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TCA: More Details on “Fargo’s” Second Season

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 20 hours ago

Days before FX brought casts and producers from its shows before the critics assembled at the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour, there was word of a super-secret “surprise” panel that, as many correctly guessed, ended up being for “Fargo.” FX announced Monday morning that it had picked up the critically-acclaimed limited series for a second season run consisting of ten episodes, which was probably shocking to absolutely nobody.

But it was a nice to have executive producer and writer Noah Hawley, and fellow executive producer Warren Littlefield, on hand to share details about the second season. Here’s what Hawley told us: Season two will be set in 1979 and follow Keith Carradine‘s character Lou Solverson, Molly Solverson’s doting father, says Hawley.  We’ll also meet Molly’s mom, and Molly (played in season one by Allison Tolman) will be four years old.

Hawley pointed out that during season one there were a lot of references to Sioux Falls. “That is not an accident,” he said. Indeed, the action will take place in and around mostly Laverne, Minn., Sioux Falls and, naturally, Fargo. Though the crimes will be different from year to year, Hawley insists that Fargo, the locale, must always be a main character. “The word itself is so evocative,” he said. “It’s a state of mind.”

As it currently stands, nobody from the season one cast is returning. Season two will introduce an entirely new cast.

According to Hawley, the story begins with 33-year-old Lou having freshly returned from Vietnam and wrestling with living in the pre-Reagan era, in a time the writer characterizes as “the best of America versus the worst of America.” In this past era, Lou Solverson is a state police officer and his father-in-law is Laverne’s chief lawman. As for the nature of the new “true crime” to be explored in season two, Hawley hinted, “The Vietnam War came home with people, and Lou Solverson thought he’d left the war behind only to find out that it has come home with him.”

Asked if season two would have a subtitle, ala “American Horror Story: Coven,  Hawley joked, “The subtitle will be ‘Fargo: Backlash,’ and I look forward to all of your reviews.”

The earliest the next season “Fargo” will launch will be in Fall 2015. Production will return to Calgary and is scheduled to begin in January and will wrap deep in May.

TCA: FX Renews “Fargo”, “Louie”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 21 July 2014 9:28 AM, PDT

FX announced two welcome if entirely predictable pick-ups on Monday morning, renewing critically-acclaimed comedy “Louie” and limited crime anthology series “Fargo” for additional seasons.

The cable network confirmed that the ten episode second chapter of “Fargo” will debut an all-new set of characters portrayed by an entirely new cast. The second season also will take place in a new time period, and will be based upon an entirely new “true crime,” with executive producer and writer Noah Hawley returning to helm. The first season of “Fargo” garnered 18 Emmy nominations, including one for Outstanding Miniseries, Outstanding Lead Actor nominations for Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, and an Outstanding Supporting Actress nomination for its female lead, newcomer Allison Tolman. The earliest the next season “Fargo” will launch will be in Fall 2015.

Louie” is returning for a fifth season consisting of only seven episodes, although FX CEO John Landgraf told critics assembled for the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour said that it could have seven or eight episodes.  In any case, the fifth season will premiere in Spring 2015. In comparison, season four of “Louie” had 14 episodes. Then again, creator Louis C.K. took a nearly two-year break between seasons three and four.

Update: Landgraf explained to IMDbTV that “Louie’s” shorter fifth season is  FX’s way of giving Louis C.K. the creative space he needs to make an independent theatrical film he’s been developing. Plus, Landgraf added, “He’s exhausted.”

Winners Announced for the 30th Annual TCA Awards

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 19 July 2014 7:11 PM, PDT

Maybe you haven’t heard, but Emmy has a tendency to nominate her favorites over and over again. When that happens, and it usually does, people who love television become apoplectic at the idea of outstanding performances going unrewarded, and brilliant seasons passing sans accolade.

This is why the TCA Awards are so satisfying. On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, shows that air on HBO, FX, AMC, CBS, Logo, ABC Family, NBC, Netflix and Fox received awards from the Television Critic Association on Saturday night.  This writer had the pleasure of handing the award for Outstanding Achievement in Drama to CBS’s “The Good Wife,” which was criminally snubbed by the Emmys.

On the other hand, Individual Achievement in Drama winner Matthew McConaughey showed up to claim his award and support “True Detective,” which also won for Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials. McConaughey is Emmy nominated and a favorite to win, as is “True Detective,” so we aren’t completely out of sync with the bigger industry award shows.

Other highlights: Logo’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” sashayed away with the award for Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming, while the excellent ABC Family series “The Fosters” won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming.

Additionally, “COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey” received the TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in News and Information.

You are likely to see Emmy recognizing one of these programs… never.

For 30 years, the TCA Awards ceremony has proudly rewarded TV greatness where the Globes or the Emmys have come up short. There’s no red carpet at the ceremony, but there’s an open bar – and everybody feels free to relax, since TCA only invites the winners. This time around, however, past presidents showed up to the ceremony as well as a few previous winners.  But all in all the awards show goes quickly and the host keeps the audience in stitches. This year “Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s” Terry Crews played emcee, and Miss Piggy popped in to thrill the attendees by performing a duet with him. Really, any awards show that includes a cameo by Miss Piggy is a winner in my (admittedly biased) opinion.

Below is the full list of winners 2014 TCA Award recipients. To see photos from the event, check out our gallery for The 30th Annual TCA Awards.



TCA: Sons of Anarchy Sets Final Season Debut Date

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 17 July 2014 1:29 PM, PDT

FX has set a date for the beginning of “Sons of Anarchy’s” long last ride.  The biker drama’s seventh and final season will premiere at 10pm Tuesday, September 9 on FX with an extended one hour and 45 minute episode.

FX also announced that new series “Anarchy Afterword,” FX’s answer to fan analysis shows in the mold of AMC’s “Talking Dead,” will debut immediately following the “Sons of Anarchy’s” season premiere. FX’s post-show will be hosted by Chris Franjola and will air live twice this season: immediately following the season premiere and immediately after the series finale.

“Sons of Anarchy”, a drama that follows the lives and exploits of an outlaw biker gang set in the fictional town of Charming, California, enjoyed its largest audience during the sixth season. Last year it averaged 7.48 million total viewers, attracting a season average of 5.11 million adults in the key 18-49 age demographic, according to Nielsen ratings.

A Look at “The Divide” & a Q&A with Marin Ireland

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 16 July 2014 9:53 AM, PDT

No longer content to be known as the “Bridezillas” channel, WEtv is making a strong entry into the scripted content arena with “The Divide,” a suspenseful drama that deftly balances issues of race, class, and wrongful incarceration in modern day Philadelphia.

Anchored by a solid ensemble cast that includes Nia Long, Damon Gupton, Paul Schneider, and Marin Ireland, the eight-episode series, which premieres 9pm Wednesday on WEtv,  does not soften its approach to the complexities surrounding the personal and public politics of exonerating the wrongfully accused.

As the series opens, we see the passionate efforts of Christine Rose (Marin Ireland), a caseworker with an agency that works on behalf of the wrongfully convicted (based on the work done by The Innocence Project). Christine pushes to re-open a 12-year-old case that nearly pushed the city to the brink of racial unrest, because in her point of view, something doesn’t add up.

Considering that the case involves two white construction workers found guilty of murdering a rich African American family, leaving only their youngest child alive, many in the city would rather let the convictions stand. But the impending execution of one of the incarcerated men, Jared Bankowski (Chris Bauer), adds a level of urgency to Christine’s actions, and soon emotions are running high again

In her efforts to secure a stay of execution for Bankowski, Christine opens a number of old wounds that threaten her career and that of her boss, Clark (Schneider), not to mention her personal safety.

Christine’s actions also deeply affect the lives of a family she doesn’t even know, headed by District Attorney Adam Page (Gupton), the man who built his career on the controversial case, and his wife Billie (Long), a successful corporate attorney.

Although “The Divide” sets the table as a powerful character study, and its cast ably dives into the story’s intensity, it also cleverly hints at how interconnected these apparently disparate parts of the community are.

Written by Richard LaGravenese and co-created by Tony Goldwyn ,  who directed the two-hour series premiere, “The Divide” was originally a project under consideration for AMC before migrating to its sister channel WEtv – a fortunate turn of events for the drama. On WEtv, “The Divide” does not have to compete with any other big brand titles on the network marquee.

Now that “The Divide” is starting to get the attention of viewers, it’s a safe bet that Ireland will as well; “The Divide” represents her first lead role in a network series. We sat down with Ireland at the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour to talk to her about the series.

This is your first starring role in a series, right?


You play Christine, who is an interesting character. There’s a lot of toughness in her, as well as fragility. But at the same time, a little bit of humor shines through. How does she evolve as the season moves forward?

Without giving too much away, what I’ll say is that there are some very big expectations that she has that really get dashed. She has to change her plan a few times, and I think that she’s the kind of person who is always trying to be in control of everything. … So a few things have to go wrong with that plan for her to learn. Some things have to colossally fail that only she is responsible for. Some plans that she has about her personal life have to fail before she can understand that she’s not the one who can control what’s going on with her life, either. … Her whole thing is, “I can do it. Just leave me alone and I can do it perfectly.”

There are a lot of people in this world like that.

Right? She’s also very afraid of intimacy, which is why it’s nice to me whenever we see her alone … She’s sort of this, like, kid. This is not a girl who was raised by normal parents. She was raised by wolves. So she does things that you don’t quite do if you were raised by adults who care about you. … And that’s the badge she carries out in front of her. But that’s such an immature feeling in the world. I look forward to people seeing that, over the season, things happen to her that are out of her control. And she has to learn how to deal with those things, and learn that sometimes trying to grab it tighter isn’t the solution.

How much did you know about organizations like The Innocence Project, which your character’s work is based upon?

Before I started, I only knew what I saw from Conviction, from Tony’s movie. Then, for our pilot two years ago, I watched this documentary After Innocence, and then I read the book Actual Innocence.  Then Paul and I met for a day at the Innocence Project and talked to everybody there, all the interns and all the lawyers. Then, when we went back to shoot the series, I was an intern at the Innocence Project for four to six weeks.

I was working closely with this one lawyer… who was great. I was working with him on one case in particular and a couple of smaller cases as they came up. I learned a lot about the kind of day-to-day aspects … and the thing that was really special about it is that when something amazing happens, a cheer goes up. Everybody starts cheering.

… I do remember that one of the interns, when I was getting really overwhelmed emotionally, just from reading trial transcripts about the crimes that happened, she said, “Oh yeah, in your first two weeks you gotta take a lot of walks around the block.” Because you can’t really bring it home and talk to your family and friends … It was a special place to learn about.

This is such an interesting show for WEtv. To do a show about race, class, and the growing socioeconomic divide in a large city is a really bold choice for a first scripted series.

And I think that is the most thrilling thing about this move over to WEtv. When [the pilot] was with AMC, and they were looking for something to bring WE into the world of AMC and Sundance…the great Cheryl Bloch, the VP of Scripted, she fell in love with this show. She felt it was perfect,  because they didn’t want it to feel like “Bridezillas”. They wanted it to be taken seriously. … And to be the first one, it is a big risky move that excites me, and I support that. Tony in particular was really excited because being the first has a great energy behind it, in terms of the way that we’ll be treated by the network.

It’s been a journey, from when we shot the pilot for AMC two years ago. But the cast is so strong, and we’ve all become so close as a result. And Richie and Tony are these pillars for us.

Were the any films or TV shows that you were watching that influenced your performance in “The Divide”?

Oh, there were big ones. One was The Central Park Five documentary, which was major…and again, After Innocence was huge, I re-watched that. But while I was doing the show, I binged like crazy on “Damages,” which I had never seen. When it was airing was the time when I didn’t have these bingeing capabilities that we do now…I remember watching it and saying, “This is so great, because you’ve got these strong women.”

That one is much more obviously a legal show, but there are also so many out-of-the-box ways of doing things. It also has that thriller aspect without being too over the top… so that was kind of fun.

…Also, I watched “Nurse Jackie”. I was so fascinated by thinking about… the beginning of this whole wave of television. I was watching a lot of the beginnings of shows, those big shows that started it all, “The Sopranos,” and “Six Feet Under”, I was watching a lot of those. Because, frankly, I’ve done arcs on things, but to be in on the ground level, I was having conversations with Richie and Tony about what it’s like to make something. I was reading that book Difficult Men that came out a year or two ago, about David Milch, and Matthew Weiner, and Vince Gilligan. I was interested finding out about how these things happened. And then I was dying to watch more Edie Falco, just watching how she was able to maintain such an anti-hero female character. How do you maintain that? So that was my version of on-the-job training.

ABC Sets Fall Premiere Dates

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 15 July 2014 12:09 PM, PDT


On Tuesday ABC revealed its fall premiere dates to reporters assembled at the 2014 Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour, currently underway in Los Angeles. ABC officially kicks off its 2014-2015 scripted line-up on Monday, September 22, with a sneak preview of new supernatural procedural “Forever“, starring Ioan Gruffudd as a 200-year-old doctor who cannot figure out why he can’t die. “Forever’s” officially airs Tuesdays at 10pm, a timeslot in which ABC has had problems finding success for some time now. The network is hoping that the audience for week two of “Dancing with the Stars” will sample “Forever” that Monday, and return to watch it on Tuesdays.

Among ABC’s most popular returning series, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” kicks off its second season at 9pm Tuesday, September 23, while executive producer Shonda Rhimes‘s Thursday night power block premieres Thursday, September 25 with new seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy” at 8pm and “Scandal” at 9pm, followed by the series premiere of the highly anticipated “How to Get Away with Murder“  at 10pm.

Keep reading for ABC’s full premiere schedule:

Monday, September 15

8pm “Dancing with the Stars” (Two-hour premiere)

 Monday, September, 22

10pm “Forever(Special Sneak Preview)

Tuesday, September 23

9pm “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

10pm Forever(Regular Time Period Premiere)


Wednesday, September 24

8pm:  “The Middle

8:30pm: “The Goldbergs

9pm: “Modern Family

9:30pm: “Black-ish

10pm: “Nashville



Thursday, September 25

8pm “Grey’s Anatomy

9pm “Scandal

10pm “How to Get Away with Murder


Friday, September 26

8pm “Shark Tank

10pm “20/20

Sunday, September 28

8pm: “Once Upon a Time

9pm: “Resurrection

10pm: “Revenge



Monday, September 29

10pm “Castle


Tuesday, September 30


8:30pmManhattan Love Story


Friday, October 3

8pm “Last Man Standing

9pm “Shark Tank” (Regular Time Period Premiere)


Sunday, October 5

7pm “America’s Funniest Home Videos


Friday, October 10

8:30pm  “Cristela



TCA: NBC’s “Constantine” Casts Angélica Celaya As New Female Lead

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 13 July 2014 3:56 PM, PDT

Following the departure of its female lead, “Constantine” has cast Angélica Celaya in the role of Zed, who will be introduced after the premiere episode. Celaya has previously appeared in a number of telenovelas in addition to guest appearances on series such as “Dallas” and “Burn Notice“.

Celaya replaces “Constantine’s” former co-star Lucy Griffiths, although Griffiths and her character, Liv, will remain in the pilot. News of Griffiths’ departure broke days before NBC was scheduled to bring “Constantine’s” cast and producers to the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour, currently in progress in Los Angeles.

