The summer’s most popular internet trend – The Double-Team – returns as we review Captain America: The Winter Soldier!! Your popGeezer starts with…. Wait, What? Yes, movie reviews!! What did you think we were talking about?!?!?
When it comes to phase two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the post-Avengers stuff), it looks like the studio is exploring using the commercial cover of super-heroics to actually deliver genre movies of a different shade. The upcoming Guardians Of The Galaxy looks to be a comedic space-opera, Iron Man 3 was really a whacked-out detective romp, and the all-new Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a totally kick-ass action/adventure spy thriller. And while there is much to love about this comic-book reference-filled extravaganza, I want to start my little part off about what was odd.
Perhaps more so than any other previous Marvel movie installment, Cap 2 has been given the job of keeping a lot of balls (plot points) of the overall cinematic master plan in the air. First, the very plot of this movie is the core reason that ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD series has been such a grand disappointment. With the major reveal of this movie, and the cataclysmic third act that follows, is is very clear that TV show’s creative team had been dealt a brutal deck of cards to play from until April 4, 2014. Many big plot points which I saw as things the show should have addressed are actually giant elements embedded in the backbone of this movie. So, in that respect, I think we need to reconsider how harshly we’ve viewed that show. As a matter of fact, with this movie on the horizon, the improvement of the SHIELD show over its last few episodes – as it was finally allowed to begin to dovetail with Cap 2 – was a great joy to behold. Now usually, the show’s dismal ratings would appear to have fated it for cancellation, but seeing how this show can fit into the play and promotion for this weekend’s almost $100 million opening makes me feel that M-AoS will be back for another season.
Simultaneously, Cap 2 follows up on the threads of the Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter which appeared on the Iron Man 3 Blu-Ray. With all the information around this winter that a birth-of-SHIELD storyline was being considered as companion TV series, that short film and the scenes that directly address this in Cap 2 surely must be serving as a backdoor pilot, no? Plus, when you consider the very crafty macguffin that artificial intelligence plays in this movie, how far removed are we from that synthetic man-in-a-can called Ultron? (Coming to theaters near you, Summer 2015.) As a life-long fan of the comics, I love all this looping continuity and universe-building. But is it a lot to throw at less-initiated movie lovers, especially asking them to remember all this for a year? Two years? (Hey, that’s why you can watch this stuff at home later, huh?)
So leaving the master-plan blueprinting aside, Cap 2 just rocks like an atomic cradle. A cynical luddite might see it as people talking just to get us to the next insane chase, terrorist attack, acrobatic fight sequence or close up of a sweaty Scarlett Johanssen. But these action sequences are so inventive, with tons of hand-to-hand combat in close visual quarters, or nutty fresh takes on car chases, with a very impressive fusion of the physical and digital elements. And the talking is really, really good too. Chris Evans has more room to flesh out the mind and character of Steve Rogers. Our hero is coping with the modern world pretty darn well, and appears in better mental shape post-Avengers than the Earth-bound teammates we’ve already visited. Steve’s military pragmatism and rock-solid moral values prepared him for the world-changing action way better than Tony was, for sure. And Scarlett’s Natasha Romanoff – if that is her real name – is such a world-weary spy that she doesn’t let on a hint of PTSD. But with the arrival of Gulf War veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker), who actually works in PTSD counselling at the Washington, D.C. Veterans Administration, even Cap finds a new sounding board and a new partner, code-named Falcon. With a solid turn from Colbie Smulders as SHIELD’s No. 2, Maria Hill, and the most action yet from Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, the cast is more than solid. And whoever thought of getting Robert Redford to play this part – Secretary Alexander Pierce – should get a lovely bonus. Brilliant.
In terms of the references to modern or classic Marvel comics continuity, the film is a happy gold mine, and not all of them necessarily have to payoff in future Marvel movies. Cap 2 drops in characters like Agent 13, Brock Rumlow, Jack Rollins, and references to things and people like Lemuria, Stephen Strange and Steve Rogers’ 2011-2012 non-Cap action suit. Entertainment Weekly has a nice, spoiler-laden guide to these little gems here.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is quite possibly one of the best-built and most pleasing action films of the past ten or so years. It is certainly the best thing to appear in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I highly recommend you go see it. But is it, as some have opined, better than Marvel’s The Avengers? As my dear Cousin Balki used to say, “Don’t be ridiculous.” As I said at the outset, this is spy-action, a hyper-effects laden, techy Bond/Bourne pastiche. As far as action and eye-candy, it blows those competitors away like so much Adamantium dust. It’s truly really good, but this isn’t a “comic book movie”, which Avengers was to its very core. Though chock full o’ Marvel goodness, it’s not a full-on CBM. So this isn’t Avengers.
Oh, and what was the real genre of Thor: The Dark World? Beyond another Tom Hiddleston victory lap, I’m not quite sure.
And now, our Cadillac Jack, who forecasts a blaze at the early-Summer box office…
I once heard a film critic say that there was “no fun” in reading a good review of a movie, as if all the enjoyment to be had came from tearing holes in someone else’s hard work and pointing out where it had all gone so wrong. Well, if that’s the case, then this review is gonna be a real sleeping pill, because Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which I saw opening weekend in all its 3D IMAX-screened glory, is not just a great comic book movie, not just a great action movie, it’s a great movie. Period.
I confess here at the outset that Captain America: The First Avenger was not my favorite Marvel film. Oh, I liked it well enough, but it was uneven. The first act was solid, but the second act, which featured Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) cavorting with the USO, complete with his original Simon/Kirby-inspired costume, went on too long. The third act, in which Cap and the Howlers took on Red Skull and Hydra, was too short, compressing too much of the action and not spending enough time with the parts of the story that we’d really paid money to see. The new film, however, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, whose major resume stops were co-executive producing and directing many early epsiodes of Community on NBC, and the so-so Owen Wilson vehicle, You and Me and Dupree, avoids all of the problems of the first film and creates a nearly perfect pastiche of action, adventure, intrigue and comedy that arguably sets the film up as being nearly as good (if not totally as good) as The Avengers.
Seriously, where did the Russo’s learn to make a film like this? Nothing in their resume’ suggests that they have anywhere near the know-how or experience to turn a two- dimensional comic book character into a deeply conflicted, morally compromised man-on-a-mission, in the tradition of all those great 70’s spy thrillers like Three Days of the Condor, The Eiger Sanction and The Osterman Weekend. Surely, the fingerprints (if not the entire hand) of Marvel Director-in-Chief Joss Whedon are all over this thing, but much credit has to be given to screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely as well as the Russo’s, who obviously have been holding back up to this point, just waiting for a project worthy of their not-inconsiderable gifts. Kudos also to the entire cast and crew for creating a realistic palette of colors and landscapes that recall the grittiness of the real world, but still allow for a guy running around in star-spangled pajamas waving a trash can lid and getting the job done at every turn.
It’s difficult to talk about the story of The Winter Soldier and not give away major spoilers, but I’ll try. As the film opens, Cap has jumped hip-deep into the SHIELD pool and is going on missions and saving the world, just like in the comics. More often than not, he seems to be teamed up with fellow-Avenger Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen) and a group called The Strike Force, led by Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo), the Man Who Will Be Crossbones. Life is good and all, except for two problems. One, Cap can’t get a date (Well, that’s not true. He could probably get one, but he just doesn’t want one, no matter how hard Natasha tries to get him to reconnect to the outside world), and Two, there’s something fishy going on at SHIELD as Cap finds himself more and more at odds with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his fellow agents over the increasingly morally-compromised nature of their missions.
Enter The Winter Soldier, a mysterious assassin, who takes out Nick Fury in the middle of a crowded street in Washington, DC. Most of the intelligence community don’t even believe The Winter Soldier exists, but Natasha has met the enigmatic super soldier before (in fact, in the comics, she’s had a long-running romance with him) and knows that he has been in the background of tipping points around the world since World War II. Who else has been around since WWII? Captain America, that’s who. And if you don’t already know the whole story of the Winter Soldier from the comics, and know who he is, you should be seeing the other shoe start to drop any minute now.
Thinking Fury has died, SHIELD is taken over by Secretary Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), and the gray areas begin to get even grayer, as Pierce moves to consolidate his position by taking out threats to his powerbase (Cap, Natasha, etc.) and activating Project Insight, a hugely expensive SHIELD plan to put not one, not two, but FOUR helicarriers in the air at one time, manned with a super-algorithm that will enable SHIELD to eliminate potential threats to national security from the air.
From here, things just get crazy, and I really can’t talk any more about the story without getting into major spoiler territory, which (for a change) I don’t want to do. Suffice to say that the story is an explosive game-changer that will not only affect the upcoming Avengers: Age Of Ultron and other Marvel properties, especially The Agents of SHIELD TV show, but will change the way comic books movies are perceived (yet again) by the movie audience. The direction is dynamic and focused, the cinematography is appropriately grim, yet spectacular, and the performances (with the possible exception of poor Ms Johanssen, who seems to be stuck playing Black Widow as a mostly one-note killing machine) are genuinely three-dimensional and engaging.
And speaking of Agents of SHIELD, how about the way Marvel tied the movie perfectly into their one TV property? Last Tuesday, Jasper Sitwell (Maximilliano Hernandez) interrupted a joint mission he was undertaking with Coulson and company with “I guess I have a boat to catch,” and on Friday, he’s in Cap 2 onboard a ship, held captive by possibly the most ridiculous figure in Cap’s rogue’s gallery, Batroc the Leaper. DC may have the leg-up on Marvel in getting better versions of their characters onto the small screen, but I dare DC - I double-dog dare them - to tie events in Arrow and the upcoming Flash TV shows into the events in either Batman VS Superman or the Justice League movies or both.
But the real brilliance of The Winter Soldier script is the over-all theme of re-connecting. Steve meets Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) in the film’s first half hour, and the two bond over the difficulties of blending back into society after you’ve come home from the war. Which is apparently much the same when you’ve been way for one year as it is when you’ve been away for fifty. Steve and Natasha try to reconnect as friends as well as team-mates, slowly trying to open up to one another, while Natasha tries to fix Steve up. Steve has a huge challenge in deciding if he can really be friends with a woman who is such a poster child for everything he hates about his new life. And as he tries to acclimate to his new life, Steve also reaches out to the old, thanks to a wonderful cameo by Hayley Atwell as a now septugenarian Peggy Carter, his “best gal” from his old WWII days. Atwell does a wonderful job in this short scene, conveying all that she and Steve have lost and yet treasuring what she gained in the interim and hoping he can find that for himself.
