly extraordinary in broadcast. One of the best elements of each episode is the camera’s insistence on maintaining tight, off-center shots on one actor during intense dialogues, as if to peek over the other actor’s shoulder; it makes the view a participant in the tension and tragedy within those moments.

The big question is whether “American Crime” is too methodical and too serious for Ridley to achieve the level of mass appeal that Daniels and “Empire” have. This is a very real concern; vital as it is for Americans to have conversations about racial inequity and class favoritism, especially given recent events in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere, it may be too much to expect the average viewer to dive in to this excellently rendered but extremely depressing story week after week.

Viewers who appreciate serialized storytelling that inspires conversation, and expands our perception of what broadcast television can be, will have a wonderful new fascination with “American Crime”. The rest of you can continue being seduced by the struggles and schemes of another fascinating TV character who’s done hard time. I’m referring, of course, to “Empire’s” Cookie.
American Crime” premieres at 10pm Thursday, March 5 on ABC.

“The Daily Show” Exodus Continues: Samantha Bee Exits

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 5 March 2015 2:59 PM, PST

Comedy Central’s  “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” is experiencing a talent drain right now — not surprising, since longtime host Jon Stewart announced his intent to depart.  But get this: only a week after fake news correspondent Jason Jones revealed his plan to star in a scripted comedy for TBS, the “Very Funny” cable channel announced another deal with longtime “Daily Show” correspondent Samantha Bee, Jones’s wife, to host and executive produce her own show. According to a press release, TBS envisions the show as a platform for “Bee to apply her smart and satirical point of view to current and relevant issues.”

Meaning, Bee will helm what sounds like another basic cable (sorta) fake news show, perhaps similar to what her former “Daily Show” colleague John Oliver is doing over on HBO with “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” (Although, as many have pointed out since Oliver’s show began, “Last Week Tonight” isn’t truly fake news since he’s practicing real investigative journalism to serve its comedy.)

This development also means that Bee is officially out of the running to be “The Daily Show’s” new host. Or, we should say, it ends any speculation that she was in the running to begin with. As discussion continues to swirl over possible replacements for Stewart, Bee’s name frequently has been mentioned as a candidate, and why not? She’s been with “The Daily Show” since 2003, making her the longest-serving correspondent in its history. She’s created some of “The Daily Show’s” most memorable bits, and she’s very well-liked.

But if the goal for the new “Daily Show” host is to maintain the show’s appeal to younger viewers and stay in the chair for the long haul, Comedy Central probably is hunting for a candidate in his or her late 20s or early 30s, and who isn’t Jessica Williams. (Williams adamantly declined being considered for the hosting job on Twitter, although she does show up as its host in a bit within Hot Tub Time Machine 2.)

TBS intends to keep Bee and Jones busy. In addition to the couple sharing executive producing duties on Bee’s show, Jones and Bee co-created and are co-executive producing Jones’s yet-to-be titled scripted comedy, which is scheduled to debut at the end of this year, and has Jones playing the head of a family that’s taking a road trip to Florida. Co-starring are Natalie Zea, Ashley Gerasimovich and Liam Carroll.

“Outlander”: New Posters

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 4 March 2015 1:51 PM, PST

When we last saw Claire Randall, er Beecham — well, now she’s Mrs. Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) — Captain Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) had her captive and about to endure a nightmarish assault, but her chivalrous husband Jamie (Sam Heughan) popped up just in time to secure her rescue. Claire’s no shrinking violet, though; her Highlander allies taught her how to use a knife, and she’s already field tested it successfully.

This brings us to the two new posters Starz released today in support of “Outlander‘s” midseason return. One shows Claire bravely brandishing her dagger at an unseen foe with Jamie drawing his sword behind her, while the other features the person Claire is staring down. No surprise there…it’s that jerk Black Jack Randall, ready to cut her down.

The posters are meant to recall the series premiere key art, which shows Claire reaching out to the husband her time jump forced her to leave behind, as Jamie stands with his hand outstretched, waiting for her. These new images show that Claire has settled into her life in 1743, but we can bet she’s not going to stop trying to return to her beloved Frank (also played by Tobias Menzies).

What do you think about the latest posters?

Outlander” returns at 9pm Saturday, April 4 on Starz.


Netflix Sets Premiere for “Orange Is the New Black” and More

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 2 March 2015 4:37 PM, PST


It’s going to be a great summer to binge-watch shows on Netflix. The streaming service has set a June 12 premiere date for season three of “Orange Is the New Black,” saving the series debut of “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp” for July 17.

