'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...
Jamie Campbell Bower and Eva Green star in this 'One Camelot Hill'
The United States of America may rule the world in many things -- international basketball, childhood obesity, Kate Hudson movies -- but as a relatively youthful nation, we lack in one key resource that more venerable countries take for granted: A rich tradition of folklore and legend.
Yes, we have our John Henrys and Paul Bunyans, but if you're a writer, try walking into a pitch meeting and leading with, "Pitch this: Chad Michael Murray *is* Johnny Appleseed."
That's why it seems like scarcely a year passes without a big or small screen interpretation or reinterpretation of the same British semi-historical tall tales. It's not that I don't have an appetite for the adventures of Robin Hood or King Arthur, but I've discovered all too quickly that said appetite is not insatiable.
For me, but perhaps not for you, I've long since past the point at which merely being introduced to the Knights of the Round Table or Robin's variably Merry Men is no longer enough. You can't just say, "This is a great story and I want to tell it. Again." You have to be able to say, "This is a great story, but my previously unimagined angle-of-approach is..."
Even if Starz' new series version of "Camelot" were nicely produced, brilliantly acted and energetically rendered, it would still lack that previously unimagined (or previously under-imagined, at least) angle of approach. It's slightly different from previous Arthurian tales, but it's no more illuminating, which far supersedes the sins of looking cheap, crawling at a snail's pace and featuring performances which never rise above lackluster.
As Starz sent out three episodes of "Camelot," that's the number I watched, but even the alluring possibility of admirable nudity isn't likely to bring me back again.
Full review of Starz' "Camelot" after the break...
Emmy winner and 'Desperate Housewives' veteran discusses her new ABC drama
There's a school of oft-repeated conventional wisdom that says that the only place for actresses over 40 to get a meaty leading role is on cable.
By that questionable logic, "Body of Proof" should be on TNT or FX or, mostly likely, on Showtime.
"Body of Proof" features Dana Delany as Dr. Megan Hunt, a prodigiously talented neurosurgeon who becomes a Medical Examiner after an accident leaves her unable to operate at her former peak. Megan has a failed marriage and a damaged relationship with her young daughter and she also has an ego that causes her to butt heads with the detectives she can usually out-think.
It's a fantastic character for the 55-year-old Delany.
It's also the lead role on a network TV show.
"Body of Proof" premieres on ABC on Tuesday (March 29) at 10 p.m. after the season's first "Dancing with the Stars" results show.
I caught up with the "China Beach" Emmy winner last week to talk about this complicated new character, the significance of playing the role on a network and the advantages of having "Body of Proof" pushed to midseason.
Dan and Alan talk 'Camelot,' 'The Killing,' 'Body of Proof' and much more
Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
It's a busy week on the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
We've got five new shows premiering between cable and the networks, plus the returns of Showtime's "Nurse Jackie" and "United States of Tara."
We were a little worried the podcast might be extra-epic. It isn't. It's just a standard hour-plus.
Here's the breakdown:
"Nurse Jackie" -- 01:50 - 11:40
"United States of Tara" -- 11:40 - 20:20
"Body of Proof" -- 20:25 - 28:13
"Chaos" -- 28:15 - 35:40
"Camelot" -- 35:40 - 44:40
"The Borgias" -- 44:45 - 50:30
"The Killing" -- 50:30 - 01:03:30
And here's the podcast...
Kate Winslet will win an Emmy for this all-too-literal adaptation
HBO's "Mildred Pierce" suffers from an embarrassment of context.
On its surface, "Mildred Pierce" is the story of a woman who struggles to keep her family afloat in Depression Era Los Angeles by opening a small restaurant, all the while enabling a monster of a daughter and a slew of variably worthy men.
It's simple. It's fairly straight-forward. And if you just viewed "Mildred Pierce" in terms of its plot, it's not especially worthy of six hours of HBO programming space.
But from there, many viewers will bring things to the table.
"Mildred Pierce" is based on a 1941 novel by James M. Cain, who also wrote the source material for "Double Indemnity" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice." Even if you haven't read Cain's book, his mere name brings baggage and expectations.Â
"Mildred Pierce" was then adapted for the big screen in 1945 by Michael Curtiz and even if the film itself doesn't carry over baggage and expectations, Joan Crawford's larger-than-life performance in the title role certainly does.
And if previous incarnations of the story don't carry enough weight, HBO's "Mildred Pierce" has been adapted for the small screen by Todd Haynes, whose body of work -- from "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story" through "Poison" and "Safe" and "Far From Heaven" and "I'm Not There" -- marks him as perhaps his generation's most intellectually rigorous filmmaker, a writer and director whose work is often difficult to fully digest on single viewings.
Presumably there will be some viewers who just come to "Mildred Pierce" as an HBO prestige project and somehow carry no previous experience with the story and also carry no previous experience with Haynes and his recurring preoccupations. I really don't have a clue how those viewers will react. Similarly, I can't say how you're react if you've only seen Curtiz's film, if you've only read Cain's novel or if you're a devoted Todd Haynes fan who somehow lands on this miniseries unspoiled. Most viewers will probably arrive with select bits and pieces of context and each reaction will be different based on what is brought to the table.
So I can only approach "Mildred Pierce" with a full smorgasbord of weighted context: I appreciate, but don't especially love Haynes' filmography. I've seen the Curtiz film a couple times, but probably not for many years. And even though I had my HBO screeners in an envelope beneath my TV, I couldn't watch the miniseries until I finished reading the book.Â
It's from that context that I'm coming to the miniseries and from that context that my overall sense of appreciative disappointment arises.Â
"Appreciative disappointment" is not a normal reaction, but perhaps it's the logically tempered, confused response to "Mildred Pierce," a response that most viewers probably won't replicate unless they come to the miniseries via exactly the path I took...