Reconnecting is at play in the politics of the film, as Steve struggles with his idea of what America is supposed to be, and what freedom means, in an era where trust is just another commodity to be traded in back-alley bargains and friendship is just another thing that can get you killed. And, speaking of friendship, the reconnection idea comes full circle in the relationship between Cap and The Winter Soldier, or more accurately between Steve Rogers and who the Winter Soldier used to be. Is friendship worth the risk? Can you really be there for a person “til the end of the line?”
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a movie that shows Marvel is the new architect of the summer tent-pole movie. Kevin Feige, Joss Whedon and company have latched on to the fearlessness and no-holds-barred sense of grandeur that Warner Brothers and Sony and 20th Century Fox appear to be able to recognize, but (at this writing) not be able to duplicate. Forget Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers 2 (nicely set up in one of two after-credit scenes, by the way) and Thor 3…when is Captain America 3 coming out?
As one of the almost fifty-two thousand below-the-line producers of Veronica Mars: The Movie, you’ll understand if I can’t be as objective about the project as I should. And, like many of those Kickstarter investors, I got the code for my digital copy of the movie yesterday and watched the film today. I was most pleased. First, since I already had both a Flixter and Ultraviolet account, I was spared most of the grim challenges that LEGAL digital download newbies experienced this weekend. (I’ll come back to all that at the conclusion of this post.) Secondly, I really enjoyed the movie from stem to “stern”. But, I wasn’t planning on writing a full-scale review until a slew of major publication critics started slamming the Mars revival.
The Flixter application on XBOX360, where I watched the film, lists both the Rotten Tomatoes aggregate score and a good sampling of the major critics who contribute to that score. I was genuinely surprised that what I just watched, and enjoyed WAY more than I anticipated, was getting hammered by big names I respect or enjoy like Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Carl Wilson (Globe & Mail), Manohla Dargis (The New York Times) or Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York). On the surface, I can see what they didn’t like about it, but, more importantly, I have a theory why they reacted the way they did.
For now, let’s get back to the film itself. Nine years have passed since the conclusion of the events of the TV series, and at the outset of the film, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) recaps the major story beats and relationships new viewers need to know in one of her patented neo-noir voice overs. This old-school gumshoe narrative device was a big part of the series, so much so that Ms. Bell was later hired to do similar riffing for six seasons of Gossip Girl. Veronica has escaped her hometown of Neptune, California – a fictional and hopelessly corrupt beach-front suburb of Hollywood where rich and powerful showbiz types co-exist (poorly) with the middle class and the working poor – for life in New York City. She’s escaped the town that just plain hated her, because she was a super-smart middle class kid who refused to cowtow, and is about to pass the bar and take a job at a solid big city law firm. Until her ex-boyfriend (and ex-tormentor before the love story started) Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) calls her for the first time in years. It’s not a booty call, it’s to ask her to help him pick out a lawyer. He’s about to be arrested for allegedly killing his latest ex-girlfriend, a pop star (originally played by Leighton Meester in the old series) who went to high-school with both Logan and Veronica. By the way, their class’ ten-year high-school reunion is also in the offing.
So back Veronica comes to Neptune, getting quickly pulled back into the teenage gumshoe habits she spent almost a decade running from, and also getting face-to-face with both friends and tormentors from her past. Luckily enough, most of these familiar faces belong to actors and actresses who’ve become really famous since their time on the original TV series. That cast features Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad, Don’t Trust The B-), Chris Lowell (Enlisted, Private Practice), Max Greenfield (Emmy-nominated as Schmidt on New Girl), Martin Starr (Party Down, NTSF:SD:SUV), and Ken Marino (The State, Party Down, Childrens Hospital). And those who did longer stints on the show are back as well; Veronica’s “Scooby Gang” of Tina Majorino, Percy Daggs III, and Francis Capra show up, as does the always-awesome Enrico Colantoni as that other half of one of the best daughter-daddy teams in TV history, Keith Mars. And then there are the cameos – big, small and hysterically funny – of actors who had nothing to do with the original run of the series, but do have connections to Bell, creator/writer/director Rob Thomas or other celebrity Marshmallows.
What ensues is the best-looking two-hour episode of Veronica Mars ever, with cool twists, creepy betrayals, the shocking death of a series regular that may not be related to this edition’s mystery, more than a pinch of heartbreak, and – as you’d expect – one murder leading to a dark secret in Neptune’s distant past. And, most important to longtime fans of the show, enough of an open end to let us know that Veronica’s sleuthing career may not be as over as any of us thought. And this – I believe – is why the big time movie critics dissed the project. Most of these negative reviews hone right in on the “TV-ness” of VM: TM. Granted, the movie was made for less than $10 million, is being distributed and marketed by the “digital” (ex-home video) wing of Warner Brothers, and stars a cast that is totally at home on the small screen. Despite the movie’s attempt to “big it up”, it does feel like a TV show. Is this a bad thing? No. Mars was a show that, chronologically, was on the tube just as the impact of The Sopranos was creeping over to basic cable and network. By the time Veronica Mars was cancelled, TV was on the cusp of the creative renaissance of the drama series that we’re joyfully experiencing today. TV drama is, unarguably, better than the state of cinematic drama. Mars was one of the smaller contributors to this, but it did add fuel to that fire. This completely competent, absolutely enjoyable direct continuation of that series, with its original cast overwhelmingly intact and playing older – if not wiser – versions of their characters just ain’t what movie critics line up to see and review. The fact that this project reminds these critics of that fact, and the big screen’s rapidly decreasing role in driving drama’s pop culture engine, could be a contributing factor as to why so many real-world movie critics aren’t enjoying this particular visual marshmallow.
Now, let’s return to the medium for this particular message. While Veronica Mars: The Movie is playing on 291 screens this weekend, grossing $1 million on 3/14, most folks are seeing it digitally. That means they got their code from Warner/The Veronica Mars Kickstarter Office, and that code sent the “producer” to Flixter. Flixter is Warner Brothers own digital download/streaming application. It is associated with Ultraviolet, the multi-studio partnership setting the “standard” for digitally-downloadable movies. but there’s the rub. Ultraviolet is the FORMAT (like a DVD or Blu-Ray, just not “physical”), but it ins’t the movie store. You have to have both accounts to get all this stuff to line-up. And the process to set this stuff up can be a marathon.
For example, I set my Flixter account up at least two years ago, during a promotion on Facebook. What I did not do, successfully, was link that account to an Ultraviolet account. At least not one that I remembered how to get to. Last fall, I set up a working Ultraviolet account, which I did link to Cinema Now (Best Buy), Vudu, and Target Ticket (Target). So, today, I had to link my old Flixter account up to my fairly recent Ultraviolet account. That wasn’t super-quick, but it wasn’t a back-breaker either. And, because my Ultraviolet account is linked to all those aforemetioned “video stores”, I can play this cloud-based copy of Veronica Mars: The Movie on any of those four apps on my XBOX360 console, in tasty 720p HD.
No, of course it isn’t. It’s complex and nutty and – trust me – the illegal download option is much easier, except for the whole conscience thing. I’ve been in the home entertainment end of the movie biz for over thirty years now. My livelihood is staked on the Blu-Ray/Ultraviolet code relationship helping keep packaged movie media easy to consume and viable for the next five to ten years. This current system just may not be the way to get it done over the near-term. Still, packaged media (DVD, Blu-Ray) continues to be the biggest part of the movie business’ overall cash register ring. Digital “sell-through” – on Amazon, iTunes or your cable box – is just a single-digit percentage of that total business, even though these outlets are getting movies BEFORE discs on a regular basis now. (Thanks, Paramount.) And this doesn’t really take into account the biggest impact of Veronica Mars‘ historic and paradigm-shifting Kickstarter campaign. $5 million was raised to make this movie, a major-studio project. WE covered Warner’s risk in making this. If most of the fans – 45,000 let’s assume – ponied up the $35 level required to get a copy of the movie, then Warner pre-sold almost $1.6 million worth of download/DVD combos a year before release date. That’s $1.6 million of movie you don’t get to sell or to recognize as revenue. WB had to use that cash as part of the budget to make the film. So the last piece of the Kickstarter puzzle will be if anyone else buys this movie on DVD or as a download now. That’ll be as interesting to see as the movie itself.
And, oddly enough, that’s why I “kicked into” the campaign. Truthfully, though I was familiar with the series, and really love Ms. Bell, I was not a “marshmallow”. The theme of sexual assault and abuse which ran through the first pivotal season of the series was really distasteful to me back in 2004. And though the high-school neo-noir vibe of the show was original – “Face it, Veronica, it’s Neptune…” – I still felt the whole shmear was so post-Whedon, it didn’t trip my trigger. And that’s another reason I was so amazed at how much I enjoyed VM: TM.
And, finally, since every other online review – positive or negative, domestic or from the U.K. – has run this picture from the movie (at left), here’s Veronica staking out the bad guys from the last act of the movie. Things get really tense in a few, so watch out Veronica!!
Updated 3/11/2014: News just in that Amazon has ordered this pilot to series, along with Bosch, Transparent and Mozart In The Jungle. As of this writing I’ve seen Mozart, and think it’s worth the effort because it’s about classical music and it will feature Gael Garcia Bernal (in his U.S. TV series debut), Malcolm McDowell and Lola Kirke (very cute sister of Girls co-star Jemima Kirke).
You know all that great TV you love – where some of it’s sci-fi and some of it has a superhero in it and some of it has a troubled dude in it and some weeks it’s all about the main story or sometimes it just goes off on some unrelated tangent?? Hmm, do you? Do you?!?
Well, you mostly have two dudes to thank for that kind of TV. Joss Whedon’s Buffyverse had a lot to do with it, but another guy pretty much invented it. His name is Chris Carter, and his little TV show was a giant blueprint called The X-Files. Nine seasons and two movies did it emit, like a black oil from the frozen tundra.
After its premier on FOX in 1993, and over that long run of 201 episodes, Carter’s sci-fi/supernatural, “mythology-based” series became a TV icon. And everything good that came after – Buffy, Smallville, Arrow, the rebooted Doctor Who, Revolution, Torchwood and – most importantly - Lost and The Walking Dead all owe Carter some residual checks.
