Inside Television with Alan Sepinwall
Dan and Alan also answer letters about '30 Rock,' casting news and reality TV
The Super Bowl has ended, and since Dan and I couldn't agree on an acceptable wager, the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast is the same as it ever was. We don't dwell on the game very much, but we do talk for a while about the underwhelming crop of commercials, before transitioning into reviews of NBC's "Smash" and ABC's "The River," and then a smattering of listener mail.
Super Bowl commercials (01:15 - 20:40)
"Smash" (20:40 - 39:00)
"The River" (39:00 - 52:50)
Listener Mail - "30 Rock
" (53:30 - 58:45)
Listener Mail - "Kid Nation" and stuff (58:45 - 01:05:45)
Listener Mail - Casting "exclusives" (01:06:25 - 01:13:25)
Found-footage horror story from 'Paranormal Activity' creator works as a TV show
"The River" is about the search for Bruce Greenwood's Dr. Emmet Cole.
At first blush, horror is a genre that wouldn't seem to lend itself well to television. So much of what makes a scary story effective in a darkened movie theater shouldn't necessarily apply to a weekly series. You can maintain a sense of dread, or willingly suspend your disbelief about why the damn fools won't get out of the haunted house already, for two hours, but week after week for years? That's tougher.
But horror has had some past success on the small screen ("The X-Files," for instance, took more of its stylistic cues from horror than science-fiction), and we're in a mini-boom right now with AMC's "The Walking Dead" and FX's "American Horror Story." You can argue with how successfully each of those shows has tried to tell their ongoing stories — and even the "AHS" producers recognized they couldn't keep their story going past a single season, and will start over from scratch with a new idea and characters — but these are very big hits for their respective channels, and "Walking Dead" has a long-running comic book series to draw stories from for years to come.
And now comes "The River," the new ABC found-footage horror series from "Paranormal Activity" creator Oren Peli, which is debuting tomorrow night at 9. I watched the pilot months ago, was impressed by the level of suspense maintained throughout, yet wondered how on earth it would work as an ongoing series.
And having seen four additional hours since then (one of which will air after the pilot tomorrow night), I'm pleased to tell you that —for now, at least — it does work.
Creator posts spoiler-filled highlight reel to illustrate what the comedy has become
What are the "Cougar Town" characters so happy about? The season 3 highlight reel will give you a big clue.
"Cougar Town" returns to ABC a week from tomorrow, at 8:30 p.m. on Valentine's Day. On the one hand, this is good news for a show that's been absent a long time. On the other, it has an extremely incompatible lead-in from "Last Man Standing," and it's been off the air so long (9 months since the last episode aired) that all but the real die-hard fans may have forgotten it exists, and — worst of all — it's still fighting the perception created by that off-putting title and the show's early episodes, neither of which remotely represent what the series became.
Veteran of TV and the stage tries to combine her two worlds in new NBC musical
Theresa Rebeck (top row center) is the woman in charge of writing NBC's "Smash," starring Debra Messing, Katharine McPhee, Megan Hilty and Christian Borle.
When Steven Spielberg came up with the idea to make a TV drama about the production of a Broadway musical, there were few writers more qualified to take charge of the idea than Theresa Rebeck
. Her career has gone back and forth through the world of both television, where she's written for "NYPD Blue," "L.A. Law" and "Third Watch," among others; and theater, where Alan Rickman is starring on Broadway in her latest play, "Seminar."
Spielberg, Rebeck, veteran songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (among many others) have collaborated to create "Smash,"
which debuts on NBC tonight at 10 (you can read my review here
). The series stars Debra Messing and Christian Borle as a successful Broadway writing duo who begin working on a musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe, Anjelica Huston as their producer, Jack Davenport as their director and Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee as the two actresses vying for the lead role.
I spoke with Rebeck about the genesis of "Smash," the differences between her two writing careers, how the show is incorporating musical numbers into the action, what might happen if the show is successful enough to survive to a second season, and more.
Escalante and Ace both run cons, but only one goes well
Dennis Farina and Dustin Hoffman in "Luck."
A review of tonight's "Luck" coming up just as soon as I hear a voice from inside my pants...
Kurt Sutter extends his deal on the motorcycle club drama for three more years
"Sons of Anarchy" stars Charlie Hunnam and Katey Sagal.
FX has extended its deal for "Sons of Anarchy" through the show's sixth season, while creator Kurt Sutter has extended his own deal through what everyone assumes will be the show's seventh and final year.
Low-rated legal drama moves to Saturdays
In one of two realities on "Awake," cop Jason Isaacs' wife dies in a car crash, but his son (Dylan Minnette) survives.
With "The Firm" tanking badly in the ratings in NBC's once-prized Thursday at 10 p.m. timeslot, the only question was exactly when NBC would pull it and whether it would be replaced by a pair of comedies ("Community" and "Bent," perhaps?) or by NBC's only unscheduled mid-season drama: "Awake." After "The Firm" pulled a pathetic 0.8 rating last night in the adults 18-49 demographic, it was finally decision time, and the answers are as follows:
Jack vs. Jack, Leonard vs. Sheldon, Chris vs. his brother and one timeline vs. another
Ellen Pompeo and Justin Chambers on "Grey's Anatomy."
It's morning round-up time (afternoon, really), with quick thoughts on last night's episodes of "30 Rock," "The Big Bang Theory," "Up All Night" and "Grey's Anatomy" coming up just as soon as I tell Pat Riley the Funmeister says hi...
When did Jim and Pam become the worst people in the world?
When did Jim and Pam go from being the most likable characters on "The Office" to the most annoying?
I've mostly avoided writing about "The Office" this season because I didn't have anything new to say beyond what I wrote six weeks into the season. But where many of this season's episodes have just felt listless, last night's episode actually made me angry, and also made me want to talk a bit about the thing that annoyed me. So rather than ignore the episode, or give it one paragraph in a round-up post (which is coming later for "30 Rock" and a bunch of other shows), coming up just as soon as I use elaborate cross-hatching...
Backstage musical drama stars Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston and Katharine McPhee
Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty vie for the role of Marilyn Monroe in "Smash."
Through four episodes of "Smash," the new NBC musical debuting Monday night at 10, I kept waiting to hear the music.
Not the literal music, mind you. There's plenty of that to be heard and enjoyed in this backstage drama about attempts to make a Broadway musical out of the life of Marilyn Monroe, some of them original compositions by the award-winning team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, some of them contemporary pop hits covered by a cast that includes "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee, Debra Messing and Broadway actors Megan Hilty and Christian Borle. Shaiman and Wittman's songs for the show-within-the-show are energetic and everything you might expect from the duo who wrote the Tony-winning "Hairspray" score. And the pop numbers position the show as every bit the "'Glee' for grown-ups" NBC so desperately wants it to be. (If anything, comparing it to the narrative mess "Glee" has become is damning it with faint praise; "Smash" is much more coherent with its stories and characters.)
But even though "Smash" is a solidly-crafted show with a terrific cast (the ensemble also includes Anjelica Huston and Jack Davenport), great New York atmosphere and, yes, those songs, I never heard quite what the show wanted me to hear, or what a number of other critics I respect have heard. I never heard the music.