<p>Luke Mably and Rhona Mitra of ABC's 'The Gates'</p>

Luke Mably and Rhona Mitra of ABC's 'The Gates'

Credit: ABC

TV Review: ABC's 'The Gates'

Viewers going into ABC's drama hoping for another 'True Blood' will be disappointed
On Sunday (June 20) night, ABC premieres two new hour-long scripted shows. Up first is "Scoundrels," a remake of the successful "Outrageous Fortune" format from New Zealand. Then, at 10 p.m. we get the premiere of "The Gates," ostensibly an original drama from Richard Hatem and Grant Scharbo.
While "The Gates" has no literal antecedent, calling it "original" might be a bit of an overstatement. Although it's based on no one specific piece of source material, "The Gates" is consistently familiar, though isolating any single inspiration or similar narrative would also be impossible.
Glancing back over my notes from my viewing of the pilot, here are just a few of the shows I was comparing "The Gates" to as I went along: "Twin Peaks." "Wolf Lake." "The O.C." "Happy Town." "Eastwick." "Meadowlands" ("Cape Wrath," if you're hailing from the U.K.). "Hidden Palms."
There are a couple winners there. But it's also not often anybody aspires to have their show compared to "Hidden Palms."
It's not that every show about a tiny insular community where everybody's got a secret and where those secrets come to be exposed when a newcomer arrives has to be exactly the same, but they all sure have some similar tropes. Hatem and Scharbo respect those tropes to an overwhelming degree in "The Gates," which isn't as campy or soapy as ABC promos are trying to make you believe. It's actually a rather serious-minded project -- too serious a lot of the time -- that happens to have a lot of wackiness ensuing around the periphery. 
Given said wackiness, "The Gates" isn't nearly as much fun as it could be, but that won't matter if some of its ideas pay off. We won't know that for a while and some viewers are likely to expect a little more sizzle.
Full review of "The Gates" after the break...
Read Full Post
<p>Virginia Madsen and Patrick John Flueger</p>

Virginia Madsen and Patrick John Flueger

Credit: ABC

TV Review: ABC's 'Scoundrels'

It's only been six years since Virginia Madsen earned an Oscar nomination.
Audiences, be careful what network television executives think you're wishing for.
That's how you got "The Jay Leno Show." There were dozens of factors that led NBC to panic, give Jay Leno a five-night-a-week primetime platform and then to have to dynamite and rebuilt its entire lineup less than six months later. But the major justification that NBC gave to critics and audiences alike was that the network had polls saying audiences wanted comedy at 10 p.m. 
It turned out that either NBC polling was wrong (doubtful) or that audiences weren't so desperate for comedy at 10 p.m. that they'd watch *any* comedy at 10 p.m. (much more likely). 
The same thing is the case with scripted programming in the summer. I'm absolutely positive you could do polling in which audiences complain either that there's nothing on in the summer or that what's on in the summer is weighed too heavily towards less-than-exceptional reality programming. [That polling leaves aside the truth that thanks to HBO, AMC, FX, TNT, TBS, Showtime and more, there's actually a ton of scripted programming airing in the summer these days, so much so that the regular lull that used to hit this job in the middle of June no longer exists.]
The respectable (but really, really unremarkable) performances by established shows like "Lie to Me" and "Flashpoint" already this summer somewhat proves that point. 
What viewers don't want in the summer is horrible scripted programming, the pointless and wasteful airing of shows which would never be picked up in a normal development cycle but have the advantage of being cheaper than most legitimate scripted programs and therefore are worth throwing up against the wall even though recent history has suggested that almost none of them will stick. [That audiences aren't even acknowledging shows like "The Good Guys," which is pretty good, and "Persons Unknown," which is flawed but not dreadful, confuses matters a bit, I'll confess.]
ABC is premiering two new dramas on Sunday (June 20) night. One, "The Gates," probably fits into that "Persons Unknown" category where there's enough substance that I'll give it another couple episodes, just out of curiosity. The other, "Scoundrels," is the sort of lazy mess that ABC would never even contemplate airing in the actual TV season, but which somehow becomes acceptable between June and August. 
My review of "The Gates" will be coming along later tonight. 
For now, a few thoughts on "Scoundrels" after the break...
Read Full Post
<p>Jason Lee of 'Memphis Beat'</p>

Jason Lee of 'Memphis Beat'

