Credit: FOX

John Rhys-Davies compares 'Hieroglyph' potential to 'Game of Thrones'

By now I hope you've read my full "Killing Jesus" report from the set in Morocco, a report that included a number of quotes from veteran John Rhys-Davies, an actor more than willing to offer retrospectives on the entirety of his entire career.

Well, it happens that that career includes an intriguing ordered-straight-to-series-and-the-cancelled-before-airing FOX drama named "Hieroglyph" and it happens that "Hieroglyph" also shot in Morocco. And Rhys-Davies actually brought up "that pilot for FOX" of his own volition.

"'13 on the air, we don't even need to see the pilot. It's gonna be that good.' Yeah, right," Rhys-Davies said, mocking the network's thought process. "So they screwed everybody's year up by postponing it and postponing it until absolutely five-minutes-to-five on the very last day they said, 'Uh, not gonna do now. No. Can't get scripts of the right quality.' By which time, everyone had cancelled everything else they were gonna be doing for the back part of the year and a lot of people were going, 'Agh.'"

As he notes, "Hieroglyph" was ordered to series, a first episode was shot, but then, after a management shift at FOX, the plug was pulled.

Since "Hieroglyph" has always amused and perplexed me, I asked him a key question: Did *he* think it was gonna be any good?

"I think so. I think we would have had maybe a couple of shaky episodes, as you do, till things settle down. You know, 'It's about this character and this character and their dynamic...' And actually that character works a bit better there and this character... It would have found its place. I think it was different," Rhys-Davies said. "Imagine 'Game of Thrones' set in ancient Egypt. I think it could have been quite remarkable. Could it have been done on budget? The thing is, when you inherit a show, when the guy who's said, 'Yes, this is what we're going to do,' leaves and goes to another network, you inherit his shows and the one thing that you do not want to do is inherit The Bay of Pigs. This is not a good thing to inherit. So every show has to be looked at with utter suspicion. 'Is this the bomb he has left behind that will ruin my reputation?' And it's part of that sort of politics that killed it as well. The cast was good. I think it could have been very sexy. Lovely production team. I like those writers. They could have delivered the goods."

So there you go.

"Killing Jesus" airs Sunday (March 29) on National Geographic.

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<p>Duke vs Utah</p>

Duke vs Utah

Credit: AP

TV Ratings: Sweet 16 leads CBS Friday, 'Grown Ups' tops 'Glee' finale

'Hart of Dixie' finale gets a tiny audience bump for The CW

Fast National ratings for Friday, March 27, 2015.

CBS got another decent night of NCAA Tournament coverage and dominated Friday primetime in all measures.

"Dateline"-driven NBC and "Shark Tank" repeat-led ABC finished second. ["Dateline" was apparently also a rebroadcast.]

FOX, meanwhile, aired the dreadful Adam Sandler movie "Grown Ups," which comfortably outdrew last week's "Glee" finale.

And speaking of finales, the "Hart of Dixie" finale may have given The CW a small uptick, though CW Friday numbers have a tendency to adjust down overall.

Let's get to the numbers...

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<p>&quot;Hart of Dixie&quot;</p>

"Hart of Dixie"

Credit: The CW

Recap: 'Hart of Dixie' finale 'Bluebell' ends with a song in its heart

Season finale or series finale, the Bluebell dramedy ends warmly

For the better part of a half-hour into the "Hart of Dixie" finale, Dr. Zoe Hart kept insisting that her pregnancy contractions were just Braxton Hicks contractions and she wasn't having her baby.

Those around Zoe Hart suspected she was having her baby.

Those of us at home knew she was having her baby.

But she just kept saying that she was a doctor and she knew what real contractions were supposed to be like.

She was wrong. 

Zoe Hart had her baby.

I liken this in-show situation to the situation surrounding "Hart of Dixie" as a series.

"Hart of Dixie" was already on the bubble for renewal the past couple years and it was a minor miracle it lasted this long, since it was never a show that fit with anything in The CW's brand.

The CW has already renewed basically everything on its air and some things -- "Beauty and the Beast" -- that are being dumped in the summer, but "Hart of Dixie" was left on the outside.

Everybody associated with the show was tweeting about series wraps when production ended several months ago and some were tweeting about the series finale tonight.

But for months, nobody associated with The CW has been willing to confirm that "Hart of Dixie" was ending. Promotion leading up to this week's episode and promotion within the episode referred to it as a "season" finale.

Well, now we've seen the way Friday (March 27) night's "Hart of Dixie" ended and just as Zoe Hart finally couldn't deny she was having her baby after her water broke all over Lemon Breeland's shoes, I think we probably can all agree...

That was a series finale for "Hart of Dixie." 

And it was a charming, funny and emotional series finale for a show that was consistently pleasant, consistently undervalued, but probably never destined to be much more than the little cult curio it was.

More on what we should all admit was the series finale for "Hart of Dixie" after the break...

