<p>Daisy Betts and Andre Braugher of ABC's &quot;Last Resort&quot;</p>

Daisy Betts and Andre Braugher of ABC's "Last Resort"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'

Shawn Ryan's submarine drama has potential, but needs more time

[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 Last Resort" (ABC)
The Pitch: "The Hunt For Red October" meets "Off The Map"
Quick Response: I know I already said this last night with my "Vegas" entry, but "The Last Resort" is another pilot that I liked, but didn't like nearly as much as I wanted to. And, like "Vegas," it's another show where my instinct is to like nearly everybody involved, from co-creator (with Karl Gajdusek) Shawn Ryan to stars like Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman and Dichen Lachman and Autumn Reeser and Jessy Schram and Robert Patrick and Bruce Davison. I also think pilot director Martin Campbell is, despite a wildly mixed feature track record, an extremely proficient director of action and tension. And "Last Resort" has a plot that's astoundingly tantalizing at nearly every turn. Claustrophobic submarine intrigue! Mutinies! Nuclear strike orders! Insubordination! Shootings! A tropical paradise! A cast of dozens! Badassery galore! There's a ridiculous amount happening in the "Last Resort" pilot and it's happening at utterly breakneck speed and... maybe that's my problem. "Last Resort" maybe makes me appreciate either the potential of the USA 75-minute pilot model or else something as old-fashioned as a two-hour pilot. There's so much happening in so little time in "The Last Resort" pilot, meaning that the characters are defined by one or two actions or one or two snippets of exposition at most. And the characters in "The Last Resort" are doing some very extreme things, things that for me as a viewer, I can't fully buy without a better understanding of motivation and relationships. I get the desire is to toss us into this world and that the answer for "Why the heck would that character do that?" is "Because they do! You don't know enough to assume they WOULDN'T do that!" But for some reason, I lacked the information to go along with the story fully in the way I wanted to because of the structure of the pilot. Too many people doing too many things that I can't accept without more context. There's a good chance that if I watch four of five more episodes and then go back and watch the pilot, I could be like, "Oooh. It all makes character-driven sense now," but in 42 minutes, I couldn't do that. I kept getting pulled out of the drama by the need to make logical sense of things. But there was much to pull me into "Last Resort" as well. Braugher's authority is effortless. Speedman is likable. Daisy Betts and a couple other co-stars make positive impressions. Campbell keeps things tense and while "The Last Resort" doesn't look like a movie, it also doesn't look notably cheap in the submarine scenes. And the end of the pilot is a great launching pad for any number of possible great shows. And maybe I'll be on-board after one more hour. I'm just not there yet.
Desire To Watch Again: Strong. The pilot didn't work the way I wanted it to, but it's sure enticing. Also, a lot of folks I respect seem to have liked it more than I did. I'll rewatch the pilot before reviewing it [as I do with everything] with higher hopes already.

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




<p>Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis of CBS' &quot;Vegas&quot;</p>

Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis of CBS' "Vegas"

Credit: CBS

Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'

Dennis Quaid/Michael Chiklis drama isn't instantly great, but it has potential

[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:"Vegas" (CBS)
The Pitch: "LA[s Vegas] Confidential"
Quick Response: I did a video thingie for HuffPo last week and I had to come up with my favorite new drama of the fall and, somewhat unexpectedly, the answer that felt right-est to me was "Vegas." This was a bit of a surprise, because my initial reaction to "Vegas" was predominantly one of disappointment. With this creative team -- James Mangold directing a script from Nicholas Pileggi -- and this cast -- Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis and Carrie-Anne Moss and Oliver from "The O.C." -- my expectations (or "hopes") for "Vegas" was nothing short of "greatness." And "Vegas" isn't great. It isn't close. It's very solid and as the weeks have passed since I watched it, my mind has lingered on the things that work. Those things include Chiklis and Quaid going head-to-head in some of the most archetypal "Western" ways imaginable, actually wearing white and dark ("navy," Chiklis told me at press tour, not "black") cowboy hats in several scenes. It's not surprising to see Chiklis being this good at playing this bad, but it's hard to imagine anybody not enjoying him in this kind of role, despite the absence of anything revelatory or "different." And Quaid gets better and better as he finds Ralph Lamb's inner Frontier Sheriff, not that Quaid playing noble-and-taciturn is exactly revelatory either. This is Mangold working in "3:10 To Yuma" mode, having a tremendous amount of fun with genre iconography and he nails two or three of the pilot's biggest moment with aplomb that would do John Ford or Howard Hawks proud. The production values are terrific and the recreations of 1960 Las Vegas are mighty spiffy. And thanks to the aforementioned archetypes, it's easy to look at "Vegas" and know what the series is, or at least what the first 22 episodes are. What doesn't work? The pilot is built around drama for the long-haul, so there isn't nearly as much tension as there should be. It lags frequently, especially in the crime-of-the-week that sets the overall plot in motion That doesn't necessarily bode well, what with CBS' network-wide preference for procedural familiarity. And for all of the high production values, there's a CBS "coldness" to the pilot that probably prevents the period depictions from being as fun as they should be. In that respect, it's not even as evocative of the same period as Starz' fitfully effective "Magic City," much less something like the world Martin Scorsese recreated in the "Boardwalk Empire" pilot. The pilot also simply can't find time to get any value at all out of Moss or Jason O'Mara or really anybody in the supporting cast. Only time will tell if this is going to be a 1960s Vegas version of "Blue Bloods" or a "Good Wife"-esque example of CBS tip-toing towards a cable sensibility. It's not anywhere near as good as I want it to be, but it could get there.
Desire To Watch Again: High. I guess this is the network drama I'm most anticipating seeing in its second episode, even if I'm worried about that second episode as well.