After The X-Files closed up shop in 2002, with the exception of 2008’s second (and fully dreadful) X-Files movie I Want To Believe, Carter has been pretty absent from the big media world. Until earlier today – 2/6/2014. Though, Amazon should have waited until March 7th to release this. (I’ll explain later.)
Carter has written and directed The After, a pilot for Amazon Originals, which premiered today on the Prime streaming service. This is one of ten new pilots which Amazon streams, solicits viewer feedback, and then decides which of the test shows will go to series. Up to now, only Alpha House, a DC-based sit-com starring John Goodman, has gone through the process – during the previous year’s inaugural “Pilot Season” – and arrived on Amazon as a web series.
But Chris Carter’s The After arrives today, with all the key elements you expect from him.
First, what the hell is going on? And who are these eight disparate characters thrown together by fate? Were they thrown together by fate? Is larger force in play? Where did that missing day go? And, as we came to expect from Carter, once he reached the end of The X Files run, does even HE know the answer to any of these questions?!?
What is going on appears to be the end of the world, or at least Los Angeles, as the city loses all electrical power, communication, and – based on the aimless wandering of lots of extras – sense of direction. Eight people, or, more precisely, eight cardboard cutouts of characters, seem to be randomly thrown together in the middle of all this generic chaos. Led by wrongly-imprisoned prison escapee “D“, played by Leverage’s Aldus Hodge, these folk cleverly get out of downtown L.A., only to end up in a more dangerous series of events on a large Beverly Hills estate.
The other main character is Gigi, played by the lovely French actress Louise Monot (OSS 117: Lost in Rio and the upcoming Girl On A Bicycle). While the idea of a French lead actress on an American TV series is far from stereotypical, her actions as an actress and Mom stuck in L.A. while her family is in New York are full of by-the-book moxie.
The rest of the gang is rounded out by Adrian Pasdar (Heroes) as an amoral L.A. lawyer, Arielle Kebbel (90210) as Pasdar’s boot-knockin’ honey of an employee with a working knowledge of the book of the Revelation and a fondness for badly timed skinny-dippin’, Andrew Howard as a drunk Irishman with anger issues, Jaina Lee Ortiz as a good Latina cop, Jamie Kennedy as a gay birthday clown (really), and Sharon Lawrence (NYPD Blue) as the little old diabetic lady from Beverly Hills. I swear to you, it’s like the crew of the Minnow just landed dead square onto the Apocalypse.
But, in all honesty, The After is fairly entertaining. The big problem is that Chris Carter is still running on a 1993 TV motherboard. And even though he invented that operating system, hundreds of capable writers have made cooler mods to it for twenty years. However, the silly twists are fun, and so is Carter’s complete joy at being free from normal TV restrictions. His overuse of the f*** bomb is happily juvenile. The importance of the aforementioned March 7th had me giggling out loud, as did the entire performance of ninth series regular Sam Littlefield (pictured).
The After ain’t The Walking Dead or Lost or even True Blood. But it is Chris Carter doing what he does best, including the dopey parts. Go peek at this Amazon Original and see for yourself.
“Holy Gucamole, Batman!” The Boob Tube Becomes The ‘Boom Tube’ (or is that the other way around?) As Comics Invade Your TV! !
OK, first the usual apologies and groveling for having been away so long.
Yes, I promised to preview Season Three of Sherlock (and it was amazing!), but truthfully, I have been sick as a dog for much of the new year and when I wasn’t sick I was either weak from being sick or over-worked or both and just didn’t give a damn. I’m sure you know the feeling. I’m back now, so let’s move on…
While the Marvel U has been erupting all over our movie screens in a myriad of wonderful and fantastic ways, thanks to Disney, Sony and FOX, Warner Brothers has been largely underwhelming us with their big screen comic book fare, unless it features a certain Caped Crusader. Man of Steel made a butt-load of money, but its fan-reception was iffy and Warner’s headlong rush to get a Justice League movie in cinemas, beginning with MoS II, guest-starring a new Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor and Zeus knows who else is looking so top-heavy and cobbled-together that no one really knows what to expect. I’ll be penning a new installment of “Dear Warner Brothers” sometime soon in the hopes of encouraging the House that Bugs Built to move in a more positive direction, but today, I want to talk about the opposite side of the movie coin. Marvel may be ruling the big screen, but DC is in command of the small one.
Let’s face it, DC has been adapting its product for television almost since TV was invented, beginning with the original Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves in the 1950’s. That incarnation of the Man of Steel flew across our TV screens for an amazing seven seasons, and Supes has returned to TV time and again with Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in the 80’s, Smallville in the 90’s and even a really cheesy Salkind-produced Adventures of Superboy.
In addition to Superman, Batman made his way to the small screen in the 60’s in the cheesiest, campiest version of the character to date (that in all fairness, was not all that unlike the incarnation of the character then appearing in the comics), before taking the Dark Knight to the Big Screen in the 80’s for some of the best and worst (yes, Joel Schumacher, we’re talking about you) super-hero films ever made. In addition, Warner’s has brought its heroes to Saturday mornings in a plethora of Super- related shows, from The Super Friends version of The Justice League (with Casey Kasem as Robin!!), The Batman/Aquaman Hour and so many incarnations of Superman and Batman that it’s difficult to keep count of them all. In fact, I daresay DC still has a one-up on Marvel in the animation department; the animated, movie-length versions of some of their biggest stories that come out at least four times a year, not to mention the excellent Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, JLA Unlimited and Young Justice, and others, most, if not all from EP Bruce Timm are (to me, at least) far superior to similar product from Marvel Animation.
What is this all leading to you ask? (Come on, you know you were asking) Well, it leads us to the fact that while Marvel is currently holding dominion over the Cineplex and while Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is getting all the ink, DC is slowly but surely rolling out the most impressive comics-inspired slate of TV shows ever to grace the small screen, especially when you consider that they may all be on during the same season(s). Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look:
ARROW (CW-WEDNESDAYS): Despite the fact that Superman has done pretty well in its various TV incarnations, Warner Brothers has strict rules regarding the use of Batman and the Batman family of characters on the telly. The rule, to put it succinctly, is “Don’t.”
Currently, you are not allowed to put the Batman family on television in any form (though that’s about the change, but we’ll talk about that in a minute). This includes not only Batman, but Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman, Red Robin, Batgirl…none of them. But just because the Dark Knight is off the TV table, that doesn’t mean you can’t use another DC character as a Batman substitute, as the folks at the CW have done with Green Arrow/Oliver Queen in Arrow. Arrow is a show that I was certain was going to fail. First, the CW had already used the character for the better part of ten years on Smallville. Then came the concern that its producers, Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim had done such an awful job adapting DC’s other Emerald Hero, Green Lantern, for the big screen. Starring newcomer Stephen Amell as Green Arrow and his playboy disguise Oliver Queen, the show was such an obvious Dark Knight substitute that it was difficult to take it seriously. Until it debuted, that is. Until we realized how gosh-darn good it was.
Arrow is a show that started off strong and has continued to get better the longer it’s gone on. Now, in its second season, we have not only seen real undeniable character growth and change on the part of our hero, but we have also seen real growth in his stable of supporting characters, including Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and Roy Harper (Colton Hayes). Arrow has given us gritty, realistic new versions of classic villains like Deathstroke and the League of Shadows, along with a new member of the Ras Al Ghul family – Talia’s sister Nyssa – kick-ass side-kicks in the form of Black Canary and Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow or whatever-the-hell-we’re-gonna-call-him and a whole host of bad guys, re-conceptualized in new and gritty ways. With Black Canary already in play and the Huntress returning shortly, I’m thinking it’s only a matter of time before Oliver’s gal Friday Felicity (Emily Brett Richards, my new crush) steps up to take on the Oracle mantle and an Arrow-centric Birds of Prey will be born. Against the odds, Arrow has just gotten better and better and has become the benchmark for what a quality comic book to TV show adaptation is supposed to look like.
And as for my “failure” prediction… The CW just announced (unsurprisingly) that it is renewing Arrow for a third season. Yay!
THE FLASH (CW-TBA): A spin-off of Arrow, and the only other mainstream DC hero series currently in the pipeline, The Flash is a DC hero who’s had a TV try-out before. Back in the 90’s, CBS spent a season trying to get the Scarlet Speedster running, with John Wesley Shipp as the titular hero and Star Wars’ Mark Hamill as The Trickster, but to no avail (if the story is to be believed, the then-prez of CBS told Shipp that cancelling the show was the biggest mistake he ever made while in charge). Basically all we’ve been told so far is the cast, but as with Arrow, it’s a large and impressive one. As he did on his two stints on Arrow, Grant Gustin plays Barry Allen. Allen is a police scientist whose life is forever changed when a combination of a lighting strike and an exploding particle collider soak him with chemicals that charge his body with the power of the Speed Force (I assuming they’ll use the Speed Force in the show; I could be wrong), which allows him to travel as supersonic speeds. This Barry’s life follows the one in the comics, more or less; his mother was killed when he was young, and his father was convicted of the crime. For all intents and purposes an orphan, Barry is raised by the family of Detective West, played by Jesse L. Martin from Law & Order. His daughter Iris, who the studio describes as Barry’s “best friend,” not his love interest as in the comics, is played by actress Candice Patton. The fact that Iris and her family are African-American brings a nice contemporary slant to the tale, making it seem relevant without significantly changing the story in any other way. But the “best friend” thing is a mystery, unless the CW is just hedging their bets on the audience wanting Barry and Iris to hook up, as opposed to the Arrow model where Laurel was introduced as Oliver’s endgame, only to discover that most fans would rather he get together with Felicity.
Just because the drama is a spin-off of an extremely dark show doesn’t mean that The Flash will be all gloom and doom himself. According to EP/creator Greg Burlanti, “Barry is different from Oliver [on Arrow]. He’s a man of science and has more of a sci-fi bent, whereas Arrow has a bit more of a crime bent…We often talk about how Oliver comes off like a pessimist, but deep down he’s an optimist and has hope. Barry lost his mother at a very young age, his father was sent to prison for murdering his mom, he went through a lot of stuff — on the surface he’s bubbly and upbeat and seems like an optimist, but deep down maybe there’s no hope left….So they’re a really nice contrast to each other and the show functions in that way, I think. Certainly in the pilot script Barry has an effervescence and a lightness, but there’s still a dark well beneath that.”
