Inside TV+Movies with Daniel Fienberg

Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'

Is Mamie Gummer enough to make up for a weak title and predictable plotting?

<p>Mamie Gummer of &quot;Emily Owens, M.D.'</p>

Mamie Gummer of "Emily Owens, M.D.'

Credit: The CW

[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.]

Show:"Emily Owens, MD" (The CW)
The Pitch: "We need a medical drama that we can pair with 'Hart of Dixie,' but one that people won't mock because the central doctor wears formal shorts!"
Quick Response: Part of a gut reaction to a show is the reaction to its title and "Emily Owens, MD" has one of the worst titles on TV. It's a name that's evocative of literally nothing other than the main character's name and profession. "House" was briefly "House, MD," but the name/word "House" is immediately evocative. It's a word with ingrained value. "Doogie Howser, MD" has an immediate hook because the name "Doogie" juxtaposed with the profession tells you almost everything you need to know about a show focusing on a diminutive doctor. "Emily Owens, MD" is the combination of a generic name and a profession. The CW might as well just call the show "Pretty Lady Doctor," which is a crappy title, but at least contains narrative information [FOX's "Mob Doctor" has basically taken this naming approach]. And it's not like "Emily Owens, MD" doesn't have a workable hook. Mamie Gummer's eponymous character is a fresh-faced doctor who thinks she'll be able to reinvent herself in her new workplace, only to discover that the medical world is just like high school. Oh and she's at the same hospital as her med school crush Will. So the hook is something like "Undeclared" meets "Felicity" by way of "Grey's Anatomy." You won't find a second of "Emily Owens, MD" that isn't familiar, but shows of this type, shows so completely and utterly centered around a single character, can rise or fall beyond their pedestrian roots if the lead actor is good enough. Mamie Gummer -- still not quite entrenched enough in her own identity not to be best-known as Meryl Streep's eerily similar daughter -- is a good enough lead actor that I'm probably willing to give "Emily Owens" a couple episodes not instantly warranted by the awful title, the corny voice-over, the perfunctory love triangle and the rehashed medical procedure. She's funny and vulnerable when she needs to be and when she's supposed to display that the character is actually a good doctor, she's properly assertive. I sense that Gummer may be playing a slightly funnier version of the main character than the script required, but as Gummer showed on "The Good Wife," she's able to play characters who function semi-comedically within a drama. Such as the show is, Gummer makes it semi-watchable and occasionally she even makes it enjoyable, though it's going to take more than one episode before Justin Hartley, Michael Rady and Jack Coleman make impressions that go beyond "Tall," "Guy from 'Greek'" and "Guy from 'Heroes.'" None of the female supporting players make impressions that are even that concrete. 
Desire To Watch Again: Not huge, but I certainly won't actively avoid it. I watched every episode of "Hart of Dixie" and likely will continue to watch and I don't know if I'd be able to give you an empirical, objective reason why "Hart of Dixie" is markedly better than "Emily Owens, MD." It just happens that "Hart of Dixie" has more people I like in it and it also seems less hung up on its medical trappings. So OK. There's my answer for why "Hart of Dixie" is better. It's a portrait of a fantastical, imaginary Southern town that happens to have a generic medical procedural occasionally dancing around the edges. "Emily Owens, MD" is a generic medical procedural that just happens to have an interesting lead performance. I can still imagine watching "Emily Owens, MD" again at some point.

Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

 

 

Set Visit Preview: 'Beautiful Creatures' brings the world of Casters to life

Richard LaGravenese is directing the February 2013 release

<p>&quot;Beautiful Creatures&quot; opens on February 13, 2013.</p>

"Beautiful Creatures" opens on February 13, 2013.

Credit: Warner Brothers/ John Bramley
NEW ORLEANS - Being up all night in The Big Easy isn't unusual, but this May, I skipped revelry on Bourbon Street and, like many a teenager, I stayed up until 3 a.m. finishing "Beautiful Creatures," the first book in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Caster Chronicles series.
 
The novel -- you can find it in the Young Adult Occult Romance section of your local chain bookstore -- was hard to put down and I've subsequently finished the sequel "Beautiful Darkness" (I'll get to "Beautiful Chaos" at some point), but I was really doing my homework. The following day, I joined two other journalists in crossing the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway to Covington, Louisiana to visit the set of Warner Brothers' feature adaptation of the book, set to hit theaters on February 13, 2013.
 
Garcia and Stohl's Gatlin, South Carolina may be fictional, but on that steamy May day, Covington was doing a terrific job of playing the archetypal Southern town, with humidity and Spanish moss dripping from every surface. 
 
