Inside TV+Movies with Daniel Fienberg
Kelsey Grammer is the hook, but the new Starz drama may have more to offer
Episodes of the new Starz drama "Boss" open with Robert Plant's version of the traditional gospel standard "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down."
In all of its incarnations (I'm partial to the Uncle Tupelo cover), "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" is a pretty simple song and the core lyrics boil down to basically what you see in the title.
I'm suspecting that it's no coincidence that whenever I hear "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down," my mind immediately goes to Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole," which has a similar message about the allure and power of Beelzebub and the saving capacity of [Christian] faith.
The magnetic power of our baser instincts and the way those baser instincts run through the broader institutions of the American City were central to David Simon's exquisitely woven "Wire" tapestry and they're not far removed from what Farhad Safinia is tackling in "Boss."
In "The Wire," The Devil was in the institutions, the forces the prevented even the best of individual instincts and aspirations from breaking through the complacency of the system. While Simon had pockets of hope -- sometimes wide swathes of hope -- he was ultimately profoundly pessimistic. Good cops. Good teachers. Good union organizers. Good politicians. Good journalists. They all fought to keep The Devil way down in the hole, but Old Scratch kept getting out a wreaking havoc. "The Wire" was about the way an American city functions, but doesn't work.
Having seen two episodes of "Boss," I can't instantly tell you Safinia's world-view. I know he's nowhere near as overtly political as Simon and, in turn, I also suspect he's nowhere near as pessimistic as Simon. The series may be about the fall of a Great Man, but I don't know if Safinia wants us to view Kelsey Grammer's Tom Kane, longtime mayor of Chicago, as the symbolic "Satan" referred to in the opening song. It's entirely plausible that the political system in Chicago, long entrenched and long variably corrupt, is meant as Satan. But through two episodes, I don't know if Safinia is wanting viewers to root for Kane and/or the system to collapse, or if he's showing a landscape in which the evil that men do is capable of leading to a collective good for the community.
I sense that the opening songs are meant to tie "Boss" and "The Wire" together in some sort of collective meditation on the evil inherent in the urban space. Although I don't feel like "Boss" is anywhere near that "Wire" level of discourse -- literally nothing else in the history of the small screen is -- I admire its willingness to dive into the sort of terrain that TV ought to be well-suited to explore, but so rarely does. I can't even say that "Boss" is on the same level as Shawn Ryan's "The Chicago Code," which used the police as a pivot for delving into all aspects of the Windy City, but "Boss" is what's on TV right now and if it lives up to even some of its ample potential, it could become a series of some substance. That's a rare thing and one worthy of investing in.
More after the break...
Ozzy pouts, Brandon hunts and shuffleboard determines elimination
No "X Factor" tonight, so "Survivor" recapping gets to be early again. Click through for my recap of the Wednesday (October 19) episode of "Survivor: South Pacific."
The judges cut the field down to the Top 16
"The X Factor," FOX's favorite Wednesday, Thursday, sometimes Sunday and sometimes Tuesday drama is back. On tonight's episode, we're going to see lots and lots and lots of clips from earlier episodes, but we may also learn the identity of the season's Top 16.
Click through for all of the live-blogging excitement!
Dan and Alan review 'Boss,' 'Once Upon a Time,' 'Man Up' and more
Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
Time for Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 99.
We have no "Breaking Bad" to discuss this week. So sad.
We do, however, have reviews for a slew of new shows, including Starz' "Boss" and ABC's "Man Up" and "Once Upon a Time." We also answer mail and some of that mail touches on... "Breaking Bad." Whew.
Here's the breakdown:
"Man Up" -- 02:15 - 13:15
"Pearl Jam Twenty" -- 13:15 - 21:35
"Boss" -- 21:40 - 32:45
"Once Upon a Time" -- 32:45 - 42:40
Listener Mail: Showrunners winging it -- 42:50 - 48:30
Listener Mail: Unintended meaning -- 48:40 - 52:45
Listener Mail: Critic aggregator sites -- 52:50 - 57:15
Listener Mail: Baseball's impact on FOX -- 57:20 - 01:04:00
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 here's the podcast...
