<p>Malin Akerman of &quot;Trophy Wife&quot;</p>

Malin Akerman of "Trophy Wife"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife'

Malin Akerman brings a ton of charm to her new comedy

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I 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. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Trophy Wife" (ABC)
The Pitch: "Modern-er Family"
Quick Response:I like the shape of "Trophy Wife." And no, I'm not just referring to star Malin Akerman. What I like is the structural integrity of the premise, even if the title is probably a misleading mistake. I don't think the show looks at Akerman's character as a trophy wife and most of the characters don't view her that way. She's a slightly wide-eyed young woman who finds herself plunged into an established an atypical family unit and has to find a way to negotiate her position within that unit. It's just a different way to approach a blended family and the title doesn't really capture that Akerman's Kate and Bradley Whitford's Pete have a very natural and warm chemistry together and while we haven't really gotten to the meat of their attraction, it's implied. But there's also a warmth between Pete and his two previous ex-wives (Michaela Watkins and Marcia Gay Harden) and also with his two teenage kids and his adopted son. So it's a family, but it's a weird family, especially when you include Kate's buddy Meg (Natalie Morales). What I enjoyed about the pilot is how quickly and cleanly it establishes its eight main characters and, more impressively, how quickly it finds the dynamics between the different disparate pieces. It helps that this is a great vehicle for the frequently appealing -- but only occasionally properly utilized -- Akerman, who shows myriad sides to Kate in a short period, playing off familiar "adorakable" tropes -- she gets drunk, she falls down, she says things that would embarrass anybody but her -- but also giving us many reasons to respect and root for Kate all in 22 minutes. Akerman's bubbly energy has instantly great foils in Harden's brilliant iciness and Watkins' loopy mania and also in the sarcastic preppiness that Whitford plays as well as anyone. ABC had a full shelf of family comedies this year, which means lots of kids and I think Gianna LePera, Ryan Scott Lee and Albert Tsai are solid, but I need a bit more time with them. Tsai in particular seems to sometimes be overacting, but there were a couple times I sensed his line deliveries were actually boosting sluggish punchlines. And I really hope they pay close attention to Morales, because she's a lively treat here, but I can just as easily imagine her becoming increasingly overlooked as the show progresses. Knowing that it's hard for a comedy pilot to hit the ground with hilarity, I won't criticize "Trophy Wife" harshly for making me consistently smile, but not laugh.
Desire To Watch Again: Reasonably high. I really like Malin Akerman and will happily watch her on a weekly basis. I think this pilot also suggests writers Emily Halpern & Sarah Haskins have a good sense of what Harden, Watkins and Whitford do well. I don't love where ABC has put "Trophy Wife." It's a much better match with "Modern Family" than "Super Fun Night." "The Goldbergs" also seems like a better match with "Modern Family" than "Super Fun Night." In fact... Seriously, ABC. Give some thought to not airing "Super Fun Night" on Wednesdays at 9:30.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

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<p>&quot;The Michael J. Fox Show&quot;</p>

"The Michael J. Fox Show"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show'

