Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 147

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 147

Dan and Alan talk 'New Normal,' 'Sons of Anarchy,' 'Parenthood' and the 'Breaking Bad' finale

The

Happy Thursday, Boys & Girls...
 
Monday was a holiday and I was out of the country until last night, so it's time for a special late-week installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
In this podcast, we finally discussed the 2012 finale of "Breaking Bad" and, looking ahead to next week -- expect a Tuesday or Wednesday podcast, so we wanted to get some things done early -- we also reviewed new seasons of "Parenthood" and "Sons of Anarchy," as well as NBC's new comedy "The New Normal."
 
Here's the breakdown:
"The New Normal" (00:03:40 - 00:22:10)
"Parenthood" (00:22:15 - 00:34:30)
"Sons of Anarchy" (00:34:30 - 45:50)
Listener Mail on pilot changes (00:45:55 - 00:56:25)
"Breaking Bad" (00:57:15 - 01:22:45)
 

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.] 

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

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<p>The cast of NBC's &quot;Infamous.&quot; Or some of it.</p>

The cast of NBC's "Infamous." Or some of it.

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Infamous'

NBC tries to do an upscale ABC-style soap with so-so returns

[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:"Infamous" (NBC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: It's "Dirty Sexy Revenge"
Quick Response: No. Really. "Dirty Sexy Revenge." What if "Dirty Sexy Money" had begun with the murder of Samaire Armstrong's character? [No loss there.] And what if Peter Krause's character were a cop instead of a lawyer and an African-American woman instead of a man? And what if that interloper returned to the family not to keep them out of trouble, but to get one of them in very deep trouble indeed? What you'd get would be "Infamous." NBC's attempt to get in on the Eat the Rich zeitgeist is derivative at every turn, but it's also yet another midseason drama that introduces plot twists at an almost astounding pace, with characters reversing course and changing their colors two or three times in the opening 44 minutes. Hmm... I used a "but" there as if being twisty were a compensation for being derivative. This is the kind of show that you instantly find yourself distrusting every frame because you know that the truth is like a bet on a roulette wheel: You might get a dose of adrenaline each time your number comes around, but until the ball stops bouncing, *nothing* is going to be the truth, so there's no point in investing. Everybody lies and they do it all the time, so what's the point in rooting for the truth? It's the problem "Damages" has always had in its weaker moments, only "Infamous" doesn't immediately have the strengths that make "Damages" shine when it's working. I'm very happy to see Meagan Good getting to lead a show. She's sexy, assertive and Good deserves this shot. But the implausibility of her character's reintegration into this close-knit, justifiably paranoid family comes dangerously close to crushing the entire premise and I desperately hope they don't continue to pretend "Infamous" takes place in a world in which TMZ is King, but Google doesn't exist. And as for the family, they're good, but they're not the Darlings. Victor Garber has played this sort of WASP-y patriarch too many times to be surprising, so we're just waiting and watching for him to turn out to be good-evil-good-evil-good-evil-good-evil... STOP. Ditto with Tate Donovan. I guess that for Donovan, this is better than being cut out of the "No Ordinary Family" pilot and for Garber this is better than "Charlie's Angels," but those are both tenuous compliments. I like Garber and Donovan, but it's good will from past performances than make them appealing here, not anything fresh or new. The rest of the cast is solid and packed with familiar faces, but there's no Donald Sutherland or Jill Clayburgh or Madeleine Stowe to keep you mesmerized even when the formula takes over. No matter how many times you've seen basically this exact same show, you'd still be hard-pressed to find "Infamous" boring. It's not gripping, but it keeps you guessing and we get two or three episodes worth of plot machinations in short order. "Infamous" isn't a great version of an ABC show, but it's a passable version of an ABC show, which makes me wonder how it's going to find an audience on NBC. But I wonder that a lot and that's NBC's problem, not mine.
Desire To Watch Again: I watched every episode of "Dirty Sexy Money," sometimes liking it very much and sometimes gritting my teeth through the convolutions. I've watched every episode of "Revenge," mostly gritting my teeth through the convolutions. I've also watched every episode of "Scandal" and probably most of the other ABC shows that this is aping. There's no reason I probably won't stick with this for a bit. Yay?

