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IMDbTV Pick: HBO’s Olive Kitteridge

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 30 October 2014 12:00 AM, PDT

While a person probably would not want to spend much time with a real-life version of Olive Kitteridge, a woman who sums up the state of her supposedly golden years by declaring that she’s just waiting for her dog to die so she can shoot herself, visiting her over the course of four hours in HBO’s superb miniseries “Olive Kitteridge” is a moving, unforgettable experience. This is particularly true if you’re in the habit of keeping track of award contenders; it’s nearly a guarantee that the dour and plainspoken Olive will have a heavy presence in upcoming awards shows.

Olive Kitteridge (Frances McDormand) is a stubborn woman, intolerant of impoliteness and bad behavior in children. She observes the goings-on in her New England town with the air of self-imposed exile; at times, she appears to be downright spiteful. But her husband Henry (Richard Jenkins) balances out his wife’s moodiness by overflowing with patience and a generosity that, in turn, magnifies the truth of Olive. She is, in fact, a deeply sensitive and caring soul masking her shriveled aspirations and broken heart with a permanent scowl.

Elizabeth Strout’s stunning Pulitzer Prize winning novel spun thirteen different narratives into one story, an ambitious feat by itself. But she also wove these tales through an initially unlikable character’s life, raising our estimation of Olive in the process. That’s a level of storytelling mastery that tough to replicate on the screen. Fortunately HBO and McDormand, who optioned the novel for the screen, made a terrific choice in director Lisa Cholodenko .

Cholodenko specializes in bringing uniquely complex character studies to life, as if opening tight shutter slats to allow the audience a peek into the minds and hearts of difficult souls. Her rendering of Strout’s creation is spare and unblinking, and as perfect as McDormand’s nuanced, tender portrayal of Olive. An eleventh-hour storyline featuring Bill Murray gives him the chance to flex his singular ability infuse deep pathos with light comedy, but watching McDormand and Jenkins together will break your heart, and mend it, over and over again.

Olive Kitteridge  airs over two nights, 9pm Sunday, November 2 and 9pm Monday, November 3, on HBO.


Exclusive Featurette: “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 2 October 2014 6:28 PM, PDT

One of my all-time favorite films is Tod Browning’s Freaks.  I watched it for the first time when I was around 15 or 16 years old, and it has remained part of my annual Halloween movie viewing menu ever since. My love affair for the 1932 classic was born out of equal parts pubescent artsy pretentiousness and a burgeoning fascination with outsiders. But I also loved the soul of its simple story, in which a vain trapeze artist schemes to marry a rich little person only to get at his fortune. In a kingdom full of characters whose appearance made them oddities, the real monster was the beauty queen. What nerdy kid wouldn’t cherish such a validating tale?

That theme seems to be woven into FX’s “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” based on what the cast is revealing about the series in an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette shared with IMDb. We can also glean that from Jessica Lange’s presence; the actress is starring in “American Horror Story” one last time as the woman running the show. And once again, Lange sports the best wardrobe. (Has she ever played the nice lady in this anthology series? Nope.)  This being “American Horror Story,” the politics of the side show, set in 1950s-era Jupiter, Fla.,  is likely but a sliver of the plot. As castmember Denis O’Hare explains in the video, “The 1950s were such a period of behind-the-stage and in-front-of-the-stage, what people thought was normal behavior, and what was actually happening. And so, to have that be the period really is great with possibilities.”

So many reasons to get excited about “Freak Show”! There’s the wonderful Michael Chiklis has joined the cast as the strong man — and apparently, all he wants to do is love Angela Bassett‘s three-breasted woman — socially unacceptable, and not because she has extra assets.

The return of O’Hare, as well as Frances Conroy, Evan Peters, Kathy Bates, Gabourey Sidibe, Jamie Brewer, and Emma Roberts means the band is pretty much back together, and that’s a very good thing. In terms of continuity and story structure, the “Coven” season was a mess — but this is a cast that works so well together that one couldn’t help but return each week just to enjoy the sparky dialogue. My highest level of expectation leans on the shoulders Sarah Paulson, playing the dual roles of Bette Tattler and Dot Tattler, two distinct women with separate heads but sharing one body. If she can pull off this performance, she had better get an Emmy nomination. Honestly, what does that woman have to do to take home some hardware?

American Horror Story: Freak Show” premieres 10pm Wednesday, October 8. Click here to view the latest featurette.

 


Taking Aim on “Arrow’s” Third Season

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 29 September 2014 9:38 PM, PDT

All successful genre series are build on a strong foundation of deep character development and credible mythology. When a show does those things well and manages to survive its first two years, then everyone involved in making it can relax — theoretically — into a more adventurous third season.

The wise ones only relax a little, though. While a third season renewal usually indicates a certain level of confidence on the network’s part, it also means that the creative stakes are higher than ever. One imagines a sort of freedom in that; writers can swing for the fences by expanding into ever more complex storylines and stickier moral challenges. Consider that the third season of “Buffy” gave us Faith, the dark side of the Slayer personified. The third season of “Battlestar Galactica” explored humanity’s occupation on New Caprica. Season three of “The Walking Dead” introduced us to the prison, Woodbury and The Governor.

All signs point to The CW’s “Arrow” following a similar trajectory, thanks to the thoughtful stewardship of the Green Arrow’s origin story by executive producers Greg Berlanti,  Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg. They, and the rest of “Arrow’s” writers, have molded Oliver Queen into a believably human figure, albeit one with outstanding aim, near-superhuman fighting abilities and the kind of athleticism extreme sport champions would sell their souls to have. That’s all wonderful, and Heaven knows many a viewer drools during scenes that require star Stephen Amell (and his similarly sculpted co-stars David Ramsey, Manu Bennett and Colton Haynes) to go shirtless. But if “Arrow” relied on the eye candy of this world, allowing its characters to be rendered in the 2-D heightened emotional style of a comic book, we would be talking about what it might have been as opposed to musing upon what it is becoming.

Oliver is a tortured man — no shortage of those in the world of superheroes. He bleeds, he sweats, he is fallible. But he also learns from his mistakes in a way that the average soul watching at home can relate to.  That bears pointing out in a fall television season that will have three comic book-related titles on the schedule before Christmas (“Gotham” has already premiered, with “The Flash” and “Constantine” making their debuts during October) and another, “Marvel’s Agent Carter,” due in midseason. So many great options for superhero fans, and so many opportunities for the TV renderings of these characters to go wrong. Already I’m noticing evidence of directors nudging their actors to color their performances like the fantastical characters inked onto pages, tinging their dialogue with campy lilts that belong in quote bubbles.

Wrong.  Stop.

