Pre-credit sequence. After voting Morgan out, Solarrion is down to nine. As they return to camp, Tony knocks over all of the torches. He doesn't pick them up. In fact, he wants to cause a little more bedlam. He explains to Spencer that his alliance has been targeting people who don't deserve to be in the game anymore and he wants to know why he's been targeted twice (kinda, since no votes went against him the previous week). Tony says Woo's more athletic and LJ's more athletic and he wants to know why he's been targeted. Tony enjoys being a force of chaos for absolutely NO reason, so he starts demanding explanations for why the minority alliance didn't just come kneel before him and agree to vote Morgan out. Yeah, Tony. That's just how "Survivor" works. "But anyway, I appreciate the compliment," he tells them. He has a 6-3 advantage, but he knows that getting rid of sitting ducks is never that easy. He knows he could be gone tomorrow and he sounds prepared to split up his alliance if necessary. Foreshadowing, baby!
I'm intrigued by Wednesday (April 16) night's "American Idol" theme, but I'm also expecting to be disappointed.
As FOX put it last week, the theme is Competitor's Pick (we'll see if the word choice or punctuation change any) and the gimmick seems to be that each singer received a list of six potential songs selected by their rivals and they got to do one of those songs.
Unfortunately, the "Idol" Finalists keep pretending they're all lovey-dovey besties, which decreases the chances of straight-up sabotage or subversion.
But we can still dream, eh?
Fast National ratings for Tuesday, April 15, 2014.
Rising episodes of "The Voice" and "About a Boy" helped NBC win Tuesday night among young viewers, while CBS' "NCIS"-led procedurals dominated overall despite hovering around series lows in the key demo.
In a special 9 p.m. airing, ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." got a solid demo bump and a tiny overall uptick, but couldn't do much to help the launch of "Celebrity Wife Swap."
Among other sluggish Tuesday offerings, FOX's "Glee" lost a few viewers from last week, while "New Girl" and "The Mindy Project" were on the low side. Both "The Originals" and "Supernatural" came in week for The CW as well.
On to the numbers...
Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls!
I'm away from Los Angeles getting my Passover on, so it wasn't possible to do a video show this week. Dry your weeping eyes! Instead, you get a 90-minute installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, just like in the old days.
And there's a ton of stuff to discuss in this week's podcast, starting with the Tuesday premiere of FX's "Fargo," the return of "Orphan Black" and WGN's new drama "Salem." We talk a bit about Stephen Colbert's big move and what Comedy Central could do with the post-"Daily Show" slot. We do our first in-season "Mad Men" review. And because some stuff went down on Sunday's "Game of Thrones," we discuss that a bit as well.
"Fargo" (00:01:00 - 00:16:45)
"Orphan Black" (00:16:45 - 00:26:30)
"Salem" (00:26:30 - 00:35:45)
Listener Mail: Colbert and Comedy Central (00:36:10 - 00:43:25)
"Mad Men" (00:43:40 - 01:11:00)
"Game of Thrones" (00:1:11:00 - 01:31:45)
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 or subscribe on IHeartRadio.]
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
Fast National ratings for Monday, April 14, 2014.
Why was this Monday different from all other Mondays?
Actually, it wasn't.
"Dancing with the Stars" kept ABC in its regular position as Monday's most watched network, while "The Voice" helped NBC maintain its supremacy among young viewers, as The Seder Effect [Not a real thing] had no particular impact on primetime ratings.
The first night of Passover saw "Dancing with the Stars" rise slightly and "The Voice" remain relatively flat, which was more a product of last week's NCAA Tournament Final competition than anything else. If you like, though, you can try to interpret the week-to-week drop for "Bones" as related to the Pesach observance. [Note: This probably is not the case.]
Monday's big notable was the premiere of CBS' slightly shuffled comedy lineup, which was predictably less impressive without "How I Met Your Mother," though "Friends With Better Lives" certainly wasn't an out-of-the-box failure, even though it was CBS' lowest-rated and least-watched comedy.
Meanwhile, over on The CW, "Star-Crossed" continued its recent erratic performance, falling behind "The Tomorrow People" for the night and, perhaps, in the race for a pity renewal.
On to the numbers...