Michael J. Fox needs you to know it's OK to laugh

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I 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. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"The Michael J. Fox Show" (NBC)
The Pitch: NBC gave "The Michael J. Fox Show" a 22-episode commitment without a finished script or a pilot. Safe to say, then, that the title was all the pitch anybody needed.
Quick Response: Before NBC announced its fall premiere schedule, I was going to suggest that it might be a really, really, really good idea to premiere "The Michael J. Fox Show" with two episodes. Then NBC announced they were premiering "The Michael J. Fox Show" with two episodes. And rightly so! It's not that the pilot is bad, but it's basically a PSA. And its message is "It's OK to laugh." It's 22 minutes of Michael J. Fox amiably reassuring viewers not only is it OK for them to laugh at him and his medical difficulties, but since he's laughing at himself, we're actually laughing with him. And I'm not going to scoff at this as an aspiration for this particular pilot. "The Michael J. Fox Show" isn't explicitly autobiographical for Fox, but it's close enough that there's a wave of discomfort that almost every viewer is going to pass through and it's up to the beloved star to make sure that most viewers pass through that discomfort as quickly as possible. Saying that "The Michael J. Fox Show" makes a few jokes about Fox's Parkinson's would be like saying Yakov Smirnoff made a few jokes about differences between life in the USA and life in the Soviet Union. The pilot is almost nothing but jokes about Fox's tremors, his medication and the things he can and cannot do because of his Parkinson's and how that relates to the character's ability to return to a nightly newscast in New York City. You might crack a smile at some of the jokes, but the goal isn't really laughter. The goal, I hope, is to get a ton of information out of the way up-front so that subsequent episodes can begin the gradual process of making the show about a guy who has a job and a family and also has Parkinson's, rather than being A Very Important Show About Michael J. Fox's Health. Everybody involved here is talented enough that it could work, if that corner is turned. As we know from "Good Wife," Fox is actually remarkable at using his condition to turn punchlines on their heads and he still has a gift with physical comedy that's altered, but not abated. There are hints of that here, but they're buried under the well-meaning explanations and meta dialogue like "What if I'm not the guy they remember?" Freed from the shackles that bind Marie on "Breaking Bad," Betsy Brandt is loose and appealing as Fox's wife, though the distraction caused by their height disparity is unavoidable. I kinda love the casting of Wendell Pierce as a news producer and lemme just say that Katie Finneran is much better here than on FOX's "I Hate My Teenage Daughter," though she's kinda in a different, broader pilot from everybody else. And the kids aren't bad, with Juliette Goglia as the early standout.
Desire To Watch Again: The bottom line is that I understand why this pilot was something "The Michael J. Fox Show" had to get out of its system. I didn't love it, but at least they executed the "The More You Know..." side of things in a way that was light, rather than maudlin. Now? Let's see what the series looks like. I'm really eager to see a real episode.

 

All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 190

Dan and Alan talk 'House of Cards,' 'The Shield, 'Hill Street Blues' and more

The

Happy Wednesday, Boys & Girls! It's time for this week's installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
Despite not reviewing a single new show, we somehow still managed to get over 90 minutes this week. That includes a lot of time on our Summer Pilot Rewatch segment on "Hill Street Blues" and "The Shield" some Listener Mail and, because I finally got around to finishing it, a segment reflecting on the full run of "House of Cards."
 
No clue how the podcast got so long despite the paucity of new stuff, but that won't be a problem next week with "Orange Is The New Black," "Camp," "The Bridge" and "The Newsroom."
 
And, in honor of the return of Aaron Sorkin's new show, next week's Pilot Rewatch... "The West Wing." 
 
Here's today's breakdown:
Listener Mail - "Kitchen Confidential" (00:02:45 - 00:10:10)
Listener Mail - What "Under the Dome" means (00:10:10 - 00:15:20)
Listener Mail - Favorite Guest performances (00:15:25 - 00:33:30)
"House of Cards" (00:33:50 - 55:30)
Summer Pilot Rewatch: "Hill Street Blues"/"The Shield" (00:55:35 - 01:33:00)

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

 

 

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<p>Justin Timberlake of &quot;Runner, Runner&quot;</p>

Justin Timberlake of "Runner, Runner"

Justin Timberlake dishes on the set of 'Runner, Runner'

Star talks R-ratings, character changes, Puerto Rico and more
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - The cast and crew of "Runner, Runner" have found an oasis in the otherwise downtrodden La Perla neighborhood. 
 
Up a steep hill -- I shudder to think of how the heavier parts of production navigated the tight and inclined alleyways of an area not designed for car or truck travel -- in what appears to just be the backyard of one of the area's nicer -- "Nicer" being a relative term -- the film has constructed a restaurant. In the background, extras pretend to eat and converse and make signs of mimed laughter, all having a terrific time sotto voce. Even further back, some patrons gyrate, dancing to music that isn't there. 
 
