How to find a good foil, by Guillermo del Toro: On 'The Strain'

How to find a good foil, by Guillermo del Toro: On 'The Strain'

Which changes from the books does the 'Pacific Rim' director love?

TORONTO, ONTARIO. Like a body finding itself overrun with squiggly bloodworms and going from human to vampire, FX's "The Strain" is undergoing a transformation.

The series launched last summer with a pilot directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Chuck Hogan from the literary trilogy by Chuck Hogan. In the early rounds of promotion, "The Strain" had few cheerleaders more jovial and engaged than Guillermo del Toro and there are few cheerleaders more engaged and engaging than Guillermo del Toro.

But as "The Strain" moved deeper into its first season, deviations from the books became larger and larger. Thomas Eichhorst, pretty much an afterthought stooge in the book, became perhaps the TV show's defining villain in the hands of breakout star Richard Sammel. Nora's (Mia Maestro) unstable mother, a character whose importance stretches into the third book, was killed off with minimal emotional impact. And who the heck is "Dutch"?

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<p>Michael Chiklis of &quot;The Shield&quot;</p>

Michael Chiklis of "The Shield"

Credit: FX

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 290- 'Rectify,' 'Strain' and 'Shield' finale

Dan and Alan also review 'Masters of Sex' and '7 Days in Hell'


Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls. After two weeks away, it's the triumphant return of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.

We begin this week's podcast, because how could we not, by discussing my professional transition, which I announced last Thursday.

From there, there's plenty to discuss, including reviews for new seasons of "Rectify," "The Strain" and "Masters of Sex," plus the HBO comedy-sports special "7 Days in Hell."

Then we spent a lot of time talking about the series finale of "The Shield" which -- SPOILER!!! -- we really like.

And because we're assuming Firewall & Iceberg will continue, we also announced our next Summer Finale Rewatch offerings and they make me giggle.

Today's breakdown:
"Rectify" (00:02:40 - 00:13:00)
"The Strain" (00:13:00 - 00:28:00)
"7 Days in Hell" (00:28:05 - 00:34:50)
"Masters of Sex" (00:34:50 - 00:46:25)
"The Shield" finale (00:46:25 - 01:17:35)

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 or subscribe on IHeartRadio.] 


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

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<p>&quot;Penn &amp; Teller: Fool Us&quot;</p>

"Penn & Teller: Fool Us"

Credit: The CW

Monday Ratings: 'Bachelorette' leads ABC, 'Fool Us' returns strong for The CW

NBC is second with strong 'American Ninja Warrior'

Fast National ratings for Monday, July 6, 2015.

It didn't get much help from "The Whispers," but "The Bachelorette" delivered Monday's top performance in all measures and helped carry ABC to narrow Monday victories over "American Ninja Warrior"-driven NBC.

Monday also saw an unimpressive finale for NBC's "The Island," as well as a strong return for the premiere of The CW's "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" and a slight uptick for the Top 20 reveal on "So You Think You Can Dance."

[Expect those "Penn & Teller" numbers to dip a little, since The CW had baseball preemptions in several markets, including Chicago.]

Let's get to the numbers...

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<p>Corey Stoll of &quot;The Strain&quot;</p>

Corey Stoll of "The Strain"

Credit: FX

'The Strain' star Corey Stoll promises a drunker, more humorous Season 2

What's up with Ephraim Goodweather and the vampire infection this summer?

TORONTO, ONTARIO. When we left the heroes of FX's "The Strain," the present was looking bleak. 

The New York City skyline already exhibited signs of the bedlam caused by the gradual infiltration of vampiric forces turning ordinary people into monomaniacal bloodsuckers bent on devouring loved ones. 

And as we ended the first season, the plucky anti-vampire resistance made up of virologists, ratcatchers and other motley believers, had just been dealt a major blow when direct sunlight failed to kill The Master.

It's late March and "The Strain" star Corey Stoll doesn't necessarily seem gloomy about the future. 

Sitting in a ballroom at the Toronto hotel serving as a location for a late-Season 2 "Strain" episode, Stoll admits that Dr. Ephraim Goodweather isn't just dealing with the undead this season, but will continue to face his own demons.

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<p>Women&#39;s World Cup Final</p>

Women's World Cup Final

Credit: AP

Sunday Ratings: How many people watched Team USA's World Cup win?

'Big Brother' and 'Celebrity Family Feud' still draw on Sunday

Fast National ratings for Sunday, July 5, 2015.

The US Women's National Team scored a decisive World Cup Final victory over Japan and also draw huge numbers to FOX on Sunday night.

The soccer action and its subsequent, extended post-game crushed Sunday competition that included ABC's summer hit "Celebrity Family Feud," CBS' reliable "Big Brother" and NASCAR coverage on NBC.

