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Review: AMC’s “Better Call Saul”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 17 hours ago


Central to “Breaking Bad’s” appeal was the idea that any person, even a mild-mannered teacher who had been kicked around all his life, can twist into a villain. Walter White, the man who became the Southwest’s meth king, started out as a decent husband and father. He was slow to anger, hardworking, undervalued and underpaid.

But let’s not forget that the person who watered the seed from which Walt’s vast meth enterprise sprung was a shady lawyer named Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). Remember? Saul approached Walt in his classroom not long after one of Walt’s dealers was pinched, and advised the teacher not to quit manufacturing crank, but to go bigger.

“I’m no Vito Corleone,” Walt insisted.

“No sh-t — right now, you’re Fredo!” Saul replied. “But you know, with some sound advice, and the proper introductions, who knows?”

No kidding. Not even Saul could have guessed how far down Walter White would go.

That exchange, and so many that followed, make it tough to imagine Saul Goodman as anything more than a devil on a troubled man’s shoulder. But that’s the proposition that AMC’s prequel “Better Call Saul” sets before us. Its 10-episode first season, which premieres 10pm Sunday, February 8 before settling into its 10pm Monday night timeslot on February 9, introduces us to  Saul’s previous incarnation as a struggling court-appointed attorney named Jimmy McGill, a good(ish) man who endured a few slips and falls in life but is just trying to get up and stay up.

Jimmy’s the sort of lawyer that gives public defenders a terrible rep: a sad sack in cheap suits who drives a rust bucket and runs his practice (if you can call it that) out of a dank space behind a nail salon. He’s terrific at putting on a show in court, even for lost causes, but can’t manage to get out of a municipal parking lot without problems.

There’s a touch of nobility to Jimmy McGill nevertheless. A major subplot involves Jimmy railing against the influence of a high-powered law firm, a place built in part by someone close to Jimmy, of whom the firm is trying to taking advantage. Jimmy is desperate for the firm to do the right thing. So, he’s not completely lost as the series begins. But he soon heads in the wrong direction.

“Better Call Saul” was initially pitched as a comedy, but the final product is more dramatic than light.  Some scenes in the opening episodes are outright horrifying but, as is Vince Gilligan’s way, you’ll have plenty of time to see them coming, making them that much more powerful.

In the same way that these tones carried over from “Breaking Bad,” the humor inherent to Odenkirk’s characterization of Jimmy remains immensely satisfying. Much of the comedy in “Saul” stems from the absurdity of Jimmy’s dealings with the legal system itself, a system has left him with few other options than to do the wrong thing to pay the bills. But the series also shows the myriad ways in which the same system that allows wiggle room for wrongdoers to go free if they have legal counsel from, as Jesse Pinkman once put it, “not just a criminal lawyer but a criminal lawyer.”

“Saul’s” not a pure prequel, either. The premiere opens after the events of “Breaking Bad,” with a short prologue stuffed with enough ominous tension to set the show’s intent to jump around in time. “Breaking Bad” used the same device to hint at the terrible places where Walt was headed; here, it grants us a glimpse at the end of the descent before we join Jimmy for his legal career’s perilous climb.

Odenkirk’s performance plays with a lot of variables, and he provides enough shades of Saul to make taking the trip into the darker territory of Jimmy’s grey ethics worthwhile. But “Saul’s” greater accomplishment is that it gives “Breaking Bad” fans a new set of chapters to savor while being accessible to viewers who have never seen the landmark series. Naturally you’ll get a lot more out of “Saul” if you have seen “Breaking Bad” because of the familiar faces popping up — including Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), who shows up in the very different role as a parking lot attendant.

Our look at Mike’s past self gives “Saul” a bit of a bizarro-world feel at first, since it’s tough to imagine the leathery fixer as anything else. But we can trust that Gilligan and his fellow showrunner Peter Gould know precisely how they’re going to shape Mike the lot attendant into the character “Breaking Bad” fans knew and loved. The pair has a firm hold on the story’s development which, based on the three episodes made available for review, becomes clear as the season rolls on. And remember,  “Breaking Bad”  improved by leaps and bounds after its shaky first seven episodes. It’s reasonable to grant “Saul” the same patience to find its footing as well.

AMC wisely scheduled the first two episodes of “Better Call Saul” to air closely to one another, debuting the series on a Sunday before moving it to its regular Monday night timeslot. By the end of that second episode, you’ll probably be glad that AMC has already picked up “Better Call Saul” for season two.

Better Call Saul” premieres 10pm Sunday, February 8. Regular timeslot is 10pm Mondays starting February 9, on AMC.

Premiere Dates Set for “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, “Salem”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 28 January 2015 4:02 PM, PST

Gentlemen..and ladies…and ladyboys…start your engines! After forcing us to gag through months of speculation as to when “RuPaul’s Drag Race” would be back, Logo finally announced that season seven will hit the runway airwaves at 9pm on Monday, March 2.

This announcement has been a long time coming, especially after Ru teased that the season would be starting sometime in January on a podcast episode that aired a few months ago. For all you poor, deprived souls who are still unfamiliar with the glory that is “Drag Race,” previous seasons are available on Prime Instant Video, so for the love of all that is good, catch up.

Until then, allow me to explain why the wait has been so painful: New seasons of “Drag Race” usually kick off in January or February, just in time to banish the midwinter blues. A March premiere means that we’ll be deep in the throes of cabin fever and clawing our wallpaper by the time we get to see it. However, extra treats await us in the form of new judges Carson Kressley and Ross Matthews, whose combined forces of snark could be so powerful that our TV screens will simply explode into a cloud of sequins and glitter by the end of the season… or, they could be too-too much. We’ll see.

(I’m particularly partial to Kressley, who not only provided wonderful style advice and comic relief to “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” back in the day, but also won my heart by tending to ladies with low self-esteem on Lifetime’s short-lived series “How to Look Good Naked.”)

Among the guest judges appearing in this season’s “Drag Race”episodes are Ariana Grande, Demi LovatoJessica Alba and John Waters.

By the way, if you need to satisfy your jones for all things Ru, you can always check out the podcast he hosts with his best friend and fellow “Drag Race” judge Michelle Visage.

Moving on from queens to witches, WGN America’s “Salem” also has a premiere timeslot, returning for its second season at 10pm Sunday, April 5. That particular night will be busy, as it’s also when “Odyssey” premieres on NBC and “Mad Men” returns to AMC with the first of its final episodes.

Joining “Salem’s” 13-episode second season as recurring guest stars are Lucy Lawless and Stuart Townsend.

Check out our regularly updated midseason premieres list to find out when your favorite show is coming back.

Watch Amazon’s “Transparent” For Free on Saturday

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 22 January 2015 5:31 PM, PST


If you haven’t seen the Amazon Original series “Transparent” yet, ask yourself why you’re allowing the best things in life to pass you by.  Then, take comfort in knowing that on Saturday, you can watch the entire series for free on, even if you’re not a Prime subscriber. The free sampling window will be available on Saturday between 12:01am ET and 11:59pm PT by using the Amazon Instant Video app for TVs, connected devices and mobile devices, or online at

Last week “Transparent” became a two-time Golden Globe award winner, scoring hardware for Best Comedy series and a Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Globe for its star Jeffrey Tambor.

In addition to this sampling opportunity, Amazon Prime memberships will fall to $72 on Saturday, in celebration of the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards.

Created by Jill Soloway, a producer on “Six Feet Under” and “United States of Tara”, “Transparent” is a thought-provoking glimpse at sex and identity as filtered through the prism of a family dramedy, and also stars Gaby Hoffmann, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker. Tambor plays the family’s patriarch Mort, a man whose decision to make a gender transition leads to each of his children examining their own lives.

Review: Fox’s “Backstrom”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 21 January 2015 10:02 PM, PST

The Husband and I have an affectionate nickname for the crime procedurals we watch: pudding.  These are not shows that innovate the procedural genre in any way, but represent the lighter, character-driven side of things. They go down smooth and easy, thanks to charismatic leads that make them distinguishable from, say, the bleak “Law & Orders” and “CSIs” of the world.  Depending on the day or the mood, “Let’s watch some pudding” could refer to “Castle” or “The Mentalist” — more often,  it’s “Castle.”

Fox’s “Backstrom,” premiering Thursday at 9pm, could have been pudding. But “Backstrom” gets something wrong in the mix, and unfortunately that something wrong happens to be its lead character, Everett Backstrom (Rainn Wilson).  Backstrom, the leader of Portland’s Special Crimes Unit, is an unkempt curmudgeon who sees not just the worst in everybody but, as he says at one point, the everybody in everybody. That means he’s not blinded by the weeping damsel in distress or villains posing in heroes uniforms. He sees the perp behind the pretty which, of course, makes him very good at his job. Of course!

Among the qualities that come standard with this model of television character is very little consideration for his health and well-being, and zero cares about offending everyone around him. Backstrom is even fond spewing out racist insults if he knows he can get a rise out someone. (Which is a wonderful trait to show in a cop at this moment in time, what with all the protests about police brutality…am I right?)

The argument for “Backstrom’s” existence and in favor of its possible appeal is that he’s just like Gregory House. There’s something to be said for that; “House” ran for eight seasons before it tendered its resignation, so clearly there was something viewers loved about that frustrating, thoroughly unlikable doc. Wilson does miracles with the dialogue he’s given, although the hammy exposition in the opening episode could make the more discerning viewer cringe. There’s also the device of Everett verbalizing his way through the process of profiling someone, which gets old pretty fast.

That said, the show’s style of humor, dark though it can be, is the kind of thing executive producer Hart Hanson  sells quite effectively on “Bones.”  A few of the punchlines here have an odder landing, especially when they’re served to lighten up a bleak moment, but if “Bones” is your bag, you’ll probably enjoy “Backstrom.”

The show prospects aren’t entirely dim, thanks to its supporting cast. Backstrom’s team members, played by  Kristoffer Polaha, Genevieve Angelson, and Beatrice Rosen, complement of Wilson’s character perfectly, making the detective look at lot more palatable than he should be, and Page Kennedy as Moto, the team’s dimwitted beat cop muscle, creates some really funny moments. The character most worth tuning in for, however, is Dennis Haysbert‘s Det. Sgt. John Almond…not because of anything he says or does, but because of his profile: Almond is a formidable cop who also happens to be a pastor, and Haysbert is the guy so many still love as “24 ‘s” President Palmer. In my opinion, those are the perfect ingredients for some tasty procedural pudding.

Featured Recap: “Justified’s” Season Premiere

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 21 January 2015 11:45 AM, PST


TV Editor’s Note: This blog entry contains analysis and a recap of  Justified‘s” season premiere, titled “Fate’s Right Hand.” If you have an aversion to spoilers, please stop reading now.

More intoxicating than high-class bourbon, more thrilling than a silent stand-off between gunfighters, Raylan Givens’s unshakable self-confidence (honed to perfection by Timothy Olyphant‘s performance) is the special ingredient that makes “Justified” worth watching, even following a deeply flawed fifth season. It pains me to write that, but it’s true — season five was not just a disappointment, but almost entirely skippable*.  I only say this because if you’re coming in to the series completely fresh, with the intent of binging previous seasons to catch up with the rest of us, save yourself the time. The “Previously On…” pre-season six recap does a fine job of skimming the details; besides, that season only postpones the inevitable showdown between Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Raylan, which season six is building toward.

(Editor’s note: I changed my verdict to “skippable” after using a term that, upon second thought, was probably too harsh. We are hardest on the ones we love, after all. )

“Justified’s” sixth season premiere, “Fate’s Right Hand,” is a riveting prologue to the face-off Raylan knows is coming — and, based on what we see during this hour, Boyd clearly suspects is on the horizon. Before getting into IMDb user DeanSpeir‘s excellent recap, a few additional thoughts…

  • We’ll say it many more times before the final season ends, but one thing I’ll certainly miss about “Justified” is the excellent writing. Although the late, great Elmore Leonard, who created the character of Raylan Givens for his short story “Fire in the Hole,” is no longer with us, series executive producer Graham Yost and his writing team still make sure the soul of Leonard’s prose embroiders every scene. It’s clearly there in the portentous exchange between Raylan and Ava (Joelle Carter) on the bridge, and it’s there as he visits a recovering Art (Nick Searcy) to share some bourbon and news. Art and Raylan’s exchange was a simple one, but infused with such quiet emotion, as Art asks Raylan to consider the possibility of one Boyd’s bullets finding him instead of the other way around. If there were ever a time for Raylan’s luck to run out, it’s during the last season of this show.
  • Speaking of the tendency to clean house during a drama’s final season, while we enjoyed watching the idiotic exploits of the character who departs in this episode, it was time for that person to go.
  • Huge credit goes to Goggins for making Boyd such a multifaceted, sympathetic murderous thug. He’s the reason we really hope that Boyd, in spite of everything, somehow avoids the fate he so obviously deserves. But his love for Ava is true, and the ways he shows it in this episode are touching. Yet the final frame of “Fate’s Right Hand” makes me wonder how deeply Boyd’s descent will go as the season rolls along.

Keep reading for  DeanSpeir‘s full blow-by-blow recap of the season premiere.


Wynona (Natalie Zea) talks to her and Raylan’s baby daughter Willa, wondering when he’s going to make his long-overdue appearance with them in Florida.

Rylan is down in Nuevo Laredo in a bar looking for a Federale named Aguilar (Rolando Molina) who comes on real hard-arse when the visiting U.S. Deputy Marshal, assuring the man that he’s not looking to cause anyone any trouble, wants some information about men who might have walked away from a truck smuggling heroin in the Mexican desert. When the man is especially insulting to Raylan and his Marshal’s badge, Raylan takes a hint and, conversationally telling Aguilar that he’ll see him later, saunters out of the bar.

That “later” is at closing time when an inebriated Aguilar staggers to his official car, and as he is leaving the parking lot, is slammed into by Raylan’s vehicle. He comes to later that day in Raylan’s trunk at a deserted desert location on American soil. It’s rarely to anyone’s benefit to play hard-arse with Raylan Givens!

Boyd Crowder wakes up in the middle of the night, cleans himself up and heads out. Picking up confederate Earl (Ryan Dorsey) later, he heads into town and visits a bank where he rents a safety deposit box from Bank Manager Joyce Kipling (Pamela Bowen). After she escorts Boyd into the safety deposit box vault and helps him access his new rental, she is distracted by Earl as Boyd takes a spray can and “paints” a section of boxes with some sort of clear substance.

Ava awakens to find Boyd performing maintenance on their front porch. He talks to her in general terms about their future, while she tells him she’s returned to her old job at the local beauty parlor. After chiding Boyd for drinking so early in day, she surreptitiously takes a long pull of vodka straight from the bottle while retrieving Boyd’s requested beer.

At the U.S. Marshal’s headquarters, acting Chief Deputy Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Vasquez (Rick Gomez) explain that Dewey Crowe is about to be set free and that Raylan’s not allowed to harrass him or come within 1,000 feet of him, the result of Dewey’s successful civil case (“Justified: A Murder of Crowes (#5.1)“).

Dewey leaves prison and is met by Raylan who runs a bluff on Dewey about him being extradited to Mexico for killing Johnny Crowder (“Justified: Raw Deal (#5.7)“). Dewey hangs tough and sets off on the prison bus to start the rest of his life.

Returning to his favorite bar/brothel, he finds it shut down, seized by the U.S. Government. Out back, he is overjoyed to spot one of his “prized possessions,” his ceramic turtle dog, in a refuse pile. Reclaiming it, he heads to a local diner where he is waited on by “Mina,” a former employee of Audry’s who’s resumed her given name, Abigail (Aubrey Wood).

Raylan visits Ava at work and takes her outside to remind her that her freedom is dependent of the information she provides about Boyd’s activities. The chain-smoking Ava is worried, and talkssome, but doesn’t come clean about Boyd’s grand escape plan for leaving Harlan and making a new life for them in some place like Mexico or Costa Rica.

Boyd goes to the late Johnny Crowder’s bar and asks Carl (Justin Welborn) where Earl and “The Pig” are. He tells Boyd that Dewey is in the back. Boyd has Carl frisk Dewey then interrogates him about how he isn’t in prison, Dewey explains the circumstances, and tells Boyd that he “just wants back in,” and desperately wants Boyd to trust him again. Boyd has Carl throw him out the back door.