Take a page from “Arrow’s” playbook instead. Amell’s Oliver plays the arrogant rich boy as his mask, but there was an arrogance to his vigilante mission as well… until that quality lost him almost everything, Starling City included. Amell played out that struggle superbly in season two, which wouldn’t matter a bit if his co-stars Ramsey, Katie Cassidy, Emily Bett Rickards and Paul Blackthorne did match his even-keeled performance with their own. They make a world where villains in masks and thugs hopped up on a mystical drug from an island can terrorize the streets seem absolutely plausible. Why? Because although they’re in fictional Starling City, everyone acts as if they’re in any other real world urban environment… as if Starling City were just a short train ride away from, say, Boston.

Again, this is the foundation and the ground floor. In the story Guggenheim and Berlanti have been constructing, Oliver is still navigating the fallout from his failure to stop Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) in season one, and the near destruction of his city in season two at the hands of his former ally Slade Wilson (Bennett). Without spoiling the story for viewers who still haven’t watched “Arrow”, circumstances have forced Oliver to grow up and accept his family’s mantle as the head of Queen Consolidated, while his alter ego The Hood has established himself as the force of good holding Starling City together.

Oliver also may be looking to ditch his playboy image, if what Amell told reporters in July is true. “Oliver has one woman this year. That woman is Felicity,” he said, giving hope to ‘shippers everywhere who are rooting for the rich boy to finally give his heart to the very able but meek, bespectacled tech nerd on his team. Don’t get your hopes up too much — our understanding is most of what happens involves tying up loose ends from the season two finale. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll end up being together. “We talk about some pretty important stuff in the premiere, and if Oliver were to have a fling, it would undermine some of that,” Amell explained to reporters. “So I think that the cavalcade of women is going to slow down, or stop.”

But it’s not the heroes, or the ‘shipping, that makes “Arrow” and shows like it such fun to watch — it’s the villains. Already we know that Malcolm Merlyn is back and has taken Ollie’s sullen sister Thea (Willa Holland) off to places unknown to exert his influence over her. At Comic-Con, Amell teased that certain characters we’ve encountered in passing during seasons one and two (along the lines of Amanda Waller, known to DC Comics fans as the head of Project Cadmus) will return. We’ll find out more about the circumstances under which they crossed paths with Oliver.

The main lure for season three, however, is its Big Bad: The Arrow will be tangling with one of DC’s most fearsome characters, Ra’s al Ghul, memorably played in Batman Begins by the Liam Neesons.  Neeson is busy with other projects,  not to mention that he’s probably too expensive to fit The CW’s budget, so in “Arrow,” the role will be filled by Matt Nable. Amell hinted that a few unlikely alliances must be formed to defeat him. The writers obviously kept Merlyn alive for a reason, right?

This is the time of year when viewers get their hopes up for a lot of shows, both new and returning, only to have them dashed by November sweeps. Fortunately “Arrow” is one of the few surer shots on the schedule. Oliver Queen never fails his city, or his fans. We can’t wait to see what the show’s producers have built for us this time.

Arrow” premieres at 8pm Wednesday, October 8 on The CW.


First Look: Latest “American Horror Story: Freak Show” Teaser

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 23 September 2014 10:25 AM, PDT


 

People are looking forward to Halloween right now, but for IMDb’s Editorial department, the year’s creepiest holiday arrives a couple of weeks earlier in the form of “American Horror Story’s” season premiere.

The best part of waiting for the drama’s newest incarnation, “Freak Show,” has been watching all the great teasers. FX just released its newest one today, titled “Head to Head”. Fairly self-explanatory, and more fabulous than freaky. Love the dress, love the hair, love the fact that everything is twice as nice.  Check it out for yourself by clicking on the photo above!

American Horror Story: Freak Show” premieres 10pm Wednesday, October 8 on FX.


HBO Sets Premiere Date for The Comeback, The Newsroom & Getting On

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 9 September 2014 11:17 AM, PDT

Valerie Cherish fans, mark Sunday, November 9 on your calendar. That’s the date that HBO has set for “The Comeback‘s” comeback, as well as the premieres of “The Newsroom‘s” swan song season and the sophomore run of “Getting On.”

The final six episode season of “The Newsroom” will begin airing at 9pm that night, followed by the first of eight new episodes of “The Comeback” at 10pm, with the season premiere of “Getting On” at 10:30pm. “Getting On’s” second season consists of six episodes.

“The Comeback’s” last new episode aired in September 2005. Though the series did not receive overwhelming critical praise at the time, it has since been reconsidered as a cult favorite. With its theme of a fading starlet attempting to resurrect her career via a paint-by-numbers sitcom, the mortifying process of which was chronicled in her own  reality television, the comedy also has proven to be a bit prescient in its portrayal of the industry’s fame machine.

“The Comeback” is one of two series featuring Lisa Kudrow  on this fall’s schedule. She also stars in Showtime’s “Web Therapy,” which airs its fourth season premiere at 11pm on Wednesday, October 22.


Patti Lupone Joins “Penny Dreadful”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 8 September 2014 12:21 PM, PDT

Patti Lupone is a legend of both stage and screen, although she may be on her way to establishing herself as a horror diva. Lupone has signed on to guest star in season two of Showtime’s gorgeous and addictive “Penny Dreadful,” playing a character described in the official announcement as “mysterious” and “of great importance in Vanessa Ives’s (Eva Green) past.”  Lupone’s most recent TV guest star appearance was on FX’s “American Horror Story: Coven.

Showtime also bumped Helen McCrory and Simon Russell Beale up to series regulars for the 10-episode second season, which will be written by the drama’s creator John Logan. Beale plays Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle, whose interpretation of an ancient script gave viewers clues about Miss Ives’ powers and her possible role in the darker arcs to come. McCrory appeared briefly in the first season as Madame Kali (real name: Evelyn Poole), and has been announced as the second season’s main antagonist.

Also joining “Penny Dreadful” for season two are Tony Award winner Douglas Hodge as Scotland Yard investigator Bartholomew Rusk, who may prove to be problematic for Josh Hartnett‘s Ethan Chandler; Sarah Greene as Evelyn Poole’s daughter Hecate (and if you don’t know why that name is ominous, look it up); and Jonny Beauchamp, whose character is only described as “a young man with a singular past.”

Production on season two of “Penny Dreadful” begins this month in Dublin. New episodes are scheduled to premiere in 2015 debut on Showtime.


Groundhog Night: The 66th Primetime Emmys

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 26 August 2014 12:04 AM, PDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Emmy Predictions and Awards Show Logic

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 21 August 2014 12:20 PM, PDT


Have you entered a betting pool for Monday night’s telecast of The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards? Good for you. I commend your bravery. If you haven’t, and are perhaps perusing this list in the hopes of gaining some sort of insight … good luck with that.