Casting changes occurring in the months between a pilot’s official pick-up to series and its premiere are not unusual. However, it’s a little strange for a central character to be introduced in a pilot only to be written out by episode two.  Often budget constraints are the true culprit, but as “Constantine” executive producer Daniel Cerone explained, Liv did not fit the direction in which they wanted the series to go. He added that the writers felt “hamstrung” by her story, which would have made Constantine more of a guide and mentor as opposed to an independent hero. In contrast, Zed’s story is well established in the universe of Hellblazer, the DC/Vertigo comic upon which “Constantine” is based: She is an ally to John Constantine, not to mention a former lover of  who possesses psychic powers.

Hellblazer fans have long desired to see John Constantine receive a treatment that holds closer to the spirit of the comic book than the previous cinematic treatment that starred Keanu Reeves. This is a concern of which executive producer David S. Goyer seems to be aware. In his point of view, disappearing Liv after the first episode is consistent with Constantine’s existence.  “His friends drop like flies,” Goyer said. “He’s this classic noir character who often ends up alone.”

Currently “Constantine” is scheduled to premiere 10pm Friday, October 24 on NBC.

TCA: HBO Sets Boardwalk Empire Premiere, Announces Beyonce & Jay Z Special

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 10 July 2014 2:34 PM, PDT

Sober up, Boardwalk Empire fans. HBO has set a premiere date for the fifth and final season of the Prohibition era drama: September 7.

According to an official network announcement, “Boardwalk’s” eight-episode swan song kicks off in 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression, with Nucky recalling his Atlantic City roots and plotting “a post-Prohibition future.” Thursday morning Timothy Van Patten received a Emmy nomination for the Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for his work on “Boardwalk’s” season four finale, “Farewell Daddy Blues“, its sole Emmy nod in the major categories this year. The drama won a Golden Globe for Best Television Drama as well as a Best Actor Globe for Steve Buscemi in 2011, two among multiple Emmy and Globe nominations through its four-year run.

HBO also will debut a taped special presentation of Beyoncé and Jay Z‘s collaborative “On the Run” tour in September, featuring footage from the September 12 and 13 shows at Stade de France in Paris.  This is not a particularly surprising get on HBO’s part; the premium cable channel has previously aired separate specials about each of them, including the acclaimed intimate portrait Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream.

HBO also announced November returns for its hospital comedy “Getting On” and the comeback of Lisa Kudrow‘s “The Comeback,” as well as establishing a 2015 debut for its prestige film “Bessie” starring Queen Latifah as iconic blues singer Bessie Smith. On the Cinemax front, Steven Soderbergh‘s upcoming hospital drama “The Knick,” which is set in 1900 and stars Clive Owen and Andre Holland, received a second season renewal prior to its series debut, which is scheduled for 10pm Friday, August 8.

In case you’re wondering how “The Comeback,” which was under-appreciated during its initial run, came to be resurrected, here’s the story from HBO’s president of programming Michael Lombardo.”Two men who work for me came in and said, ‘We’d love to see “The Comeback,”‘ he explained. From there, he added, they called Kudrow and her co-creator Michael Patrick King. Before you know it, Valerie Cherish was back in the limelight.

“Michael and Lisa, it’s as if they’ve been thinking about this for the last 10 years,” Lombardo added.

Thank you, Two Nameless Men. Now, perhaps you can work your voodoo on Larry David who, according to HBO execs, insists he is not done with “Curb Your Enthusiasm” but has no concrete plans to bring new episodes to television in the foreseeable future.

While we’re putting in requests, Two Nameless Men, how about getting your boss to reveal who will be starring in “True Detective‘s” second season? Sadly HBO had nothing to announce on that front today, although execs assured us that we may hear some casting news very soon.

To get live updates and coverage of the TCA Winter Press Tour, follow @IMDbTV  and @IMDbMelanie on Twitter.

Emmy Nominations: Highlights & Snubs

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 10 July 2014 8:55 AM, PDT

How sweet, fresh meat. No, we’re not channeling Freddy Krueger; instead, think Crazy Eyes from “Orange Is the New Black”.  Thursday morning’s nominations announcement brought a welcome infusion of new contenders from Netflix’s “Orange” into the running for The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, joining its platform sibling “House of Cards” in securing a foothold in each of the major category races.

“House of Cards” is going up against “Breaking Bad”, “Game of Thrones” ,“Mad Men” “Downton Abbey” and “True Detective” in the Outstanding Drama Series contest, while “Orange Is the New Black” received a nod for Outstanding Comedy Series, along with “The Big Bang Theory” , “Louie”, “Modern Family” , surprise nominee “Silicon Valley”  and “Veep”.

When you include “Cards” stars  Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright‘s individual Drama performance nominations, “Orange” lead Taylor Schilling‘s Best Actress in a Comedy hat tip, and the Best Comedy Actor nod for “Derek’s” Ricky Gervais , this means Netflix’s series have edged out major traditional platform contenders that mere hours ago were considered to be shoo-ins for nominations. Streaming is effectively the new cable when it comes to attracting Emmy’s attention. Notice that out of all of the nominees in Best Drama, only “Downton Abbey” airs on broadcast television.

Having said that, Netflix still has some catching up to do with traditional broadcasters in terms of overall nominations. Once again HBO tops the pack by scoring 99 nods overall, as CBS comes in second with 47 to NBC’s 46.  FX snagged 45, ABC received 37 and and PBS can boast of 34 nominations. Netflix received 31 nominations — still ahead of AMC’s 26, it must be noted, and Showtime’s 24.

“Game of Thrones” earned the most nominations of any series with 19. FX’s “Fargo pulled in 18, including a nod for Outstanding Miniseries. (A full list of Primetime Emmy nominees can be found in our Road to the Emmys section.)

The competition seems especially fierce this year in the major categories. In the Best Actor in a Drama category, Spacey must contend with the expected face-off between “True Detective’s” duo Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (although some would say that this race is McConaughey’s to lose) along with Jon Hamm for “Mad Men” (his 10th Emmy nomination), Jeff Daniels for “The Newsroom”, and Bryan Cranston for his final season run on “Breaking Bad”. Wright joins “Scandal’s” Kerry Washington in the Lead Actress in a Drama category, as well as “Downton Abbey’s” Michelle Dockery, “The Good Wife’s” Julianna Margulies, “Homeland’s” Claire Danes and “Masters of Sex” star Lizzy Caplan – a welcome addition to this race.

Rounding out the Lead Actress in a Comedy Series race are Amy Poehler for “Parks and Recreation”, Lena Dunham for “Girls” , and a trio of former winners: Edie Falco for “Nurse Jackie” , Julia Louis-Dreyfus for “Veep” and Melissa McCarthy for “Mike & Molly” . The Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category is a gallery of the usual suspects: Don Cheadle for “House of Lies” , Louis C.K. for “Louie”, Matt LeBlanc for “Episodes” , Ricky Gervais for “Derek” and multiple-Emmy winner Jim Parsons for “The Big Bang Theory”. William H. Macy  also received a nod here, his first for “Shameless” but his eighth nomination historically speaking.

However, Emmys morning would not be complete without snubs a-plenty, including the lack of a Lead Actress in a Drama nod for “Orphan Blacks” Tatiana Maslany. (Honestly, how many more clones does she have to convincingly play before Emmy takes notice?) No Lead Actor love for “Masters of Sex” star Michael Sheen, either, or James Spader for “The Blacklist“. No recognition for “Scandal’s” Bellamy Young, who made the awful First Lady Mellie Grant actually kind of likable.

No Outstanding Drama nominations for The Good Wifeafter one of its fiercest seasons, or for Showtime’s excellent Masters of Sex! Nothing for FX’s “The Americans” — nothing! And no big category comedy nods for any of the Fox comedies or its stars, particularly “The Mindy Project’sMindy Kaling or “Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘sAndy Samberg, who won the Golden Globe for Lead Comedy Actor. That said, cheers to “Brooklyn” co-star Andre Braugher for scoring a nod in the Comedy Supporting Actor category, where he’s up against Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson for “Modern Family” , Adam Driver for “Girls”, Tony Hale for “Veep”, and fellow dark horse Fred Armisen for “Portlandia”.

There are also interesting races brewing in categories that aren’t traditionally seen as “hot”, including the individual performances cited in the Miniseries or Movie acting categories. Miniseries and movies themselves contend in separate races. However, the actors and actresses in each of them are thrown together in big category stewpots, which can create some truly strange competition in some cases. Look at the lineup for Lead Actress in a Movie or Miniseries: Kristen Wiig is a fun surprise here thanks to her work in IFC’s  “The Spoils of Babylon”, but we also have  “American Horror Story’s”Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson going up against  Helena Bonham Carter for Burton and Taylor , Minnie Driver for Return to Zero , and Cicely Tyson for The Trip to Bountiful. In what world does this match-up make sense, other than Emmy’s?

Then consider the tight race for Lead Actor in a Movie or Miniseries, which has Idris Elba for “Luther”, Chiwetel Ejiofor for “Dancing on the Edge” , Benedict Cumberbatch for “Sherlock: His Last Vow , Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton for “Fargo” , and Mark Ruffalo for The Normal Heart . Though Thornton and Ruffalo are likely favorites here — Freeman has another chance, with his Movie/Miniseries Supporting nod for “Sherlock” — Cumberbatch and Elba could actually upset the cart, as could the longshot of the bunch, Ejiofor.

Then again, some of these contenders in odd categories are examples of Emmy gamesmanship. “American Horror Story”, which is going into its fourth season,  is a miniseries because FX says it is. Ditto for “Fargo,” if it comes back with a new cast and a new crime (which is highly likely). This brings us back to Crazy Eyes: if there is a category loaded in favor of “Orange is the New Black“, it’s the Guest Actress in a Comedy race, in which three of the show’s standout ensemble players, Uzo Aduba, Natasha Lyonne, and Laverne Cox (who is making history as Emmy’s first transgender acting nominee) received nominations. This puts them up against contenders that fit the more traditional idea of a guest star, including Melissa McCarthy and Tina Fey for their hosting turns on “Saturday Night Live ” and Joan Cusack for her work on “Shameless“.

For a complete list of the 66th Primetime Emmy Award nominees, visit our Road to the Emmys section by clicking here.

The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards telecast airs live on Monday, August 25 at 8pm ET/ 5pm PT on NBC.

TCA: Orphan Black Gets a Third Season & Other News

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 9 July 2014 10:55 PM, PDT

On Wednesday BBC America officially announced thatOrphan Blackwill return for a third season consisting of 10 episodes. The clone thriller’s star, Tatiana Maslany, could wake up to an Emmy nomination for her multi-faceted turn in the series on Thursday morning, further cementing “Orphan’s” and BBC America’s status as a premium destination among basic cable channels.

In addition to this announcement, BBC America also set a timeframe for season two of Broadchurch: New episodes will air in early 2015, which could be advantageous for the cable channel should Fox find success with its American version, “Gracepoint.

BBCAmerica has also picked up two new series: “Tatau”, about two young Londoners who travel to the South Pacific and end up discovering that one has the gift of prophecy; and “The Last Kingdom”, which is set in the year 872 and tells the story of the Viking invasions from the perspective of the ancestral Brits.

These announcements came as part of BBC America’s panel session for Day 2 of the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour, where TV journalists representing news and entertainment outlets from around the country are currently gathered to find out details about the broadcast networks’ fall schedules and upcoming late-summer programming, as well as series pick-ups, renewals and newly announced projects.

To get live updates and coverage of the TCA Winter Press Tour, follow @IMDbTV  and @IMDbMelanie on Twitter.

CBS Sets Its Fall Premiere Schedule

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 24 June 2014 9:37 PM, PDT

Today CBS revealed its fall TV premiere schedule for 2014, which diverges from past years by rolling out gradually between late September and the end of October.

In the past, CBS has favored debuting most of its series during the traditional season premiere week, which would ordinarily fall in late September, specifically the week following the Emmy Awards telecast. But with the Emmys being telecast in late August this year, the network is taking advantage of its Thursday night football broadcasts, which start September 11th.

Worth noting: With the departure of “How I Met Your Mother” on Mondays, the Eye seeks to maintain its comedy night dominance by running back-to-back episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” through the end of October. At that point “Big Bang” moves back to Thursdays, with “The Millers” joining it on the schedule in the 8:30pm timeslot starting on October 30. Taking its place at 8pm on Mondays starting October 27 is the return of “2 Broke Girls“.

Keep reading for the full schedule.

Sunday, Sept. 21

7pm:  “60 Minutes

8pm:  “Madam Secretary

9pm: “The Good Wife

Monday, Sept. 22

8pm: ”The Big Bang Theory

8:30pm:  ”The Big Bang Theory” (New Episode)

9pm: “Scorpion

10pm: “Under the Dome” (Season Finale)

Tuesday, Sept. 23

8pm: “NCIS

9pm: “NCIS: New Orleans

10pm: “Person of Interest

Wednesday, Sept. 24

8pm:  “Survivor

9pm: “Extant” (Two-Hour Season Finale)

Friday, Sept. 26

8pm:  “The Amazing Race

9pm:  ”Hawaii Five-O

10pm: “Blue Bloods

Sunday, Sept. 28

10pm: “CSI

Monday, Sept. 29

8:30pm:  “Mom

10pm: “NCIS: Los Angeles

Wednesday, Oct. 1

9pm: “Criminal Minds

10pm: “Stalker

Monday, Oct. 27 

8pm: “2 Broke Girls

Thursday, Oct. 30

8pm:  ”The Big Bang Theory” (Regular Time Period Premiere)

8:30pm: “The Millers

9pm:  “Two and a Half Men

9:30pm: “The McCarthys

10pm: “Elementary

Review: FX’s “The Strain”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 24 June 2014 5:36 PM, PDT

Vampires stopped being trendy a couple of years ago. Any pop culture aficionado will tell you that. But this should not be a problem for “The Strain”, premiering 10pm Sunday, July 13.  Based on a series of books co-written by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, “The Strain” shuns our dominant ideas of what we imagine vampires to be – seductive, poetic, even sparkly — in favor of a much more grounded interpretation of these monsters.

The vampires in “The Strain” operate like parasites, perpetuating their kind via infection. If they can’t achieve that goal with first-hand contact, the clumps of writhing, burrowing worms they leave behind will do the job.  Yes, this show is gory and disgusting at times; take those viewer discretion advisories seriously if you have a weak stomach.

FX has high hopes for “The Strain”, the first original it has scheduled in the highly competitive Sunday primetime slot. If it proves to be as popular as the network appears to be banking on, “The Strain” could eventually give AMC’s “The Walking Dead” some real competition in this space.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Helping del Toro flesh out his vision for TV is executive producer Carlton Cuse (“Lost “,”Bates Motel“), but it doesn’t take long for del Toro’s signature, visceral style to take hold. The sets are beautiful, and even at its most uncomfortable, the imagery in the premiere is rich.

Proof of its potency will be in how much of the series opener’s audience returns to watch subsequent episodes. After watching the first four hours of “The Strain,” one can’t declare with absolute certainty that FX has a hit on its hands. This assertion is not a matter of quality; those installments are quite watchable. But one wonders if horror show viewers have the patience to wait several episodes for the frights to really start kicking in.

