Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 170

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 170

Dan and Alan talk Oscars, 'Vikings,' 'Downton Abbey' and more


Sepinwall is back from Disney World, which must mean it's time for the triumphant return of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
Lots to talk about this week, but we start with a long discussion of the Oscars, followed by reviews of "Golden Boy," "Red Widow" and "Vikings" and a few pieces of Listener Mail, culminating in a discussion of the "Downton Abbey" finale, with spoilers.
Here's the breakdown:
Oscars (00:02:45 - 00:26:20)
"Golden Boy" (00:26:25 - 00:40:50)
"Red Widow" (00:40:55 - 00:51:50)
"Vikings" (00:51:50 - 01:02:00)
Listener Mail - Watching TV on the road (01:02:20 - 01:08:30)
Listener Mail - NBC's need to experiment (01:08:35 - 01:15:45)
The "Downton Abbey" finale (01:15:55 - 01:36:30)

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.

Read Full Post
<p>Katie and Max of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>

Katie and Max of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' - 'Loose Lips Sink Ships'

Water, water everywhere. That's a bad thing if you hate water.
You'll have to tell me, fellow "Amazing Race" fans: Was Sunday (February 24) night's episode really, really lame and anti-climactic or did it only feel lame to this recapper who had to watch the episode after seven-ish hours of consecutive tweeting and live-blogging of the Oscars and really might have preferred to just to to sleep, rather than dealing with an "Amazing Race" Leg with little travel, a couple uninspired challenges and a lot of whining? I mean, I'd like to think that even in my exhausted state, I would have enjoyed a GOOD episode of "The Amazing Race," but this didn't feel like one of those to me.
Or am I wrong? 
Click through and I'm gonna run through the episode as quickly as possible. 
Read Full Post
<p>Oscars host Seth MacFarlane</p>

Oscars host Seth MacFarlane

Credit: ABC

2013 Academy Awards Live-Blog

How did Oscar host Seth MacFarlane handle the lead-up to a big 'Argo' Night?

It's a wonderful night for Oscar! Oscar, Oscar! Who will win!

Follow HitFix's full live-blog of Hollywood's Big Night, hosted by Seth MacFarlane and join the conversation below. 

Read Full Post
<p>Jeff Probst snuffs Allie's torch on &quot;Survivor: Caramoan&quot;</p>

Jeff Probst snuffs Allie's torch on "Survivor: Caramoan"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Allie Pohevitz talks 'Survivor: Caramoan'

What was Allie thinking with The Foursome?
Allie Pohevitz's elimination from "Survivor: Caramoan" can be explained using simple math:
If you're in an alliance of four in a tribe of 10, you shouldn't assume that the lone guy who everybody hates will be seen as more of a threat than your tightly bunched, cuddling group of pretty people. Because 6 > 4.
Reynold, Allie, Eddie and Hope formed an early alliance within the Fans tribe based on shared interests, shared youth and shared attractiveness. They were convinced that because everybody seemed to hate lazy, ornery Marine Shamar, he'd be an easy first elimination and they could skate. They were incorrect. Led by Sherri, the outsider alliance reminded the Foursome of the basic math I mentioned earlier and voted Allie out.
In this week's "Survivor" exit interview, Allie talks about hating Shamar, failing to properly obscure her alliance and knowing about the Reynold's Idol, even if the editing made it look like she didn't.
Click through for the full Q&A...
Read Full Post
<p>This is Chris Watson. His picture was dynamic, so I chose it for the recap. We'll see if he's any good.</p>

This is Chris Watson. His picture was dynamic, so I chose it for the recap. We'll see if he's any good.

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 12 - Sudden Death, Part 1 - 10 Guys Perform

The Girls did well on Wednesday. Can the Guys rise to that challenge?

"American Idol" had its most encouraging night of the season on Wednesday. The judges were entertaining and almost uniformly substantive. Of the 10 girls who performed, three or four of them were very good and an additional two or three were reasonably strong. And when the judges made their five selections to advance, at least four of the picks were absolutely on-the-mark. 

My full recap of Wednesday's show.

That doesn't mean, though, that I'm not approaching Thursday's show with some trepidation. Regardless of how consistently the men have dominated "American Idol" for the past five seasons, I certainly haven't seen a guy capable of winning through auditions and Hollywood. So... Prove me wrong!

