<p>&quot;The Blacklist&quot;</p>

"The Blacklist"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist'

James Spader works, while Megan Boone fights against spotty writing

[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 Blacklist (NBC)
Airs:Mondays at 10 p.m.
The Pitch:"Alias" meets "Silence of the Lambs," with James Spader as Hannibal Lecter.
Quick Response: While Diego Klattenhoff, Harry Lennix and Ryan Eggold mean that "The Blacklist" has a few other actors you know, it's important to be honest: It's a two-hander. As James Spader and, to a slightly lesser degree, Megan Boone go, so goes "The Blacklist." In a perfect cat-and-mouse game, you'll have investment in both animals, but you can probably get away with only caring about the mouse or the cat. I'm not sure whether James Spader is mouse or cat, but nobody will have any problems watching the "Boston Legal" star work his eerie brand of creepy-zen magic here, playing a master criminal with a government background, exotic tastes and a personal interest in newly minted FBI Agent Liz Keen. This is what Spader does best and even if "The Blacklist" had no other compensating features, I'd probably watch Spader leer enigmatically for at least a few more weeks. Spader's foil is Megan Boone, who has been in a few things I haven't seen, but instantly comes across as a well-conceived genetic blending of Minka Kelly and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. I like the toughness that Boone is bringing to the character and the illusion of emotional openness, where you think that Spader will be perpetually cryptic and Boone will be easily readable, only to discover that might not be the case. However, the writing in the pilot really cripples Boone's character for me. There's an adoption storyline that screams "Smash" in the worst way possible -- Does anything scream "Smash" in the best way possible? -- and if you're a writer attempting to give a character professional credibility, having that character plan to take a long lunch break for adoption counseling on THEIR FIRST DAY AT THE FBI, you've done something very wrong. I get that they're trying to show that the character is trying to prioritize family, but IT'S HER FIRST DAY AT THE FBI and she's apologizing for not being able to have an all-important adoption meeting. When I actually write this review, it's going to be 2000 words about that adoption meeting and the soullessness of attempting to simultaneously maternalize a main character and build tension through an endangered child. Except that I won't have time for that. Sigh. So Boone is fine, but I have major reservations about the character. I think, in fact, that there are many writing sins in the "Blacklist" pilot that Joe Carnahan's muscular direction is covering up. I'm nervous about how things might unfold with a lesser director in Week 2. Oh and the plot twist/reveal that 100 percent of all viewers guessed from the trailer? It hasn't been revealed yet, which either means they're going a different direction or that they think we're really dumb.
Desire To Watch Again: I'll stick around for a bit to find out if the answer is "different direction" or "dumb." James Spader makes things watchable and there's at least the potential that this could be a weekly crime-fighting romp in the "Alias" mold. In fact, how on Earth did somebody *other* than J.J. Abrams give Megan Boone this big break? She's 100 percent his flavor of leading lady. Still, based on NBC's confidence, I wish this was more fully formed than it is.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

 

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 191

Dan and Alan talk 'The Bridge,' 'Newsroom,' 'Camp' and much more

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
 
Lots to review in this week's Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
We've got FX's new drama "The Bridge," Netflix's dramedy "Orange Is The New Black," NBC's very Australian "The Comedy" and the second season of HBO's "The Newsroom."
 
Will you be surprised by how much we now love "The Newsroom"? Listen to find out!
 
And we also talked about "The West Wing" in this week's Summer Pilot Rewatch.
 
Next week's Summer Pilot Rewatch, in honor of the Comic-Con panel celebrating its 20th anniversary, will be FOX's "The X-Files." 
 
Here's today's breakdown:
"The Bridge" (00:00:55 - 00:21:20)
"Camp" (00:21:20 - 00:35:25)
"Orange Is The New Black" (00:35:00 - 00:54:20)
"The Newsroom" (00:54:25 - 01:11:00)
Summer Pilot Rewatch: "The West Wing" (01:11:10 - 01:35:10)

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.