Oh sure, I’ve won a guessing game or two. Well, actually, just that one. But I will say it helps to apply Awards Show Logic to one’s choices. What is Awards Show Logic? It’s simple: Scan the nominees and look not at who deserves to win, but who voters might deem to be a safe choice to win in that particular round of awards. Sometimes those choices happen to be one in the same. In other instances, less so.

In still other cases, Emmy goes bananas and surprises us either pleasantly or… well, let’s just say there’s a reason “The West Wing” won 26 Emmy awards, including during seasons in which it probably would not have ranked among the best shows on television, while “The Wire” won exactly…zero. The point is, Emmy voters are not known for their sense of adventure. They tend get in a habit and stay with it.

Find out whether I’m right about any of this by checking out  The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, August 25th on NBC at 8pm ET/5pm PT, which will be hosted by Seth Meyers. Watch along with IMDb’s Editorial team that night to enjoy the best red carpet glamour in our photo galleries. You also can get real-time updates on winners and highlights from the show by monitoring our homepage, by checking IMDb’s page on Facebook, or following @IMDb on Twitter for live results, and @IMDbMelanie for occasional snark. Until then, visit our Road to the Emmys section for the list of Creative Arts Emmy winners, photos from last year’s telecast and more.

Keep reading to see how Awards Show Logic informed my predictions of this year’s winners.

Outstanding Drama Series

Nominees: “Breaking Bad”, “Downton Abbey”, “Game of Thrones”, “House of Cards”, “Mad Men” , “True Detective”.

Who Should Win: “Breaking Bad”

Who Will Win: “Breaking Bad”. Those who have seen the final episodes of AMC’s landmark series know that this prediction needs little explanation. As for “True Detective”, if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s a riveting drama that leaned heavily on cinematic style and the ferocious performances of its leads. If Emmy rewards those elements, that’s understandable. But an Outstanding Drama victor should be solid on every level, and “True Detective’s” fabric is a bit too frayed for me to call it for a win here.

Notable snubs: It’s a crime that neither “Masters of Sex” nor “The Good Wife” received nominations. I would trade “Downton Abbey’s” nod for either of these worthy contenders.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Nominees: “Louie”, “Modern Family”, “Orange Is the New Black”, “Silicon Valley”, “Veep”.

Who Should Win: “Orange Is the New Black”. Launched with virtually no fanfare during the summer of 2013, this series was all anyone could talk about in the months following. Emmy takes a while to follow cultural buzz and reach the same conclusions that viewers and critics do, however. While a win wouldn’t be out of the question, it would be a pleasant surprise.

Who Will Win: “Veep”. Helmed by multiple Emmy-nominee and winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus, this series spun out what may be its best season yet, and more viewers have been flocking to it. Plus, the shine may be fading on “Modern Family” in industry award circles…although Emmy does love repeat winners.

Notable snub:Brooklyn Nine-Nine” came up golden at the Globes, but was shut out here. But frankly its Fox counterpart “The Mindy Project” is just as deserving of a nomination. That said, I wouldn’t trade out any of this crop of nominees for either, so this observation is more emotional than practical.

Outstanding Miniseries

Nominees: “American Horror Story”, “Bonnie and Clyde”, “Fargo”, “Luther”, “Treme”, “The White Queen”.

Who Should Win: Don’t get me wrong, I loved “Luther” and “Treme”, and I watched “The White Queen” from start to finish. As for “Bonnie and Clyde”…um… anyhoo, scanning the competition there’s really one choice here.

Who Will Win: “Fargo”. One benefit of “True Detective” characterizing itself as a fully-fledged series opposed to a miniseries/anthology drama is that this excellent FX original isn’t going up against it. But Emmy is notoriously and astoundingly dense sometimes, so if it doesn’t win… there’s always next year.

Outstanding Television Movie

Nominees: Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, The Normal Heart, “Sherlock: His Last Vow (#3.3)”, The Trip to Bountiful, Killing Kennedy.

Who Should Win: The Normal Heart

Who Will Win: The Normal Heart. Because… HBO.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Nominees: Bryan Cranston for “Breaking Bad”, Jeff Daniels for “The Newsroom”, Jon Hamm for “Mad Men”, Woody Harrelson for “True Detective”, Matthew McConaughey for “True Detective”, Kevin Spacey for “House of Cards”

Who Should Win: Bryan Cranston

Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey. Yes, Cranston’s final run on “Breaking Bad” was peerless, but Emmy loves A-listers – and who doesn’t want to see the man gives us a big speech that starts with “awright, awright awright”?

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Nominees: Don Cheadle for “House of Lies”,,Louis C.K. for “Louie”,,Matt LeBlanc for “Episodes”, William H. Macy for “Shameless”, Jim Parsons for “The Big Bang Theory” , Ricky Gervais for “Derek”

Who Should Win: William H. Macy for “Shameless.” Macy’s Frank Gallagher was even more of a mess this season and, in truth, not really funny. But he also served up remarkable work this season. Besides, in Emmy’s world, you don’t have to be funny to take home a statue in the comedy categories. Just ask Edie Falco.

Who Will Win: Originally I’d have said Jim Parsons for “The Big Bang Theory”, but Ricky Gervais showed a different, more poignant side with his performance in Netflix’s “Derek”. Emmy has a knack for throwing some dark horses into the winners circle. And I’ll admit it – I’m curious to see how naughty Gervais’s acceptable speech will be.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

Nominees: Idris Elba for “Luther”, Chiwetel Ejiofor for “Dancing on the Edge”, Benedict Cumberbatch for “Sherlock: His Last Vow (#3.3)”, Martin Freeman for “Fargo”, Mark Ruffalo for The Normal Heart, Billy Bob Thornton for “Fargo”

Who Should Win: Billy Bob Thornton. In an ordinary season of television, there would be one clear standout in this category. But this year’s crop of actors in this category makes predicting a front runner a bit of an uncertainty…but only a bit. The real race is between Thornton and Mark Ruffalo, and in that match up our Monopoly money is on….