“The Strain’s” series premiere feels like a medical investigation drama, as most of the action revolves around the Center for Disease Control’s New York-based Canary Team and a mysterious pawn shop broker, Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), who has a past with these creatures.

Viewers won’t meet another key character, a rat exterminator named Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand), until the second episode. But he’s destined to be a fan favorite, along with Gus Elizalde (Miguel Gomez), a reformed gangbanger who is very protective of his family, especially his mother.

Canary Team’s Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and his colleagues Dr. Nora Martinez (Mía Maestro, an odd fit in this role) and Jim Kent (Sean Astin), are the first people called in to investigate when a plane from Germany lands in a dark area of the airfield and goes silent…and cold. Inside, Eph and Nora discover a cabin full of passengers who appear to have died with little evidence of struggle.

Then things really get strange.

In the course of these events we also meet Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde), the astronomically wealthy head of a conglomerate known as the Stoneheart Group. The dying Palmer would rather live forever, which is why he’s made a deal with an ancient species represented by a calculating executive known as Thomas Eichhorst (Richard Sammel).  Other players are unwittingly drawn in to this plan, including a modern shock rockstar named Bolivar (Jack Kesy), who holds sway over millions of fans.

If you’re hoping to see hordes of Nosferatu swarming the streets of Manhattan and chomping on unsuspecting pedestrians, prepare to be disappointed. The first few episodes of “The Strain” reveal the smallest glimpses of these vampires, trading much more in the creepiness of the odd circumstances surrounding that dead plane, including the discovery of a very large piece of cargo that kicks off the vampocalypse.

That said, one of the premiere’s minor subplots involving the doomed flight’s youngest passenger is likely to give you the shivers, perhaps even making you look at your loved ones a bit differently.

“The Strain’s” first challenge will be to earn the audience’s investment in character development, particularly Eph, who is great at his job but a detached father and husband. Because of this, his wife Kelly (Natalie Brown) is in the process of leaving him and taking custody of their son, Zack (Ben Hyland). The writers spend a lot of time persuading us to care about this man and his personal problems, banking on the idea that the terrifying onslaught just around the corner will add a new dimension to his profile. It’s a noble idea, but can’t this be accomplished while they’re fighting loads of monsters? That is what a number of people are tuning in for, after all.

Indeed, relying on the audience’s faith in the source material and asking for patience is risky these days, thanks in part to our near-peak saturation of all things zombie-related. Backstory is wonderful, but the promise of screams and adrenaline-fueled flights from shambling death is the reason we’re attracted to this genre.

As such, the pacing of horror storytelling has sped up significantly. Consider the very first episode of “The Walking Dead”. We meet Rick Grimes as he’s heading into an ill-fated confrontation with armed criminals. A bullet badly wounds him, the scene fades to black. Soon after Rick wakes up in a dead world – and that’s when we begin to find out what kind of man he is.

There are merits to slowly revealing the horror at the center of this kind of tale, of course, especially if the goal is to aim for the pain. Perhaps seeing Eph fighting for his family, and Gus doting on his mother, will lend an extra touch of tragedy to the unfolding tale. Forgive us for wishing we weren’t spending so much time in an emotional holding pattern, but don’t worry, FX.  Plenty of viewers are hungry enough to see where this series takes us. Yes, we’ll bite.

“The Strain” premieres at 10pm Sunday, July 13 on FX.

AMC Renews “Better Call Saul”, Moves Premiere to 2015

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 19 June 2014 3:37 PM, PDT

Either AMC’s suits really like what they have seen of “Better Call Saul“, or they’re hungry for a show that’s virtually guaranteed to arrive with a built-in audience. (Or, just as likely, it’s a little bit of both. ) Whatever the case may be, the basic cable network has already renewed its “Breaking Bad” prequel for a second season.

AMC announced via press release that it has ordered a second, 13-episode season of “Better Call Saul”, which brings the drama’s initial episode order to 23.  Additionally, AMC has moved “Better Call Saul’s” premiere date back from the previously announced target of November to early 2015, with season two scheduled to begin in early 2016. The network plans to harness the success of “The Walking Dead” to launch “Saul”. Given the lackluster ratings for its latest drama entry, “Halt and Catch Fire“, this seems like a wise strategy.

“Better Call Saul’s” ten-episode first season commenced production earlier this month in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  ”Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan is directing the series premiere, and will share showrunner duties with Peter Gould, who originally created the character of Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk.

The photo featured here is the first official production photo that AMC has released.

NBC Sets Its Fall Premiere Dates

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 2 June 2014 12:13 PM, PDT

And the award for first network to set its fall schedule goes to…NBC.

Today the Peacock leaped out of the gate with a first look at its fall premiere schedule. We’re calling it a first look because at this early in the game, it’s inevitable that some premiere dates will shift. That said, NBC is in a dominant position in the ratings for the first time in years, so what you’re seeing today probably won’t change all that much.

For example, you can count on “The Blacklist‘s” 10pm return on Monday, September 22, to remain in place regardless of what the competition serves up against it. Ditto on “Parenthood’s” 10pm premiere in Thursday night timeslot, which will be a challenge but marks the beginning of its final run. The drama’s last, sixth season starts on September 25.

Meanwhile, “Chicago Fire” makes its season premiere at 10pm Tuesday, September 23. A month later, “Grimm” and “Constantine” join the schedule Friday nights at 9pm and 10pm respectively, starting on October 24. And as previously reported, Katherine Heigl‘s “State of Affairs” does not join the schedule until 10pm Monday, November 17 — a very late start, and one that challenges the series to stand out during the holiday season in addition to successfully taking over the timeslot from its previous occupant, ”The Blacklist”. Best of luck with that.

Keep reading for the full schedule of premiere dates from NBC.

Thursday, Sept. 11

8pm: “The Biggest Loser

Monday, Sept. 22

8pm: “The Voice

10pm:  ”The Blacklist

Tuesday, Sept. 23

8pm: “The Voice

10pm: “Chicago Fire

Wednesday, Sept. 24

8pm:”The Mysteries of Laura

9pm: “Law & Order: SVU

10pm:”Chicago PD

Thursday, Sept. 25

10pm: “Parenthood

Friday, Sept. 26

8pm: “Dateline NBC

Thursday, Oct. 2

8pm: “The Biggest Loser

9pm: “Bad Judge

9:30pm: “A to Z

Tuesday, Oct. 14

8pm: “The Voice

9pm: “Marry Me

9:30pm: “About a Boy

Friday, Oct. 24

8pm: “Dateline NBC” (Time Period Premiere)

9pm: “Grimm

10pm: “Constantine

Monday, Nov. 17

10pm: “State of Affairs

“Halt and Catch Fire”: A Chat with Lee Pace

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 22 May 2014 3:15 PM, PDT


When Lee Pace was a kid, his father bought his mother an Adam Osborne personal computer. It was advertised as a portable system, weighing in at a feather-light 24 pounds. “My mom was convinced that it was a fad and a waste of money,” the actor recalls. “Now she’s addicted to her iPhone.”

Pace has been thinking a lot about the evolution of personal technology lately, thanks to his starring role in AMC’s new drama “Halt and Catch Fire”, premiering Sunday, June 1 at 10pm. As Joe MacMillan, a slick former IBM executive, he blows into Texas’s Silicon Prairie in his fast sports car and is holstering an even faster sales pitch. Joe seduces his way into Cardiff Electric, a smaller software company he aims to use as a vehicle to develop a personal computer that is less expensive and better than IBM’s. In those days, that was a dangerous proposition.

Joe knows exactly what he’s doing and what the stakes are. But he also sells confidence, and sells it well, which is how he’s able to enlist the help of Cardiff drone Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), a brilliant engineer knocked sideways by his past failures, and young computer prodigy Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis), in spite of the fact that what Joe is doing to could destroy everyone around him.

In reading this description of Joe, one might think that AMC is trying to introduce another well-dressed, emotionally flawed hero to its audience in order to help ease the pain of losing “Mad Men”. There’s some truth in that assessment; the network needs to replenish its drama stable. If “Halt” not only ignites an audience but inspires young professionals to start wearing skinny ties with their suits, all the better.

But Pace warns against thinking of Joe as Don Draper’s replacement. “When I think of how far Joe comes in this first season, I almost don’t even recognize the man in the pilot, “ he says. “I think of how different he is at the end, how much this experience has transformed him.”

In a recent phone conversation, Pace chatted with us about the Joe/Don thing, the show’s examination of the personal computing boom, and why he turned to one of Richard Gere’s signature 1980s roles as part of creating “Halt and Catch Fire’s” Joe.

IMDbTV: One of my first thoughts upon watching the premiere was that I can foresee people looking at this and saying, “It’s ‘80s Don Draper” – that is, at first blush. But moving deeper into the episode, one can see that your character has a much harder edge. What would you say to someone who might be tempted to compare Joe MacMillan to Don Draper?

Lee Pace: I would say, stick around until episode three, and then answer the question for yourself. I’m such a huge fan of that show [“Mad Men”]. It’s a true, true achievement of fiction. But with this, the subject matter is different and the man is fundamentally different. Yes, it’s a man in a suit in an office who is competent at what he does, and doesn’t necessarily get along with everyone that he’s working with. There are certain similarities.

And I felt the same way when I read [the script] the first time, when I read the pilot. But the more I investigated this guy, and the more I looked for influences not only in the tech world, but within that time, it’s very different. I was looking at not only some of the young hustlers who then became tech titans but, you know… some of those corporate raiders who defined the culture of the ‘80s. Get more. Make more money. Have more sex. Go harder. Go tougher. That’s kind of the path I started down with Joe McMillan.

IMDbTV: You were quite young during this era. … What was your earliest memory of interacting this kind of technology ?

Pace: …I remember video games…Video games play a really interesting part in the role of technology – not only because people our age were playing those video games, but it became such an integrated part of how we grew up, and how we thought. Then video games graduated to [computers] being in school.

…We’re a part of that generation of people that grew up as computers grew up, basically. In a way, those machines have been designed to make our lives happen. Whether it be learning, or playing, or connecting with one another. Our generation, in particular, has a very interesting insight into the world of personal technology, which is specifically what Joe is interested in. Somehow getting this technology into the hands of civilians, for lack of a better word. Out of business.

You have to understand, in the late ‘70s, computers were the size of refrigerators and they served massive companies where people would do their business at terminals that fed into these computers. This is a turning point, where the computers got smaller and smart innovators like Steve Jobs and many, many others…everyone was trying to figure out a personal computer.

That’s what Joe is interested in. Joe is trying to connect the dots between the video games, between Atari and the fact that people want these machines in their homes. Back at IBM, everyone is buying these things. Every year, millions more people are buying them.

In the pilot when I say the line, “The computer’s not the thing, it’s the thing that gets us to the thing”, what Joe is excited about is the change in the culture.

IMDbTV: It’s an interesting series both in terms of its content and, for lack of a better term, stylistically. It’s taking this era that’s seen as very sexy and at the forefront of what will become our modern technological age, and yet, all of these things that we take for granted now are seen at their very beginning, and actually very clunky looking. But Joe, he looks like he could live in the current era and not necessarily be a step behind.

Pace: Well, it’s not that distant a history, really. It’s in our lifetime. Joe McMillan is the same age my father was in 1983, which is the age I am right now. That’s an interesting opportunity, personally, for me to get to play. But here we are in a time when, because of innovators like Joe and his contemporaries, innovation has become one of the most exciting things that we live with. The people who create these technologies – Steve Jobs in particular, because he’s one of the most successful at it and the most exciting ideas came from that man – are rock stars. This little time, I actually found it to be a very unexplored dark zone in our recent history. I didn’t really know much about this turning point in our history, and it’s such a significant change.

IMDbTV: What was the most interesting thing that you learned about the corporate politics going on behind the scenes of this boom, when there was still room for other companies besides IBM and Apple to make their mark?

Pace: Oh God, it’s such a huge subject. But when I mentioned those corporate raiders, that’s something that is in Joe’s blood, that idea that you have to be the winner. That there’s only one winner, and it’s gotta be you. Because if it’s not you, it’s going to be someone else. And nobody really cares how you got there. If you are uncompromising, if you win, then people look back on your actions and judge you as a risk-taker, bold and ahead of your time. If you lose, you’re just an a–hole.

Joe knows that, and he comes ready to fight in every way. He’s ready to fight IBM, he’s ready to fight Gordon. He’s ready to push Gordon to make this machine what it needs to be. Because there’s only going to be one machine that makes it into the history books, and that’s the machine that Joe wants to make. This is before the Macintosh came out.

IMDbTV:  Is Joe going to be the kind of guy who people are going to, in some ways, aspire to be? You know how influential television characters can be, for better or for worse.

Pace:  I’ve learned a lot about Joe. I’ve learned a lot about myself, playing Joe. Some of the research I did was looking at leadership theory… And I think Joe, in his blood, has got some very good skills at being a leader and some very questionable skills. But the fact is, he is effective. He is going to reach his goals. He is going to complete the mission he set out to complete at any cost. That is the basic component of Joe. He’s that machine… He will remove obstacles, get around them and change the rules to make sure that the mission is complete. Because he believes in it. He believes in the mission more than he believes in anyone’s feelings. He’s not going to validate someone’s hurt feelings when he’s got a million people who need a computer that’s faster, cheaper and smaller.

…Some part of me responds to me by thinking, “Wow, that guy’s a winner. That guy’s a real leader.” And some part of me responds to him and thinks, “That guy is a sociopath.”

IMDbTV: Yes, there’s an element of Joe that is almost devilishly seductive, especially in his interactions with Gordon. He inspires him to do what he does best and to become the person that he wants to be. But you know that he’s only doing it as a means to an end, and he’s going to ditch him as soon as he can. That must be interesting to play.

Pace: It is. It’s simple. I always think about this computer that they’re endeavoring to make is Joe. He is … designed to add value to your life, just like a computer. He is designed to do the things that you need done to make you more money, to get it done quickly, to operate on all systems. Fully compatible. But there are bugs in that machine, and the program is still new and flawed. It’s in that zone that I believe we found the really interesting story of Joe.

IMDbTV: Let’s step back for a bit, even outside of the series, to talk about what’s been going on with you. You’ve had a really interesting couple of years, bouncing back and forth between some incredibly high profile movies. There was a time when all of the movies that you were in at that moment, that were released and in theaters, were in the Top Five [of highest grossing movies at the domestic box office of the day].

Pace:  Oh yeah! That was, not last November but the November before that [2012].  I remember my mother taking a picture of IMDb’s Box Office [listing] and saying, “Lee, this is unbelievable!” I had Lincoln, The Hobbit [ An Unexpected Journey] and Twilight. Totally a moment when I was like, “Oh my god…I’m going to remember this.”

IMDbTV:  That’s great! So I have to ask, with that experience in movies and this – you’ve done a lot of television, like “Pushing Daisies” and “Wonderfalls”– which process do you enjoy more?

Pace:  I mean…I’ve also done theater. I’ve done a play, like, about every other year. The more I do this, the less difference I see between them all. It all becomes interesting in different ways, but it’s still always playing a character. All the characters are different, obviously. Joe is very different than the elven king, who is different than Ronan the Accuser. I mean, that’s really the fundamental difference.