Raylan checks in with Deputy U.S. Marshal Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) at Arlo’s house where the marshals have set up a command post while tracking Boyd’s activities. Tim has recent photos of Boyd and a known drug dealer. Just then they notice an unknown civilain in a pricy foreign sedan in the driveway. Raylan, flanked by Tim, goes out and gives the visitor (Garret Dillahunt) a hard time for trespassing, but the man has a plausible story about seeing the “For Sale” sign and wanting to purchase the property, for cash, on the spot. Raylan is not only unimpressed at the man’s briefcase full of cash “Forgive me if I ain’t the run-of-the-mill tater tot whose eyes go all pinwheel at a stack of stolen money” but makes it clear that he wouldn’t sell to him in any case. The man leaves, telling Raylan that if he changes his mind, he won’t be hard to get in touch with. Raylan tells him, “You have no idea!”

Tim and Raylan go off “to pay a call on Cyrus,” and use Crackpot (Cascy Beddow), a local addict, to gain access to the heroin dealer’s (Bill Tangradi) premises where, after an aborted escape attempt they press him for information.

Back at the bar, Carl reports to Boyd that while Earl has returned, Cyrus has gone missing. A frustrated Boyd hears Dewey out in the bar shooting pool. He strides purposefully into the bar and tells Dewey, “You want back in? I got a job that needs doing.” “Anything you say, Boyd,” the mildly surprised Dewey says, “Anything. Hell, yeah!”

Raylan and Tim surveil Boyd, Carl, Dewey and the rest of Boyd’s crew, and watch as Dewey drives away in Boyd’s yellow wrecker with a banged up car on its hook. Tossing a mental coin, Tim elects to follow Dewey who, after a time, comes upon a Kentucky State Police roadblock which he decides to bluff his way through. Refusing KSP Officer LaPlante’s (Chet Grissom) direction to get out of the truck, Dewey announces himself and his belief that he’s an untouchable due to his successful civil suit. He runs the roadblock, has a tire shot out, and with the Deputy Marshals in pursuit, leads them on a brief chase until he loses control and crashes. While Raylan roughly gets Dewey under control, Tim finds a large duffle bag in the trunk of the car on tow. They force Dewey to open it just as the KSP vehicles arrive.

Much to everyone’s surprise, including Dewey’s, it’s full of nothing but clothing. The Deputy Marshals realize that following Boyd and his crew would have been much more productive for at that same moment, they are taking down the bank Boyd had visited earlier.

With hooded ski masks and shotguns, Boyd and his crew barge into the bank, fire some buckshot into the ceiling, put everyone on the floor and use their winch-equipped pick-up truck to rip out the bank of safety deposit boxes which Boyd identifies with an ultraviolet light from the substance he had sprayed on previously.

After the robbery crew makes a successful escape, Raylan and Tim join the responding police to inspect the scene, and ruefully second guess Tim’s decision to trail Dewey rather than Boyd and his crew.

That evening Raylan reaches out to Ava and they meet on the bridge. He leans on her for not holding up her end and not providing information about Boyd’s banking activities. She’s having a crisis of confidence, so Raylan gives her a pep talk about her already proven abilities, citing the “acting job” she’d done just before killing her first husband Bowman. She leaves the bridge with renewed confidence.

In the rear of the Crowder bar, Boyd, The Pig (Shawn Parsons), Earl and Carl inspect their take from the broken open safety deposit boxes. There doesn’t seem to be any money. Boyd, however, thinks the ledger they have retrieved was worth the effort but doesn’t explain.

Raylan pays a call on Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen (Nick Searcy), recuperating at home from his near fatal gunshot wound (“Justified: The Toll (#5.11)“). The problem child has brought Art a fine bottle of aged bourbon, but the man cannot partake. The wise old Chief knows this isn’t really a social call about Raylan’s daughter being baptized a Catholic, and with no prodding, in general terms Raylan explains his dilemma. Art reaches for the bottle, pours a short glass and refines the problem, pointing out that if Raylan kills Boyd in a confrontation, while that would take care of the Boyd problem, Raylan would lose both his badge and his liberty, and would only see Willa through the glass of a prison visiting room window. He also notes that the “other thing” could happen in a showdown, that the bullet could find him.

A distressed Dewey barges into Boyd’s back room and complains that Boyd set him up. Crowder responds forcefully that Dewey was hired only to do a job, and that he did it. Dewey is despondent, and complains, “I’m tired! I want to go back.” He lets loose with a plaintive reminiscence about how he way things used to be, a happier, simpler time when they were a bunch of white supremacists living together is Boyd’s church, drinking ‘shine, listening to rock ‘n’ roll and raising hell, having fun.

Boyd sends Carl for a couple drinks for him and Dewey, then confides in the man that he’s tired as well. He points to an ancient photograph on the wall of a bunch of grimy-faced miners from the early days of a prosperous Harlan County, and the promise of the future in their eyes. He encourages Dewey to take a closer look. The dit-witted Crowe, never suspecting he’s moments away from the eternal slurry nap, leans in and is shot in the head by Boyd.

An alarmed Carl rushes in and aghast, asks Boyd the WTF? question. Boyd simply says, “I could no longer trust him,” then directs Carl to wait 20 minutes, then wrap Dewey’s body in a carpet and dispose of it where it will never be found.

Later, Ava lies sleeping while a troubled Boyd sits beside their bed, pondering their situation.

TCA: FX Sets Premiere for “Louie,” Billy Crystal’s “The Comedians”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 18 January 2015 10:47 AM, PST


FX Network’s CEO John Landgraf knows the way to a critic’s heart: pie charts. Or, certain kinds of pie charts. Great shows are the true key to our happiness, and news that the wait for “Louie‘s” return would be over on Thursday, April 9, when it premieres at 10:30pm on FX, with Billy Crystal and Josh Gad‘s new series “The Comedians” making its debut at 10pm, delighted a number of us in the room.

But back to the pie charts. We don’t love them all, or most of them really, but we do love it when they stroke our egos. The industry’s most avuncular executive preceded his Sunday morning question and answer session at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour with a barrage of stats about FX’s strategy and strengths, then displayed slides breaking down the representation of series on critics’ end of 2014 Top 10 lists by network. Explaining that the popular perception remains that HBO represents the highest quality programming on television, Landgraf had his staff crunch the numbers not by ratings, but acclaim. They found that FX far and away comes in second place to HBO among professional TV viewers, with AMC’s programs scoring a more distant third place.

“We’re not trying to be the highest rated channel on television,” Landgraf said to critics. “We’re trying as hard as we possibly can to be the best channel in television, whatever that means.”

To that end, the basic cable network is attracting talent such as Crystal, and others like Denis Leary are choosing to return to work for FX again. Leary’s “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” which stars John Corbett (who previously worked with FX on “Lucky“) is premiering this summer, and a comedy pilot from Donald Glover, “Atlanta,” is set to film this spring.

Joining the roster of pilots in production is “Better Things,” created by and starring Pamela Adlon, and directed by Louis C.K. The story follows Adlon’s character Sam, a working actor and single mom who, according to the press release, is “trying to earn a living, navigate her daughters’ lives, have fun with a friend or two, and also – just maybe – squeeze in some sex once in a while. ”

FX has also acquired the television rights to air C.K.’s next standup special, “Louis C.K. Live From the Comedy Store.” Before it airs on FX, C.K. will make the special available on his website,, after his run of shows at Madison Square Garden.

“Better Things” is part of a deal FX has Louis C.K. and his production company, Pig Newton, to create series for the FX family of networks.

TCA: Fox Renews Three Early, Frightens “Sleepy Hollow” Fans

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 17 January 2015 2:09 PM, PST

Summer or winter, on any given day during a Television Critics Association’s Press Tour we get a mixed bag of news. Such was the case during Fox’s Saturday morning session, when top execs announced very early second season pick-ups for “Empire” and “Gotham,” as well as a third season renewal for “Brooklyn Nine Nine.” All fine and good. Then came the not-so-great news when a journalist inquired about the fate of “Sleepy Hollow.” Fox co-Chairman and CEO Dana Walden, who appeared before critics beside fellow top exec Gary Newman, said in the nicest way possible that it’s future is still not certain.

Naturally they remain optimistic about a third season for “Sleepy Hollow” — network executives tend to be optimistic about a struggling show’s future when they’re facing a room filled with television reporters –although they’re not positive enough to greenlight season three prior to May upfronts. Walden insisted, however, that the show’s fate is not sealed.

“As part of our diagnostic process that we do on any show, we looked at what was working and not working,” Walden told critics in attendance. She went on to praise “Sleepy Hollow” for attempting to balance its high level of storytelling difficulty, explaining that “it’s a relationship show, it’s a period drama, you have iconic characters, you’re trying to solve mysteries. And the show got a little overly serialized this season.”

Walden reiterated that the network only wants to return the fun to the series, and is proposing that the writers strive for more closed-ended stories versus leaning too heavily on serialized elements. That’s certainly fair, and fans would probably agree that a few ingredients in the “Sleepy Hollow” mix need to either be changed or, perhaps, recede to the background. (Like, say, Katrina?)

However, whenever a network executive starts talking about formula-tinkering, fans are correct to be concerned, especially when the conversation centers upon reducing the serialized elements of a show whose central idea is fueled by serialized storytelling. (This is the kind of conversation that led to a largely pointless third season of “Veronica Mars.“) “Sleepy Hollow” is a show about fending off the Apocalypse and stopping the Four Horsemen. We’ve already spent time with two of them. How much more contained do the execs want its episodes to be?

Returning to the morning’s good news, “Empire’s” renewal makes perfect sense, even though it has only aired two episodes. The drama’s initial whopping ratings success, in which it surpassed “American Idol” in the network’s target 18-49 demographic, and the fact that it increased its ratings in the demo by 5 percent in week two, is enough of an indicator that Fox has hit on something with “Empire.” It also has the benefit of potential revenue from album sales; Timbaland’s production influence is all over each episode, and the featured tracks the show has debuted so far are impressive.

The renewal of “Gotham” was pretty much a foregone conclusion among many industry insiders, given the sustained power of the Batman franchise. The Monday night drama still has work to do on its storytelling and pacing; the writers go through massive contortions at times in order to connect Bruce Wayne, James Gordon and the rest of these familiar characters. But strong performances by its stars Ben McKenzie, Jada Pinkett Smith, Donal Logue and particularly Robin Lord Taylor’s breakout portrayal of The Penguin, are enough to earn “Gotham” more time to find its footing.

Walden also praised “Brooklyn Nine Nine” for its ability to fit into the network’s mostly animated Sunday night line-up, an accomplishment that has eluded many live-action comedies Fox has previously tried out on Sundays.

In addition to these announcements, Fox announced that Lea MicheleJoe Manganiello, Keke Palmer and Abigail Breslin  have joined “Scream Queens,” the next project from Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, and Brad Falchuk that currently has Emma Roberts attached. Ariana Grande will also recur as a guest star. Execs also revealed that Julianne Hough is set to play Sandy in the network’s previously announced “Grease: Live” event telecast, with Vanessa Hudgens cast as Rizzo.  “Grease: Live” is set to debut Sunday, January 31, 2016.

Fox suits also teased that there have been discussions about doing another limited-event series version of “24” without Jack Bauer — think about that for a moment — and confirmed that they have been chatting with Chris Carter about possibly rebooting “The X-Files” for a new generation of viewers. Carter recently created another supernatural-themed series, “The After,” for Amazon; it was picked up to series, but Amazon declined to move forward with the project.*

Correction Note: The title of “The After” was incorrect in a previously published version of this article.


TCA: NBC’s “Hannibal” Moved to Summer & More

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 16 January 2015 12:28 PM, PST

“There is no need for unnecessary suffering. Human emotions are a gift from our animal ancestors. Cruelty is a gift humanity has given itself.”

From your lips to NBC’s ears, Dr. Lecter. On Friday morning, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt dealt a blow to rabid Fannibals, revealing that the third season of “Hannibal” will not premiere until summertime. At least viewers who have patiently wondering when a premiere date announcement would be made now have a ballpark estimate for its return.

On the other hand, this is January. That’s a long wait.  But remove the passion from this news, and look at the show’s business sheet. Highly respected as “Hannibal” may be among critics and loyal viewers, it is never going to gain a huge audience. That Gaumont International Television produces the drama means it’s less of a financial burden for NBC; Gaumont also markets the series globally, which makes up for its ratings shortcomings in the U.S.  And there is a bright side: summertime is not the burn-off season that it once was.  CBS has scheduled high-profile originals such as “Extant” and “Under the Dome” for the summer, for example, and cable has always premiered some of the best-loved shows on television during the year’s warmest months. “Hannibal” will likely be a stand-out on the schedule.

“Hannibal’s” scheduling, such as it is, was revealed during the executive session on NBC’s day at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour, currently underway in Pasadena, following a number of casting and production announcements.

Remember “Heroes Reborn“? The still-happening event series now has Zachary Levi joining Jack Coleman in the cast, although NBC has yet to set a premiere date for that, either. And while Greenblatt did not have specific news about NBC’s plans for this year’s live musical, he did say the network has secured the rights to “The Wiz,” which means that musical has joined the running for consideration alongside “The Music Man.” As a reminder, ABC broadcast a movie version of the musical in 2003 that starred Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth, although that didn’t exactly become an indelible classic.

The network also has ordered 13 episodes of a single camera comedy titled “Telenovela,” produced by and starring Eva Longoria. (Longoria, who appeared during an earlier Press Tour session to talk about a documentary she’s executive producing for ESPN, hinted then that an announcement about her return to being in front of the camera was forthcoming.) The sitcom looks at the escàndalos that occur behind-the-scenes of a very popular Latin American series.

NBC also is creating an eight-episode miniseries called “Freedom Run,” based on Pulitzer Prize finalist Betty DeRamus’s book “Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad,” to be executive produced by Stevie Wonder. Greenblatt added that NBC is developing a series of two-hour TV movies to be based on the songs, stories and life of Dolly Parton.

NBC execs reaffirmed the network’s straight-to-series commitment for “Shades of Blue,” the cop drama starring Jennifer Lopez , about a single mother and a detective recruited to work undercover for an FBI anti-corruption task force. Greenblatt teased that Lopez’s role would be reminiscent of the character she played in the film that made her a movie star, 1998′s Out of Sight.

Before that arrives, we’ll see David Duchovny‘s vehicle “Aquarius,” which casts the “Californication” star as a ’60s-era cop tracking the notorious Charles Manson.



TCA: The Importance of Diversity & ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 14 January 2015 6:41 PM, PST

Press Tour wouldn’t be Press Tour without a few stunningly thoughtless questions posed to panels of actors and producers.

Most of the terrible questions that get asked as part of the Television Critics Association’s press conferences don’t turn up in articles. We keep them as Press Tour war stories to be hauled out for our own entertainment later on. Plus, we’re all just trying to do our jobs here. Nobody’s perfect. Cover this beat long enough, and attend enough TCA events, and a person is bound to bungle a few questions. Besides, to the millions of folks who aren’t here, a minor gaffe at an industry event simply isn’t interesting.

But every now and again, someone sputters out a verbal air biscuit that leaves the room reeling while also speaking to a larger conversation about a show. This is precisely what happened Wednesday morning during the panel for “Fresh Off the Boat,” ABC’s midseason sitcom based on the bestselling memoir by celebrity chef Eddie Huang.  Starring Randall Park and Constance Wu, “Fresh Off the Boat” is the only sitcom on television that stars Asian actors and captures one view of what it’s like to grow up Asian in America.

And what, some may ask, makes that experience unique among minorities? For the “Fresh Off the Boat” cast and producers, nearly all of whom were born in the U.S., it means getting a question like this in a forum where people really should know better: “I love the Asian culture. And I was just talking about the chopsticks, and I just love all that. Will I get to see that, or will it be more Americanized?”*

Yes. That happened.