New drama “Sense8” rolls out before “Orange Is the New Black,” on June 5. Another new series, “Between,” has been assigned a May premiere, although no specific date has been set.

Netflix announced these dates on Monday in addition to releasing dates for upcoming stand-up specials featuring Chris D’Elia (“Chris D’Elia: Incorrigible” premieres on April 17), Jen Kirkman (“I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine)” debuts on May 22) and the documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? which premieres on June 26.


Review: CBS’s “Battle Creek”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 27 February 2015 2:38 PM, PST

CBS’s primetime lineup is a comfortable den filled with reliable procedurals. These crime shows can be thrilling, to be sure. But viewers watch the twisted perps on “Criminal Minds,” “NCIS, “CSI” and all of their related spinoffs do horrible things, with the knowledge that determined law enforcement specialists probably will bring them to justice by the end of the hour, usually with the help of NASA-grade technology.

Contrast these whizbang adventures with the caseload of “Battle Creek‘s” overworked cops, who work in a department so poorly funded that in one drug bust, a detective sends his informant to face a dangerous criminal with a baby monitor because the department’s other surveillance equipment doesn’t work. They do get their man, but not before their star detective gets a nasty shiner for his efforts. (Their Tasers don’t work either.)

Welcome to Battle Creek, Michigan, the world’s breakfast cereal capitol and the quirky setting for a breezy new cop drama from executive producers David Shore, the creator of “House,” and Vince Gilligan, who gave us “Breaking Bad.” “Battle Creek” injects humor and heart into each episode, highlighting the comedic chemistry of its ensemble cast. Sunday’s premiere  is directed by Bryan Singer, who worked with Shore on “House” and directed that show’s pilot.

The star of Battle Creek’s brokedown cop shop is scruffy, grumpy Detective Russ Agnew (Dean Winters), a guy who’s fond of spit-shining his commendations but more than a little tired of being forced to make do with substandard equipment. When  handsome, charismatic FBI Special Agent Milton Chamberlain (Josh Duhamel) opens a satellite branch across the hall from Battle Creek P.D.’s offices, the rest of the department is in awe of having a federal agent so nearby, and with such shiny new stuff to boot.

Milt, of course, is happy to help the town’s cops. But Russ almost immediately resents him. Naturally Russ’s boss, Commander Guziewicz (Janet McTeer), teams him with Milt at the agent’s request, creating an odd couple dynamic that outshines that which  Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon are peddling on the same network, albeit on a different night.

Television viewers love to love difficult men, a truth Shore and Gilligan have taken to the bank with their previous shows. Milt and Russ are a lot easier to love than Gregory House and Walter White, of course; Russ is cranky and a little too married to the “old school” way of doing things for his own good, but he wears his working class roots and emotional vulnerability like armor. Winters, whose unshaven, roguish demeanor was marketed to the hilt in numerous insurance commercials (Mayhem!) pairs handsomely with Duhamel’s Dudley Do-Right — although the allure of Russ and Milt’s unconventional buddy cop act is that Boy Scout Milt might not be as trustworthy as he strives to appear.

Nevertheless, Russ and Milt are outstanding together, and they’re even more fun to watch as their relationship develops — especially in later episodes when Duhamel and Winters work with oddballs played great guest stars, including Patton Oswalt and Candice Bergen.

Where other crime shows focus more on the cases than the people solving it, “Battle Creek” appeal is in its wholesale commitment to the absurdity of their heroes’ situation.  Winters and Duhamel forge a solid center here, but the entire cast, which includes Kal PennGrapevineLiza Lapira, Aubrey Dollar and Damon Herriman (who, fresh of his bumpkin act on “Justified,” plays named Niblet) work overtime to make “Battle Creek” a place worth visiting every Sunday.

Battle Creek” premieres at 10pm Sunday, March 1 on CBS.

CBS Sets Its Summer Premiere Dates

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 26 February 2015 12:24 PM, PST

CBS has set late June and early July premiere dates for its summertime series “Extant,” “Under the Dome,” its new drama “Zoo” and the return of “Big Brother.”

The third season of “Under the Dome” kicks off the Eye’s scripted schedule with a two-hour premiere at 9pm Thursday, June 25 before settling into its regular time period the following week at 10pm Thursday, July 2. Marg Helgenberger guest stars in an extended arc, although how nobody noticed that the former star of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” was trapped in the gigantic terrarium surrounding Chester’s Mill along with the rest of these folks before now is, like the Dome itself, beyond understanding.