The difference between TV and everything else is, and I find this fascinating, you’re still making it while everyone is watching it. Like, when you’re doing a play, you’ve got the performance, you’ve got control of the performance, and you’re in the same room with your audience. There’s the immediate kind of communication happening.

IMDbTV:  And you have the social aspect with television, too.

Pace:  Which is so fascinating, especially in our time of TV right now. Yeah, the way people talk on Twitter, Tumblr, live tweet during a show. Awfully exciting, because the show is one thing, but just like Joe says, the computer isn’t the thing, it’s the thing that gets us to the thing. The show is one thing, but the way the culture can respond to a show is something completely different and very exciting.

IMDbTV:  One more question. Were there any particular films or television series, when either when you were building this character or dipping into the series experience, that informed your performance or your approach to “Halt and Catch Fire”?

Pace:  American Gigolo. Nine 1/2 Weeks. What else? Oh yes – The Triumph of the Nerds. That was an incredibly informative documentary about this world and the way that these personal computers evolved.

IMDbTV:  Hold on, let’s go back for a minute…what is it about American Gigolo? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that movie.

Pace:   Watch it again, you’ll be amazed. First of all, he’s just about the coolest thing you’ve ever seen. I don’t know, there are so many things. I loved his performance – he was so cocky and so seductive, and yet so needy, so needy of the people around him. He kind of puts on this mask – there are these gorgeous suits, the Armanis. It was that kind of quality of cool. I’m a far cry from Richard Gere in that. But I think about these people, and I imagine Joe, in his own self-creation, seeing that movie and saying, “Yeah, that’s cool. I like that.” Seeing those suits he wore and saying, “I’m gonna get myself one of those. I want that effect on people that he has. I want my hair to look like that.”… It’s definitely a movie you couldn’t imagine being made today.

AMC’s new drama “Halt and Catch Fire” premieres Sunday, June 1 at 10pm.

FX Sets Summer Premiere Dates for ‘The Strain’ & Others

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 16 May 2014 1:07 PM, PDT

FX is coming on stronger than ever for summer, led by “The Strain”, a vampire thriller co-executive produced by Carlton Cuse and Guillermo del Toro. So far the network has maintained an air of mystery around the highly anticipated series, based on a popular series of books authored by del Toro.  FX even took its sweet time in revealing a premiere date, and now we know why: It is using the series to stake a claim on Sunday nights, the most competitive piece of primetime real estate on the schedule.

Make space on your DVRs, folks. “The Strain” premieres at 10pm Sunday, July 13.

This marks the first time that FX has scheduled any original programming on a Sunday night. It also means the channel is coming out swinging not only against its basic cable competition on AMC (which airs “Halt and Catch Fire” in that timeslot starting June 1) and TNT (which has “Falling Skies” ), but HBO as well.  Whether it takes a chomp out of HBO’s live audience for its big new series ”The Leftovers”, remains to be seen. The premium cable channel’s post-Rapture drama gets a two-week head start on “The Strain” by premiering on June 29. And interestingly enough, thanks to this scheduling, this means FX  is pitting Cuse’s series against that of his “Lost” creative partner, Damon Lindelof.

Ladies and gentlemen, we officially have an old-fashioned summertime street fight on our hands.

FX announced premiere dates for other new and returning series today as well. The new hour-long drama “Tyrant” premieres 10pm Tuesday, June 24. It follows a Middle Eastern-born physician who has made a life for himself and his family in the United States, only to be lured back home by his despot ruler of a father and terrifying brother.

Meanwhile, the second season of “The Bridge” debuts at 10pm Wednesday, July 9

On the comedy side –  i.e. FXX — “Wilfred” returns at 10pm Wednesday, June 25, paving the way for the launch of a pair of  new anti-romantic comedies in July. “Married,” a comedy about how gloriously miserable it is to have a ring on it, which stars Nat Faxon and Judy Greer, premieres at 10pm Thursday July 17. “You’re the Worst” follows a pair of toxic, destructive people who attempt to make a go at a relationship, and it’ll follow “Married” on Thursdays at 10:30pm.

The CW Adds Two Shows to Its Fall Sked

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 15 May 2014 5:56 PM, PDT

Like CBS, the biggest news at The CW’s Thursday morning upfronts presentation wasn’t which shows were picked up, but the spinoff that wasn’t. Following a great deal of hoopla about a proposed spinoff for “Supernatural“, the littlest broadcast network’s longest running scripted show, The CW chose to pass on the Chicago-set monster mafia offshoot “Supernatural: Bloodlines“, introduced via a backdoor pilot (and underwhelming) episode within the most recent season.

But according to reports, CW president Mark Pedowitz isn’t done with trying to grow the “Supernatural” franchise — which, if you examine both the network’s history and its current roster of successes, is completely understandable. Consider this: “Supernatural” is older than The CW. When UPN and The WB merged in 2006, it was one of the few genre series to make the cut from The WB’s side, along with “Smallville”. And when UPN launched, the network’s branding clearly emphasized that it was targeting young women. “Supernatural” and “Smallville” were treated as vestigial programming to appease the geek viewers who were never, ever going to watch “Top Model”.

Jump ahead nearly a decade, and according to Pedowitz, The CW is enjoying its most-watched season in nearly a decade thanks to the success of – what? – its genre programming, anchored in no small part by the continued success of “Supernatural”.

However, while The CW’s other main breadwinner “The Vampire Diaries” spawned a successful spinoff with “The Originals“, as has “Arrow” with the highly-anticipated new fall series “The Flash“, The CW still hasn’t found a way to expand the Winchesters’ family tree, from a brand perspective. You can bet it’ll keep on trying.

Besides “The Flash,” only one other new series joins The CW’s fall line-up, and that is “Jane the Virgin“. Based on the description, “Jane” builds its plot on a device that seems to defy logic. But what do we know? On a network with only 10 primetime hours of fill, six of which are devoted to tales of meta-humans, vampires and demon hunters, it’s probably not that big of a deal.

The CW’s other new series, “iZombie” and “The Messengers“, join the schedule in midseason, along with the returns of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Hart of Dixie “.

Read the official descriptions of “Jane the Virgin” and “The Flash” on our list, Fall TV 2014-2015: The New Series, by clicking here.

For a quick list of CW shows that have been renewed or cancelled, click here.


8pm: “The Originals

9pm: “Jane the Virgin



8pm: “The Flash

9pm: “Supernatural



8pm:  “Arrow

9pm: “The 100



8pm: “The Vampire Diaries

9pm: “Reign



8pm: “Whose Line Is It Anyway?

8:30pm: “Whose Line Is It Anyway?

9pm: ”America’s Next Top Model

Amazon Sets Premieres For Its Children’s Series

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 15 May 2014 6:00 AM, PDT

We interrupt our regularly scheduled news blasts from Network Upfronts Week to bring you this announcement: Amazon Studios has set premiere dates for “Tumble Leaf,” “Annedroids” and “Creative Galaxy“, its first three children’s series.

According to a Studios release that went out this morning, the first six episodes of each show will debut this summer, beginning with “Tumble Leaf” on May 23, followed by ”Creative Galaxy” on June 27, and live-action series ”Annedroids” on July 25. Additional episodes of the shows will follow later this year. Prime subscribers can watch all of these shows for free on Prime Instant Video.

Click here to watch a clip from “Tumble Leaf”. Read details about each series, taken directly from the Amazon Studios press release:

“Tumble Leaf  (for preschool-aged children)

Tumble Leaf debuts May 23 and comes from Emmy Award-winning director Drew Hodges and award-winning studio Bix Pix Entertainment. The preschool aged show follows Fig the Fox and his best friend Stick as they discover adventure, friendship and love around every bend. Themes found in the show promote exploration and scientific thinking through play. The talent behind the characters includes Christopher Downs as “Fig” and “Stick,” Zac McDowell as “Hedge,” Addie Zintel as “Pine,” Brooke Wolloff as “Maple” and Alex Trugman as “Ginkgo.”

Creative Galaxy (for preschool-aged children)

On June 27, Amazon Studios will introduce Creative Galaxy from acclaimed creator Angela Santomero  and Out of the Blue (Super Why!, Blue’s Clues, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood), and features Samantha Bee (The Daily Show), Christian Distefano, Jason Jones (The Daily Show), Cloris Leachman (Malcolm in the Middle), and Jason Priestley (Beverly Hills 90210). In this make-along, create-along, interactive art adventure series for preschoolers, characters Arty and Epiphany travel around the galaxy to solve problems with art, inspiring creative thinking through crafts, music and dance. To give kids and parents the real-life tools they need to re-create Arty’s experience, a live-action piece at the end of each animated episode will take viewers through the craft project that Arty showcased in the galaxy.

Annedroids (for children ages 4 to 7 years)

Annedroids, about a young scientist, will be available starting July 25. Created by Emmy-nominated JJ Johnson (Dino Dan) and Sinking Ship Entertainment, and aimed at children aged four through seven, Annedroids is a live-action adventure series about a young female genius, her human friends, android assistants and the amazing scientific discoveries they make while undertaking the biggest experiment of them all: growing up. Addison Holley (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) stars as “Anne,” Adrianna Di Liello (Stage Fright) plays her friend “Shania,” and Jadiel Dowlin plays “Nick.”

All Amazon Original children’s series will be available for unlimited streaming through Prime Instant Video on Fire TV, Kindle Fire, iPad, iPhone, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, Wii and Wii U, and other connected devices, and online at www.amazon.com/PIV. The series will also be available through Amazon’s Kindle FreeTime app and via Kindle FreeTime Unlimited. “

CBS’s New Sked Has Spinoffs, But Not “How I Met Your Dad”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 14 May 2014 10:11 AM, PDT

Kids, remember when we told you that CBS had a “How I Met Your Mother” spinoff in the works titled…wait for it… wait for it… “How I Met Your Dad”? Remember how a number of you thought that was not the greatest idea?

As it turns out, CBS agrees with you. When the Eye unveiled its fall programming plans this morning, the “HIMYM” offshoot was neither on the schedule nor on its list of midseason pick-ups. That does not mean the network is spinoff-phobic. Among the eight new CBS shows joining the 2014-2015 season lineup, two of them grew out of the network’s signature procedurals: “NCIS: New Orleans”, which takes the 9pm Tuesday timeslot; and ”CSI: Cyber”, which premieres later in the season at 10pm Sundays – the new home for the “CSI” flagship series.

That means three hours of CBS primetime will be “NCIS” related, and if “Cyber” takes off, the long-in-the-tooth “CSI” will have spawned a new generation to reinvigorate the franchise.

Viewers who care enough to whine about the lack of changes to CBS’s schedule for 2014-2015 will surely do so, but it has long since shrugged off that criticism. That’s what happens when a network has a dominant formula. There’s no reason to change things around very much.

Indeed, CBS has one of the most strategically sound schedules on television: Twenty one veteran shows are returning to the schedule, which means few potholes to fill. Only five of the new series will premiere in the fall.  It boasts having broadcast television’s most successful roster of comedies, adding only one new sitcom, ”The McCarthys”, to Thursday nights. If that fails, CBS has “Mike & Molly” ready to jump in; if a new drama crashes and burns, the network will simply send in “The Mentalist”.

With the addition of NFL games on Thursday nights through the end of October, the Eye remains poised to stay in the pole position as the new season’s ratings race gets underway. To prevent audience erosion for its hit comedy “The Big Bang Theory” while simultaneously keeping its Monday night comedy brand alive and kicking, Sheldon and Leonard will open the season at 8pm Mondays before ceding the timeslot to “2 Broke Girls” post-football. Conceivably this could also bolster the audience for “Mom” – important, given that Chuck Lorre’s longest running sitcom on CBS, “Two and a Half Men”, is officially entering its final season.

Besides the spinoffs, two of the new dramas joining the crimetime network are, you guessed it, procedurals. “Stalker” follows Los Angeles Police Department detectives who investigate stalking incidents, and stars Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott. (Make what you will of the fact that “Criminal Minds”, a show that loves depicting people in peril, and in cages, and in basements, and in boxes, is its lead-in.) “Scorpion” is about a team within Homeland Security that investigates “complex, high-tech threats of the modern age.”

The third, “Madam Secretary”, stars Téa Leoni as a fictionalized Secretary of State and serves as bridge programming to retain the “60 Minutes” crowd on Sundays, while theoretically and thematically pairing well with “The Good Wife”.

Two previously announced new series will premiere later in the season: CBS’s reboot of “The Odd Couple” starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon as Oscar and Felix, and “Battle Creek”, the new series from Vince Gilligan (“Breaking Bad”) and David Shore (“House M.D.”).

To read the official descriptions of new series, check out our list, Fall TV 2014-2015: The New Series, by clicking here.

For a quick list of CBS shows that have been renewed or cancelled, click here.


8pm: “The Big Bang Theory“/ “2 Broke Girls

8:30pm: “Mom

9pm: “Scorpion

10pm: “NCIS: Los Angeles



8pm: “NCIS

9pm: “NCIS: New Orleans

10pm: “Person of Interest



8pm:  “Survivor

9pm: “Criminal Minds

10pm: “Stalker



8pm: “The Big Bang Theory” (starting Oct. 30)

8:30pm: “The Millers” (starting Oct. 30)

9pm: “Two and a Half Men” (starting Oct. 30)

9:30pm: “The McCarthys” (starting Oct. 30)

10pm: “Elementary” (starting Oct. 30)



8pm: “The Amazing Race

9pm: ”Hawaii Five-0

10pm: ”Blue Bloods



7pm: “60 Minutes

8pm: “Madam Secretary

9pm: “The Good Wife

10pm: “CSI“/ “CSI: Cyber

ABC Unveils Its Fall Plans

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 13 May 2014 4:11 PM, PDT

Surely ABC will figure out some way to let the world know that its Thursday nights officially belong to executive producer Shonda Rhimes , the name behind “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal“. Now that Rhimes has taken over the 10 o’clock slot with the new series “How to Get Away with Murder“, they should just call it ShondaLand, or ShonDay, and be done with it.

While it may seem that ABC executives handed the keys to the network over to Rhimes as it unveiled its fall schedule – when you’re fourth place in the ratings, any strategy has to be better than what’s going on now — that’s not quite the case. However, Rhimes’s ascent is just one example of the Alphabet’s very visible commitment to diversity this season. “Murder” and “Black-ish” star African-American actors, and ABC’s new Friday night comedy, “Cristela“, is a vehicle for Latina comedian Cristela Alonzo. “Selfie” and “Manhattan Love Story” both feature diverse casts.

That means that out of the six new series that ABC is rolling out for fall, five of them feature minority leads or co-stars…and that doesn’t even count midseason comedy “Fresh Off the Boat“.

The sixth fall show, “Forever“, stars Ioan Gruffudd as an immortal doctor, and that’s just fine because Gruffudd is British. As television and film have taught us, British people can do many whimsical, otherworldly things that we clunky Americans cannot. (On a side note, did you know that the president of ABC, Paul Lee, is British?)


