Tag Archives: Life on Mars

Alcatraz! Hurley!!

If you read my column on Friday about my frustration with TV shows getting the quick hook, you’ll no doubt wonder why I’m a little geeked about Alcatraz. After all, a show about prison breaks, time travel and mysterious missions can’t survive, right? Otherwise I’d still be watching Life On Mars.

But this is J.J. Abrams we’re talking about, and the trailer for Alcatraz makes me think I can forgive him for Undercovers. If the network has any kind of patience – and if the show is as good as the trailer looks, of course – this one might slide alongside Fringe and Lost, a sweet spot that Abrams can hit with regularity. And unlike Lost, it appears the plot is already outlined:

Fox wanted to know what they were getting into, they did not want to get into a situation where it was a completely up-for-grabs scenario,” Abrams said. “They asked for the explanation of what’s going on to a large degree. Obviously they didn’t say, ‘Give us every script synopsis and tell us what happens in the series finale,’ but they wanted the main headlines of what the show is about, what the backstory is.” (Showrunner Elizabeth) Sarnoff wrote a document, which is obviously being kept secret from public eyes, explaining everything. Abrams says those revelations were “actually the key to getting the show on the air.” Producers will still be free to take detours and things could always change, but the fact that Alcatraz has a firm backstory — and one compelling and sensible enough to convince Fox to buy into the program — ought also reassure fans who get frustrated when they sense TV writers are completely winging it on serialized shows.

And it not only stars an always-creepy Sam Neill, but Jorge Garcia is back.

Hurley? On an island?

Good year for J.J..  –  see for yourself!

Video: Alcatraz Trailer.

Fingers crossed. And did I mention Hurley? One down, two to go.

I see dead people

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T.G.I.F. – Ten TV Tips

 

OK, couch potatoes – Fall Season is here

Not that I’m actually going to have time to watch all of these – some will actually be better as weekend marathons on DVD – but at least I could find ten new shows that seem to be worth checking out. And sure, the networks are still cloning cop shows and lawyer shows and even sinking one new program’s hopes immediately by casting Jerry O’Connell in it. He is the Ted McGinley of his generation…now that Jason Gedrick isn’t making pilots anymore. 

Yeah, I’m skeptical – and I’m not alone. Before it even aired, Outlaw was savaged by the press, despite the presence (and publicity efforts) of usual favorite Jimmy Smits; the premise was just too preposterous. And despite the always alluring Dana Delaney and Jeri Ryan, their show Body Of Proof might be its own cadaver

I’m not going to get too excited if a show starts out great, because I’ve seen some of the best shows get shot down in their infancy despite stellar writing, casting and performances. I still wince when I think about EZ Streets and Better Off Ted, and there’s a laundry list beyond those two. But before I throw my glass at the television, it’s always half-full. 

So here are Ten TV Tips for the upcoming Fall season, in random order. Remember, there’s no gambling, these suggestions are for personal enjoyment only; we do not guarantee ratings. In fact, you might not want to blink or you could miss a couple of them entirely… 

  

01) Boardwalk Empire – A prohibition-era gangster show on pay cable with Steve Buscemi and Marty Scorcese? Are you kidding me? Reason enough to buy HBO, but I’ll probably wait to watch it all in one weekend. 

02) The Event I’ll admit it, they’ve hooked me with the promos. And anytime Zeljko Ivanek is on a show – especially if he’s a little on the corrupt side – that show is worth following

03) Lone Star Con men rule. Jon Voight rules. Texas rules. I’m in. 

04) Running Wilde – Will Arnett playing an asshole. Do you really need any more information than that to tune in? 

05) Detroit 187 Michael Imperioli back as a cop after the unjustly cancelled Life On Mars. Perhaps the modern clothing and the lack of a porn stache will work this time. 

The next great epic, Boardwalk Empire

 

06) The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret – I’m still pissed at IFC for cancelling Jackie Woodman, but if they are putting David Cross on television I almost forgive them. 

07) Terriers – Already airing and after two episodes I’m liking it. At first I thought it would mimic The Unusuals, but it’s more Elmore Leonard-ish. 