New summer series “Zoo’s” premieres at 9pm Tuesday, June 30. Based on James Patterson‘s bestselling novel, “Zoo” follows a biologist played by James Wolk as he strives to determine the cause of a worldwide pandemic of animal attacks against humans.

The new season of “Extant,” starring Halle Berry, kicks off at 10pm on Wednesday, July 1. Jeffrey Dean Morgan joins the cast for the show’s second season as J.B. Richter, who aids Berry’s character Molly Woods in a quest to save humanity after she discovers that her actions have “unwittingly put the human race on the path of destruction.”

Meanwhile, summertime staple “Big Brother” returns with a two-night premiere at 8pm Wednesday, June 24 and Thursday, June 25. Thursday’s live eviction show moves to its regular time period of 9pm on Thursday, July 2, leading in to “Under the Dome.” The show’s Sunday edition premieres at 8pm on June 28.

A Chat with “Banshee’s” Geno Segers

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 19 February 2015 3:59 PM, PST

Banshee‘s” Chayton Littlestone has one of the more ironic surnames on television. The actor who plays the Native American gang leader, Geno Segers, is a six-foot-three-inch wall of muscle, and his height is particularly noticeable during season two’s “The Warrior Class,” the first episode in which Chayton appeared.

In “The Warrrior Class,” Sheriff Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) takes on Chayton in single combat, only to be thrown around like a rag doll. Chayton goes down eventually, but not before withstanding two Taser blasts and being choked out with a flashlight. Even then, the sheriff’s department couldn’t keep Chayton in custody for long; the man crashed a police cruiser during an escape, vanishing to parts unknown only to resurface with a vengeance in season three.

“Littlestone”? Not so much.

In Chayton, Segers has created a chaotic force made flesh, driven by rage to start deadly battles on behalf of a lost cause. But the key word in that sentence is “flesh.” Chayton can withstand as much damage  as he can dole out, but “Banshee’s” most recent episode ended with him as an FBI fugitive suffering from a deep knife wound and, possibly, a gunshot. From what we can see in the photo accompanying this post and an exclusive clip Cinemax gave to IMDb, he’s far from invulnerable.

Chayton’s personality is the polar opposite of Segers’, a kind, baritone-voiced man whose last major role before “Banshee” was that of a fun-loving dad on Disney XD’s “Pair of Kings.” Segers has an easy laugh and a deep appreciation for all of the opportunities that playing a frightening Kinaho gang leader has brought his way, including the role of the villain Boar Tusks in the upcoming horror Western Bone Tomahawk.

We spoke with Segers about how he makes the transformation from nice guy into “Banshee’s” deadliest villain, whether Chayton Littlestone can be redeemed, and which TV series he thinks Chayton would most relate to.

Please note: If you haven’t seen the most recent episodes of “Banshee,” stop reading now — this conversation discusses events that are major spoilers.

IMDbTV: Chayton has such a formidable presence, and he seems like a completely different character than who you actually are. Can you talk a bit about what it takes to get into the skin of Chayton Littlestone?

Segers: … I try to start with me and get rid of all the things that won’t serve the character: politeness, concern, a warm interest in people – I have always had a love for people. So I really had to take all that away and sort of just start with what I had that served Chayton. I have some formidable size, I have some athleticism, I have a scary voice, when needed. …I started peeling all that back and realized that I was nothing like this guy, deep down.

So I started looking at people who I thought Chayton would line up with ideologically: I looked some Native American activists, some African American activists. But I even thought about looking at Hitler, in terms of his ideas of purity and a pure race of people. I just looked at everybody, you know…I pulled pieces of this and that, pieces of a couple of family members — (Segers laughs) — to pull this guy together.

…The wonderful aspect of Chayton is that they didn’t want him to be a thug, just a scary, unintelligent guy. He became more of a formidable thinker as opposed to a guy who’s just going to hurt you. He was thinking strategically, which made him much more interesting to me.

IMDbTV:  Chayton has also done some terrible things – he killed a beloved regular character.

Segers: (sighs) Yeah.

IMDbTV: That must have been an interesting day on the set.

Segers: I couldn’t say enough about Trieste [Kelly Dunn]. She’s an amazing performer, and she made it really easy for me to build up that energy, to take the steps we needed to take to get there. She was actually quite happy that Chayton was going to kill her character….she was happy because her character was, of course, a series regular. The fact that Chayton is the one that takes her character’s life is going to make it even more impactful for the Banshee community.