“Forever” represents ABC’s efforts to get a toehold at 10pm Tuesdays, something is hasn’t been able to do in quite some time. To give it a chance, ABC has moved “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” to 9pm and is opening the evening with a pair of new comedies, “Selfie” and “Manhattan Love Story“. That means “The Goldbergs” moves to a much more compatible slot on Wednesday nights at 8:30pm, where it serves as the hammock between “The Middle” and “Modern Family“. If all goes as planned, this will strengthen the network’s Wednesday night comedy block and provide a strong launchpad for “Black-ish“, a new half-hour starring Anthony Anderson and Laurence Fishburne.*

To read the official descriptions of new series, check out our list, Fall TV 2014-2015: The New Series, by clicking here.

For a quick list of ABC shows that have been renewed or cancelled, click here.


8pm: “Dancing with the Stars

10pm: “Castle



8pm: “Selfie

8:30pm: “Manhattan Love Story

9pm: “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

10pm: “Forever



8pm:  “The Middle

8:30pm: “The Goldbergs

9pm: “Modern Family

9:30pm: “Black-ish

10pm: “Nashville



8pm: “Grey’s Anatomy

9pm: “Scandal

10pm: “How to Get Away with Murder



8pm: “Last Man Standing

8:30pm: “Cristela

9pm: ”Shark Tank

10pm: ”20/20



7pm: “America’s Funniest Home Videos

8pm: “Once Upon a Time

9pm: “Resurrection

10pm: “Revenge

*We don’t know for certain whether this means Fishburne is done with “Hannibal“. If it gives fans any comfort, remember that “Hannibal” only runs for 13 episodes per season, and Fishburne’s character has been designated as a recurring role on “Black-ish”. He’s also one of the ABC comedy’s executive producers, so he would be hanging around in some capacity anyway.

NBC Sets Its Fall Schedule

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 12 May 2014 4:10 PM, PDT


Not long ago, NBC wasn’t just a joke among the major broadcasters, it was a punchline. Make that, the punchline. Mired in fourth place with no bonafide hits to speak of, the best that the Peacock could offer in defense of its existence was that two of its Thursday night comedies, “Parks and Recreation” and “30 Rock“, were critically-beloved and multiple award winners. Critics praised NBC for sticking with these well-made comedies in spite of the fact that their ratings were perennially, criminally low.

Cut to the end of the 2013-2014 television season, and NBC is poised to finish on top. Yes, part of that is due to the boost that the Olympics afforded the network in midseason. Another part is due to the fact that the competition has suffered declines in the same-day audiences for their shows. If the Sochi games taught us anything, it is this: In a race downhill, the winner tends to be the guy who wipes out the least.

Even so, the power of “The Voice” was apparent long before the Winter Games. Not only did the reality competition show successfully help to launch “The Blacklist“, it also has eclipsed Fox’s “American Idol” in cultural relevance and ratings dominance. NBC added Dick Wolf’sChicago PD” to the schedule on the heels of “Chicago Fire“, which keeps Wolf on NBC’s payroll even as “Law & Order: SVU’s” potency is waning. Friday, though low-rated, is solidly branded with “Grimm” as a 9pm tentpole leading into “Constantine” in the fall and “Hannibal” in midseason.

NBC has a long way to go before it can celebrate a renaissance, however. Thursday nights remain a struggle, and the network still hasn’t figured out how to get into the Sunday night game. (Adieu, “Believe“, and so long, “Crisis“.) The good news is that NBC is much more realistic about its situation these days. Just as importantly, it is more open to killing its low-rated darlings than it has been in the past. While that’s not particularly great news for fans of “Revolution” and “Community“, it signals that the Peacock is ready to take bold steps to ensure that its climb continues.  And before you accuse the bird of cruelty, remember that it renewed both “Parenthood” and “Parks and Recreation” (which will premiere in midseason), granting each of them farewell seasons to create proper send-offs.

NBC appears to have finally admitted to itself that CBS has claimed the comedy crown on Thursdays, slimming down its comedy block to the 9 o’clock hour to get out of “The Big Bang Theory’s” way – that is, at least until midseason. Most notable is its intent to move “The Blacklist” to the highly-competitive 9pm Thursday timeslot when that show returns from its midwinter hiatus in February.

Notice that we’re talking a lot about existing series here. That is because for the first time in eons, NBC has enough going in its favor to keep its schedule relatively stable. You’ll be able to find your old faves – great news! Now the question is whether audiences will look for the new shows joining the schedule, including “State of Affairs“, also known as the Great Re-Awakening of Katherine Heigl’s Television Career.

Below is the full NBC schedule for the fall 2014-2015, taken from the press release. Note that these line-ups are subject to change, especially after the competition reveals their plans.

To read the official descriptions of new series, check out our list, Fall TV 2014-2015: The New Series, by clicking here.

For a quick list of NBC shows that have been renewed or cancelled, click here.

8pm: “The Voice
10pm:  ”The Blacklist“/ “State of Affairs” (beginning Nov. 17)


8 pm: “The Voice
9 pm: “Marry Me
9:30 pm: “About a Boy“.
10 pm: “Chicago Fire

8 pm:”The Mysteries of Laura
9 pm: “Law & Order: SVU
10 pm:”Chicago PD

8pm: “The Biggest Loser
9 pm: “Bad Judge” (“The Blacklist“beginning Feb. 5)
9:30 pm: “A to Z
10 pm: “Parenthood

8 pm: “Dateline NBC
9 pm: “Grimm
10 pm: “Constantine

7-8:20 pm: “Football Night in America”
8:20-11:30 pm:  “NBC Sunday Night Football”

Fox Reveals Its Fall Schedule, Sets “Gotham” on Mondays

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 12 May 2014 9:19 AM, PDT

The broadcast networks’ annual dog-and-pony shows, also known as the upfront presentations, have officially kicked off. Monday, Fox and NBC revealed their fall schedules to advertisers – and, thanks to numerous reports like this one, the average folks who buy the products they’re selling.

Mainly, the upfronts exist to secure advertiser spending commitments for airtime far ahead of the fall season’s premiere. The more attractive the programming schedule, the more money will be spent to secure plum slots for commercial time. But for Average Jane and Joe Couch Surfer, upfronts week is commonly known as the week that we find whether our favorite shows are coming back for another season, have been cancelled, or perhaps have suffered a more precarious fate by being benched or moved.

It’s also fun to find out when highly-anticipated new series are premiering, of course. From that perspective, if you’re a genre fan, the night to watch Fox will be Mondays: The highly-anticipated Batman origin story “Gotham” will open the night at 8pm, followed by the second season of “Sleepy Hollow” at 9pm.

There’s always a mixed bag of news to report with every network, but Fox is getting the week off to a bold start by tossing its schedule like a salad. Not one weeknight has been left untouched for fall 2014-2015… not even Sunday’s block, previously branded as the Animation Domination line-up.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine“, the only successful new half-hour among Fox’s freshman comedies, will move from Tuesday nights to Sundays at 8:30pm, the slot currently occupied by “Family Guy“. The Griffins move to 9pm, serving as a lead-in to new comedy “Mulaney“, a vehicle for comic and writer John Mulaney (“Saturday Night Live “).  (The fate of the 9pm Sunday timeslot’s current occupant, “Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey“, is yet to be confirmed.)

Meanwhile on Tuesdays, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s” former home (along with cancelled “comedy” “Dads“),  Fox is introducing its version of the Dutch unscripted series “Utopia“. Like the European series, which has streamed live on the internet since January 2014, “Utopia” will challenge fifteen people to move to an isolated, undeveloped location for a year, where they must create their own civilization from the ground up. It serves as the new lead-in to “New Girl” at 9pm, following by “The Mindy Project” at 9:30pm, signaling the end of genre-consistent line-ups on Tuesday as well.

Fox’s workhorse procedural “Bones” continues its peripatetic journey around the schedule. During the current season, it aired on Mondays and Fridays. In the fall it will move to Thursdays at 8pm, where it will be paired with “Gracepoint”, the American adaptation of the critically-acclaimed U.K. crime drama “Broadchurch” (which aired in the U.S. last summer on BBC America). “Doctor Who’s” David Tennant, who starred in the U.K. version, co-stars in “Gracepont” alongside Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad“).

Thursdays are always a tough night for any network that isn’t CBS, but depending on what kind of reception “Gracepoint” gets, this one-two punch of murder mysteries could become one of Fox’s most solid evenings on the schedule. It also must be noted that this is the first time in several seasons that Fox hasn’t counter-programmed with unscripted on that night during the fall, thanks to the cancellation of “The X Factor“.

Fox also scheduled the hospital dramedy “Red Band Society”, starring Octavia Spencer, at 9pm Wednesdays after “Hell’s Kitchen“.

Other previously announced new series pick-ups, including “Backstrom”, “Hieroglyph”, “Empire”, “Bordertown”, “Last Man on Earth”, “Wayward Pines” and “Weird Loners” will join the schedule in 2015. Returning in midseason are “American Idol“, “The Following” and “Glee“, along with other series to be announced at a later date.

Below is the full Fox schedule for the fall 2014-2015 season, taken from the press release. Note that these line-ups are subject to change, especially after the competition reveals their plans.

To read the official descriptions of the new series, check out our list, Fall TV 2014-2015: The New Series, by clicking here.

For a quick list of Fox shows that have been renewed or cancelled, click here.


8 pm: Gotham” 

9 pm:  “Sleepy Hollow



8 pm: Utopia

9 pm:  “New Girl

9:30pm: “The Mindy Project



8 pm: “Hell’s Kitchen

9pm:  Red Band Society”



8 pm: “Bones

9pm: Gracepoint”



8 pm:  “MasterChef Junior

9 pm: Utopia



7 pm:  “NFL on Fox”

7:30pm:  “The OT” / “Bob’s Burgers

8 pm:  “The Simpsons

8:30 pm:  “Brooklyn Nine-Nine

9 pm:  “Family Guy

9:30 pm: Mulaney”


Review: Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 8 May 2014 9:00 AM, PDT

Half the thrill of successful horror is in seeing the ways that the storyteller plays with our assumptions. Twists are fine and good, but the most interesting scary tales take everything we know about a place, character, or theme, and flip it on its head.

That promise is woven into the DNA of Showtime’s new series “Penny Dreadful”, which plays upon our familiarity with some of the greatest Gothic horror figures in literature and the silver screen. Premiering at 10pm Sunday, May 11 on Showtime, “Penny” also serves up plenty frights; the opening minutes of the first episode, “Night Work” (which you can screen online right now) is a veritable stew of horror movie tropes, starting with an unseen, vicious force unleashing terror on innocent, screaming victims.

Soon after that, the camera follows heroes stalking supernatural prey through tunnels filled with human viscera.

Then, everything slows down considerably as this premium cable series does what other of its ilk do – that is, it marinates in character development and style.

Decreasing the storytelling velocity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Executive producer John Logan is introducing what feels like a full utility sink’s worth of characters by the end of the second episode, giving the audience a lot to sort through.

Not to worry, this isn’t a show that requires you to keep reference materials containing family trees nearby. Still, it’s a lot to take in.  The good news is, as stated above, most “Penny Dreadful” viewers will recognize a few of the names Logan has inserted into this world, and will likely appreciate his take.

It’s the ones we don’t know, the figures who are original to the series, who require more intricate study. Foremost among them is Miss Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), a mysterious woman with an icy gaze and powers that extend beyond her obvious talents as a medium and soothsayer. Miss Ives sees things in people that others cannot, which initially attracts her to Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) an American gunslinger visiting London with a touring Western show.

Miss Ives recruits Chandler to help her and her partner Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) with a job that she’ll only characterize as, yes, “night work”.  She’s beautiful and doesn’t initially give up her name; Ethan, a red-blooded adventurer, is intrigued. Soon they’re trudging through Nosferatu-infested catacombs on a quest to find a missing girl.

Opening “Penny Dreadful” with a taste of blazing gunplay, swords and our heroes dealing with nasty business could be a wise move in the long run. But in the short term, it’s tough to ignore the sensation of the story’s adrenaline flow decreasing to a trickle as the urgency of the mission on which Sir Malcolm, Chandler and Miss Ives are initially engaged falls by the wayside, for no other good reason than to dive deeper into what makes these people tick. The exposition is intricate, but also feels a bit forced.

Fortunately Ethan, Miss Ives and Sir Malcolm are interesting people. It’s particularly nice to see Dalton in this statesman explorer role; he wears it well, particularly when we find out more about what’s driving Malcolm. Both he and Vanessa Ives are linked to and fascinated by the place Miss Ives refers to as the “demi-monde,” and with the two of them as guides, you’ll want to spend more time there.

Hartnett’s ex-pat cowboy fits in more quickly than one might imagine, mostly because Logan and his writers establish him as a man who finds a way to be comfortably out of place in strange lands.  He makes it easy for the audience to warm up to Ethan Chandler, especially after he establishes a platonic relationship with down-and-out working class girl Brona Croft (Billie Piper), a woman who has reached the end of her rope and simply wants the comfort of friendship. Their budding connection provides a nice counterpoint to another storyline involving an emotionally detached young physician (Harry Treadaway) Malcolm employs to help his team study the odd specimens they encounter.

But playing in the demi-monde can be wearying and dangerous. In the second episode, we find out just how damaging it can be, as we get a glimpse of Miss Ives’ and Sir Malcolm’s profound scars.  One incident that starts out as an innocent parlor game gives us details of Sir Malcolm backstory while also allowing the audience to gain deeper appreciation for Green’s theatrical versatility. Watching her drop her ladylike comportment to twist into a demonic frenzy is downright shocking, and it also grants this expository episode the jolt it needs.

It’s worth noting that in spite of the gore and Victorian grime displayed before our eyes, “Penny Dreadful” is beautiful to watch. J.A. Bayona directs the first two episodes, and the camera makes the most of the lush costumes and gracious parlors, capturing the Romanticism of the period with the same brilliance as the blood and claws.

Methodically-paced though it may be, the performances, scenery and the promise of a good, twisty tale may be enough to buy one’s patience with “Penny Dreadful”. At the very least, hang in there through the end of episode two; the second hour shows us all the ways in which Logan intends to court your attention and steal your heart, only to earn a terrified gasp the very instant that we become too comfortable.   In that moment Logan throws open the door to that demi-monde nice and wide, inviting the audience to explore its marvelous, terrifying depths. Join them, won’t you?

Penny Dreadfulpremieres at 10pm Sunday, May 11, on Showtime.


“Vikings”: A Post-Finale Chat with Gustaf Skarsgård

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 1 May 2014 9:40 PM, PDT

SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains major details about the second season finale of History’s “Vikings,” which aired for the first time Thursday night. If you haven’t seen it yet, leave this page and raid elsewhere. You have been warned.

Former best friends can make the most venomous of enemies. Stories of great friendships turning sour can create epic entertainment, of course, but “Vikings” viewers may have found the apparent rift developing between Ragnar Lothbrok and Floki over the course of season two to be more alarming than anything else. Think of the history these two have — Floki has been truer to Ragnar than Ragnar’s own brother, Rollo, in life and on the battlefield. Floki has been Ragnar’s most vocal champion and his most honest adviser.  In the first season, when Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) was being hunted by his former liege lord, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne), Floki risked his neck to keep his bestie hidden.