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's '1600 Penn'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Zero Hour'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
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

 

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<p>Richard Dreyfuss&nbsp;</p>

Richard Dreyfuss 

Credit: A&E

Interview: Richard Dreyfuss discusses A&E's 'Coma'

The cagey veteran also discusses favorite directors and TV challenges
There's an error in the headline for this interview, which claims that Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss discusses "Coma."
 
To clarify, I sat down with the "Jaws" and "Close Encounters" star back in March to talk about his role in A&E's new miniseries adaptation of the genre-classic Robin Cook novel, which will premiere on Labor Day.
 
At that point, I hadn't seen the telefilm, which focuses on a young medical student (Lauren Ambrose), who discovers that her hospital has an unnaturally large number of patients going into comas. The ensemble cast includes Steven Pasquale, as well as Oscar winners Ellen Burstyn and Geena Davis and Dreyfuss, plus James Woods, Joe Morton and a slew of additional familiar faces.
 
Normally I don't talk to actors about projects I haven't seen, but in addition to being the star of several of my all-time favorite films, Dreyfuss is also one of the smartest and most political actors in Hollywood and the conversation seemed like something I wouldn't want to miss. 
 
It doesn't necessarily come through in the Q&A, but Dreyfuss was in a terrific and cordial mood, but he happened to either be unwilling or unable to talk about his twisty new thriller.
 
I spent a while trying to pursue a discussion of "Coma" and perhaps its take on the state of healthcare in 21st Century America. As you'll read, it wasn't necessarily productive. Eventually, though, I think that we had a good chat about the challenges of finding directors capable of working with actors, as well as the challenges of acting for TV.
 
Click through for the full interview, which isn't really about "Coma" at all...
 
 
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<p>Sarah Chalke of &quot;How To Live With Your Parents (For The Rest of Your Life)&quot;</p>

Sarah Chalke of "How To Live With Your Parents (For The Rest of Your Life)"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)'

Acceptable premise and a great cast result in an unappealing pilot

[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:"How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)" (ABC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: You know how it's weird when guys have to help raise their kids? It's even weirder when grownups live with their parents. Or that's what the trend stories say.
Quick Response: I don't mind the premise here. I generally think Sarah Chalke is fantastic and I've been known to really like both Elizabeth Perkins and Brad Garrett. But just because I would happily watch a show with EXACTLY this premise and EXACTLY this cast doesn't mean that I want to watch THIS version of that show. Execution is everything and the pilot for "How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)" --- or HTLwYPFtRoYL, as I like to call it -- is probably the least enjoyable version of itself that it could possibly be. It doesn't help that Chalke is playing just another iteration of the exact same ditzy-yet-earthy-yet-flighty-yet-maternal quirky-hipster-mom that Dakota Johnson is playing on "Ben and Kate" and Georgia King is playing on "The New Normal" and her on-screen daughter (Rachael Eggleston) is just another variant on all of the season's interchangeable accessory daughters. If you're going to be part of a trend, it hurts to be the last show from the set to premiere and "HTLwYPFtRoYL" is the last [and least] of this group. ["Happy Endings" was the last of a group of "Friends"-style comedies in its season and is now the only survivor, so it's not impossible to overcome, if you happen to be funny.] For what it's worth, "HTLwYPFtRoYL" has a fair amount to say about the nature of parenting and the ways in which the mistakes of one generation inform the mistakes of the next generation. It just isn't funny in saying those things. The script is almost entirely designed to make likable actors unlikeable. Chalke, about as winning an actress as you can find, is flailing and shrill. Perkins and Garrett are the rare TV "Parents with No Filter" who you almost immediately wish would just muzzle themselves, without producing any compensating laughter [maybe it's not-so-rare, actually]. There's the tacit implication that you don't want to hear Perkins talking about having sex with a basketball team or Garrett talking about the results of testicular cancer because the characters are old and it's embarrassing when old people talk about such things. No. It's embarrassing because these are two talented actors delivering dialogue that's more unfunny than awkward. With bleeped swearing and sex talk, there's actually a lot of "HTLwYPFtRoYL" that's convinced it's cool or edgy or boundary shifting, but doesn't come close to any of those targets. [Am I wrong or is this title cumbersome without being genuinely amusing? Like the rest of the pilot, it thinks it's being cool or edgy, but it's really just long.] Orlando Jones and Jon Dore are wasted in supporting roles.
Desire To Watch Again: Chalke's moving into dangerous territory, because after "Mad Love," this is her second straight starring vehicle that I was convinced had all of the elements to eventually be funny and just wasn't funny in immediate execution. I gave "Mad Love" entirely too many episodes before giving up a week or two before ended. I won't be nearly as patient with this. I'll give "HTLwYPFtRoYL" a couple weeks to rise to the level of the involved talent and then I'm out, because the pilot was unpleasant.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's '1600 Penn'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Zero Hour'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
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