Credit: TNT

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 21

Daniel Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall discuss 'Breaking Bad,' new ABC dramas, 'Undeclared' and more


Happy Wednesday. It's time for another summer episode of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
This week, we talked in some depth about the finale of "Breaking Bad," but we saved that for last, after talk about the new ABC dramas "Scoundrels" and "The Gates," TNT's "Memphis Beat," TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland" a new ESPN 30 for 30 doc and this week's episodes of "Undeclared.
Naturally, things ran a bit long this week. So much for short summer podcasts, eh?
Here's what came up:
ABC's "Scoundrels" and "The Gates" -- 01:55 - 15:35
"Memphis Beat" -- 15:40 - 19:30
"Hot in Cleveland" -- 19:30 - 23:15
ESPN's "June 17, 1994" -- 23:15 - 27:35
"Undeclared" -- 27:40 - 39:35
"Rubicon" -- 39:40 - 45:00
"Breaking Bad" -- 45:25 - 56:35
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.]
And here's this week's podcast...
<p>Neil Patrick Harris of 'How I Met Your Mother'</p>

Neil Patrick Harris of 'How I Met Your Mother'

Credit: CBS

Supporting Actor in a Comedy is the Emmy nightmare category

How many 'Modern Family,' 'Community,' 'Parks and Rec' and 'Glee' stars fit in?
There are always nightmare categories when handicapping a potential Emmy ballot, categories where you know that even if the field expanded to 10, there would still be deserving actors left on the outside.
In recent years, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama has been the brutal field, which is why folks like Kyle Chandler have never been nominated, while folks like Hugh Laurie have never won.
The drama category is still a bit of a bear, especially at the top, but no category has anywhere near the depth of Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
I just posted that gallery of contenders and I'm still scratching my head at some of the choices that had to be made. 
A little more discussion after the break...
Read Full Post
<p>Michael Emerson of 'Lost'</p>

Michael Emerson of 'Lost'

Credit: ABC

Emmy nomination predictions for 2010 begin

Over the next five days, HitFix'll break down the leading acting candidates
Although the nominations won't be announced until early on the morning of July 8, this is Emmy Nominations Handicapping Week at HitFix.
Over the next five days, I'm gonna be breaking down the leading candidates for the major acting awards in gallery form. In each case, I've attempted to list the contenders in a rough order based on nomination likelihood (as I see it), so the first six pictures are my actual nomination predictions and everybody else mentioned is either because they have an interesting argument in their favor, or because they're somebody I like and would like to see their name in the conversation.
I'm not an awards guru or anything and I always do better anticipating the quirkily predictable moods of Golden Globe voters, but hopefully these picks will spark discussion, if nothing else.
Up first? 
It's a category I could nearly fill with just actors from "Breaking Bad" or just actors from "Lost."
It's also one of several categories with lots of available wiggle room, since "Boston Legal" co-stars Christian Clemenson and William Shatner, plus "Damages" co-star William Hurt are no longer in the equation. Presumably Martin Short (or maybe Campbell Scott) steps right into Hurt's "Damages" carbon footprint, but who steps up for that other slot? Will it be a former winner like Andre Braugher or Terry O'Quinn or Craig T. Nelson or John Goodman? Or will it be a first-time nominee like a Dean Norris, a John Noble or Nestor Carbonell?
Flip through the gallery to see how I see the race. And tomorrow morning, Sepinwall will chime in with his own preferences based on a system of logic and honor that only he understands.
Then, later tomorrow? Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama. Then some comedy nominations. Then more drama. And comedy. 
[UPDATED: I should note also that my galleries are based on the official Emmy ballot. Zach Gilford, for example, isn't in my supporting gallery, because he submitted as guest actor. Cherry Jones won't be in my supporting actress, drama gallery because she chose not to submit. Etc...]
It's gonna be a busy week...
<p>Bryan Cranston of 'Breaking Bad'</p>

Bryan Cranston of 'Breaking Bad'

