Inside TV+Movies with Daniel Fienberg
Shorts Program I includes new films by Spike Jonze and Rory Kennedy
On Thursday (Jan. 21) night, after more than 30 hours in Park City, Utah, I finally got around to doing a not-so-unusual thing for the Sundance Film Festival: I saw some films.
As Drew McWeeny has already discussed, HitFix is hitting Sundance hard, with five of us on the ground seeing movies, listening to the bands and talking to the stars. As part of our effort to showcase the breadth and depth of the Sundance experience, I'm personally going to be trying to wander off the beaten path, catching as many documentaries and World Cinema offerings as I can. I may not see that many movie and TV stars testing their indie cred, but instead I'll see movies from places like Bolivia. And isn't that what Sundance is really about? I sure hope so.
Kicking things off for my 2010 Sundance experience was the Opening Night presentation of Shorts Program I, featuring Spike Jonze's "I'm Here," Rory Kennedy's "The Fence," François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain's "Logorama" and Patrik Eklund's "Seeds of the Fall"...
A review of Sundance 2010's Shorts Program I after the break...
Joey, do you like TV shows about gladiators? Starz offers all of the violence, nudity and Romans you can handle.
The new Starz drama "Spartacus: Blood & Sand" is an orgiastic tidal wave of ludicrousness.
It's a no-punches-pulled landslide of viscera, softcore sexuality, salty language, historical anachronisms and masculine posturing. And, as such, some people are going to love the heck out of "Spartacus: Blood & Sand."
For other viewers, the headache will set in within five minutes and never subside, but at least "Spartacus" doesn't aim for delayed reactions. The Roman gonzo-trashiness starts early and carries on with an admirable persistence.
One thing is for sure: You've never seen anything like "Spartacus: Blood & Sand" before, unless you've seen "300," Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" and "Caligula" all in the same night and had horrifying dreams making a mash-up of those three films. If you've done that, then you know exactly what to expect from "Spartacus: Blood & Sand."
Full review of "Spartacus: Blood & Sand" after the break...
Billy Zane terrorizes a group of young lawyers on a 'Grey's Anatomy'-esque legal drama
With "FlashForward" taking an extended hiatus until March, ABC is using the Thursday night 8 p.m. slot to launch "The Deep End." Proximity to "Grey's Anatomy" is no coincidence, because if imitation truly is the most sincere form of flattery, "The Deep End" is flattering Shonda Rhimes' popular medical drama to the extreme. Think of it as "Grey's Attorney" (not to be confused with "Grey's Astronomy," as I dubbed the brief summer run of "Defying Gravity").
Created by David Hemingson, "The Deep End" is mighty familiar, but the young, attractive cast is enthusiastic enough to yield some amusing moments, even if the odds of the show eliciting any real passion are low.
[More on "The Deep End" after the break...]
Ryan Murphy and company talk Jennifer Lopez, summer tour and more...
Because I like to complain (part and parcel of being a critic, I suppose), I could detail the arduousness of a day with six set visits on three studio lots in the middle of a torrential downpour of Biblical proportions. But any day you get to sit in the McKinley High School choir room listening to Lea Michele and Amber Riley sing is probably complaint-proof.
Millions of "Glee" fans would certainly agree.
That's where the Television Critics Association found itself late Monday (Jan. 18) afternoon, on uncomfortable chairs on a Paramount lot stage, listening to Riley singing "Don't Make Me Over" (a number cut from an episode earlier this season) and Michele reprising her show-stopping take on "Maybe This Time." The assembled reporters were duly impressed, but the more surprising thing is how, even after more than half a season of production and a summer tour, the members of the cast still appear love watching each other perform. The smiles and enthusiasm from all of the stars and supporting players were utterly genuine, an authenticity that has carried over in the show.
Still glowing after their big Golden Globe win on Sunday, Ryan Murphy and the "Glee" cast fielded questions for a half-hour. Highlights are after the break.
Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak and company met with reporters at the Buy More
The Television Critics Association has become a regular fixture at the "Chuck" set on the Warner Brothers lot. We know the different employee morale signs hanging around the Buy More, price breaks on high definition TVs which real DVDs are hiding on the movie racks.
We don't know any new secrets regarding what to expect from the rest of the third season of "Chuck," but that's just because Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak and company are a secretive lot.
Here are a few highlights from what was discussed by Schwartz, Fedak, Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin, guest star Brandon Routh and the rest of the "Chuck" team during the TCA's visit on Monday (Jan. 18) afternoon.
[Click through... No spoilers for the future, really, but if you're behind on "Chuck" there are spoilers for the past. But those aren't really spoilers, now are they?]
"Chuck" Highlights from the TCA Q&A Held at the Buy More Set on the Warner Bros Lot:
It's a family dramedy with an Old School WB flavor, if that kind of thing appeals to you
In the balance, The WB was the winner of the great UPN-WB merge of 2006. Four years later, "Supernatural," "Smallville" and "One Tree Hill" all remain on The CW in various capacities, carrying the WB banner. Meanwhile, UPN is represented by aging reality hit "America's Next Top Model."
