Why is the 'Heathers' star trying a network comedy now?
It's early March and I'm chatting with Christian Slater next to the set for his new FOX comedy "Breaking In" on the Sony Pictures studio lot.
We're perched 20 yards away from the Contra Security game room, which hasn't been featured in either of the two episodes I've seen, but which features several fully operational video games, as well as a working Skee-Ball console.
"We have a whole room full of prizes!" Slater gushes when I complain that Skee-Ball without prizes is almost sad. "There's a whole secret chamber full of stuff."
Slater's kidding, I think. But I'm not 100 percent sure, which is appropriate, since "Breaking In" features the "Heathers" star as Oz, the enigmatic, geeky and possibly unhinged head of a motley team of security testers brought in to make sure that even worse criminals can be kept out. The comedy co-stars Bret Harrison, Odette Annable, Alphonso McAuley and Trevor Moore and premieres after "American Idol" on Wednesday (April 6) night.
After we got our Skee-Ball discussion out of the way, Slater and I had a good chat about his recent string of TV roles, what it means that he's a producer on "Breaking In" and his new show's five-year plan.
How will Erica Evans face the shocking events of the 'V' finale?
SAN FRANCISCO - Although "V" is very much on the bubble for renewal at ABC, star Elizabeth Mitchell, showrunner Scott Rosenbaum and original series lead (and recently added remake guest star) Marc Singer took the WonderCon stage on Sunday (April 3) to meet with fans and talk about the recent finale and hopes for the future.
In the press room after the panel, I got to talk with Mitchell about the dark and shocking ending to the second season finale -- obviously there are spoilers in this video -- and where that tragedy is going to leave her Erica Evans in a possible third season.
In the interview, Mitchell talks about what Erica and Morena Baccarin's Anna might have in common, how she sheds her intense and emotional characters at the end of the day and what she'd like to see happen in the hypothetical future on "V."
Check back in the days to come for my video interviews -- filmed and edited by HitFix's awesome Alex Dorn -- with Singer and Rosenbaum, but I think Mitchell's a pretty terrific way to kick off the "V" interviews.
Jerry Weintraub mostly tells his own story in Douglas McGrath's doc
Jerry Weintraub has never been credited as the writer or director of a film or television show, but he's unquestionably a master storyteller.
The larger-than-life producer is at the center of the documentary "His Way," which premieres on HBO on Monday (April 4) night. And were Weintraub the only master storyteller involved with "His Way," it would still be worth watching for entertainment devotees. But Weintraub stories seem to bring out the best in other expert storytellers and "His Way" also features friends and admirers like George Clooney, Matt Damon, Ellen Barkin and, very oddly, George and Barbara Bush recounting and embellishing Weintraub narratives.
The dominant voice in “His Way” may be Weintraub’s, but it’d be called “My Way,” if not for the theoretical authorial hand of Douglas McGrath, who wrote and directed the doc. As steady and thorough and perceptive and funny as Weintraub is, McGrath seems to be just holding on for dear life. Unless a project is strictly autobiographical, you should never feel like the subject of a documentary is the one pulling the strings and make no mistake: Jerry Weintraub feels like he's the guy pulling the strings on "His Way," which hinders the film, particularly in its second half. That doesn't mean "His Way" isn't an entertaining 83-minute documentary, but it's an entertaining 83-minute documentary, rather than being an enlightening film that's anywhere near as perceptive as its subject matter.
More after the break...
Dan and Alan talk 'Breaking In,' 'Lights Out,' 'Top Chef Masters' and more
Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
It's another mighty busy week for The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast. And things are only gonna get more busy next week. The televisual join is jumping!
This week, we review FOX's "Breaking In," Comedy Central's "Workaholics" and Bravo's "Top Chef" masters. We also reflect on the series life and cancellation of "Lights Out." And then, because the podcast just wasn't long enough, we answer a couple Listener Queries, talking about "Community" and product placement.
Here's this week's breakdown:
WonderCon -- 00:50 - 04:45
"Lights Out" -- 04:45 - 21:30
"Breaking In" -- 21:35 - 31:40
"Workaholics" -- 31:45 - 38:35
"Top Chef Masters" -- 38:40 - 50:20
Listener Mail, "Community" -- 50:25 - 56:51
Listener Mail, Product Placements -- 56:55 - 01:04:40
And here's the podcast...
Jason O'Mara and Stephen Lang kept the Con crowd amused
SAN FRANCISCO - Back in January, at the Television Critics Association press tour, we got the first showcase of footage from FOX's "Terra Nova." Sepinwall wrote about it back then.