On the Calgary set of FX's "Fargo" last month, most of the cast was there either shooting or dropping by on an off-day to chat with a group reporters. Billy Bob Thornton couldn't make it, but sent his regrets and expressed the desire to talk to all of the assembled scribes pre-premiere. That's the sort of thing you hear a lot in-the-moment, but doesn't normally come to pass. Things slip through the cracks and nobody's really to blame. People get busy.
Billy Bob Thornton followed through.
After a series of crossed wires and adjusted schedules, the Oscar-winning "Slingblade" scribe checked in last Sunday morning, delayed only because he got caught-up watching early baseball, which immediately gives us something in common.
"You can imagine what I think about your team," Thornton drawls. He's famously a Cardinals fan. I'm not-especially-famously a Red Sox fan.
"You guys just creamed us twice," Thornton admits, referring to a pair of Boston World Series wins. "But I respect the Red Sox organization. Really good organization."
Thornton could talk baseball all day. The game he's been watching doesn't even feature the Cardinals. It's a low-scoring early-season game between the Tigers and Orioles and even though Thornton knows former Tigers skipper Jim Leyland, that's his only rooting interest. He just enjoys the game.
Thornton also just likes FX's "Fargo." His enthusiasm was evident at the Television Critics Association press tour in January and three months later his love affair with the small screen continues. Thornton has been very frank about the current state of the film industry, especially when it comes to the understated, personal projects he's attracted to as a writer and director. The "Fargo" experience, his first prolonged TV work since "Hearts Afire" back-in-the-day, has opened his eyes to the potential of both cable work and the currently trendy "limited series" model.
He also has one of his juiciest parts in years playing Lorne Malvo, a mysterious and sadistic stranger whose arrival in Bemidji, Minnesota sets in motion a 10-episode whirlwind of murder and chaos that are thematically and tonally inspired by the Coen Brothers' "Fargo," if only sometimes linked to the movie. Malvo is equal parts terrifying and hilarious and Thornton is having a ball playing that balance.
Once we stopped talking baseball, Thornton told me about playing Malvo as a force-of-nature, the pleasures of working in TV and whether he's now inspired to target the medium for future projects.
Click through for the full Q&A in advance of Tuesday's (April 2) "Fargo" premiere...
CALGARY - As pages go, Warren Littlefield is slightly overqualified.
The Brandon Tartikoff protege spent 20 years as an executive at NBC, cultivating in a '90s run as NBC Entertainment President a gig that was, at times, rather wildly successful.
On this March day in Calgary, though, Littlefield is serving as a tour-guide for a group of reporters visiting the set of his FX limited series "Fargo." Just a 10 minute drive from downtown Calgary, we've left the urban center behind and we're at a facility that is doubling for the Bemidji Police Department, as well as several other rural Minnesota hubs. Depending on which way you wander, there are interrogation rooms, a main squad area, portions of a local hospital and a middle school cafeteria, in which we're conducting most of our interviews next to a fine piece of juvenile art that has nothing to do with "Fargo," but I'm including it anyway.
Fast National ratings for Sunday, April 13, 2014.
With 11 minutes of Masters coverage overrun and a Pope Francis-centric installment of "60 Minutes," CBS' Sunday primetime got off to a strong start and then the network cruised to an easy overall win and a tight victory in the key demographic.
A down week for "Once Upon a Time" pushed ABC to second in the key demo, leaving the network to take some solace in the smallest "Resurrection" drops to date.
Speaking of declines, FOX's full lineup from "Bob's Burgers" through to "Cosmos" was down.
NBC had slightly better news with week-to-week bumps for both "American Dream Builders" and "Crisis" and stability for "Believe," not that any of those numbers were actually especially good.
[As usual, ratings for cable offerings including the MTV Movie Awards and the "Mad Men" premiere will be available later in the day.]
On to Sunday's ratings...
Every once in a while, I like for somebody on "The Amazing Race" to really impress me. And I'm easily impressed. When the Hockey Brothers were throwing casks over their shoulders and running up hills? That impressed me. Heck, when Mark put together that car with the instructions in a language he couldn't understand? That impressed me.
