<p>Michael Lombardo</p>

Michael Lombardo

Credit: HBO

Press Tour Live-Blog: HBO's Richard Plepler & Michael Lombardo

What's new in HBO-dom? Find out!

It's time for my first Television Critics Association press tour live-blog of Summer 2013.

We've got an HBO executive session with Richard Plepler, CEO, and Michael Lombardo, President, HBO Programming.

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<p>Dan Harmon at Comic-Con last week</p>

Dan Harmon at Comic-Con last week

Credit: Jordan Strauss/ABC

Press Tour: Dan Harmon talks 'Rick and Morty,' 'Community' and creative freedom

What can you do in animation that you can't do in live-action?
Adult Swim's "Rick and Morty" represents a whole new world for co-creator Dan Harmon, making the leap from live action to animation.
"You can make a banana purple. You can put three hats on a cowboy," Harmon tells reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour on Wednesday (July 24), explaining the limitless possibilities of the hand-drawn comedy. 
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<p>Aaron Paul makes out with a Heisenberg mask at Comic-Con</p>

Aaron Paul makes out with a Heisenberg mask at Comic-Con

Credit: John Shearer/AP

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 193 - Comic-Con Roadtrip

Dan and Alan drive north on the the 5 freeway talking Comic-Con


Happy Monday, Boys & Girls! It's time for our annual Comic-Con Roadtrip Podcast.
In the past, this podcast has, of course, been only variably successful. I still insists that the unlistenable first Roadtrip Podcast was among the most entertaining hours we've ever done, even if you can't understand any of it. 
This year's Roadtrip Podcast is much more listenable. In fact, other than the hum of my car and the occasional passing truck, you might not necessarily know it was even taking place on the road. That's a bit disappointing as well. We were stuck in traffic exiting San Diego for most of the time, so we didn't get to any notable roadside landmarks and because I was taking Sepinwall to the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, we didn't go on the toll road, so there was no toll-collector cameo.
Instead, it's just a pretty straight-forward 73-ish minutes of Comic-Con chatter. No Emmy talk. We covered that in the video podcast. No "My So-Called Life." We'll get to that in a week or two. Just All-Comic-Con!
So the breakdown this week is really easy:
Comic-Con (00:00:00 - 01:14:00)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

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



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<p>Charlie Hunnam</p>

Charlie Hunnam

Credit: FX

Comic-Con 2013: 'Sons of Anarchy' Live-Blog

Kurt Sutter leads SAMCRO back to Hall H

That FX's "Sons of Anarchy" has now established a tradition of being the final entertainment panel of San Diego Comic-Con is one of the funniest developments in the recent history of this event.

But here we are again, celebrating SAMCRO and Kurt Sutter on Comic-Con Sunday and, once again, we'll doing it in Hall H.

Whee! Let's find out what's in store for Jax and company this fall!

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<p>The Comic-Con &quot;Under the Dome&quot; logo is awesome.</p>

The Comic-Con "Under the Dome" logo is awesome.

Credit: CBS

Comic-Con 2013: 'Under the Dome' Live-Blog

Popular Stephen King adaptation hits Comic-Com

This is an odd one. In terms of pure ratings, CBS' "Under the Dome" is certainly one of the most watched TV shows to hit Comic-Con this year. And yet here it is, squished into a mid-sized ballroom on the last afternoon of Comic-Con when everybody is either scurrying around on the floor looking for bargains or else celebrating the return of Dan Harmon to "Community" over in Hall H.


Let's see if there's any enthusiasm at all from the Comic-Con faithful for CBS' summer smash.

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<p>Stephen Amell of &quot;Arrow&quot;</p>

Stephen Amell of "Arrow"

Credit: The CW

Comic-Con 2013: 'Arrow' Live-Blog

What's in store for Oliver and company in Season 2?

I always find it hard to write about "Arrow," because I never remember if Stephen Amell spells his name with one "m" and two "l's" or if it's two "m's" and one "l." I've always had the same problem with Steve Carell. I can't explain it.

Anyway, I've already live-blogged "Bates Motel," "True Blood" and "The Vampire Diaries" today.

So... On to "Arrow."

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

"The Vampire Diaries"

Credit: The CW

Comic-Con 2013: 'The Vampire Diaries' Live-Blog

After 'True Blood,' it's time for Elena, Damon and Stefan




We just spent 45 minutes talking about "True Blood." 

Now it's time for some "Vampire Diaries" fun. 

Follow along...

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<p>Stephen Moyer of &quot;True Blood&quot;</p>

Stephen Moyer of "True Blood"

Credit: HBO

Comic-Con 2013: 'True Blood' Live-Blog

Vampires, werewolves, faeries and other critters hit Ballroom 20

Hey Gang. Welcome to Saturday's (July 20) second live-blog. 

I've already done "Bates Motel" today. Here comes "True Blood" and then "The Vampire Diaries" and Arrow" will be back-to-back. 

Whee! Follow along!

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<p>Freddie Highmore of &quot;Bates Motel&quot;</p>

Freddie Highmore of "Bates Motel"

Credit: A&E

Comic-Con 2013: 'Bates Motel' Live-Blog

What's in store for Season 2 of the 'Psycho' prequel?

Time for another busy day of Comic-Con live-blogging.