What’s a better way to go than to be killed by this arch-antagonist, as opposed to killed by a random flying bullet?…No one’s going to remember that. But because it was Chayton, everyone is going to remember it and our characters are forever linked as a result of that event.

IMDbTV: We’ve gotten hints that Chayton has a shred of emotional vulnerability, but there is a moment coming up where we actually see that he is physically vulnerable. Is it possible for Chayton to earn back a bit of empathy from viewers?

Segers: I think that viewers are going to see Chayton in a way they’ve never seen him before. They’re going to see him physically vulnerable. They’re even going see him emotionally vulnerable. They’ve never seen real, genuine fear come from Chayton. So they’re going to see this fear come from Chayton in a way that they’re not expecting.

…That said, Chayton has a chance to earn some of that empathy back. But as the episode goes on, he will of course ruin it. He will ruin any chance of that, I believe.

IMDbTV: A lot of people who watch cable know you as the dad on “Pair of Kings,” which was so different. Is it more fun to be the happy, go-lucky guy, or to play a character like Chayton?

Segers: Chayton has probably, to date, been the most challenging character to take on, because we’re so different from one another. I would love to take on more bad guys, because it stretches me as a performer. It’s so not like me. Now, Mason [Makoola] was relatively easy because he’s a lot like me. It was fun, don’t misunderstand me – I enjoyed every moment of [playing] Mason. But it was enjoyable for different reasons. It wasn’t as huge a stretch for me to play Mason as it is for me to play Chayton. But I will say, in all honesty, I probably enjoy Chayton a little bit more because it’s challenging.

IMDbTV: You have Bone Tomahawk coming up. Can you give us some hints about that project?

Segers: I was really skeptical about Bone Tomahawk until I really started thinking about the challenges to me as an actor. Boar Tusks, the character that I play, is the lead antagonist. And he doesn’t speak. So that makes him difficult for me to muster, because I’m so used to relying on my voice to express and to just help me be present in what I’m doing. … It brings all of the performance right to your eyes, and your face, and your expression.

… I thought, “That’s really going to be a challenge.” I wanted to see if I can help bring this Boar Tusks to life and make him as formidable without saying a word as I’ve been able to make Chayton formidable, vocally. That said, one of my favorite scenes with Chayton, he doesn’t say a word. That’s when he goes to retrieve his brother’s body. He doesn’t say a word, but all of the emotion, all of the pain, the vengeance, the anger and the sadness, came through just from him thinking it. That’s probably my favorite scene of season three.

IMDbTV:  Do you think that there is an chance at redemption for Chayton?

Segers: I will say this: Chayton gets exactly what he wants. He can’t have his land back. He can’t beat every single soldier in the United States Army. He doesn’t have the time. So he’s going to take what he can. And Chayton, in the end, gets what he wants.

IMDbTV: Now, the IMDb question. I’m guessing Chayton is very much anti-TV series and movies. But if there were ever a time that he did watch a television show or a film, which film or TV show would he relate to the most?

Segers: He would probably relate to “The Walking Dead,” because he would feel right at home in that scenario, being alive and fighting your way out, fighting your way to live the next day. I think Chayton feels as though he is underwater and he is constantly under siege. He literally has to run, fight, scratch, kill his way to the next day. And I think that’s the beauty of “The Walking Dead.”

A new episode of “Banshee airs at 10pm Friday on Cinemax.

Amazon Picks Up Three Primetime Pilots, Renews “Mozart in the Jungle”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 18 February 2015 2:09 PM, PST

Amazon has picked up “Mad Dogs,” “The Man in the High Castle,” and “The New Yorker Presents” to series, in addition to renewing its comedy “Mozart in the Jungle” for a second season. Amazon Studios also picked up two children’s series, “Just Add Magic” and “The Stinky & Dirty Show.”

“Mozart” is the third half-hour series from Amazon Studios to get a second season, following in the footsteps of “Alpha House” and two-time Golden Globe-award winner “Transparent.”

Among the new Amazon Originals, two are executive produced by veteran showrunners. “Mad Dogs” comes from Shawn Ryan, creator of FX’s groundbreaking drama “The Shield” in addition to executive producing number of other acclaimed and shorter-running dramas. (Rest in peace, “Terriers“…we will never stop missing you.)

“The Man in the High Castle,” which Amazon reported was the most watched of all of its pilots to date, is written and executive produced by Frank Spotnitz, who also was an executive producer on “The X-Files” and created the Cinemax series “Hunted.” It’s based on a novel by Philip K. Dick that explores an alternate version of American history, in which the Nazis won World War II.