08) No Ordinary Family I’m only thinking of watching this because I can’t picture Michael Chiklis following up The Shield with a crap series. Yes, I saw The Fantastic Four… 

09) Lights Out It’s boxing and redemption. It’s FX. It’s gonna rock

10) Shit My Dad Says – What if Captain Kirk slept with Denny Crane? Yeah, this could suck out loud, but I’ll give William Shatner a chance. 

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Things I’m Stoked About

The upcoming Eddie Izzard documentary

Seeing Ian McLagan solo and hoping there is a Faces reunion.

Also getting to see Todd Rundgren in an intimate show.

The Seinfeld reuinon on Curb Your Enthusiasm  

The Big Star box set

Mitch Ryder singing “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?”

Louis CK’s new show.

Finally getting to catch a performance by Otto and George

Blasting the new Reigning Sound and Greg Cartwright albums.

Opening my copy of the Life On Mars DVD

happy happy joy joy

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Emmys: Feast or Famine

And you thought Justice was blind?

And you thought Justice was blind?

Trust me, I’m long past letting my blood boil over award show nominations, let alone winners. Whether it’s Al Pacino in Scent of A Woman, or handing over the Best Actor Emmy to possibly the worst lead performance on television for what – three times in four years? – I realize that my tastes do not coincide with the powers that be (especially #2). If they did, the only reality television would be the nightly news.

But since I have to wallow through Rock of Love and According To Jim and Project Runway and Jon and Kate plus Her Bodyguard and His Weekend Affair just to select a channel from the cable menu, I figured I’d let whatever bubble of bile I was able to generate subside and then pick out the biggest miss from the major categories.

Not that there weren’t some astute choices among the nominees Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad, for example – but it seemed like either feast of famine. I love 30 Rock; I think it’s a brilliantly written show and the ensemble cast is excellent. But twenty-two Emmy nominations? And not one single nomination for The Shield?

I’ve been watching television since I was a child, a longer time than I want to admit. And I can tell you without hesitation that Walton Goggins delivered one of the most searing performances I have ever seen – ever – on The Shield as doomed Detective Shane Vendrell. As great as he was for the first five seasons of the show, he raised the bar in the sixth as a man racked by guilt and pain. Then – amazingly – he raised it again for the final season as we watched him slowly disintegrate and implode before our eyes. It was a harrowing, frightening portayal that burned into your head week by week, yet addictively impossible to turn away from.

Hell, the entire cast was superb, led by Michael Chiklis as Vic Mackey (another oversight, and more deserving than Gandolfini in the Sopranos’ last season); several like  CCH Pounder and Jay Karnes got chances to shine and did. Bad enough that the actors got screwed over, but overlooking the writing? That might have been a more egregious omission. And I’m equally floored that not one actor from Friday Night Lights was named – are they that good at their job that you don’t think they’re acting?

Ah, crap…I feel the bile coming back.

Here are the nominations for the major categories, along with one I’d swap out in a heartbeat. (I’ll get to my picks for “will win” and “should win” prior to the actual awards.) You’ll probably recognize a lot of the names, since an Emmy nomination is like winning a Gold Glove in baseball; odds are you keep chugging along unless you really blow it.

Drama Series: “Big Love,” HBO; “Breaking Bad,” AMC; “Damages,” FX Networks; “Dexter,” Showtime; “House,” Fox; “Lost,” ABC; “Mad Men,” AMC. // Out: House. (no, that’s not a pun). Getting silly in its old age. At least I don’t have to choke on Boston Legal anymore…In: The Shield. See bulk of this essay.

Comedy Series: “Entourage,” HBO; “Family Guy,” Fox; “Flight of the Conchords,” HBO; “How I Met Your Mother,” CBS; “The Office,” NBC; “30 Rock,” NBC; “Weeds,” Showtime. // Out: Entourage. Past its shelf life…In: Better Off Ted. After an over-hyped and only-average first episode, it’s been about the funniest thing on television.

Actor, Drama Series: Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad,” AMC; Michael C. Hall, “Dexter,” Showtime; Hugh Laurie, “House,” Fox; Gabriel Byrne, “In Treatment,” HBO; Jon Hamm, “Mad Men,” AMC; Simon Baker, “The Mentalist,” CBS. // Out: Hugh Laurie. Like the show, beating a dead horse. In: Michael Chiklis, The Shield. Maybe his strongest season, and that’s saying something.

