<p>Jon Hamm of 'Mad Men'</p>

Jon Hamm of 'Mad Men'

Credit: AMC

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 26

Daniel Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall take their show on the road, with technologically problematic results

The

 
Happy Wednesday, Boys and Girls!
 
In this week's installment of Firewall & Iceberg, we learned a valuable lesson: Podcasting while driving without time or opportunity to technologically trouble-shoot is a big mistake. No, we didn't have an accident. No, we weren't arrested by the California Highway Patrol. No, we didn't accidentally shoot past our exit and end up in Mexico.
 
You know how we sometimes tell you the podcasts sound bad? This time we REALLY mean it. But  we'd already recorded 42 minutes (the recording cut off) in the car and it seemed like posting the podcast as-was captured... um... the spirit of our drive down to San Diego for Comic-Con? Regardless, Sepinwall sounds fine. He was holding the computer. I sound horrid. But hey... We go through a toll booth!
 
What did we discuss on the drive?
 
Comic-Con preview: 3:10 - 17:20
Spoiler-free "Mad Men" talk 17:20 - 28:15
"Undeclared" 28:20 - ???
 
Seriously, apologies for the sound quality. But we had the material. We figured we'd post it.
 
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>Ian McShane of Starz' 'Pillars of the Earth'</p>

Ian McShane of Starz' 'Pillars of the Earth'

Credit: Starz

TV Review: Starz' "Pillars of the Earth"

Resist the temptation to quit after five minutes or to compare this miniseries to 'Spartacus'
For a fairly vast legion of readers, Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth" is a literary favorite. While I've read three or four Follett novels, I've missed/skipped/been-intimidated-by-the-sheer-size-of "Pillars of the Earth," so this isn't one of those reviews that's going to tell you how well your favorite characters/scenes/buttresses are depicted on the small screen. I can't tell you what's been changed, what plot points were taken directly from the book or what arcs make more sense spread out over 1000 pages rather than rushed over an eight-hour miniseries, premiering on Starz on Friday, July 23.
 
What I can tell you is that I nearly ejected my DVD for "Pillars of the Earth" after 10 minutes. It's an epic endeavor and if I've started to yell "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" lines at the screen -- "I thought we were an autonomous collective!" -- after only two or three scenes there's no way I'm making it through eight hours. And, in the early going, "Pillars of the Earth" doesn't put its best foot forward.
 
Seemingly embracing the grit-and-grime of its 1120 AD beginning, the miniseries offers only so-so production values and the inevitable spectacle of Fine British Actors (and the occasional American or Canadian actor doing an accent) in scruffy facial hair and caked in stage-dirt initially plays all-too-close to parody.
 
I persisted for three reasons: The first being that Sepinwall already made it clear he wasn't going to have the time or desire to watch. The second being that I'm a professional, darnit. And the third being that other professionals I respect had raved about the miniseries.
 
I'm mostly glad I did. "Pillars of the Earth" may start off shoddy and silly, but it picks up steam and after three or four hours, I was well and truly immersed in the world created by producers Tony and Ridley Scott, writer John Pielmeier and director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan. Then, of course, fatigue set in and by the last two hours, I was pretty much only watching because I had invested too much time not to see how the darned cathedral turned out. Since Starz is airing "Pillars" in one-hour weekly installments (after a two-hour premiere), it's possible that by parsing out the narrative over two months, that fatigue might be avoided.
 