For the uninitiated, "Beautiful Creatures" is the story of fairly ordinary high school student Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), who falls in love with the exotic Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) and discovers that Gatlin is actually a hotbed for supernatural activity, including witches and other... well... beautiful creatures. 
 
While the young ensemble of "Beautiful Creatures," which also features Zoey Deutch (playing Emily Asher) and Thomas Mann (as Ethan's comic relief buddy Link), may be dominated fresh-faced relative unknowns, what should draw viewers beyond fans of the wildly popular genre is a supporting cast that features Oscar winners Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons, Oscar nominee Viola Davis and Emmy winner Margo Martindale. 
 
Those are some heavy hitters and they were drawn, no doubt, by the presence of Oscar nominated writer-director Richard LaGravenese.
 
"I know people are going to compare it to 'Hunger Games' or 'Twilight' or whatever, but those are just big franchises with heightened and/or supernatural themes," says "Shameless" star Emmy Rossum, who plays the bewitching Ridley. "So we definitely fit in that realm, but I think even moreso than the book -- I mean the book was definitely different than those in that the core of it being a love story between star-crossed lovers, very Romeo and Juliet: one's a witch, one's not, and they can't be together, that whole thing. That's totally a universal theme --  But to me, when you've got somebody Richard, who's such an amazing writer to adapt the book, because it's really an adaptation, it's not verbatim the book. A lot of things are changed. Some plot points are changed, some things are explained further than they were in the book or changed, and the world is completely visually created by [cinematographer Philippe Rousselot] and Richard in a very -- going with what we did with Ridley -- a very haute couture, kind of fantastical, magical place, some of which references when you read the script directly from paintings that Richard loves. He's going to visually recreate the world in that way. So I think, visually, we're going to be very different from those films."
 
Rossum, it should be noted, is a big fan of the books and although her Ridley looks very little like Garcia and Stohl's description of the character, trust me when I say that nobody will be disappointed by her interpretation.
 
And Thompson offers reassurance that one needn't be fluent in the world of casters and incubi to enjoy what the "Fisher King" and "Bridges of Madison County" scribe is doing here.
 
"I haven't read the books yet, I will," Thompson says. "But I love the script, I thought the script was funny and witty and very much a kind of intelligently-told very fun story. And the part was one of the most interesting I've been asked to play in a long time."
 
In our day on the "Beautiful Creatures" set, we saw the filming of two scenes and chatted with Deutch, Mann, Ehrenreich and the marvelously gracious Thompson, who swapped in an out of her Southern accent during the interview, and the equally gracious Rossum, who delivered cups of melon water during lunch when we were initially skeptical at the beverage's magical properties. 
 
Stay tuned for those conversations, plus on-set production details -- Spectacular craft service fried chicken and more! -- as we get a little closer to the February 13 premiere.

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 143

Dan and Alan talk 'Go On,' 'Animal Practice,' 'Hell on Wheels' and Olympics

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 143

The
Happy Wednesday, Boys & Girls!
 
As promised, here's a mid-week bonus installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
We came in under an hour on this one and it's fairly straight-forward: We review NBC's "Go On" and "Animal Practice," chat about the start of the second season of AMC's "Hell on Wheels" and we use one piece of Listener Mail as our opening to chat about NBC's Olympics coverage a bit.
 
Here's the breakdown:
"Go On" (00:01:30 - 00:15:30)
"Hell on Wheels" (00:15:30 - 00:25:40)
"Animal Practice" (00:25:45 - 00:38:25)
The Olympics (00:38:25 - 00:55:00)
 

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

Interview: Julia Louis-Dreyfus talks Emmys, 'Veep' and the new Nicole Holofcener film

What does tying Lucille Ball for an Emmy milestone mean to her?

<p>Julia Louis-Dreyfus of &quot;Veep&quot;</p>

Julia Louis-Dreyfus of "Veep"

Credit: Bill Gray/HBO
Last month, Julia Louis-Dreyfus picked up her 13th career Emmy nomination as a comedy lead actress, tying Lucille Ball for most nods within the category. 
 
When it comes to select company, it's tough to top Lucille Ball, though it should be noted that Ball picked up all of her nominations for playing characters named "Lucy," doing variations within one of the most iconic personas in TV history. In contrast, Louis-Dreyfus picked up seven nominations (and a win) for playing Elaine on "Seinfeld," five nominations (and a win) for playing the title role in "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and she's now got her first nod for playing Vice President Selina Meyer on HBO's "Veep." That's three very different roles on three very different shows on three different networks.
 
