Credit: Netflix

J. Michael Straczynski says viewers have evolved to be ready for 'Sense8'

'Babylon 5' vet created Netflix's new series with The Wachowskis

With its still-mostly-unique binge-centric approach to programming, Netflix is the sort of creative incubator that inspires writers to say that the story they're telling could only have been told at Netflix.

That's not always true. 

It is, however, probably true when it comes to "Sense8," an almost description-proof sci-fi drama from "Babylon 5" creator J. Michael Straczynski and "Matrix" masterminds The Wachowskis.

"You literally drop the audience into the middle of the story and because again we’re staying with subjective point of view, the audience only knows as much as the characters know," Straczynski tells me. "As the characters figure out over the course of the next X number of episodes what’s going on, like a mystery structure, the audience also figures it out. And we knew that that would be really, really difficult to pull off on a regular network."

Nearly every piece of that quote may be an understatement. With a cast of variably familiar international actors shooting in London, Mumbai, Mexico City, Berlin, Nairobi, San Francisco and Reykjavik, "Sense8" does indeed drop both the characters and viewers into intriguing an scenario that involves consciousness-sharing (and much more) and says, "OK. Stick with this until you figure it out."

Straczynski is confident that viewers will, indeed, be able to take this journey, which begins on Netflix at 12:01 a.m. PT on Friday, June 5.

"I think that we are looking at evolution that allows for more complex storytelling, more depth of characterization and more complexity than we’ve had in the past," he says.

In our conversation, we talked about some of the surprising and not-so-surprising challenges of the show's global scale -- Time-zones, for example, are a pain -- and just a few pieces of what sounds like a mighty complicated production. 

Straczynski also discusses his conviction that audiences are amenable to this kind of hard sci-fi and hints at the five-season plan he already has in mind.

Hopefully this interview and our podcast and review coverage of "Sense8" are at least conveying its ambition...

Check out the full Q&A below. 

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<p>Stanley Cup Game 1</p>

Stanley Cup Game 1

Credit: AP

Wednesday Ratings: Blackhawks-Lightning Stanley Cup opener leads NBC split

'The Briefcase' takes a big demo drop, but still helps CBS win overall

Fast National ratings for Wednesday, June 3, 2015.

Repeats of "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: Cyber" helped CBS win Wednesday night overall, but the Stanley Cup opener between Chicago and Tampa Bay gave NBC a commanding victory in the key demographic.

The hockey game was up a hair from last year's Game 1.

Remember that NBC's hockey is subject to change due to the nature of live events.

Results for Wednesday's originals were largely negative with small key demo drops for "MasterChef" and "Celebrity Wife Swap," plus a steep 36 percent key demo decline for "The Briefcase."

Let's get to the numbers...

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<p>&quot;T.rex Autopsy&quot;</p>

"T.rex Autopsy"

Credit: National Geographic Channels

'T.rex Autopsy' advisor John Hutchinson says 'T.rex was the Tony Soprano of the late Cretaceous'

The professor of Evolutionary Mechanics discusses NatGeo's dino special

LONDON, ENGLAND. Check out John Hutchinson's dissection-heavy website WhatsInJohnsFreezer.com for a sense of what it might mean for him to be a proverbial kid in a candy store.

A professor of Evolutionary Mechanics at University of London's Royal Veterinary College, Hutchinson served as an advisor on National Geographic's "T.rex Autopsy," which will air on Sunday, June 7 and shot in April at Pinewood Studios near London.

NatGeo had a number of reporters on-set for the "T.rex Autopsy" shoot, which featured a team of veterinarians and paleontologists going to surgical town on a bio-realistic tyrannosaurus rex constructed by Jez Gibson-Harris' Crawley Creatures.

This is pretty close to a dream for Hutchinson, who has written roughly a dozen papers on T.rex legs and locomotion and is also, for want of a better word, an animal autopsy enthusiastic, the more exotic and rare the species the better. 

For the purposes of the actual "T.rex Autopsy" filming, Hutchinson wasn't on the floor with the specimen, but he instead perched in an observation room above the autopsy floor with a group of reporters, answering a nearly non-stop series of questions over the course of over 10 hours, ranging from queries as simple as "So, is that what it would look like to remove a T.rex's stomach and plop it on a soundstage floor?" to far more specific and detailed discourses that the journalists from scientific publications understood and I did not. 

Hutchinson's excitement when the replica and its excavators got something right was matched only by his excitement and urgency when something wasn't entirely on-point and he was able to send frantic texts to the producers to get get on-the-fly corrections.