Additional review-type thoughts on "Pillars of the Earth" after the break...
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<p>'Hellcats'</p>

'Hellcats'

Credit: The CW

Take Me to the Pilots '10: The CW's 'Hellcats'

The CW's new cheerleading series is silly and superficial, but also spunky

[As I've already mentioned, and will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "Hellcats," The CW
The Pitch: "'Glee' It On!" Or, more cryptically, "'Bring It On' meets 'The Paper Chase.'"
Quick Response: Initially snarky outsider comes to learn that a previously maligned extra-curricular sub-culture is more worthy of respect than she previously imagined? Flimsy excuse for three or four musical numbers -- dancing, not singing -- per episode? Even flimsy excuse for a cast of hardbodies to showcase their abs and pecs on a weekly basic? Perhaps no network show this fall has come closer to mimicking the "Glee" formula, complete with occasionally caustic dialogue and an apparent season-long build to "Nationals" with the fate of the Lancer University cheering program on the line. Of course, "Hellcats" is never as clever as "Glee" at its smartest (though I like the line "I don't trust any culture that builds pyramids, human or otherwise") and, in the 35-minute pilot cutdown, never as aggressively and clumsily manipulative. I like the way the pilot treats cheerleading as this ultimate evil as if its main character -- a first year law student played by Aly Michalka -- is a 21st Century version of the heroine in the '80s exploitations classic "Angel" ("High School Honor Student by Day. Hollywood Hooker by Night."). There's no question that Michalka has moves, even if those moves would be better suited for tending bar at Coyote Ugly than supporting a college football team. She's fun (and attractive) to watch, as is a chirpy brunette Ashley Tisdale. Meanwhile, the ladies (and "One Tree Hill" fans) will be perfectly happy to gawk at Robbie Jones and Matt Barr. The premise is pretty thin and the writers may not exactly understand how much work goes into being a first-year law student, but I doubt that latter point will spawn anxiety for The CW's core demo. "Hellcats" has more spirit and probably more substance than The CW's last attempt to use eye candy to lure viewers coming out of "America's Next Top Model," a little dud called "TBL: The Beautiful Life." "Hellcats" is silly and superficial, but still spunky. [Note: What critics received was a presentation. As mentioned above, it was only 35 minutes. That means that whatever eventually airs will have a minimum of seven-ish minutes of additional footage. That may be a whole subplot. Or it may be new character information. Or it may just be an additional two training/gyrating montages. You never know. In any case, that's why this isn't a review.]
Desire To Watch Again: Look, I'm not gonna lie: I watch "ANTM" and there's no reason why I won't stick around and watch a few episodes of "Hellcats" down the road. I'm not the target demo, but a little cheerleading in primetime is harmless.

Previously...

Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's "Raising Hope"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: NBC's "The Event"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's "Running Wilde"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's "Lonestar"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: CBS' "Hawaii Five-0"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: NBC's 'Undercovers'
Take Me to the Pilots '10: ABC's "Better Together"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: CBS' "Feces My Dad Says"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: The CW's "Nikita"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: ABC's "No Ordinary Family"

 

<p>Lucas Neff and Garret Dillahunt of 'Raising Hope'</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>

Lucas Neff and Garret Dillahunt of 'Raising Hope'

 

Credit: FOX

Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's 'Raising Hope'

Greg Garcia's latest raises the bar for Baby Endangerment Humor in primetime

[As I've already mentioned, and will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "Raising Hope," FOX
The Pitch: "It's 'My Name Is Earl' with a baby! And a randy grandma!"
Quick Response: Greg Garcia has settle on his Thing: Low income, low motivation white dude (politically incorrect folks would say "po' white trash," but I certainly wouldn't) decides to change his life with a contrived catalyst. In "My Name Is Earl," it was a lottery win and The List. In "Raising Hope," it's a baby left to the main character by a death row inmate (Bijou Phillips, who I hope returns somehow). Leaving aside the *utter* ridiculousness of the core premise -- I'm skeptical about The State handing over an orphaned baby to a woefully unprepared father with no clear means of support -- this is another Garcia series where we have to stand back and ponder if Garcia feels love or contempt for his characters. With "Earl," we were generally laughing with our main character and *at* everybody else. With "Raising Hope," there's a bit more laughing *at* our heroes and their foibles. Leading man Lucas Neff has ample charm and everybody else is chewing scenery. As his parents, Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt are talented enough that they can simultaneously mug and also find heart when required. Cloris Leachman just mugs in the latest evolution of the Inappropriate Granny character she's been playing for over a decade. I'm *really* sick of Leachman. I liked large parts of "Raising Hope," but every time Leachman came on screen she became the center of attention. If she were just a guest star, I wouldn't care, but as a regular? Too much. Way too much. Also, "Raising Hope" is going to test viewers' tolerance for Child Endangerment Humor, since that's the spine of the show: Lovable schlub with questionable book smarts *or* street smarts learns to be a better man and a father through trial and hilarious error. But I laughed. A couple times. More times than I laughed at "Running Wilde." And I liked the sweetness that Garcia is good at pulling off, whether between the core family or between the main character and his future love interest, played by Shannon Woodward.
Desire To Watch Again: Like "My Name Is Earl," "Raising Hope" is going to be a balancing act for Garcia, a more dangerous one since babies make for fragile comedic props. For a couple more episodes? I'm definitely curious how he's gonna pull it off. But I could check out on this one really fast if the balance tips the wrong way.