The relative silence is an accommodation for stars Justin Timberlake and Gemma Arterton. They're trying to have an important conversation, darnit. Timberlake's Richie, a former college student who becomes wrapped up in the murky world of off-shore gambling and online poker, and Arterton's Rebecca, a somewhat mysterious woman with ties to this semi-legal world, are having a getting-to-know-you dinner. They may be flirting. She may be trying to con him. He may be trying to work her for information. They may be flirting and conning and working all at once.
 
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<p>Gemma Arterton and Justin Timberlake of &quot;Runner, Runner&quot;</p>

Gemma Arterton and Justin Timberlake of "Runner, Runner"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Set Visit: 'Runner, Runner' weathers storms and slums in Puerto Rico

Justin Timberlake/Ben Affleck thriller opens in September
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - Nestled between the historic city wall of Old San Juan and a rocky promontory into the Atlantic, La Perla is one of the more picturesque ghettos in the world. 
 
Originally build up in the late 19th century as a place-of-exile for variably non-desirable aspects of San Juan society -- cemeteries, housing for former slaves, refuges for the homeless and a slaughterhouse -- La Perla developed a reputation for crime and danger, an image built partially on fact and partially on the neighborhood's intended isolation from the main city. Today, asking San Juan natives about La Perla can get either graphic stories of violence, police apathy and DEA raids or else blank stares. 
 
But, like I said, there's beauty here and not just from the white-capped waves breaking on the shore, or even the Santa Maria Magdalena Cementery, in which the dead have a place of honor, a flower-studded outlook onto the ocean, and the living need only tip-toe through the eastern side of La Perla's gates to pay tribute to their departed loved ones.
 
The houses, stacked one on top of the other, crawling up the hill as if hoping for egress themselves, are vibrantly colored, creating a mosaic of purples and yellows and hot pinks. The architecture is diverse as well, with traditional archways sharing space with vast walls of block glass, a remnant of '80s style that leads me to pretend abodes were once the residences of towering criminals brought down by Crockett and Tubbs, never to return again. Rusted satellite dishes teeter atop the corrugated green roofs, but otherwise it could be almost any year in La Perla. Poverty is timeless. 
 
Although there's a strong law enforcement presence on the outside of the wall, I talk to denizens who say that the police mostly leave La Perla on its own, though those stories don't jibe with stories that speak of recent attempts at a cultural renaissance in the neighborhood, which has also been an enclave for "artistic types" over the years.
 
It's August of 2012 and, at this moment, La Perla is positively swarming with a different assortment of artistic types, specifically a Hollywood movie production. Directed by Brad Furman ("The Lincoln Lawyer") and starring Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck and Gemma Arterton, the online gambling thriller "Runner, Runner" has taken over. 
 
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<p>Maggie Gyllenhaal</p>

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

'White House Down' star Maggie Gyllenhaal discusses the indie/blockbuster divide

What would the 'Secretary' star prefer to shooting a rocket launcher in a sequel?
WASHINGTON, DC - Despite a resume that includes "World Trade Center" and "Mona Lisa Smile" and "Monster House" and a little sleeper called "The Dark Knight," ones instinct is to associate Maggie Gyllenhaal more with smaller films like "Sherrybaby" or "Secretary."
 
I sat down with Gyllenhaal at the Beltway junket for her new studio offering "White House Down" and asked if the indie/blockbuster binary is one that journalists harp on, or if it stays in her mind as well.
 
Gyllenhaal tells me why this was a logical project for her to choose, but when I suggested she may want to fire a rocket launcher in a hypothetical sequel, she suggested something very different she'd rather do instead.
 
I've already posted the TV-centric portion of my Gyllenhaal sit-down in which she strongly hinted she might be interested in a small screen project, just days before Sundance Channel officially announced her miniseries "The Honourable Woman."
 