 

 

<p>&quot;The Tomorrow People&quot;</p>

"The Tomorrow People"

Credit: The CW

Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People'

A late change in course my help Robbie Amell's superpowered drama

[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 Tomorrow People" (The CW)
Airs:Wednesdays at 9 p.m.
The Pitch:You know "Heroes," "Alphas," "Misfits," "Chuck," "Chloe King," "Reaper," "Jake 2.0," or any of the dozens of TV shows and movies in recent years about ordinary people who suddenly discover they have (or are given) extraordinary abilities? Has The CW ever had one? Well, other than "Reaper."  Bingo! Now, with an Amell! [The original British series isn't on my radar, unfortunately.]
Quick Response: It's really hard to settle in and enjoy the pilot for "The Tomorrow People," because every single solitary beat in the first 30 minutes feels like the latest iteration of a seemingly endless string of superhero origin stories on the big and small screen. The search for any sign of freshness is futile, so you're left looking for things that are at least well handled or handled with any sort of new twist and even that's hard, especially since pilot director Danny Cannon may have accidentally taken his shot-list and visual template from "Nikita" to the "Tomorrow People" set. Even the production design for the various lairs looks like various rejected, or possibly accepted, concepts for Division. And then, when you're looking for something that doesn't feel like straight-up cloning, you're given a leading man who literally comes from a common genetic pool with "Arrow" star Stephen Amell. And it isn't that Robbie Amell is bad, but his similarities to his cousin keep producing moments of frustrating deja vu, especially when the script finds a way to get him out of his shirt multiple times in the first five minutes. Like I said, Robbie Amell isn't a bad actor, but he's ridiculous casting in this role, both because he looks much, much, much too old to be pretending he's a high school student, but also because there's zero excitement in watching somebody with the muscles of a model or a professional athlete discover he might be strong. Guess what? There's no way this character looks the way he does without spending a awful lot of time in the gym, so when he discovers he can shoot CGI blur from his fingertips, it's just another thing he has going for him, not a 180 reverse of his life. It's predictable CW casting and it undermines the show. They needed to find a Bret Harison or a Zachary Levi or a Chris Gorham or anybody who couldn't, again literally, fit into a mold established by another CW star. Aaron Yoo, good in a supporting role here, would have been more interesting lead casting, but... Yeah. But there were things I liked in the last 15 minutes. I like that Mark Pellegrino's character, while obviously intended as the villain, comes across as fairly reasonable and that that character's rational behavior instigates plausible conflict for the hero and that that plausible conflict may eventually spin the show off in a direction which is still derivative -- I'd say which shows the twist is borrowing from, but then you'd feel like you'd seen ever second of "Tomorrow People" previously -- but at least feels derivative of different things, rather than every one of the shows I listed in the Pitch. The end of the show gave me hope that "Tomorrow People" could could at least offer the occasional detour from the norm.
Desire To Watch Again: This is a time slot that will only work for me if I will myself to jettison "The X Factor." I'm curious based on the end of the episode and that curiosity might make me give this one another few episodes. I honestly give nearly everything on The CW at least a handful of episodes unless they're unwatchable like "Beauty and the Beast." So this'll probably get more episodes as well. On a broader level, this isn't a show that's going to bring anybody new to The CW.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

<p>CBS' &quot;Hostages&quot;</p>

CBS' "Hostages"

Credit: CBS

Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages'

Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott can't make this seem fresh

