Why Fridays may not kill 'Fringe,' and why sci-fi is expensive
The last few times FOX execs Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly appeared before the press at the Television Critics Association press tour, there was some obvious story dominating the day, usually involving the "American Idol" judging panel.
But the judging panel is now firmed up and at work, and had just appeared right before the FOX executive press conference, and so Rice and Reilly wound up being quizzed on a whole bunch of topics, including the future of "Fringe," the cost of "Terra Nova," the failure of "Lone Star" and, of course, their hopes for both "Idol" and the Simon Cowell-starring "X-Factor."
A Shonda Rhimes protege makes a very Shonda Rhimes show
"Grey's Anatomy" creator Shonda Rhimes can dazzle, and she can infuriate, and often the two extremes come from the same emotional place. Sometimes, her fondness for melodrama will give you the riveting Super Bowl bomb episode; other times, it gives you Katherine Heigl having sex with a ghost. When you go for broke, sometimes you get rich, and sometimes you just get broke.
The new medical drama "Off the Map" (Wednesday at 10 p.m. on ABC) is produced by Rhimes but was created by "Grey's" writer Jenna Bans. Not surprisingly, it feels like a very accurate imitation of what Rhimes does, but with many of the rough edges sanded away. In the two episodes I've seen, there aren't any particularly wince-inducing moments, but nor are the various grabs for the heartstrings as successful as they are when "Grey's" is at its best. No lows, but no highs, either.
On the brief, truncated season, Ray Romano's mind bets, Andre Braugher's weight and more
"Men of a Certain Age" wrapped up the first half of its season tonight, and the end came so quickly that a lot of us (myself included) were a little shocked to realize we'd only be getting 6 of the season's 12 episodes now, with the rest coming in the summer.
So when I got a chance to talk to the show's co-creator Mike Royce during an afternoon at press tour, I asked him about the odd scheduling, and he said he and Ray Romano take the full blame for it. In lieu of a review of the mid-season finale - which I thought had some funny moments at the hotel (particularly Owen's heater) and then some fine acting from all three leads in the final scene - I'm going to run the full transcript of my conversation with Royce, which covered the scheduling, TNT's feelings about the show, the stories told so far this year, and even a few hints about the back half of the season. Some very mild spoilers, but "Men" is a show that's kind of spoiler-proof, no?
Dan and Alan mix in reviews of new shows with anecdotes from the TV critics' tour
It's the most wonderful time of the year for the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast! I'm in California for the TV critics' press tour, which means Dan and I get to record a few podcasts in the same room. No technical issues, no guessing at the other's body language - just briliant damn insight and hilarious comedy. (Maybe)
This week's first episode (there may be another later in the week) is a mix of press tour anecdotes and reviews of shows debuting over the next week-plus. The run-down:
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, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us at email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions you want answered on the show. Please put the word "podcast" in your subject line to make it easy to track them down amid the hundreds of random press releases we get every day.
Renewals and philosophy talk, but no concrete vision yet
Back in August, Paul Lee appeared at press tour on literally his first official day as president of ABC entertainment. He had had nothing to do with any of the new shows being previewed that day, or the schedule on which they had been placed, or really anything about the network of which he was now in charge. So he mostly sat around and talked about the kinds of programming he enjoyed, and might one day bring to the network. (In my favorite moment, he lamented the fact that "The Middleman" didn't work out during his tenure at ABC Family.)
Five months later, Lee has actual tenure on the job, has been responsible for canceling some shows ("The Whole Truth") and the rescheduling of others (postponing the Dana Delany crime drama "Body of Proof" from fall to spring). And today at press tour, he announced the renewal of six ABC series: "Castle," "Cougar Town," "Grey's Anatomy," "The Middle," "Modern Family" and "Private Practice."
But because those shows were, again, all developed and greenlit by his predecessors, and because we're still many months away from seeing the actual new shows Lee chooses to place on the network, the ABC executive session was still largely devoted to hypotheticals and philosophical questions.