“The New Yorker Presents” pilot, produced by award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney, presents a combination of documentary style reporting, an interview with performance artist Marina Abramovic, and a sketch that starred Alan Cumming and  Brett Gelman. Without a doubt it’s one of the more unique selections among Amazon’s Pilot Season crop, not to mention pilot season in general. (HBO’s “Vice” and Showtime’s short-running version of “This American Life” come to mind as points of comparison.)

Amazon’s original series are available for Prime members to stream at, at no additional cost to their membership. A free trial of Prime is available for non-members by signing up at Pilot episodes for all of these series can be viewed now by all customers on Amazon.

“The Mentalist” Comes to an End (For Real This Time)

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 17 February 2015 5:22 PM, PST

Some shows go out with lots of fanfare. Many others fade to black with barely a whimper in protest. Then there are those like “The Mentalist,” a neatly packaged procedural fueled by a grim, serialized arc in the form of Red John, the faceless killer who seemed to be everywhere and no place. Who was he? Would Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) ever catch him? “The Mentalist” served up a buffet of red herrings in answer to those questions for more than five seasons.

Maybe its producers stretched out the Red John mystery a beat too long. (Understandable — when the show was in its stride, Red John was one of the most fiendish adversaries on TV.) Maybe CBS, in its desire to keep a once-potent procedural going, couldn’t bring itself to let the show end where it should have. Whatever the case may be, “The Mentalist” will be remembered by a sizable portion of its audience as having two finales: one being the ultimate resolution of the Red John storyline, which aired in November 2013, and the other being Wednesday night’s official series finale “White Orchids,” which gifts fans with a wedding and one last serial killer case for old times’ sake.

Mind you, there are plenty of devoted viewers who stuck with “The Mentalist” all the way through its run. But I also suspect there are a fair number who, like me, intend to watch this week’s finale in spite of the fact that we closed the book on Patrick Jane in 2013.

A season or two ago, “The Mentalist” was inescapable — or, I should say, I couldn’t get away from it. My husband was late in discovering the series, and happened to drop in just in time for the arc that led to the “Strawberries and Cream” episodes, a two-parter that looked like it was going to pay off with Jane finally coming face to face with his nemesis. If you haven’t seen those episodes I won’t reveal whether Jane actually does meet Red John, but they made me like the show much more than ever before.

Not as much as my husband did. Thanks to syndicated repeats on TNT, my spouse became a “Mentalist” junkie; the show made an appearance on our television at some point almost every night, no exaggeration. He even managed to find an episode in dubbed Spanish while were were traveling in a foreign country, and watched from start to finish. The man doesn’t even speak the language.

He didn’t need to. “The Mentalist’s” mysteries have enough of a comfortably recognizable pattern to them that the action transcends language barriers. But a good deal of my husband’s love affair with the show had to do with the idea of Patrick Jane, a former faux psychic/con man turned police consultant who was part trickster, part Richard Kimble, and obsessed with achieving vengeance for the murders of his wife and daughter. There was an element of danger to Jane, but his refined tastes and the care he showed toward his California Bureau of Investigation partner Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney), made him more gentleman than scoundrel. That, and his ability to solve crimes using tactics reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s oeuvre (including dramatic speeches that begin with, “I have gathered all of you here because someone in this room…” dramatic pause…”has committed murder“) shrunk whatever dubious qualities he had down to quirks.

All of that was then. Now? Yesterday I let my man know that “The Mentalist’s” two-hour series finale was airing this week and I asked him if he was excited to watch it. “I already did,” he replied. “I saw it, what, two seasons ago?” Actually, it was more like one and a half.

The beauty of procedurals like these is anyone can drop in at any time and not miss much, and the same is likely true of “The Mentalist’s” finale. There have been changes, of course.  Two of the original CBI team, Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) and Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti), moved on after Red John was unmasked, but Kimball Cho (Tim Kang) is still around to deliver deadpan fashion advice to Lisbon’s bride-to-be.

Beyond that, there’s a mystery to solve and survive, and a look at Jane and Lisbon on their way to happily ever after… one hopes. Easy to follow and solve as “The Mentalist’s” cases may have been, series finales are often quite unpredictable. If this show proved one thing, it’s that partnering with Jane on the job and in life comes with risks. That’s enough of a reason to tune in for “The Mentalist’s” series finale, even if you already watched the end of the show 15 months ago.

The Mentalists” two-hour series finale airs at 8pm Wednesday on CBS. Click here to see a featurette of the show’s cast saying goodbye to fans.