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


<p>Liam McIntyre of &quot;Spartacus&quot;</p>

Liam McIntyre of "Spartacus"

Credit: Starz

Press Tour 2012: Starz chief discusses the end of 'Spartacus,' plus 'Incursion' and 'Black Sails'

Also, updates on the challenges delaying 'Marco Polo'
BEVERLY HILLS - When Chris Albrecht took the stage at the Television Critics Association press tour on Thursday (August 2) morning, one of the first things he praises was the record-setting second season for "Spartacus," which averaged over 6 million viewers per episode. 
This raises one very obvious questions: If "Spartacus" remains a robust centerpiece to the Starz schedule, why is the network ending the series after its upcoming third season (plus a miniseries)? 
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<p>HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo</p>

HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo

Credit: HBO

Press Tour 2012 Live-Blog: HBO Executive Session with Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo

What will be said about 'Girls,' 'Luck,' 'Game of Thrones' and more?

BEVERLY HILLS - HBO is always good for press tour news, so let's see what information leaks at the network's Television Critics Association gabfest.

As usual, HBO will be represented by Co-President Richard Plepler and President of Programming Michael Lombardo. And, as usual, I'll do my best to tell them apart!

Click through...

2:05 p.m. We've been promised that Plepler and Lombardo have announcements.


2:05 p.m. HBO has a Brett Morgan documentary on The Rolling Stones, coinciding with the band's 50th Anniversary.

2:05 p.m. HBO is also doing a movie with Larry David.

2:06 p.m. "As long as he keeps writing, we'll keep producing," Plepler says of George R.R. Martin and "Game of Thrones." Regarding "True Blood," Lombardo says that as long as the show keeps exciting the storytelling, they're there.

2:06 p.m. "Doug, as of this week, is on Page 65," Lombardo says regarding Doug Ellin and a possible "Entourage" movie.

2:08 p.m. Why move "Enlightened" and "Girls" to January? Lombardo admits that there was a hole in January produced by the abrupt cancellation of "Luck." "We did not have anything ready for that period," he says. Those will be HBO's only January originals. Plepler says that both shows have dedicated audiences who will find the show.

2:09 p.m. "I don't know that the discussion was about women, because we've had a fair number of woman creators," Lombardo says of the network's diversity. "We wait for people to come in to us with a passion project, with a show they're dying to do," Lombardo adds. "You can't mandate any kind of diversity in the creation of a show," Plepler says. He adds that Lena Dunham was sensitive to complaints about diversity last season. Lombardo notes that the network did a pilot with John Ridley and Spike Lee last year that didn't go forward. He says they're mindful of diversity in the creative pipeline.

2:11 p.m. The Larry David movie is NOT a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" movie. David is not playing himself, or at least not the Larry David from "Curb." Greg Mottola is directing.

2:12 p.m. HBO just got a draft of a script for a "The Kids Are Alright."

2:12 p.m. "Unfortunately, we can't do everything we want to do," Plepler says regarding the "Corrections" pilot. He praises the writing and acting. "It's very difficult material and I thought they did a beautiful job with it," he maintains. Lombardo says the decision wasn't based on cost.