(You can read Fienberg's exhaustive live-blog of the event here.)
FX brought him in to fix the pilot, kept him around to run things
Warren Leight is not necessarily the first writer you'd think of to run a boxing drama, but he's the man in charge of FX's excellent new series "Lights Out," which debuts Tuesday at 10 p.m. (You can read my review here.)
A Tony-winning playwright (for "Side Man," a play about his jazz musician father), a showrunner for several seasons of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," and the showrunner on the second season of HBO's psychiatry drama "In Treatment," Leight is a small, cerebral guy. (Back in the summer, he appeared at a press tour session alongside his hulking leading men - Holt McCallany as retired heavyweight champ Patrick "Lights" Leary, Pablo Schreiber as his manager brother Johnny and Stacy Keach as their father - and thought, "One of these is not like the other.") But he had a childhood passion for the sport, and when FX felt the original version of the "Lights Out" pilot was having creative problems, they brought in Leight to get it back on track, then left him in charge when they picked up the series.
I talked with Leight last week about the changes he made when he took over, his own history with boxing, what he learned from the coterie of ex-fighters who came in to meet the writing staff, dealing with the expectations of fight movie fans, relocating the series to Tony Soprano country, and more. As with a lot of these showrunner interviews - and just like the one I did with Leight at the end of his "In Treatment" stint - the answers are long but, I hope, interesting.
I've seen the first five episodes of the season - which deal with Lights' increasing problems in retirement and his desire to get back in the ring despite the objections of wife Theresa (Catherine McCormack) - and I feel comfortable that none of what we discuss is any kind of significant spoiler. (I even deleted a few specific references made by one or both of us, while leaving in the larger point that brought us there.)
A quiet, self-effacing, inspiring leader of men
If you watched the miniseries (which I reviewed on my old blog a couple of summers ago), or read Stephen Ambrose's book on the exploits of Easy Company that inspired the miniseries, or watched the various documentary tie-ins, then you know that Winters (played in the miniseries by Damian Lewis) was a calm, selfless, inspiring, exceedingly decent man, and the very model of what Tom Brokaw dubbed The Greatest Generation.
After the jump, three clips: one involving real members of Easy Company singing the praises of Winters (he's the first man who speaks), one featuring Lewis at the end of the D-Day episode of "Band," and one the "Band" recreation of the assault on the German guns at Brecourt Manor on D-Day that won Winters his biggest medal:
What did everybody think of the new superhero show?
If you read my review of "The Cape," you know I liked the idea of it (straight-forward, unironic, throwback superhero show) much more than the execution of it, particularly in regards to star David Lyons. (My old partner Matt Seitz also made a point I wish I had: the show races through all the familiar beats so quickly that it's hard to enjoy any of them as much as we should.)
I won't be writing about the show much, if at all, going forward, but I'm curious what everyone thought of these first two episodes - and specifically whether you noticed any notable change between the first hour and the second, which were produced many, many months apart.
What did everybody think of the family dramedy?
If you read my review of Showtime's "Shameless," you know I liked the tone and many of the performances but wasn't completely in love with it yet. Now that the first episode has aired, I'm curious what everybody thought. Are you going to want to spend an hour a week with the Gallaghers? And I'm curious what fans of the UK show thought of it (without offering spoilers for that version of the show).
What did everybody think of the showbiz satire?
If you read my review of Showtime's "Episodes," you know that I was not a fan of the show outside of Matt LeBlanc (who only appears briefly in the first episode, in a scene that's actually taken from a much later episode), and will not be adding it to the regular rotation. Still, I'm curious for people's initial impressions of it. A lot of critics whose opinions I respect enjoyed the show a hell of a lot more than I did, so I wouldn't be surprised if many of you were amused, as well.
What did everybody else think?
If you missed it, you can watch the entire first episode (edited for language) on HitFix.