Inside TV+Movies with Daniel Fienberg
Con man drama is the fall's best new network pilot
James Wolk of FOX's 'Lone Star'
All con men are storytellers. How else do you win the confidence of your marks before fleecing them?
And all storytellers (and specifically TV
storytellers, for the purposes of this review) are con men. How else do you win the confidence of an audience that the journey they're prepared to accompany you on will be worth the time and the effort?
Some storytellers play the short con. The writers behind "House" or "CSI" or "Castle" only need to fool you and misdirect you for 43 minutes before offering resolution.
Some storytellers play a midrange con. The writers on "Dexter" or "Damages" know that they're telling a story that unfolds one season at a time, rather than one episode at a time.
And some storytellers play a long con. Whether you loved it or hated it, the "Lost" writers had a point they needed to reach and six seasons in which to reach it. On "The Shield," Shawn Ryan started a story in the pilot and everything for the rest of the show's run tied back into the events of that pilot, right up the the devastating finale.
Sometimes you can tell from the first episode of a show exactly how long the con is going to be. I'm pretty confident, for example, that CBS' "Hawaii Five-0" is a short con and equally confident that no matter when and how "The Event" ends its con, I'll be the poorer for dedicating that duration.
But with FOX's new drama "Lone Star
"? I'll confess that I'm flummoxed, but maybe not in a bad way. After watching the pilot, I can't tell exactly what the series is, much less what the duration of its con is going to be. With bad pilot or even a mediocre pilot, I'd be cautious or even concerned.
"Lone Star," though, is the best network pilot of the fall. Maybe I'm not sure about the long-term durability of the show. Maybe I'd have loved to see a second and third episode before writing my review, as I would with a cable show. But if my job as a critic is to answer the question, "Would you recommend viewers tune in?" My answer would be, "Absolutely."
The first episode of "Lone Star" is a winner and I guess we'll just have to go on the rest of the journey together.
[More after the break...]
Jerry Bruckheimer's name is the selling point, not the generic show
Over the next couple weeks, I'll be reviewing roughly a dozen new network shows.
The ones that are filled with good elements are easy enough to review, because they're usually pretty good shows.
The ones that are filled with bad elements are easy enough to review, because they're usually pretty bad shows.
But then there are the shows that just sit there, where I've got nothing kind to say, but I can't exactly isolate things that are specifically worth my ire.
There are at least a handful of fall pilots that are notably worse than NBC
," but there are very few fall pilots that it's actually better than. Does that make any sense at all? It's an issue of attrition almost. So I can tell you that "Chase" actively annoyed me significantly less than "The Event," its Monday night lead-in. But despite being irked and frustrated by "The Event," which definitely has more negative elements than "Chase," "The Event" also had elements that at least left me curious, there's no direction I can foresee "Chase" going that would cause me to watch it again.
[I may not have a lot to say about "Chase," but I'll say it after the break...]
Plus, which 'Friday Night Lights' tough guy cried when the show wrapped?
Adrianne Palicki of 'Lone Star'
When it comes to Adrianne Palicki
, it turns out that you can take the Texas out of the girl -- she was born and raised in Ohio, after all -- but you can't take the girl out of Texas.
After cutting her acting teeth as Tyra Collette on the beloved NBC and DirecTV drama "Friday Night Lights
," Palicki is back in the Lone Star
State for FOX's appropriately named "Lone Star."
In the new series, which premieres on Monday (Sept. 20) night at 9 p.m., Collette plays Cat Thatcher, daughter of an oil magnate (Jon Voight) and married to a charming con man (James Wolk). As Cat, Palicki got to remain in Texas, but she now finds herself with a fresh hair color, in a new income bracket and playing her own age.
But we'll let her talk about starting on her new series and saying good-bye to "Friday Night Lights." The disembodied voice asking the questions is, of course, me. But let's get real... Who do you want to see in this video
? Her or me? Exactly.
[Stay tuned for more of my interviews with a slew of FOX stars, including some of Palicki's "Lone Star" colleague, in the days to come.]