This may be the most ignorant question spoken in this room in a long time,  but it also demonstrates why television desperately needs “Fresh Off the Boat” and more shows like it. Comedies and dramas that deftly employ universal themes and humor that resonate with the wider audience, featuring minority-led casts that don’t ignore said cast’s ethnicity, are still uncommon.  In fact, ABC is the home to more series featuring non-white leads than any other broadcast network. Think “black-ish,” “Scandal,” “Cristela,” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”  Amazingly, in 2015, ABC’s insistence on diversity is met with a sense of awe, and an implication that what the Alphabet network is doing is a bold experiment.

In the case of “Fresh Off the Boat,” maybe it is. Networks have a long history of waxing and waning on the diversity front, though the occasional industry-wide pushes for diversity every few seasons tends to benefit African American and, to a far lesser extent, Latino actors. “Cristela” and “black-ish” may not be monster hits, but they still have mass appeal, and are not required to divorce the culture of their characters from the story. Credit the success of Norman Lear‘s comedies in the ’70s, “The Jeffersons,” “Sanford and Son”, and just as significantly, “The Cosby Show” in the ’80s, for that.

Can you remember the last time a series gave us a view of life from an Asian American perspective? There was 1994′s “All-American Girl,” the short-lived and quickly whitewashed sitcom vehicle for Margaret Cho that nearly killed her. (It also aired on ABC.)  The show only focused on Cho’s character and her family briefly before revamping into a weak “Friends” clone, then disappearing altogether. For years after its demise, shows cast an Asian friend now and again, but it took until 2005 before audiences got a deeply complex, powerful Asian character in “Grey’s Anatomy‘s” Cristina Yang. So yes — there have been strides.

Then again, see: “2 Broke Girls.” As long as characters like Han Lee are still on TV, well, one can understand why somebody would think that it’s perfectly reasonable to ask a cast of Asian actors if their eating utensils will play a prominent role in a comedy about so much more than their cultural experience.

“The thing is it’s important to have, for me, [is] a qualified support for the show, to make sure the show stays authentic, the show stays responsible to the book and the Asian community and people of color in America in general,” Huang explained to the TV reporters in the room. “I believe the show is doing that, and I believe the show is very strategic and smart in how it’s opening things up.”

In its first episode, “Fresh Off the Boat” dives into the absurdity that can be found when one moves from a large, multi-ethnic city (Washington D.C.) to a homogenous Florida neighborhood; the universal appeal of hip-hop to outsiders and its caché within the dominant culture; and the odd, clique-ish behavior that exists within suburbia. The same episode also shows what happens when its young central character,  Eddie Huang (played by Hudson Yang), gets slapped by a racial slur.

Through it all, the rap music-obssessed Eddie has the same concerns as any kid his age would have. He’s trying to fit in at his new school but he doesn’t eat the right food, or wear the right shoes. He just out there trying to survive. No wonder he idolizes Nas and Biggie Smalls — their music extols the virtues of hustling to get rich and getting over, ideals that many consider to be the at the heart of the American dream.

“In America, I’m a foreigner because of my Korean heritage,” Cho once said. “In Asia, because I was born in America, I’m a foreigner. I’m always a foreigner.”  Nowadays Cho is a personality known for her comedy and for her outspoken support of gender equality and LGBT rights. She’s currently a co-host of a TLC’s weekly series “All About Sex,” where she serves as the show’s expert on alternative sexuality.  With time, and more television series that expose viewers to artists like Cho and stories like the ones told in “Fresh Off the Boat” — American stories with a different flavor — the day will come when Asian culture is fully recognized as an aspect of American culture. On that day, nobody’s going to care about the chopsticks.

(*I want to make it clear that this question was not posed by an official TCA member; the networks are free to credential anyone they like. In most cases, it works out fine and in fact, a number of the non-TCA folks in the room ask very intelligent questions on a regular basis. But sometimes, we get moments like this. )

Amazon Sets “Bosch” Premiere

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 14 January 2015 2:49 PM, PST

Hot off of “Transparent’s” two Golden Globe wins,  Amazon Studios announced the premiere date for its cop drama “Bosch,” starring Titus Welliver. All 10 episodes of “Bosch” will be available for streaming on Prime Instant Video beginning Friday, February 13. The series will be available to viewers in the US, the UK, and in Germany.

Based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling books, “Bosch” stars Titus Welliver as Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective Harry Bosch, who is on trial for the fatal shooting of a suspected serial killer as the series begins. Bosch can’t bring himself to stop working, and during the course of what should be a shift, he stumbles upon a cold case involving the murder of a 13-year-old boy.

‘Bosch” co-stars  Jamie Hector as Harry’s partner Jerry Edgar, Amy Aquino as Lt. Grace Billets, Lance Reddick as Deputy Chief Irvin Irving, and Annie Wersching  as Julia Brasher. Sarah Clarke and Jason Gedrick also star, along with guest star appearances by Scott Wilson as Dr. Guyot and Troy Evans. The series was developed for television by Eric Overmyer, who serves as an executive producer along with Connelly and Henrik Bastin.

The first season combines plot details from Connelly’s books City of Bones (2002), The Concrete Blonde (1994) and Echo Park (2006).

“Bosch’s” pilot episode is available now on Amazon.

TCA: Showtime Brings Back Dale Cooper & More

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 12 January 2015 5:46 PM, PST

Confirmed: Kyle MacLachlan will once again be entering the town of Twin Peaks, five miles south of the Canadian border, twelve miles west of the state line. The actor appeared onstage at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour, officially reclaiming the role of Special Agent Dale Cooper when Showtime’s resurrected version of “Twin Peaks” premieres. Sadly, that case won’t open until 2016, but as far as press announcements go? That is a damn fine cup of coffee.

The premium channel also announced a 10-episode pick-up for “Happyish,”starring Kathryn Hahn and Steve Coogan. The new comedy premieres at 9:30pm Sunday, April 26, leading into the highly-anticipated second season premiere of “Penny Dreadful.” Two weeks before that, the channel kicks off the final season of “Nurse Jackie” at 9pm Sunday, April 12.

TCA: CBS Sets Date for Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” Debut

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 12 January 2015 12:48 PM, PST

Colbert Nation, we finally have a CBS premiere date for your leader… or, rather, for the man who used to portray him. Stephen Colbert, the real one, will make his debut on “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday, September 8.

That means nine months will have passed between the night Colbert’s fans said goodbye to the fictionalized version of himself on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report“, and his start as CBS’s main late night show host.

CBS Chairman Nina Tassler announced the news Monday morning during the network’s executive session at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour.  Tassler revealed that Colbert’s “Late Show” staff, consisting of many of the writers who worked with him on “The Colbert Report,” just moved into the new show’s offices and are beginning to work on its format right now.

“Stephen has said… it takes nine months to make a baby, so he said maybe we should learn how to make a baby, which is what he’s doing,” Tassler told critics.

She went on to share a few details of Colbert’s nascent plans, confirming that he’ll have music on the show and, of course, guests. His focus remains upon being as entertaining as the people sitting across from him in the chair, she said, and he’s still keeping the focus on topical discussions of current events. But he hasn’t decided whether he’s going to have an opening monologue.

“Clearly he knows that he is introducing himself, the real Stephen Colbert, to his audience, and he’s really putting a lot of attention on making sure that the show is still topical, is still relevant, still dealing with current events. That’s really all he’s said so far,” Tassler told critics.

David Letterman, an entertainment industry icon who has hosted “Late Show with David Letterman” for 22 years, will make his final appearance on the program on May 22.

In contrast, James Corden‘s takeover The Late Late Show with James Corden begins much sooner, on Monday, March 23. The British star, who is part of the ensemble cast for Into the Woods, appears to have a much more casual attitude toward the impending launch of his late night show.

“We’ve been working on the show for exactly four days,” Corden deadpanned, jokingly asking for suggestions, “because we have almost no ideas.”

“We could prep for the show for a year, but it’s only in the doing of it that’s going to tell us what the show is,” Corden added. “…We want to make a warm show, a show that never feels spiky.”

TCA: Early Renewals on The CW, CBS & More

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 12 January 2015 11:53 AM, PST

It’s a good time to be on The CW.

The network might not attract huge audiences for its programs, but they’re definitely aligned with the pop culture zeitgeist. Currently on its schedule are two of the most respected superhero series on television, three supernatural series (one of which has witches, werewolves and vampires in the mix) and a teen-targeted period drama that actually works. While previous seasons saw the network pick up and flush away a number of its shows from year to year, today it boasts a solid schedule.

Reflecting that stability is The CW’s early renewal of eight of its series, including “Jane the Virgin” (starring Golden Globe winner  Gina Rodriguez), “Reign,” “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “The Originals,” “The 100,” and “Supernatural,” which will be going into its 11th season for 2015-2016. Additionally, the network set premiere dates for its midseason series “iZombie” (premiering 9pm Tuesday, March 17) and “The Messengers” (9pm Friday, April 10) as well as revealing “Supernatural’s” midseason return date, which is 9pm Wednesday, March 18.

The announcement came during Sunday’s executive panel at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, currently underway in Pasadena, CA.

Meanwhile, CBS renewed freshman series “Scorpion,” “Madam Secretary” and not surprisingly,  “NCIS: New Orleans,” for second seasons, making the official announcement Monday morning at the Winter TCAs.

Golden Globes’ TV Awards Break New Ground

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 12 January 2015 10:54 AM, PST


Television analysts usually don’t assign a whole lot of meaning to the Golden Globes. While it’s significant for a series or a performer to win one, the Globes have little bearing on Emmy predictions, owing to the fact that the two awards ceremonies are around seven or eight months apart. The Globes also tend to reward stardom more than programming content, or so the classic thinking goes.

But last night’s telecast of The 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards showed how much the television landscape is evolving, granting unexpected victories to a number of surprising nominees. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is the first awards organization to give Amazon Studios its first two major honors, as “Transparent” scored a win for Best Comedy series and star Jeffrey Tambor clinched the Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy.

Last night also saw The CW win its first Globe ever, with “Jane the Virgin” star and relative newcomer Gina Rodriguez getting the Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy. Factoring in Kevin Spacey win for Netflix’s “House of Cards,” digital series distributors went home with more Golden Globes than broadcast network series last night; Rodriguez represents the sole winner for the nets. (Joanne Froggatt  also secured a Supporting Actress Globe for her work on PBS “Downton Abbey.”)

Meanwhile, Tambor and Rodriguez joined Showtime’s “The Affair” and FX’s “Fargo” at the top of the list of major upsets, as “The Affair” took Globes in Best Drama and Best Actress in a Drama categories, thanks to star Ruth Wilson‘s individual win over such heavy-hitters as Viola Davis , Claire Danes , Julianna Margulies and Robin Wright. “Fargo,” meanwhile, beat HBO’s “Olive Kitteridge” and “True Detective” in the Best TV Mini-Series or Movie race, while its star Billy Bob Thornton won a Best Actor in his category, besting “True Detective” star Matthew McConaughey.

Indeed, while awards magnet HBO enjoyed multiple nominations, the premium cable channel only claimed one win: Matt Bomer’s  Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series or Movie for The Normal Heart. That means Amazon Studios, FX and Showtime each scored more victories last night than the channel that popularly represents TV’s gold standard. Television is indeed changing with the times — and last night, the Globes recognized that.

For the full list of winners, visit IMDb’s Awards Central section.  Click here to read analysis of the Globes telecast as well as a recap of the show.




A Q&A with “Togetherness” Creators Jay & Mark Duplass

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 10 January 2015 4:45 PM, PST

It’s a pretty good time to be Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass, co-creators of HBO’s unconventional family comedy “Togetherness”. Having made their bones in independent film, the Duplass brothers are now in demand on TV both in front of the camera and behind it. This year, Mark will wind up his stint on FX’s “The League”, and Jay will return into season two of Amazon Studios’ acclaimed comedy “Transparent.” The pair also play the memorable. insufferable male midwives Brendan and Duncan Deslaurier on Fox’s “The Mindy Project.”

“We never planned any of this,” Jay admitted. “We honestly just thought that we would just make stuff on the side, that we would just probably be editors or something. That’s what we did in our early 20s.”

“Or teachers, even,” Mark added.

“We just feel crazy lucky!” said Jay.

Their latest project, “Togetherness,” premieres 9:30 Sunday, January 11. Jay executive produces while Mark, also an EP, stars as Brett Pierson, a sound editor living in a lovely Los Angeles house with two kids and a solid, if sex starved, relationship with his wife Michelle (Melanie Lynskey). When his best friend Alex (Steve Zissis, who co-created the show with the brothers) decides to give up on his stalled acting career and head back to Detroit, Steve coaxes Alex to move in with his family instead. At the same time, Michelle’s sister Tina (Amanda Peet) decides to stay on indefinitely.

Sounds like, say, “Full House”. But it does not play out that way, not by a longshot. “Togetherness” is one of the most thought-provoking new shows on television and a stand-out among new comedies, with characters who are as hilarious as they are flawed and heartbreaking. It may also be one of the most relatable portrayals of human connection, and disconnection, that TV has shown in a long time.

We sat down with Jay and Mark Duplass at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour, currently underway in Pasadena, California, to talk about what inspired the stories viewers will see playing out over the show’s eight-episode first season.

IMDbTV: This is one of those shows that if you walked it into a broadcast network pitch meeting, they’d say, “Oh! This is like ‘Modern Family’!”

Mark: All of the elements on paper technically could make for the sh-ttiest network sitcom ever. But Jay and I talk a lot about how we make things. We actually try not to reinvent plot and story. We tend to think, ‘Use those to your advantage.’ What we like to do is pick out the chess pieces inside of the plot and replace them with different kinds of elements and let them interact in a way that’s more unique. So you’re still sending the viewers on the rollercoaster that they’ve gone up before, but hopefully the way we deliver it is unique.

IMDbTV: The last time that HBO did a show that had the same kind of typical network comedy conceit was…do you guys remember “Lucky Louie”? In retrospect, it was very much underappreciated for what it was. When you two were conceiving the show, was there any trepidation about using these frameworks that have been used previously, as Louie did?

Jay: Not really. We are so insanely picky about what excites us and what we want to be doing. We only realized later that we conceived something that could be pitched to a network, when we start talking about it objectively. The way that we talk about things is way non-conceptual.

Mark: It’s a little more myopic.

Jay: I’ll come to Mark, and I’ll say things like, “Steve (Zissis)’s” life should be a TV show.” Think about Steve, he was the guy from our high school who was the president of our high school. He got all the girls. He was the lead in all the plays, just like he says in the show. And now, he’s chubby and bald, and he’s dying in Hollywood. He’s afraid that he’s going to die with his magic inside of him, and no one’s going to get to hear or see what he’s capable of.

…Our style is documentary and verite. The stuff that we write about tends to come from our lives. At the time, we were in our late 30s, and we had young kids, and we were getting our asses kicked by these kids. But everyone was looking and us like, “You have everything. You have a house, and you have wonderful wives and family, and you have an incredible career.” But at the time…we were trying to find some kind of balance where we could be great dads and good husbands, and also keep our careers going, and we felt like we were drowning the whole time.

The more we talked about it, the more we started laughing about it. And then other people, we’d start talking to other people and they’d start laughing at us and say, “Oh yes, same stuff happened to me.”

… It was the type of thing where we were just like, “Oh my god, this is a phenomenon that’s happening to us right now, and everyone we talk to about it can relate to it.” You know, normally we would do a movie but this thing just kept going on and on. There was so much material. We were like, “Maybe we should go back and talk to HBO again.”

IMDbTV: The extraordinary thing about “Togetherness” is that there are so many comedies on right that are either about people just starting out in adulthood, or about the family. There’s not really any other situation comedy on that speaks to the mud that gets into relationships, the muck of knowing other people and having them be integrated into one’s life.

Mark: Yeah. There’s definitely something to be said for the fact that your average show either shows the beginning of the road trip, where everyone’s packing, or the last five miles of the road trip. But you don’t often get to see mile 250 of the 500 mile trip, which is kind of what our show is to a certain degree… It’s hard to describe this, but when you’re taking this sort of approach we’re discussing, which is a like, a naturalistic, honest and ideally realistic approach in portraying relationships, that storytelling is normally 100 percent dramatic and almost didactic at times. …It really felt like, there’s really not much out there that is a “hard-hitting,” naturalistic, realistic portrayal of this time in life, that also has a sense of humor about it too. That’s kind of how we see the world, so it isn’t like we had to fabricate that. It’s, luckily, what we kind of like doing.