Nearly three months later, after promises that the audience was about to get footage that hadn't been revealed anywhere previously, a Sunday (April 3) afternoon WonderCon crowd was treated to what amounted to nearly the same clip package/sizzle reel. I'd say the clip package was close to 95 percent identical to the TCA, with the only notable difference being a one or two frame glimpse at a brontosaurus and a reaction shot of several young Terra Novans staring at the brontosaurus in awe as either an homage to or outright theft from "Jurassic Park."
That's a lot of post-production time under the bridge to not be able to show potential fans anything new at all, so you'll forgive me for instinctively thinking, "Well, now we know why 'Terra Nova' isn't premiering next month." Even WonderCon attendees who didn't see the TCA footage, or the Super Bowl ad or the several promotional clips that aired on FOX before the network decided to delay the "Terra Nova" launch until fall, barely got anything to sink their teeth into.
"The bottom line is we were not confident we're going to have the visual effects done in time. There are hundreds and hundreds of visual effects shots," stated series showrunner Brannon Braga of the premiere delay. Perhaps that's why FOX hasn't teased anything more than that one T-Rex-thing attacking a Jeep and, in this sizzle reel, the brief flash of the friendlier brontosaurus. A month ago, a "Terra Nova" WonderCon panel probably seemed like a great time to really unveil a healthy serving of new footage. Now, we can assume FOX will just wait and treat Comic-Con as the show's big coming out party, just a year after "Terra Nova" was announced and then pulled from the San Diego schedule.
Director and series executive producer Alex Graves admitted that by the time production returned from Australia after shooting the pilot in December, they already knew it was unlikely they'd be able to make the scheduled May sneak.
Much of the delay was credited to research and development on the "Terra Nova" dinosaurs, which will include feathered lizards and also, in what was described as an industry first, dinosaurs realized via motion capture technology.
"It looks kind of funny to see guys in dinosaur suits walk around in front of green screen," Braga told the WonderCon crowd.
More highlights, such as there were, from the "Terra Nova" WonderCon panel, which also featured stars Jason O'Mara and Stephen Lang, after the break...
And why did 'Three Musketeers' waste a half-hour?
SAN FRANCISCO - In recent years, WonderCon has made a TV/film sandwich in the Esplanade. Friday afternoon and Sunday have been dedicated to TV panels, with big-ticket movies packing the room all day on Saturday.
The balance was a bit off this year. The highest profile movie panels closed Friday afternoon ("Green Lantern") and opened a late-starting day on Saturday ("Cowboys & Aliens").
For a variety of reasons, a bafflingly large number of late-spring and early-summer movies (i.e. films opening before Comic-Con in July) opted to skip WonderCon this year. "Captain America" and "Thor" both concentrated their efforts on press and exhibitors at Las Vegas' CinemaCon and left actual fans hanging. Also skipping WonderCon were plausible offerings like "Scream 4," "Pirates of the Caribbean 4," "X-Men: First Class," "Super 8" and "Transformers 3," to say nothing of a slew of longer lead franchise films that could have used San Francisco to begin buzz-building.
I'm not criticizing either WonderCon or the uninvolved studios, merely noting that it wasn't for a lack of compatible projects that Saturday (April 2) afternoon included full hours slated for a movie opening next weekend ("Hanna") and mid-budget vampire flick ("Priest) that in previous years would have been bundled with a far larger presentation. Perhaps that's why the Esplanade spent the afternoon in a state of kinda-near-fullness, rather than the out-the-door-and-around-the-corner level of crowding typical.
There was still plenty of interesting stuff on Saturday, though the day's most interesting panel -- Tarsem Singh's "Immortals" -- was already covered in a full post.
Click through for quick takes on the footage from "Cowboys & Aliens," "3 Musketeers," "Hanna" and "Priest," plus discussion of anything noteworthy from the panels...
Director Tarsem Singh explained where he branched away from history
SAN FRANCISCO - It's going to be hard to avoid comparing "Immortals" to "300." The two films share similar producers, a similarly exhaustive use of green screen and at least a tangentially similar historical-cultural backdrop.
The teaser trailer for "Immortals" was screened on Saturday (April 2) for a packed Esplanade ballroom at San Francisco's WonderCon, as the crowd became the first people to see any footage from director Tarsem Singh's follow-up to 2006's labor-of-love "The Fall." And you can expect the comparisons to "300" to only increase.
Having seen the footage, here's how I can best explain the difference:
Zack Snyder isn't a great storyteller, but he has an unfailing eye for things that look "cool." Tarsem Singh -- many light years better as a stylist than Snyder -- isn't a great storyteller, but he has an unfailing eye for things that look "beautiful." I vividly remember the experience of watching the first "300" footage at Comic-Con and being impressed by its coolness (which perhaps led directly to eventually being let down by its leaden sense of drama). Watching the tease for "Immortals," its coolness didn't overwhelm me, but I was amazed by the compositional beauty of every frame.