This Prohibition Era gangster drama combines spectacle and substance
Michael Pitt and Steve Buscemi of HBO's 'Boardwalk Empire'
," which premieres on Sunday (Sept. 19) night, is the most instantly accessible and artistically successful new show HBO
has launched in years.
I'll admit that a small part of me wonders if "Boardwalk Empire" is, in fact, too easy to embrace, too easy to be impressed by. While the network has certainly had favorites that were fully formed almost from the beginning ("The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under" come to mind), the best HBO shows -- things like "The Wire," "Deadwood" or even something recent like "Treme" -- have often defied easy categorization and taken weeks or months or full seasons to work their way under your skin.
If something can be excellent while doing exactly the opposite of defying easy categorization, that something is "Boardwalk Empire." If you want to categorize "Boardwalk Empire" as a burly gangster epic set against the backdrop of the dawn of Prohibition? Well, that's exactly what it is. Sure, it's more nuanced than those dozen words might inherently imply, but that's almost a bonus. Terence Winter has taken the great gangster classics of the '30s and '40s, thrown in a dash of "The Untouchables" (TV
or movie vintage), added a healthy dollop of "The Sopranos" and woven in a little E.L. Doctorow ("Ragtime" or "Billy Bathgate," mostly) for good measure.
"Boardwalk Empire" creates a world and does so magnificently, with an unparalleled attention to detail, but it's a world that's at least tangential to worlds you've seen before.
Does any of that make "Boardwalk Empire" any less admirable? Well, no. Familiarity needn't always breed contempt. Sometimes you can be amply respectful of something familiar done right. This would be a case in point.
More thoughts on "Boardwalk Empire" after the break...
The season's first 'Survivor' castoff discusses the importance of being yourself
Wendy DeSmidt-Kohlhoff of 'Survivor: Nicaragua'
The 48-year-old goat rancher from Montana -- and retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Army -- admitted early on that she feared elimination because of her chatty personality, so she attempted a more subdued approach with her Espada tribe.
Instead, Wendy ended up with only a hastily discarded alliance with Holly and, at her only Tribal Council, she was left frantically trying to justify her value to the tribe. Her only regret, she told the camera, was not just being herself.
When HitFix caught up with Wendy the morning after her elimination, she was definitely being herself and she had a ton to say about her elimination, her disappointing "Survivor" experience and tribe celebrity Jimmy Johnson.
Click through for the full interview.
In an Fall Preview podcast, Dan and Alan review 'Lone Star,' 'The Event,' 'Running Wild' and more
Adrianne Palicki, James Wolk and Eloise Mumford of 'Lone Star'
Happy Thursday, Boys and Girls.
As promised, here's the first of several special Fall Preview installments of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
For this episode, we're discussing the eight network shows premiering on Monday and Tuesday night next week. That means "Lone Star," "The Event," "Mike & Molly," "Hawaii Five-0," "Chase," "Raising Hope," "Running Wilde" and "Detroit 187."
On Monday, we'll probably do a regular-ish podcast with "Mad Men" discussion, as well as quick previews of a bunch of returning shows coming back next week. Then on either Tuesday or Wednesday, we'll review the new shows airing between Wednesday and Friday.
Does that make sense? Good!
Anyway, here's the breakdown if you want to skip to specific reviews of specific shows:
"Lone Star" -- 03:40 - 10:10
"The Event" -- 10:10 - 16:00
"Mike & Molly" -- 16:00 - 21:05
"Hawaii Five-0" -- 21:45 - 27:30
"Chase" -- 27:45 - 34:10
"Raising Hope" -- 34:15 - 39:25
"Running Wilde" -- 39:25 - 48:50
"Detroit 1-8-7" -- 49:10 - 55:00
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.]
And here's the podcast...
HitFix was on the 'Captain America' set last week and for some reason they let us hold Cap's shield
Captain America's shield and some guy
When I missed last week's podcast, Sepinwall teased that I'd been called out of the country on "a special assignment."
The truth can now be told that on Tuesday (Sept. 7), I was lucky enough to find myself with a small cadre of journalists wandering the auteur-ially named streets of Shepperton Studios outside of London, the birthplace to cinematic classics including "Dr. Strangelove," "2001" and "Star Wars."