Who Will Win: Billy Bob Thornton.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Nominees: Lizzy Caplan for “Masters of Sex”, Claire Danes for “Homeland”, Michelle Dockery for “Downton Abbey”, Julianna Margulies for “The Good Wife”, Kerry Washington for “Scandal”, Robin Wright for “House of Cards”

Who Should Win: Robin Wright had a wonderful run in season two of “House of Cards.” However…

Who Will Win: Julianna Margulies has been nominated four times for her work on “The Good Wife”, but won only once. I’m betting Emmy voters will make up for snubbing the series in the Drama category by handing her some hardware for her outstanding performance over the most recent season.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Nominees: Lena Dunham for “Girls”, Edie Falco for “Nurse Jackie”, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for “Veep”, Melissa McCarthy for “Mike & Molly”, Amy Poehler for “Parks and Recreation”, Taylor Schilling for “Orange Is the New Black”

Who Should Win: Amy Poehler for “Parks and Recreation”. She’s been nominated five times in this category. Five! And she deserved everyone one of those nods.

Who Will Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She’s been nominated too many times and won too few of those for Emmy not to step up, in my opinion. Not that she doesn’t deserve it; Louis-Dreyfus is the main reason “Veep” evolved from being a very funny comedy to one that’s not to be missed.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

Nominees: Helena Bonham Carter for Burton and Taylor, Minnie Driver for Return to Zero, Jessica Lange for “American Horror Story”, Sarah Paulson for “American Horror Story”, Cicely Tyson for The Trip to Bountiful, Kristen Wiig for “The Spoils of Babylon”

Who Should Win: Helena Bonham Carter. Watching her in Burton and Taylor wasn’t just a delight. In a perverse way, her portrayal served as sort of a public tutorial on How to Play Liz Taylor that came too late to school Lindsay Lohan. I actually imagined HBC watching LiLo in her Lifetime pic while on a fainting couch and cooing, “Adorable. How darling. Now stand back and let mama show you how it’s done.”

Who Will Win: Cicely Tyson, who reprised her Broadway-originated role for The Trip to Bountiful.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Nominees: Fred Armisen for “Portlandia”, Andre Braugher for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, Ty Burrell for “Modern Family”, Adam Driver for “Girls”, Jesse Tyler Ferguson for “Modern Family”, Tony Hale for “Veep”

Who Should Win: Andre Braugher for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”. Although Andy Samberg won the Lead Comedy Actor Golden Globe, Braugher’s deadpan Captain Holt is the ingredient that makes “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” so completely enjoyable. Plus, he’s won Emmys twice previously.

Who Will Win: Tony Hale for “Veep”. This is one of those choices that makes sense when you put Emmy’s goggles on. Who doesn’t love Buster Bluth?

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Nominees:  Jim Carter for “Downton Abbey”, Josh Charles for “The Good Wife”, Peter Dinklage for “Game of Thrones”, Mandy Patinkin for “Homeland”, Aaron Paul for “Breaking Bad”, Jon Voight for “Ray Donovan”

Who Should Win: Peter Dinklage for “Game of Thrones”

Who Will Win: Aaron Paul for “Breaking Bad”. This is a tough call… Dinklage took us through Tyrion Lannister’s toughest, most emotionally challenging chapter without losing the character’s soul in his performance. But Paul made our hearts bleed for Jesse Pinkman in those final episodes. In the end, this is the last time that Emmy can salute him for that role.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

Nominees: Matt Bomer for The Normal Heart, Martin Freeman for “Sherlock: His Last Vow (#3.3)”, Colin Hanks for “Fargo”, Alfred Molina for Return to Zero, Jim Parsons for The Normal Heart, Joe Mantello for The Normal Heart (2014) (TV)

Who Should Win: Matt Bomer for The Normal Heart

Who Will Win: Matt Bomer for The Normal Heart. Because…HBO. Also, he was amazing.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Nominees: Mayim Bialik for “The Big Bang Theory”, Julie Bowen for “Modern Family”, Anna Chlumsky for “Veep”, Allison Janney for “Mom”, Kate Mulgrew for “Orange Is the New Black”, Kate McKinnon for “Saturday Night Live”

Who Should Win: Kate Mulgrew for “Orange Is the New Black”

Who Will Win: Allison Janney for “Mom”. This is a category where Emmy likes to surprise and shock us – remember last year’s Merritt Wever upset? Knowing this gives Mulgrew the edge…except for the fact that Janney is a five-time Emmy winner.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Nominees: Christine Baranski for “The Good Wife”, Joanne Froggatt for “Downton Abbey”, Anna Gunn for “Breaking Bad”, Lena Headey for “Game of Thrones”, Christina Hendricks for “Mad Men”, Maggie Smith for “Downton Abbey”

Who Should Win: Christine Baranski for “The Good Wife”

Who Will Win: Anna Gunn for “Breaking Bad”. Both have won Emmys once, although Baranski has been nominated 11 times (including her win) to Gunn’s three. Having said that, this is the last time Gunn can win for this role. Baranski will be back.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

Nominees: Angela Bassett for “American Horror Story”, Kathy Bates for “American Horror Story”, Ellen Burstyn for Flowers in the Attic, Frances Conroy for “American Horror Story”, Julia Roberts for The Normal Heart, Allison Tolman for “Fargo”

Who Should Win: Allison Tolman for “Fargo”. She may be a newcomer, but Tolman’s turn in FX’s anthology series hit all the right notes and announced her arrival as a major talent. It would be quite a coup if she wins, and she’d have a fair chance at doing so if not for…

Who Will Win: Julia Roberts for The Normal Heart. A-lister. Celebrity. HBO branding. Emmy voters love all of those factors. And I hope I’m wrong with this call, because Tolman truly deserves the Emmy here.

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


“American Horror Story” Sets Premiere Date & Other TV News

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 20 August 2014 2:43 PM, PDT


The next chapter of the “American Horror Story” anthology has an official premiere date. “American Horror Story: Freak Show” will make its debut at 10pm Wednesday, October 8. As previously announced, Jessica Lange is returning alongside her “Coven” co-stars Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, and Sarah Paulson who, like Lange, has been part of the series since its first season. Currently joining these stars for “Freak Show” is Michael Chiklis (“The Shield“, “Vegas“) and Jyoti Amge, also known as the world’s smallest woman.

Read on FX’s official plot description for the latest installment of the anthology series.

American Horror Story: Freak Show begins its tale in the quiet, sleepy hamlet of Jupiter, Florida. The year is 1952. A troupe of curiosities has just arrived to town, coinciding with the strange emergence of a dark entity that savagely threatens the lives of townsfolk and freaks alike. This is the story of the performers and their desperate journey of survival amidst the dying world of the American carny experience.”

In other news, Showtime has renewed “Ray Donovan” and “Masters of Sex” for third seasons, each consisting of twelve episodes. Production is scheduled to begin in early 2015.

AMC also announced that is has picked up “Halt and Catch Fire” for a second season, set to air in the summer of 2015.


FX Renews The Strain

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 19 August 2014 10:22 AM, PDT


In what could probably be considered a no-brainer type of decision, FX has picked up “The Strain” for a 13-episode second season.