IMDbTV: Shows that start out like “Togetherness” does – as in, there are lots of laughs, and you’re really getting to know these characters and falling in love with them through humor, and then it becomes serious without growing heavy – it seems to be very difficult to pull that kind of thing off on TV. When some shows do that, the audience almost feels betrayed.

Jay: “Hey! I’m coming to have fun on a Friday night, dude. Don’t f—k with me!” Yeah, that’s our obsession in general. We want to laugh, but we also want to go deep. That’s where tons of our energy goes. We don’t have to talk it that much, but when we start talking about tone and riding that right line, that’s when Mark and I really start to dial in exactly what we want. It’s interesting, because we don’t have to do it that much on set. On set, we’re just trying for truthful performances and we’re trying to create scenarios that are going to make people laugh after the fact. In editorial, that’s when we really start talking about, how do we dial in the right amount of pathos and the right amount of comedy here?

Because sometimes, you just want to stick the knife in and let it sit there for a little while.

Mark: Well, and sometimes the knife is funny, too. That’s when it’s the best, you know, when the moment encompasses both these things and you don’t have to think: “Time for a little comedy here!” “Time for a little drama!” Where there’s a moment where you’re like, “I know that this is sad and hard for them, but I don’t know why, I want to laugh. That’s my favorite stuff.”

IMDbTV: Yes, and I think the idea of comedy of coming from pain can be hard sell on network television.

Mark: It’s certainly celebrated in independent film, which is where we come from, so it’s not strange to us. But I don’t disagree with you – it’s not easy to find, particularly on network television. Look, TV is an enormous investment. They want to know what they’re getting. They want it more f—king dialed in, because they’re scared to lose money on it. That’s why it’s great to be at a place like HBO, where they believe in us, and support us, and let us cast our friend from high schooland make the show that we want to make — which is unheard of, really.

IMDbTV: And this year, you may find yourselves competing against each other when the Emmys roll around. Are you two ready for that?

Jay: We talked about it.

Mark: We each brought our own therapists into the room, and we decided to just let our therapists have a boxing match and figure out what would happen. (Laughs.) I honestly have not even thought about that. Honestly, my first instinct is that it would be horrible if Jay and I were nominated in the same category for different shows, so that can’t happen. But at the same time…

Jay: If we’re both nominated, it’s like, what are you talking about? It would be the coolest thing in the world! I mean, honestly, the fact that I’m going the Golden Globes is insane to me. I’m going to be sitting with Jeffrey Tambor this year.

Mark: And you’re going to watch him in a Golden Globe.

Jay: I hope so. It would be amazing.

IMDbTV: Last question: If anyone were to sit down with you and ask you to recommend a TV series – besides the obvious answer – what would you tell them?

Mark: Go buy – immediately – “The Staircase”. It’s a 2004 series from the Sundance Channel. For those of you who are fans of Serial, get ready to have your minds blown wide open.

Jay: I agree with that. That was huge.

AMC Sets Return Date for “Mad Men”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 10 January 2015 1:48 PM, PST

Get your whiskey and your rocks glasses ready, ladies and gentlemen. AMC has scheduled the seven-episode last call for “Mad Men” to begin at 10pm Sunday, April 5.

“Now that it’s sort of over, it’s such a relief that it’s not over,” series creator Matthew Weiner quipped to to the television reporters covering the show’s final panel at the TCA Winter Press Tour.  Jon Hamm, who will forever be known as Don Draper,  seemed equally hesitant to say goodbye. This is understandable for a long list of reasons, not the least of which being that Weiner and “Mad Men” pulled Hamm and the rest of the show’s actors out of near-obscurity to make them a huge stars. “I will be happy when the shows air and I won’t have to talk like I don’t know how it ends, or make up some story about robots or zombies or something. But I will never be able to have this again,” he said. “That’s a drag.”

They can all cheer up. Though “Mad Men” didn’t score any nominations in major categories for this round of the Golden Globes (which airs tomorrow at 5pm PT/8pm ET on NBC) the series is expected to get its due on Emmy nominations morning this year. To date, “Mad Men” has won four Outstanding Drama Emmys, having been nominated in the category seven times.

The departure of “Mad Men” leaves a void not only in our hearts, but on AMC’s schedule. Though the network also announced today that it has an eight-episode mafia-origins miniseries in production, titled “Making of the Mob: New York,” “Mad Men” is the show that established AMC as one of basic cable’s premium content destinations. Losing both this show and “Breaking Bad” means tougher times ahead in the ratings during any period of time that “The Walking Dead”  is not on the air. (Thus, the “Walking Dead” spinoff.) The network has yet to find an inheritor to “Mad Men’s” mantle, although it’s not for lack of trying. But neither “Halt and Catch Fire” nor “Turn” has caught on with audiences.

For the time being, AMC is pinning its hopes upon “Better Call Saul” to recapture some of “Breaking Bad’s” magic. “Saul” is the first original that AMC is airing on Monday nights; it settles into its regular 10pm Monday timeslot on February 9 following a special Sunday night premiere at 10pm on February 8.  Vince Gilligan, creator of “Breaking Bad” and its prequel, knows that both fan and network expectations for “Saul” are high.

“I’m still anxious about how it will be received,” Gilligan admitted.  “I feel so good about the show now, but I don’t think I necessarily did until the writing was over and we were in the editing room.” He went on to explain that once he saw the first season as a whole, he was really confident that he had another great series on his hands, and assured critics, who were only given the first two episodes, that it only gets better as it goes on. (To be fair, that was absolutely true of “Breaking Bad”. I had all but given up on that show after the first four episodes, and I remain eternally grateful to the people who urged me to keep watching it. Having seen the first two episodes of “Saul” I plan to grant it the same level of patience.)
Meanwhile, the channel has other projects in the works. AMC confirmed that “Humans,” a co-production between the network, Kudos and UK’s Channel 4, would begin filming this fall. The new series stars William Hurt and is set in an alternate version of the present. The official release description continues that in that world, “the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a ‘Synth’ – a highly-developed robotic servant eerily similar to its live counterpart. In the hope of transforming the way they live, one strained suburban family purchases a refurbished synth only to discover that sharing life with a machine has far-reaching and chilling consequences.”

AMC also is co-producing the television adaptation of John le Carré’s novel “The Night Manager” along with BBC One and The Ink Factory.  Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston are set to star.

The premiere announcements were made during the AMC’s presentation at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour on Saturday morning.

Follow our Twitter feeds at @IMDbTV and @IMDbMelanie for live coverage of the 2015 Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour.

A&E Sets Premiere Date for “Bates Motel” & More

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 9 January 2015 10:01 AM, PST

What is Norman Bates capable of? We may find out during season three of A&E’s “Bates Motel,” which premieres at 9pm Monday, March 9. The third season premiere serves as the lead-in to the series premiere of “The Returned,” a remake of the French series “Les Revenants,” at 10pm.

Although “Bates Motel,” which stars Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore, did not present at TCA, the press release revealed a few details about season three: “After a blissful summer of closeness with his mother, living within the safe confines of home and the Bates Motel, Norman’s fears about what really happened with Blaire Watson resurface and Norma questions what really happened.  Forced to look at the truths about Norman for the first time, their deeply intricate relationship continues to evolve. Norma finds herself turning to the other man in her life, Norman’s half-brother, Dylan (Max Thieriot) and begins to rely on him in ways that she never expected. This relationship inevitably triggers jealousy in Norman and a new kind of love triangle between Norma and her two sons erupts.”

A&E’s version of “The Returned” is executive produced by Carlton Cuse and Raelle Tucker and has a strong cast that includes Mark Pellegrino, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Sandrine Holt, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Alejandro, India Ennenga, and Michelle Forbes.

Here’s the official network description: “The Returned”… focuses on a small town that is turned upside down when several local people, who have been long presumed dead suddenly reappear, bringing with them both positive and detrimental consequences. As families are reunited, the lives of those who were left behind are challenged on a physical and emotional level. Interpersonal relationships are examined with intrigue and depth as strange phenomena begin to occur.

The premiere announcements were made during the A&E Networks presentation at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour on Friday morning.

Follow our Twitter feeds at @IMDbTV and @IMDbMelanie for live coverage of the 2015 Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour.

HBO at TCA: Premiere Dates for “Game of Thrones” & More

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 8 January 2015 3:44 PM, PST

Game of Thrones fans, now our watch begins. It shall not end until… 9pm Sunday, April 12, when the ten-episode fifth season premieres on HBO.

The return to Westeros kicks off a night of big premieres on the premium cable channel,  leading in to the second season premiere of “Silicon Valley” at 10pm and the fourth season premiere of “Veep” at 10:30pm. The premiere dates announcements were made during HBO’s presentation at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour on Thursday afternoon.

HBO also announced the renewal of “Real Time with Bill Maher” for that show’s 14th and 15th seasons, each with 35 episodes, set to premiere in 2016 and 2017 respectively. On the documentary front, the Laura Poitras-directed Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour” makes its HBO debut at 9pm Monday, February 23. Prior to that doc’s premiere, however, comes the premiere of “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” airing Sundays between February 8 and March 15. Directed and produced by Andrew Jarecki, and filmed by Marc Smerling, the Oscar-nominated pair who brought us Capturing the Friedmans,  this is expected to be a high profile cinema verité series that’s drawing comparisons to the overwhelming popularity of the podcast Serial.

It’s also the second cable production that explores the story of Robert Durst, the billionaire who was accused of three murders over the past three decades but has never been convicted. Investigation Discovery’s upcoming series “Vanity Fair Confidential” will present an episode on the Durst case.  (That series premieres on Monday, January 19 at 9pm.)

Over on Cinemax, the network confirmed that “Strike Back” is set to return this summer for its fourth and final season, and the channel’s breakout drama “The Knick,” starring Clive Owen, will return for a second season in the fall. Exact premiere dates and timeslots have yet to be announced.

Missing from today’s announcements was a premiere date for the highly anticipated series “Westworld,” due to premiere on HBO later this year, but the channel’s upcoming comedy “The Brink,” with a cast that includes Jack BlackTim Robbins and Pablo Schreiber, will be on the air this summer.

Follow our Twitter feeds at @IMDbTV and @IMDbMelanie for live coverage of the 2015 Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour.


IMDbTV at the TCA Winter Press Tour: Day #1

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 8 January 2015 2:24 PM, PST

January means a lot of different things.  For many, it’s the start of a long quest to make and keep resolutions. For others, it means post-holiday relief, followed by the descent of the post-holiday blues like a coastal fog.

Meanwhile, Pasadena, California, braces for the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour, which began Wednesday, January 7 and runs through January 20. The Press Tour occurs twice annually, and gives broadcast and cable networks, PBS and online distributors including Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Studios (which is not presenting this time), the opportunity to showcase the latest additions to their line-ups. More than 220 journalists are members of the Television Critics Association, and a significant portion of them are attending the 2015 Winter Press Tour to cover all the news that breaks — including yours truly, IMDb’s Television Editor.

We’ll be providing live coverage of the Winter Press Tour starting today, Thursday, with HBO’s afternoon session. Live coverage can be enjoyed by following our Twitter feeds at @IMDbTV and @IMDbMelanie, and check IMDbTV’s Facebook page for regular updates.

Here are highlights from the tour so far:

Netflix sets premieres for “Daredevil,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and more. A late addition to the Press Tour line-up, Netflix presented panels for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Bloodline,” and the second season of “The Fall,” and announced premiere dates for a number of its originals, as well as a second season pick-up for “Marco Polo.”  Perhaps the most surprising announcement was that the series premiere of “Daredevil”  is much closer than many originally thought: All thirteen one-hour episodes of the action hero series, which stars Charlie Cox  and Deborah Ann Woll, will box on Friday, April 10, at 12:01am PT.

Arriving sooner is Tina Fey‘s hillarious new comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” which made the jump from NBC to Netflix and stars Ellie Kemper as an optimistic doomsday cult survivor. All 13 episodes premiere on Friday, March 6. I’ve seen three of them and I have to admit, I might just take that day off so I can binge-watch the other ten. Seriously funny comedy. (I sat down with a few other reporters to talk to Fey and Kemper; those interviews will post closer to the premiere.)

Bloodline,” a dark family drama from the creators of “Damages,” boasts a cast of major film and television talent that includes Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini and Sam Shepard. It bows on Friday, March 20.

Netflix also set a premiere date of Friday, May 8 for its comedy “Grace and Frankie,” starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Martin Sheen.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Winter TCA! And be sure to follow our Twitter feeds at @IMDbTV and @IMDbMelanie for live coverage.


IMDbTV Pick: Fox’s “Empire”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 7 January 2015 4:33 PM, PST

Out of all the new series premiering in midseason, Fox’s “Empire” may be one of the best bets and the biggest gambles. Though set in the world of the hip-hop industry, and buoyed by an infectious soundtrack produced by Timbaland, the show is less about rap and R&B than it is about power and deep-seated family conflict, played out in a very glamorous, high-profile arena. These are familiar themes to anyone who has ever been hooked on a primetime soap like “Dallas.” If that’s your bag, you should definitely check out “Empire.”

But it’s been a very long time since Fox or any network backed a drama led by an African-American cast for an extended amount of time.  As diverse as the 2014-2015 season may be — and most of the credit for that goes to ABC, let’s be honest — “Empire” feels like one of those terrific shows that premieres with a splash but face an uphill battle in the ratings after that. That said, I sincerely hope that this show wins over an audience that’s passionately fascinated with it.

“Empire” does have a lot working in its favor. The show’s pedigree is impressive, with auteur director Lee Daniels helming the series and Emmy-winning screenwriter Danny Strong co-executive producing beside him. (The pair previously worked together on Lee Daniels’s The Butler.) Hip-hop also is one of the most lucrative cultural products on the planet, permeating the further flung corners of the world in various forms, from Banksy’s murals to Jay-Z’s stadium shows. But it all comes back to the music, which is at its best when its poetry is raw, philosophical and speaks to every layer of society.

“Empire’s” pilot examines dichotomy between the deep soul and shallow excess existing within hip-hop through the prism of one man, Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), who rose from his start as a street hustler to become the CEO of Empire Records. At the height of his game, Lucious is diagnosed with a debilitating disease that will leave him a shell of his former self within three years. So he turns his focus on deciding on which of his sons will inherit the company, and this threatens to spark a war between the three of them.

Lucious has hunger and genius in him, and so do his sons Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Hakeem (Bryshere Gray). But while Andre, the eldest, channels his business acumen into growing the family business, his youngest brother Hakeem is living the rich rapper stereotype – drinking, spending tons of money and sleeping around.

Even so, Lucious favors him over Jamal, the child who displays profound musical talent and production skills, even saving his wayward brother from recording a terrible track that could end his career before it starts. Jamal’s gifts are where the money can be made in the long run, but Lucious is too blinded by his shame over Jamal’s homosexuality to cultivate his career.

Another wrinkle arrives in the form of Lucious’s ex-wife and former drug dealing partner Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), who took the fall for Lucious. She gets an early release from prison and returns to claim a financial stake in the label – one of many secrets is that it was built on a foundation of drug money — and to bring Jamal under her wing as his manager. But Cookie is as mercurial and cunning as Lucious, and shows signs of being less interested in protecting and nurturing her son than using him as a tool to destroy her ex and take over the company.

Henson and Howard are still great together onscreen. The pair previously won acclaim for their work in Hustle & Flow, and each brings a signature fire “Empire”. The scenes they have together are more of a tense, electrified tango than a dialogue exchange, capturing the spirit of a pair of exes who still respect one another but hide knives in their sleeves just in case.

“Empire” has a winning cadence, and like any good nighttime soap, it’s probably about as accurate a portrayal of the music industry as “Falcon Crest” was about the winemaking business, but that’s beside the point. What’s novel about this show is the way that it uses the family drama hook to examine some of the uglier aspects of one of pop culture’s most lucrative and celebrated platforms. Hip-hop culture has taken its knocks (rightly so) for its cavalier promotion of sexism, materialism and excess, but although discussions about the culture’s tacit acceptance of homophobia bubble to the surface now and then, this may be one of the most public arenas in which it plays out.