 

 

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<p>&quot;1600 Penn&quot;</p>

"1600 Penn"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's '1600 Penn'

'West Wing'/'Modern Family' hybrid has potential, but a mediocre pilot

[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:"1600 Penn" (NBC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: "It's 'The West Wing' meets 'Modern Family.'" I suspect that's probably what the actual pitch was.
Quick Response: I sometimes liked the pilot for "1600 Penn," but I also kinda wish NBC didn't have to air it, because the pilot is probably broader and more narratively flabby than the creative Forces That Be want the show to eventually become. Or maybe that's what what *I* hope the Forces That Be want? Maybe I just see upside in Bill Pullman's dry near-deadpan delivery in returning to the White House for the first time since "Independence Day"? And in Josh Gad's flailing, childlike glee, which keeps me believing in Josh Gad, even when I almost never find that the reality of Josh Gad lives up to the potential of Josh Gad (having never seen "Book of Mormon")? And in Jenna Elfman, who I think remains a sitcom star even if "Accidentally on Purpose" and "Courting Alex" have clouded those waters? And in Martha MacIsaac, who totally held her own in "Superbad" back in the day, but never got the career bump she deserved? It's entirely possible that "1600 Penn" just feels like a show that I would like to like and because I didn't hate the pilot, I've latched on to an idealized way that it could gel, even if the pilot doesn't necessarily give any indication that its aspirations are anything more than a "West Wing" version of "Tommy Boy" with Gad standing in for the late Chris Farley? There are punchlines in "1600 Penn" that landed solidly for me and produced the desired chuckles, but even more than your typical pilot, this feels like a rough draft and coming from director Jason Winer, whose "Modern Family" pilot is one of the great recent examples of a series arriving fully realized from the opening episode, that's a disappointment. There are too many moments of easy ethnic humor or easy physical humor or easy broadness that could lay a template for a lazy show that I'd find unbearable. Then again, there are better moments, like Gad's character recording a wonderfully inept fire safety PSA, that blend wordplay with those broader instincts in a totally effective way. So we'll see. I actually like the simplicity of the hypothetical pitch that I referenced above and I think that with the elements in place, there's a best case scenario for "1600 Penn" that I'd really like. It's not there yet. It probably won't go there. The pilot suggests a lack of interest in anything resembling actual politics and while it's not like I want a wonkish attention to detail, Wesley Snipes once taught me that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is an address that changes all the rules, but "1600 Penn" isn't a comedy that's interested in breaking any new ground.
Desire To Watch Again: Obviously I'm prepared to give this a few more episodes. If it doesn't go down a fruitful path? Oh well. Such is life.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Zero Hour'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
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

 

 

 

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<p>&quot;The Zero Hour&quot;</p>

"The Zero Hour"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Zero Hour'