Read Full Post


Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Caramoan' - 'Honey Badger'

Reynold has a bulge in his pocket and it's making people nervous
Pre-credit sequence. The Favorites return to camp having sent Francesca packing. Dawn begins by pulling Brandon aside and attempting to calm him down, to no avail. "This Tribal Council sucked!" says Brandon, who is irate that Francesca went out first twice. Brandon announces that he's the Honey Badger, which I think means he's been kicked off of LSU's football team for repeated rules infractions. Brandon then tells Dawn and Cochran that they're both going to lose. This makes Dawn cry, proving that Brandon can go full-psycho even on women who aren't hot and young. He's an egalitarian lunatic. "It's about me and what I stand for and it doesn't really matter what Brandon thinks of me," Dawn cries. The creatures in the trees and Adorable Andrea on the ground look on in concern. "I'm feeling a little revengeful," Brandon announces to Erik, vowing to channel his inner Russell Hantz. He's not well, Brandon Hantz. And CBS keeps enabling him and his family. "This is a game and I'm playing dirty to the core. I want to go out with a bang," Brandon rants.
Read Full Post
<p>Angela Miller of &quot;American Idol&quot;</p>

Angela Miller of "American Idol"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 12 - Sudden Death, Part 1 - 10 Girls Perform

This season's semifinal round takes on a whole new form in Las Vegas

Wednesday (Feb. 20) night's "American Idol" represents an all-new format the long-running series. And, as a result, I don't actually have a clue what's coming tonight. Depending on which press release you read, this is either the "Semifinals" or the "Sudden Death Round." It appears that 10 people -- Girls if you trust FOX's press site, but Boys if you trust my Time-Warner cable listings -- will be singing and five will be going home. How were the groups split? What happens if one group or one gender ends up much better than the other? 

I have no idea. 

So click through and follow along...

Read Full Post
<p>Matt Davis of &quot;Cult&quot;</p>

Matt Davis of "Cult"

Credit: The CW

TV Review: The CW's 'Cult' is yet another unsuccessfully crazy midseason drama

Matt Davis and Jessica Lucas blandly investigate a very meta mystery
Don't look now, but TV networks are about to learn the wrong lessons about wackiness. 
If you measure your wackiness -- or "nuttiness" or "lunacy" or whatever -- by quantity, rather than quality, we're in a Golden Age of Goofiness this midseason. 
NBC's "Do No Harm" had a dude experiencing dissociative identity disorder at regularly partitioned daily intervals, a very expensive sex doll and a sneering psychotic warning a small child with a stuffed animal that monkeys have been known to eat their young.
That was wacky.
ABC's "Zero Hour," with its Nazis, Rosicrucians, demon babies, doppelgangers, underground clockmakers and ice-bound submarines, made "Do No Harm" look milquetoast and rational.
Of course, "Do No Harm" was cancelled after only two airings, which is what happens if you premiere with the lowest in-season numbers for any drama in the history of network television.
And although "Zero Hour" launched last week to more robust ratings than "Do No Harm," it was still the worst start for an in-season ABC drama series, again, in history. Figure in an inevitable Week 2 plunge and the clock is ticking for "Zero Hour." [Yes. I hate myself for that.]
[Due to its modicum of superficial prestige, I've exempted FOX's dreadful "The Following" from my survey of midseason wackiness, though its sadistic shower threesomes, rudimentary literary analysis and gasoline-wielding Romantic poets are more than enough to qualify. "The Following" also warrants temporary exemption because of its initial success for FOX, though ratings have settled more into the "qualified hit" range than "breakout smash."]
It would be wrong to say that "Do No Harm" and "Zero Hour" weren't relatively large swings by NBC and ABC, but they were also relatively large misses. I'll continue to insist that the version of "Do No Harm" that aired was much cleaner and saner than the pilot that NBC initially sent to series, but "saner" is short of a compliment (and may even be an insult in this context). And I'll also continue to insist that "Zero Hour" nearly delivered enough craziness to compensate for its overall awfulness, but "nearly" is short of a compliment as well. That's two strikes.
The third strike for balls-to-the-wall wackiness premieres on Tuesday (February 19) on The CW. Airing after the soothingly conventional and programmatic quirkiness of "Hart of Dixie" -- those things sound like criticisms, but "Hart of Dixie" has become an admirable plate of comfort food in its second season -- "Cult" has almost no chance of success, though thanks to "The L.A. Complex," The CW has an astoundingly low bar for in-season record lows and I wouldn't expect it to fail that badly. But even before it fails with audiences, "Cult" fails creatively. An ill-conceived, poorly scripted, woodenly acted mess, "Cult" is watchably crazy, but that's the highest praise I can give it. 
When "Cult" joins "Do No Harm" and "Zero Hour" on the quickly-forgotten scrap-heap, I fear networks will decide this is a sign that audiences hate wackiness, as opposed to a sign that audiences are able to sniff out when wacky shows are bad. "Lost" was a wacky show. "The Walking Dead" is a wacky show. Heck, this season's greatest rags-to-riches network success story is the second season of "Scandal" and there are few shows on network TV wackier than "Scandal." Blame these midseason failures for being dreadful, not for being difficult-to-categorize or creatively unhinged. 
"Do No Harm," "Zero Hour" and now "Cult" are examples of shows that are wacky without any grounding, that attempt to string viewers along with unmoored weirdness rather than compelling characters or grounded drama. I'm sure there are versions of all three shows that would have been more successful and a version of all three shows that might have been good (probably different versions). These shows failed because they were bad. I'd still rather have "Do No Harm," "Zero Hour" and "Cult" than "Formulaic CBS Procedural X." Better to try something big and fail spectacularly than to try nothing and still probably fail. 
And that was my brief-ish manifesto on failed wackiness. The actual review of "Cult" is after the break.
Read Full Post
<p>Not a bad place to build and unbuild sandcastles</p>