One devastating scene in the pilot shows Lucious’s rage-filled reaction to seeing Jamal, shown as a young boy, emerge from his parents’ bedroom to show off in front of houseguests while wearing his mother’s heels and a scarf on his head. Making it particularly shattering is the fact that it’s based on a real event from Daniels’ life when he did the same thing, leading to his father angrily tossing him into a garbage can.

That this is something that we’re seeing this is a primetime show, along with a number of other details that ring true, is a small revolution in itself. How intelligently and effectively these issues are explored in subsequent episodes will be the real test – and I hope Fox gives this show time to develop these stories as well as all the Lyons’ family drama.

Empirepremieres at 9pm Wednesday, January 7 on Fox. 

Review: ABC’s “Agent Carter”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 5 January 2015 11:54 PM, PST

Anyone who delighted in seeing Jason Bourne do serious damage to a knife-wielding opponent while armed with nothing but a pen, knows how satisfying it is to watch an expert fighter work magic with mundane devices. One can savor a similar thrill tonight during the first of two episodes of “Agent Carters” eight-episode run on ABC, when the determined Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) efficiently beats a villain senseless with a stapler. I should mention that she does so while wearing a platinum blonde wig and full length evening gown. What’s that famous quote from the late, great Texas governor Ann Richards about women being just as capable as men? Ah yes: “Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards, and in high heels.”

After World War II and Captain America’s disappearance, Peggy Carter dances as nimbly as ever… though the world is no longer playing her tune. Sidelined within the boys club that is the Strategic Scientific Reserve, aka the SSR, Agent Carter is relegated to answering phones and fetching coffee. But watching our heroine grapple with sexism isn’t the main thrust of this show.  Rather, we’re invited along for the ride as Peggy Carter demonstrates all of the ways that she refuses to let a dour manly man’s world keep her behind a desk, or from saving the day. Seeing Peggy get her fire back as she resumes her life as an operative, unbeknownst to her clueless co-workers, makes “Agent Carter” exciting television.

Remember how shakily “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” began?  That show struggled to find its identity at first, striving to balance its role as a bridge between the Avengers theatrical releases and working as a freestanding vehicle. It only began to find its footing until late into season one. “Agent Carter’s” vision is much clearer out of the gate, and her story stands on its own brilliantly. Although snippets from Captain America: The First Avenger appear in tonight’s opener, the Chris Evans cameos woven into these episodes serve as the nylon on the show’s legs. No, this is Atwell’s vehicle to drive; the confident, sly smile on her face after Peggy pulls off a particularly jolting escapade is enough to make a person commit to seeing this limited series through to the end.

Her undercover work is at odds with her day job however; this time, she’s battling to clear the name of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, also reprising his role from Captain America). In 1946, Captain America has been transformed from a flesh and blood hero into a cartoon character at the center of his own radio serial. In the same way that his exploits have blurred into legend during the deep exhale of peacetime, Agent Carter’s colleagues think of the woman who guided Steve Rogers and the Howling Commandos as nothing more than the Captain’s girlfriend. Chad Michael Murray, Kyle Bornheimer and Shea Whigham play Carter’s less enlightened peers, although one of her fellow agents, Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) treats her with a level of respect and chivalry reminiscent of the Captain. That could have something to do with the fact that Sousa’s co-workers have all but kicked him aside too, thanks to a crippling injury sustained in the war.

The only person who truly prizes Carter’s know-how is Stark, and he enlists her assistance after a few of his deadliest inventions are stolen and begin popping up on the black market, making him as public enemy number one. While he’s on the run from the authorities, Stark lends Carter the services of his manservant Edwin Jarvis (a well-cast James D’Arcy) who, like Miss Carter, maintains a sense of propriety even in the most life threatening situations. D’Arcy and Atwell play off of one another quite well, particularly as it becomes clearer that Stark’s woes are only part of a deadlier master plan woven by forces that may be beyond their ken.

Perhaps not: One clear mission that “Agent Carter” embarks upon is in showing the heroism in normal people with nothing superhuman about them. Peggy Carter wears a mask and costume every day in the office, and in one gorgeously staged scene, she’s neatly dressed up in her lost hero’s red, white and blue while the world around her hums along in pale jackets and beige uniforms. Her pulse-racing adventures in espionage happen when she’s off the clock and in the dark, making her the secret weapon nobody expects. She works the fact that her colleagues underestimate her at every turn to her advantage.

This also is the case, one suspects, when it comes to wider expectations for this show. ABC hasn’t scored a decisive win out of midseason for some time, and spinoff can be tough to sell to winter-weary audiences. But if the remaining episodes of “Agent Carter” are as tightly executed as the first two, one hopes Marvel fills Peggy Carter’s dance card with more adventures in the future.

Agent Carter” premieres with back-to-back episodes on Tuesday, January 5 at 8pm on ABC.



Review: The Noble Effort That Is ABC’s “Galavant”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 2 January 2015 4:00 PM, PST


There’s a curious frustration I reserve for a show like ABC’s “Galavant,” a musical comedy that gets pretty much everything in the prescribed formula right, yet still comes up agonizingly short of being recommendable. Granted, two words in the previous sentence disqualify this fairy tale…spoof? Parody?…outright, and that is the phrase “musical comedy.” Said term makes some viewers itch at the very reading of it, and if you’re one of these people, nothing that anyone says will convince you to watch this show.

But those viewers are less of a concern to ABC than whether “Galavant” will connect with everyone else — particularly those of us who, for reasons we can barely remember now, used to be head over heels in love with the only other musical series in recent memory to find success in primetime, “Glee.” If this odd comedy fails, it won’t be for lack of trying.  That, at least, deserves appreciation.

If nothing else, you should watch Sunday’s premiere if only to appreciate the fact that something as out there as this show made it into the primetime line-up at all.  One could guess that somebody sprinkled too much of Tinkerbell’s pixie dust into the water at ABC’s offices during last year’s pilot season, but we’re talking about a network that’s desperate to find any new comedies that work. Why not “Galavant”? Why not, indeed? We’ll get to that soon enough.

First, let’s explain “Galavant”: The title character is a brave hero (played by Joshua Sasse) whose exploits are celebrated in song and lyrics throughout the land. “Square jaw and perfect hair/cojones out to there!…Yay! He rules in every way! A fairy tale cliché!”  Galavant’s greatest challenge arises when his lady love, Madalena (Mallory Jansen) is kidnapped by the evil King Richard (Timothy Omundson) who intends to force her to be his queen. Therefore Galavant rides to the rescue of Madalena, only to discover that she doesn’t really want to be rescued.

As demonstrated by the kidnapping business, King Richard is kind of a rhymes-with-Rick whose most recent exploits include conquering the nearby kingdom of Valencia.  That kingdom’s princess, Isabella (Karen David), seeks out Galavant to help her reclaim her land and free her people. Unfortunately by the time she’s found Galavant, he’s a sedentary drunk who can’t even be moved to rise from bed by his squire Sid (Luke Youngblood, recognizable to “Community‘s” fans as Magnitude). Eventually he manages to stand up again, and they take the fun on the road.

On paper “Galavant” reads like a show with promise; on the screen, it looks like the loony love child of “The Princess Bride” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Each musical number also is filled with crisp humor that’s family friendly yet rich with double entendres, many not particularly subtle, brought to us by combined talents of executive producer Dan Fogelman (who wrote “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and co-wrote “Tangled“), lyricist Glenn Slater (also of “Tangled”), and celebrated Broadway musical composer Alan Menken.  Most of the cast is a hoot, as are the guest stars; it’s a treat to see Vinnie Jones hamming it up as King Richard’s muscle Gareth, and Ricky Gervais shows up to play a magician in a future episode.  This Sunday, John Stamos makes an appearance as Galavant’s nemesis, an equally handsome and skilled knight named…Jean Hamm. Get it?

All of this sounds like a bounty of fun, right? As successful as most of the punchlines are, though, they land with the subtlety of an artillery assault — and behind all of these zingers, you’ll find very little heart or real warmth.  Even the most sugary meringue of a successful Broadway musical is tethered to Earth by genuine emotion; it’s the ingredient that gives rise to all of those catchy melodies that sell soundtracks. “Galavant,” though, is so set on winning over the skeptical primetime audience with its wild uniqueness that it forgot to fill its colorful settings and armor with a dose of humanity and soul. The jokes grow old very quickly.

At the moment the series is only eight episodes long. That may be tidy enough for a number of viewers to stick around and see if “Galavant”  eventually arrives at some version of happily ever after.  But don’t be surprised if you get to the end of the first episode, or maybe the second, and find yourself willing to close the book on this brave little comedy with a succinct and simple, “Good luck with all that.”

Galavantpremieres 8pm Sunday, January 4 on ABC.


Featured Recap: “Homeland” Season Finale

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 22 December 2014 3:46 PM, PST

TV Editor’s Note: This blog entry contains detailed analysis and a recap of  Homeland‘s” season finale, titled “Long Time Coming.” If you have an aversion to spoilers, please stop reading now.

Before we dive into the meat of “Homeland‘s” season four finale, written by IMDb User MikeSaros, let me just say that I would be perfectly fine with season five turning its focus from Carrie (Claire Danes) to Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend). Sure, we like Carrie quite a bit, and she’s our constant in this series, but at this point Quinn feels like an interesting character that I’d love to know more about. “Homeland” has already proven its ability to shed central characters in the name of moving forward with renewed focus on the next mission, so maybe it’s time give Ms. Mathison a rest for a while to explore what makes Quinn tick.

Am I alone in this?

Ponder that possibility after you’ve read the full blow-by-blow recap of this episode.


We open “Homeland’s” fourth season finale with Carrie back in the United States preparing for her father’s funeral at her sister’s place. Dar Adal shows up looking for Quinn. Carrie hasn’t seen him and assumes he’s still in Islamabad hunting down Haqqani. Adal tells her that Haqqani has disappeared, with full protection of the Pakistani military.

Saul is also back stateside, having been given a full year’s severance from his private sector gig. He wants back into the CIA but Mira doesn’t think that’s a possibility.

While at the park with Fannie, Carrie runs into a friend of her father’s. She learns that her father believed in her and always knew she’d return to take care of her daughter.

Carrie returns to her sister’s and is shocked to find her mother Ellen in the kitchen. Carrie wants no part of the woman who has been gone from their lives for 15 years and chases her off.

Saul has a meeting about perhaps getting back involved with the CIA. The biggest obstacle seems to be the video of him with Haqqani. The sense is that as soon as it surfaces Saul will be “persona non grata.”

Carrie gives a moving eulogy at Frank’s funeral. She talks about her father helping raising her daughter when she couldn’t be there. Outside the church she spots Quinn. They embrace. On the way to her house he said after Haqqani disappeared his German friend helped him get out of Pakistan. She tells him about having a shot at Haqqani and Khan stepping in. She tells him about the visit from Adal. They agree Quinn should steer clear.

Later Saul takes Carrie aside and says there was no official contact between the US and Pakistan. Saul never mentioned Adal by name and thinks the two of them should keep Adal’s presence in Haqqani’s vehicle to themselves for the moment.

After a night of cocktails and reminiscing, Carrie walks Quinn to his car. They kiss, but she immediately says she thinks a relationship would be a mistake, that she would mess it up somehow. Quinn has seen her at her very worst and wants to give it a shot. He says he needs her to help keep him away from the CIA and begin a normal life. She agrees only to consider the possibility of a relationship.

That night Carrie goes though some old pictures of her father. She has a revelation and the following morning tells her sister she’s going to drive to St. Louis and track down Ellen. She wants her mother to tell her face-to-face why she left.

A member of Quinn’s CIA group pays him a visit in person and tells him about a mission to get some IS agents. It leaves the following night. Quinn passes, but he gives him a pretty strong guilt trip about how the mission has a significantly reduced chance of success without him.

After driving all night Carrie arrives at Ellen’s door. She’s greeted by a teenage boy who tells her Ellen’s at her work. Carrie says only that she’s “a friend.” At her school Ellen tells Carrie the boy she met was her half brother. They agree to talk later that day when Ellen gets off work.

Saul and Adal meet. Adal says with Lockhart about to step down he think he can get Saul’s name to the top of the list as the next director. Saul doesn’t think it’s possible given the video. Adal hands him a copy of the video, saying Haqqani has given him the assurance it will never see the light of day. Adal says he “reached out” Haqqani. The deal was that if Haqqani didn’t harbor terrorists Adal would take his name off the kill list. Haqqani’s surrender of Saul’s video was a gesture of good faith. Adal asks him to “come back, lead us.”

Quinn calls Carrie, having heard she drove to Missouri. Carrie doesn’t give him an answer about a relationship, but when he offers to fly out and see her she says she has too much on her plate at the moment.

Ellen tells Carrie she left the family after becoming pregnant with Carrie’s half-brother, Tim. Frank didn’t know about the pregnancy, but Ellen admits she’d had several affairs and they ultimately ruined the marriage. She blames herself for what happened. Carrie tells Ellen about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and not having a mother when she most needed one. She was under the impression Ellen left because people with the illness Carrie and Frank share are incapable of maintaining long-term relationships. Ellen assures her that’s not the case.

After the conversation with her mother Carrie is desperate to speak with Quinn. When she finds his phone has been disconnected, she calls Adal.

We see Quinn show up at the airstrip. He’s headed out with his team.

The following day Carrie drives to Adal’s home. She demands to speak with Quinn, but he tells her Quinn’s team has gone dark. The mission sounds dangerous and it’s unclear when Quinn will return. Carrie threatens to expose Adal’s meeting with Haqqani to the media if she isn’t granted access to Quinn. She thinks a deal with Haqqani dishonored those killed at the embassy and if Saul knew about it “he’d spit in your face.” Adal responds that she should asks him herself and takes him out back where Saul himself is sitting. Carrie looks absolutely stunned and leaves the house without another word. The season ends with Carrie driving away.

Exclusive Photo: “Better Call Saul”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 18 December 2014 8:50 AM, PST

Before Walter White was merely a shade in Saul Goodman’s nightmares, Saul was a schlubby ambulance chaser named Jimmy M. McGill. In this exclusive photo from AMC’s upcoming series “Better Call Saul,” starring Bob Odenkirk, it’s clear that even though Jimmy wears a cheap suit and has an office in a strip mall, the man who will become Saul Goodman still cares about the details — right down to the monogram on his cheap leather briefcase.

“Better Call Saul” premieres at 10pm Sunday, February 8 on AMC. Are you excited to watch the “Breaking Bad” prequel?

Review: Syfy’s Miniseries “Ascension”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 12 December 2014 5:46 PM, PST

In an industry where an 80 percent failure rate is pretty much the norm, every TV project is an experiment.

But a miniseries like Syfy’s “Ascension” is a grand experiment on several levels, from subject to the viewer’s interpretation. Especially this viewer’s interpretation — the first hour made me ask myself, many times, exactly what it was that I was watching. Was it supposed to look like the love child of “Mad Men” and “The Love Boat“? Did half the cast attend a workshop at the William Shatner School for Drama? Is this thing for real?

Yet I didn’t give up on the hour that Syfy made available to me, either. I saw it through to the finish and was glad for the payoff. The end of that first episode changed a number of my  initial impressions.

“Ascension” is a space adventure with a retro twist. As the story goes, President John F. Kennedy commissioned a classified military study called Project Orion, which examined the possibility of creating a gigantic vessel capable of launching into deep space and propelled by the force of detonated atomic bombs. It sounds interesting, if more than a little nutty, and apparently was never declassified.

In “Ascension’s” alternate reality the launch actually did take place, in secret, sending 350 souls on a deep space odyssey that began in 1963. The miniseries drops us into the journey more than half a century after launch, at the point of no return. The ship is populated by the children of the initial voyagers, and William Denninger (Brian Van Holt) is its Captain, with his wife Viondra Denninger (Tricia Helfer) serving as the equivalent of the ship’s first lady. Not an inaccurate description, considering the political nature of the ship’s social structure: Everyone is born into their roles. Pregnancies must be approved, marriages arranged.  This also means discontent boils beneath the surface; being a faithful spouse, for example, is less important than maintaining order and political supremacy. And the guys who do the dirty work understandably are not thrilled with their lot in life.