Before the actual autopsy took place, though, I sat down with Professor Hutchinson to discuss this autopsy project, the dangers of anthropomorphizing a terrible lizard, the lingering importance of "Jurassic Park" in this field and which parts of this speculative experiment he expects will be outmoded 20 years from now.

And you can also find out the context it took for Hutchinson to declare, "Yeah. T.rex was the Tony Soprano of the late Cretaceous."

Click through for the full Q&A and check out "T.rex Autopsy" on June 7.

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<p>Carla Gugino of &quot;Wayward Pines&quot;</p>

Carla Gugino of "Wayward Pines"

Credit: FOX

'Wayward Pines' First Look: Ethan's wife and former mistress have a chilly chat

The key fifth episode, 'The Truth' will air at the ATX Television Festival on Friday

If you're going to be in Austin this week for the ATX Television Festival, you should stop by the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on Friday (June 5) afternoon at 2:30 for the panel for FOX's "Wayward Pines." 

I'll be moderating the panel, featuring showrunner Chad Hodge and other luminaries, and we'll be preceding the panel with a screening of "Wayward Pines" Episode 5, which is titled "The Truth" and delivers on that promise with 42-ish minutes of answers regarding the mysteries of the town of Wayward Pines. It'll be a fun opportunity to have your jaw dropped and then to pepper the people associated with the show for more details on what The Truth means for the show going forward. It's a pretty neat episode to get to show at an event like this and I'm pleased with the timing.

Of course, if you're gonna be there for the "Wayward Pines" panel on Friday, you'll want to make sure you watch Thursday's new episode, which is titled "One of Our Senior Realtors Has Chosen to Retire," which features a terrific turn from Justin Kirk. I'm not sure if it's entirely essential to the watching of Episode 5, but it couldn't hurt.

To get you started with "Senior Realtor," here's a HitFix exclusive clip from Thursday's episode,  in which Ethan Burke's wife (Shannyn Sossamon's Theresa) and former mistress (Carla Gugino's Kate) have a tension-filled interaction with several different forms of chilly subtext.

Check it out:

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<p>&quot;America&#39;s Got Talent&quot;</p>

"America's Got Talent"

Credit: NBC

Tuesday Ratings: 'America's Got Talent,' 'I Can Do That' cruise for NBC

NBC dominates primetime in all measures

Fast National ratings for Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

"America's Got Talent" and "I Can Do That" were both down from last week's premieres, but the three-hour reality block still had no trouble carrying NBC to a primetime sweep in the key demo and a comfortable nightly victory overall.

Most of Tuesday's originals were down from last week, including "Extreme Weigh Loss" and "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader," while "Hell's Kitchen" and "iZombie" earn credit for staying flat.

Let's get to the numbers...

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Credit: ABC

ABC moves 'Quantico' to Sundays, holds 'Of Kings and Prophets'

Priyanka Chopra drama will air after 'Blood & Oil'

Upfronts Week may be the culmination of development season and it may come at the climax of the official network TV season, but it's only the start of lengthy process of tweaking that takes place leading up to the start of the fall season in September.

We've already had a couple weeks of preliminary recasting -- so far we've mostly learned the actors departing new shows, but we have yet to get their replacements -- and now it's time to get down to the business of schedule shuffling.

ABC confirms news that was actually announced on the sly on the network's official website that the FBI drama "Quantico" is shifting from Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. to Sunday nights at 10 p.m. 

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<p>&quot;Hannibal&quot; Season 3</p>

"Hannibal" Season 3

Credit: NBC

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 287 - 'Hannibal,' 'Community' finale

Dan and Alan also review Netflix's 'Sense8' and discuss the 'Six Feet Under' finale


Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls!

It's time for another installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.

In this week's installment, we're talking about some unusual programming including the return of NBC's art-house thriller "Hannibal," the premiere of Netflix's art-house sci-fi-type-thing "Sense8" and the finale of Yahoo's always boundary-pushing "Community."

And then we discussed our first Summer Finale Rewatch, the "Six Feet Under" finale. 

Next week is gonna be a bit screwy because Alan's gonna be in town to moderate an event, so we're definitely going to do some sort of in-person video thing at some point, but that may prevent us from doing a formal podcast, but our next Summer Finale Rewatch is available on Hulu and Netflix so you can get started on it whenever!