Sunday (April 13) night's confusing episode of "The Amazing Race" offered a low bar for achievement: I wanted somebody to know Roman Numerals. For what it's worth, *I* don't know Roman Numerals. Well, I know some Roman Numerals, but usually I know them if I can work backwards to some degree. Like if I'm looking at a motion picture copyright date, I usually have a vague sense of when the movie was released and I can figure out the actual date from that. So when it comes to Roman Numerals, I don't impress myself, but I would have liked to have been impressed by somebody else.
I was not.
It was a weird "Amazing Race" episode in which the majority of the teams picked what was clearly the wrong Detour, nobody succeeded in just doing the Roadblock on their own and the results of the Leg were determined partially by a couple cab errors I don't understand, partially decided by inexplicably altruistic teamwork and partially determined by a bizarre physical miscalculation.
I guess I'm going to recap Sunday's episode after the break, as best I can, but I'm not sure I understood a lot of it. It's like it was ALL in Roman Numerals.
CALGARY - I've been on two Martin Freeman sets in the past year, so I'm prepared for his process.
I can't tell you the details of what Freeman's Lester Nygaard is actually doing in the scene being filmed on this beautiful March day in the hills just outside of Downtown Calgary. "Fargo" is simultaneously shooting the seventh and eighth episodes of its 10-episode season and things are getting a wee bit climactic on the FX limited series.
It's not spoiling much to say that Lester Nygaard is under pressure in this particular moment. Lester is under pressure for most of "Fargo," which draws inspiration, but very little plot, from the Coen Brothers' Oscar-winning film. From the beginning, Lester is a slightly-less-than-normal guy whose life is turned upside-down by a chance meeting with Billy Bob Thornton's appropriately malevolent Lorne Malvo. As befits what is now the "Fargo" franchise, this meeting leads to violence, murder, deceit, intrigue and frequent dark hilarity.
In the initial take of the scene, though, Freeman seems to be under no real pressure. It's a straight-forward and solid reading of a potentially emotional scene and, if you didn't know better, you'd think it was just fine. After a brief conversation with "Fargo" series creator Noah Hawley, Freeman settles in and although his scene partner delivers a performance that's nearly identical to the first take, Freeman's reading is now completely different. It's not just that the emotion has been dialed up, though. Emphasis has been put on a different assortment of words and without changing a breath of the dialogue, Freeman has shifted the heft of the scene. The camera and lighting set-ups change and, again, Freeman's co-star remains consistent -- And really good, don't get me wrong -- but Freeman again steps up the emotion and punches a different assortment of words, highlighting a different potential meaning.
As I learned on the set of a different Freeman production last summer -- I'm not sure if I can say what it was, but it certainly wasn't "Sherlock" -- this is what the "Office" veteran does. He starts off with the basics, but builds with each take and tries to give directors as many choices as possible, tries to give himself as many choices as possible. After watching many actors on many sets, I can assure you that this isn't the case with everybody. Freeman is notable both for how responsive he is to direction, but also for the variations he imposes on himself.
While "Fargo" is a deep ensemble, with Freeman and Thornton joined by veterans like Keith Carradine, Bob Odenkirk and Adam Goldberg, as well as newcomer Allison Tolman, this is a long day for Freeman and, as I don't want to over-explain, this scene is intense and growing moreso with each take.
As a result, though many of the "Fargo" stars are able to spare long stretches of time with a small pack of reporters visiting the set, Freeman's window is more limited. Between scenes, in the time technically set aside for lunch, he's able to carve out 30 minutes and there are five reporters. With a publicist closely monitoring a stopwatch, we each get five minutes with Freeman, who doesn't stay in character at all times, but does retain his slightly sing-song-y Minnesota accent.
It's like speed-dating I tell him as I sit down, wasting five of my seconds.
"Only without the bell," he agrees, taking another five seconds.
Pleasantries dispatched, in this brief Q&A, Freeman discusses the initial draw of "Fargo," which premieres on April 15, both in terms of script and its limited nature. He talks about finding empathy and sympathy for a character who is something of a sad-sack. And he describes the on-set dynamic with the intriguingly eclectic cast.
Check out the speed-dating Martin Freeman interview below and stay tuned over the next week for "Fargo" interviews with Thornton, Tolman, Carradine, Hawley and a slew of others...