An obligatory reminder that these numbers reflect time period data and NOT the ratings for the soccer game itself, since the Final started in early primetime on the right side of the country, but only hit West Coast primetime in its second half.

Let's get to the numbers...

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<p>&quot;A.D. The Bible Continues&quot;</p>

"A.D. The Bible Continues"

Credit: NBC

'A.D. The Bible Continues' joins 'American Odyssey' on NBC's cancellation heap

Mark Burnett's 'Bible' sequel will have to be resurrected elsewhere

Can you really cancel something that was already kinda a miniseries in the first place and that didn't appear to have much potential for a sequel anyway?

Apparently, "Yes."

News spread on Friday (July 3) morning that NBC will not renew "A.D. The Bible Continues" for what wouldn't exactly be a second season, since "A.D." was already a sequel-of-sorts to History's "The Bible."

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<p>&quot;Under the Dome&quot;</p>

"Under the Dome"

Credit: MTV

Thursday Ratings: 'Wayward Pines,' 'Aquarius,' 'Dome' drop pre-holiday

'Big Brother' leads CBS to Thursday wins

Fast National ratings for Thursday, July 2, 2015.

"Big Brother" dominated the 9 p.m. hour on Thursday night and helped carry CBS to easy victories in all measures on a sluggish pre-holiday evening.

With overall usage levels down by eight percent on the Thursday leading into the July 4 holiday weekend, most of primetime's originals were down, including drops for "Wayward Pines," "Aquarius," "Under the Dome," "Mistresses" and "Astronaut Wives Club."

"Hannibal" and "Rookie Blue" were among the few shows to stay flat week-to-week, though that was mostly a factor of how low both returning dramas had been in the previous week.

Let's get to the numbers...

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<p>&quot;Thelma and Louise&quot;</p>

"Thelma and Louise"

A Fien Print announcement

July 8 is Comic-Con get-away day and mine as well

The pre-holiday weekend news dump is a tradition for many industries. Wait until reporters are about to walk out the door for a necessary respite and then distribute that weak earnings summary or new series cancellation.

It's a rite that seems well worth honoring with my own announcement, which will surely be upstaged by a celebrity divorce or news about "Hannibal" or something:

July 8 -- that's next Wednesday for the arithmophobic amongst you -- will be my last day as Executive Editor and TV Blogger at HitFix.

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Credit: CBS

Wednesday Ratings: 'Celebrity Wife Swap' tops 'Extant' among young viewers

'MasterChef' helps FOX also tie for the key demo lead

Fast National ratings for Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

Audiences weren't particularly excited for the second season premiere of "Extant," which returned at the same key demo level as a trio of comedy repeats on ABC and below such luminaries as FOX's "Bullseye." CBS still managed to rule Wednesday overall and tie for first among young viewers with "Big Brother" leading the way.

There were few other notables on Wednesday, so let's get straight to the numbers.

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Credit: NBC

'Hannibal' cinematographer James Hawkinson on the show's disturbing, dark beauty

'Man in the High Castle' DP explains some of the tricks of the trade

As we conclude our conversation, James Hawkinson correctly notes that HitFix doesn't do many interviews with cinematographers.

While my departing colleague Kris Tapley actually has done a spectacular job interviewing big screen DPs for the site, Hawkinson is almost certainly the first TV cinematographer I've spoken with.

If you're going to talk to one TV cinematographer, though, it's hard to think of a better candidate than Hawkinson, who has shot NBC's "Hannibal" since its pilot. 

No matter what Emmy voters may think, "Hannibal" is currently in its third season as one of the most breathtaking visual spectacles on TV. It's a world of richly saturated colors, subtle gradations of darkness, teasing tricks of focus and the ability to get equal beauty out of a flayed body, a tower of corpses or a dinner composed of succulent preparations of "human" flesh. There's really nothing close on TV, like a little weekly art film of nightmares and fantasies that happens to air on NBC once a week. [Note: The interview was conducted before NBC announced it wouldn't be moving forward with a fourth season of "Hannibal," though completed episodes will continue to air.]

Hawkinson's previous TV credits included "Community" and "Arrested Development," but it was his short-form work with David Slade that brought him to the world of "Hannibal." During a brief respite his shooting on the Amazon speculative drama "The Man in the High Castle," Hawkinson and I discussed all of the things he's getting away with on "Hannibal," including the precise colors, the degrees of darkness and the disturbing imagery that keeps making it to TV.

Hawkinson shared fun details about the Norman Chapel heart-stag creature, the  extended fight scene that bookended Season 2 and the lines of communication between creator Bryan Fuller, the show's various directors and its regular cinematographer. 

It's a good conversation and probably an argument to interview more TV cinematographers. Now if only more TV shows looked like "Hannibal." 

Check out the full Q&A...

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