Sounds like an interesting premise to start with. Also starring in The Flash are: Tom Cavanagh (Ed) as Harrison Wells, who is described as “a rock star in the world of physics, the mind and money behind Central City’s S.T.A.R. Labs Particle Accelerator.” He becomes a pariah after the lab’s explosion, but he charts his path to redemption when he discovers that his failed experiment had the unintended consequence of creating the world’s fastest man.
Carlos Valdes will play “mechanical engineering genius” Cisco Ramon. In the comics, Ramon is the alter ego of the superhero Vibe. Of course, The Flash is following in the footsteps of Arrow, so who knows what spin there might be on that character.
Two new actors added to the cast: Danielle Panabaker will play Caitlin Snow, a bio-engineering expert whose fiancé died when the particle accelerator at S.T.A.R. Labs was turned on. And Rick Cosnett will play Detective Eddie Thawne, a new officer with the Central City PD with the standard “mysterious past. Could this Thawne be related to the comics villain Professor Eobard Thawne/Professor Zoom? And in the best Flash-related news of all, the aforementioned John Wesley Shipp, who played Barry Allen/The Flash in the 90’s has been cast in a recurring “mystery role,” that we’ll find out more about later.
As far as villains go, aside from Professor Zoom’s possible great-great-something grandfather, nobody’s saying much, but an audition side floating around town does include several mentions of The Trickster. I wonder if Mark Hamill is busy?
GOTHAM (FOX-TBA): In all seriousness, this has got to be one of the best ideas for a comics-based TV show I’ve ever heard; a look at a young Jim Gordon, new to the Gotham City Police Department and patrolling the mean streets and navigating the corrupt hallways of power in a cold and unforgiving city. What an awesome premise! Unfortunately, subsequent reports that we’ll be meeting younger versions of Bruce Wayne and his rogue’s gallery makes me terribly afraid that this show is going to be much more like “Gotham City 90210” or the hilarious Gotham City High on Youtube than it is the Dark Knight we’ve come to know and love. Fox chairman Kevin Reilly crushed the dreams of many a Bat-fan at Fox’s panel during the network’s Television Critics Association press tour recently. “This is all of the classic Batman characters,” Reilly continued. “It follows the arc of how they all became what they were. I’ve read the script it’s really good. It’s going to be this operatic soap that has a slightly larger-than-life quality.”
Apparently, the plan is exactly like Smallville, in that the show will show how each character, good and bad, becomes the hero or villain we all know today, and Reilly says the show will end when Batman puts on the cape for the first time. How is this possible? Are they going to follow Bruce on his trip to the Far East and his quest for spiritual and physical perfection? One whole episode dedicated to meditation or yoga? Truthfully, the show Reilly describes above doesn’t have to have Jim Gordon in it at all and makes me wonder if the suit really had a firm grip on the concept when he talked about it. In other press statements, the emphasis does seem to be on Gordon and the GCPD but there doesn’t seem to be much being said on the execution of the show. Here’s what we’ve got:
Gotham is produced by the top-tier team of Bruno Heller (The Mentalist) and Danny Cannon (CSI). It will star Ben McKenzie (Southland), who voiced Batman/Bruce Wayne in the animated Batman: Year One as Jim Gordon and the amazing Donal Logue (Sons of Anarchy), originally rumored to be up for the role of Gordon, as the reprehensible Harvey Bullock.
“I’m super excited about Gotham,” Logue told E! News. “It was weird, I’ve never been on a ride like that. I met them and talked to them and there was some weird internet rumor that I was playing Commissioner Gordon—and I’m like, ‘I’m way too old, man!’ It was weird to be part of this kind of ongoing discussion that I was not in the mix of. It’s an exciting thing; it’s going to be here in New York. It’s one of those funny things where they’re super secretive, so you have to go to a secret place to read a script and give away your phone.”
“The cast is lining up. I’m really excited to work Ben—I was huge fan of Southland—and Danny Cannon, the director, who I’ve worked with before and is a buddy of mine is on the same soccer team as me.”
Also inhabiting Gotham are Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers, and the son of the Third Doctor) as Wayne butler Alfred Pennyworth, taking the Michael Caine model of the character one step further as a tough-as-nails ex-marine from East London, (who) has loyally served the Wayne family. Now, in the wake of their tragic deaths, he’s fiercely protective of the young Bruce Wayne, Zabryna Guevarra (Guilt Trip) as Gordon’s boss Captain Essen who balances the two worlds of police and politics with a Machiavellian skill that’s as much corporate litigator as cop. It’s interesting to note that, in the comic Batman: Year One, there was a Sarah Essen (who wasn’t Gordon’s boss) with whom Gordon had an affair. Speaking of affairs, Erin Richards (Open Grave) is also on hand as Gordon’s fiancé, Barbara Kean, a sophisticated emergency doctor, Kean stands by her (man) amid the corrupt world of Gotham.
And in the villain role? Gotham movers and shakers promise early versions of most of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, but the only one announced thus far is Robin Lord Taylor (Another Earth) as Oswald Cobblepot, the man better known as DC Comics villain the Penguin. With the brains of a chess grandmaster and the morals of a jackal, Cobblepot is a low-level psychopath for gangster Fish Mooney [an original character to be played by Jada Pinkett-Smith] and hides his sadistic lust for power behind an exquisitely polite demeanor.
Now, while I don’t have a problem with a pre-Penguin Cobblepot (and actually think it’s a pretty inspired idea), I definitely don’t want to start seeing bad guys fully-formed in their super villain regalia before there’s even a Batman on the scene. Selina Kyle as a former prostitute and fledgling cat burglar; yes. The Joker trying to jump-start his comedy career while running around town as the Red Hood (as per The Killing Joke graphic novel); yes. But the Riddler running around pell mell and fully formed before there’s even a Batman to torment? Hell, no. In short, Heller and company had best tread lightly. Done right, this could be the Homicide: Life on the Streets of comic book shows. Done wrong, it could be another Cop Rock. Keep the emphasis on Jim Gordon and the GCPD and let the young Bruce Wayne boil in interminable teen angst quietly in the background. In other words, more like Law & Order, less like Smallville. Please.
FOX has already given Gotham a series commitment, so we’ll be seeing on the screen in some form come fall. Let’s hope Kevin Reilly is just talking out of his hat and we get the gritty super-powered crime drama we deserve.
CONSTANTINE (NBC-TBA): Stepping a little further afield from the mainstream antics of Arrow, The Flash and Gotham, NBC has ordered a pilot for Constantine, which, like the Keanu Reeves-starring film before it is based on Vertigo’s (owned by DC) dark supernatural comic Hellblazer. The pilot, being written by Daniel Cerrone (The Mentalist) and David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy and Man of Steel) is being developed as a companion to Grimm on NBC’s Friday night line-up.
Cautiously, I’m excited about this. Cerrone and Goyer certainly have a great track record with this kind of tale, and Sleepy Hollow has certainly made the market ripe for it, but despite Grimm’s success, NBC’s track record with the supernatural is spotty. And according to io9.com, there’s some question as to the Peacock’s excitement about the project over-all. If NBC will fully get on board and engage, and if casting choice Matt Ryan blondes up well, and all involved embraces the subject matter in a grown-up way, this show could be amazing. If not…anybody remember that old FOX show Brimstone?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
PREACHER (AMC-TBA): Looking to fill the gap left by the departure of Breaking Bad, AMC - the network which also brings us our weekly dose of The Walking Dead - has ordered a pilot for an adaptation of this extremely Hard R 90’s comic by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. The project, apparently, has been a long time coming. “This is amazing!” Executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg said. “We’ve tried for seven years to work on ‘Preacher’ and we’re so psyched AMC is finally letting us. It is our favorite comic of all time, and we’re going to do everything we can to do it right.”
Excitement aside, there are several potential problems challenges with a Preacher TV show. One, that the subject is so violent and, well, let’s just say it out loud-perverse-with its tales of addiction, bestiality, incest and what have you, that AMC may insist on watering the material down too much to make it recognizable for what it is. Two, that the show’s basic conceit, of the Reverend Jesse Custer, possessed of an ancient spirit that is searching for God, who he feels has been too much of an absentee landlord, will prove to be a bit to “out there” for Middle America to handle. And maybe most itchy is issue three, that the shows’ EP’s Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This is the End) and showrunner Sam Caitlin (Breaking Bad) will insist on injecting too much comedy into the proceedings and ruin it. Once again, we’re going to be cautiously optimistic. Rogen and Goldberg are fans of the comic and are certainly smart enough to understand what made it popular, AMC is certainly used to a small amount of push-back from an ultra-violent show (provided it pulls the ratings) and Middle America? I think it’s high time we gave Middle America credit for being smarter (along with the South) than we think we are. We shall see.
Based on a Vertigo comic by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, this is what I can only assume is a comedy about a med-student-turned-zombie forced to work in the city coroner’s office. The show is produced by former Veronica Mars producers Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, along with Danielle Stokdyk and Dan Etheridge from Warner Brothers TV. I know nothing about this show other than the above, and since it’s only a pilot we might never learn anything else, but it is more proof that the DC guys are out there in the market place, doing a heck of a lot more than flogging it to the tights and flights crowd.
And there you have it, one established series that is really on top of its game and five potential new series, each poised to push the envelope chart new territory for comics-related properties. Of course, beyond the third season renewal of Arrow and the straight to series order for Gotham, the other three are all pilots, and we have no idea what will and what won’t be on our TV’s next fall. Could all five of these shows, along with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Peggy Carter, Agent of SHIELD as well as the Marvel’s Defenders series of mini’s on Netflix, all vie for our love and attention at the same time? Probably not, but wouldn’t it be so cool it they did? Of the DC shows, I’m betting we’ll see (in addition to Arrow and Gotham which are a lock),The Flash on the CW and Preacher on AMC. As for Constantine and iZombie? I’d love to see it happen, but I just don’t think NBC is going to take the chance on a show like this. And, as for iZombie, DC already fills up a huge chunk of the CW sched with Arrow and the almost sure-bet of The Flash. I’m not sure they’re ready to give up that much prime-time real estate to its four-color cousin for such an unproven property. Do you realize that that’s potentially thirteen comics-related series? Fourteen if you include The Walking Dead?