Because of all of this, and because of the unique flair that Swedish actor Gustaf Skarsgård has lent to the role, Floki is a beloved character, a man who is equal parts warrior, sage and sinister clown. He’s fierce, funny, scary… and loyal. Or so we thought.

Seemingly overnight during season two, Floki grew fickle. He proposed marriage to his lover Helga (Maude Hirst), only to declare he did not want Ragnar at the wedding in his next breath. He appeared to entertain King Horik’s (Donal Logue) offer to grant him greater prestige, and didn’t blink when Horik proposed that they kill Ragnar’s son, Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig). Heck, Floki all but telegraphed his willingness to knife his friend in the back in the season premiere when he observed, “Who needs a reason for betrayal? One must always think the worst, Ragnar, even of your own kin. That way you avoid too much disappointment in life.”

So when Floki appeared to have poisoned a bedridden Rollo (Clive Standen) and trusted fellow warrior Torstein (Jefferson Hall) to earn King Horik’s blessing,  and when Horik’s men stormed Kattegat with the mission of killing Ragnar, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) and all their children and kin…one can be forgiven for cursing that treacherous boat-builder.

And when all of that poisonous intrigue turned out to be a ruse, Skarsgård and executive producer Michael Hirst probably earned that much more love from the show’s fans.

This “Vikings’” finale stands as a superb ending to a riveting second season. Good times were had by all — except, obviously, for Horik.  It must not have been pleasant to go out with former allies slicing and stabbing him before Ragnar bashed in Horik’s skull with his own. Then again, one imagines that death by forehead beating is far preferable to death by blood eagle.

In the final frame, Ragnar holds the sword of the King, and Floki once again stands by his side. All is right with the world. Or is it? In a recent phone conversation, Skarsgård discussed the role Floki played in his friend’s political ascent and spoke to the question of his character’s trustworthiness.

IMDbTV: Have you gotten any feedback about Floki’s actions this season from the fans?

Gustaf Skarsgård: It’s been over this last season that Floki has been on this crazy journey. He supposedly turns very dark and is about to betray Ragnar, you know. That has had the fans very agitated with Floki. But then of course in the end, we realize he never did betray his friend.

IMDbTV: Yeah, let’s talk about that a little bit… There’s that scene where Floki is discussing with King Horik the possibility of killing Bjorn. Was Floki really just playing King Horik this entire time? Because in a private moment with Helga, he talked about how King Horik understood the dark gods better than Ragnar and that he would have more possibilities with him.

Skarsgård: Floki, he’s going so far and deep into the part. Everything he said, there’s grains in truth in all of it – his slight disappointment with Ragnar, and his kinship with Horik in terms of the gods. But I think he exaggerates all this to play the part, to get close to Horik.

Basically, Floki is method acting his double-agent thing, and he doesn’t let Helga in on it to protect her. What we see, when he tells her that he won’t invite Ragnar to the wedding, he knows that she will go and tell that to her friend Siggy. He knows that King Horik will pick up on this and try to get in closer. So it’s not that he doesn’t trust Helga. But if he knew she could get tortured to tell the truth, it’s better to keep everyone out of it. I think it was just between Ragnar and Floki. They’re the only ones that had known the whole time.

Having said that, I’m not sure that they actually planned to kill and get rid of King Horik, but they definitely planned for Floki to get close to him. I think there is a kinship between Floki and Horik, for sure. The way I see it, the turning point for Floki is when he realized that Horik is actually after Bjorn, to kill Bjorn and get rid of Ragnar. That’s was the turning point, the point beyond return. You don’t f**k with my family, basically.

IMDbTV: Wait, so the entire time Ragnar was in on it ? This was a plan between Ragnar and Floki?

Skarsgård: That’s the way I see it, yes.

IMDbTV:  I ask this for a number of reasons, firstly because I noticed in discussions on our site, people were mourning the dissolution of this friendship. But the way the finale played out, and everything leading up to it, there is that matter of whether we as viewers can actually trust that what we’re seeing is true, that Floki has, indeed, always been loyal to Ragnar.

Skarsgård: Well, that’s an interesting question. We don’t want to give all the answers, but the way I see it, he always was. I also think that, for me, it’s a classic mafia thing… they planted him to get close to the enemy. But also, in the end, there was a true kinship between Horik and Floki. That’s why when everybody is taking a hit on Horik in the end, Floki doesn’t. He walks away and he’s kind of like, ‘I’m sorry, dude, but you f**ked with my family. It didn’t have to go this way.’

IMDbTV:  Floki is almost a very dangerous jester in a way…he’s charming and frightening at the same time.

Skarsgård: That was my goal the whole time. It’s a very interesting balance to tread. On one hand, he’s weird and cute and adorable, and on the other hand, he’s a brutal, crazy killer. And very dark, he has this thread of darkness in him that’s very true. When he names his daughter after a giantess, that’s no act.

IMDbTV:  His reaction to having a daughter, or a child at all, was very conflicted, too. What are we to read from that? Is it actually genuine, or is it part of the method acting we were talking about?

Skarsgård: I think it’s both, but I think that Floki… I think he’s kind of bipolar as well. He bounces between full-on hubris and self-loathing, he goes in one of those two extremes. It’s either like, “I’m chosen by the gods and the gods love my boat!’ or, ‘I’m worthless with my gods and the gods are angry with me and my boats are going to sink.’ It’s either, ‘I’m going to become the greatest father in the world!’ or, ‘I’m going to be an awful father.’ ‘I’m going to have the most beautiful daughter in the world,’ or ‘I’m gonna have a monster.’ He’s always torn between those two extremes.

IMDbTV:  Is that tough to play? It sounds like it would have an effect on you, to play that role.

Skarsgård: I guess so?… I always strive to keep my own balance and sanity, but of course it can be more challenging at times. For me, it’s very fun to have that extreme of a character to play with, especially this season, with all these layers. I am this guy, who’s playing this guy, who’s playing this other character, to get close to this other person. There are so many layers, it’s been so interesting. For people who re-watch this season, and especially the last couple of episodes, knowing that Floki was always true to Ragnar, they would see what little things that I do that is revealing only if you know it. I couldn’t be too apparent with it, because people would know. I had to lead the audience on to think that I actually would betray Ragnar…and still keep it believable that I’d play it this way.

IMDbTV:  Well, it worked.

Skarsgård: Good, good!

IMDbTV: That leads me to the question of going into season three… There’s that scene where Floki tells Ragnar, “I’m a trustworthy person,” and Ragnar responds with this look that says, “C’mon. We both know what’s going on.”

Skarsgård: Yes, but remember, in that shot when we have that argument, there’s a person in the middle who is observing all of this: King Horik. That whole scene is just an act for him.

IMDbTV:  But is Floki, at this point, someone that can be trusted? As you said, half of what he says is the truth.

Skarsgård: We always want to keep everyone on their toes, but… it’s up to you really, how you feel about him. But the way I see it, he’s always been loyal to Ragnar – and especially to Bjorn, the kid. He’s always seen the greatness in Bjorn… so I think that Floki is very loyal, if not only to Ragnar, then especially to Bjorn.

IMDbTV: How much were these stories and this aspect of Scandinavian culture part of your upbringing, and the things that you learned about growing up?

Skarsgård: I would say there’s some, for sure. I would read some books about Vikings and get taught some of it in school. But not nearly as much knowledge as I have for it now, working on the show and doing all the research. It’s fascinating to me on a strictly personal level, because I get to learn so much about the culture.

But then it’s like, this is our history. It’s what we come from. There are so many small details in our society today that come straight from Viking society, in terms of our rituals and traditions… I’ve learned now that there’s so much of our like, say, “Viking-ness”, that we just take for granted because that’s just a part of us. Whereas in Ireland, for example, they have more Viking activities than we have here – they have Viking tours, Viking this and that, because of the Vikings going there. But we take our “Viking-ness” for granted, because that’s just who we were.

IMDbTV:  What’s an example that you’ve noticed is part of culture that is taken for granted?

Skarsgård: Just, like, our word for ‘Cheers.’ We say, “Skol.” That comes from the bowl that they would drink from around these long tables, they would drink from the same bowl. That bowl is called a skol. …Also, places, the names of places stem from the Viking gods. And our names. My third name is Orm — it means ‘snake,’ which is a very old Viking name. There’s so much from Viking culture that comes straight down to our culture.

IMDbTV:  And maybe this is obvious, since Floki and Loki seem similar in behavior in my imagining of what Loki would be like, but did any of that mythology influence your performance?

Skarsgård: Oh definitely. Definitely.

IMDbTV:  What were some other influences that you drew upon?

Skarsgård: It’s hard to describe what inspires you. I would never attempt to copy any other person’s performance, because it’s not subjective and therefore not truthful. Having said that, I keep the inspirational flow completely open. I’m sure I’ve been inspired by many other actors’ performance in terms of how I portrayed this character. But there were so many things that were crucial for me in forming the character – his physicality, his quirkiness, his unpredictability. I also got a lot of help from Johan Renck, who directed the first three episodes from season 1. He set the tone, because he really inspired me to really go for it. I’m so happy that I did, because if I would have half-assed it, it might have just become embarrassing. But I’m going so all-out with the character, because he’s such an extreme character. So I’m glad that he inspired me to dare to go all the way.

IMDbTV:  Where did you get that laugh from? That laugh, and that little dance that you do.

Skarsgård: Yeah! Actually, I was working on it, I was working out this laugh. I was sitting in my hotel room in Ireland and I was like, ‘I gotta find a giggle, this guy needs a giggle.’ I want to keep him at a bubbly level, he’s always up there and ready to giggle. So I was actually sitting in my hotel room, working on different high-pitched, falsetto giggles.

IMDbTV:  It’s rare to be able to do that and not put the audience off. Yet it’s very signature to the character.

Skarsgård: It’s a balancing act. But that’s also what’s interesting about working on a TV show – sometimes I get sick of myself, just standing in the background giggling. I get tired of myself doing it sometimes, so then I might play a scene completely differently. For me it’s important that Floki doesn’t just become the jester, doesn’t just become the fool, which is why I’m so grateful about how this second season came out in terms of the last episode. You really get to see, oh this guy, he’s really smart. He’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s no fool.

IMDbTV:  Since the beginning, there have been a number of great guest stars on this show: Gabriel Byrne, Linus Roache, Donal Logue. I have to ask…We see a lot of Skarsgårds being cast in projects here at IMDb.

(Skarsgård laughs.)

IMDbTV:  Has anyone else in your family expressed interest in coming on the show? Have you guys talked about it at all?

Skarsgård: No, we haven’t. I spoke to my youngest brother Valter [Skarsgård] about it, though.  He’s 18 years old. It would be great fun if he could find something in the show.

Prime subscribers can watch season one of “Vikings” for free on Amazon Instant Video.

“Vikings”: A Pre-Finale Chat with Jessalyn Gilsig

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 30 April 2014 11:47 PM, PDT

Among seasoned channel surfers, History’s “Vikings” is the television explorer’s equivalent of Northumbria. Newcomers stumbled upon episodes much in the way Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his Northmen blindly navigated the rough seas before making their virgin landing on unknown shores. Like those exploring warriors, their efforts were richly rewarded.

As for how season two ends, tune at 10pm tonight (Thursday) to see for yourself – and prepare to be left with a lot questions. We can answer a couple of the big ones for you right now: Yes, there will be a season three, and reportedly Earl Ragnar will raiding a new territory, France.

Other queries likely will have to do with two of this season’s most bewildering figures, Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) and Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård). Going into the finale, each is flirting with the idea of betraying Ragnar to improve their respective stations.

For the moment, however, let us consider Siggy.

“Vikings” features some of the most interesting portrayals of gender roles on television. Men and shield maidens fight side by side, and if a man dishonors his respected wife, she is welcome to end the marriage with her blade.  On TV, the battle-hardened heroine is a much-loved archetype; here, we have Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). Beauty and devotion, the central virtues of Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland), also carry weight. There’s a woman newly freed from being a slave, reveling in choice. There are mothers. And there is Siggy.

In Kattegat’s tight-knit community, Siggy hovers around the edges. When the series began, she was the star of the place, the wife of the previous Earl with a beautiful daughter. But her husband got greedy, challenged Ragnar and was killed in combat. Sickness took what family she had left. Now, Siggy is obsessed with regaining her station. Having hooked Ragnar’s brother Rollo (Clive Standen), she decided to cover her bases by also seducing King Horik (Donal Logue), a man who makes pretty promises but also treats her like a pawn. When the chips are down, it’s hard to say whose side will Siggy choose, and at what cost.

We chatted with Jessalyn Gilsig on the phone about Siggy, the finale, and how far she thinks Siggy will go in season three.

IMDbTV: It has been interesting to watch Siggy’s evolution…When you first opened those scripts and saw where she was headed over the course of season two, what was your reaction?

Jessalyn Gilsig:  She is a woman who is capitalizing on whatever she can find…It’s such an interesting world to live in, because you have to really, I think, separate yourself from what we think of as traditional gender roles.  I get the Lady Macbeth thing a lot. And I get, “Oh, I don’t like Siggy because she’s so ambitious.’ One of the things that’s so unique about this time period that we’re trying to explore is that ambition isn’t gender specific.

This is a woman who has experienced power, who knows how to work with power, how to execute power, and has none at this point. But I always think of her every time I have a scene in the Great Hall. From just watching and observing, I’m always thinking, ‘She’s seen everything before. Nothing is new information for her.’ She has already experienced this, because she’s been the wife to an Earl. So I really like the idea that she’s left with these scraps, and she knows how to generate them and try to set things in place so that she has some options moving forward.

IMDbTV: I find it interesting that people have told you that they don’t like Siggy because she’s ambitious, especially this season. We had Lagertha struggling to balance these ideas of duty to husband and her will as a shield-maiden…then, next thing we know, she’s a Earl.

Gilsig: That’s interesting to hear you say that… there’s the sense that Lagertha is untouchable, she’s driven by the heart. I think people have trouble seeing a woman who is driven by something different than that. Siggy is capable of caring, obviously. She had a family, but she’s calculated and driven by other interests that maybe worked before, over her emotions.

IMDbTV: And she’s lost her family.

Gilsig: Yes, that’s it. What Michael [Hirst] has given me is this woman who is an orphan. Her entire family has been decimated, and she has to find some purpose to go on… I think that in more contemporary storytelling, we would expect this woman to just curl into a ball and be defined by this loss. But it’s a loss that propels her, because she lives on with the legacy she created with the Earl. These are the things that I think about, because what mother could go forward after losing a child? But it’s a bigger calling, I think, that was reflective of the era. There was so much ambition, so much to be discovered, so much of the unknown that everybody wanted to reach. And the women are as driven by that as the men in this series.

IMDbTV: Where do you see Siggy going in the third season?

Gilsig: For me, the finale generates more questions. …When Siggy makes the decision that she makes, how far back does that go? Was it in the moment? Was it always going to be that way? We don’t know. That’s the question going into season three. What has been motivating her this entire time, and how many moves ahead was she? To me, that’s what I want to know, because I think she’s many moves ahead of Ragnar. There’s no way she isn’t, because she’s seen it all. I think she’s being underestimated. But I think that will be the question: How far back does the calculation go?