Ascension’s closed society works for 51 years until it has to deal with its first murder, spurring an investigation by First Officer Aaron Gault (Brandon P Bell), who has no idea of how to take on a homicide case. This is where “Ascension” gets interesting from both a performance and a storytelling perspective.  You see, the ’60s-era launch means the architecture, interiors and fashion on the ship are stylistically frozen in the mid-20th century. So, too, are Ascension’s inhabitants, to a certain degree; its society is multicultural, which is a science fiction ideal and a welcome aspect of this presentation, but perhaps not in keeping with the actual sentiment of the time period. This does not strain credulity any more than the idea that a gigantic ship propelled by nuclear explosion could launch secretly anywhere on Earth does.

But it bears pointing out because it’s obvious that other values and mannerisms on display in Ascension’s society evolved within a space that never witnessed the signing of the Civil Rights Act  or the Feminist movement, never experienced the end of the war in Vietnam or saw the Berlin Wall come down — and did not live through the cultural shifts that happened because of these historic developments.

And here’s the interesting idea within “Ascension,” one that might develop further over nights two and three, or might not.  What happens when a segment of the human population is encapsulated at a specific point in time and completely removed from a larger world? Is that a benefit, or to its detriment? At the very least, the visuals fascinate. As I stated above, some of the performances in the miniseries suffer from a pulpy flatness, which makes more sense when Gault turns to an old timey noir detective film to get tips on how to investigate a homicide. If they’re getting life instructions from old movies, it’s no wonder that the acting of everyone we see on Earth — yes, there’s an Earth-based contingent — comes across as more believable and lifelike than that of the wooden deep space folk.

Maybe this is one science-fiction fan trying to find excuses for flaws in a show that she really wants to love, and those flaws hold no deeper meaning. It could very well be that “Ascension” represents another of Syfy’s swings for the fences that ends up being a whiff. Or this three-night miniseries could ultimately be considered successful enough to launch into a fully-realized weekly drama. Like I said, it’s a tricky experiment.

Whether I’m on to something or just fooling myself,  it’ll be interesting to find out where this mission goes, and whether it sticks the landing.

Ascensionpremieres 9pm Monday, December 15, continuing at 9pm Tuesday, December 16 and 9pm Wednesday, December 17 on Syfy.

Featured Recap: “Sons of Anarchy” Series Finale

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 10 December 2014 1:02 PM, PST


TV Editor’s Note: This blog entry contains detailed analysis and a recap of the “Sons of Anarchy” series finale, titled “Papa’s Goods.” If you have an aversion to spoilers, please stop reading now.

The series finale of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” is titled, prophetically enough, “Papa’s Goods.” The war within Jax Teller grew out of more than the pull of his moral and emotional obligations to his blood family and his patch. It also raged under the weight of striving to fulfill his father’s legacy. In the final episodes, all of this fell away as Jax realized the terror wrought from his misdirected, vengeful rage and how it endangered his SAMCRO family, and his sons. The ultimate truth Jax spoke of himself was that he was not a good man, and that he thought it best if his sons Abel and Thomas grew up hating the thought of him.

Papa’s Goods” was full of portent and Biblical imagery — bread and wine, Jax becoming shadow of death as he waited on the white steps of a courthouse to execute one of his enemies. Yes, Jax swept up his messes and secured what he believed to be a temporary peace for his club, and for Charming, by turning his gun on the men as bad or worse than he was. He left the club in the hands of an honest man and made one of his last acts patching in T.O. as the club’s first African American member.

But this series finale was not flawless. It was capped off by a long, indulgent final montage of Jax’s planned suicide by cop that, in the end, turned into suicide by truck completed as he spread his wings in a Christ-like pose. Jax’s death felt like an apt one; the computer graphics-enhanced garnish on the parade of state troopers following in the wake of his serene last ride — crows, and more crows in flight! — was a bit much.

In case all of the previous symbols and portents went over our heads, “Papa’s Goods” nodded at the show’s place FX’s history: series creator Kurt Sutter, who directed the final episode, cast “The Shield’s”  Michael Chiklis  as the truck’s driver — “The Shield” being FX’s first critically-acclaimed drama, a show Sutter was involved with. One can also credit Chiklis’s morally-conflicted cop Vic Mackey as the progenitor for SAMCRO’s dark hero Jax Teller. As such… Father, into thy speeding truck’s grille I commend my spirit. Amen.

But like all good car chases, we never turned away from it. Not once. And in case all of the Christ-like visual parallels seem odd or inappropriate considering Jax’s last road trip came after a murder spree, remember that “Sons of Anarchy” is Hamlet at its soul, and the Dane’s final act was to save Denmark. Jax may have done so if only for a day or a season; this world is too violent for Charming to see a lasting peace. With “Papa’s Goods,”  Sutter has wrapped up the series ably enough to satisfy fans, if not perfectly, and well enough to make us interested to go back and start the journey over at episode one. That’ll just have to do until Sutter’s next project, “The Bastard Executioner,” is ready to ride.

Keep reading for the full blow-by-blow recap of this episode, which was submitted by IMDb user DetectiveBriscoe.

“The final episode of “Sons of Anarchy” doesn’t offer many surprises, but it isn’t trying to. Instead, loose ends are violently tied up as the themes of family and fate that have run throughout the past seven seasons come to a head. Jax Teller found his revenge for his wife’s murder, now he’s just looking for peace. But what peace can there be for a man says of himself: “I’m not a good man. I’m a criminal and a killer”?
The final episode suggests that peace can be found by proxy as Jax strives to ensure that his own sons won’t live the life of chaos that he has. And just how does a murderous outlaw ride off into the sunset? On his own terms, of course.”

Jax wakes up in bed with Wendy and puts on his “SO” “NS” rings. He pulls out his box of journals, throws away his bloody shoes and says goodbye to his sons. He goes to the storage locker Gemma told him about and finds his dad’s manuscript, old family photos and stacks of memorabilia about the club. He burns it all.

He heads to TM and finds more documents there, including a quitclaim deed.

Jax heads to the cemetery and says good-bye to Opie. He leaves his rings on his gravestone. Then he visits Tara’s grave and leaves his wedding ring.

At Red Woody, Jax greets T.O. and promises to let him know how it goes. Jax says “I love you” to Lila, but it sounds more like good bye.

At church, Chibs reports that Tyler has left messages for Connor, but hasn’t heard back.

Then they turn to T.O. and Jax relays that Packer said everyone was in favor of opening the Sons up to black members on a charter by charter basis. Chibs nominates Taderious Orwell Cross and it passes unanimously. They agree to make him a full patch.

They break the good news to T.O. and present him with the cut. Jax announces change is good.

Nero comes by Jax’s, desperate for information about Jax and Gemma but not sure how to ask. Wendy can tell he’s climbing the walls. He hasn’t heard from Gemma.

The Sons check in with Tyler, who finally heard from Connor. He asked Tyler to double the order. Tyler feels the streets are turning his way after the Sons helped with the assault last night, but he’s worried about August Marks getting out this afternoon. Jax assures him it’ll be fine. They make plans for the Sons to join him when Connor shows, but those plans are quickly ruined when Connor shows up early to scope things out.

Connor leads Jax, Chibs, Tig and Happy on a chase down the docks and into a warehouse of doll parts, then back out onto an access road where Connor finally gets away when a dump truck pulls in front of the bikes.

Later, Tig calls Declan.

Nero goes to TM and pounds on Unser’s trailer. Chuckie tells him Unser’s not back yet and some sheriff’s deputies were looking for Gemma. Nero goes into Unser’s trailer and finds his evidence board on Tara’s murder. Nero’s heart sinks.

Jax summons Chibs to the roof of Red Woody. “I need to tell you some things you’re not going to want to hear. I need you to listen. Trust that what I want is the best thing for me and my family, for our club,” Jax says.

He tells Chibs he came clean to Packer about Jury and they recommended a mayhem vote.

Declan brings Hugh by Red Woody. Tig tells Lila to pack up for the day.

On the roof, Chibs tries to process whatever Jax has told him. “This is how you learn to be a leader, brother, doing s— that hurts the most,” Jax says. Chibs is near tears. Jax asks for his word that he’ll do as he asked and Chibs gives it.

Tig brings the Irish up on the roof: Hugh, Declan and a soldier. Jax asks Hugh to call Connor and say he got away. Hugh finds this totally implausible. But Jax explains by waiting for Tig and Chibs to shoot Declan and the soldier. Tig takes pictures for Hugh to send to Connor to sell the story.

DA Tyne Patterson (CCH Pounder) visits Althea Jarry at the substation. Patterson asks if Jarry has any idea why Jax set up an appointment with her in the afternoon. She suggests an APB on Gemma and tells Jarry she’s doing a good job navigating streets owned by outlaws.

Hugh waits for Connor to pull up to an old workshop then disarms him when the Sons come in. Hugh suggests Connor listen.

They’re interested in his access to all the AKs he wants. Connor freezes when Declan and his guys walk in, as expected by the Sons. But then the Sons turn on them and kill all the late-arriving Irish. Jax presents their new plan for Connor: Marcus Alvarez will distribute all the guns in Northern California for Connor while his guys back in Ireland work with the Sons there. Oso is with them and explains that Connor will distribute through Stockton ports now. The Mayans will protect him from the IRA blowback.

Connor tries to process the enormous bullet he just dodged. He agrees to the plan.

“Jackson, you just killed an IRA King. There’s no coming back from that, lad,” Connor says.

“My old man tried to sever that tie 20 years ago. Better late than never,” Jax grins.

Back at TM, Nero meets up with Jax. He asks Nero to handle some business for him — Jax is giving Wendy the garage and the houses to sell and he asks Nero to take her and the kids, and leave town.

“What are you doing here, Jax?” Nero says.

“What I should have done while my wife was still alive,” Jax says.

He’s giving his piece of Diosa and Red Woody to the club, to use the profits to buy Scoops and set it up as home base.

Nero asks where Jax is going. “I’m leaving, Nero,” Jax says.

“Why?” Nero says.

“You know why,” Jax says.

Nero knows. “Gemma.”

“I’m sorry. I did what I know how to do. What Gemma knew had to be done. The lies caught up to all of us, man. I tried to hide from it, make it legit, run away from it. This is who I am, I can’t change,” Jax says. He asks Nero to promise to make sure his boys leave this place, “so they don’t become what I’ve become.”

Jax says he’s not sure where he’s going. He tells Nero to tell Wendy everything, and that she should tell his sons when the time comes. “I’m not a good man. I’m a criminal and a killer. I need my sons to grow up hating the thought of me,” he says.

Wendy arrives with the boys. She catches Nero with tears in his eyes. Jax takes Abel’s hand and tells him it’s OK to call Wendy mommy. He tells him Nero is daddy’s best friend and to listen to him. Nero tries to keep it together as he watches Jax say what only he and Jax know is his last good-bye to his children.

Jax says good bye to Wendy, telling her she’s a good mom.

Jax watches them go, then gets on his dad’s old bike.

Jarry drops by Red Woody to talk to Chibs. She tells him about the APB on Gemma and ends things with him. He tells her it’s a mistake, because cops who land on the wrong side of the club “tend to go away.”

Tig and Chibs take a moment to steel themselves before coming clean to the club and Jax’s mayhem vote.

Jax reports to Patterson’s office. He thanks her for trying to help Tara then suggests she record what he’s going to say.

He tells her everything: That the Chinese didn’t kill Tara, Gemma did and Juice killed Roosevelt to protect her. They both admitted it.

When Patterson asks where Gemma is, he says she’s with Unser and gives her his grandfather’s address.

She asks about Henry Lin, he makes her turn off the recording. He tells her that everyone who will be impacted by finding out the truth of Tara’s murder is “either informed or has moved on. By the end of the day, the violence in Oakland and Stockton will be over.”

He won’t say more. “What happens at the end of the day?” she asks again.
“The bad guys lose,” he says.

Back in church at Red Woody, Chibs tells the Sons they can’t let their hearts be louder than their reason. He chokes back tears as he calls for Jax’s mayhem vote. They solemnly vote unanimously in favor.

Jax walks into Charles Barosky’s bakery in broad daylight and, without a word, shoots him through the head in front of customers, then he leaves.

Up in Oregon, police find Unser and Gemma and start cataloguing the scene.

Jax walks behind the courthouse and sees the homeless woman he sees everywhere. He stops and smiles at her. He finally asks who she is. She hands him her blanket and says only: “It’s time.” (We zoom in on a close-up of the crust of bread she leaves behind.)

August Marks walks out of the courthouse later, right past Jax shrouded in the woman’s blanket on the courthouse steps. Jax stands up and throws off the blanket and shoots the men with Marks. Then he unloads into Marks and races off.

Jax goes to meet his club at the abandoned shop where they took out the Irish. Without saying anything, he cuts the President patch of his jacket and gives it to Chibs. Chibs gives his VP patch to Tig.

Jax hugs Chibs and puts his cut back on. He puts down his gun and says he’s ready. Tig and Happy hold Jax by each shoulder as Chibs picks up Jax’s gun and faces him.

Then Chibs lifts the gun and shoots Happy in the arm, as he apparently expected. “I’ll tell Packer you laid down some fire and got away,” Chibs says.

“I would never put this burden on you….” Jax says. They know.

“I love all of you,” Jax says.

He hugs each man, saving Tig, then Chibs, for last. He goes to bike, then tells them all: “I got this.” He rides off.

At the station, Jarry orders an APB on Jax for multiple homicide.

Jax rides to the place where his dad crashed and talks about being crippled by fear and guilt and realizing, as his father must have, that a man can’t be a good father and good outlaw at the same time. He keeps talking as a Highway Patrol car pulls up behind him, promising his boys won’t know “this life of chaos.”

“I know who you are now, and what you did. I love you, dad,” Jax says.

He gets back on his bike without his helmet as the cop orders him off the bike. Jax fires wildly past the cop, not trying to hit him, then gets on his bike and rides off.

(Final closing montage to Eddie Vedder “Come join the murder/come fly with black, will give you freedom, from the human track”.)

Nero rides peacefully in the car with Wendy, Thomas and Abel. Tig seeks comfort with his love, Venus Van Damme. Jax rides serenely with the cop chasing him as more cars join the chase. Patterson joins Jarry at Barosky’s bakery. Chibs sits alone at the head of the table, the president’s patch in his hands. Deputies load Gemma’s corpse into a body bag. In the car with Nero, Abel wears the “Son” ring from Gemma.

Out on the road, a crow flies off a freeway sign as a Papa’s Goods truck driven by Milo (Michael Chiklis) passes by. A dozen cars and motorcycle cops follow Jax down the road as crows fly overhead.

Jax sees the semi round the corner and smiles. He guns his engine, then releases his throttle. He lifts his hands into the air and aims straight for the truck. He shuts his eyes. The last word of the series is Milo realizing what’s about to happen: “Jesus!”

The camera cuts away. Crows feast on the homeless woman’s crust of bread on the side of the road as blood slowly seeps into frame.

A quote appears:

“Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt thou that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.” — Williams Shakespeare

R.I.P.: Top TV Character Deaths of 2014

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 9 December 2014 2:32 PM, PST

Death, be not proud…especially on television. When it comes to TV, death, try to have a point. Be exciting. Move us. Absent that, at least move the story along. Get us talking in a good way.

Death is a well-used plot device that can sweep through any kind of scripted series. Even “The Simpsons” has killed off characters over the years, with the latest one shuffling off his mortal coil in the 26th season premiere. But some deaths are more defensible than others…and we’ve even come to expect them.

I’m writing this a few hours before the series finale of “Sons of Anarchy,” an episode that is bound to lengthen television’s already sizable TV Characters In Memoriam list. At least 42 characters that we know of have journeyed into the mysterious beyond so far.  At least.  (For a more comprehensive list of character deaths, check out this one created by IMDb user dogdawgdogdawgdog.)

Several of them died after the creation and publication of this Year End list of the 10 most significant character deaths of the 2014, as did a few runners-up for good measure.  One of my featured runners-up (SPOILER ALERT: don’t click on that link if you don’t know to whom I’m referring) has inspired a petition urging the writers to bring the character back. Which, considering the way that person bit it, is wishful thinking of the greatest degree. Another that didn’t make onto the list may or may not be mentioned in our recap of “Revenge’s” midseason finale.