THE AXEMAN COMETH…Well, it’s beginning to be that time of year and the nets are cutting their losses on some shows that didn’t work so well and granting reprieves to other shows that did. Final decisions about the entirety of the TV landscape won’t be known till May, but here’s what we know now:
Renewed: Sleepy Hollow and The Blacklist got really early renewals. Following in their successful wake are,
Survivor (CBS). Like that rash on my butt, it just won’t go away.
Under the Dome (CBS) The summer series will be back in June for season two.
The Vampire Diaries (CW) No real surprises here.
Supernatural (CW) This show is pretty much staggering across the starting line to begin Season Ten. Maybe we should be thinking about putting this one out to stud.
Arrow (CW) Um, were you reading this article up to now? No surprise for one of The CW’s biggest hits. Ever.
The Originals (CW) The renewal isn’t a surprise, but the fact that the show is so good and addictive all on its own is.
Reign (CW) Mary Queen of Scots 90210 will be back. Huzzah!
Bones (FOX) Another show that’s beginning to show its age gets a tenth season.
Glee (FOX) renewed for Seasons Five and Six and then DONE. Thank god.
So You Think You Can Dance (FOX) What fresh hell is this? It will be back.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) Not a renewal per se, but stars Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey just signed new two year contracts, so what does that tell you?
Mistresses (ABC) Hardly news at this point, but the Alphabet has renewed this Alyssa Milano summer soaper for a second go…this summer.
Teen Wolf (MTV) That most guilty of guilty pleasures will be back for a twelve episode fourth season in late 2014.
The Newsroom (HBO) Creator and Head Writer (usually sole writer) Aaron Sorkin is really in demand as a screenwriter right now, but HBO has managed to get him to commit to a third and FINAL season of this great show. No word on when the new season will debut, much less start production, but I’ll let you know as soon as I know it.
Homeland (SHO) Renewed for Season Four even though Brody’s dead. That’s cold.
Shameless (SHO) Renewed for fifth season of William H Macy goodness for the whole dysfunctional family.
House of Lies (SHO) Don Cheadle and his Shillbillies return for a fourth season of hucksterism.
House of Cards (Netflix) In case you haven’t heard while you’re binge-watching Season Two (which debuted Valentine’s weekend), Netflix has renewed the Underwoods for a third term in power. Yes!
Orange is the New Black (Netflix) Like HoC, Orange got the green light for a second season before the first even aired. The first teaser trailer just debuted online, announcing that season two escapes on June 6, 2014.
Sherlock (BBC/PBS) EP Stephen Moffat has confirmed that the show will be back for not one, but TWO more seasons, but given the schedules of stars Benedict Cumberbatch & Morgan Freeman,plus the vagaries of British TV scheduling, it could be be two more years before the we see them. Bloody hell!
Justified (FX) As we mentioned last time, Raylan and Boyd have been renewed for a FINAL sixth season.
Sons of Anarchy (FX) Also on track for its FINAL season of bloodshed, to begin in September.
Mad Men (AMC) Renewed for a FINAL two-part, sixteen episode seventh season.
The Walking Dead (AMC) Just picked up for a fifth season.
Boardwalk Empire (HBO) Renewed for its fifth and FINAL season.
Girls (HBO) Season Four OK’d before Season Three hit the air. Somebody up there likes Lena Dunham.
Getting On (HBO) Never heard of this show? Well, someone has, cause this hospital comedy just got OK’d for season two.
Dancing With the Stars (ABC) Be still my heart…(that’s sarcasm, in case you weren’t sure).
Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family) Renewed for both a fourth and fifth season. Booya. But as for their spin-off….. see below.
The Fosters (ABC Family) This one’s coming back. Are you sure it’s not about a family of Australian brewers?
Witches of East End (Lifetime) Really? This is coming back? How about that?
Killer Women (ABC) Bye, Tricia Helfer! I like watching you and all, but this Sophia Vegara-EP’d mess never made sense.
Sean Saves the World (NBC) The surprise is not that it got axed, the surprise is that it took so long.
The Michael J Fox Show (NBC) Ah, Michael, alas we hardly knew ye! Expect Fox to land on his feet (sorry), as he heads over the The Good Wife for a multi-episode arc.
Psych (USA) Producers have announced that the current eighth season which premiered in January will be the show’s last.
X Factor (FOX) This is a complete non-event for me, but you may mourn if you wish.
Ravenswood (ABC Family) Alas, this Pretty Little Liars spin-off is…Nevermore. See what I did there?
This is all we know for sure. Everything is more or less On the Bubble. Of course, for some, it’s a bigger bubble than for others…
A FEW THINGS COMING BACK IN THE SPRING THAT WE DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT. Turns out that SYFY has got a couple of returning series and some newbies on the way this spring. For example:
Continuum (Returns Friday, April 4th) I have to admit I found this Canadian import extremely slow-going late last season and stopped watching, but Season Three is on the way, and I’m prepared to be drawn back in as Kira continues to try to preserve the future by changing the past or whatever she’s doing.
Warehouse 13 (Returns Monday April 14) Honestly, I thought this one was already gone, so imagine my joy at a final six outings with Pete and Myka and the Warehouse 13 team.
Metal Hurlan Chronicles (Premieres Monday, April 14) Based on the popular comics anthology Metal Hurlan, each of the 12-episodes (comprising Seasons 1 & 2) take place on a different planet with a different cast, linked together by the presence of an asteroid, which plays a vital role in their lives – and the future of their civilization. The international cast includes James Marsters, Rutger Hauer, Michael Jai White and Stargate Atlantis’ Joe Flanigan.
HALLIE BERRY HAS HER OWN GRAVITY. CBS has announced that the Steven Spielberg-produced summer series, Extant, starring X-Men’s Hallie Berry will premiere on July 2. The show follows Berry’s character, an astronaut, as she tries to reacclimatize to life on Earth after a year-long space mission. Her efforts are hampered by the knowledge that she is somehow got pregnant while in space. Word is, if the show has a good first season, Spielberg and Berry are willing to return for a second.
LAST CALL AT McLAREN’S WILL BE LEGEND-WAIT FOR IT-ARY. CBS has announced that the series finale for the long-running sitcom How I Met Your Mother will beMarch 31. In related news, it has also been announced that Greta Gerwig has been cast in the HIMYM spin-off, How I Met Your Dad as Sally, a young woman on the verge of breaking up with her new husband.
REALITY. WHAT A CONCEPT. Survivor: Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty will return with a two-hour premiere on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m., while The Amazing Race will kick off its All-Star edition, with 11 returning fan favorite teams, on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m.
GODS AMONG US. In keeping with their recent plan of folding Agents of SHIELD more into the larger Marvel Universe, ABC has announced that Jaime Alexander, who played Lady Sif in both the Thor movies will soon guest-star in episode fourteen of the Tuesday night spy show. This follows the recent cameo by Marvel Comics guru Stan Lee and the announcement that veteran actor Bill Paxton will soon co-star in another comics-based role. According to the press release, Sif comes to SHIELD in pursuit of Lorelei, and Asgardian villain whose power involves making men fall in love with her.
THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR COSBY. Once the king of NBC’s Thursday night Must See TV, NBC (now truly desperate with the failure of The Michael J Fox Show) has announced the return to the airwaves of Bill Cosby as the patriarch of a multigenerational family. No title or writer has been attached to the project at this point, but the show will be EP’d by former Cosby Show producer Tom Werner. Cosby starred for eight seasons on The Cosby Show on NBC and Cosby on CBS for four. Both series co-starred Phylicia Rashad as his TV wife. No word on the sweater situation yet, but we’ll keep you posted.
REDSHIRTS REVENGE! Deadline is reporting that John Scalzi’s wonderful Star Trek-skewering novel Redshirts is being developed as a series for FX. The book, described as a meta-fictional adventure of what happens when the crew of the USS Intrepid discover that they exist only as cannon fodder to draw fire away from the ship’s senior officers on Away missions, was a runaway hit, winning numerous awards and much acclaim. No word yet on the cast or production team but the novel fits into FX’s wheelhouse perfectly and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
TV UNDER GLASS. CBS has announced that last summer’s big hit Under the Dome, based on the novel by Stephen King will return for season two on Monday, June 30. And, oh yeah, according to EP Brian K. Vaughan, there will be two major deaths in the premiere. Yowzers.
IT’S GOOD TO BE KING. Speaking of Stephen King, Universal TV is adapting King’s short story Ayana into a TV drama, according to Variety. Set in the world of miracles,Ayana features complex and powerful characters who are touched with just a hint of unexplained magic that triggers profound change in their lives. Chris Sparling is on board to write the pilot for Ayana. Jordan Kerner will serve as exec producer on Ayana, with Ben Haber producing.
THE GIRL FROM D.I.V.A. After a fizzled movie career and after Grey’s Anatomy refused to let her back in, Katherine Heigl is back on TV in a new NBC series called State of Affairs. In the show, Heigl steps back into our TV’s as a CIA agent who is tapped to become the President’s new daily briefer. I have a feeling this has nothing to do with actual briefs of the underwear variety and will try to tap into the Scandal gene more than a little.
CAN WE CALL IT NCIS: ENTERPRISE? After the less than enthusiastic response to the last NCIS pilot, NCIS: Red, CBS has announced a pilot order for NCIS: New Orleans, which will star Enterprise/Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula as team leader and Shield/Sons of Anarchy bad ass CCH Pounder as the resident Medical Examiner. NCIS starMark Harmon and NCIS EP Gary Glasberg are EPing for the network.
NOW THAT’S SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT! After the ratings (if not critical) success of last fall’s live theatre production of The Sound of Music, starring country star Carrie Underwood, NBC will be back again next year with another classic family-friendly musical, Peter Pan. No word on who will star, but NBC president Robert Greenblatt did take a moment to strike terror into the hearts of reporters when he joked, “I want Miley Cyrus!” Returning to produce once again are the SoM team, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.
And that’s a wrap for this one, kids. I’ll try to be back soon (rather than later) with another missive from the terrors of Tube Town. Until then, keep your pixie dust dry and your eyes onthe second star on the right and straight on till morning. After all, tomorrow’s a school day.
Receiving the first “popGeezer Totally Annoying Seven Iron To The Head Awarded” since 2009…
Beefy Shia, a total moron. Here’s Deadline.com’s coverage….