Anthony Edwards conspiracy drama might be better as a miniseries

[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 Zero Hour" (ABC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: Horologists, Nazis, Rosicrucians and Goose... Oh my!
Quick Response: In previewing "Do No Harm" last week, I mentioned that it was one of "three or four audaciously weird, wacky and possibly terrible (but possibly terribly addictive) new dramas" premiering at midseason. ABC's "The Zero Hour" is another. Creator Paul T. Scheuring ("Prison Break") is no stranger to seemingly unsustainable premises that may have been better suited to a miniseries format and I guess you could *kinda* argue that "Prison Break" found ways to regularly reinvent itself frequently enough to justify airing for four seasons, rather than for eight episodes as a Limited Series Event. But "Zero Hour," with its tenuous and sometimes foolhardy alternate history involving the secret religious orders and scientific exploration and the Holocaust, is possibly even less suited for a long run and even more suited for a strictly capped episode run. Some stories aren't meant to run for 200 episodes and I get the feeling that with its Rosicrucians, demon babies, underground clockmakers and 12-centric numerology, "The Zero Hour" should maybe run 10 hours, deliver answers and get out while the getting's good. And you know what? I'd watch that miniseries. "The Zero Hour" is a little bit "Indiana Jones," a little bit "Goonies" and a lot "Da Vinci Code" and, with Pierre Morel at the helm, it's handsomely produced and moves at an impressive click given the sheer amount of twisty exposition required in the initial 44 minutes. "Zero Hour" has shades of Morel's "Taken" and as with "Taken," the French director is constantly pushing hard to overcome the clunkiness of the script. As an archetypal Man of Reason Forced Into a Situation That Requires Faith, Anthony Edwards is entirely convincing, even if his workplace -- Modern Skeptic Magazine -- is not. Other people seem to be concerned by the age difference between Edwards and on-screen love Jacinda Barrett of "Real World" fame. I was not. Edwards gets good support from Scott Michael Foster (CAPPY!!!!) and Addison Timlin as kinda a Skeptics Scoobie Gang (not that the "real" Scoobie Gang lacked for skepticism). Charles Dutton and an assortment of creepy Euro-actors provide properly hammy support in a pilot that is never subtle, never intellectually approachable and never boring. If you like conspiracies-for-conspiracy's-sake thrillers and you find your curiosity piqued by dialogue like "12 is a magic number... 12 is divine... 12 is both a beginning and the end of time!" you'll probably be willing to pretend that "The Zero Hour" is better than it actually is.
Desire To Watch Again: Last season, Cappy (Scott Michael Foster!!!) co-starred in "The River," an ambitious ABC drama that sometimes seemed to be capable of fulfilling its creepy goals and sometimes seemed to be adrift without a paddle. "The River" wasn't a miniseries and it concluded with the narrative still very much open, but after ABC cancelled it, that's what it became for futile Emmy purposes. The "Zero Hour" team really should approach this as a one-season game. If they want to toss in a surprise at the end hinting at a second season, that's fine, but there are many questions raised by the pilot and it would be an error not to just steer into answers as quickly as possible. If you told me that after Episode 12, "Zero Hour" would hit an end, I think I'd be happy to watch. The business doesn't work that way, so I have reservations.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
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

 

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 146

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 146

Dan and Alan talk 'Coma,' 'Outlaw Country,' 'The Newsroom' and more

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
 
We're all over the place on this week's installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
We review an A&E miniseries ("Coma"), a failed FX pilot that aired last week as a movie ("Outlaw Country"), an HBO finale ("The Gnusroom") and, of course, "Breaking Bad." We also answered a couple pieces of Listener Mail touching on characters devolving and the returning "Survivor" castways.
 
Here's today's breakdown:
"Coma" (00:00:40 - 00:12:05)
"Outlaw Country" (00:12:10 - 00:25:50)
"The Newsroom" (00:25:50 - 00:45:00)
Listener Mail - Devolving Characters (00:45:20 - 00:54:00)
Listener Mail - "Survivor" returnees (00:54:00 - 01:00:40)
"Breaking Bad" (01:00:40 - 01:25:30)

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.

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<p>Steven Pasquale of &quot;Do No Harm&quot;</p>

Steven Pasquale of "Do No Harm"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'

'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' medical drama raises many questions, few answers