Credit: AMC

HitFix Interview: Bryan Cranston discusses the 'Breaking Bad' season

Season 3 saw some dark turns for Walter White. Bryan Cranston explains.
In addition to being one of the rare actors versatile enough to earn individual recognition for both his comedic and dramatic work from the Television Critics Association, Bryan Cranston has a well-deserved reputation as one of his industry's truly good guys.
The same can no longer necessarily be said for Walter White, Cranston's meth-cooking, cancer-fighting, family-reconciling character on AMC's "Breaking Bad." Recent episodes of Vince Gilligan's dark dramedy have seen Walt take increasingly violent steps to protect his piece of the drug business, as well as his loved ones. The character, formerly a meek-and-mild chemistry teacher, has become a killer and the temperature of his blood is getting cooler.
Cranston, who has already won two Emmys and a TCA Award for his "Breaking Bad" work, has temporarily moved on to lighter work on the set of the Tom Hanks-directed "Larry Crowne."
He was still gracious enough to catch up with HitFix for a long conversation about this "Breaking Bad" season, a chat that touched on Walter's Dark Side, intimidating facial hair and the difficult chore of directing as well as acting.
Click through for the interview, complete with finale spoilers...
Read Full Post
<p>Anna Paquin and Alexander Skarsgard of HBO's 'True Blood'</p>

Anna Paquin and Alexander Skarsgard of HBO's 'True Blood'

Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO

TV Review: HBO's 'True Blood' Season Three

All the sex and blood-sucking you expect and now with werewolves. 'True Blood' is back!

When it comes to "True Blood," as far as I'm concerned, focus is everything. 

I cringed through nearly every minute of the show's first season, keeping up with it almost entirely for those two pronged reasons which should guide all responsible critics. In no particular order, those two reasons would be the desire to track something which was so clearly wedging its way into the zeitgeist, and also nudity.
For the second season, I approached "True Blood" through a revision of Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer: HBO grant me the serenity to ignore the subplots I cannot stand, the screentime to enjoy the subplots I can and the patience not to judge people who can't tell the difference. Watching one episode at a time, enjoying one gory orgy at a time.
In Season Two, it came down to celebrating Michelle Forbes scene-stealing, the icy confidence of Alexander Skarsgård, the unexpected comedy of Ryan Kwanten and the myriad skills of Deborah Ann Woll. I didn't come to love the show, but I found the ability to set aside my broader concerns and concentrate on the gems within the sprawling Southern Gothic vampire-soap tapestry Alan Ball is weaving. Like I said: Focus.
Having seen three episodes of Season Three, my position remains unchanged. I'm not convinced that "True Blood" is evolving past its Guilty Pleasure status (for me), but I'll take its pleasures as they come.
Review of "True Blood" Season Three, with minor spoilers, after the break...
Read Full Post
<p>Xavier Samuel of 'Twilight Saga: Eclipse'</p>

Xavier Samuel of 'Twilight Saga: Eclipse'

Credit: Summit

'Twilight Saga: Eclipse' Press Conference Live Blog: The Bad Vampires

Dakota Fanning, Bryce Dallas Howard and Xavier Samuel talk to the press

2:00 p.m. PT First off, an apology. It was never my intent to live-blog every press conference *except* for the Wolfpack. It was all about timing. I didn't plan on live-blogging The Cullens either, but I had enough time between panels to set up a post an other things. With the Wolfpack, I did not. Neither the Cullens *nor* The Wolfpack were especially interesting, but I probably should have either done both or neither...

2:03 p.m. Up next here? The panel the Summit people are calling it the Bad Vampires. That means Dakota Fanning, Bryce Dallas Howard and Xavier Samuel. After the break...

Read Full Post
<p>Kristen Stewart and 'Twilight Saga: Eclipse' director David Slade</p>

Kristen Stewart and 'Twilight Saga: Eclipse' director David Slade

Credit: Summit

'Twilight Saga: Eclipse' Press Conference Live Blog: The Filmmakers

David Slade, Melissa Rosenberg, Wyck Godfrey chat with the press

1:25 p.m. PT. Apologies for taking a break there. After Taylor Lautner and then Kristen Stewart and then Robert Pattinson and then The Cullens, my fingers needed a break. Up now? Director David Slade, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg and producer Wyck Godfrey.

More after the break...

1:29 p.m. So, David Slade, why should people go to see "Eclipse"? "If it's not in the middle of the World Cup and there's nothing good on TV..." He calls it the most mature book of the franchise. He hypes up the romance, but also the theme of vengeance and the action scenes.

1:30 p.m. Slade says the decision to use all of the close-ups comes from pre-planning, but also letting the characters and themes dictate the cinematic vocabulary. He adds, "I think that the most interesting thing to look at in the world in the human face." He notes that with close-ups come selective focus.