Based on a series of books co-written by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, “The Strain” follows the Center for Disease Control’s New York-based Canary Team, consisting of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll),  Dr. Nora Martinez (Mía Maestro) and Jim Kent (Sean Astin), as well as a pawn shop broker, Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), an incredibly badass rat exterminator, Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand), and the streetwise Gus Elizalde (Miguel Gomez), as they battle an epidemic that is quickly threatening to transform the population into parasitic vampires. Executive producer Carlton Cuse (”Lost,”Bates Motel”) serves as the drama’s showrunner.

”The Strain” is the first original that FX scheduled in the highly competitive Sunday primetime slot, and according to the network, that gamble has paid off.  It currently ranks as the year’s #1 new series on cable in the key demographic of adults 18-49. Around 12.7 million Total Viewers tuned in to the premiere, making it the most-watched debut in the network’s history.

FX reports that “The Strain” also is averaging 11 million Total Viewers and 5.2 million in adults 18-49 tuning in each week, which includes stats from video on demand and online viewing. The Live + 7 ratings are much more down-to-earth, with an average of 4.5 million Total Viewers and 2.6 million in adults 18-49.

“The Strain” is not the only cable series that was renewed today. SundanceTV announced that its critically-acclaimed series ”Rectify” will return for a third season in 2015, and MTV has picked up its summertime hit “Finding Carter” for a 12-episode second season.


Comic-Con TV Round-Up: Farewell to “True Blood,” “Sons of Anarchy,” & More

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 27 July 2014 10:47 PM, PDT

What with all the hoopla surrounding new and returning TV titles at Comic-Con, it helps to be reminded that more than a few series made a splash here just once, never to return. I could list a few of those titles as examples, but I honestly can’t recall any off the top of my head because their lifespans were short and unsung.

I bring this up because on Saturday and Sunday, the casts and producers of “True Blood” and “Sons of Anarchy” appeared before their faithful viewers at Comic-Con for a final time. Tears were shed during each panel, and heartfelt moments brought attendees to their feet to give the actors and producers standing ovations.  These long-running series appeared regularly at Comic-Con through their runs, and each of their casts poignantly thanked the fans by acknowledging that they owe their long lifespans to their passionate viewers.

Fan favorite Kristin Bauer van Straten cried frequently during “True Blood’s” panel. By her report, she was one of the biggest weepers on the set whenever she experienced the “last” of anything. But surprisingly enough, on the “Sons of Anarchy” panel, the person who lost it was none other than the show’s hard-boiled creator and executive producer Kurt Sutter,  moved to tears by a heartfelt expression of gratitude by the series’ go-to director Paris Barclay  and a standing ovation by the fans in Hall H.

Saturday and Sunday also brought panels for “The Vampire Diaries” and “Supernatural”, the latter of which is entering its 10th season and will air its 200th episode. Each show has a reputation for drawing particularly enthusiastic, devoted fans to its panels. “Supernatural” usually panels at the end of Con, so the people who show up are not only deep fans of the show but Comic-Con diehards, which created the air of a particularly joyous family reunion on Sunday morning.

Keep reading for highlights from these panels and details about what’s in store during the upcoming seasons and episodes of these shows.

True Blood airs the sixth of its final 10 episodes this week, and Saturday evening’s panel had a uniquely celebratory vibe to it. Even Rutina Wesley showed up although her character, Tara, is officially among the dearly departed. Or, we should say, she’s left Bon Temps … but according to showrunner Brian Buckner, we have yet to see footage from the very last scenes Wesley filmed on the show.

However, both Buckner and Anna Camp teased that what’s in store for Sarah Newlin, one of the main figures responsible for helping to create and spread the fatal Hep V virus to vampires, will be particularly awful/awesome. “I think I get what I deserve,” Camp told fans.

Buckner added that the day that they shot Sarah receiving her “punishment,” Camp’s boyfriend was on the set and he had to explain to the man, “She deserves this, she deserves this!”  Oh dear.

Saturday’s vampire weekend treat began earlier that afternoon with The Vampire Diaries panel, which kicked off with a funny spoof video that picked up from the finale’s fade-to-white cliffhanger by showing Kat Graham and Ian Somerhalder, both of whose characters were presumably zapped out of existence, turning up on an empty soundstage with no clue as to what happened to them. Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley and Candice Accola, meanwhile, acted as Graham were huge divas behind the scenes and they were glad to have them gone.

Naturally, Graham and Somerhalder then took the stage to eardrum shattering screams because, honestly, did you really think they’d kill off one of the Salvatores? Executive producer Julie Plec confirmed that the pair would be back but, of course, did not say how that would happen.

What Plec and the cast did reveal is that the time jump between the finale and the premiere is four months, and that in the coming season Matthew Davis, who plays Alaric Saltzman, will return as a teacher at the university.

Sunday’s Sons of Anarchy panel did not offer many details about the coming season – Sutter likes to play his cards close to the cut – but those assembled in Hall H did get a first look at the opening montage of the season which included the usual riveting moments of beauty, brutality, tragedy and as the cherry topper, a little bit of D.I.Y. dentistry. “I think we’re gonna break a lot of hearts this year,” said David Labrava, who plays Happy. “Get your handkerchiefs ready.”

The end of the series does not mean the end of its story, however. A novel titled Bratva comes out this fall, with the action taking place during the events of season four, in which the club tangles with a Russian gang. Sutter also updated fans on the status of a “Sons of Anarchy” prequel currently being developed. He said that it could be a miniseries or a regular series commitment, and will explore the club’s origins dating back to John Teller’s era and his relationship with Piney.

One of Sunday’s top TV destinations at Comic-Con, “Supernatural,” opened with series star Jensen Ackles introducing the season 10’s version of the signature “The Road So Far” recap reel before treating fans to a scene from an upcoming episode he directed. After co-stars Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard joined him onstage, Ackles and Padalecki told fans about the coming season’s central conflict between Sam and Dean… rather, Sam and Demon Dean.

Ackles explained that his demon version isn’t a meat suit, but a twisted, tortured version of his soul. In the clip, Dean taunts Sam with his past actions, asking Sam whether he is any less monstrous than his demon brother. Showrunner Jeremy Carver also said that in the first few episodes, Dean enjoys being a demon while Sam searches for a way to save him.

Season 10 also brings “Supernatural’s” 200th episode, which the panel teased would be the show’s version of a musical episode featuring “big hair bands.” In fact, Ackles said, we’ll discover that Dean enjoys karaoke.

Carry on, wayward sons.


Comic-Con TV Round-Up: “Big Bang Theory,” “The Walking Dead” and More!