IMDbTV: We’ve seen Siggy attach herself to several men: first her husband, then Rollo and King Horik. At this point, there isn’t a clear person to ally herself with next season.

Gilsig: I’m going to say this for the sake of conversation: It’s so funny that we think we have to pair up the women with a guy. She may or may not have a guy in the third season…that’s what I like so much about Siggy, because she’s so autonomous. It’s a new idea… She’s still kind of a separate entity, moving through on her own path. …Usually, every other character I’ve ever played wants a guy. That’s not where these women start. They’re capable of love and they experience love and are driven by love, as we all are, but they’re also driven by other things.

IMDbTV: Here’s something I was wondering…Aslaug is based on a figure on history and legend, as is Lagertha. What about Siggy?

Gilsig: She isn’t, and that’s kind of funny….Like, Clive will say, “Oh, I’m gonna invade France.” And I was talking to Alyssa the other day and she says, “Well, my character’s had all her babies.” Everybody knows what their trajectory is going to be, based on what history says. Whereas Siggy, she’s completely fictionalized.

IMDbTV:Is that a refreshing thing to know, or does that make you say, “…At any time I can open the script and find out ‘that’s it for me!’’”

Gilsig: Well, I do think that some of the actors think they have job security based on history, which is a unique position to be in. But I feel like we’re still trying to find the motivation to the people in this world that Michael has created, which has a completely new vocabulary. Think of Travis’s performance – he’s playing a figure in history, but he’s putting texture into him. It’s his own interpretation.

IMDbTV: Speaking of putting textures into characters, were there any performances or figures you drew upon while shaping or evolving Siggy’s character?

Gilsig: I did think about women in power. I thought a lot about Queen Elizabeth, but I also thought about Hillary Clinton, or Condoleezza Rice, women in our contemporary world who are comfortable with power and unapologetic about holding it. And that’s a little bit foreign to me… maybe I can have an assertive thought, but I might it couch in a way to gently deliver it. I play a lot of characters like that too, and I wanted to really see if I could explore that feeling over being comfortable knowing that you’re a person of importance. It’s kind of a different body to sit in for me.

IMDbTV: What about figures in film and TV?

Gilsig: Definitely Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth, and also because Michael had written that, so immediately when I got the job I looked at it. I had seen it of course, but she does such a phenomenal job with that. It’s unquestionable. Of course she has these more vulnerable feminine moments… but it’s fascinating to me when you see it, when you think of Hillary Clinton or Madeleine Albright, these women who don’t feel like they need to the microphone and say, “Heeey… how’s everybody doing?” And, like, crack a joke and make it soft. They just come in with the information. That’s so different from what it’s like to be a woman in Hollywood. I don’t know, maybe I’m going to try it more often. I think I will.

The season finale of “Vikings” airs at 10pm tonight on History. Check back tomorrow for our post-finale chat with Gustaf Skarsgård, the man behind Floki.

Welcome Back, Jack: A Look at “24: Live Another Day”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 29 April 2014 6:12 PM, PDT

A scene in the second episode of “24: Live Another Day” provides a deliciously quintessential Jack Bauer moment, one of those exchanges tailored to elicit a Pavlovian response among fans: Jack is facing down a group of heavily goons, with a pistol to the head of one of their gang. Not counting Jack’s human shield, the odds are three to one.

“Look, I can tell you consider yourself a pretty intimidating group,” Jack tells his adversaries in a calm, confident growl. “You probably think I’m at a disadvantage. I promise you I’m not.”

As you probably know by now, Jack Bauer is a man who delivers on his promises.

24 ” marked the end of Agent Bauer’s bone-breaking exploits, fading out a television series that left an indelible mark on our culture, for good or ill. In its finest hours, it was a ridiculous thrill ride that asked viewers to overlook plot twists and developments that defied reality. Jack, always in pursuit of super-villains armed with weapon of mass destruction who also to assassinate the president, managed to criss-cross Los Angeles in a matter of minutes. In rush hour traffic. By the way, did we mention that during one of these adventures, he also kicked heroin cold-turkey?

Jack’s never-ending war on terror and Energizer Bunny vitality hooked us for nearly a decade, even though the show overstayed its welcome by a season or two.  Then there were “24’s” unwelcome side-effects, including accusations of stoking Islamophobia and bolstering the idea of torture as a necessary tool in military missions. The “24” series finale attracted slightly more than 9 million viewers when it aired in May 2010, a modest audience for the end of a drama once considered to be groundbreaking.

Nevertheless, those of us buoyed by the promise of continuing the franchise have good reason to be excited by Kiefer Sutherland’s return to television in his signature role.

The opening hours of “24: Live Another Day” deliver precisely the sort of action payload people loved about the original series with a fresher take. Bringing a post 9/11 hero into the cyber-age, the story picks up where the finale left us, with Jack branded as an outlaw. But in a time when dirty bombs are perceived as less of an immediate threat than rogue technology, and computer hackers are both the new heroes and the villains, Jack Bauer is far from obsolete.

One only has to watch a few minutes of Day 9 to realize how much we’ve missed the partnership between Jack and Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub), who has transformed into a charmingly mopey version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Sure, Chloe’s makeover from grumpy wallflower into a digital anarchist with kohl-rimmed eyes seems a little forced. Considering other schemes Robert Cochran, Joel Surnow, Howard Gordon and the rest of the executive producers presented us with before, asking us to buy Chloe in runny eyeliner isn’t a terrible stretch.

“24: Live Another Day” also brings back a number of familiar faces (including Kim Raver and William Devane) without transforming into a nostalgia parade, while adding a number of new characters to the mix played by Benjamin Bratt, Yvonne Strahovski, Michelle Fairley and up-and-coming star John Boyega, who was just announced as one of the leads in Star Wars: Episode VII.

Yes, there’s good reason to be hopeful that this limited series will deliver everything “24” fans want. But bear in mind, this positive assessment is based on two episodes, the action that takes place between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM. “24’s” frequent flyers know that each season tended to serve up its finest episodes at the beginning and closer to the finale. And those middle-of-the-season episodes? Beware, for here there be cougars.

Fortunately “24: Live Another Day’s” mission consists of a lean 12 episodes – half as many as each season of the series. Meaning, less time for flabby storylines and filler, more urgency for Jack to do what he does best. The clock is ticking again, and we couldn’t be more excited.

24: Live Another Day” makes its two-hour premiere 8pm Monday, May 5, on Fox. Need a refresher before the premiere? Prime subscribers can view every episode of “24” for free on Amazon Instant Video right now.  

“Salem”: A Chat with Brannon Braga

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 18 April 2014 4:02 PM, PDT

Television teaches us that good witches are a great asset to any neighborhood. As for bad witches, hell hath no fury like Jessica Lange when she’s out for blood. From “Bewitched“  to “Charmed” to “American Horror Story: Coven”, numerous interpretations of witches and witchcraft have been brewed up for the small screen over the years.

Would we ever want to go back? As in, all the way back to the Puritans? As WGN America’s new series “Salem” proves, absolutely.

Premiering at 10pm Sunday, “Salem” is WGN America’s first original, and the channel is not gingerly stepping into basic cable’s scripted arena. Sinister, sexed-up and at times downright freaky, this is a show that turns any dry ideas of the Puritan era on its head and shows us a Salem that may be wound up tightly by oppressive laws and practices but, behind closed doors, really does house an occult threat that affords its participants a measure of power and pleasure, at a price.

At the center of the story are Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) and John Alden (Shane West), lovers torn apart by Alden’s duties as a soldier and the disapproval of Salem’s leaders. Alden heads off to fight in the French and Indian War, and returns to a greatly changed Salem, and a very different Mary.

Co-starring with West and Montgomery are Seth Gabel, Xander Berkeley and Ashley Madekwe, who plays Tituba, one of several names anyone with a passing familiarity with Salem’s real history will recognize.

That said, a historical drama this is not. Making viewers jump with fright is the main goal here, and creators Adam Simon and Brannon Braga kick off the action with the tragic case of poor Mercy Lewis (Elise Eberle), a possessed girl who becomes a pawn in Salem’s hunt to ferret out witches – and the witches’ quest to turn the townsfolk upon one another.

We recently spoke with Braga about what inspired “Salem”, and whether TV’s current spate of witch-related series is a blessing or a curse.

IMDbTV: One of the major observations that Adam made at press to tour is that the history at work in the series is fantasy, but the magic portrayed is real… How much historical fact did you use to develop this story?

Brannon Braga: We drew upon history quite liberally, both in terms of characters and events and even the magic we depict, because this time and place and these events are virtually uncharted territory dramatically. Countless books have been written about Salem, but when it comes to movies and television, there’s basically just ’The Crucible’.

These witch trials were transcribed in meticulous detail, all of them. They’re fascinating to read, what people thought was happening. A lot of the characters are based on people who really lived. We’ve altered those characters. We’ve taken the attributes historically that we wanted to use and then we change them in other ways. In certain incidents, like in the pilot, a man really was pressed to death. In fact, that is where the phrase “pressed for an answer” comes from. The Fifth Amendment… that case was pointed to by the founding fathers as the reason why we should have the right to remain silent.

…So there’s stuff in the show, even the magic – like the suckling of a toad on [a woman’s] thigh, and using it to put her husband into a coma, that’s stuff that was described in detail in the actual witch trial journals. There’s just an abundance of material that’s weirder than any of the stuff you might see in a modern-day horror movie.

IMDbTV: Those were the details that I saw that seemed incredibly period specific, but I had to wonder where you got the idea for them. You say there were so many transcripts available, but our culture’s idea of what a witch is seems to be descended from something between modern Wicca and “Bewitched”.

Braga: Yeah. …Puritans were at two with nature – famous Woody Allen line. They did not like it. They did not like the woods. They were ashamed of their bodies. They were terrified of the Indians that were slaughtering them on a daily basis. And this fear, and this oppression, manifests itself in some horrific imagery… So it’s really tantalizing, these images. Some of them we make up, but a lot of them we’re getting from the transcripts.

IMDbTV: One imagines you were developing these scripts at the same time that “American Horror Story’s” latest season was on. Did you ever check it out and see its presentation of witches?

Braga: No, I consciously avoided it. I didn’t want to – I’m a big Ryan Murphy fan. I love “American Horror Story,” and I just wanted to be careful that nothing was subconsciously absorbed. I wanted to stick to my hermetically sealed, imagined reality. But I actually did watch the show once I was deep enough into [this project]. They’re very different tonally. I was relieved to see that.

IMDbTV: Yes, they are quite different.

Braga: And I loved it, I thought it was awesome. But it’s a very different tone, I think, and I hope there won’t be too many comparisons. I think they each stand on their own.

IMDbTV: It does make me wonder, though… there’s always a time that writers and pop culture consumers look at different waves of popularity in horror and genre. People have said, “Vampires are over, now it’s all about zombies.” Now we’re seeing lots of witches – we just talked about “Coven,” and witches play a significant role on “The Originals”…Is there any concern as to whether this trend could saturate the TV landscape?

Braga: Well, when we started developing this show there weren’t a whole lot of witches around. Then all of a sudden, they flew in on their broomsticks like crazy. I can’t really say. It remind me of… I did this alien invasion show for CBS many years ago, and a whole bunch of alien invasion shows came on that year. They all didn’t do well.

IMDbTV: Are you talking about “Threshold”?

Braga: Yeah. …I think there’s much more room now on the TV landscape for multiple witch series, and I think there’s much more acceptance of genre. If you said to me, “Go pitch a period show about witches” ten years ago… No way! Most executives would have said, “People don’t like period.” So things have changed so much, and there just seems to be a hunger at the moment for these types of shows. Why, I don’t know. I’m not worried about it, because at the end of the day, like any show as you know … really it’s, do you like the characters? Do you enjoy watching it? It really shouldn’t matter, in a way, whether it’s a witch or a vampire.

IMDbTV: One of the things you also said in a previous presentation is that the central story is actually the romance. How do you maintain a balance between the romance and the supernatural in these episodes?

Braga: It seems to fit in with the time period. I think the key to it is just saying, how did people think back then? Keeping it true to the time, and knowing that we cast the roles with the right chemistry. A lot of things had to work for that romance to work. I’ve said before, it’s an old quote, that it’s Wuthering Heights meets The Exorcist.

…The balancing of horror and romance on this show is not an issue. The issue is sustaining the tension of these two characters who have no idea that they’re still in love, and they have no idea that they’re on a collision course – they’re either going to destroy each other or they’re going to run away together.

That kind of exquisite agony that these two characters are going through every week is the trickiest thing to sustain, because you kind of want to set that coin on its edge just so, and keep it from falling over the whole time, because that’s what works about it. And so far, so good.

IMDbTV: You’ve also said that the witches are not the only supernatural beings to be part of this world. How often are we going to see the other things in the woods that are threatening Salem? Are those going to be part of close-ended story each week or are we looking at arcs?

Braga: …There are close-ended aspects to each episode, for sure, and yet there are threads that will continue to run through all of them and culminate at the end of the season into hopefully something great.

You asked about other supernatural beings…you aren’t going to be seeing werewolves or anything like that. But there are terrors in the worlds that scared the citizens of Salem just as much as the witches. Like the Indians, and the French — the French and Indian War was going on. We’re going to get some tastes of that. People felt going into those woods was certain death. You were either going to be killed by an Indian, a French soldier, an animal or, in their minds, a demon. You’re going to be seeing all of that.

IMDbTV: You’ve also said that the witches are going to be the witch hunters. Can you explain that a little bit more?

Braga: Of course you’re going to find out a lot more as things go on…If you don’t say “witches are real and they’re running the trials,” that’s the hook. Saying “witches are real” isn’t quite enough. If we say that they’re running the trials, what does that mean? Why? That’s what you’ll learn as the series goes on.

IMDbTV: When you were developing this series, was there are particular piece of cinema, television or even literature that you drew upon — besides the transcripts — to inform the tone of this series?

Braga: You’re the only person who asked me that, and it’s an important question, because tone is everything, isn’t it? If there’s one style of filmmaking that I can point to, in talking with Richard Shepard , our director on the pilot, I’d say Roman Polanski, probably. Controversial figure, but still a brilliant filmmaker. I look to the directing in Rosemary’s Baby, it’s just utterly timeless and simple and really, really scary and psychological. I’d put The Exorcist up there, in terms of a raw, ominous tones. Hopefully people will be drawn to the romantic aspects of the show, but also that feeling of dread that the show can evoke. We want to scare people.

Those would be the two movies that we talked about. But a lot of stuff also is just coming from the time, because as I said, this is just so unexplored, this whole world. You read these transcripts of the witch trials and you’re just like, “Holy cow, we’ve got to use that.” I was reading one the other day – at one point, they put a pig on trial. They thought at one point that a pig was a witch and they had evidence as to why the pig was a witch!… It’s just insane, what was happening. And so a lot of this, I can’t really point to anything. It’s kind of its own weird thing.

IMDbTV: This makes me wonder, a) how did the pig testify on its own behalf? And b), did they eat the pig afterward? I’m guessing that was not part of the transcript.

Braga: (laughs) Yeah…I don’t know the answer to that.

Salem premieres at 10pm Sunday, April 20, on WGN America.