Click here to read the full list of Top TV Character Deaths of 2014. Then check out this week’s “Revenge” recap.

After that, go ahead and pour one out for our fictional homies who aren’t with us anymore.

Featured Recap: “Sons of Anarchy”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 12 November 2014 12:37 PM, PST

TV Editor’s Note: This blog entry contains detailed analysis and a recap of the “Sons of Anarchy” episode titled “Faith and Despondency .” If you have an aversion to spoilers, please stop reading now.

Last night’s “Sons of Anarchy” makes one recall the dramatic rule commonly referred to as Chekhov’s Gun: If you put a rifle onstage in the first act, the thing absolutely must go off at some point before the final curtain drops.

You’ve got to hand it to series creator Kurt Sutter, though. The man presented viewers with the weapon in the first season and methodically prepped it to fire over the ensuing six. Actually, one might say Sutter dumped an arsenal on the stage, topped by one gigantic doomsday weapon in the form of Gemma Teller (Katey Sagal) and her mountain of secrets and lies. Smaller explosions have been going off throughout this series, but now it’s here, that terrible, explosive bang to which “Sons of Anarchy” has been building: In spite of her elaborate, deadly attempts at obfuscating the truth, Gemma’s most evil act came tumbling out of the closet when one of her greatest loves asked an innocent question. Read our recap to find out who let the birds out the cage.

The seventh season has been fraught with soul-rending agony on top of the usual over-the-top violence — and last night’s episode had heaping helpings of the latter — but ample tenderness in the quiet moments, too. Sex and death are tightly entwined on this series, but amidst the opening montage of the guys getting lucky, we saw more of Venus Van Dam (the always wonderful Walton Goggins) and were  granted a soulful look into the relationship between her and Tig (Kim Coates). In an emotionally raw conversation, their bond achieved a new level of openness and trust. That vulnerability that was rewarding to see as SAMCRO’s journey draws closer to an end.

Keep reading for the full blow-by-blow recap of this episode, which was submitted by IMDb user DetectiveBriscoe.

“As the series hurtles towards its conclusion, tonight’s episode features all the series’ hallmarks: murder(s), sex (sex, sex and more sex) and secrets. A utensil again plays a pivotal role in the exposition as Gemma’s chickens finally start to come home to roost and we make a return visit to Moses’ torture chamber, where we learn the perfect implement for removing an eyeball (hint: a utensil), although it’s later revealed there’s more than one way to skin that particular cat.

We begin with an everybody-getting-lucky montage. Jax works through his grief by taking Winsome the hooker to bed. Gemma is distant in bed with Nero. Tig works his magic on Venus the transgender escort. Jarry and Chibs make love — in a bed this time, for a change of pace. Rat relaxes as a woman who is not Brooke rides atop him. Happy works out his issues with a nameless blond on the hood of a car. Wendy and her motorized buddy have some quiet time in bed. In prison, Juice doesn’t resist as Tully exacts his price in the prison currency of man flesh.

Back with Winsome, Jax fights off tears. Winsome offers her condolences for his wife. She gets up and starts putting her clothes on, but he asks her to stay.

The next morning at Diosa, Jax admits to Nero that he’s not sure what SAMCRO looks like without Bobby. His death has really rocked Gemma. Nero hesitates then mentions his plans to get out, selling to Alvarez. “It’s time Jax, we both know that,” Nero says.

Nero does the math when Winsome comes out of a bedroom. Jax describes her as a smart girl, who’s just a little unstable. “That’s the way we like ‘em,” Nero says.

Jax is OK with Nero selling his Diosa share to Alvarez, he’s just not ready to lose his partner. Nero tells him about his hopes that Gemma and his boys will join him sometimes.

They both note Rat seeing the blonde escort out.

August Marks has been in county for three days, but they think “today” still makes sense. It involves Rat meeting with TO and Jax reminding Rat to be careful.

When Winsome returns, she checks in with Jax. She’s enjoying her new indoor job. “I like the girls. I think some of us are going to get a place together — you know, before we all get gunned down by Chinese gangsters,” she deadpans.

Jax laughs. She considers him for a second then thanks him for being so decent to her, just the latest in a series of people to tell the murderer of many that he’s a good person.

At Venus’ place, Tig is a mess, starting his day with a bottle in his hand and mixed messages for Venus.

At Gemma’s house, Abel comes to the breakfast table with a deep scratch on his face, which he says the baby did.

At the cabin, Loutreesha has talked to the DA and hired and lawyer and is ready to go home. But Quinn and Montez don’t think it’s safe yet.

Gemma drops Abel off at school. His teacher Mrs. Harrison (Courtney Love) notices the scratch and tells him if an adult hurt him, that person would get in trouble.

Jax meets with Tully, but they don’t know why Juice is in solitary. Tully says it might take him a day or two to arrange for Juice to get near Lin, but it’ll happen. Juice is meeting with Tully’s new No. 2, a guy named Otis who’s replacing Leland. Jax is unfazed when Tully essentially lets him know what he’s doing to Juice. “He could use a little lovin’,” Jax says.

Moses summons Tyler. He questions Tyler’s loyalties to Marks given his business ties to SAMCRO and tells him he needs to find out where the Sons are keeping the pastor’s family. Tyler considers his tenuous position and suggests TO with the Grim Bastards might know. Moses insists they track him down together.

At school, Abel locks himself in the bathroom and takes the metal fork out of his lunch box, seemingly intent on hurting himself, in a subtle callback to the carving fork Gemma used to finish Tara.

Out in the country, Jax, Tig, Chibs and Happy meet Otis and his crew at house. Otis has about a dozen guys and says more are on the way.

Leland hasn’t shown up yet but a few of his guys are not happy about the shift in management to Otis. One of them addresses Tig and calls him a “tranny humper.” He uses colorful language to elaborate and Chibs tries to keep Tig cool. Otis doesn’t have a problem with it, so Tig goes to the man and asks for an apology. When one is not forthcoming, Tig shoots the man in the balls. Everyone’s guns come out. Otis orders his guys to stand down. Jax sees another of Leland’s old crew eying him and shoots him in the head. Otis makes it clear that it’s over. The ball-less man writhing on the ground says Leland is on his way to kill Eglee.

Jax races off, but not before he orders someone to finish the man. Chibs calls Rat. He’s at a bar with TO and a few of the Bastards. When they step outside, Moses and his guys grab them and Tyler tries to act surprised that TO is with a member of SAMCRO.

Meanwhile, Leland walks into the hospital where Eglee is recuperating and waits for his moment.

The Sons tear down the road, racing there.

At the hospital, Leland sneaks past security and into a room. No one is in the bed, but he hears the shower running. Unser steps out with a gun on him. He gives Leland a chance to drop his gun, but Leland fights him instead. When Leland aims, Unser has no choice but to fire.

Later, Unser tells Jarry that he got a “heads up” from his favorite source, Anonymous. Jarry is annoyed. “I think your Anonymous friends are waiting for you in the lobby,” she tells him.

Unser talks to Jax. He’s not happy about having to shoot Leland. He never killed anyone on the job. There are broader implications to be drawn from that fact as they relate to the current violent climate, but Jax chooses not to see them. Unser checks that no one else is coming for Eglee. Jax says he owes him and Leland was the end of it.

Wendy calls Chibs, who tells Jax that Child Services was called to Abel’s school.

Back in the room where Bobby spent his last few days, Rat and TO are tied to chairs. Bobby’s blood still stains the floor. When they don’t immediately talk, Moses’s guys wail on them as Tyler watches helplessly.

In prison, a guard brings Juice a package from Tully: a prison sex kit (including Emily Bronte’s love poem, to set the mood). Juice realizes he has a big problem.

Jax arrives at Abel’s school to very little information. Gemma is also there. Mrs. Harrison joins them with Abel. He has deep bloody gouges on his arm. At his teacher’s prompting, Abel says grandma did it.

Moses returns to TO and Rat with a grapefruit spoon, explaining it’s the perfect tool for taking out an eye. TO isn’t inclined to lose his eye and tells Moses about the cabin.

Back at Gemma’s, Wendy insists that she dressed Abel this morning and there were no gouges. Jax looks to his mom and Nero for answers. He doesn’t seem to believe that Gemma hurt Abel. Nero suggests it’s about Tara and wonders if Abel thinks Gemma is trying to replace her. Jax agrees they need to get Abel some help, realizing the implications if he hurt himself. In the meantime, Gemma can’t be alone with him and Jax is taking both boys to his house.

As Moses and his guys reach the cabin, Tyler joins one of Moses’ guys bringing TO and Rat water. When the goon puts down his gun, Tyler picks it up and shoots him, then frees Rat and TO.

Meanwhile, TO’s directions take Moses and his guys straight to Otis’ country house, or cabin if you will. They’re suspicious when they don’t see any bikes outside, but a dozen guys with semi-automatic weapons get out to check. The house looks quiet. They check it and find it empty. Then they hear a phone ringing inside the camper out back. The dozen dudes converge on it with their guns drawn.

When they open the door, the camper blows and Aryan brothers pour out of the nearby woods. Jax, Tig, Happy and Chibs bust out of the storm cellar and join the massacre. Jax is careful to only shoot Moses in the knee. When everyone else is down, Jax grabs Moses and digs out his eye with his bare hands – no grapefruit spoon needed. Chibs performs the next act of torture in retribution for Bobby, sawing off Moses’ fingers.

With his eyeball hanging from a bloody cord halfway down his face, Moses manages to get up on his knees before Jax shoots him through the head, ending it.

Later that night, Jax thanks Otis for his help. Otis is happy to help dispose of the black bodies for the cause and appreciates that someone took out Leland.

Tyler drives up with Rat and TO. Rat wasn’t part of the plan, but was happy to go along. Jax is proud of him. Happy shows Rat one of Moses’s fingers. He’s keeping it as a trophy. They all celebrate their win.

Up at the actual cabin, Montez and Quinn break the news to Loutreesha and Grant that August’s hit squad has been dealt with. They get to go home, at least until August is released on bail.

In the hospital, Unser sits with Eglee.

In the prison, Juice snorts the drugs provided by Tully to prepare for their alone time. Tully reads him Bronte.

After the slaughter, Chibs returns to Jarry, who is full of angst and regrets after the foiled attack on Eglee. She looks to Chibs for convincing that she’s not crazy to be with him. He tells her he likes her, the sex is great and when she’s not all caught up in her head, she’s a lot of fun, but he won’t make up her mind for her. She stops him from leaving and shoves him. He shoves her back. She hits him, he hits her back. They tear each other’s clothes off.

Late at night, Tig comes home to Venus, who is sitting alone in the dark. She thinks that Tig is with her to prove that he’s a man who dances with the freaks. Through tears, she says she’s afraid she’s fallen in love with him.

Tig doesn’t know what to say. Venus explains she’s happy with herself as a man who knows she’s a woman. She wants to put some distance between them.

Tig tells her she’s right about him and gets the full unvarnished version of him and knows all his secrets, like no one has. To love him in spite of all that is something he’s never had. He wants to be as comfortable as Venus is and go places with her and not care what people think. They end up in each other’s arms.
Nero comes home to Gemma’s house to see Brooke patching up Rat. Gemma’s smoking furiously in her room. She asks Nero when he’s heading to his ranch and then offers to go with him. He’s thrilled. She’s near tears. “I don’t know why you’re still here, why you still love me,” she says. “I don’t know who I am anymore.”

At Jax’s place, Abel gets out of bed late and crawls into his dad’s lap across from Wendy. Jax takes the moment to try to talk to Abel seriously and gently tells him Wendy is his birth mother and they used to be married. He explains Wendy is there now to help take care of him now that he needs a mommy. “No matter what happens, you’re always going to have a daddy and a mommy that are going to do their best for you,” he says. Abel kisses them both good night.

Wendy is overwhelmed and hugs Jax and thanks him.

Jax goes to tuck Abel in. Abel has a question. “Is Wendy my first mommy because I came out of her tummy? Is that why Grandma killed my other mommy, so my first mommy could be here with me?” — DetectiveBriscoe



Featured Recap: “Gotham”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 11 November 2014 3:53 PM, PST

TV Editor’s Note: This blog entry contains detailed analysis and a recap of the “Gotham” episode titled “The Mask.” If you have an aversion to spoilers, please stop reading now.

You remember the first rule of Fight Club, right? You don’t talk about Fight Club.

The second rule of Fight Club, “Gotham“-style, is… you’ll have to read the recap to find that out. First, though, a few observations about the show as it stands now.

“Gotham” is primarily about James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his struggle to keep his moral compass from being overtaken by the magnetic pull of his city’s corruption. This requires Herculean effort, particularly considering that Gordon is partnered with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), a “go along to get along” dirty cop.  Gordon and Bullock’s cases of the week move the plot along well enough, although some give us more filler than beef.  But “Gotham’s” main strength at this point in the first season is in its character development: Jada Pinkett Smith‘s Fish Mooney grows more appealing with each episode, but a more significant tip of the hat should go to Robin Lord Taylor, who has done what I previously believed to be impossible in making The Penguin into a believably frightening villain.

The drama’s key subplot, the molecular-level origin tale of the boy who will be Batman, is doing a decent job of slowly setting the groundwork for young Bruce, played by David Mazouz, to begin his heroic evolution. In “The Mask” we saw Bruce realize that his demon is anger, as James Gordon gave his version of the demon a workout — literally — to help put a case to bed.  Ultimately we know that Bruce channels his rage into a force for justice, just as we know Gotham will eventually crumble to the point that the city will need Bruce Wayne more than its hamstrung police force.

Before that call comes, Master Bruce must learn how to fight.

To get all of the details about this episode as submitted by IMDb user brayvalentine, keep reading.

“For reasons that will become clear later, a man is roaming an abandoned and trashed office space. He encounters another man and the pair fight, ultimately to the death, using various office supplies as weapons. The victor raises his hands towards a camera in the ceiling where someone is watching on a screen.

The next morning the dead man is found far from the scene. They notice ink and paint on the man’s clothes, which peg the guy as probably working in finance. They decide to canvas the area and Nygma asks if he should run prints. He asks if he wants to run them all, including the thumb he finds in the dead man’s mouth.

The Penguin encounters a wealthy woman on the street and steals her brooch, saying a friend he has would love it.

The Penguin presents the brooch to Fish when they have a sitdown. He hopes they can be friends. Maroni wants to clarify terms and he sent Penguin which burns Fish up. She says he has his businesses- drugs, the unions– will continue to pay tariffs on the ports, Arkham is still split 50/50 and if he needs favors from the mayor or the cops he has to ask Falcone. Penguin says there is to be no blood spilled, not a drop. Fish says, maybe a drop. She tells her right hand man Timothy that Penguin used to have his job. Penguin says things change. She opens his gift, extracts the letter opener from the brooch and promptly stabs Penguin in the hand with it. She tells him he betrayed her and when she orders people dead, she wants them to stay dead. She tells him to watch his back, since things do in fact change, and that he should pray for Falcone’s good health. Penguin says he does.

At the precinct Jim speaks to the victim’s mother, who said he worked in a coffee shop but was trying to break into finance.

While Gordon talks to her, Harvey and the captain talk about how angry Gordon is since all the cops ran out on him, and how they treat him like crap now because seeing him makes them know what cowards they are. The Captain says Gordon is lucky to have Harvey.

Penguin re-gifts the brooch to his bat-guano crazy mother, who notices his hurt hand. He says his enemies are jealous. She tells a story of a mean girl in school who she ratted out to the secret police. She notes that everyone has secrets. This gives the Penguin an idea.

Gordon and Bullock go to see a black market doctor who specializes in helping criminals. He admits a guy who had his thumb chomped off did come to see him that morning, and he dropped a business card of a financial firm that fell out of the guy’s pocket. Gordon brings in the doctor over Harvey’s objections.

When they bring him in, other cops voice their objections since this doctor is a good confidential informant for them. Harvey tries to persuade Jim to let him go, noting he was there for him with Falcone and he has to go along to get along, and that Harvey is on his side. Jim still says no, and the doctor stays locked up. Jim reiterates his dedication to cleaning up the city and the department at all costs.