2:14 p.m. "People come to the brand and the brand represents distinctive quality," Plepler says of attracting creators. He says the network's matrix for success is "quality and excellence," more than ratings. They want to create passionately engaged programming across all parts of the HBO audience. Lombardo specifically references "Game of Thrones" as a show they're proud of being associated with. "We responded to the writing," Lombardo says. "We want to be proud of everything that we greenlight and put on the air and we are proud of everything that's on the air," Plepler says. He references, for example, the unique voice of Lena Dunham and "Girls."

2:17 p.m. More on diversity! Both Lombardo and Plepler mention "Treme" and "True Blood" as diverse casts. "Do I think we can do better? Absolutely," Lombardo insists. "It's something we're aware of. I think we have shows that have diversity, but the truth is that we can do better," he says.

2:18 p.m. "He has essentially carte blanche," Plepler says of Larry David and additional seasons of "Curb." What Larry David wants to do next is this movie. "I think he wants to do another season of 'Curb' if he has a great idea for another season of 'Curb,'" Lombardo says.

2:19 p.m. Lombardo says that Danny and Jody have pitched an idea for another season of "Eastbound and Down," but it hasn't been written.

2:19 p.m. What are they thinking about a fourth "Treme" season? Lombardo says that they're absolutely having conversations now with David Simon regarding if there should be a fourth season and what that fourth season would be. 

2:20 p.m. "We're very proud of it," Plepler says of "The Newsroom," praising Aaron Sorkin as one of the network's original voices. He says there are 7 million people loving "Newsroom" each week. "There's only one Aaron Sorkin and we're very proud that he's working for us," he says.

2:21 p.m. Plepler says that the streaming audience for HBO is only 5 percent, but it gets closer to 25 percent when you add in OnDemand. Plepler says that "Girls" is the most viewed show on HBOGo.

2:22 p.m. What's happening with "True Detective"? What did HBO respond to? Lombardo says it's very much a character piece and the strength of the writing is that in a familiar drama it blew his socks off. The show is set up as an anthology. This first season narrative ends after these episodes conclude, but they haven't had talk about what a second season would be.

2:24 p.m. HBO ended its deal with Scott Rudin just to give him more flexible, but he remains on-board for "The Newsroom" and everybody is happy.

2:24 p.m. Why does HBO renew shows, particularly comedies," so fast? "We had seen all the episodes. We knew creatively they were strong," Lombardo says of "Girls" and "Veep." They were able to see already that there was an audience and that the audiences returned for second episodes. Plepler emphasizes, once again, that the ratings aren't the top criteria. "Is it hitting part of the 30 million in a way that's resonating?" Plepler says of the big question.

2:26 p.m. Does HBO have room for more original programming? "At this point, we're Sunday night," Lombardo says. HBO did, indeed, air programming on Mondays last fall with "Bored to Death" and "Enlightened," but they realized that the network has trained people to come on Sunday nights. They're always looking at their schedule trying to figure out the pieces and Plepler says that they still have room to add programming on Sunday nights. More programming is, as we like to say, a high class problem.

2:28 p.m. HBO has an overall deal with Jay Roach. He praises the team of Roach and Danny Strong.

2:30 p.m. "We congratulate other networks when they do good work, It takes nothing away from us," Plepler says of cable competition.

2:30 p.m. Plepler says he wouldn't count out quality broadcast dramas in the future. "There's some great shows on broadcast. They weren't nominated this year, but it's hard to argue with why 'The Good Wife' wouldn't fit into that group of shows," Lombardo says of the absence of broadcast dramas in the Emmy field. Lombardo thought "The Following" on FOX was a "smart, well-executed show."

2:32 p.m. "It's over," Lombardo says of "The Life and Times of Tim." He looks a little sad. "We're always looking at stuff," Lombardo says of future animated shows.

2:32 p.m. David Milch is working on a new pilot for HBO and he has movies and miniseries on his plate. The Faulkner thing, presumably?


That's all, folks...

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 141

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 141

Dan and Alan talk more TCA Press Tour, TCA Awards 'Breaking Bad' and more


Happy Tuesday, Boys and Girls!
It's time for the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
This week's installment was recorded in two chunk. The Sunday chunk includes coverage of the Television Critics Association press tour days since our last podcast (including our discussion of the TCA Awards), as well as conversation about the penultimate Season One episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The second chunk is all about this week's "Breaking Bad."
There's a lot to cover!
Here's the breakdown:
TCA Press Tour (00:02:05 - 00:42:15)
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and a little mail (00:42:15 - 00:58:50)
"Breaking Bad" (00:59:15 - 01:26:45)

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.

