[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
A couple weeks ago at the TCA press tour, I sat down with Clive Owen and Steven Soderbergh for a 45-minute discussion about their new Cinemax series "The Knick," a medical drama set around New York's Knickerbocker Hospital in 1900.
Soderbergh directed the totality of the first season, which focuses on Owen's Dr. John W. Thackery, a visionary surgeon who augments his forward-thinking approach to his profession with additions to cocaine and opium.
As you might expect, it's a wide-ranging interview covering the show's journey to Cinemax, the approach to the occasionally harrowing medical rituals of the period, the pressures of doing five two-hour movies consecutively and the decision to use a trippy score by Cliff Martinez.
It's a great interview and it'll go up sometime next week, ahead of the show's August 8 premiere on Cinemax.
While the full Q&A will be posted, I wanted to whet appetites with a couple details from Owen about some of the external aspects of his character, details that already have people chattering, either based on the posters and trailers or, in the case of my Twitter feed, based on early screeners.
Fast National ratings for Thursday, July 31, 2014.
With "Big Brother" and a "Big Bang Theory" repeat leading the way, CBS scored its regular Thursday wins in all measures.
The night's big notable was ABC's "The Quest," which got off to a soft start, particularly among male viewers.
Thursday returns were on the low side, with "Big Brother" losing a couple viewers but remaining flat in the key demo, "Welcome to Sweden" dipping and "Gang Related" falling a bit without "Hell's Kitchen" as a lead-in. ABC's "Rookie Blue" was also down in viewers.
The news was slightly better for ABC's "NY Med," which rose a bit overall.
On to the numbers...
It turns out that being held for late May and then burnt off at a rate of two episodes per week wasn't a kiss of death for "Undateable."
The multi-cam comedy has been renewed for a second season with the news breaking, as it so often seems to, via Twitter on Thursday (July 31) evening, starting with star Chris D'Elia, followed by executive producer Bill Lawrence, whose optimism for the future of "Undateable" never waned.
Mike Leigh's 1996 drama "Secrets & Lies" is a very good movie, at times even a great movie. It's full of great performances, rich thematic underpinnings and, like so many Mike Leigh films, fine naturalistic dialogue.
But then it also has that scene where Timothy Spall's Maurice wails, "Secrets and lies! We're all in pain! Why can't we share our pain? I've spent my entire life trying to make people happy, and the three people I love the most in the world hate each other's guts, and I'm in the middle! I can't take it anymore!"
I've never quite been sure what Mike Leigh wanted that speech to accomplish.
Did he really think, "Without this, nobody will know why we called this movie 'Secrets & Lies' and audiences will leave disgruntled"?
Did he think, "Yes, viewers will probably get what the movie is about, but there's no harm in underlining it just a little"?
Or did he just figure that speech was the key to Spall getting an Oscar nomination and he left it in because we all know Mike Leigh is deeply invested in award recognition for his movies?
I tend to suspect option "B," because nobody ever placed the requirement of "subtlety" on great art. Sometimes artists like to make sure they're understood, even if a largely inert sponge probably would have gotten the point anyway.
Hugo Blick's eight-part miniseries "The Honorable Woman" -- I really, really want to call it "The Honourable Woman," but once you open the door to British spelling, that door can never be closed -- is a nuanced and occasionally gripping political thriller bursting with strong performances, anchored by the clearly Emmy-worthy Maggie Gyllenhaal. It's also really, really worried that you won't understand what's happening beneath-the-surface and I'm not sure that I've ever seen a movie or TV program spend so much time directly articulating and then repeating its underlying themes.
It's an odd combination, because while writer-director-producer Blick has almost no faith in the audience's ability to parse this text for its message on truth, lies, secrets and the Middle East, he's reasonably confident that viewers will be able to follow a fragmented narrative that withholds key pieces of information for long stretches. So "The Honorable Woman" is probably the most subtle and least subtle thing you're likely to watch on TV this month, which actually makes it of a piece with a lot of SundanceTV's original programming, which could practically have the tagline, "Pay Close Attention: We're Only Going To Tell You This 50 Times." [SundanceTV placed two shows in my Top 10 for 2013, so don't take this necessarily as a damning criticism. I like things that are both obtuse and willing to beat you over the head with a mallet.]