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<p>&quot;Diversity Day&quot;</p>

"Diversity Day"

Waxing Episodic: 'The Office' celebrates 'Diversity Day'

In its second episode, 'The Office' addressed issues that are still timely

In HitFix's new feature "Waxing Episodic," we reflect on an episode of television we'll never forget.

NBC's "The Office" debuted 10 years ago this week, arriving with the unenviable challenge of having to live up to the standard of one of the best-received comedies of recent times, but went on to outstrip the British original. I don't even know if that's a controversial statement anymore. The British "Office" is great and, in terms of comedic efficiency, NBC's version didn't come close. But Ricky Gervais' series was built for 12 episodes and a Christmas special and never had to worry about longevity, never had to wonder how sustainable its circumstances and its characters were. NBC's version took that world and made it renewable. Whether you think the American "Office" was great (or even good) for all 200-ish of its episodes, it was certainly very good or great for more than 13 episodes.

I knew I wanted to write about an "Office" episode for this week's Waxing Episodic installment and I contemplated clear peaks like "Casino Night," probably the show's best overall episode, or "The Injury," perhaps its funniest half-hour, even though they didn't exactly line up with a 10th anniversary.

Then, of course, Deadline.com ran its risible "Too much of a good thing?" article regarding Hollywood Diversity and that made me change my focus to the still-relevant "Diversity Day" episode of "The Office," which premiered on March 29, 2005.

So let's talk about "Diversity Day" and why Michael Scott has a future writing for online entertainment publications...

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<p>&quot;Fear the Walking Dead&quot;</p>

"Fear the Walking Dead"

Credit: AMC

AMC's 'Walking Dead' companion series gets an uninspired name

Well, at least we can stop referring to AMC's "Walking Dead" companion series as AMC's Untitled "Walking Dead" Companion Series.

Series co-creator Robert Kirkman took to Twitter on Friday to reveal the official title.

So... "Fear the Walking Dead."

This continues AMC's somewhat odd trend of making imperative clauses into show titles. 

"Fear the Walking Dead" joins "Halt and Catch Fire," "Turn" and "Better Call Saul" among the AMC titles that could also just serve as helpful advice in certain circumstances.

AMC announced two weeks ago that "Fear the Walking Dead" has been given a two-season order, with an initial six-episode run premiering this summer, followed by a 2016 launch for season two.

Good title?

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<p>Thursday&#39;s NCAA Tournament action</p>

Thursday's NCAA Tournament action

Credit: AP

TV Ratings: CBS' NCAA Sweet 16 coverage leads Thursday, lowers 'Blacklist'

'Scandal' also slips, while 'Bones' has an OK return for FOX

Fast National ratings for Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Round of 16 coverage from the NCAA Tournament helped CBS score Thursday victories overall, in the key demographic and in all male demographics. 

While "Scandal" was down, "Grey's Anatomy" ticked up a hair and helped ABC win most of the female demos for the night, though usually these stories don't break down the ratings numbers like that.

Basketball helped eat into last week's bump for NBC's "Blacklist" and probably prevented "Backstrom" from getting any bump from an OK return for "Bones."

Oh and expect these ratings to shift, of course, due to the nature of live events.

On to the numbers...

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<p>Haaz Sleiman of &quot;Killing Jesus&quot;</p>

Haaz Sleiman of "Killing Jesus"

Credit: National Geographic Channels/Kent Eanes

National Geographic's 'Killing Jesus': Tales from the Morocco set

HitFix was on the Morocco set with Haaz Sleiman, John Rhys-Davies and more

OUARZAZATE, MOROCCO. Officially, the Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is nicknamed "The door of the desert," resting south of the High Atlas Mountains and on the edge of the Draa Valley.

Thanks to the presence of Atlas Studios, though, Ouarzazate is perhaps more appropriately known as The Hollywood of Central Morocco, or perhaps even The Hollywood of Morocco.

Ouarzazate has a population of just over 50,000, but in late October of 2014, that population includes a disproportionate number of Jesuses, Judases and an absurd number of Marys, both Jesus' mom and of the Magdalene variety. 

It's late October of 2014 and Ouarzazate is the beating heart of TV's Biblical world.

"It's a very holy town right now," laughs Haaz Sleiman, one of the Ouarzazate Jesi -- Yes, that should be the name of a fantasy baseball team -- specifically playing the title role in National Geographic's "Killing Jesus," the project that has brought me to this region.

The check-in desk at the Kenzi Azghor hotel, my primary residence for three Moroccan days, is littered with maps of the city and basic tourist information, but also call-sheets for "Killing Jesus," as well as the myriad competing productions.  There's "Bible" sequel "A.D." There's a Jesus-based television documentary that's shooting reenactment footage. And then there's Spike TV's "Tut," which isn't Biblical. A lot of the casting revealed on the call-sheets hasn't even been reported in the Hollywood industry press, but somehow nobody at the Kenzi Azghor is worried about scooping Deadline on the secret identity of Mark Burnett's Caiaphas.