Welcome back and Happy New Year, my little TV Tubers and Tubettes! Now that we‘ve all had a chance to shake our merry-makers and party like its 2099, let’s get back to business! If you recall, in our last episode, our hero, Cadillac Jack had debuted the winter premiere dates for January and made the world safer for couch potatoes everywhere. In this episode, he does the same for February Sweeps(!), March and April. The goodness just never ends!
FEBRUARY . IT’S SWEEPS MONTH! GET OUT YOUR BROOMS SO THAT YOU CAN CLEAN UP THE PIECES OF YOUR BLOWN MINDS!
AND REMEMBER, ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN!!
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY SECOND.
Its Super Bowl Sunday, a night you watch for kitten bowls, funny commercials, special episodes of critically-lauded but unwatched shows and, oh yeah, some football game.
10pm (after the game). NEW GIRL: FOX. This show is actually a pretty nice hit for FOX, so I’m not sure I understand why it needs to be in the cat-bird’s seat, but here it is!
10:30pm. BROOKLYN NINE-NINE: FOX. Ah, here’s why we have New Girl in Slot A, because this struggling Andy Samberg/Andre Braugher vehicle is in Slot B. Have fun kids!
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY NINTH:
9pm. THE WALKING DEAD: AMC (Season Four winter premiere). The cable powerhouse returns with the group divided and little Judith missing. Meryl Streep arrives in episode one as a mysterious woman who keeps saying (in an Australian accent), “A dingo zombie ate my baby!”
10pm. THE TALKING DEAD: AMC (Season Three winter premiere). Chris Hardwick and his panel of guests talk about the episode and explain why that Meryl Streep comment was just a joke.
11pm. COMIC BOOK MEN: AMC (Season Three winter premiere). Kevin Smith brings us more of what he gave up film-making for! Until Clerks 3, anyway.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY ELEVENTH:
9pm. TWISTED: ABC FAMILY (Season One winter premiere).
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY FOURTEENTH:
12am. HOUSE OF CARDS: NETFLIX (Season Two premiere). Netflix debuts the entire second season of the Kevin Spacey/Robin Wright political potboiler all on the same day. Happy Valentine’s Day!
MONDAY, FEBRUARY SEVENTEENTH:
8pm. STAR-CROSSED: CW (Series premiere). It’s the invasion of the pretty people! The half-net debuts this half-baked drama featuring an ET-inspired spin on Romeo and Juliet. Oh, the humanity!
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY EIGHTEENTH:
10pm. TOSH 2.0: COMEDY CENTRAL (Season six premiere). He surfs the internet so you don’t have to! Daniel Tosh returns with web-goodies that make your porn collection seem like Masterpiece Theatre!
MONDAY, FEBRUARY TWENTY-FOURTH:
8pm. THE VOICE: NBC (Season six premiere). This is the one where the pop star and the country dude and the rocker share an apartment, right? Sorta’ like, Being Human: The Hollywood Edition.
9pm. DALLAS-THE RETURN: TNT (Season three premiere). Is there really any point to this show without Larry Hagman as JR? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
10pm. PRIVATE LIVES OF NASHVILLE WIVES: TNT (Series premiere). I don’t know what the hell this is, but I’m not going near it without holy water and a stake.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY TWENTY-FIFTH:
8pm. GLEE: FOX (Season five winter premiere). America’s favorite forty-something year old teenagers return to see if they can build on the sympathy ratings they got for the untimely death of star Cory Monteith.
9pm. RIZZOLI & ISLES: TNT (Season four winter premiere). Angie Harmon and Sascha Alexander return for another season of lesbian jokes.
10pm. PERCEPTION: TNT (Season two winter premiere). Will and Grace’s Eric McCormick returns in a show that most people forget is on.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY TWENTY-SIXTH:
9:30pm. MIXOLOGY: ABC (Series premiere). No idea, but I’m afraid. Very afraid.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY TWENTY-SEVENTH:
9pm. GREY’S ANATOMY: ABC (Season ten winter premiere). From what I hear, Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo are both ready to leave Seattle Grace (or whatever the hell they’re calling it now) when their contracts are up at the end of the season. Sounds like a fat lady singin’ to me…
10pm. SCANDAL: ABC (Season three winter premiere). And here’s the reason ABC won’t be too sad to see Grey’s go.
VIKINGS: HISTORY (Season two premiere). All the fun of Thor without the hammer. Enjoy!
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY TWENTY-EIGHTH:
10pm. HANNIBAL: NBC (Season two premiere). The most twisted show on TV is back, served with with fava beans and a nice chianti (not to mention Mads Mikkelson, Hugh Dancy and Lawrence Fishburne). Bon Appetit’!
MARCH. IN LIKE A LION, OUT LIKE A CRYING LITTLE GIRL, ONCE THE CANCELLATIONS HIT.
SUNDAY, MARCH SECOND:
8:30pm. THE 86TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS: ABC (One night special event). The gilt, the glamour! The awards given to movies you’ve never heard of! Ellen Degeneres returns as host.
THURSDAY, MARCH SIXTH:
8pm. ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND: ABC (Season one winter premiere). The farther Alice goes down the rabbit hole, the closer this show gets to cancellation.
9pm. SUITS: USA (Season three premiere). Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams return in a show that’s all about lawyers, but has very little to do with the law.
10pm. SIRENS: USA (Series premiere). This is either about mythological Greek demigoddesses who snare men’s hearts with their song or guys who drive ambulances. Unfortunately, I’m thinking it’s the ambulances.
SUNDAY, MARCH NINTH:
8pm. ONCE UPON A TIME: ABC (Season three winter premiere). TV’s biggest and most confusing show gets bigger and more confusing in 2014 as Storybrooke disappears and Emma and Henry find themselves living on their own in New York with no memory of their fairy tale roots. Talk about a fantasy!
9pm. RESURRECTION: ABC (Series premiere). Based on the novel The Returned by Jason Mott. Dead people are returning from the grave in Acadia, Missouri! Zombies? Vampires? Something completely different? Right now, something entertaining would be different enough for me!
10pm. REVENGE: ABC (Season three winter premiere). Plots! Betrayals! Backstabbing! Who’d have thought they’d ever make a TV show about Christmas dinner at my parents’ house?
TUESDAY, MARCH ELEVENTH:
10pm. CHRISLEY KNOWS BEST: USA (Series premiere). I saw the promo for this for the first time last night (as of this writing) during White Collar and have no real idea of what to expect. It looks like a reality show parody, which, considering most reality shows, just seems redundant.
MIND GAMES: ABC (Series premiere).
WEDNESDAY, MARCH NINETEENTH:
9pm. THE 100: CW (Series premiere). OK, so Earth is ruined and the remnants of humanity are living in orbit on a satellite, where they are running out of room and resources. To ascertain whether Earth has become habitable again, they send one hundred juvenile delinquents, criminals and other undesirables to check it out. Because…that makes sense.
FRIDAY, MARCH TWENTY-FIRST:
8pm. WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?: CW (Season ten premiere). Everyone’s favorite improv show comes back on a new network! Wayne Brady is back, bitches!
9pm. HART OF DIXIE: CW (Season three winter premiere). Think of this as a modern day Gone With the Wind. It’s not, but it might help if you think of it that way.
SUNDAY, MARCH THIRTIETH:
8pm. CALL THE MIDWIFE: PBS (Season three premiere).
9pm. MR. SELFRIDGE: PBS (Season two premiere).
MONDAY, MARCH THIRTY-FIRST:
9pm. FRIENDS WITH BETTER LIVES: CBS (Series premiere-Special time before moving to 8:30pm on April 7).
APRIL. SPRING HAS SPRUNG, FALL HAS FELL, GAME OF THRONES RETURNS AND ORPHAN BLACK AS WELL.
TUESDAY, APRIL FIRST:
9pm. THE MINDY PROJECT: FOX (Season two spring premiere). Mindy Kalling returns with more romantically-inspired hi-jinks. A second new episode follows at 9:30 in its regular timeslot.
10:30pm. INSIDE AMY SCHUMER: COMEDY CENTRAL (Season two premiere).
SUNDAY, APRIL SIXTH:
8pm. THE 49TH ANNUAL ACADEMY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS: CBS (One night special event).
9pm. GAME OF THRONES: HBO (Season four premiere). More blood, sex and madness as the biggest cast on television returns to finish out the third book, A Storm of Swords.
SUNDAY, APRIL THIRTEENTH:
9pm. 2014 MTV Movie Awards: MTV (One night special event). If the Oscars are for the Industry, the SAG Awards are for the performers and the People’s Choice Awards are for the fans, these awards are for the folks with too much time on their hands.
SATURDAY, APRIL NINETEENTH:
9pm. ORPHAN BLACK: BBCA (Season two premiere). The Clone Club returns with more clones and hopefully, more of my favorite couple, Felix and Allison! Hey, what happens when Critics’ Choice winner (and Golden Globe nominated) star Tatiana Maslany wants a separate paycheck for each character she plays?
And that’s about all the premieres I could find, kiddies! At least, all the premieres I could find that I cared about, anyway. And now, in case my massive Christmas Eve info dump wasn’t enough, here’s some last minute TV news from Tinsel Town:
AND THAT’S ONE. The first of the new midseason series has fallen. According to a story in Variety, ABC has announced that its new winter limited series, The Assets, has been pulled after only two episodes. The program, which stars Paul Rhys, centers on 1980s CIA Cold War culture, and is produced by Morgan Hertzan, Rudy Bednar and Andrew Chapman. “Assets” is based on the book “Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed” by vet CIA officers Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille. ABC has said that it will air re-runs of Shark Tank in the 10pm slot for the foreseeable future. [Ed. Note: The ranger show starring Cylon 6 is toast(ered) too.]
THE BEGINNING OF THE END. According to AMC in an announcement made this week at the Winter TCA gathering, Mad Men is set to kick off its seventh and final season on Sunday, April 13 at 10 p.m., Of course, there should be an asterisk next to that whole final season thing as, following Breaking Bad’s lead, Mad Men’s swan song will be expanded and divided into two parts, with the first half kicking off in April with a seven episode run, before returning for the final seven episodes in spring 2015.
In other big news from the AMC panel: the tentative premiere date of Better Call Saul, the highly anticipated and buzzed about Breaking Bad spinoff.
The prequel, which stars Bob Odenkirk as the morally questionable fan favorite attorney Saul Goodman and will be executive produced by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and writer/producer Peter Gould, is eyeing a November premiere.