Louis-Dreyfus is also a a producer on "Veep," which means she'll theoretically be part of the team honored for the show's Outstanding Comedy Series recognition, her first nomination in that capacity. 
 
Last week, in the heart of TCA press tour, I was able to catch up with Louis-Dreyfus to talk about her Emmy nomination and Emmy night rituals, her new experience shifting to cable, her favorite "Veep" obscenity and her first lead role in a feature film in a long, long time.
 
Click through for the full Q&A...
 

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 142

Dan and Alan talk more TCA Press Tour, 'Buffy' finale and 'The Dark Knight Rises

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 142

The
Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
 
Time for our first Monday installment of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast in a few weeks. 
 
And this will also be the first of two podcasts this week.
 
In this episode, Sepinwall and I wrap up TCA Press Tour, discuss this week's "Breaking Bad" and the Season 1 finale of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." And, because people requested it and because we'd both seen the movie, we also discuss "The Dark Knight Rises."
 
Come back on Wednesday for our reviews of "Animal Practice," "Go On," "Hell on Wheels" and for our answer to any mail y'all happen to provide. 
 
Good times!
 
Here's Monday's breakdown:
TCA Press Tour (00:01:00 - 00:34:25)
"Breaking Bad" (00:34:35 - 00:57:40)
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (00:57:40 - 01:15:15)
"The Dark Knight Rises" (01:15:20 - 01:33:00)
 

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mob Doctor'

Jordana Spiro is trapped in two generic genre shows at once

<p>Jordana Spiro of &quot;The Mob Doctor&quot;</p>

Jordana Spiro of "The Mob Doctor"

Credit: FOX

[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.]

Show:"The Mob Doctor" (FOX)
The Pitch:Isn't this one kinda self-explanatory? "You see... She's a doctor... but she also works for the MOB. Oh and she's hot."
Quick Response: Jordana Spiro is an underutilized resource in Hollywood. She had a kinda-hit show, at least by TBS standards, but that means that maybe 1 percent of the population has a clue who she is. Expect that number to soar to 2 percent by the time FOX is done promoting "The Mob Doctor," but I doubt that this mediocre jumble of genres is going to be the show that makes her the star she probably deserves to be. "The Mob Doctor" -- Don't forget the "The," because unlike the tag line for "The Bourne Legacy," when it comes to mob doctors, there was always only meant to be one -- is a generic medical procedural grafted onto a stereotypical mobster show. That produces a unique, but not necessarily effective, world in which you can have an ethically complicated case-of-the-week getting upstaged and rendered entirely disposable by a gratuitous and jarring car chase under the L in Chicago. At least in the pilot, the hospital is a world of theoretically serious dramas and emotions, while the mob storylines are set aside for cheap jokes, one-dimensional characterizations and dialogue that feels filched from countless movies and TV shows. It'd be like "dr. vegas" except for how central Sin City and the casino backdrop were to that failed CBS drama. That's why "dr. vegas," for all of its failings and its risible title, actually *was* kinda distinctive and interesting. The use of Chicago in the "Mob Doctor" pilot only sporadically adds value and the blending of two sets of perfunctory genre elements results less in one distinctive, fresh show and more in a doubly-unengaging Frankenshow. Spiro is not at fault at all. She's tough when she needs to be tough and sensitive when she needs to be sensitive. The character has a self-righteous streak that I found off-putting immediately, but I think it's just a set-up so that she can undergo a moral or ethical slide as the "Mob" half of the title pushes against the "Doctor" half. Zeljko Ivanek is wasted. Zach "QB1!" Gilford is wasted. William Forsythe is seemingly playing the mob heavy from the nonexistent sensationalistic Lifetime original movie "I Was a Doctor For The Mob!" That is to say that he's having fun, but he's not in the same show as the rest of the actors (who are all pretty much forgettable, if I haven't mentioned them). When it comes to "The Mob Doctor," I see the hook in the premise that might get some viewers to tune in, but I don't see the value in the execution that might bring them back.
Desire To Watch Again: Middling-to-low, but "The Mob Doctor" is in a time slot that isn't all that competitive for my DVR attentions. Especially in the early-going before "Gossip Girl" returns, I'll have space to give this one a couple episodes to find a voice, any voice.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'

The combination of Justin Kirk, JoAnna Garcia-Swisher and a monkey should be funnier

<p>The stars of NBC's &quot;Animal Practice&quot;</p>

The stars of NBC's "Animal Practice"

Credit: NBC

[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.]