"White House Down" in now in theaters. You can also check out my chats with director Roland Emmerich and stars Jamie Foxx & Channing Tatum.
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Outstanding Comedy Series - Emmy Nomination Preview 2013

Outstanding Comedy Series - Emmy Nomination Preview 2013

What will replace 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' in the field?
"Curb Your Enthusiasm" is gone! And that would be really great if you happened to be a new show in the running for the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy, except that there aren't any new shows that are even semi-viable contenders, unless you include "Arrested Development" as a new show, which you probably shouldn't. 
 
I predicted two changes in this category, but it could just as easily only be the one.
 
Check out my full slate of candidates...
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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 189

Dan and Alan talk 'Dexter,' 'Ray Donovan' and Summer Pilot Rewatch

The

Happy Friday, Boys & Girls!
 
We really meant to have this second Firewall & Iceberg Podcast installment up earlier in the week, but do to my schedule, time kinda slipped away. Apologies!
 
In this installment, we review Showtime's "Dexter" and "Ray Donovan," answer a wee bit of mail and discuss this week's Summer Pilot Rewatch double-bill of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." 
 
Next week's Summer Pilot Rewatch is a double dose and Sepinwall can add the proper link to this post if he has the time! UPDATE: Alan here! For next week, we're doing "Hill Street Blues" (note: Hulu has placed the first two episodes together as one video, so you can stop around the 48 or 49-minute mark, when the pilot clearly ends) and "The Shield."
 
Here's today's breakdown:
"Dexter" (00:01:15 - 00:13:00)
"Ray Donovan" (00:13:00 - 00:27:30)
Listener Mail - Best New Shows (00:27:45 - 00:34:55)
Listener Mail - What counts as TV? (00:35:00 - 00:44:40)
Summer Rewatch: "The Dick Van Dyke Show"/"Mary Tyler Moore" (00:44:45 - 01:04:20)

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

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'White House Down' director Roland Emmerich talks American symbolism and his thriller's message

'White House Down' director Roland Emmerich talks American symbolism and his thriller's message

'ID4' helmer also discusses how 'Anonymous' recharged his batteries
WASHINGTON, DC - Roland Emmerich is a virtuoso when it comes to wreaking havoc on the White House.
 
In "Independence Day," he stayed an alien attack on the White House. 
 
In "2012," he unleashed the apocalypse on it. 
 
And now, in 2013, he's turning terrorists loose on the White House, but at least he's left the White House with a last line of defense: The President (Jamie Foxx) and an aspiring secret service agent (Channing Tatum). 
 
As you can tell, the actual White House remains unscathed and, in our discussion at the "White House Down" junket, Emmerich talks about his understanding of the symbolic value of the presidential residence and the seat of executive power. He also discusses the importance of the film's undercurrent of caution regarding the military-industrial complex.
 
I also asked Emmerich about the impact of finally getting to do his Shakespeare conspiracy thriller passion project "Anonymous" and how it recharged his creative batteries. 
 
Check out the full interview above, as well as my chat with Foxx and Tatum.

"White House Down" is now in theaters.
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Outstanding Drama Series - Emmy Nomination Preview 2013

Outstanding Drama Series - Emmy Nomination Preview 2013

Can 'Homeland' repeat in a swamped category?
You know how Oscars voters have fudged their Best Picture fields in recent years with nine or 10 nominees? This might be a great year for Emmy voters to contemplate a similar cheat. All six of last year's nominees are eligible again this year and, if you ask my opinion, the *worst* of the shows last season was "Homeland," which happens to be the defending champion and a lock to return. But what does that mean for "House of Cards" or "The Americans" or "Hannibal" or "Rectify" or former nominees like "The Good Wife" or "Dexter"? There are some years I might have predicted a buzz-y show like "Scandal" might have a real shot, but that's pretty much impossible to argue in this field.
 
Sigh. We need 10 nominees. Or 20.
 
Check out my full slate of candidates...
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