Credit: NBC

'Hannibal' cinematographer James Hawkinson on the show's disturbing, dark beauty

'Man in the High Castle' DP explains some of the tricks of the trade

As we conclude our conversation, James Hawkinson correctly notes that HitFix doesn't do many interviews with cinematographers.

While my departing colleague Kris Tapley actually has done a spectacular job interviewing big screen DPs for the site, Hawkinson is almost certainly the first TV cinematographer I've spoken with.

If you're going to talk to one TV cinematographer, though, it's hard to think of a better candidate than Hawkinson, who has shot NBC's "Hannibal" since its pilot. 

No matter what Emmy voters may think, "Hannibal" is currently in its third season as one of the most breathtaking visual spectacles on TV. It's a world of richly saturated colors, subtle gradations of darkness, teasing tricks of focus and the ability to get equal beauty out of a flayed body, a tower of corpses or a dinner composed of succulent preparations of "human" flesh. There's really nothing close on TV, like a little weekly art film of nightmares and fantasies that happens to air on NBC once a week. [Note: The interview was conducted before NBC announced it wouldn't be moving forward with a fourth season of "Hannibal," though completed episodes will continue to air.]

Hawkinson's previous TV credits included "Community" and "Arrested Development," but it was his short-form work with David Slade that brought him to the world of "Hannibal." During a brief respite his shooting on the Amazon speculative drama "The Man in the High Castle," Hawkinson and I discussed all of the things he's getting away with on "Hannibal," including the precise colors, the degrees of darkness and the disturbing imagery that keeps making it to TV.

Hawkinson shared fun details about the Norman Chapel heart-stag creature, the  extended fight scene that bookended Season 2 and the lines of communication between creator Bryan Fuller, the show's various directors and its regular cinematographer. 

It's a good conversation and probably an argument to interview more TV cinematographers. Now if only more TV shows looked like "Hannibal." 

Check out the full Q&A...

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<p>&quot;New Jack City&quot;</p>

"New Jack City"

Songs on Screen Week: 'New Jack Hustler' from 'New Jack City'

Ice-T's gangsta anthem tops 'Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head' for me
Songs On Screen: All week Hitfix will be featuring tributes by writers to their favorite musical moments from TV and film.  Check out the full series here.

Last month when we did our Best Year in Film History series, I picked second and, as a result, I was able to select the correct answer: The best year in American cinematic history, at least over the last 50 years, is 1974 and any disagreements sadden and bore me.

With that undeclared, but indisputable, victory in my back pocket, I was able to happily let colleagues choose many of my personal favorites for our Songs on Screen battle. You won't hear me say anything negative about "Fight the Power" and its centrality to "Do the Right Thing" or the evocative pull of "Nobody Does It Better" (or a slew of other James Bond themes) or the timelessness of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Nor will I quibble with something like "Johnny B. Goode," which wasn't written for "Back to the Future," but was used in a way that was utterly indelible. 

As of when I made my own selection, there were plenty of great movie-based songs remaining, including what likely would have been my instinctive top draft pic, Hal David and Burt Bacharach's "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," performed in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" by B.J. Thomas.

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<p>&quot;The Brink&quot;</p>

"The Brink"

Credit: HBO

Review: HBO's clumsy 'The Brink' isn't a worthy successor to 'Veep'

Jack Black is at his most grating, while Tim Robbins is oddly inconsistent

Armando Iannucci has left the building.

Since mid-April, HBO has housed probably the best 90-minute comedy block on television, with the tech world satire of "Silicon Valley" transitioning into the political satire of "Veep" and closing with the sharp-eyed comedic advocacy of "Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver." With those three comedies and even a lackluster-by-its-high-standards "Game of Thrones" season, HBO has had the Sunday quality TV crown on lockdown for months.

But change is in the air.

Iannucci, TV's keenest tweaker of governmental process, announced earlier this spring that he was stepping back from his showrunning responsibilities on "Veep." I've resisted panic, because the "Veep" creative bench is deep and I believe a solid foundation is in place to maintain much of the momentum beyond last Sunday's season finale. 

Sadly, the momentum of HBO's Sunday is in free fall and nowhere is that more evident than in the 10:30 comedy slot, in which the razor-sharp writing and flawlessly calibrated ensemble of "Veep" have been replaced by the flaccid attempted wit and jarringly uneven ensemble of "The Brink." It's a comparison that does "The Brink" no favors, but that HBO pretty much demanded with its scheduling decision. 

Where once aired a nimble political satire now resides a leaden disappointment.

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<p>&quot;Mr. Robot&quot;</p>

"Mr. Robot"

Credit: USA

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 289 - 'True Detective,' 'Ballers' and more

Dan and Alan also discuss the 'Another Period,' 'The Brink' and 'Mr. Robot'


Happy Friday, Boys & Girls!

It's time for the week's second installment of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.

On Tuesday, we did a spoiler-heavy podcast focusing on HBO's finales for "Veep," "Silicon Valley" and "Game of Thrones."

Today, we're looking at HBO's future, specifically the premieres for "Ballers," "The Brink" and Season 2 of "True Detective."

We also talked about Comedy Central's "Another Period" and USA's "Mr. Robot," which are both already available to view, but don't premiere until next week.

There will be no podcast next week!