Because the "I'm Just Following Orders and I Have No Immediate Superior You Can Talk To" Comic-Con fascists have placed tight restrictions on computer charging in Ballroom 20, I'm gonna be live-blogging, rather than taking notes at panels and writing later. It's just easier.

I've got "Bates Motel" now and then "True Blood," "The Vampire Diaries" and "Arrow" in the late afternoon.

But for now? Let's hear about Season 2 for our favorite Mother-Son team of Norma and Norman Bates...

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<p>ABC's &quot;Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.&quot;</p>

ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'

Joss Whedon pilot generated Comic-Con buzz, but does it deliver excitement?

[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.]

[Note: This entry spoils a bit of casting that a number of media reports spoiled today. It's not really a huge spoiler and the character appears within the first 10 minutes of the pilot and I'm betting ABC will feature the character in trailers now. But you've been warned. And the picture spoils it too. But ABC hasn't released enough pictures from this show. So... Sorry. Like I said. Not a surprise.]

Show:"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (ABC)
Airs:Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
The Pitch:You see... Marvel. And... S.H.I.E.L.D. And... Joss Whedon. This is not a hard sell.
Quick Response: ABC was ultimately brilliant in holding back this pilot for a Comic-Con premiere. The response in Ballroom 20 was, from some quarters, rapturous. Hold your horses. Chill. Relax. I know that was impossible for a lot of people in Ballroom 20 and who can blame them? It's Marvel action for TV! It's Joss Whedon! And it's good. It's not great. I'm not even sure I'd put a "very" in front of "good," but the total number of new drama pilots for this year that I'd even categorize as "good" doesn't exceed the fingers on one hand. So take "good" as a compliment, but don't expect the hype from Ballroom 20 to carry over. It won't change your life or ABC's life, but it's got potential. I'll start with the negatives. "S.H.I.E.L.D." is a pre-sold property, but obviously there are fears that nobody connects this pilot to "The Avengers" (a problem for most people outside of San Diego), so the pilot spends a lot of time mentioning context from within the Marvel Universe in ways broad enough to make both Mike at Comic-Con *and* Joe in Omaha feel hip. That's fine, though it's a bit of a tease. I love Agent Coulson. You love Agent Coulson. We all love Agent Coulson. But maybe you let us love Agent Coulson without reminding us that we're missing Thor and Iron Man and The Hulk. So it has to play the "reminder" game, but it also has to play the much more complicated game of, "Since we're not *really* gonna see most of the people we know, what is the world in which this show takes place?" To that end, the pilot has as many as three point-of-entry characters in combat badass Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), mysterious hacker Skye (Chloe Bennett) and J. August Richards' character, who I won't describe. That's too many characters coming from too many outside points-of-view for any of their perspectives to actually sink in, much less for the pilot to feel like it's a wholly satisfying 44-minute story. I was interested in Richards' performance, but I don't know what's happening going forward. I liked Bennet, who's pretty much a prototypical Whedon leading lady, quick with a quip and easy on the eyes. And Dalton seemed OK, but probably a bit too pretty and not dangerous enough. Dalton's character needs a clearer pilot arc, or he probably just needed to already be a member of the team. Instead, it seems like the middle two-thirds of the pilot is people explaining to other people what S.H.I.E.L.D. does, which is a necessary evil, but it's not necessarily good drama. And most people still won't get what S.H.I.E.L.D. does or why Agent Coulson is hanging out with these people when he could be hanging out with Tony Stark and Nick Fury. Yes, he's got a cool vintage sports car and they have a nifty airplane, but after the fully populated Helicarrier from "The Avengers," everything in this pilot is comparatively claustrophobic and sparse. Having Cobie Smulders in the pilot helps and it's not a tiny role. They need to get more of her and I'd love to get some sense of what contractual magic will allow her to make at least occasional appearances until she gets liberated from "HIMYM." The show needs her and vice versa. Ming-Na is initially mysterious and then effectively nails her one action scene. Charming British scientists Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are as Whedon-y as you'd like them to be. Lots of the pilot, in fact, is satisfyingly Whedon-y. At times the jokes are smart and well-constructed and literate. And then at times it panders in a way that played flawlessly in Ballroom 20, but probably not everywhere. As a director, Whedon doesn't overreach. That means that none of the action scenes are ruined by the frustration of limited TV budgets, but you also never go, "Wow. I've never seen anything like this on the small screen before." It does look like a TV show. It doesn't look like a $200-million feature. Weird, right? I do think Whedon made this pilot so that the subsequent show would feel mostly reproducible, rather than the legion of blow-your-wad-on-the-pilot dramas we see every year. This is a template and a cast that future directors and writers should be able to work with.
Desire To Watch Again: I think the above super-paragraph feels a little negative, but of the fall drama pilots, this is still the one that has me most jazzed for a second episode. There are a number of mythology-based things introduced in the pilot, particularly involving Coulson's return, that I'm interested in and, thanks to Gregg, invested in. I want to watch Bennet and Ming-Na and Henstridge and De Caestecker play around in this world. I think an awful lot is going to depend on Brett Dalton. I really do trust in Joss when it comes to casting, but Dalton's not there yet. "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is not all the way there yet. But it's fun and sometimes exciting and everybody's trying to make it likable. 


Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'We Are Men' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Almost Human' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Back in the Game' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries


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