Actress, Drama Series: Sally Field, “Brothers & Sisters,” ABC; Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer,” TNT; Glenn Close, “Damages,” FX Networks; Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” NBC; Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men,” AMC; Holly Hunter, “Saving Grace,” TNT. // Out: Mariska Hartigay. Good, but nothing special…In: Katey Sagal, Sons of Anarchy. In as impressive of an about-face as Bryan Cranston on Breaking Bad, this is a bravura performance getting overlooked.

Supporting Actor, Drama Series: William Shatner, “Boston Legal,” ABC; Christian Clemenson, “Boston Legal,” ABC; Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad,” AMC; William Hurt, “Damages,” FX Networks; Michael Emerson, “Lost,” ABC; John Slattery, “Mad Men,” AMC. // Out: William Shatner. Caricature, not character. In: Walton Goggins, The Shield – should not only have been nominated but should have won in a landslide. Am I the only person who gets the FX channel?

Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Rose Byrne, “Damages,” FX Networks; Sandra Oh, “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC; Chandra Wilson, “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC; Dianne Wiest, “In Treatment,” HBO; Hope Davis, “In Treatment,” HBO; Cherry Jones, “24,” Fox. //  Out: Chandra Wilson. Yawn, ywner, yawnest…In: Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost. Nuance on network television? I guess I should have known better.

Actor, Comedy Series: Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS; Jemaine Clement, “Flight of the Conchords,” HBO; Tony Shalhoub, “Monk,” USA; Steve Carell, “The Office,” NBC; Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock,” NBC; Charlie Sheen, “Two and a Half Men,” CBS. // Out: Tony Shaloub. How many do you need, anyway? I love the guy, and the character is great, but it’s a comfy shoe by now…In: Jay Harrington, Better Off Ted. Smooth and graceful with impeccable comic timing, including the asides to the camera. He makes it look so easy, but it’s an art.

Actress, Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” CBS; Christina Applegate, “Samantha Who?” ABC; Sarah Silverman, “The Sarah Silverman Program,” Comedy Central; Tina Fey, “30 Rock,” NBC; Toni Collette, “United States of Tara,” Showtime; Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds,” Showtime. // Out: Sarah Silverman, and that’s without even seeing Toni Collette’s show. And I *like* Silverman!…In: Portia deRossi, Better Off Ted. Perfectly acidic opposite Harrington’s Cary Grant character.

Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Kevin Dillon, “Entourage,” HBO; Neil Patrick Harris, “How I Met Your Mother,” CBS; Rainn Wilson, “The Office,” NBC; Tracy Morgan, “30 Rock,” NBC; Jack McBrayer, “30 Rock,” NBC; Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men,” CBS. // Out: Cryer, as much for the show being tired than his small arc of a character…In: John Scurti, Rescue Me. Yes, it’s drama, but it has enough structured comedy scenes to qualify, and Scurti is the perfect foil that all the other actors use as a springboard.

Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Kristin Chenoweth, “Pushing Daisies,” ABC; Amy Poehler, “Saturday Night Live,” NBC; Kristin Wiig, “Saturday Night Live,” NBC; Jane Krakowski, “30 Rock,” NBC; Vanessa Williams, “Ugly Betty,” ABC; Elizabeth Perkins, “Weeds,” Showtime. // Out: Williams – even though Poehler and Wiig shouldn’t even be in this category – she and the show have flatlined…In: Kate Flannery, The Office. A fearless and hysterical performance; on a show that crosses the line she punts it from there.

I shouldn’t complain. Thanks to DVR and DVD I can ignore the glut of dross on television and savor It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia or Jackie Woodman rather than be subjected to most of what passes for entertainment. Hell, I’m no snob – I think Castle has taken over where Bones has slipped, and although I lament the loss of Life On Mars I am glad that we still have Fringe and Lost and 24 and other network shows to go along with the exceptional programs the smaller cable networks are churning out.

Ahh, but bitching about television is fun…and Jeremy Piven can’t win.

Keep track on Emmy site or the Awards Daily site.

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TV or not TV? That’s always the question…

Hey you! PUT DOWN THAT REMOTE!

Hey you! PUT DOWN THAT REMOTE!

I don’t really have that much time to watch television, nor have there been many recent shows that have me glued to the screen. And that’s probably a good thing. People (especially here in America) spend far too much time sitting in a chair mesmerized by the Idiot Box. The networks have increasingly offered to meet us more than halfway by offering such a slate of vapid, soulless programming that one would have thought they were trying to clear the room, not build an audience. But what’ s that famous quote?