Jim comes home to a drunk Barbara wielding his gun. She is clearly on edge since the run in with Victor Zaz and Falcone. He admonishes her for handling a gun while drunk and tries to reassure her that things will be okay.

A man in a mask at the abandoned office space approaches three men in cages. One asks when they will get out. The man says that is up to them.

The next morning Barbara apologizes to Jim about last night as he is taking his extra gun. She says it was just nerves and to leave the gun. He puts it back in the box and locks it up, and gives her the key. He says he wishes it wasn’t like this. “Do you really?” she asks, and then immediately takes it back and tells him to go and catch some bad guys.

Nygma is conducting his own unauthorized autopsy on the dead guy. He seems to have hit on something when the coroner enters and angrily shoos him out. It’s clearly not the first time he’s done this.

Liza meets Fish at confession and says she hasn’t learned anything interesting from Falcone. She cooks, cleans, and sings for him and they go on walks. Fish instructs her to drug Falcone and get a copy of the last two pages of a ledger in his office drawer. She wonders if the drug will kill him. Fish says no, but is worried Liza has caught feelings for Falcone. She says she hasn’t. Fish says she doesn’t want to kill him yet, just siphon his power. Liza wonders what happens if one of Falcone’s men catches her. Fish notes she will probably be dead then.

Gordon and Harvey go to the office on the card and see that many of the workers are bruised and injured. They meet the boss, Richard Sionis, whose office is littered with swords, masks, and other artifacts of war. Jim can tell he’s responsible for what’s going on. Richard tells him to prove it. They ask about the memorabilia. Sionis says business is war. Gordon says no, war is war. Sionis can tell that Gordon was in a war and really killed people, and says he must miss the battlefield. They don’t have anything on him so they have to leave. As they do, Jim notices a trail of blood going into the bathroom and bumps into the one-thumbed guy. They tussle, the man is only knocked out when Bullock opens the door into the guy’s head.

The Penguin kidnaps Fish’s right hand man Timothy and squeezes him for Fish’s secrets. He finally spills that he overheard that Fish has someone close to Falcone. He doesn’t know who. Penguin has one of his guys kill him, telling him the body can’t be found.

The guy flips on Sionis and says when people apply for a job at the firm the top three are brought to the abandoned office and told to fight and the last man standing gets the job. (He is clearly breaking the first rule of fight club.) Nygma says four more people were killed with office supplies in the last few years. Then the man’s lawyer shows up before they can get him to sign a statement so they need to figure out where the fights are being staged.

The Captain is freaked out and wonders what has happened to Gotham. He says the turning point into chaos was the Wayne murder, since they represented something decent and hopeful. The Captain apologizes for not staying with Jim when Zaz showed up.

Harvey gets a list of properties owned by Sionis and they split the list to start looking. Harvey says Sionis has Jim’s number, that there is a demon in him, that he likes to fight. Barbara calls to check in and Jim basically hangs up on her.

Liza makes the tea for Falcone and puts in the drug. She goes to Fish’s and hands over the copied ledger pages while an older black woman sings onstage. Liza says she wants out. Fish says that’s not possible. Liza wonders what Fish’s beef is since she is rich and powerful. She wonders why she is bothering. Fish spins a yarn in which as a poor child she would often hear her prostitute mother entertain men on the other side of a curtain in their small apartment. One night, one of Falcone’s men killed her. Fish stayed silent the whole night, two feet from her dead mother. She vowed to never let herself be powerless again or let any man be over her. Liza is duly moved by this story. Later, the older black woman comes to sit by Fish at the bar and says she overheard her “telling stories.” Clearly, Fish was lying and this woman is her mother. Fish shrugs and says a lie with a heart of truth is a powerful thing.

Jim finds the office and is promptly tasered by Sionis. He wakes up to hear Sionis telling the three others that instead of killing each other, their task is to kill Gordon. Gordon tries to persuade them to stand down since he’s a cop. Sionis throws in a million dollar signing bonus. Gordon knows his goose is cooked. Except, of course, it’s not — because he’s Jim Gordon. He takes on all three men and more or less handily dispatches them, while a crowd of people in another location watch the brawl on camera.

When Harvey hasn’t heard back from Jim, he starts to get worried. He asks the other cops to help him look into the addresses that were on Jim’s half of the list since he might be in trouble. He gets no takers. Bullock makes an impassioned speech to the precinct house, saying he knows that Gordon can be an asshat but he is still a cop and not one of them stood up when he needed it the first time and he won’t let that happen again. The captain steps up as do several others.

Not that it matters, because Jim has taken care of the three men by himself — and Sionis to boot when he attacks him. Jim gets the upper hand and is poised above Sionis with his sword but simply drops it. The Captain shows up, gun drawn, and just as Sionis is about to attack from behind, Jim turns and decks him. She is impressed. He thanks her for showing up.

Meanwhile, while all of this has been going on, Alfred has forced Bruce to go back to school where he is promptly pitied by the cute girls and bullied by the awful boys. When one of the boys goes too far and makes a disrespectful comment about Bruce’s mother, Bruce slaps him. The bully, Tommy Elliott, and his friends, retaliate. When Bruce emerges roughed up, Alfred isn’t having it. He gives Bruce his father’s watch and drives Bruce to the bully’s house, where Bruce unleashes a can of whup ass on him, using the watch to serve as brass knuckles. The rich brat Tommy complains to Alfred that Bruce tried to kill him. Alfred agrees, adding that Tommy should take note that Alfred did not try to stop Bruce. Later, Bruce tells Alfred that he is just so angry all the time, and asks Alfred if he can teach him how to fight. Alfred says he sure can.

At the precinct house Jim thanks Harvey for having his back and says he’s wrong, it’s not that he loves fighting but he’s not afraid to. And if they don’t, who will? He says he won’t stop until he has the mayor, Falcone, and all the dirty cops. As Jim is finally leaving for the day, the case closed, he calls Barbara and tells her he’s coming home and he loves her. We see her ignore the call and wheel a suitcase out the door, and a note addressed to Jim on the table.

After getting busted for shoplifting, Selina summons Gordon.”

Featured Recap: “Sleepy Hollow”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 11 November 2014 1:16 PM, PST

TV Editor’s Note: This blog entry contains detailed analysis and a recap of the second season “Sleepy Hollow” episode titled “Heartless.” If you have an aversion to spoilers, please stop reading now.

Imperfect though it may be, Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” remains one of my favorite TV series. I loved it when it premiered last year, and I still mostly enjoy it now. Mostly.

Like so many genre tales to which devoted viewers give their hearts, the second season adventures of Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) have had their share of sophomore stumbles. Even so, its central tale of a well-known historical character ripped out his era and resurrected in ours to battle the Apocalypse, partnered with a driven, principled detective, hasn’t gone off the rails to the point that I’ve fired it from my DVR.

“Sleepy’s” slip-ups are for the most part connected to characters and relationships that remain appealing. The duo Internet fans have dubbed Ichabbie still has my heart, and the conversations in which Abbie aids Ichabod in grappling with the mannerisms and innovations of the modern era are still hilarious. (I burst out laughing during last night’s episode when, as Abbie explained what getting lucky meant, Ichabod, at the moment of comprehension, says, “Ah! Macking! He was macking on a lady!”)

John Noble is a welcome addition to the cast as Henry, the formerly long-lost son of Ichabod and his wife Katrina (Katia Winter) and the  Horseman of the Apocalypse known as War.  That said, it would be great if Katrina and Ichabod stopped wrestling with the question of whether Henry has any good left in him; their emotional turmoil over that issue clearly has its place in the resolution of this story arc, but the push-pull of it all is becoming tiresome. So is the manufactured strain between Abbie and Katrina — which, thankfully, reached a place of detente in this week’s episode, “Heartless.”

Other more recent developments don’t quite make sense to me, including Katrina’s final strategic decision at the end of the episode. Honestly…why?

To see what I’m talking about, read the featured recap of the episode, submitted by IMDb user DetectiveBriscoe.

“Reunited with Ichabod, Katrina tries to give him room to trust her again. They’re interrupted by Abbie trying to track down Henry after a week of not hearing from him.

In his lair, Henry takes a human heart out of a clay pot and recites a chant to bring it to life. It starts beating an a gorgeous naked woman appears in front of him. Henry tells her it’s time to get to work.

In a club throbbing with music, a shy nerdy young man tries to get up the nerve to talk to a girl. Henry’s girl assesses him and quickly morphs into a librarian type then approaches him. Cut to them making out in a car and the guy stops to ask her name. Then she reveals herself as a firey red demon and sucks the soul right out of him.

Later, Abbie and Ichabod arrive on the scene. Crane is familiar with private dancing societies and coyly boasts that he and Katrina even did a Viennese Waltz a time or two. They see the body in the car, which looks deflated and desiccated, definitely the work of Henry. Abbie again questions Crane’s faith in Henry.

Back at his estate, Henry mirror-conferences with a very angry Abraham, who wants Katrina back. Henry relays that Moloch has forbidden Abraham from going after her. They have a new plan. The succubus arrives and expels the man’s soul into a glass jar for Henry.

In the archives, Abbie and Crane try to identify the creatures. Katrina sees the crime scene photos and notes that the puncture wounds are over a life force area and certain creatures target certain areas. Suddenly she has a flashback to a screaming baby in a crib. Crane worries over her. She asks for quince tea. When Abbie explains that doesn’t really exist, Katrina mentions that Abraham brought her some.

Abbie tries to make plans with Crane, but he’s distracted escorting Katrina out to get her home.

In a diner, a man tries to talk to his girlfriend’s friend, mentioning that she’s always hanging around him and imply she has a crush on him. Becky gets flustered and runs out. In the parking lot, the creature appears, dressed like Becky’s crush. She approaches and sweet talks her, then steals her soul.

Abbie calls Crane after getting the call. He thinks he’s narrowed down the creatures but Abbie wants to consult and expert.

At the bar, Abbie meets up with Hawley. He tries to talk her into a date but she shows him the crime scene photos. He doesn’t know anything that would desiccate the victim’s corpses like the creature did. After Abbie turns him down again he sees a hot chick at the end of the bar and excuses himself to salvage his evening.

Back at the cabin, Abbie is relaying Hawley’s distraction to Crane when she realizes the first victim was found in the back of a car, where he would be if he thought he was going to get lucky. Katrina joins them and they piece together that they’re dealing with a succubus. Katrina explains that they’re drawn to secret desires and can mimic the things people want.

At the bar, the succubus sits down with Hawley and buys him a drink.

In the cabin, Katrina recites a spell to try to track the succubus. She drips wax on a map and it encircles the harbor. Abbie recognizes the location.

Cut to Hawley returning to his boat with the succubus.

Later, Abbie and Crane race up to the dock and hear Hawley struggling with her. She’s in full demon mode , with red skin and horns (and a black teddy). Crane tries to knock her out with a nearby pole while Hawley grabs a crystal from his pocket and presses it into her skin. It burns her, but she starts sucking his soul anyway.

Abbie joins them and fires. Her bullets don’t hurt the creature, but they do scare her away.

While Abbie goes to call Katrina, Crane tells a wobbly Hawley that that the creature is drawn to those with secret desires. Then Crane sees the way Hawley is looking at Abbie. Hawley tries to play it off. Abbie reports that Katrina’s magic can’t track the succubus where ever she went.

In the car on the way back, Crane talks to Abbie about adjusting to new life with Katrina. He then awkwardly segues into saying he wouldn’t have a problem with Abbie pursuing a social relationship with Hawley. She claims not to have time for such a complication.

Back at the cabin, Crane wakes Karina up from a nightmare. She was seeing a crying baby in a cradle and Henry standing over it. She tells him it’s like a part of her is elsewhere and can’t let go.

Abbie joins them, reporting that succubi usually feed monthly. They wonder why she’s gorging. Katrina has a vision of the succubus over the cradle with Henry and his soul jar. When she describes Frederick’s Manor covered in vines, they tell her she’s seeing the present. Katrina tries to focus her vision and sees the contents of the soul jar being poured onto a writhing green slimy demon baby. She recognizes it as the one that was inside her — Moloch.

Henry summoned the succubus to complete the process that began inside Katrina. Abbie and Katrina start fighting over whether Henry can be saved and Crane has to intervene.

Back at the archives, they hit the books. Abbie finds a description of the succubus by the name Incordata. Crane finds a reference saying the Incordata’s heart is stored separately and she can be killed if her heart is destroyed. In the first century a roman priest defeated the first Incordata and gave the remains of the heart to the Emperor Claudius who immortalized the priest as St. Valentine, hence the custom of giving hearts on Valentine’s Day.

Katrina says the heart would have to be on consecrated ground or cemetery. Abbie pulls up Henry’s search history and finds he recently bought a plot at a cemetery. Crane suggests Abbie go with Katrina to protect her and Katrina notices Abbie rolling her eyes. She points out Crane doesn’t know what the succubus looks like, but Hawley does.

Cut to Hawley and Crane going into the club, where they plan to wait until Katrina and Abbie destroy the heart. Hawley gives Crane a mystical knife. Crane asks Hawley what his intentions are with Abbie. Hawley brushes him off, but then checks to see if Abbie asked about him. Meanwhile, the succubus enters the club and looks for her next target.

At the cemetery, Abbie and Katrina search for the heart. Katrina tries to talk to Abbie, who admits she thinks Katrina has been condescending. Katrina explains that so much of what she thought she knew is slipping away, so she holds onto what she believes in her heart is true. Abbie thinks that there are things that even a mother’s love can’t overcome, as in the case of her own mother.

They notice a hex over a crypt.

Hawley tries to remember what te succubus looks like, but says she’s more of a feeling. Then he spots her. She disappears and Crane and Hawley split up to follow her.

Crane follows her downstairs and into a storage room. Once he’s inside, she locks the door behind him.

In the crypt, Katrina finds the heart jar. When they take the lid off, Abbie sees maggot and Katrina sees rats, due to a perception spell to prey on individual fears. Abbie screws up her courage and sticks her hand into the jar. She pulls out the heart.

In the storage room, the succubus is dressed as Katrina and speaking in her accent. She tells Crane she can sense his desire and also his doubt.

Katrina begins her spell to destroy the heart. Abbie calls Hawley, who tells her he lost Crane.

In the storage room, the succubus approaches Crane and starts to make a move on him. He stabs her. Katrina isn’t finished with her spell and is thrown backward. Abbie notices the heart is still beating. The succubus is unharmed. She’s sucking out Crane’s soul when Hawley comes in and attacks.

Abbie picks up Katrina spell book and starts reading. The heart starts to smolder and finally bursts into flames, charring black.

The succubus attacks Hawley and he’s trying to fight her off when Crane reaches for the knife and drives it into her back. When she turns and charges him, Crane shoots her with Hawley’s revolver.

Abbie helps Katrina out of the crypt after getting knocked to her feet by the protection spell. Abbie tells her that Crane is right, that they are stronger with Katrina’s help.

Katrina knows Henry will try again. Abbie thinks that means she’s agreeing that Henry must be stopped, but Katrina says it means she has to destroy Moloch. She can sense his growing power, but he’s still vulnerable. She thinks she can convince Abraham to take her back, saying that Crane has moved on. She knows Crane will never let her do it, which is why she wants Abbie to tell him.

Back at the cabin, Abbie finds Hawley bandaging himself from the wounds from the succubus. She gives him what’s left of the charred heart for him to sell.

“Thanks. It’s not every day a girl just gives me her heart,” he says.

“I might have to punch you in the throat now,” she says.

Crane joins them and Abbie breaks the news about Katrina to him. He thinks it’s a bold move, but could pay off. He says Abbie was right about letting relationships evolve. He describes Katrina as the love of his life who is also a skilled operative.

Katrina returns Abraham, who goes to Henry to make the case for letting her stay. Standing over the crib in Frederick’s Manor, Henry agrees quickly and checks that she’s wearing her necklace. Henry lets her in to see Moloch in the crib. With the necklace on, Katrina doesn’t see the slimy green demon lord baby, but a cuddly cute baby boy.” –  DetectiveBriscoe