Not a bad place to build and unbuild sandcastles

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' Premiere - 'Business in the Front, Party in the Back'

Eleven teams head to Bora Bora to start the race for a million
You know how I'm going to begin this "Amazing Race" premiere recap and I know how I'm going to begin this "Amazing Race" premiere recap. So we might as well do it together, eh?
All together now...
"Amazing Race" premiere episodes should NEVER be less than 90 minutes and should always, ideally, be two hours. 
Given that "The Amazing Race" has superior 18-49 numbers to "The Good Wife" and given that "The Good Wife" has comically low repeat numbers, surely it would behoove both "The Amazing Race" and CBS to set that particular regulation in stone.
There aren't any objections, are there? There are 22 contestants out there and they're engaged in lots of busy-work and even in two hours, it would be hard to give all of them personalities, but I find that hour-long "Amazing Race" premieres are almost impossible to recap, because I'm spending two-thirds of my time attempting to learn one superficial difference between otherwise similar teammates and almost no time deciding who I like or dislike and even less time than that getting emotionally invested in the results of the individual Leg.
And it's almost like the producers willingly sacrificed that latter aspect in Legs like Sunday's (February 17) premiere. Unless you are related to the team that was eliminated, either by blood or natural affinity to their shared profession, there isn't a chance that their departure will cause you even the slightest hint of disappointment. So Sunday was a basically affectless "Amazing Race" premiere, which I don't think needs to be the case. 
Of course, it can't just be an example of CBS telling the producers, "Look, we've got the space and we wouldn't mind the ratings, so give us a two-hour cut of this premiere." Sunday's Leg was not designed to be padded out over two hours. It featured only two-and-a-half challenges and the episode's key challenge was designed for HD splendor and adrenaline junkies, not for in-Race difficulty or potential character illustration. 
The "Race" producers would say that the design of the opening Leg was, indeed, designed for improved "Getting to know you" time. Starting with a Double Roadblock episode meant that all 22 Racers did something on Sunday's episode, while a single Roadblock and a Detour might leave one of the two Racers a cipher. That's not necessarily wrong. I understand. But one of the two Roadblocks just showcased screaming and falling. I learn very little about contestants from how well they scream and fall. 
But I guess when I think back on the Leg architecture for Sunday's episode, it could have been a very good in-season Leg. It only failed because it was a premiere and it only failed because it was only 43 minutes. 
Let's talk more about the premiere, including a first read on each of the teams, after the break... [Warning: Because I had a screener for this one, I was able to write it early and, in writing it early, I over-wrote. Apologies.]
Read Full Post
'Beautiful Creatures' director Richard LaGravenese talks male protagonists, magic and sequels

'Beautiful Creatures' director Richard LaGravenese talks male protagonists, magic and sequels

The 'Fisher King' scribe's latest directing effort is now in theaters
An Oscar nominee for writing "The Fisher King," Richard LaGravenese has cultivated an ongoing reputation as a go-to source for cultivated adaptations of that the uncultivated might call "chick-lit," ranging from "The Horse Whisperer" to "The Bridges of Madison County" to "Water for Elephants." [We would never put LaGravenese in a "chick lit" corner, since "Beloved" and "The Little Princess" are clearly much more than that.]
With the new teen supernatural romance "Beautiful Creatures," LaGravenese is working with material which might -- again, this would only be a gross generalization -- be thought to skew more toward female viewers, but Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's novel stands out in the genre because not only does it have a male protagonist (Alden Ehrenreich's Ethan), but the story is told from his point of view.
In our conversation a couple weeks back, LaGravenese talked about the difference that comes from a male hero and, in specific, a mortal male hero. LaGravenese, who wrote and directed "Beautiful Creatures," also discusses his approach to the magical subject matter, which involved keeping even the most unreal of elements somewhat grounded.
Based on the early box office for "Beautiful Creatures," a sequel doesn't immediately seem to be in the offing, but LaGravenese sounded eager to stick with the franchise for potential adaptations of Garcia and Stohl's later novels.
Check out the full interview above...
You can also check out my interviews with "Beautiful Creatures" co-stars Jeremy IronsViola Davis and Emmy Rossum and stars Alice Englert & Alden Ehrenreich.
"Beautiful Creatures" is now in theaters.
Read Full Post