We were at Shepperton visiting the various stages and offices housing production on "Captain America: The First Avenger," directed by Joe Johnston ("The Rocketeer") and starring Chris Evans in the title role.
Over the course of the afternoon, Kevin Feige told us how "The First Avenger" fits into the Marvel
movie universe, we saw intriguing concept art Captain America's origins and Cap-in-action (if executed, it's a tremendous starting point), got up-close-and-personal with some of the film's World War II-era vehicles (the leaked photos are barely the tip of the iceberg), chatted with an exhausted-yet-chipper Evans in costume (one of several evolutions of the iconic suit), briefly met with Hugo Weaving in Red Skull prosthetics (creepy and spot-on) and watched the filming of a scene so crucial that even when I can talk about it, I'll have to be vague.
Oh. And did I mention that we got to hold Captain America's shield? That sucker is heavy.
"Captain America: The First Avenger" opens on July 22, 2011 and I'll have much more coverage from the set visit
as the release gets closer.
Til then, check out this image of the Captain America's shield (and pay no attention to the gentleman it's attached to)...
Busy writer-director-star discusses fantasy football, his FX comedy and 'Cyrus
Mark Duplass of 'The League'
Actors do TV shows for many different reasons, but Mark Duplass gave me a rather unique explanation when we spoke.
"'The League' is me going off and having sex with a beautiful, gorgeous woman who expects nothing of me other than smiles and fun," Duplass explains.
The first thing you have to know is that he's not being literal. Duplass is, in fact, married to Katie Aselton, his co-star in the FX fantasy football comedy.
However, with "The League," Duplass is a hired gun, just one part of the expert ensemble assembled by creator Jeff Schaffer and Jackie Marcus Schaffer. Granted that "The League," with its heavy emphasis on improvisation, puts more pressure on its stars than most shows, but it's still a relatively low commitment compared to Duplass' other job.
Along with brother Jay, Duplass has been writer, director, producer and occasionally star of a run of independent-minded dramedies including "The Puffy Chair," "Baghead," "Cyrus
" and the upcoming "Jeff Who Lives at Home," festival-friendly features that have gradually increased in budget without losing their DIY charm and rhythms.
With "The League" returning for its second season on Thursday (Sept. 16), HitFix caught up with Duplass to discuss his Other Woman and more.
Click through for the full interview...
Jimmy Smits leaves the Supreme Court to practice outlaw law in NBC's new dud
I think that it's probably acceptable to have a premise as ridiculous as the one that drives NBC's "Outlaw
." The crime isn't in the ridiculousness, but in the decision to approach that ridiculousness with leaden seriousness.
That's why I love Sepinwall's tongue-in-cheek interpretation
of "Outlaw" as "a body swap comedy in legal drag." That show would be fresh, original and, despite itself, fun.
As it stands now, "Outlaw" is just a drag, legal or otherwise.
Full review of "Outlaw" after the break...
Emmy-winning host says 'Survivor' will survive without Russell
'Survivor: Nicaragua' host Jeff Probst
" embarks on several new frontiers on Wednesday (Sept. 15) night.
The long-running reality favorite kicks off its 21st season on a new night (technically an old night, if you're a purist), in a new location (Nicaragua) and facing life without Russell Hantz, the domineering presence who contributed to a major creative uptick last season.
HitFix caught up with the show's Emmy-winning host Jeff Probst
at the Television Critics Association press tour in late July, soon after this season's Old vs. Young twist was announced. [It was before anybody was confirming the presence of former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson in the cast, just in case you're curious why he didn't come up in the conversation.]
The interview isn't especially spoiler-y. Probst has been the show's biggest cheerleader for long enough that he knows how to be candid about past seasons, while being coy about what's to come.
However, at the very end, we discuss rumors about the structure for the show's 22nd installment, which won't premiere until next spring. Obviously Probst doesn't confirm or deny only speculation, but the stuff at the bottom would definitely be a hypothetical spoiler if you don't like scuttlebutt.
Click through for the interview...