[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:"Hostages" (CBS)
Airs:Mondays at 10 p.m.
The Pitch:It's "The Mob Doctor" with slightly higher stakes!
Quick Response: Leave aside the higher production values and more prestigious cast that come with the CBS pedigree and all "Hostages" is is a glorified version of FOX's "The Mob Doctor," only with a better title and uppity claims of being a "limited" series or somesuch. ["Mob Doctor" was pretty limited itself. FOX should have advertised it that way.] Doctor with high-profile patient is squeezed to violate that whole "Do no harm" ethos [Minus the NBC split-personality thing], only to respond with stubbornness and morality or whatever. The presumption is that you'll actually care about the doctor's dilemma in this case both because she's played by Toni Collette and because her patient is the President of the United States rather than some mob stooge. It's a big assumption, because other than casting Tony winner (and Nate Archibald grandfather) James Naughton, no effort was put into making the President even a semi-character, so it merely theoretically seems like it'd be better not to kill him. In any case, every second of the "Hostages" pilot is familiar and the execution is proficient, but perfunctory. Writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff keeps the pilot chugging along, but you can almost sense him checking off boxes as he goes along: Opening action! Hostage situation! Twist! Demand! Daughter's got a secret! Son's got a secret! Husband's got a secret! Twist! Elongating cliffhanger! There's no room for anything to breathe and the only reason you're going to care about anything is, "Because you're inherently supposed to." Yes, it's bad to take a family hostage and it's bad to plot to kill the president, but nothing in the "Hostages" pilot makes me invest in the characters or situations beyond that. I vaguely care about the doctor because Toni Collette makes me vaguely care about things. I'm vaguely interested in what Dylan McDermott is doing, because Dylan McDermott makes me vaguely interested in things (even "Dark Blue" for a couple minutes). I don't care about either of the teenage characters, because "Hostages" has doubled down on its obligatorily annoying teenage characters whose whining may or may not be designed to make you sympathize with the hostage takers. And the end of the episode just screams "24"-style wheel-spinning. CBS is treating this like some sort of programming revolution, but I watched "The Nine" and "Vanished" and "Kidnapped." It's easy to do the pilot for this kind of thing. It's harder to make it a network series. And I'd say this is worse than the pilot for "The Nine" and "Kidnapped" at the very least. [And that's not getting into comparable new shows like "Crisis" and "The Blacklist" yet.]
Desire To Watch Again: I have enough curiosity for one more episode. Either it breaks out of its programmatic rut and gives me something to care about or I check out. Fast I'm content to watch a Toni Collette/Dylan McDermott thriller. But I'm also content to skip it entirely, especially since it's "limited." Nothing in the destination promised by the pilot is mandatory enough for me to lock in for three episodes yet, much less 13 or 15.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

<p>FOX's &quot;Sleepy Hollow&quot;</p>

FOX's "Sleepy Hollow"

Credit: FOX

Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow'

Nicole Beharie gives credibility to a nutty FOX drama

[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:"Sleepy Hollow" (FOX)
Airs:Mondays at 9 p.m.
The Pitch:It's "New Amsterdam" meets "Zero Hour." Wait. That doesn't work. It's... "Alcatraz" meets "National Treasure"? Hmmm... "It'll do for Washington Irving what 'The Following' did for Edgar Allen Poe"? Tough pitch, this one.
Quick Response: "Sleepy Hollow" probably should have premiered this past spring when, thanks to "Zero Hour" and "Do No Harm" and "Cult," it would have looked grounded and plausible. On the bright side, for most viewers, there won't be much question as to whether they're in or out. Around two-thirds of the way through the pilot, The Headless Horseman is strutting through a 2013 church graveyard firing a pump-action shotgun at a scruffy, newly resurrected Ichabod Crane and, at that point, you've either signed on for whatever loopy-ass misadventures Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Phillip Iscove have in store, or else you've probably changed the channel to one of the 50 other things airing on Mondays at 9 p.m. This is looney tunes stuff, lifting a couple kernels from Washington Irving's American legend, adding some revisionist American history, bringing it all to the present with a heaping spoonful of magic and then dousing the whole thing in pseudo-Biblical mumbo-jumbo. Thanks to pilot director Len Wiseman, the whole gooftastic affair is delivered with so much style that pausing to ponder the substance is either futile or, more likely, idiotically misapplied. If you've seen "Shame" or her brief "Good Wife" episode (but mostly "Shame"), you know that Nicole Beharie is a heck of an actress and she gives this pilot an almost absurd amount of credibility. It's almost unfair, because with a lesser actress, you could probably pass this off as nonsense and move on. I also think I'm OK with Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane, though that may be the tremendous relief of a British actor on an American series actually getting to do his native accent. The strong backing cast -- Orlando Jones, John Cho and Clancy Brown -- serves no purpose beyond distraction, but it's all part of the sleight-of-hand necessary to pull this nonsense off. I have no clue how this show functions on a week-to-week basis, much less the rather optimistic timetable laid out within the narrative. My initial sense is that the hastily established mythology is preposterous and "Sleepy Hollow" is going to have to make up its rules as it goes along, but... The Headless Horseman shooting a pump-action shotgun in a cemetery? Nobody can accuse these guys of not committing.
Desire To Watch Again: This actually is a light time period, so light that I continue to watch "2 Broke Girls." The availability of DVR space, plus my appreciation for Nicole Beharie could be enough to make me give this one a handful of episodes to either tighten up, sustain or crash entirely. That being said, my amusement with the pilot was hesitant at best and even the slightest decline in quality in Episode 2 and I'll probably check out immediately. I fully expect that a couple million viewers will be pretty culty about this one and nobody else will watch.

Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

<p>Malin Akerman of &quot;Trophy Wife&quot;</p>

Malin Akerman of "Trophy Wife"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife'

Malin Akerman brings a ton of charm to her new comedy

[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:"Trophy Wife" (ABC)
The Pitch: "Modern-er Family"
Quick Response:I like the shape of "Trophy Wife." And no, I'm not just referring to star Malin Akerman. What I like is the structural integrity of the premise, even if the title is probably a misleading mistake. I don't think the show looks at Akerman's character as a trophy wife and most of the characters don't view her that way. She's a slightly wide-eyed young woman who finds herself plunged into an established an atypical family unit and has to find a way to negotiate her position within that unit. It's just a different way to approach a blended family and the title doesn't really capture that Akerman's Kate and Bradley Whitford's Pete have a very natural and warm chemistry together and while we haven't really gotten to the meat of their attraction, it's implied. But there's also a warmth between Pete and his two previous ex-wives (Michaela Watkins and Marcia Gay Harden) and also with his two teenage kids and his adopted son. So it's a family, but it's a weird family, especially when you include Kate's buddy Meg (Natalie Morales). What I enjoyed about the pilot is how quickly and cleanly it establishes its eight main characters and, more impressively, how quickly it finds the dynamics between the different disparate pieces. It helps that this is a great vehicle for the frequently appealing -- but only occasionally properly utilized -- Akerman, who shows myriad sides to Kate in a short period, playing off familiar "adorakable" tropes -- she gets drunk, she falls down, she says things that would embarrass anybody but her -- but also giving us many reasons to respect and root for Kate all in 22 minutes. Akerman's bubbly energy has instantly great foils in Harden's brilliant iciness and Watkins' loopy mania and also in the sarcastic preppiness that Whitford plays as well as anyone. ABC had a full shelf of family comedies this year, which means lots of kids and I think Gianna LePera, Ryan Scott Lee and Albert Tsai are solid, but I need a bit more time with them. Tsai in particular seems to sometimes be overacting, but there were a couple times I sensed his line deliveries were actually boosting sluggish punchlines. And I really hope they pay close attention to Morales, because she's a lively treat here, but I can just as easily imagine her becoming increasingly overlooked as the show progresses. Knowing that it's hard for a comedy pilot to hit the ground with hilarity, I won't criticize "Trophy Wife" harshly for making me consistently smile, but not laugh.
Desire To Watch Again: Reasonably high. I really like Malin Akerman and will happily watch her on a weekly basis. I think this pilot also suggests writers Emily Halpern & Sarah Haskins have a good sense of what Harden, Watkins and Whitford do well. I don't love where ABC has put "Trophy Wife." It's a much better match with "Modern Family" than "Super Fun Night." "The Goldbergs" also seems like a better match with "Modern Family" than "Super Fun Night." In fact... Seriously, ABC. Give some thought to not airing "Super Fun Night" on Wednesdays at 9:30.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