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 26 July 2014 12:14 PM, PDT

Friday was busy for TV fans attending San Diego Comic-Con, with a schedule full of panels for “Orphan Black,” “Vikings,” “Outlander,” “Bates Motel,” “Arrow” and many more — far too many for one mere mortal to cover, largely due to the fact that the most popular ones happened to occur at the same time. It was a day of making all kinds of Sophie’s choices, if you will. In the end I focused my efforts on hanging with the folks who write for television’s favorite nerds; finding out a few details about what’s coming down the road for the citizens of Westeros and Banshee; and discovering whether our favorite gang of survivors will make it out of Terminus. Please bear in mind that this is a report from the heart of Nerd Central, so if you are SPOILER averse, please stop reading now.

Here are highlights from the panels for “The Walking Dead,“Game of Thrones,” “The Big Bang Theory”, and “Banshee“.

The Walking Dead’s cast and producers know that Comic-Con people are its biggest boosters, and executive producer Gale Anne Hurd took a moment to acknowledge that as they revealed season five’s premiere date – Sunday, October 12 at 9pm –  and unveiled the new preview trailer to the folks assembled in Hall H. If you haven’t seen it yet, ask yourself why you’ve decided to miss out on some of the finer things in life. Then have a look as soon as possible. It is perhaps the most spoiler-heavy trailer AMC and the show have released to date, but it’s also the most exciting one, featuring a newly invigorated, super bad-ass Rick Grimes.

“This is a very dangerous, very different group of people,” said creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman, explaining that now that the group has lost Hershel, all bets are pretty much off.

Among the things showrunner Scott Gimple teased are that we’ll see the story of how Terminus came to be, and the answer to the question of what happened to Beth Greene. Yes, Emily Kinney was present for the panel and assured us that Beth has gotten a lot fiercer. The time spent with Daryl (Norman Reedus, who is a Comic-Con deity at this point) helped her learn a new set of survival skills. “She’s taking a different kind of strength into season five,” Kinney said.

In casting news, Gimple joked that producers are committed to hiring as many of the actors who graced “The Wire” as possible (a nod to Chad L. Coleman, who plays Tyreese) before telling us that Seth Gilliam will appear in the upcoming season in the role of Father Gabriel.

“Game of Thrones” unveiled its lengthy list of cast additions, but mainly the panel served as an outlet for the actors to ham it up for the fans. (Behold the season four blooper reel.) The person who made the seating arrangements cheekily placed Rory McCann between Gwendoline Christie and Maisie Williams, also known as the woman who dealt the blow that would eventually end The Hound, and the girl who left him on a hillside to die. McCann playfully moaned about how brutally The Hound was beaten in his deathmatch with Brienne, to which Christie purred, “I thought he got off lightly.”

“Nasty b-tch,” McCann growled in reply, and without missing a beat, Williams asked, “Which one: Me, or her?”

Later, a questioner asked the panel to answer the eternal question of whether they’d choose direwolves and dragons. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister, answered “Direwolves.” An odd response, given the enmity between Houses Stark and Lannister. But then he added, “Easier to kill.”  But fan favorite Pedro Pascal, whose much-loved character Oberyn Martell met his demise last season, had the best answer when his time came: Asked to choose, he calmly answered, “Snakes.”

Every major panel includes a surprise guest star appearance or two; “The Walking Dead” brought out Chandler Riggs eating pudding from a giant can, while The Big Bang Theory‘s” writers and producers welcomed Wil Wheaton to the stage. But “Big Bang” provided an unscripted thrill for the fans attending its panel, though the larger shock was felt by moderator Craig Ferguson.  We’re not talking about the producers’ galaxy-shaking statement that when “Star Wars” icons James Earl Jones and Carrie Fisher met on the show, it was the first time they’d actually met in real life…although that fact is truly mind-blowing.

Instead, the moment came when a woman in the audience stepped up to ask the writers why they hated Aquaman so much. Mind you, “The Big Bang Theory” is not alone in maligning Aquaman; he’s been the butt of many a pop culture joke. Even Dave Chappelle knocked him in one of his earliest bits. So you can’t blame Ferguson for taking this opportunity to riff and running with it.

“BECAUSE HE’S NOT A REAL SUPERHERO! THAT’S WHY! THAT’S WHY THEY HATE HIM!” the comedian bellowed, making the audience erupt in laughter. The questioner was not pleased. Once the room died down a bit, Wheaton stepped in and asked the woman to reveal her identity. She calmly answered that she is the granddaughter of Aquaman’s creator, Paul Norris.

The audience lost it, and Ferguson looked appropriately horrified as he apologized profusely.

Later in the day, at the much more intimate panel for “Banshee,” fans queued up to ask questions of the castmembers present, including the very sweet and kind Geno Segers, a tower of a man who joins the show in season three to play the fearsome, vicious gang leader Chayton Littlestone.  But one questioner wearing a red fez stopped the discussion in its tracks as he asked about whether the gang of white supremacists featured in season two would return in season three.

Antony Starr  demanded the questioner remove his hat, and it turned out to be Demetrius Grosse, a central member of the cast whose character Deputy Emmett Yawners met his end in the second season finale. Starr descended from the dais to give Grosse a hug. Later fans lined up to take selfies with the man who played the dearly departed Deputy Yawners before everyone disappeared into the throngs filling the streets on Friday evening.

Friday bonus: A “Vikings” Food Fight. Part of covering Comic-Con includes attending a series of press rooms, which can be a challenge as tens of reporters fight to ask questions of the few actors assembled for a limited amount of time. Noise levels drown out many of the answers. This was particularly true in the press room for “Vikings,” which cultivated a party atmosphere by serving reporters fruit, beer and wine, and handing out drinking horns. After that, Katheryn WinnickClive Standen, Alexander Ludwig and Travis Fimmel were brought to the roundtables to chat. In theory. Mid-interview, Ludwig, who had poured water over Fimmel’s head prior to sitting down with Winnick, got biffed by a projectile thrown by Fimmel, who would later sit down with us and surgically aim green grapes at some poor soul at the table behind me. One should expect nothing less from a gang of Northmen who know how to party.


Comic-Con: Sand Snakes, Dornish Royals Cast on “Game of Thrones”

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 25 July 2014 2:04 PM, PDT

If you recall the events that transpired during season four of “Game of Thrones,” you probably may have guessed that the citizens of Dorne are a tad miffed at the Lannisters right now. Dorne intends to answer! As such, on Friday afternoon HBO announced a number of additions to the already-sizable “Game of Thrones” cast, many of them relative newcomers. After all, it’s not as if there aren’t spots coming open on a regular basis.