It creates strange circumstances.

"I dined, had lunch with one of them," Sleiman says of rival Jesuses. "I've laughed with another. I never met the third one. Maybe he's not real, I don't know. Maybe he doesn't exist."

And it creates an odd and inevitable competition that Sleiman insists isn't a competition at all.

"Definitely not competition," Sleiman insists. "I mean, you know, I was not in competition but I've seen other people, like producers, who say, 'Our Jesus is better than their Jesus.' I was definitely not part of that competition because that's not very Jesus-like of me.."

For me, there's no competition either. "Killing Jesus," based on the book by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, is the project I'm in town for. 

The film premieres on NatGeo on March 29, 2015.

What follows are notes from three days on the "Killing Jesus" set, during which time a small group of reporters -- four, including HitFix, representing "secular" press, another 10-ish writing for various religious sites -- talked with Sleiman and fellow stars including Eoin Macken (Antipas), Kelsey Grammer (Herod), John Rhys-Davies (Annas) and Joe Doyle (Judas Iscariot), as well as director Christopher Menaul.

Insights and hopefully amusing tidbits -- plus some pictures, both mine and NatGeo's -- follow...

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<p>Craig T. Nelson</p>

Craig T. Nelson

Credit: NBC

'Coach' follows 'The X-Files' and 'Twin Peaks' to primetime resurrection

Craig T. Nelson will be back as stay and EP. And yes, this is real.

Once upon a time, TV shows died and people were sad, but they moved on. 

But then peanuts earned "Jericho" another season and Deadline.com earned "Breaking In" another season and Netflix got all resurrection-y with "Arrested Development" and "The Killing" and "Longmire."

Then FOX gave "24" new life as a limited series and audiences were like, "What a glorious age we live in."

And Showtime got David Lynch and Mark Frost to say they were going to do more "Twin Peaks" and TV fans danced around with their favorite log.

And earlier this week, Chris Carter, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson decided the time was right to do another six episodes of "The X-Files" and we all kneels and declared, in the words of Wayne and Garth, that we were not worthy.

On Thursday (March 26) afternoon, NBC announced that the magnificent Lazarus machine that is TV 2015 had given new life to...

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<p>Kerry Bish&eacute; of &quot;Halt and Catch Fire&quot;</p>

Kerry Bishé of "Halt and Catch Fire"

Credit: AMC

'Halt and Catch Fire' sets a May return

AMC has set a Sunday, May 31 return for the second season of "Halt and Catch Fire."

As was previously revealed, "Halt and Catch Fire" will hop forward to early 1985 and will follow the development of Mutiny, the start-up founded by Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) and joined by Donna (the awesome Kerry Bishé) at the end of the first season.  Scoot McNairy and Lee Pace also star, while Toby Huss is awesome and will return.

But wait. No more spoilers. 

Not enough of you watched "Halt and Catch Fire," which went through some first-season growing pains last year, but matured into something really interesting by the end. If you haven't watched, episodes are available through Tuesday, April 7 on AMC.com and AMC OnDemand.

Then on Wednesday, April 8, the first season will go up on Netflix, making catchup even easier.

"To our passionate core audience and the critics who loved the show through Season One – we thank you sincerely for your support. Season Two won't disappoint. We're going to drill down even deeper into these characters we've created, to give you all the emotional and psychological depth you've come to expect from ‘Halt and Catch Fire,’ while at the same time evolving the show to be brasher and even more addictive," blurbs showrunner Jonathan Lisco in the AMC premiere release.

I actually have a really good Season 1 look-back interview with Lisco that I should post around that Netflix premiere, eh?


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Credit: History

'Vikings' raids and pillages a 4th season on History

History's flagship drama series "Vikings" has been renewed for a fourth season.

Including Live+3 numbers, the third season's first five "Vikings" episodes are averaging 4.3 million viewers, including 2 million in the 18-49 demo, making its renewal a no-brainer.

"'Vikings' has raided the hearts of both audiences and critics, establishing itself as one of the most compelling, visually stunning dramas on television," blurbs History EVP and General Manager Dirk Hoogstra. "We are so proud of our immensely talented cast and crew led by Michael Hirst, whose intriguing storylines and pivotal arcs have the perfect balance of scope, smarts and bloodshed to keep our loyal fans watching and wanting more."

The Season 3 "Vikings" finale will be April 23.

When I asked Michael Hirst in January if he was already looking forward to a bigger-and-badder Season 4, he quickly agreed.

"Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We haven't finished with Paris for a start. No, I do know," Hirst said. "It's just every season I have to up the ante and I have to figure out, 'Let's do a different kind of a battle.' That's one thing. If you're just getting these armies of CGI warriors going from left to right and then from right to left you actually, I think, have to have different kinds of battle experiences. So that's what I'm doing at the moment actually."

Revisit that Hirst conversation here.

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