[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: "Do No Harm" (NBC) [MIDSEASON]
The Pitch: "Remember how 'My Own Worst Enemy' failed even though it starred Christian Slater and Taylor Lautner? Maybe what it needed was... ummm... that guy from 'Rescue Me.' And to be more serious and crazy and less fun and confusing?"
Quick Response: I don't know what "Do No Harm" feels like, but it doesn't feel like an NBC drama. Maybe it belongs on FX? Or Syfy? No clue. Anyway, this is NBC's latest attempt to tap into the "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" mythos, with "Rescue Me" co-star Steven Pasquale playing a charming neurosurgeon who loses control and becomes a demented sociopath at night. How? Why? Huh? David Schulner's pilot script is mostly invested in tying things up in confusing knots and planting dozens of perplexing mysteries and not especially invested in maintaining anything other than rudimentary internal logic or cohesion. It's a theme this midseason, when the networks are unveiling three or four audaciously weird, wacky and possibly terrible (but possibly terribly addictive) new dramas. I was completely involved in "Do No Harm," but much of that involvement involved writing "What the [fudge]?!?" in my notes every time something happened that I didn't understand or wasn't supposed to understand. And again, that's not an "I'm shocked!" kinda "What the [fudge]?!?" it's a "Wha' Happen?!?" thing. Bafflement is an acceptable response to a pilot -- I have no doubt there'll be people who just love how little of "Do No Harm" is spelled out, as if merely being murky were a sign of implied genius -- but it helps if you have confidence that there's a sure hand behind-the-scenes steering things in one specific direction. "Do No Harm" felt more chaotic and less structured and that left me less-than-pleased. Pasquale is the big x-factor in a show like this and he's taking an interesting approach that somewhat minimizes the distinctions between the doctor and his alter-ego (compared to the strict, rudimentary, contrast Christian Slater created in "My Own Worst Enemy"). Based on the pilot (and past work), I really can't tell if Pasquale is an interesting enough actor for this blurred Jekyll/Hyde. James Nesbitt, for example, delivered a masterclass in almost imperceptible delineation in "Jekyll," but Pasquale's not doing that yet. There's an odd sparseness to the supporting cast, which is almost entirely relative unknowns ... and then Phylicia Rashad. That also leads to the feeling that "Do No Harm" should be on cable or possibly Canadian TV. I watch a lot of TV. I know a lot of actors. So having a cast that's this devoid of familiar character actors or up-and-coming supporting players is... odd. Anyway... There's some strange Oliver Sacks-style stuff that may or may not attempt to ground this story in some kind of realism, but in a TV era in which we're accustomed to Dexter simultaneously being/balance both Jekyll and Hyde is the bifurcation actually all that interesting anymore? On a trivial side note, "Do No Harm" has the goofiest last line in TV pilot history. You may not notice its bizarreness if you've tuned out by then, but it's a classic.
Desire To Watch Again: I had so many questions at the end of the "Do No Harm" pilot that I want to watch a couple more episodes. I also think a couple more episodes would let me make a conclusive determination on whether Pasquale's subtly is a good choice or a damning choice. But this isn't an "I'm excited to see more," kinda thing. It's a "How long can they keep up this pace of vagueness and point-circling?" kinda thing. Like I said, there are a couple midseason dramas that I feel similarly towards and I'll get to those in the weeks to come.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
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

 

 

 

 

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<p>&quot;The Carrie Diaries&quot;</p>

"The Carrie Diaries"

Credit: The CW

Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'

Midseason 'Sex and the City' prequel is sweeter than you're expecting

[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 Carrie Diaries" (The CW) [MIDSEASON]
The Pitch: It's a "Sex and the City" prequel. Who needs a pitch?
Quick Response: Every second of "Sex and the City" that I ever watched made me cringe. The characters. The dialogue. Every bit of it. Of course, I wasn't the target demo, so I don't take it personally, but "The Carrie Diaries" was definitely one of my most dreaded pilots. With that in mind, take it with as many grains of salt as you choose that I sorta kinda liked The CW's "The Carrie Diaries." It's not bad. I'm not hung up on associations with "Sex and the City," so I'm not interested in quibbling about changes to the Grand "SatC" Mythology and I'm not invested in whether or not Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw can be extrapolated logically from the version of Carrie being played by AnnaSophia Robb here. The show that The CW is airing at midseason is sweeter and more modest than anything you might be expecting, closer in tone to a John Hughes movie, right down to the '80s setting, than a premium cable raunch-fest (though some of the dialogue is a bit risque). With that in mind, I liked the dynamic between Carrie and her father (Matt Letscher) and younger sister ("Running Wild" co-star Stefania Owen all grown up) because it felt like an old WB drama. There's heart here. I didn't care nearly as much about the plotline bringing Carrie into New York City and introducing her to her future worlds of journalism and fashion, because that felt like "Jane By Design." Just as The CW premiered "Ringer" after the mighty similar "The Lying Game" last year, The CW is going to premiere "The Carrie Diaries" after ABC Family has already cancelled "Jane by Design" and there's a ton of overlap. And Robb is even less believable as a teen capable of convincing cool New Yorkers that she's in her 20s than Erica Dasher was on "Jane." Robb is, in fact, both the best and worst part of "The Carrie Diaries." There's a nice vulnerability to her performance and I warmed to her more fully in 44 minutes than I ever warmed to Parker's Carrie, but the 18-year-old actress reads very young on the screen, too young for anything she's doing to be plausible and too young to allow the show the kind of latitude for maturity it might be hoping for.  Director Miguel Arteta deserves a lot of the credit for balancing the tone and '80s nostalgia in "The Carrie Diaries," for keeping the kitsch factor from ever approaching what doomed the dismal "Gossip Girls" '80s backdoor pilot. The actors have been well-cast for the period, especially Austin Butler, whose Young James Spader vibe has never been better used. [For Butler "New Young James Spader" is a much more aspirational descriptor than "New Chad Michael Murray," which would also fit.]
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate. I sound positive here, but I think I'm mostly positive relative to my expectations, which were perilously low. I'll approach the second episode with revised expectations that'll be harder to meet. Then again, my DVR is already set for The CW in that hour with the final season of "Gossip Girl" anyway... so who knows?