“Fargo”: A Chat with Martin Freeman

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 4 April 2014 1:00 AM, PDT

 There’s a sense that “Fargo” star Martin Freeman is one of us. Not just a movie and TV star, but an easy-going guy who we’d love to get a drink with. Or, sure, he’ll hang out on your couch with you. Wanna stay for dinner, Martin? Why not.

This overwhelming likability is just part of the reason that when Freeman was cast in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, his name quickly surged to the top of STARmeter to clinch the number one spot. It’s not as if he was a total unknown at the time; Freeman already had gained acclaim thanks to his TV roles in “Sherlock” and the original UK version of “The Office”. Genre fans enjoyed him as Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. But that made it quite clear that the actor had lots of fans.

“Those were proud days,” Freeman joked during a recent interview. “Proud days indeed! Then I went back down to number 5004.”

For the record, at the time of this post’s writing, he’s ranked at 393. But don’t be surprised if Freeman’s name climbs the chart again closer to the premiere of FX’s true crime series “Fargo,” debuting April 15 at 10pm.

The flavor of The Coen Brothers‘s classic “homespun murder mystery” is deeply infused into this 10-episode limited series, which follows a new cast of characters trudging through a completely fresh tale. It begins with a botched hit, becoming increasingly bizarre from there thanks to a crime of passion that has unforeseen connections and complications.

Though the bulk of the action is set in the town of Bemidji, Minnesota, “Fargo” was shot in Calgary, in the deep, frigid mid-winter. Consider this when you watch Freeman’s portrayal of Lester Nygaard, a meek, frequently-abused insurance salesman whose life takes a remarkable turn for the worse when he meets a hilariously amoral man named Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton). Not only is Freeman convincingly speaking in a regional accent that’s difficult for most Americans to imitate, he’s doing it as part of a shocking, thoroughly entertaining performance, all while appearing to be perfectly comfortable in weather that would make an ice cube say, “Thanks, but I’ll pass.”

We sat down with Freeman during a recent press event to talk about “Fargo” and the challenge of being perceived as an Everyman, for better or worse.

IMDBTV: You’ve had a very busy time since The Hobbit: First, jumping from that into “Sherlock,” then coming into “Fargo”. What made you decide to take on another TV project?

Martin Freeman: Various things. It was the slight difference of it, the different nature of it. I get fewer offers from the States for television than I do for other things. There aren’t as many just straight offers, because I’m less known here than I am in the U.K.

That doesn’t mean that you’ll do something, because you’re flattered into it. But, well, it’s a vote of confidence. They trust I can play this part, and this is not a part that people often associate me with. The whole arc of what goes on with Lester Nygaard is pretty broad, and it covers ground that I don’t think a lot of people would be familiar with associating with me… It’s a fantastically written script. I read the next one, and that was fantastic. And I thought, well, Billy Bob’s in it, so yeah. I’d be silly not to do it.

IMDBTV: Maybe I’m wrong, and admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve seen [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy], but I saw a little bit of, “What if Arthur Dent loses it?” in Lester Nygaard. Just the aspect of this Everyman who is pushed, and pushed…

Freeman: Yeah, I suppose so. If he had a hammer nearby, maybe… I don’t know how Dent-y Lester is.  I don’t think you would think that was Arthur Dent if it was someone else playing the part.

IMDBTV: I don’t mean that part, specifically. It’s the Everyman aspect of the role.

Freeman: But you know what? I think people see “Everyman” in relationship to me, because of me. Every show has an Everyman at some point, if you know what I mean… I’ve been called an Everyman a lot since “The Office”. I spent, like, twelve years as an Everyman, you know. I don’t know what I’m doing to call that, other than acting in a way that is sort of natural and believable…empathetic, I suppose.

IMDBTV: I would say that you’re the person, in your roles, that leads people into these worlds of oddity and still seems to maintain his distinct sense of self.

Freeman: Well…Arthur Dent is kind of a distant relation to Bilbo Baggins, in that kind of just being ripped out of a cozy situation into an insane situation. Douglas Adams probably owed something to Tolkien, in that archetype of a character. Beyond that, in all honestly, I don’t really see it in the playing of it, when I’m doing it. But unless I’m playing a French Senegalese lesbian with a limp, I don’t really know what else I can do.

IMDBTV: Of course, the charm in Fargo, the film, is in all of these characters who are so genuine but seem foreign and heightened, in a way. What is it that attracted you to playing Lester, this man who just gets pushed too far?

Freeman: To me, it wasn’t because it was “Fargo”. It could have been riding on the coattails of a very good film and be shoddy. It has to stand up on its own as a script, and I thought it did that very well… Technically, what comes out of his mouth is in an accent that I’ve never covered before and most people can’t do…All the things that we think we know about that accent, and we think we know about that culture, is basically disseminated through the movie. Most people haven’t heard that accent before. Certainly most people outside of the States haven’t.

IMDBTV: Some Minnesotans would say that’s a heightened version of how they sound as well.

Freeman: Absolutely. And A, that’s true. But B, none of us want to think we have an accent either. Most of us want to think we’re neutral and we don’t realize we have an accent. All of us do.

Also, we’re making something like a 10-hour movie. If all 10 hours were as, if you like, as heightened as that accent in that film was, the feeling was that by hour three people would begin to think that’s too brutal. So there’s been a slight evening out of that…if it were a sketch, you’d know where you are. We’re easing back on that a little bit, the sort of comedic value of that, to make it more character based, more situation based.

…Every stereotype, there is a kernel of truth in it. Otherwise they don’t get to be stereotypes. I’ve been on the Internet and seen enough footage of Minnesotans to know what they sound like.

IMDBTV: Were you prepared for the cold?

Freeman: I was prepared mentally. But I’ve never lived in a place like that, where it’s cold all the time. This is a different ballgame in Calgary, where it gets minus 30, minus 35 not that infrequently. In England, if things got to minus 35, everything would stop working. It would be on the news. So I’m not used to being that cold. We’re not used to having snow on the ground for that long, either…Here [in Calgary], it’s just this lovely virginal snow everywhere. It’s a different ballgame. You have to wrap up.

IMDBTV: Have you found that to be an advantage in terms of just being recognized on the street?

Freeman: Yes, I have actually. Because you are just bundled up. The novelty value of being recognized, it wears off for me. It wore off a while ago, because you want to go about your business. And a lot of the time, you actually can’t. I’m a big believer in trying to live the life that you demand, that you want to live. There are ways of not creating madness around yourself. If you don’t want to be super famous, you can kind of get away with it. You try and stay, to some extent, the person you were when you were 19. If you carry that around with you, then you can manage it. But if that person has got 12 people around them, then of course you’re going to f—king notice that person coming in the room.

IMDBTV: I imagine that with “Sherlock” those instances of being recognized must have hit a new height for you.

Freeman: It did. And the fact that it came as the same period as The Hobbit, those things converging at the same time. That went up a notch.

It’s different as well here, because [“Sherlock”] is not as known, it’s not as watched. So it’s not as visible here. But it’s easier to go a bit under the radar here.

IMDBTV: That must be a relief.

Freeman: It is.

IMDBTV: In preparation for this role, did you re-watch Fargo?

Freeman: I did not. Absolutely not. 100 percent no. I want no part of it in my head. It doesn’t help me. It might help other departments…I’m sure as far as the look, other tonal elements of it might help. Doesn’t help me. The nearest thing to me, in that film, is Bill Macy. He’s really good and he’s an amazing actor who I thoroughly admire. I don’t need him in my head.

IMDBTV: You can do a palate cleanser and see him in this season of “Shameless,” so there’s that. But what are some of the other films and TV series that you’ve been amazed by in the past few years?

Freeman:  “Breaking Bad,” of course. I’m slightly late to that. My missus kind of caught on to that before I did and said, ‘You’ve got to watch.’ And you know what it’s like – you hear enough people say you’ve got to watch something and you resist it.

IMDBTV: And your character in “Fargo,” by the way, will bring some comparisons to Walter White.

Freeman: Absolutely. And I understand why. That’s one of the great modern characters, so I’m OK with that.

Wil Wheaton Announces “The Wil Wheaton Project”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 2 April 2014 11:55 AM, PDT

Claiming to be a geek or a nerd is fashionable these days… although as real-life nerds will tell you, life as a nerd is not as crazy-sexy-cool as pop culture leads the world to believe.

The vast gulf between perception and reality notwithstanding, if there’s social currency in being a geek, that’s partly because the cause has some pretty cool advocates. We’ve got people like Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt, “Talking Dead” host Chris Hardwick and Wil Wheaton in our corner. Shiny.

Hardwick, in particular, has built an empire out of geekery. He grew his Nerdist podcast in a powerful brand, and now he even has comedy panel/faux game show on Comedy Central, “@midnight”. But though we’re mentioning Hardwick for a reason, this post is not about him.

No, today we praise Wil Wheaton, the actor still known to many for his portrayal of Wesley Crusher on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, and as Sheldon’s former nemesis on “The Big Bang Theory“. Geek & Sundry visitors also are quite familiar with Wheaton himself, and his winning personality as the host of “TableTop,” a celebration of board game fun with celebrity guests. He also won the Internet this week when this touching YouTube video posted in June 2013 made the rounds.

But it was a recent episode of “@midnight” where it became stunningly clear to me that Wheaton should have his own honest-to-goodness TV show. Flanked by a pair of professional comedians and challenged to craft funny one-liners on the fly, Wheaton didn’t just hold his own. Wesley crushed it, y’all. It was a beautiful sight, one that made me hope we’d see more of his quick wit and wry humor in action.

Wish granted! This morning, Wheaton announced on Twitter that he has a new series, currently known as “The Wil Wheaton Project”, premiering at 10pm Tuesday, May 27 on Syfy. The channel has ordered 12 episodes, scheduled to run through the summer.

“The ‘Wil Wheaton Project’ is a weekly roundup of the things I love on television and on the Internet, with commentary and jokes, and the occasional visit from interesting people who make those things happen,” Wheaton explained in a blog post he tweeted out to his followers.  “It’s sort of like Talk Soup for geeks, with a heavy focus on those hilariously bad paranormal reality shows.”

We can’t wait.

To read Wheaton’s full blog post, in which he explains the process of how his “Project” came to fruition, click here.

Amazon Studios Officially Picks Up Six Pilots to Series

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 31 March 2014 5:45 AM, PDT


Look at what you did.

Many of you watched the latest original pilots released by Amazon Studios in early February. Afterward, you thoughtfully and passionately weighed in on them. Informed by your feedback, today Amazon Studios officially confirms that “Transparent”, “Mozart in the Jungle”, “Bosch” and “The After” have received full series orders.

Amazon also is moving two of its children’s pilots to series, “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street” and “Wishenpoof!

That means four out of the five comedy and drama pilots Amazon showcased earlier this year will become series – a significant commitment, considering that Studios picked up only two titles from its first pilot season round, granting a second season to just one of them so far, “Alpha House”.

These series orders aren’t merely a matter of Amazon Studios beefing up its stable of originals, all of which will available exclusively on Prime Instant Video. Picking up “Transparent”, “Mozart in the Jungle”, “Bosch” and “The After”  also makes sense from a business point of view.

“Bosch”, which follows an LAPD homicide detective working a murder case while standing trial for shooting a serial murderer, has a hardcore literary fanbase already built in. Readers who love Michael Connelly ’s Harry Bosch novels could evangelize on the show’s behalf, if it passes muster.

That’s a valuable asset for any new series to possess. As a person unfamiliar with Connelly’s books, the pilot felt like a typical cop show to me. Granted, the fact that “Bosch” is a police drama will be a selling point for many; lots of people love shows set within that world. But with certain notable exceptions such as “The Shield”,“The Wire” and “True Detective”, which were character studies more than procedurals, I am not one of those people. However, reading a few assessments of the pilot by fans of the novels, as well as Titus Welliver being cast in the title role, is enough to buy “Bosch” more rope with me.

“The After” represents a return to the serialized content game for Chris Carter, the man who gave us “The X-Files”. That legacy in itself has stoked excitement in those still entranced by that seminal series and the universe of weirdness Carter and his writers created. The fact that Carter has been away from the TV realm for such a long time adds an extra mystique to “The After,” which already starts with an incredibly odd if familiar story. It also helps that the pilot’s cliffhanger reveal demands explanation, regardless of what one thinks of the 50 minutes that preceded it.

One also has high hopes for what “The After” can do to raise the profile of Aldis Hodge (“Leverage”) whose performance in the pilot proves he has the chops to carry a series.

Series that invite critical and intellectual dissection also are great for any production house’s profile, which is where “Mozart” and “Transparent” come in.

Between these two comedies, one suspects “Mozart” has the potential to earn a broader fan base. It’s glamorous, grants sex appeal to the classical music world  — a setting that the average person may see as stuffy — and boasts an impressive cast including  Saffron Burrows, Malcolm McDowell, Bernadette Peters, Gael García Bernal, and Lola Kirke. “Mozart” also trades in arch (if accessible) humor, and teased us with a nice exploration of the various social strata existing within the fine arts realm. From the up-and-comers living bohemian lives as they chase their dreams, to the stars hatching political schemes in the backseats of limos, there’s a lot of story to explore here.

“Transparent”, which received a series order of at least nine additional episodes, is daring in a different way — a thought-provoking meditation on identity, loyalty and the fine line between self-realization and behaving selfishly, all told through the prism of family dramedy. Jill Soloway, a producer on “Six Feet Under”, employs a style of storytelling which imbues every scene with gently simmering emotion, and its stars Gaby Hoffmann, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker and Jeffrey Tambor, have tremendous chemistry.

Are these comedies critic bait? Sure. They’re also “social” bait: Not only is it conceivable that people will be talking about “Transparent” and “Mozart,” but the content of both shows sounds intriguing enough to persuade newcomers to watch in order to join the conversation.

Amazon Studios’ announcement also includes a Cinderella story: the pick-up of “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street”, a live-action children’s show about a boy named Gortimer who enjoys adventures with his friends in a suburban neighborhood. It was created by pre-school teacher and first-time writer David Anaxagoras, who submitted the pilot through Amazon Studios’ open-door submission process.

Meanwhile, “Wishenpoof!” is the second Amazon Original from Angela Santomero, creator of “Super Why!” and a co-creator of “Blue’s Clues”. It revolves around Bianca, a girl who uses “Wish Magic” to help others and learns to solve life’s problems creatively. Santomero’s other Amazon Original series “Creative Galaxy” premieres on Prime Instant Video this summer, along with previously announced children’s series pick-ups “TumbLeaf” and “Annebots”.  Premiere dates for the latest slate Amazon Originals were not included in today’s announcement.

Unfortunately, today’s announcement also means sad news for “The Rebels”, the story of a hard-partying, gun-toting monkey and the down-and-out football team that loved him.

Poor little fella. While the rest of “The Rebels” cast, including Natalie Zea, Hayes MacArthur, Affion Crockett and Billy Dee Williams will likely continue to pop up on screens large and small (Zea is back on “The Following,” and Williams is participating in this round of “Dancing with the Stars”), that monkey must return to the relentless grind of auditions and call-backs. Bananas may grow on trees, but they ain’t free.