Andy gets an acting gig, Nellie hosts a contest, and Jim and Pam talk it out
Will chases an angel maker, and Lecter gets to know Jack's wife
Leslie and Ron compete for Jamm's vote, Tom needs Ann's help with a break-up, and Andy quits the band
Troy switches bodies with Abed in an episode written by Jim Rash
NBC won't air episode 4, but key scenes are now available online
As we discussed last week, NBC is skipping the fourth episode of "Hannibal," and will jump straight to episode 5 tonight at 10. The official version of the story is that Bryan Fuller approached NBC and said he felt episode 4 — whose main plot involves Molly Shannon as a woman who trains children to kill other children — was inappropriate after the Boston bombings, though as Deadline pointed out, NBC had announced the scheduling change before the bombings, suggesting a pre-existing unease with the episode. (It's the only one of the first 6 that critics weren't sent in advance.) And as you'll see in the first video embedded below, Fuller says that the episode will be available in its entirety in other countries, but not America.
Will this method be any more successful than the way the networks develop new shows?
Of the many dysfunctional, outdated aspects of the network TV business, the pilot process may be the most broken. Every year, dozens of very expensive pilots are produced in a short, identical window, with everyone fighting over the same tiny pool of actors, decisions being made in a rush based on limited data, often just on the gut instincts of a handful of people. Only a small handful will ever air, and only an even smaller handful of those will make it to a second season. It's an inefficient process in virtually every way.
Why do the network do it this way? Because, like so many other aspects of the business, this is how it's always been done, and it's hard to steer around this particular iceberg. The networks pay lip service to the idea of doing year-round development, for instance, to avoid the casting crunch, but it happens only in isolated cases.
One potential fix in the age of Hulu, iTunes, etc., would be to make all of the pilots available online for viewers to sample and offer feedback on. It's not an ideal solution — it would be a self-selecting sample that, by its very nature, would probably be more likely to watch shows online (where the networks don't make remotely as much money) than on TV — but it would still provide far more feedback than the networks get now, and possibly more useful feedback than the traditional network testing that inevitably give high marks to terrible shows featuring recognizable stars. But the networks can't or won't do that, because there are too many entities involved with too many egos to potentially bruise. Some pilots are so terrible they should never see the light of day, and no executive wants to be second-guessed if one of their pet shows gets lower marks than one they passed on.
Because Amazon hasn't spent decades making shows, it's not bound by tradition or unwritten rules. For some reason, Amazon chose to produce eight comedy pilots (six live-action, two animated, plus another six children's shows I won't be talking about here) at roughly the same time as the networks, and therefore had to draw on the same diluted talent pool. But once they were made, Amazon decided to open up the process to their potential audience, and crowd-source reaction to these pilots. You can watch all of them at AmazonOriginals.com, and then rate them and/or take a more detailed survey about what you liked and didn't like about each, which include:
Philip has a question for Martha, and Nina has one for Stan
Which parts of the Dunder-Mifflin office actually work?
One of the things I've always liked about the set of "The Office" is how functional it appears. The computers are all wired for internet, for instance, and the actors often talk about how they pay their bills, email friends and play games while they have to be in the background of someone else's scene. Not everything works, but if you were to find yourself in the middle of this anonymous building in Van Nuys (in the same complex that houses the show's writers and producers), you could be forgiven for mistaking it for an actual paper company branch office.
Production on this final season has already wrapped, but before everyone went home, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey filmed this video (exclusive to HitFix for a bit) providing a backstage tour of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton. The tour somehow runs out of steam before they get to the main bullpen, but the ladies stop by the restrooms, Toby's annex and the break room, providing trivia and old anecdotes along the way. Enjoy.
Only four episodes to go of this final season, with the next new one airing Thursday at 9 on NBC.
How much reality is required for today's biggest 'unscripted' hits?
It's a popular trope in science fiction to ask at what level of artificiality does a person stop being a person. If you have a prosthetic leg, you're still you, but if you're down to only a few original organs — or if your brain gets put into a robot body — is that still the case?
I've found myself thinking of those questions, oddly, while watching some recent episodes of "Duck Dynasty." The reality show about a Louisiana family who sell duck hunting merchandise is a monster hit, drawing ratings — last week's episode attracted 8.6 million viewers and a whopping 3.9 rating among adults 18-49 — that puts it in the same neighborhood as the most popular shows on the broadcast networks. NBC would kill to have a sitcom do 2/3 as well as "Duck Dynasty." In fact, the only comedies on any networks doing those kinds of numbers are "Big Bang Theory," "Modern Family" and "Two and a Half Men."
Dan and Alan also discuss the 'Suburgatory' finale and answer your mail
After last week's longest-ever Firewall & Iceberg Podcast episode, Dan and I were back to a more normal length — and the new normal apparently means 90+ minutes — in what would have been a light week if Amazon hadn't suddenly decided to crowdsource 80-billion new TV pilots. So we talked about those, and "Rectify," and "Mad Men" as usual, and also found time to post-mortem "Suburgatory" season 2 and answer a few letters.
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.