Among the better known actors joining the cast are Alexander Siddig, last seen guest starring on “Da Vinci’s Demons.”  Siddig will have a major story arc as Doran Martell, the ruling lord of Dorne and older brother to Prince Oberyn Martell.  (A moment of silence for The Viper, if you will…) Also joining the cast in season five is Jonathan Pryce as the High Sparrow. The press release describes the High Sparrow as a devout and pious man who came to King’s Landing to serve the poor, the downtrodden and the infirm, and has amassed a large following in the process. “His fellow believers have swarmed over the city, ministering to the lowest and decrying the corruption of the highest.” Look out, Cersei.

Season five also introduces Oberyn’s formidable daughters, known as the Sand Snakes. Rosabell Laurenti Sellers will play Tyene Sand, daughter to The Viper and his final paramour Ellaria. According to HBO’s press release, “Tyene is fiercer than she looks, especially with her twin daggers.” The role of fearsome warrior Obara Sand was won by Keisha Castle-Hughes, who earned critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination at a young age as the star of Whale Rider. Lastly, Jessica Henwick has been cast as Nymeria Sand, a.k.a. Nym. The press release describes her as the child of an Eastern noblewoman “who brought Nym up to be cultured, graceful and deadly with a whip.”

Additionally, Toby Sebastian will play Prince Doran’s son, Trystane Martell, who is betrothed to Myrcella Baratheon, the eldest daughter of Cersei Lannister and the late Robert Baratheon (wink, nudge), who will now be portrayed by Nell Tiger Free. Areo Hotah, recognizable to readers of George R.R. Martin ‘s novels as the captain of Doran Martell’s palace guard, will be played by DeObia Oparei. And Enzo Cilenti will fill the role of Yezzan, an extremely wealthy slave trader who may have issues with the changes Daenerys Targaryen has made.

The new season of “Game of Thrones” is scheduled to air in 2015.

 


Comic-Con: Fans Show Love for “Penny Dreadful” & Hannibal

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 25 July 2014 1:43 AM, PDT

Here’s how we know NBC’s “Hannibal” is doing something right. During the most gruesome parts in the highlight reel shown in Ballroom 20 at Comic-Con, people emitted “oohs” and “aahs”. Some even whooped with delight. Psychopaths? Hardly.  When the time came for people to ask questions of executive producer Bryan Fuller and members of cast, the tenor of the conversation was quite cerebral. If Dr. Lecter were on the hunt for rude people to eat on Thursday afternoon, he would not have found them in that room.

A huge part of Comic-Con’s thrill is to sit among scores of fans that think deeply about challenging shows like this and Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful,” which paneled directly after “Hannibal”. Both fit in the horror genre although surprisingly, the ballroom seemed a bit emptier during “Penny.” More’s the pity for those who missed that conversation. As the panel’s Dreadful of a moderator Aisha Tyler put it, “So many feels!”

If the “Hannibal” panel felt like an intellectual exploration of a television show, “Penny” struck emotional chords. Creator John Logan spoke about the heartfelt connections he had with the plight of the classic literary monsters whose stories he played with during the show’s first season. I could hear the people around me murmuring in empathy with his observations. Even when fans put him on the spot about the show’s depictions of sexuality (which, in the case of Eva Green‘s character Vanessa Ives, came across as troubling at times) his answers were profoundly thoughtful.

Another major reason people show up at these panels, though, is to get scoop on what’s to come in future episodes. So if you haven’t watched these shows, you might want to stop reading now because details that follow include spoilers.

You have been warned.

“Penny Dreadful’s” panel allowed Tyler to indulge her (and our) deepest questions about the nature of the relationships at play in the show, including the crazy, carnal love scene between Josh Hartnett‘s Ethan Chandler and Reeve Carney‘s Dorian Gray. Logan was very frank in answering that as a gay man, he wanted to deal with all aspects of sexuality in this show. “Let’s face it, it’s 2014. We can have people be true in a sexual way,” Logan said.

Beyond that, the majority of the questions had to do with the finale revelation that Ethan Chandler is, in fact, a werewolf. Logan said that season two would begin to explore Ethan’s background, much in the way viewers got a view into Vanessa’s past in the first season. Indeed, Logan says that the main relationship he is spinning out in season three has to do with the bond between Ethan and Vanessa, and that next season would also reveal more about the theological underpinnings that drive Ethan and influence other stories on the show.

But the biggest reveal of “Penny Dreadful” panel was that Helen McCrory‘s Madame Kali will be season two’s main antagonist. Logan showed a scene that was cut from season one which featured McCrory brilliantly delivering a monologue that hinted at her having wicked designs on messing with Miss Ives. It let us know just how devilish the dark Madame can be, and I can’t wait to watch.

Meanwhile, the “Hannibal” panel included Caroline Dhavernas, Scott Thompson, Aaron Abrams … and Raúl Esparza, whose character Dr. Chilton took a bullet to the face in season two. While it’s not uncommon for dearly departed co-stars to appear on Comic-Con panels to bid farewell to fans, in this case, Esparza was present because he’s returning in season three. We’ll also see Eddie Izzard, although he’ll be appearing in flashbacks because, well, there ain’t no coming back from what happened to his character.

Season three of “Hannibal” takes place a year after the events of the second season finale,  and will take its time letting us know the full extent of who lives and who died. We won’t get the full details of the fateful night’s outcome until episode four; Fuller explained that he wants to take time looking at Hannibal’s life on the run, and the development of his relationship with Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). Fuller further pointed out that the blood red suit he was wearing was Italian — which was a clue about one of the settings for the next season.

The executive producer also let slip that Gina Torres‘s character Bella Crawford is returning, for what that’s worth. The new season also will introduce a number of new characters from Thomas Harris‘s novels, including Francis Dolarhyde in episode eight (which kicks off the Red Dragon arc of the story), as well as Inspector Pazzi and in episode three, much-loved character Lady Murasaki.  Fuller did not have any casting announcements to share for these upcoming roles, but he did say, “I think Murasaki is going to kick all kinds of ass.”

Missing from the panel were “Hannibal’s” central stars Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen, although both sent taped messages for the fans. Mikkelsen ended his with, “Hopefully next year I’ll see you for a quick lunch.”

In other Comic-Con news: MTV has picked up “Teen Wolf” for a two-part, 20-episode fifth season.

Elsewhere, Cinemax is getting in bed with Robert Kirkman, creator of “The Walking Dead.” Kirkman’s new comic Outcast has been picked up to pilot, and its story follows a man named Kyle Barnes, who has suffered from various instances of possession since he was a child. As an adult, he is on a search for answers and makes a discovery that could spell the end of life on Earth. Kirkman, who will write the pilot, tweeted the news thusly: “Demons are the new zombies. #Outcast pilot into pre-production @Cinemax.”