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Ah, yes, H.L. Mencken. Touché, sir. Talent shows controlled by massive ego-maniacal D-listers. Balding rockers swapping spit with living, breathing breast implant shelves. Overly dramatic game shows. Embarrassing confessional group therapy hosted by people with only first names. Celebretards basking in their shallow celebretard lives. And yet America laps it up like a starved pack of feral monkeys. (I’m not certain that feral monkeys would ever be that hungry, but I like the way that sentence rolls off the tongue. Back to my story…)

Of course, if anything does work, the networks are quick to clone it ad nauseum. We’re probably a season or two away from CSI: Little Rock and Law And Order: Traffic Scofflaw, but if we keep buying, they’ll keep selling. However, I have found a few new moments of fun amid all the hospital sleepover camp dramas and the hyperbolic news magazine exposes. But one is already dead, and the future doesn’t look bright for the others. So tune in quick!

 

fringe-tv

Fringe, like The X-Files, combines elements of both science fiction and cop shows, and has an appealingly quirky lead actress paired with a sarcastic and smart partner. I thought they went way over the top with the character of Walter, who interrupts normal conversations with childlike tangential observations, but John Noble has brought great sympathy and depth to a character who could have easily been a cartoon. The cast is first-rate, the Outer Limits plots surreal, and it looks great. Definitely one where you want to revisit all the season’s episodes once more prior to the finale.

castle-tv

Castle initially looked like the bastard child of Moonlighting and Murder She Wrote, but it’s growing on me week by week. Yes, the female detective is by-the-book (and smokin’ hot) and the charming newcomer is a wise-ass with a brain behind the clown facade. A good supporting cast that’s underused, with one exception. Susan Sullivan is a fine actress and probably a nice person, but her “Mom” character needs to fall down an elevator shaft ASAP – the show stops dead in its tracks when her character is in focus. Good chemistry between the leads and a smart kid who seems like a normal kid, not a prop.

better-off-ted-tv

Better Off Ted was initially very disappointing; perhaps I was underwhelmed after all the hype (I tend to do that) or maybe the first episode just wasn’t that funny. But I stuck with it because the jokes that were working were so sly and the dialogue delivered so dryly that I hoped they were just finding their voice. I’m glad I did – the last couple of episodes were not only hilarious but politically incorrect. Many critics compare the show to Arrested Development, and while I think fans of one will like the other, this show – hell, any show – has a long hill to climb to get to that level. But the writing is great (creator Victor Fresco was also behind Andy Richter Controls The Universe) and the cast is perfect; I hope they give it time to grow. (Bonus: The Veridian Dynamic commercials are killer!)

parks-and-recreation-tv

Parks and Recreation will sink or swim on Amy Poehler’s efforts, and she is one comedienne who is unafraid to make a complete fool of herself in the process. But the supporting cast is also strong, especially Aziz Ansari as her self-serving peer in the department office. Shot in the same mockumentary style as The Office – and slotted immediately prior to it on the schedule – it should appeal to the same audience if it can somehow make an uncommon setting seem familiar to viewers. I suspect we’ll meet the oddballs of the town (read: star cameos) to help boost interest. Looks like it has potential, has been very funny in spots.

life_on_mars-tv

I already waxed poetic about Life On Mars in an earlier post, so I won’t rehash that here. I just hope there is a DVD complete with the brilliant musical selections that helped make the show as enjoyable as the acting and plot. Obviously not many people saw it the first time around, so if that was you, don’t mess up twice.

Most of the above shows have episodes available online – check them out when you have a chance. I’ll have thoughts on my favorite returning shows of the season and my biggest disappointments in an upcoming blog.

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Life On Mars: Dead On Earth

Apparently there's no intelligent life here on Earth...at least at ABC-TV.

Apparently there's no intelligent life here on Earth...at least at ABC-TV.

I knew it was too good to be true. Great cast, good remake of an outstanding Brit series, an oasis of good television (and phenomenal music) in an ocean of reality dreck. Line Life On Mars up alongside E Z Streets, Thief, The Riches and several other solid shows nipped way, way too early. What has happened to a broad spectrum of entertainment when a show this good gets clipped and According To Jim lives on? Thankfully Homicide and Hill Street Blues ran in a different era; had these shows begun today they never would have seen season two.