The teams head to Phuket and face a difficult Detour
I guess I should give thanks to Wednesday's baseball rain delay for pushing "The X Factor" to Sunday and allowing me the rare opportunity to check out "The Amazing Race" in HD for the first time this season (and maybe only the second or third time in total).
"The Amazing Race" still looks fantastic in HD and I wonder if the HD shift was at least partially responsible for bringing Jerry Bruckheimer back into the winners' column at the Emmys last month. This week's episode included a scratching monkey, beautiful floating cities and fetching (but still indistinguishable) sunburnt Twins Liz and Marie, all in HD. The Detour task with the windblown rainbow umbrellas was also made for high definition.
So yeah, either this recap is going to be all about the beauty of "The Amazing Race" in HD, or I'm going to be force to spend a while grumbling, because we've had four episodes this season and only two of them have ended with a team (or teams) going home.
Yup. It was another Non-Elimination Leg. Even if it saved a team that I like looking at, you'll have to forgive me if I'm not enthused.
Full recap after the break...
More performances from France, Malibu, The Hamptons and Santa Barbara
FOX really isn't making it easy to keep up with the schedule for "The X Factor." Sunday (October 16) night's episode is the episode that was really supposed to air on Thursday, except that Thursday's episode was really Wednesday's episode due to playoff baseball. But you know how "X Factor" really airs on Wednesdays and Thursdays? Well, this week it'll air on Tuesday, because the World Series is airing on Wednesday and Thursday.
Does that all make sense? Don't worry. Expect oodles of reminders during Sunday's episode, which'll be live-blogged after the break...
Straight-talking mortician has more to say about Benjamin and his alliance
Before her Duel on Wednesday (October 12) night's "Survivor: South Pacific," Stacey Powell must have sensed she was heading home, so the 44-year-old Texas mortician decided to go out with a bang.
In the latest in which has become a quickly established tradition of Pre-Duel Rants, Stacey exposed her tribe's core alliance, revealing Coach as the strategic ringleader. But Stacey refused to refer to "Coach," repeatedly calling him "Benjamin," much to Jeff Probst's amusement. [Coach's subsequent in-camp temper tantrum proved that Stacey had smartly targeted a sore spot.]
Stacey's actual loss in the Duel with Christine wasn't nearly as memorable, but perhaps Stacey is best remembered for an admirable effort in the strength competition that preceded her eventual elimination, an effort that remains a clear point of pride.
In our exit interview, Stacey and I discussed Benjamin, Brandon and the failings in her social game.
Click through for the full interview...
Rihanna and other surprise mentors join our judges
It's Thursday (October 13) night, but it's time to settle in for Wednesday night's episode of FOX's "The X Factor," an introduction to the Judges' House round of mentorship. Simon Cowell has great sway at FOX, but he isn't powerful enough to stop the rain or to prevent weather-based preemptions in the American League Championship Series.
So let's get down to business and maybe we'll see all the fun ways in which "The X Factor" is different from "The Voice"... Click through for the full live-blog.
Pig-eating, herpes-joking and blindsiding on 'Survivor'
Normally I've been waiting until Pacific Time to recap "Survivor" this season, but with baseball postponing FOX's "The X Factor," I get to dispatch "Survivor" on the early side tonight.
Click through for the full recap...
The Vegas Girls talk Twitter, clue-reading and their brief 'Race' run
For a team that only competed on "The Amazing Race" for only three episodes, Kaylani Paliotta and Lisa Tilley had a memorable journey.
The Las Vegas-based former showgirls finished near the back of the pack in the season's first leg, but they got a disproportionate amount of premiere-night screentime after Kaylani dropped her passport at a gas station and had to rely on the kindness of Twitter-wielding strangers to retrieve the key document.
The following week, as team after team failed to notice a key clue at an Indonesia orphanage, Kaylani & Lisa were one of only three pairs with the eye-for-detail necessary to complete the task properly.
Of course, that advantage lasted only as far as this past Sunday's (October 9) episode, when a difficult Roadblock sent Kaylani & Lisa to an emotional elimination, with a crying Kaylani earning host Phil Keoghan's reassurance that she hadn't disappointed her young daughter back home.
In our exit interview, Kaylani & Lisa discussed their standout "Amazing Race" moments...
Click through for a full transcript...