<p>David Nevins of Showtime</p>

David Nevins of Showtime

Credit: Showtime

Press Tour 2012 Live-Blog: Showtime Executive Session with David Nevins

We're not sure what news there could be, but follow along...

BEVERLY HILLS - After The CW in the morning, it's time for Showtime, with Entertainment President David Nevins.

It's unclear if Showtime has anything controversial or newsworthy or even vaguely interesting, but click through...

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Credit: The CW

Press Tour 2012 Live-Blog: The CW Executive Session with Mark Pedowitz

Expect updates on 'The Selection' and possibly 'Battle Royale' and more

BEVERLY HILLS - It's time for the last of the network executive sessions from the Television Critics Association press tour.


Click through to see what Mark Pedowitz has to say about the network's present and future...

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<p>This was Nina Tassler at the CBS Upfronts presentation in May.</p>

This was Nina Tassler at the CBS Upfronts presentation in May.

Credit: CBS

Press Tour 2012 Live-Blog: CBS Executive Session with Nina Tassler

CBS is still TV's most watched network, so expect resting on laurels

BEVERLY HILLS - The combination of a late night for the Television Critics Association -- we presented our awards -- plus CBS' relative paucity of new programming has led to a late-ish start on Sunday, July 29.

It's also likely to lead to yet another relatively uneventful Executive Session with CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler.

Click through for the celebration of CBS' continued place as TV's most-watched network. And more...

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<p>This is how John Landgraf looked in January at press tour. No clue what his facial hair will be like today...</p>

This is how John Landgraf looked in January at press tour. No clue what his facial hair will be like today...

Credit: FX

Press Tour 2012 Live-Blog: FX Executive Session with John Landgraf

Charlie Sheen talk, plus any give announcements from Saturday's TCA fun

BEVERLY HILLS - Because FX is always good at filling our Television Critics Association press tour days with news and content, I'm always happy to treat John Landgraf's executive sessions the same way I would treat a network executive session. I can't say the same for most cable execs.

Click through to see what Landgraf had to say about the network's Charlie Sheen experiment and any other topics of relevant conversation...

8:32 a.m. As previously announced, "Sons of Anarchy" will return on September 11. "American Horror Story," "The League" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" will be back in October.

8:32 a.m. Landgraf is happy with the network's recent performance. Everything is up. 

8:33 a.m. FX isn't going to make a decision on the back-90 for "Anger Management." But if the Back-90 is picked up, Martin Sheen will join the cast as a regular.

8:34 a.m. "Louie" has been renewed for a fourth season. WOOT! No announcement on "Wilfred" but Landgraf is "very optimistic." There's also no pickup for "The Americans," starring Keri Russell, but he's positive on the pilot.

8:35 a.m. FX is ordering a pilot  for "The Bridge" based on the Danish format.

8:36 a.m. FX has also ordered seven more episodes of "BrandX with Russell Brand" to premiere in the fall along with "Sunny" and "The League." Landgraf is happy with the show's creative growth, but he promises there will be creative changes.

8:37 a.m. Lastly: Landgraf wants the producers of streaming shows to come up with a meaningful apples-to-apples way of announcing the show's ratings. He wants "fair benchmarking." Heh. Landgraf wants to go to war with Netflix.

8:39 a.m. Landgraf stands by calling "American Horror Story" a miniseries. "No, I wasn't surprised," he says of the categorization. He tells us what we already knew: The second season of "AHS" takes place in the '60s in New England at a sanitarium run by the Catholic Church. He calls it "unbelievably scary."

8:40 a.m. Landgraf thinks "Wilfred" has "a many-year future on the network." They still have some "deal issues to work out." Regarding "Justified," he predicts a run of "at minimum six seasons."

8:41 a.m. He would love to find another Louis C.K. to do a "Louie"-esque shows. The network has gotten calls from a number of people thinking they could do something similar. He references that Jim Jeffries of "Legit" is a writer and actor, but he's not a filmmaker, so they have a team of three people doing the job that Louis CK does by himself. "'Louie' is great because Louis is great, but it's also great because it's a completely unvarnished show," he says.

8:43 a.m. What's the story with "Powers"? Chick Eglee is still doing the rewrite and he's written future episodes as well with a staff. If they elect to move forward, they'll start from scratch. "I think there's a possibility that some original cast members may return," Landgraf says, referencing that Jason Patric wants to look at those future scripts.