1:32 p.m. Slade began his process by having one-on-one meetings with each of the actors, meeting to discuss what they thought about their characters. A second meeting discussed the script, followed by additional individual meetings to get at new details. By the time everybody gets together for ensemble rehearsal, they don't need to talk character anybody.

1:33 p.m. Melissa Rosenberg had expected this to be the easiest script to write, but it turned out to be the most complicated, since all of the action is backloaded into the third act. 

1:34 p.m. How much of a free hand was Slade given? He was told to keep continuity, but he was allowed freedom in terms of the aesthetics. He changed the sets, including the Cullen kitchen and Bella's bedroom. "I was given freedom only just to respect what had come before," Slade says. Godfrey points out that Slade had worked with young actresses before, meaning Ellen Page on "Hard Candy."

1:36 p.m. DVD extras? "Well, the nude scene that you shot that wasn't in the book," Godfrey says to Slade, presumably joking. There were a number of scenes which felt "excessive. Godfrey says that a scene with Angela and Bella had to be cut because it didn't fit with the momentum, but it was a good scene and it'll return on the DVD. There will also be lots of behind-the-scenes footage focusing on CG, the stunts and whatnot. Shocking, right?

1:38 p.m. Rosenberg said that she wrote the first "Twilight" film with a lot of humor, but that the humor had to be knocked out of the movie due to tone and timing. She says that with a greater confidence level in the storytelling, more of the humor has returned. She credits Wyck with providing one of the film's best lines, regarding Jacob (not gonna spoil it for ya).

1:39 p.m. Slade says that Billy Burke was given more room to improvise than any of the other cast members. More love for Billy Burke! Anyway, Slade says that more comedy just evolved on the set this time.

1:40 p.m. Godfrey can't come up with anything "Green" they did in the production of the movie. Slade points out that they were very concerned about the conservation of the natural environments in which they filmed.

1:42 p.m. "It all happened really quickly," Godfrey says of swapping Victorias. He says only that "Rachelle became unavailable." He says that Bryce Dallas Howard had been in the discussion earlier and that she was the first person they went to.  Slade says that the schedule was very tight and could only be done one way for shooting and that they simply were unable to work around the change in Rachelle Lefevre's schedule.

1:43 p.m. Rosenberg says she's pleased that Stephenie Meyer has been able to spend so much time on set. For her part, Rosenberg hasn't been on set nearly as frequently, due to her commitments to "Dexter." Having Stephenie Meyer around is useful for producers and directors, because she knows everything about every character and every situation.

1:45 p.m. Slade says that sticking to the emotional character arc, while fitting in all of the "story" was the most difficult thing about the process. "It's the dichotomy between such great content and story and how you shave off without losing anything," Slade says, before referencing a strange story about a pig. Godfrey credits Rosenberg with the "genius" of being able to distill the story down to its "emotional essentials."

1:47 p.m. David Slade is fascinated by vampires. "In many ways, they're the worst and the best of us," the "30 Days of Night" director explains. He admires how Meyer was able to work the family and the innocence into the story of these carnivores.

1:49 p.m. "My experience with the fans has been fantastic," says Slade, who praises the fans for not being overly critical and for embracing the franchise. He admits he had at least one "Hard Day's Night" experience running away from fans.

1:50 p.m. Detour. Godfrey doesn't want to talk about his "Wizard of Oz" adaptation. The assembled reporters grumble.

1:52 p.m. Slade relished the Cullen flashbacks, because they let him shoot a variety of different genres, all within this one film.

1:53 p.m. "I really wanted to make sure his character was dangerous," Slade says of what he wanted Pattinson to do. He wanted to "bring out the carnivore" in Edward. 

1:54 p.m. Amazingly, nobody asked Melissa about splitting "Breaking Dawn" into halves, much less about how to handle the vampire sex and baby imprinting and whatnot. I guess that's fodder for another day.

1:54 p.m. Up next? The Bad Vampires... That's Xavier Samuel, Bryce Dallas Howard and Dakota Fanning...

<p>&nbsp;The Cullens of 'Twilight Saga: Eclipse'</p>

 The Cullens of 'Twilight Saga: Eclipse'

Credit: Summit

'Twilight Saga: Eclipse' Press Conference Live Blog: The Cullens

Peter Facinelli, Liz Reaser, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene chat with the press

12:21 p.m. PT Robert Pattinson only just left us, but now we're rushing The Cullens in.

12:23 p.m. Peter Facinelli, Liz Reaser, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz after the break...

Read Full Post