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
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

 

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<p>&quot;Malibu Country&quot;</p>

"Malibu Country"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'

If you like your comedy old-fashioned and unfunny, ABC's built a block for you

[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:"Malibu Country" (ABC)
The Pitch:"It's important that ABC maintain its comedic position half in 2012 and half in 1992."
Quick Response: You know that the concept of cohesive network branding is dead when you look at ABC's comedy slate. On one hand, the network has some of the savviest, most current sitcoms on broadcast TV ("Modern Family," "Happy Endings," "The B---- in Apartment 23" and "Suburgatory" fit here). On the other hand, the network has a strange assortment of comedies that could have been produced a two or three decades ago, with the punchlines intact ("Last Man Standing," "The Neighbors" and the defunct "Work It" fit here). [Somewhere in the middle, fittingly, is "The Middle."] Anyway, that's how ABC ends up a lack of comedic flexibility, because some of the network's sitcoms simply CAN'T be paired with others. On the other hand, sometimes a pairing is just too perfect. "Suburgatory," for example, belonged with "Modern Family," even if it took ABC a year to realize it. And "Malibu Country" was almost literally developed, produced and ordered to go with "Last Man Standing." Tim Allen's family comedy feels consistently old-fashioned and when it comes to certain social niceties, it's sometimes well past outdated and and into retrograde. But the audience/laff-track roars enthusiastically and for some viewers, I have no doubt that's comforting. "Malibu Country" will function in the exact same way and I'm at a loss for what to say about it, because the target audience probably isn't reading me anyway and certainly wouldn't be swayed by any negativity. And, just as Tim Allen and Nancy Travis are old pros who know how to milk any plausible laughs from the thread-worn "Last Man" scripts, you know that whatever Reba McEntire and Lily Tomlin are given, they'll get the most out of it, however faint that praise may be. In the case of the "Malibu Country" pilot, unfortunately, there's virtually no mirth at all. Every fish-out-of-water punchline is stale and some of the stuff involving Reba's family's gay neighbor is somewhere between "kinda" and "completely" offensive. And guess what? The audience likely to watch "Last Man Standing" and "Malibu Country" will no doubt be tickled by the jokes about homosexuality and crazy Los Angeles hippies and medicinal marijuana. Nobody else will be amused, but ABC doesn't care, because the cooler-than-thou audiences have plenty to chuckle at earlier in the week. As for the rest of the "Malibu Country" cast, Sara Rue is proudly showing off the results of her ongoing dieting, but when it comes to her pilot season choice between this and "Guys with Kids," it's pretty much a push. And Jai Rodriguez, as the sassy assistant to Reba's new agent, is irksome and seems destined to be around for the long-haul.
Desire To Watch Again: None. And yet, oddly, I watched nearly a full season of "Last Man Standing," hoping it might get better. With this one, anything more than a second episode for courtesy is unlikely.

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
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

 

 

 

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