More on "The Honorable Woman" after the break...
Last August, Syfy's "Sharknado" premiered to a, um, sharknado of Twitter attention, but almost no live audience.
That appears not to have been a problem for Wednesday's (July 30) premiere of "Sharknado 2: The Second One."
Syfy boasts that "Sharknado 2" drew 3.9 million viewers, including 1.6 million in the key 18-49 demographic. The original "Sharknado" drew under 1.4 million viewers total, so that's not unimpressive.
Fast National ratings for Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
A move to a new time period didn't hurt "Extant" among young viewers, but it didn't help the Halle Berry drama overall. CBS stayed second overall for Wednesday night behind NBC, but "Big Brother" helped the network tie for the primetime lead in the key demo.
Interestingly, the night's most notable result came not on The Big Four, but on The CW, which got a rather impressive premiere for "Penn & Teller: Fool Us," which delivered the network's best non-"Whose Line" ratings of the summer.
And yes, you'll have to wait until the afternoon (or later) for "Sharknado 2: The Second One" figures. Sorry.
On to the numbers...
I know I've thought it and said it and probably even written it, but there's something vaguely condescending about the notion that the "Sharknado" franchise is somehow review-proof or review-immune or however you'd prefer to view it.
Just because something is designed to be a guilty pleasure doesn't mean that it can't achieve its goals with more or less craft.
And just because something isn't necessarily meant to be taken seriously doesn't mean that those aspirations can't be achieved with more or less success.
Because the desire to be taken seriously or viewed as legitimate is hardly an argument to be reviewed or acknowledged in the case of utter ineptitude.
For example, look at CBS' "Under the Dome." It has a literary pedigree, some respectable creative auspices, a cast of familiar TV faces, a position of some prominence in CBS' lineup and a reputation as a summertime success, even if that reputation hasn't been supported by recent ratings.
And "Under the Dome" is awful. It's as inert and inept a show as there is on TV, a showcase for shoddy effects, leaden pacing, dead-ended plotting and a slew of performances that run the full gamut from wooden to petrified wooden.
No matter the patina of frivolity that coats Wednesday's (July 30) premiere of "Sharknado 2: The Second One," there's almost no level on which this Syfy original movie is inferior.
Unlike "Under the Dome," "Sharknado 2" has a sense of playfulness that infuses its variably successful effects shots, its sometimes stumbling momentum and its unflagging commitment to delivering ridiculously audacious set-pieces. And unlike "Under the Dome," every one of the actors on-screen in "Sharknado" clearly wants to be there and even if that's because they're aware they couldn't be doing anything else, why is that so bad?
This isn't to say that "Sharknado 2" is some great piece of made-for-TV art. In improving its empirical quality, the sequel has absolutely lost some of its ephemeral charm. But it's absolutely a thing that is capable of being evaluated objectively, as more than just an "It is what it is" or an "If you liked the first one you'll like this one" level.
So let's do that, eh?
Fast National ratings for Tuesday, July 29, 2014.
"America's Got Talent" topped Tuesday night in all measures, while "Food Fighters" rose from last week's premiere, allowing NBC to dominate primetime.
With NBC doubling up the competition among young viewers and cruising overall, there weren't many other Tuesday notables, though ABC's "Extreme Weight Loss" was up a hair and "Celebrity Wife Swap" dipped a hair in its season finale.
On to the numbers...
There has been a long history of girls playing the title role in "Peter Pan," so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that NBC's "Peter Pan Live!" has found its leading lady on HBO's "Girls."
NBC announced on Wednesday (July 30) morning that Allison Williams will play Peter Pan in the network's second live musical, which will air on December 4.
Williams will appear opposite Christopher Walken, who was previously cast as the nefarious Captain Hook.