The reformatted CW has stuck mostly to The WB's core of younger female viewers, largely jettisoning the "urban" sensibilities (i.e. shows featuring pretty people who aren't white) that characterized UPN. But despite adhering to The WB model, The CW has struggled with developing shows from a vein that's recognizably WB-y. The new female-friendly CW mode is made of cattier stuff, with shows like "Gossip Girl" and "90210" and "Vampire Diaries" lacking in the sweetness and sentimental streak that seemed to characterize my mental image of The WB's best.
The CW actually took a respectable stab at an Old School WB show last fall with "Privileged," driven by what ought to have been a star-making turn for Joanna Garcia.
It's too bad that "Privileged" didn't stick around, because it would have made a fine pairing with "Life Unexpected," an even better Old School WB series premiering on The CW on Monday (Jan. 18) night.
[Review after the break...]
Mark Valley, Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley get a Sunday try-out
Early on in FOX's "Human Target," you're going to feel an itching in your brain, a pulsating urge to question logic or motivation or plausibility. Ignore than urge, fight back that quibbling desire.
It isn't that "Human Target" is a brainless drama. No, it's actually pretty clever in spots. What "Human Target" is, however, is escapist action. For all of the high-tech gadgetry occasionally paraded on the screen, "Human Target" is a throwback to the streamlined TV thrill-rides of the '70s or '80s. The DNA from "Airwolf" or "The A-Team" runs through "Human Target" far more recognizably than the comic book series that gives the show its name.
"The Human Target" isn't quite on-brand for FOX, but the network is launching the show with its one truly compatible program, pairing the premiere with the two-hour premiere of Day Eight of "24."
In their current states, I can say without hesitation that "Human Target" is out-"24"-ing "24."
Review of "Human Target" after the break...
Jack Bauer and company find themselves in New York, but out of ideas
I know I've said this before, but some things can stand repetition: "24" is the amnesiac's favorite television show. We're starting Day Eight on Sunday (Jan. 17) night and the series shows no sign of varying its formula beyond the occasional new location, the occasional new uber-ethnic baddie, the occasional new inept CTU boss and the occasional new POTUS.
The structure remains unchanged. The ethos remains unchanged. Kiefer Sutherland's unflagging commitment to the emotional truth of Jack Bauer remains unchanged. The series has five or six standard twists that get rotated every season, along with five or six standard cliffhangers rotated to end every episode. If you can watch the show and forget that you've ever seen these things before, you can always find enjoyment in a new episode or a new season of "24" and the show's most passionate fans have become experts at that sort of self-imposed forgetfulness.
It helps that "24" spun off a drinking game in its early seasons and that drinking game has seemingly become integrated into the narrative. Drink whenever certain things happen on "24" and then drink some more to forget that everything happening on "24" you've seen before. It's a great formula. Simulated originality through advanced intoxication.
One thing the "24" writers have never failed at before is starting a season off with a bang. If you look at reviews of every new season, you'd think "24" was always coming off of its worst season ever, because critics are always so excited to have it back. And normally you can count on the "24" team to nuke Valencia or kill a President, on Jack Bauer to arrive from China with a bushy beard or to return from the dead with vengeance on his mind. "24" may not know how to finesse the middle of each season and the writers often aren't exactly sure of how to end things, but they always can get the ball rolling.
Alas, this isn't the case with Sunday (Jan. 17) and Monday (Jan. 18) nights' four-hour premiere. Despite transplanting the show to New York City and overhauling the supporting cast, the creative exhaustion on "24" is evident. Sunday's hours aren't so bad (neither are they gripping), but the first hour on Monday is among the show's worst hours and the second Monday episode isn't much better. Even devoted fans may need to do a lot of forgetting (and a lot of drinking?) before Episode Five.
[Full review after the break... Some spoilers, but nothing major...]
Daniel Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall talk press tour, Jay Leno, Stephen Hawking and more
This is a bit of an experiment, y'all. Sepinwall -- Also known as Alan Sepinwall of the The Star-Ledger -- and I have been talking about doing a podcast for many a moon now, so we got together on Saturday (Jan. 16) afternoon at the Langham in Pasadena for a few-holds-barred conversation about the Television Critics Association press tour, the NBC Leno-Conan kerfuffle, being big-timed by Stephen Hawking and more.
If this works out, we plan to do this more often, so let us know what you think... This is a total stab in the dark. You don't wanna know how much the technology confused us.
Also, if you can come up with a better podcast title than "Firewall & Iceberg" let us know. We're open to ideas...
'North Shore' and 'Miss Guided' veteran discusses his new CW dramedy
Is The CW's new drama "Life Unexpected" the show that puts Kristoffer Polaha in America's living rooms for the long haul?
The "North Shore" and "Miss Guided" and "Valentine" star has kept busy with guest starring roles on shows as diverse as "Dollhouse," "Better Off Ted" and "Mad Men" and with "Life Unexpected," he has what is probably his best and most interesting character.
Polaha plays Nate "Baze" Bazile, a young man who peaked in high school and now drinks his life away as the owner of a grungy bar. Stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence, Baze gets a shock to his system when he discovers he has an adolescent daughter of his own, in Brittany Robertson's Lux.
"Life Unexpected" is the sort of show The WB used to do and potentially new territory for The CW. It's smart, funny and unapologetically sentimental.
HitFix snagged a few minutes with Polaha to chat about "Life Unexpected," his own maturing process and even a little bit about "North Shore" and his other short-lived shows.