<p>&quot;The Michael J. Fox Show&quot;</p>

"The Michael J. Fox Show"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show'

Michael J. Fox needs you to know it's OK to laugh

[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 Michael J. Fox Show" (NBC)
The Pitch: NBC gave "The Michael J. Fox Show" a 22-episode commitment without a finished script or a pilot. Safe to say, then, that the title was all the pitch anybody needed.
Quick Response: Before NBC announced its fall premiere schedule, I was going to suggest that it might be a really, really, really good idea to premiere "The Michael J. Fox Show" with two episodes. Then NBC announced they were premiering "The Michael J. Fox Show" with two episodes. And rightly so! It's not that the pilot is bad, but it's basically a PSA. And its message is "It's OK to laugh." It's 22 minutes of Michael J. Fox amiably reassuring viewers not only is it OK for them to laugh at him and his medical difficulties, but since he's laughing at himself, we're actually laughing with him. And I'm not going to scoff at this as an aspiration for this particular pilot. "The Michael J. Fox Show" isn't explicitly autobiographical for Fox, but it's close enough that there's a wave of discomfort that almost every viewer is going to pass through and it's up to the beloved star to make sure that most viewers pass through that discomfort as quickly as possible. Saying that "The Michael J. Fox Show" makes a few jokes about Fox's Parkinson's would be like saying Yakov Smirnoff made a few jokes about differences between life in the USA and life in the Soviet Union. The pilot is almost nothing but jokes about Fox's tremors, his medication and the things he can and cannot do because of his Parkinson's and how that relates to the character's ability to return to a nightly newscast in New York City. You might crack a smile at some of the jokes, but the goal isn't really laughter. The goal, I hope, is to get a ton of information out of the way up-front so that subsequent episodes can begin the gradual process of making the show about a guy who has a job and a family and also has Parkinson's, rather than being A Very Important Show About Michael J. Fox's Health. Everybody involved here is talented enough that it could work, if that corner is turned. As we know from "Good Wife," Fox is actually remarkable at using his condition to turn punchlines on their heads and he still has a gift with physical comedy that's altered, but not abated. There are hints of that here, but they're buried under the well-meaning explanations and meta dialogue like "What if I'm not the guy they remember?" Freed from the shackles that bind Marie on "Breaking Bad," Betsy Brandt is loose and appealing as Fox's wife, though the distraction caused by their height disparity is unavoidable. I kinda love the casting of Wendell Pierce as a news producer and lemme just say that Katie Finneran is much better here than on FOX's "I Hate My Teenage Daughter," though she's kinda in a different, broader pilot from everybody else. And the kids aren't bad, with Juliette Goglia as the early standout.
Desire To Watch Again: The bottom line is that I understand why this pilot was something "The Michael J. Fox Show" had to get out of its system. I didn't love it, but at least they executed the "The More You Know..." side of things in a way that was light, rather than maudlin. Now? Let's see what the series looks like. I'm really eager to see a real episode.

 

All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 190

Dan and Alan talk 'House of Cards,' 'The Shield, 'Hill Street Blues' and more

The

Happy Wednesday, Boys & Girls! It's time for this week's installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
Despite not reviewing a single new show, we somehow still managed to get over 90 minutes this week. That includes a lot of time on our Summer Pilot Rewatch segment on "Hill Street Blues" and "The Shield" some Listener Mail and, because I finally got around to finishing it, a segment reflecting on the full run of "House of Cards."
 
No clue how the podcast got so long despite the paucity of new stuff, but that won't be a problem next week with "Orange Is The New Black," "Camp," "The Bridge" and "The Newsroom."
 
And, in honor of the return of Aaron Sorkin's new show, next week's Pilot Rewatch... "The West Wing." 
 