And lastly, in other AMC news, Talking Dead, The Walking Dead’s popular after-show hosted by Chris Hardwick, was renewed for a fifth season, which will follow the zombie hit when it returns for its fifth season in October. (Season four is set to return on Sunday, Feb. 9.) And the network’s new Revolutionary War drama Turn will debut on Sunday, April 6 at 9 p.m., while Hell on Wheels will return for its fourth season in the summer.
AND JUST LIKE BUFFALO CHIPS, THEY’LL HIT THE TRAIL. In the wake of the untimely death of novelist Elmore Leonard (the creator of books the show is based on) in 2013, FX has announced plans to bring the hit series Justified to an end at the end of, not the current fifth season, but next year’s sixth. “We like having shows that rate really well, and there’s an instinct that you want it to go on forever. But it doesn’t,” FX programming president Nick Grad explained at the Justified premiere party. “Another metric that’s important to us [beyond ratings] is, ‘What shows are going to be talked about in the next 20 years?’ If you’re making a great, 80-hour movie, it has to have a beginning, middle and end.” I can agree with you in spirit, Nick, but I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to Timothy Oliphant’s laconic portrayal of US Marshall Raylan Givens. Maybe in a year, now that you’ve warned me; but maybe not.
BECAUSE CHILDBIRTH JUST ISN’T FRIGHTENING ENOUGH! We may be losing Timothy Olyphant on our TV’s but we’re gaining Zoe Saldana! Which may not be an even trade, but it’s a good one. The Star Trek/Avatar actress has just signed on to the small screen remake of Rosemary’s Baby. The four hour NBC mini-series, based on Roman Polanski’s 1968 film, which was in turn based on Ira Levin’s 1967 novel, will star Saldana as the titular Rosemary, the role originally played by Mia Farrow in a star-making turn. Plans for the remake were announce by the Peacock back in July at the Television Critics’ Association meeting. Also up for a remake, Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers, an ambitious book that was turned into a lackluster mini-series back in the eighties with Jimmy Smits and Marg Helgenberg. Also in the works is a sequel to The Bible (now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d utter), last year’s hit Mark Burnett mini, called AD: Beyond the Bible, that will bring the story up to including the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock. Happy Thanksgiving??
EVERY ONE KNOWS ITS WENDY! In the wake of the on-screen deaths of Maggie Siff’s Tara and Ron Perlman’s Clay, Drea de Matteo, who plays Wendy Case, the ex-wife of Samcro prez Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), has been upped to series regular for the show’s seventh and final season. The Emmy Award-winning actress (The Sopranos) will step in to try to fill the void left behind with the loss of Jax’s wife Tara, who was murdered by his mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal) in the season finale. “I wanted to remove [Jax's] ‘True North,’ because I feel like there needs to be this major psychic and emotional shift that has to happen. What direction it will push him in we will see next season,” creator Kurt Sutter said. “But what happens to a guy like that now that he’s lost both of the people he loves the most, who were able to be his moral compass, with Opie and now Tara. It really is Jax completely untethered and on his own in the final season.” De Matteo’s promotion was first reported by TV Line.
LIVE FROM NEW YORK…In a story that sounds more like the set-up to an SNL skit that it does an actual behind the scenes story of the show, Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels this week announced the addition of Sasheer Zamata to the cast, making the actress the first African-American woman added to the cast since the departure of Maya Rudolph in 2007. Michaels, who has been under fire for the show’s lack of diversity since hiring six new cast members (all white) at the beginning of the current season says that it’s “100 per cent good for the show to have an African-American woman as part of the cast.” Zamata is a veteran of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in drama. Zamata’s other credits include the Cooking Channel webseries Fodder, Cooking Channel’s Back in Time for Thanksgiving special, Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central and Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.
In a further effort to climb back on the diversity train, SNL has also announced the hiring of two female African-American writers for the show, LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tookes and Jones were discovered during SNL’s recent auditions and will join the writers on Monday. SNL held auditions in Los Angeles and New York for new talent in December.
Jones has had roles on Sullivan and Son and The League, and appeared on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam. Tookes is a former newscaster. All three ladies make their debuts on the show in the episode airing Saturday, January 18.
HBO TO GO “UNDER” THE BOARDWALK. The end of the Boardwalk Empire is approaching. HBO announced at its TCA session in Pasadena recently that Boardwalk Empire, starring Steve Buscemi will come to a close at the end of its fifth season, which is slated to debut this fall.
“It has been an incredibly honor to bring this powerful and groundbreaking series to our subscribers,” said HBO programming prez Michael Lombardo. “Terry Winter has created one for the ages.”
Speaking of Boardwalk creator (and Sopranos alum) Winter, “We’re thrilled to get the go-ahead for a fifth season of Boardwalk Empire,” he said. “After much discussion with my creative team and HBO, we’ve decided to wrap up the series after such a great run and look forward to bringing it to a powerful and exciting conclusion.”
IT’S A GIRLS’ LIFE. Speaking of HBO, the premium net has announced that it has ordered a fourth season of the Lena Dunham comedy, Girls, which will begin filming in 2015.
The third season of Girls premieres January 12, which is the same night that the show and Dunham are respectively up for Golden Globes for television comedy and actress in a comedy, categories they won last year.
DOCTOR WHO SEASON EIGHT STAYS WHOLE-NO REGENERATION REQUIRED. According to Doctor Who Magazine, quoting a story first reported on the Digital Spy website, Doctor Who executive producer and showrunner Steven Moffat has confirmed there will be no season-eight split for the upcoming series.
“We’re not going to do splits [in series eight], and the same format will repeat exactly the following year like that—so it will be the traditional form,” Moffat said. The BBC has yet to confirm the announcement, but why would the Moff say it if it weren’t true? This means that both seasons eight and nine will run without interruption, which should be good news to the legion of fans for the show, which just celebrated its fiftieth anniversary and just ushered in a new Doctor, Peter Capaldi.
Doctor Who is currently in production in Cardiff through August 2014.
THE GAME’S AFOOT! In other awesome Moffat/British TV news, the writer and cocreator of Sherlock said he and cocreator Mark Gatiss have plotted out seasons four and five of the Benedict Cumberbatch-Martin Freeman series, which means a statement of Cumberbatch’s reported earlier this year about having signed on through season five, must have been accurate after all. This means that after the current season (which is scheduled to begin airing in the US on PBS Sunday, January 19th), we’ll have at least two more seasons of Sherlock to look forward to. Cheerio!
STAN LEE JOINS S.H.I.E.L.D-WORLD OFFICIALLY DECLARED SAVED. According to The Hollywood Reporter, after months of speculation and anticipation, comic book writer, editor, publisher and action-hero enthusiast Stan Lee will be making a very special television appearance on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Currently, Lee’s appearance on the hit ABC action drama is scheduled for some time in February. Although the details are being kept tightly under wraps, Marvel Comic’s former chairman says it will be a “big role.” Lee is certainly no stranger to the Marvel film universe, having had cameos in many of its big screen incarnations, from X-Men to Spider-Man to The Avengers, as well as an appearance in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats. [Ed. Note: At Friday's (1/17) Winter TCA, ABC also announced that Lady Sif - the often magnificently inappropriately attired Jamie Alexander (pictured) - is also coming to TV's S.H.I.E.L.D.!!]
And that should wrap it up for this installment, TV addicts! With any luck, I’ll be back with a preview of Sherlock’s season three right before its stateside debut on January 19th. Take care!
As someone in a Dickens’ novel once said, “God bless us, everyone!”
Happy New Year 2014!!
The Holidays Are Almost Over, & It’s Time for All Your Favorite TV Shows to Return! And Really, Isn’t That The Greatest Gift of All?!
HAPPY NEW YEAR, PART ONE!!
Merry Christmakwanzaachanukasolstice, everyone! And Happy New Year, too. Now that we’ve all had a chance to roll about in wild abandon beneath the tree (or menorah, or whatever) and celebrate and/or bemoan the arrival of gifts, fruit cakes or thoughts that don’t count nearly as much as you thought they would, the expert technicians at popGeezer Laboratories have been busy putting together our own list for the holiday season and whether you’ve been naughty or nice (or just been treated nice for being oh, so naughty, Mrs. Robinson), we’ve got the list of returning TV shows, midseason premieres and a few special events to make 2014 come in like a lion. This list doesn’t include everything; it excludes all sporting events, Very Special Episodes (well, most of them) and many, many shows on many, many cable nets I just don’t care about, but we’ll try to have something for everyone, OK? Here we go:
Oh, by the way, all times listed are EASTERN and the bulk of this info comes from Futon Critic, aided and abetted and sometimes contradicted by E! News, TV Line, TV Guide and others.
JANUARY: The biggest month of returns and premieres and oh-so-gooey TV goodness!
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY FIRST:
8pm. DANCE MOMS: (Two Hour Special.) Lifetime. Yes, I’m starting with Lifetime! You wanna give me grief about it? I can’t tell if this is a new episode or a special one (yes, the kind I said I wasn’t going to mention), but if you’re jonesin’ for a look at out-of-control stage parents who ought to be boiled in their own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through their hearts, this is the show for you!
SHARK TANK. CNBC (off-net cable premiere). I don’t know if off-net premiere means that they’re re-running old ABC eps (probably) or if these are shows produced exclusively for CNBC, but here you are.
9pm. DANCE MOMS: Lifetime (Season Four premiere). More psychotic parenting from the net who first coined the phrase, Women in Jeopardy!
10pm. KIM OF QUEENS: Lifetime (Series Premiere). I have no idea. I’m just trying to be fair, you know?
10:30pm KIRSTIE: TV Land (Winter return). Kirstie Alley’s back on TV! And she’s eating it! Yay!!
THURSDAY, JANUARY SECOND:
COMMUNITY: NBC (Season Five Premiere). Joel McHale and the Little Show That Could returns! With original EP Dan Harmon! Mmmmm, education never tasted this good.
THE TASTE: ABC (Two Hour Season Two Premiere). Hmm, a show called The Taste, for people who have none. Go figure.
8:30pm COMMUNITY: NBC (Second bonus ep). As much as I love me some Community, it’s not a good sign when the net starts clumping eps this early. Is it?
THE MILLERS: CBS: (Season One Winter Premiere). C’mon CBS! You can do so much better than this!