Thoughts on "Mildred Pierce" after the break...
'Survivor' bootee discusses why she trusted Russell and more
Krista Klumpp's CBS "Survivor" bio contains what ended up being a telling quote.
Asked which "Survivor" contestant she's most like, Krista replied, "I thought I was most like Natalie White because we had such similar backgrounds, but I expect to play the game with a little more edge."
When she gave that quote, the 25-year-old pharmaceutical rep had no way of knowing that she was going to find herself on a tribe with Russell Hantz, the man responsible for taking Natalie White to the Finals and ultimately responsible for her winning the million dollar prize.
While hitching herself to Russell's vicious, cutthroat star proved to be a good move for Natalie, Krista wasn't as lucky. When the Zapatera tribe successfully picked off the notorious villain, they immediately targeted his two allies, voting off first Krista and then Stephanie.
Krista's "Survivor" fate was sealed this week with a Redemption Island loss to Matt, leading to an exit interview the following morning.
Dan and Alan talk 'Mildred Pierce,' 'Bob's Burgers' and the 'Big Love' finale
Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
Things are getting busy in TV Land -- not to be confused with getting busy *on* TVLand, because we're not really sure what's up with "Hot in Cleveland" -- so this week's podcast is jam-packed and things will only get more jam-packed in weeks to come.
On this week's docket: Discussion of the series finale of "Big Love" and the show's overall legacy, a review of HBO's "Mildred Pierce" miniseries, a review of Syfy's "Marcel's Quantum Kitchen," some words on "Bob's Burgers" and even a couple pieces of Listen Mail to answer.
Here's the breakdown:
"Bob's Burgers" -- 01:17 - 08:30
"Marcel's Quantum Kitchen" -- 08:30 - 18:20
"Mildred Pierce" -- 18:20 - 32:25
Listener Mail (stuff about supporting characters and plausibility of sketch comedy and sports on scripted shows) - 32:30 - 46:00
The series finale of "Big Love" - 46:00 - 01:03:55
And here's the podcast...
Latest 'Survivor' bootee isn't a big fan of Former Federal Agent Phillip
Kristina Kell was finally sent packing on this week's "Survivor: Redemption Island," but her departure had been a foregone conclusion for a month now.
Despite finding a hidden Immunity Idol without a clue early in her "Survivor" run, Kristina never had any security. Instantly targeted as a threat by the cautious Boston Rob, Kristina found herself in a wobbly alliance with mercurial Francesca and erratic Phillip. Although she wasn't voted out at that first Tribal Council after Phillip outed her Idol, it was only a matter of time. The next Tribal Council her Idol was flushed out of the game and then she was dispatched to Redemption Island, where she ran into Matt, a burgeoning Duel buzzsaw.
I caught up with Kristina this week to talk about Boston Rob's impact on her game and about her true feelings for Phillip. She held very little back.
Full interview after the break...
Can't we just have Morena Baccarin's Anna killing humans next season?
In its second season finale on Tuesday (March 15) night, "V" made a full transition from science fiction to slasher, offering the first glimmer of hope for the creatively challenged series in many a moon.
It's not that complex, mythology-rich sci-fi can't survive on the small screen. Just look at "Fringe," though "survive" may be a slightly overstatement for what the FOX series is doing on Fridays. But you need look no further than the on-life-support status of "V" and NBC's "The Event" to realize something that maybe TV development executives don't quite get about sci-fi: It's hard.
You have to have writers capable of creating jargon-packed dialogue that simultaneously makes sense and moves the plot forward, while also not insulting members of your audience who make the attempt to process and appreciate the genre underpinings. The dialogue also has to be smooth enough to avoid crippling your show's cast, which pre-supposes you have a cast good enough to sell that dialogue in the first place. Both "V" and "The Event" have displayed that no matter how many reasonably capable actors you can somehow lure, even the most intelligent or likable of actors can become a blathering idiot and a one-dimensional puppet if abused by weak writing.
It's hard to do sci-fi.
Doing a slasher film, even on TV, is much easier. If you're going down that genre path, you need only two things: A good villain and ample fodder. You don't watch a "Nightmare on Elm Street" or "Saw" film rooting for humanity's finer nature to prevail. Screw that. You want carnage and you want to be reassured that even if Freddy Krueger or Jigsaw seem to be in trouble, everybody involved in the production knows that viewers will be rooting for the bad guy and any supposed hero is totally disposable.
After ineptly attempting to make viewers care with and root for a rag-tag bunch of wretchedly written, poorly portrayed freedom fighters for the better part of 22 episodes, "V" surrendered on Tuesday night and just admitted what's been blatantly obvious since the premiere: Morena Baccarin's Anna is the show. Period. And she isn't just the show. She's the freakin' hero of the show. If that makes Humanity and The Fifth Column the villains on "V"? So be it. I'm not sure that there's a single human character on the show that I don't view as cannon fodder and it was almost courageous of the "V" writers to admit that over 22 episodes, they'd shaped The Fifth Column into the most useless resistance force ever.
And no, I'm not *actually* convinced that the things I enjoyed about Tuesday's "V" finale were in any way intentional on the part of the writers, but I found a way to enjoy the finale, so that's the interpretation I'm taking away.
More thoughts on the finale after the break... Spoilers coming, obviously.