Show:"Animal Practice" (NBC
The Pitch:It's "Becker"... With a monkey!
Quick Response: This is the first Take Me To The Pilots show this summer where I could write a review if I wanted to. And perhaps I may in a few days. NBC is premiering "Animal Practice" next week with an Olympics bump and I've already seen two versions of the pilot, one with Amy Huberman as the romantic lead and one with JoAnna Garcia-Swisher. The addition of Garcia-Swisher is already a good sign, not because Huberman was bad by any means, but because Garcia-Swisher is quite good and there's a chemistry with leading man Justin Kirk that was entirely absent in the original pilot. I always feel better about shows when they know things need fixing and take steps to fix them and that gives me some cause for optimism with "Animal Practice," perhaps more cause for optimism than either version of the pilot. Kirk, so excellent for so long on "Weeds," gets a fair amount of mileage out of a character who's barely even sketched out in the script. He loves animals, but he hates people! Yes? And? Yeah. That's it. With Joe and Anthony Russo directing, the main edict on this "Animal Practice" pilot appears to have been "Faster!" and the 22 minutes zip by at a tremendous clip even if basically nothing of substance happens. Kirk's good with fast-talking and with Tyler Labine, Bobby Lee and newcomer Betsy Sodaro, he's got a cast of scene-stealers around him. But then, because those three slightly hammy supporting players aren't enough distraction, you also have Crystal the Monkey and a wide assortment of other animals. The core problem with the show is that there's no point in having seven or eight scene-stealing humans and/or animals if the core of the show isn't there. Right now, despite the best intentions of Kirk and the smart addition of Garcia-Swisher, it just isn't. I chuckled a few times at "Animal Practice," but I didn't care about anything and I didn't warm to a single character. You choose what you want to accentuate in a pilot -- "Ben & Kate" w/its likability or "The Mindy Project" with its singular voice or "The Neighbors" with its sucking -- and "Animal Practice" accentuates chaos and stupid animal tricks. Yes, Bobby Lee getting choked by a python isn't unfunny, but it won't be enough to bring me back. 
Desire To Watch Again: Oh, I'm gonna watch again. Seriously, the pilot has a monkey driving an ambulance. Under what circumstances WOULDN'T I watch again? Plus, I got the sense from both the slightly tinkered pilot and from the TCA press tour panel that the creative team isn't unaware of the refinements they want to or need to make to transform this into an ongoing series. That being said, I can't imagine anybody being passionately excited for "Animal Practice" off this pilot alone.

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'

Shawn Ryan's submarine drama has potential, but needs more time

<p>Daisy Betts and Andre Braugher of ABC's &quot;Last Resort&quot;</p>

Daisy Betts and Andre Braugher of ABC's "Last Resort"

Credit: ABC

[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.]

Show:"The Last Resort" (ABC)
The Pitch: "The Hunt For Red October" meets "Off The Map"
Quick Response: I know I already said this last night with my "Vegas" entry, but "The Last Resort" is another pilot that I liked, but didn't like nearly as much as I wanted to. And, like "Vegas," it's another show where my instinct is to like nearly everybody involved, from co-creator (with Karl Gajdusek) Shawn Ryan to stars like Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman and Dichen Lachman and Autumn Reeser and Jessy Schram and Robert Patrick and Bruce Davison. I also think pilot director Martin Campbell is, despite a wildly mixed feature track record, an extremely proficient director of action and tension. And "Last Resort" has a plot that's astoundingly tantalizing at nearly every turn. Claustrophobic submarine intrigue! Mutinies! Nuclear strike orders! Insubordination! Shootings! A tropical paradise! A cast of dozens! Badassery galore! There's a ridiculous amount happening in the "Last Resort" pilot and it's happening at utterly breakneck speed and... maybe that's my problem. "Last Resort" maybe makes me appreciate either the potential of the USA 75-minute pilot model or else something as old-fashioned as a two-hour pilot. There's so much happening in so little time in "The Last Resort" pilot, meaning that the characters are defined by one or two actions or one or two snippets of exposition at most. And the characters in "The Last Resort" are doing some very extreme things, things that for me as a viewer, I can't fully buy without a better understanding of motivation and relationships. I get the desire is to toss us into this world and that the answer for "Why the heck would that character do that?" is "Because they do! You don't know enough to assume they WOULDN'T do that!" But for some reason, I lacked the information to go along with the story fully in the way I wanted to because of the structure of the pilot. Too many people doing too many things that I can't accept without more context. There's a good chance that if I watch four of five more episodes and then go back and watch the pilot, I could be like, "Oooh. It all makes character-driven sense now," but in 42 minutes, I couldn't do that. I kept getting pulled out of the drama by the need to make logical sense of things. But there was much to pull me into "Last Resort" as well. Braugher's authority is effortless. Speedman is likable. Daisy Betts and a couple other co-stars make positive impressions. Campbell keeps things tense and while "The Last Resort" doesn't look like a movie, it also doesn't look notably cheap in the submarine scenes. And the end of the pilot is a great launching pad for any number of possible great shows. And maybe I'll be on-board after one more hour. I'm just not there yet.
Desire To Watch Again: Strong. The pilot didn't work the way I wanted it to, but it's sure enticing. Also, a lot of folks I respect seem to have liked it more than I did. I'll rewatch the pilot before reviewing it [as I do with everything] with higher hopes already.

Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

 

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'

Dennis Quaid/Michael Chiklis drama isn't instantly great, but it has potential

<p>Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis of CBS' &quot;Vegas&quot;</p>

Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis of CBS' "Vegas"

Credit: CBS

[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.]

Show:"Vegas" (CBS)
The Pitch: "LA[s Vegas] Confidential"
Quick Response: I did a video thingie for HuffPo last week and I had to come up with my favorite new drama of the fall and, somewhat unexpectedly, the answer that felt right-est to me was "Vegas." This was a bit of a surprise, because my initial reaction to "Vegas" was predominantly one of disappointment. With this creative team -- James Mangold directing a script from Nicholas Pileggi -- and this cast -- Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis and Carrie-Anne Moss and Oliver from "The O.C." -- my expectations (or "hopes") for "Vegas" was nothing short of "greatness." And "Vegas" isn't great. It isn't close. It's very solid and as the weeks have passed since I watched it, my mind has lingered on the things that work. Those things include Chiklis and Quaid going head-to-head in some of the most archetypal "Western" ways imaginable, actually wearing white and dark ("navy," Chiklis told me at press tour, not "black") cowboy hats in several scenes. It's not surprising to see Chiklis being this good at playing this bad, but it's hard to imagine anybody not enjoying him in this kind of role, despite the absence of anything revelatory or "different." And Quaid gets better and better as he finds Ralph Lamb's inner Frontier Sheriff, not that Quaid playing noble-and-taciturn is exactly revelatory either. This is Mangold working in "3:10 To Yuma" mode, having a tremendous amount of fun with genre iconography and he nails two or three of the pilot's biggest moment with aplomb that would do John Ford or Howard Hawks proud. The production values are terrific and the recreations of 1960 Las Vegas are mighty spiffy. And thanks to the aforementioned archetypes, it's easy to look at "Vegas" and know what the series is, or at least what the first 22 episodes are. What doesn't work? The pilot is built around drama for the long-haul, so there isn't nearly as much tension as there should be. It lags frequently, especially in the crime-of-the-week that sets the overall plot in motion That doesn't necessarily bode well, what with CBS' network-wide preference for procedural familiarity. And for all of the high production values, there's a CBS "coldness" to the pilot that probably prevents the period depictions from being as fun as they should be. In that respect, it's not even as evocative of the same period as Starz' fitfully effective "Magic City," much less something like the world Martin Scorsese recreated in the "Boardwalk Empire" pilot. The pilot also simply can't find time to get any value at all out of Moss or Jason O'Mara or really anybody in the supporting cast. Only time will tell if this is going to be a 1960s Vegas version of "Blue Bloods" or a "Good Wife"-esque example of CBS tip-toing towards a cable sensibility. It's not anywhere near as good as I want it to be, but it could get there.
Desire To Watch Again: High. I guess this is the network drama I'm most anticipating seeing in its second episode, even if I'm worried about that second episode as well.

Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

Press Tour 2012: Starz chief discusses the end of 'Spartacus,' plus 'Incursion' and 'Black Sails'

Also, updates on the challenges delaying 'Marco Polo'

<p>Liam McIntyre of &quot;Spartacus&quot;</p>

Liam McIntyre of "Spartacus"

Credit: Starz
BEVERLY HILLS - When Chris Albrecht took the stage at the Television Critics Association press tour on Thursday (August 2) morning, one of the first things he praises was the record-setting second season for "Spartacus," which averaged over 6 million viewers per episode. 
 
This raises one very obvious questions: If "Spartacus" remains a robust centerpiece to the Starz schedule, why is the network ending the series after its upcoming third season (plus a miniseries)? 
 

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