Here's today's breakdown:
Listener Mail - "Kitchen Confidential" (00:02:45 - 00:10:10)
Listener Mail - What "Under the Dome" means (00:10:10 - 00:15:20)
Listener Mail - Favorite Guest performances (00:15:25 - 00:33:30)
"House of Cards" (00:33:50 - 55:30)
Summer Pilot Rewatch: "Hill Street Blues"/"The Shield" (00:55:35 - 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.

 

 

<p>Justin Timberlake of &quot;Runner, Runner&quot;</p>

Justin Timberlake of "Runner, Runner"

Justin Timberlake dishes on the set of 'Runner, Runner'

Star talks R-ratings, character changes, Puerto Rico and more
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - The cast and crew of "Runner, Runner" have found an oasis in the otherwise downtrodden La Perla neighborhood. 
 
Up a steep hill -- I shudder to think of how the heavier parts of production navigated the tight and inclined alleyways of an area not designed for car or truck travel -- in what appears to just be the backyard of one of the area's nicer -- "Nicer" being a relative term -- the film has constructed a restaurant. In the background, extras pretend to eat and converse and make signs of mimed laughter, all having a terrific time sotto voce. Even further back, some patrons gyrate, dancing to music that isn't there. 
 
The relative silence is an accommodation for stars Justin Timberlake and Gemma Arterton. They're trying to have an important conversation, darnit. Timberlake's Richie, a former college student who becomes wrapped up in the murky world of off-shore gambling and online poker, and Arterton's Rebecca, a somewhat mysterious woman with ties to this semi-legal world, are having a getting-to-know-you dinner. They may be flirting. She may be trying to con him. He may be trying to work her for information. They may be flirting and conning and working all at once.
 
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<p>Gemma Arterton and Justin Timberlake of &quot;Runner, Runner&quot;</p>

Gemma Arterton and Justin Timberlake of "Runner, Runner"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Set Visit: 'Runner, Runner' weathers storms and slums in Puerto Rico

Justin Timberlake/Ben Affleck thriller opens in September
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - Nestled between the historic city wall of Old San Juan and a rocky promontory into the Atlantic, La Perla is one of the more picturesque ghettos in the world. 
 
Originally build up in the late 19th century as a place-of-exile for variably non-desirable aspects of San Juan society -- cemeteries, housing for former slaves, refuges for the homeless and a slaughterhouse -- La Perla developed a reputation for crime and danger, an image built partially on fact and partially on the neighborhood's intended isolation from the main city. Today, asking San Juan natives about La Perla can get either graphic stories of violence, police apathy and DEA raids or else blank stares. 
 
But, like I said, there's beauty here and not just from the white-capped waves breaking on the shore, or even the Santa Maria Magdalena Cementery, in which the dead have a place of honor, a flower-studded outlook onto the ocean, and the living need only tip-toe through the eastern side of La Perla's gates to pay tribute to their departed loved ones.
 
The houses, stacked one on top of the other, crawling up the hill as if hoping for egress themselves, are vibrantly colored, creating a mosaic of purples and yellows and hot pinks. The architecture is diverse as well, with traditional archways sharing space with vast walls of block glass, a remnant of '80s style that leads me to pretend abodes were once the residences of towering criminals brought down by Crockett and Tubbs, never to return again. Rusted satellite dishes teeter atop the corrugated green roofs, but otherwise it could be almost any year in La Perla. Poverty is timeless. 
 
Although there's a strong law enforcement presence on the outside of the wall, I talk to denizens who say that the police mostly leave La Perla on its own, though those stories don't jibe with stories that speak of recent attempts at a cultural renaissance in the neighborhood, which has also been an enclave for "artistic types" over the years.
 
It's August of 2012 and, at this moment, La Perla is positively swarming with a different assortment of artistic types, specifically a Hollywood movie production. Directed by Brad Furman ("The Lincoln Lawyer") and starring Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck and Gemma Arterton, the online gambling thriller "Runner, Runner" has taken over. 
 
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