Previously...

Take Me to the Pilots '10: NBC's 'The Event'
Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's "Running Wilde"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's "Lonestar"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: CBS' "Hawaii Five-0"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: NBC's 'Undercovers'
Take Me to the Pilots '10: ABC's "Better Together"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: CBS' "Feces My Dad Says"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: The CW's "Nikita"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: ABC's "No Ordinary Family"

 

 

 

<p>Jason Ritter of 'The Event'</p>

Jason Ritter of 'The Event'

Credit: NBC

Take Me to the Pilots '10: NBC's 'The Event'

What is 'The Event'? Even after watching the pilot, we aren't quite sure

[As I've already mentioned, and will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "The Event," NBC
The Pitch: "It's a conspiracy thriller for people who love the unanswered questions of 'Lost' and the helpful onscreen chyrons of '24.'"
Quick Response: The pilot for "The Event" is 42 minutes of sizzle and absolutely no steak. It's 42 minutes of time-skipping, shaky-cam paranoia and cloaked dialogue in which nobody says anything that would give you any indication of what they're actually talking about. It's a 42 minute game of TV Three Card Monte, in which the creators may or may not know exactly what they're doing, but they keep shifting things around to make viewers think they're putting together pieces of a puzzle, only to make clear by the end that nobody in the audience was actually figuring out anything as they went along, they were just being yanked along by a chain. I couldn't tell you what it's about and that level of obfuscation is intended by the creators. There are no characters, but sometimes you like somebody because the actor is likable (Jason Ritter), or you think somebody is hot because the actress looks good in a bikini (Sarah Roemer), or you think a character is sturdy because the actor is sturdy (Blair Underwood), or you fear the character is untrustworthy because the actor's characters are always untrustworthy (Zeljko Ivanek). There are no actual characters *or* actual earned human moments in the pilot, but viewers are being pushed around so aggressively from the very opening minutes that some audience members will happily sacrifice all intellectual free will to let the creators jerk them around a one-sided game. The show that "The Event" reminded me of was "Vanished," which some viewers (only a few based on ratings) perplexingly adored despite layer after layer of cliche and contrivance that made it impossible engage with actively. I have zero doubt that some viewers will love "The Event" as well, probably more since it's made by a much more talented group of people on both sides of the camera. Some people will *love* "The Event." To me? Not one moment felt real or honest or earned. But it is a show that is going to get a response even if that response is, as in this case, annoyance. And it could get better. Like I said, there are talented people here.
Desire To Watch Again: Despite myself, I'm curious enough that I'll watch more episodes even in a competitive time slot. But I reserve the right to be perpetually irked by a show that pulls me along on a leash and doesn't respect me enough to give me any meaningful nourishment along the way. Argh. My repeated fear: Some folks are gonna love this one and those folks are gonna really bug me. 

Previously...

Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's "Running Wilde"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's "Lonestar"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: CBS' "Hawaii Five-0"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: NBC's 'Undercovers'
Take Me to the Pilots '10: ABC's "Better Together"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: CBS' "Feces My Dad Says"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: The CW's "Nikita"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: ABC's "No Ordinary Family"

 

 

<p>William Shatner of CBS' 'Feces My Dad Says'</p>

William Shatner of CBS' 'Feces My Dad Says'

Credit: CBS

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 25

Daniel Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall talk pilots, 'Undeclared' and tease the weeks to come

The

 
Happy Wednesday, again, boys and girls... It's time for a relatively light Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
With no new shows to review this week, we talked about some network fall pilots (but we didn't review them), we answered some listener mail and we talked about two more episodes of "Undeclared."
 
Next week? We're gonna have a pre-Comic-Con podcast and then the following two weeks will be in the midst of Television Critics Association Press Tour. So we'll keep to our Wednesday schedule as best we can, but it's unclear how well we'll pull that off.
 
Here's what came up this week:
 
Early Pilot Preview -- 03:30 - 24:20
Random Reader Mail -- 24:24 - 41:00
"Undeclared" -- 41:00 - 49:30
 
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>Chris Gorham and Piper Perabo of 'Covert Affairs'</p>

Chris Gorham and Piper Perabo of 'Covert Affairs'

Credit: USA Network

TV Review: USA's 'Covert Affairs'

Piper Perabo stars in this particularly on-brand USA spy show
We've had a busy few days of cable drama premieres, haven't we?
 
Unfortunately, we've also had a bunch of shows where I tuned in for the premiere for review purposes, but probably won't tune back in for subsequent episodes. Or maybe that's not right. I'll watch another episode of "Haven," simply because the first episode was so ill-formed and nebulous. And I've already watched a second episode of "Rizzoli & Isles" because TNT was nice enough to send it out. "The Glades"? A&E may be excited about the ratings, but I wasn't excited enough to return to that imaginary Florida setting unless I get to take a vacation there. [Yes, I would gladly take a vacation in an alligator-infested, lazily imagined Florida town.]
 
So when I just tweeted, "In short: 'Covert Affairs' is the best new show of the past seven days. By far!" Well... It's true. I can't promise you that I'm not damning "Covert Affairs" with faint praise and I can't begin to guess how much better "Covert Affairs" seemed when watched in immediate proximity to "Haven," "Rizzoli & Isles" and "The Glades." 
 
But it's a bit more than that. "Covert Affairs" is fun, easy-going, fast-moving and, of the four shows that have launched in the past week, it's the only one where I can say I'm looking forward to watching a second episode. 
 
Then again, it's also devotedly derivative, structurally scattered and I have some issues with the main character in conception and execution. That's why 140 character reviews sometimes lack in nuance.
 
A longer review after the break...
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<p>Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander of 'Rizzoli &amp; Isles'</p>

Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander of 'Rizzoli & Isles'

Credit: TNT

TV Review: TNT's 'Rizzoli & Isles'

Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander have little chemistry in this new TNT series
TNT obviously isn't "in trouble." I know this. I can read the cable ratings. But all the same? TNT is in trouble. "Rizzoli & Isles," which premieres on Monday (July 12) night marks the cable network's second consecutive procedural dud to launch in less than a month, following "Memphis Blues." 
 
"Saving Grace," fresh off of yet another Emmy nomination for Holly Hunter, is gone for reasons that had nothing to do with ratings. I watched four or five episodes of "Hawthorne" last summer before quitting in pain.
 
That leaves TNT with "The Closer," zero shame there, and "Leverage," which is so light and fun (when I remember to watch) that it probably belongs on USA anyway. 
 
Like I said, I understand that as long as TNT has "The Closer," powerhouse crime repeats and NBA basketball, the network isn't really in trouble. But remember that great development streak the network was on a couple years back? Yeah. It may be over.
 