TCA: “Gotham’s” Ben McKenzie & Donal Logue Respond to Critics

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 23 July 2014 10:10 AM, PDT

Last week, reporters attending the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour enjoyed a private screening of Fox’s “Gotham”. Based on the origin stories of a young James Gordon and a younger Harvey Bullock (played by Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue), “Gotham” is one of the most highly anticipated new shows on the fall schedule.

What the actors and series executive producer Bruno Heller probably were not anticipating was the reaction of some critics, that “Gotham’s” pilot is essentially a grim cop show missing the key element that makes this particular universe special: its headliner, Batman.

For the record, this writer disagrees with that assessment. Sure, the pilot isn’t perfect, but I found it to be true to the Batman universe and would confidently recommend it to fans of the Dark Knight. A full review of “Gotham” will post closer to its premiere at 8pm on Monday, September 22. In the meantime, I sat down with McKenzie and Logue at the Beverly Hilton earlier this week to find out what they thought about a few early and very vocal critical reactions to the pilot.

Spoiler alert — they were not amused.

IMDb: You two have fielded a lot of questions about how “Gotham” will work without a superhero.

Ben McKenzie: I’ll jump right in there, if you want.

Donal Logue: That’s absurd. Really? It’s uninteresting to see Gotham, Oswald Cobblepot, the development of all these people before they became villains? It seems like a tired kind of criticism.

McKenzie: It’s a strange criticism to me in the sense of, the people who are fans of Batman and the Batman world are incredibly passionate, and they’ve watched all of these different iterations of this universe, from the comic book 75 years ago, all the way through the Adam West TV show,  through the movie versions which – how many different versions of that have there been? Three or four different auteurs taking on this mythology. And throughout all of that, when we take a side angle at this universe, your criticism is, “Well, there isn’t a Batman”? Well, you must love these other characters too, right?

And there is a Bruce. You see Bruce when he’s twelve. We’re not going to jump forward. We’re going to take this one day at a time, and show how this city descends into the anarchy that ultimately manifests the need for a Batman.

Logue: As a fan of Tolkien, although I know he wrote it in order – if, say, for instance, Lord of the Rings came out and someone said, “Would you be interested in seeing The Hobbit, to see what happened before that?” I’d say “Hell yes!”

McKenzie: That’s what’s beautiful about our origin story. It allows us to mine the familiarity of these characters, for an audience that is predisposed to understand what we’re talking about, in terms of the broad strokes of who these characters are. But we’re not beholden to any interpretation, because this is 20 to 30 years before they are who they’ll become.

IMDb:  From my perspective, the cops are integral to this universe. There’s a huge political element to the world of Batman, with all the corruption within the police department. And then you have Carmine Falcone ruling the criminal underworld. All of these are elements, if you look at it, which would make a great procedural kind of show with an extra mythology layered in.

Logue: I thought they did an excellent job in the animated series.

IMDb:  I did too.

Logue: In a weird way, this is a bit of an homage to that, presented to a wider audience in a different kind of format. But always, to true aficionados, even those things of what Jim and Harvey went through early on are deeply important. To me, [the critical reaction] seemed a bit kneejerk…when I saw it in print I thought, “Man, some 13 year old smart ass is writing that. ‘Nope. Pass!’”

IMDb: You also have to realize that a number of people said that about “Smallville” too.

Logue: What I like about some of this stuff, like with “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, it is more difficult in some ways, in that you know that they exist but they can’t just walk into the room. That seems to handcuff them in a really hard way. But with us –

McKenzie: We show everybody. We can show Bruce, and Oswald, and Nygma — every single character, we have access to. The only character we don’t have access to is Batman, but that’s because we’re taking it 20 years before. Eventually he will become Batman, but at this point he’s a 12-year-old boy. You’ll see him struggling with all the issues, psychologically and otherwise, that will eventually compel him to put on the cowl… For people who aren’t familiar with David Mazouz’s work, he’s a great actor. And I think watching him process all of what he’s going through at such a seminal moment in his life, it’s just going to be riveting.

And the battle between Jim and Alfred over Bruce’s soul, the conflicting philosophies that they have – they’re both trying to steer Bruce down a path, but those paths differ – they’re trying to make Bruce not choose this path of vengeance and vigilantism. But they’re going to fail.

IMDb: Let’s take away all of those criticisms we talked about. What would you tell someone who is coming to this show, knowing what Gotham is, but otherwise coming in cold? Would you say “Gotham” is more like a procedural, or that it’s part of the Batman, comic book universe but without a superhero in it?

McKenzie: My answer that I would give to anyone on any show, even if I didn’t work on the show, is: “Watch the pilot. Just watch the pilot. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it.” It’s such an easy answer.

Logue: Look, this is a group of people who are so actively engaged in [this universe] that of course there’s going to be criticism. It’s amazing, the confidence with which people have opinions and dismiss it without having seen it! But to me, per some of earlier questions that we had, it’s the absurdity of, for example, how satisfying could Chinatown be if the rich guy gets away with murder at the end? Well, exceedingly.

McKenzie: And this idea has been around for a while! Back to Oedipus Rex!

Logue: …And so, yes, there’s a procedural element to it, which I really like, and I think the crimes are really interesting.

McKenzie: Because it is a little noirish, the crimes are odd and they’re not…it’s not like we have to go through eight different procedural points to discover this huge reveal of who it could possibly be. It’s more about how bizarre, twisted and crazy the world that we’re entering into is. … It’s fascinating and [the crimes] all give you a small window into how completely compromised every aspect of Gotham is, from the church to the police force, to the political powers that be. Everyone is on the take, and so weird crimes manifest in strange ways, and people behave in a bizarre manner because they’re without hope. And Jim’s the only hope there is.

IMDb: Also, in the end, none of these people are metahuman. They’re all just people doing crazy, heightened things.

McKenzie: Yes!

Logue: I’ve always loved the DC world because it’s rooted in, like, a Jungian-style human psychology where people take actual masks to match their shadow. I think that really bodes well for us, because it’s rooted in this visceral part of human nature. So when you’re talking about, “How can you do a show that explores the darker side of human nature, and how it behaves in an overly urban environment?” If you can’t see that there’s no limit to the storylines there, then I don’t know what to say.

It’s OK. Look, we’ll take whatever criticism comes our way, and we’ll even take it before someone’s actually tasted the meal, but that comes a little with this universe, I think.


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

Posted by Melanie McFarland on 21 July 2014 5:42 PM, PDT

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?

Yes!

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

8pmSelfie

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.