So here's today's breakdown:
"Hannibal" (00:01:30 - 00:12:50)
"Sense8" (00:12:55 - 00:26:25)
"Community" finale (00:26:30 - 00:47:15)
"Six Feet Under" Finale (00:47:25 - 01:12:30)

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 or subscribe on IHeartRadio.] 


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

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

"The Whispers"

Credit: ABC

Monday Ratings: 'Whispers' premieres well as 'American Ninja Warrior' tops 'Bachelorette'

'The Island' is steady in its second week.

Fast National ratings for Monday, June 1, 2015.

The series premiere of "The Whispers" held well from its "The Bachelorette" lead-in to top NBC's "The Island" and give ABC Monday wins both overall and in the key demographic.

ABC needed that "Whispers" triumph to take the night because, for the second straight week, "American Ninja Warrior" was able to beat "The Bachelorette" head-to-head over the first two hours of primetime. With only a 0.1 key demo rating dip in its second half-hour, ABC has to be pleased with the premiere.

The night's other premiere was FOX's "So You Think You Can Dance," down 20 percent from last year's return.

Let's get to the numbers...

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<p>Abby Fortson of &quot;The Whispers&quot;</p>

Abby Fortson of "The Whispers"

Credit: ABC

Review: ABC's 'The Whispers' offers creepy kids and little more

Flat adult characters and a wheel-spinning mystery doom ABC's new drama

As director and producer, few storytellers have utilized the wonderment and fascination (and sometimes horror) of children as points-of-entry into the wonderment and fascination of the adult world more effectively than Steven Spielberg has. 

Conversely, Spielberg has also masterfully used the normalized responses of children to the abnormal as an approach to disarm world-weary grown-ups. 

From Cary Guffey in "Close Encounters" to Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore in "E.T." to Heather O'Rourke in "Poltergeist" to Christian Bale in "Empire of the Sun" to Haley Joel Osment in "A.I." to Dakota Fanning in "Taken" and "War of the Worlds," Spielberg has always know that there's something pure and primal in the reactions of children and that those reactions can be used to steer the reactions viewers of all ages.

Steven Spielberg is one of the executive producers of ABC's new "the kids are not alright" drama "The Whispers," but his participation has been underplayed by the network. Partially I suspect that's because Spielberg's name isn't just a non-factor when it comes to TV audiences, one could almost argue that it has become a warning of sorts. ABC knows this all too well after the failure of the Spielberg EPed "Lucky 7" and "The River" in recent years.

But it's one thing not to mention Spielberg's limited involvement with something like "Lucky 7," because ordinary people winning the lottery isn't a subject matter that fans associate with the Oscar-winning director of "Jurassic Park," but when it comes to a story of innocent children being drawn into dark circumstances by mysterious forces of unknown origin as grown-ups frantically search to a cause? That's totally Steven Spielberg's wheelhouse. 

ABC might not be trumpeting Steven Spielberg's name with "Whispers" because the network doesn't think his name will help the drama, which premieres on Monday (June 1) night, but the smarter reason why they may not be using his name is because tying Spielberg's name to "Whispers" is a guaranteed linkage to a dozen movies and television shows that do what "Whispers" is trying to do and do it better.

If, on the most basic level, you find scary kids to be scary and your reaction to scary kids being scary is so intense that you don't require anything else from a drama, there's a good chance that you'll like "Whispers." It has little unblinking children delivering ominous dialogue in measured monotones and it has a lot of that. It has nothing else, but I'm not going to try to tell you that that's not something. So if you don't care about adult characters or a plot that progresses with any sort of momentum in the direction of anything resembling answers? "Whispers" may be your new summer obsession, because scary kids are unquestionably scary. Steven Spielberg understood you need more than that for great storytelling, but maybe he was wasting his time with all of that other stuff.

More on "Whispers" after the break...

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<p>&quot;A.D. The Bible Continues&quot;</p>

"A.D. The Bible Continues"

Credit: NBC

Sunday Ratings: Two-hour 'Dateline' boosts 'A.D.' and NBC

'Golan the Insatiable' has a small, but not awful debut

Fast National ratings for Sunday, May 31, 2015.

"Dateline" was Sunday's top show among young viewers by a wide margin and helped NBC to victory there. 

With "60 Minutes" leading the way, though, CBS still won Sunday overall.

The second hour of "Dateline" was, in fact, Sunday's only show to go above The Mulaney Line of a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49 and helped both "A.D. The Bible Continues" and "American Odyssey" post small gains.

Let's get to the numbers...

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