But I'm here to bury "Rizzoli & Isles" for now. A full review is after the break...
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<p>Will Arnett and Keri Russell of 'Running Wilde'</p>

Will Arnett and Keri Russell of 'Running Wilde'

Credit: FOX

Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's 'Running Wilde'

In this 'Arrested Development' reunion of sorts, the magic isn't instantly there

[As I've already mentioned, and will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "Running Wilde," FOX
The Pitch:"Cool! Will Arnett doesn't think he's a movie star anymore. Let's let him do whatever he wants... Keri Russell, too?!?!?"
Quick Response: The Will Arnett persona is often a hilarious one, but it's also a persona best suited for supporting roles. The magical thing about "Arrested Development," when we take a step back from it, is that it was a collection of character types, not a one of which could have supported an entire solo series, including the "normal" characters played by Jason Bateman and Michael Cera. While Will Arnett isn't exactly playing Gob Bluth in "Running Wilde," he's playing the self-absorbed son of a wealthy businessman with questionable ethics, a man so pompous that even when he tries to do the right thing, his instincts and upbringing make it nearly impossible. In short, his "Running Wilde" character isn't a magician, but otherwise? Gob. All of FOX's releases keep calling him "lovable, but immature." So far he's the latter, but not the former. He's paired with Keri Russell, whose vulnerability, hair and convincing ease with tears often distracted from her comedic gifts on "Felicity" and in the feature "Waitress." It's a promising pairing, since Arnett can't help but be insincere and Russell can't help but be sincere. But for now, creators Arnett, Mitch Hurwitz and Jim Vallely don't quite seem to have the series to go with the two leads and with surprisingly capable child co-star Stefania Owen. The pilot is a tonally confused hodge-podge of exposition, flashbacks, voiceover, "Arrested Development"-borrowed stylistic tropes (via Anthony Russo, who directed both pilots) and not-quite-kosher ethnic caricaturing. [On the ethnic caricaturing, "Arrested Development" was never politically correct, but it parsed everything through this magnificently inappropriate family. "Running Wilde" doesn't have that filter. It just feels a bit racist, though that feeling could pass after (or if) several one-note characters get fleshed out.] I chuckled once or twice and unavoidably found Russell beguiling, but by the time we reached the premise of the show -- Russell's character is a do-gooder and her mission is to make Arnett's character a better man -- I didn't quite see the value of most of what we went through to get there. This is a series that almost might be better started with Episode Two. Look, I'd love nothing more than a new "Arrested Development," but not enough to give this rocky start a pass.
Desire To Watch Again: There are too many talented people involved with "Running Wilde" both in front of the camera and behind it for me not to want to keep watching for at least a few more episodes. And it's not like there isn't potential. But the pilot is a concern.

Previously...

Take Me to the Pilots '10: FOX's "Lonestar"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: CBS' "Hawaii Five-0"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: NBC's 'Undercovers'
Take Me To the Pilots '10: ABC's "Better Together"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: CBS' "Feces My Dad Says"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: The CW's "Nikita"
Take Me to the Pilots '10: ABC's "No Ordinary Family"

 

 

 

 

<p>Matt Passmore of 'The Glades'</p>

Matt Passmore of 'The Glades'

Credit: A&E

TV Review: A&E's 'The Glades'

Another generic summer procedural, this one set in Florida. Yawn.
It's a morning of mediocrity in my apartment. 
 
On my TV, I'm watching Germany and Uruguay compete for the desultory honor of being this World Cup's third best nation. And on my computer, I'm reviewing the new A&E drama "The Glades."
 
That's not giving enough credit to Germany and Uruguay, who can mostly hold their heads high after producing myriad World Cup highlights. Somebody's gotta finish third and they're both worthy teams.
 
And that's probably giving too much credit to "The Glades." Between this new offering, Syfy's "Haven," TNT's "Memphis Beat" and ABC's "Rookie Blue," I've given up on trying to find new ways to write "generic investigative procedural." Of that lot, "The Glades" isn't the worst of the lot, but it may be the most forgettable, though the competition for that title is rather intense.
 
There's really not that much to say about "The Glades" (I know why Sepinwall did a joint review for this one, plus "Haven"), but I'll give it a shot after the break...
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