Here's today's breakdown:
"True Detective" (00:01:10 - 00:27:35)
"Ballers" (00:27:40 - 00:40:25)
"The Brink" (00:40:30 - 00:51:55)
"Another Period" (00:52:00 - 01:00:55)
"Mr. Robot" (01:01:00 - 01:10:25)

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 or subscribe on IHeartRadio.] 


And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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<p>The &quot;Astronaut Wives Club&quot; premiere</p>

The "Astronaut Wives Club" premiere

Credit: ABC

Thursday Ratings: Viewers orbit 'Astronaut Wives Club' premiere but CBS leads

'Big Bang Theory' repeat is Thursday's top show in most measures

Fast National ratings for Thursday, June 18, 2015.

ABC got a decent premiere for "The Astronaut Wives Club" and a weaker two-hour premiere for "Mistresses," but original dramas and even FOX sports coverage were no match for CBS' three hours of repeats, which led Thursday in most measures.

Other Thursday notables included another small dip for NBC's "Aquarius" and flatness for "Hannibal" and "Beauty and the Beast."

FOX's US Open golf coverage wasn't a factor.

Let's get to the numbers...

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Credit: FOX

Wednesday Ratings: 'Criminal Minds' repeat, 'MasterChef' lead again

'The Briefcase' helps CBS take Wednesday night overall

Fast National ratings for Wednesday, June 17, 2015.

Wednesday's ratings are pretty dull with a repeat of "Criminal Minds" still serving as the centerpiece for CBS' overall win and a new "MasterChef" leading FOX to a slim victory in the key demographic.

Things just aren't as much fun without live sporting events and whatnot.

Let's get to the numbers...

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<p>&quot;The Astronaut Wives Club&quot;</p>

"The Astronaut Wives Club"

Credit: ABC

Review: Style and performances keep ABC's 'Astronaut Wives Club' watchable

It's not quite a blast, but some viewers will orbit happily

Too little too late, but ABC has finally found the perfect companion piece for "Pan Am."

A bright-and-glossy dose of '60s nostalgia mixed with easily digestible proto-feminism, ABC's "Astronaut Wives Club" premieres on Thursday (June 18) night, more than three years after "Pan Am" was cancelled and I suspect they're likely to be remembered in the same way: Period dramas with high production values, a fantastic cast that ABC will look back at yearningly and unrealized creative potential obscuring otherwise solid storytelling.

Is there a hypothetical TV series about the wives of the Mercury astronauts that's more than a slightly superficial, slightly choppy and slightly misfocused showcase for fine performances and some snazzy retro-style? Absolutely, but there's still some virtue to this sort of watchable, somewhat nourishing summer entertainment, even in a landscape that's overflowing with summer viewing options.

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<p>NBA Finals</p>

NBA Finals

Credit: AP

Tuesday Ratings: Golden State wins the NBA Championship, ABC wins night

FOX's Women's World Cup coverage does solid demo numbers

Fast National ratings for Tuesday, June 16, 2015.

The Golden State Warriors capped off their NBA Championship run with a Game 6 win and ABC capped off the highest rated NBA Finals on the network with a Tuesday win in all measures. 

ABC is estimating that the NBA Finals series was up a whopping 31 percent over last year, keeping in mind that these Fast National ratings reflect time period data and not ratings for the game itself.

"America's Got Talent" and particularly "I Can Do That" were both down from last week, but still put NBC in second place for the night, while FOX's coverage of the Women's World Cup did solid key demo ratings.

Let's get to the numbers...

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<p>Kit Harington of &quot;Game of Thrones&quot;</p>

Kit Harington of "Game of Thrones"

Credit: HBO

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 288 - 'Game of Thrones' finale and more

Dan and Alan also discuss the 'Veep,' 'Silicon Valley' and 'Cheers' finales


Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls! It's time for the return of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.

We took last week off from podcasting because Alan was traveling to LA, but because Alan was traveling to LA, we were able to do an in-person video show, so we really didn't take last week off at all.

And this week, we're doubling up. 

In today's podcast, we're reviewing ABC's "Astronaut Wives Club," we talk about all of HBO's various finales from Sunday night and in our Summer Rewatch, we discuss the "Cheers" finale.

And on Friday, we're going to be talking about HBO's "The Brink," "Ballers" and "True Detective," as well as a couple other new series premieres.

So this is a two podcast week! [Next week will be a zero podcast week, so be warned.]

Here's today's breakdown:
"The Astronaut Wives Club" (00:02:00 - 00:13:50)
"Silicon Valley" finale (00:14:00 - 00:24:05)
"Veep" finale (00:24:10 - 00:40:15)
"Game of Thrones" finale (00:40:20 - 01:20:45)
Summer Rewatch: "Cheers" finale (01:20:50 - 01:44:35)


And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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<p>&quot;Penny Dreadful&quot;</p>

"Penny Dreadful"

Credit: Showtime

Showtime picks up 'Penny Dreadful' Season 3

The next installment will be nine episodes

John Logan's Victorian horror mash-up "Penny Dreadful" has mixed up a witches brew for a third season. 

Showtime announced on Tuesday (June 16) that a nine-episode third "Penny Dreadful" season will shoot on location in Dublin and will premiere in 2016.

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