<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...

Read Full Post
<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...

Read Full Post
<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...

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;The Whispers&quot;</p>

"The Whispers"

Credit: ABC

'The Whispers' stars compare their ABC drama to 'Lost,' '24'

Lily Rabe, Milo Ventimiglia and Barry Sloane talk from the set of their mysterious drama

Way back in October, I joined a group of reporters on a long week of set visits in Vancouver and over several months I've posted stories and interviews from "The Flash," "Arrow," "iZombie," "Once Upon a Time," "The 100," "Bates Motel," "Backstrom" and the 200th episode red carpet for "Supernatural."

The last of the shows to premiere, but the second of the sets that we actually visited, was ABC's midseason drama "The Whispers," which found us sitting in a chilly tent in a park near a school not seeing anything by way of production and not necessarily able to talk about anything by way of the show. We arrived in Vancouver to warnings that the original "Whispers" pilot had been changed to something more ambiguous to draw out the mystery, making it hard to talk about what the former pilot was about.

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Blood and Oil&quot;</p>

"Blood and Oil"

Credit: ABC

DVR Gridlock 2015-16: Sunday Nights

NBC's football coverage will still dominate the fall

[As in years past, this week, I'm going to be glancing, night-by-night, at how the primetime schedules have changed after the network announcements at upfronts. I'll be looking at how the various changes will impact the ratings races on each night, as well as my own DVRing habits. Readers can chime in on how their own DVRs will be impacted. And yes, this brief series assumes that anybody still watches TV on their TVs. I'm old-fashioned. I'm also probably gonna ignore that I have a fancy new six-tuner DVR that means that I really don't have to make choices anymore. This will assume that I make choices for my own sanity.]


7:00 p.m.
ABC: "America's Funniest Home Videos"
CBS: "60 Minutes"
FOX: "The OT," "Bob's Burgers"
NBC: NFL Pre-Game

8:00 p.m. 
ABC: "Once Upon a Time"
CBS: "Madam Secretary"
FOX: "The Simpsons," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
NBC: Sunday Night Football

9 p.m.
ABC: "Blood and Oil"
CBS: "The Good Wife"
FOX: "Family Guy," "The Last Man on Earth"
NBC: Sunday Night Football

10 p.m.
ABC: "Of Kings and Prophets"
CBS: "CSI: Cyber"
NBC: Sunday Night Football

Read Full Post
<p>Lee Pace and Mackenzie David of &quot;Halt and Catch Fire&quot;</p>

Lee Pace and Mackenzie David of "Halt and Catch Fire"

Credit: AMC

'Halt and Catch Fire' stars Lee Pace and Mackenzie Davis on their characters' sexualities and ambitions

The '80s set AMC computer drama returns on Sunday night

I sat down with "Halt and Catch Fire" stars Lee Pace and Mackenzie Davis in January at the Television Critics Association press tour when they hadn't begun production on the second season of the AMC drama, so there was a limit to how much could actually be spoiled about Season 2, which premieres this Sunday evening (May 31).

While I could get some Season 2 teases in my chat that same morning with showrunner Jonathan Lisco, with Davis and Pace the conversation mostly stuck to where their respective characters, Joe and Cameron, grew and changed in the first season.

How were Joe and Cameron shifted by their ill-fated relationship?

How were they changed by the less-than-rhapsodic reception to the computer they designed?

And is Davis just a big fan of Mary Stuart Masterson's haircut from "Some Kind of Wonderful"?

Click through for the full Q&A...

Read Full Post
<p>Kelli Garner in &quot;The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe&quot;</p>

Kelli Garner in "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

Credit: Lifetime

Review: Lifetime's 'Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe'

'My Generation,' 'Pan Am' star shines in perhaps her best role to date

In our ever-more-fragmented media landscape, we're seeing fewer and fewer recognizable brand-name stars for *everybody*, but we're probably getting more and more recognizable brand-name stars for *somebody*. 

And that means that people who, to certain individuals, are clearly stars of a certain stature are virtual unknowns to great masses, possibly to majorities. And that's even the case with culture-watching professionals.

Take Britt Robertson. I didn't see many "Tomorrowland" reviews calling her an unknown or even a newcomer, thankfully, but plenty of critics are still bending over backwards to reference credits like "Dan in Real Life" or "Delivery Man" as if audiences may struggle to place her. I hear her name and I think of an actress who has been the unquestioned star of at least two network TV shows and one of the stars (if only for a for a season) of a bona fide hit. In the sphere of what I do, Britt Robertson isn't a rising star. She's somebody who TV networks have been banking on (without breakout success, mind you) for five-plus years. 

The same thing happened when "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" premiered at Sundance and movie critics had to strain to identify a lot of actors who had the temerity to only be familiar from the small screen

But that doesn't mean that I don't have blindspots. "Undateable," for example, added Bridgit Mendler to its cast for Season 2 and I'd never heard of her, but she has 4.5+ million Twitter followers. Mendler, like Ciara Bravo or the periodic YouTube personalities who pop up on the reality shows I watch, is proof that there are corners of the Internet and of my TV dial in which people I've never heard of are beloved by millions.

Lifetime's two-part telefilm or miniseries or whatever you call a four-hour program on TV these days "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" stars Kelli Garner and for most viewers, one of the pleasures of "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" will be watching a Marilyn Monroe biopic without the leading lady being weighted down by the burden of familiarity. 