In the panel that was sandwiched between the two airings of the teaser -- expertly moderated by HitFix's Drew McWeeny -- Singh repeatedly described "Immortals" as "Caravaggio meets 'Fight Club'" and as bizarre as that amalgamation may sound, it actually made sense with the context of the clips.
[More on the "Immortals" teaser and the "Immortals" panel after the break...]
The latest 'Survivor' castoff discusses her tribal struggles
Another week, another "Survivor" exit interview with another member of Russell's ill-fated alliance.
This week's disappointed Russellite is perhaps his fiercest defender, 25-year-old Stephanie Valencia, whose "Survivor: Redemption Island" highlights included a slew of aggressive assaults on the poor gameplay of her tribal comrades, plus a brazen attempt to tell a member of the rival tribe that she'd happily flip at the Merge.
Unfortunately for her, and unfortunately for Boston Rob, Stephanie's time on "Survivor" fell just short of that Merge.
Stephanie became the latest castaway to fall victim to indomitable Matt's Redemption Island Duel winning streak, failing to best Matt in a game of Memory.
I chatted with Stephanie about her ties to Russell, her fights with Dave and why the social aspect of "Survivor" was so much harder for her than the physical side.
'Covenants' takes the show in a new direction
SAN FRANCISCO - I'm with Alan Sepinwall and Ryan McGee when it comes to the evils of referring to a TV episode as a "gamechanger." The frequency with which game-changing episodes actually change the game for the series in question is low.
It's not like there aren't TV episodes that fit the bill. "Alias" got rid of SD-6. "Lost" began doing flash-forwards instead of flashbacks. The gang on "The O.C." discovered Rooney. Depending on how loosely you define a change of the game, it happens sometimes, but not nearly as often as hype-loving showrunners or promotional departments would want you to think.
I mention this because part of me wants to tease "Nikita" fans with a warning that next Thursday's episode, titled "Covenants," is a gamechanger.
It's not. It's *really* not. But it's definitely a pivotal episode with many elements that are sure to excite and potentially enrage some fans of the first-year series.
Knowing that "Nikita" would be screening "Covenants" at WonderCon on Friday (April 1) afternoon, I went back and watched the season's most recent string of episodes, dating back to the last two episodes of 2010 and the full compliment of 2011 episodes. It seemed like the least I could do, especially since I abandoned "Nikita" after four or five episodes that all felt basically identical. I didn't hate those episodes. Far from it. But in a Thursday 9 p.m. time slot that also includes various NBC comedies, "Grey's Anatomy," "Fringe"/"Bones" and whatever shows I didn't get to watch in the 8 p.m. hour, "Nikita" just fell victim to the limitations of my DVR. Along the way, various people I trust to various degrees tried telling me that "Nikita" had turned a corner and become really good, a contention that left me nodding politely and figuring on a summer marathon, counting on the show's likely renewal. This WonderCon screening just gave me an excuse to push up my timetable a bit. There are still a handful of fall episodes that I missed, so there are a few things that I only understand from the "Previously on 'Nikita'" clips, but I feel like I have a pretty good sense of the direction the show took after I left.
Click through for something of a midseason review of "Nikita," as well as some thoughts on next Thursday's episode, keeping spoilers to an absolutely minimum, I promise... [No such promises on not spoiling earlier episodes.]
Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood couldn't make it, but that was OK
SAN FRANCISCO - As regular TBS and TNT viewers know, neither network is shy about promotion. Ask any baseball fan about the Frank Caliendo, George Lopez and Conan O'Brien ads that have filled seemingly every pause in the past three baseball postseasons. There's "creating awareness" and then there's "Turner cable creating awareness," which is "creating awareness" to the n-th degree, right-up-to and sometimes well over the borderline of saturation.
TNT is walking that line again with "Falling Skies," which has been so endlessly pimped for so long on the network's NBA coverage that I have friends who are convinced it premiered months ago. The "Falling Skies" Ubiquity Campaign actually started back in July at Comic-Con. I personally received (and happily watched) the show's first three hours before the Television Critics Association press tour in January, the TCA's only chance to grill the cast before the summer premiere.
And on Friday (April 1), "Falling Skies" hit San Francisco's WonderCon as the Con's first panel in the sometimes cavernous Esplanade. One of the risks of this sort of extended-wave promotion is that by the time you get to events like Wonder-Con -- with the premiere still months away -- rather than filling a stage with stars and every imaginable creative force, you end up with co-executive producer Mark Verheiden, writer Melinda Hsu and co-star Drew Roy, who don't necessarily pack a ballroom as easily as Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood or Steven Spielberg.
Still, the three panelists gamely answered questions, presented a handful of clips and discussed the "Falling Skies" comic book, which was passed out at the door.
Click through for some panel highlights and thoughts on the clips...