8:44 a.m. FX is hoping to launch two more dramas in the next year and he hopes the network can get to six or seven dramas on the air. The network's goal has been to concentrate on comedy for a couple years. "Now we're turning back to drama. I'm excited about that," he says. Currently FX only has three dramas. So... That's a lot of work. The late-night business is also a priority, though it will take "patience and stead-fastness."

8:46 a.m. FX has a big war-chest for theatrical releases and off-network pick-ups, but the network wants to be "masters of our own fate," rather than bidding up the cost on networks. It's easier to be masters with movies than with off-network shows. 

8:50 a.m. Is Landgraf happy with "Anger Managment" creatively? And why isn't FX picking up the back-90 now? Landgraf says that he is, indeed, happy with the creative direction of the show. He's excited that Martin Sheen's addition will make it "a multi-generational family show." He promises "Anger Management" will still deal with Charlie's relationships and his patients. "As with any comedy, I think it has more growth in it creatively," he says. He knows that we didn't love it, but he thinks our mistake was in comparing it to other FX comedies. "But with due respect, I think it's fair comparison is really to 'Two and a Half Men' and 'Two Broke Girls' and 'Mike & Molly' and other multi-camera shows," he says. The lack of pickup is based on FX's conservative nature. He calls the odds "overwhelming" that it will be renewed.

8:53 a.m. FX is really unhappy with the numbers Netflix is giving people. "Look, Netflix could tell you how many people watch each episode of 'Lillyhammer' if they wanted to," Landgraf argues. "They have more data than we do," Landgraf says. He wants us to demand "apples to apples" comparison to find out how many people watched shows in their totality on average. "There's a little bit fuzziness in the math of some of what's going on," Landgraf gripes, saying that if Netflix and Hulu are going to be at TCA, they should be giving us real numbers.

8:55 a.m. "I don't know if there is a better way... I wish there were a better way," Landgraf says of ways to prevent the recent DirecTV fracas. He observes that 95 percent of the time, the system doesn't break down, but sometimes it does.

8:58 a.m. A reporter points out that Netflix isn't in an apples-to-apples business with FX. Landgraf reframes it by saying that we should want accurate ratings as a service to our readers. He thinks it helps us. He keeps insisting he has enormous respect for Netflix, but he has no idea how many people watch pieces of Netflix programming. "They have a different business model, but there's something in common to everybody's business model, which is that we all want to develop hit programming." Landgraf says.

9:01 a.m. Has FX had situations where they felt that creative freedom went too far? Landgraf says he's had big fights with Ryan Murphy on "Nip/Tuck." He says he's not going to substitute his taste or aesthetic judgment for that of the showrunner. He also says he had massive fights with the "Rescue Me" on the controversial rape and admits that seven years on, today, he might specifically prevent the "Rescue Me" guys from doing that scene. He references at least one "Louie" episode that had to be trimmed. "We just have this inherent inclination towards letting people make their shows," he says. He wants FX shows to feel hand-crafted, rather than like something from a factory or IKEA.

9:06 a.m. Landgraf thinks that FX could get to 20 original shows plausibly, but the network has no aspiration to fill primetime with all-owned-and-original programming. 

9:07 a.m. Why don't Emmy voters like "Sons of Anarchy"? "The show is grungy and blue collar and violent and profane sometimes, although you might say that 'Breaking Bad' has those qualities too. I just think Emmy voters don't like it that much," Landgraf says. "I don't see the Emmys, at this point, giving it any recognition."

9:08 a.m. Landgraf wants to have programming to have balance between comedy. Comedy is cheaper. We know this. He references the "arms race" to make expensive dramas on cable, with HBO shows like "Game of Thrones" and "Boardwalk Empire" leading the way. FX dramas are losing money on an advertising basis. "I want us to always be active in both genres," he says.


That's all, folks...

<p>ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee</p>

ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee

Credit: ABC

Press Tour 2012 Live-Blog: ABC Executive Session with Paul Lee

Expect lots and lots of 'Modern Family' questions

BEVERLY HILLS - ABC started its Television Critics Association press tour day with the generally well-received "Nashville" before moving into Paul Lee's executive session. Perhaps the network was hoping to get in an extra 45 minutes of negotiations with the "Modern Family" cast?

Expect lots and lots and lots of questions about the "Modern Family" impasse. Click through to see how many.

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