I thought the lead-in from Lost would have helped, but even that show is struggling this year. But it’s hard to believe that with the DVR market penetration, this wasn’t at least an burn-and-watch program. And sure, it’s a frightening economy with bailing sponsors, but if shows like this can’t make it, why should we even bother getting invested in the next one they hype? Many people have already bailed on TV, and I’m beginning to wonder why I bother. If it wasn’t for basic cable (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, the majority of the fX lineup) I probably would.

The ABC network statement claims that they will air the final few episodes and add a wrap-up episode to bring the show to a logical conclusion. Right…and I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.  I now fear for Fringe…

So here’s to Jason O’Mara, Michael Imperioli, Gretchen Mol, Harvey Keitel, Jonathan Murphy, Dominick Mancino, John Cenatiempo, Chris Miskiewicz, Tom Stratford, Matthew Cowles, and Tanya Fischer. Good show, mates!

***

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Life On Mars, or Getting The Kinks Out

I’m trying not to get giddy as I’m watching another episode of Life On Mars. You know, the US adaptation of the hit British series, about…well…a time-traveling cop. No, really, stay with me.

The premise? After an accident, NYPD detective Sam Tyler inexplicably finds himself back in 1973, where he must help solve a murder that is eerily similar to a case he was investigating in 2008. I would probably freak out way more than Tyler does, or at least do something irresponsible like clean up betting on sporting events…or take another shot at that doomed college romance. But as Tyler, Jason O’Mara is able to convey that fish-out-of-water vibe yet still find a way (often humorously) to fit in where he once belonged. The cast is phenomenal, featuring Harvey Keitel (Harvey Keitel on television?? Is there ice skating in hell?), Gretchen Mol, Michael Imperioli, and most impressively, Imperioli’s porn star moustache.

He won't give you any lip

He won't give you any lip

The location shots are almost perfect. As a friend pointed out, it’s not that all the cars are period vehicles, but it’s that they aren’t all showroon new – there are sweet looking GTOs, but also rusted Chevys and dented Darts. But what really sets the show apart is the bed of music – a classic 70s hotbed featuring everything from The Stones to The Sweet, from Chicago to Cream, The Who and The Velvets to David Bowie and T Rex. Even the episode titles (“Out Here In The Field”, “Let All The Children Boogie”) are a hoot as well as a clever tip to both the plot and the surprise soundtrack. When one episode started with Mott’s “All The Way From Memphis” I thought I would plotz (and I’m not even Jewish), but last night they hit the bulls eye –  “Supersonic Rocket Ship” by The Kinks. WTF??

I might be the single biggest Kinks fan roaming the Earth, but if you put a gun to my head and made me write down fifty Kinks songs…hell, a hundred Kinks songs…that would not be among them. Not because it’s a bad song – besides “Rock And Roll Cities”, is there really a “bad” Kinks song? – but because it’s just another of the subtle nuggets in their vast catalogue. Who the hell picks music for TVand comes up with that one, when there are so many others to draw from? Obviously, someone very, very cool, who really knows their shit – that was a deep dig. Kudos, whoever you are. (And yes, it was the perfect song for the scene)

But viewers, enjoy it while you can, because unless this crippled economy changes the residual rates, you’re probably not going to relive the experience when you grab the box set next Christmas. Start taping!

It seems like almost everything is coming out on DVD these days, but notable exceptions are shows like China Beach and WKRP that would be crippled by the license fees they’d have to pay. WKRP tried releasing a set with generic music in place of the originals, but it was a massive failure. Les Nessman has to be listening to Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded” when primping for his date or that scene just doesn’t work. Ditto Wiseguy‘s Vinny Terranova and Sonny Steelgrave, exhausted after a brutal fight, silently sharing a bromance glance (two decades before it was hip, by the way) to the not-so-subtle strains of “Nights In White Satin”…the scene (cough) pales without it. I don’t know if Life On Mars will be as gutted, but there hasn’t been a show as adept at using songs since Homicide. We need more great glam rock songs on TV, even the fake ones.

So tune in and catch the show in its full pomp and glory, the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Trust me on this one.

But hey, as long as you’re here now…kick back, whatever your decade, and give a listen.

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