But to me, Kelli Garner is a star, or at least an actress who I've wanted to see become a star for a pretty long time, going back to Larry Clark's "Bully" in 2001. After indies like "Thumbsucker" and "Lars and the Real Girl," ABC decided Kelli Garner was ready for stardom in both "My Generation" and "Pan Am," but America wasn't buying it. So for me, one of the pleasures of "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" is watching Kelli Garner finally earn a role that allows her to bring together many of the skills hinted at previously. 

It's nice that "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" works on those two levels -- either as an immersive performance in which an actress you don't know disappears into the iconography of one of the most famous women of the 20th Century or in which a long on-the-cusp actress finally fulfills her long-evident potential -- because four hours is a lot of time to watch what is a very, very, very conventional biopic of a woman who hasn't lacked for variably conventional biopics in the past.

If you come to "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" looking for biographical or psychological insights into Marilyn Monroe's life that you've never heard before, you're almost certain to be disappointed and, given the running time, you probably won't make it to Night 2 unless you're like, "I came for Joe DiMaggio and I'm not leaving until I get Joe DiMaggio." 

If you come to "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe," airing on May 30 and May 31, looking for a sexy, nuanced lead performance and a few other highlights? There are reasons enough to stick with the movie.

[That's my review in a nutshell, but more after the break...]

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Dr. Ken&quot;</p>

"Dr. Ken"

Credit: ABC

DVR Gridlock 2015-16: Friday Nights

'Shark Tank' and 'Blue Bloods' will still probably rule the night

[As in years past, this week, I'm going to be glancing, night-by-night, at how the primetime schedules have changed after the network announcements at upfronts. I'll be looking at how the various changes will impact the ratings races on each night, as well as my own DVRing habits. Readers can chime in on how their own DVRs will be impacted. And yes, this brief series assumes that anybody still watches TV on their TVs. I'm old-fashioned. I'm also probably gonna ignore that I have a fancy new six-tuner DVR that means that I really don't have to make choices anymore. This will assume that I make choices for my own sanity.]


8:00 p.m.
ABC: "Last Man Standing," "Dr. Ken"
CBS: "The Amazing Race"
The CW: "Reign"
FOX: "MasterChef Junior"
NBC: "Undateable," "People Are Talking"

9:00 p.m. 
ABC: "Shark Tank"
CBS: "Hawaii Five-0"
The CW: "America's Next Top Model"
FOX: "World's Funniest"
NBC: "Grimm"

10:00 p.m. 
ABC: "20/20"
CBS: "Blue Bloods"
NBC: "Dateline"

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Halt and Catch Fire&quot;</p>

"Halt and Catch Fire"

Credit: AMC

'Halt and Catch Fire' showrunner on writing dynamic female characters

Jonathan Lisco teases the new season, starring this Sunday on AMC

AMC made "Halt and Catch Fire" sweat it out a little before giving the '80s-set computer drama a second season renewal last summer. The pick-up didn't come until several weeks after the first finale, far from standard operating procedure on cable, where renewals have been known to come after a big premiere, or sometimes even sooner.

"There's so much scripted material right now that to break through and find an audience that can frankly support of the metrics of a TV show is hard. So I was not sure. I thought it was 50-50," "Halt and Catch Fire" showrunner Jonathan Lisco told me when we sat down in January.

It was a slightly strange time to talk about "Halt," since the second season hadn't even begun production and at the TCA press tour panel earlier in the day, Lisco had teased a time jump taking the show from the uncertain events of the finale -- Donna and Cameron plotting Mutiny, Joe heading out into the wilderness -- to an even more nebulous place.

So while there are some teases for the new season -- hints about a couple added characters make a lot more sense having subsequently seen the first four episodes, which are really good -- we talked at least as much about aspects of the first season, including the evolution of Donna, introduced misleadingly as another disapproving cable wife, as one of the show's most loved characters.

"When we got what you might call 'critique' of the first couple of episodes, we all just said, 'Guys, do you need your whole dinner served up to you right now? We can't thwart your expectations unless we're going to mislead you a tiny bit at first,'" Lisco laughed. "So we were lulling people into that belief. But then the level of aggression came out and the path I think was influenced more by what people perceived to be the flaws in other shows than the flaws in our own, which is perfectly understandable and I don't begrudge anyone. But I'm glad that now people see how dynamic the female characters are."

We also discussed the legal stickiness of featuring a Macintosh last season and the historical stickiness of wanting to depict their fictional characters as brilliant, without letting them be part of discoveries made by real people.

"Halt and Catch Fire" begins its second season on Sunday (May 31). Check out my full Q&A with Jonathan Lisco below...

Read Full Post
<p>David Duchovny of &quot;Aquarius&quot;</p>

David Duchovny of "Aquarius"

Credit: NBC

Thursday Ratings: 'Aquarius' premiere, 'Wayward Pines' split hour

'Bones' is up and 'The Big Bang Theory' repeat is the night's top show

Fast National ratings for Thursday, May 28, 2015.

In their head-to-head hour, the third week of FOX's "Wayward Pines" topped NBC's "Aquarius" in the key demographic, but the premiere of the David Duchovny drama led overall. And that's the way the Thursday primetime race broke down as well, with NBC winning overall and FOX eking out a victory in the key demo.

The two-hour "Aquarius" premiere ended up at The Mulaney Line in the key demographic and, boding ill for NBC and for the drama's binging possibilities, the audience dropped with each half-hour.

"Wayward Pines," meanwhile, lost a chunk of overall viewership from last week, but was flat week-to-week in the key demo.

And, of course, Thursday's top show was actually a repeat of "The Big Bang Theory."

Let's get to the numbers...

Read Full Post