9pm SEAN SAVES THE WORLD: NBC (Season One Winter Premiere). I love me some Megan Hilty and I know she just got married and all, but this show is awful!
THE CRAZY ONES: CBS (Season One Winter Premiere). I like this show. I watch this show (and considering how I feel about sitcoms, you know what an endorsement that is), but sometimes it’s really hard watching the rest of the cast, especially poor Sarah Michelle Gellar, trying to keep up with Robin Williams, the most agile comedy mind TV has seen since Jonathan Winters.
9:30pm THE MICHAEL J FOX SHOW: NBC (Season One Winter Premiere). I had such high hopes for this show! Unfortunately, none of them panned out. Sorry, MJ.
TWO AND A HALF MEN: CBS (Season Eleven Winter Premiere). I can’t say I disagree with CBS about dumping Charlie Sheen when they did, especially since it looks like he’s about to meltdown again, but Ashton Kutcher? Charlie’s heretofore unknown lesbian daughter as the “half man?” Jon Cryer’s just in it for the paycheck now, isn’t he?
10pm THE ASSETS: ABC (Series Premiere). I have no idea what this is or what it’s about, but hey, it’s on ABC!
PARENTHOOD: NBC (Season Five Winter Premiere). The critical darling returns for its fifth brush with cancellation.
STEVEN SEGAL LAWMAN: REELZ (Season Three Premiere). Hey, Segal’s got bills to pay too, you know! I’m sure none of them are for acting lessons, but still…
RIDICULOUSNESS: MTV (Season Four Premiere). I include this one for my Drama students. They love this show.
FRIDAY, JANUARY THIRD:
9pm GRIMM: NBC (Season Three Winter Premiere). Don’t worry if you missed anything in the fall; I’m sure whatever was happening to Nick in episode one is still happening to him now! These guys have a problem with closure.
10pm DRACULA: NBC (Season One Winter Premiere). The most insane show on broadcast TV returns!
SATURDAY, JANUARY FOURTH:
11:30pm THE FOLLOWING: FOX (Season One recap). Get caught up so you can keep up as FOX makes fools out of Kevin Bacon and the FBI for another season of fun!
SUNDAY, JANUARY FIFTH:
7pm AMERICA’S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS: ABC (Season TWENTY-FOUR Winter Premiere). For almost a quarter of a century, scientific proof that $#!+ always floats to the top. At least on Sundays.
8pm THE BACHELOR: COUNTDOWN TO JUAN PABLO: NBC (One hour special). A totally unnecessary build-up to the totally unnecessary premiere of a totally unnecessary show!
THE SIMPSONS: FOX (Season TWENTY-FIVE Winter Premiere). Because being one year older than AFHV has to mean something!
8:30pm BOB’S BURGERS: FOX (Season Four Winter Premiere).
FAMILY GUY: FOX (Season Twelve Winter Premiere). Seth MacFarlane shakes up those eight jokes he knows one more time and figures out a way to tell them yet again.
THE GOOD WIFE: CBS (Season Five Winter Premiere). Julianna Marguiles returns for more legal fun in a show I just don’t get.
REVENGE: ABC (Season Three Winter Premiere).
9:30pm AMERICAN DAD: FOX (Season Ninth Winter Premiere). Seth MacFarlane hauls out the same eight jokes with a (slightly) different family.
10pm THE MENTALIST: CBS (Season Six Winter Premiere). Red John is dead, half the cast has gone and in the wings, the Fat Lady is preparing to sing.
BETRAYAL: ABC (Season One Winter Premiere). Oh, come on! This show is still on??
MONDAY, JANUARY SIXTH:
8pm ALMOST HUMAN: FOX (Season One Winter Premiere). I’m loving this show, but it’s time for FOX to start airing the eps in order and for Abrams, Wyman and company to kick in the mythology!
THE BACHELOR: ABC (Season Eighteen Premiere). The moment you’ve been waiting for has arrived, America!! Somebody wake me when it’s over.
9pm HOSTAGES: CBS (Season One Winter Premiere). Tell me again, why is this show still on? Does Dylan McDermott have pictures of CBS prez Leslie Moonves in a compromising position or something?
10pm CASTLE: ABC (Season Six Winter Premiere). It’s struggling to stay fresh, but I still love this show, primarily because of the chemistry between Captain Tight Pants himself, Nathan Fillion and the luminous Stana Katic. Turn it up!
TEEN WOLF: MTV (Season Three Winter Premiere). Considering the movie it’s based on, this show should be a joke. But the real joke is on anybody who isn’t watching. This is without a doubt the best thing on MTV since early Madonna videos.
11pm WOLF WATCH: MTV (Season Three Winter Premiere). Because now that we’ve watched Teen Wolf, we have to talk about it, right? Not as engaging as The Talking Dead, but still worth a minute or two of your time for the occasional spoiler.
TUESDAY, JANUARY SEVENTH:
8pm DADS: FOX (Season One Winter Premiere). A talented cast continues to trash their careers in this awful, awful show.
NCIS: CBS (Season Eleven Winter Premiere). The number one scripted show on television returns to make it look easy once again.
BROOKLYN NINE-NINE: FOX (Season One Winter Premiere). Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher are back! Because, hey…where else would they go?
PRETTY LITTLE LIARS: ABC FAMILY (Season Four Winter Premiere). Lies! Murder! Cover-ups! How is this show on a “family” channel again?
9pm INTELLIGENCE: CBS (Series Premiere-special night and time). Josh Holloway and Marg Helgenberg star in a show I’m still excited about, even though so many critics aren’t. We’ll see.
THE GOLDBERGS: ABC (Season One Winter Premiere). The surprise hit returns! I bet George Segal is glad he gave the Dads script as pass now, isn’t he?
NEW GIRL: FOX (Season Three Winter Premiere). Zoey Deschanel returns as the quirkiest gal on TV since Marlo Thomas in That Girl.
RAVENSWOOD: ABC FAMILY (Season One Winter Premiere). A supernatural spin-off of PLL, it begs the same question: how is this a “family” show again?
9:30pm TROPHY WIFE: ABC (Season One Winter Premiere). The other surprise hit returns! A hit show and you get to make out with Malin Akerman! Good on you, Bradley Whitford. Good on you.
THE MINDY PROJECT: FOX (Season Two Winter Premiere). This is the show that E! News calls the best sitcom on TV! So…I guess, watch it?
10pm CHICAGO FIRE: NBC (Season Two Winter Premiere). Ripped from the pages of your favorite calendar, the sexy firemen of the Windy City return!
PERSON OF INTEREST: CBS (Season Three Winter Premiere). The best show on broadcast TV returns and I’m still not over the death of Detective Carter. All hail the Machine!
JUSTIFIED: FX (Season Five Premiere). We may have lost author Elmore Leonard earlier this year, but thank god we haven’t lost this great show, featuring one of his most iconic characters. Timothy Olyphant returns as quick-shootin’ US Marshall Raylan Givens and the phenomenal Walton Groggins is back as everyone’s favorite backwoods psychopath Boyd Crowder in a show that’s as sweet as Kentucky moonshine!
COUGAR TOWN: TBS (Season Five Premiere). Courtney Cox and her cul de sac full of crazies open their second season on a new net, proving that maybe it was all ABC’s fault, after all.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY EIGHTH.
8pm THE MIDDLE: ABC (Season Five Winter Premiere). I don’t watch this show. It’s the wife from Everybody Loves Raymond and the guy who played the Janitor on Scrubs, right? Huh. Who’d’a figured that would work?
8:30pm SUPER FUN NIGHT: ABC (Season One Winter Premiere). Really? ABC hasn’t decided to drop-kick this one yet? What in the world are they waiting for? (Another new ep runs at 9:30pm in the show’s regular timeslot)
9pm THE 40TH ANNUAL PEOPLES’ CHOICE AWARDS: CBS (One night two hour special event). This is the awards show that gets voted on by fans, so expect to see a lot more celebrities and a lot fewer actually talented people hit the stage.
LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT: NBC (Season Fifteen Winter Premiere). Benson goes head to head with her rapist from the fall and Stabler still doesn’t come back to make this show good again.
MODERN FAMILY: ABC (Season Five Winter Premiere). TV’s craziest blended family returns with more hijinks. Ed O’Neil’s character is still inexplicably married to Sofia Vergara, South America’s answer to spontaneous combustion and Julie Bowen is still one of the cutest and funniest women on the tube.
PSYCH: USA (Season Eight Premiere). Isn’t this show running on CBS and called The Mentalist? Or is it the other way around? Either way, Richard Roday and Dule’ Hill are much more fun to watch than Red John.
THE REAL WORLD: MTV (Season Twenty-nine Premiere). One of TV’s original reality shows returns. Again. Just like my Uncle Henry, it doesn’t know how to go away after the holidays either.
10pm CHICAGO PD: NBC (Series Premiere). The guys who brought you sexy Chicago firemen, now bring you sexy Chicago cops. Just what we needed. Another cop show.
THURSDAY, JANUARY NINTH:
8:30pm PARKS AND RECREATION: NBC (Season Six Winter Premiere). And we kick things off with the 100th episode! Which are exactly one hundred episodes more of this show than I’ve actually seen. Go figure.
9pm WHITE COLLAR: USA (Season Five Winter Premiere). I keep waiting for this show to run out of gas, but it just doesn’t happen. A great cast and great writing make this show so much more fun that it ought to be. I still miss Hilarie Burton’s Sara, but Bridget Regan’s Rebecca is slowly taking the pain away.
FRIDAY, JANUARY TENTH:
8pm BONES: FOX (Season Nine Winter Premiere). I have been a big supporter of this show, but it is seriously losing steam. I won’t blame them if they want to do a tenth season to lock in a solid decade, but I will blame them if the writing doesn’t get better than it has been.
LAST MAN STANDING: ABC (Season Three Winter Premiere). Tim Allen returns in a distaff version of Home Improvement that has to be the least talked-about show on television.
UNDERCOVER BOSS: CBS (Season Five Winter Premiere).
8:30pm NEIGHBORS: ABC (Season Two Winter Premiere). All I can figure is that this show is kept on the air as part of our non-aggression treaty with the planet Rigel Seven.
9pm HAWAII FIVE-OH: CBS (Season Four Winter Premiere). The only reason to watch this show is Scott Caan as Dano. The. Only. Reason. The rest of it is just more of the kind of safe, white-bread, flag-waving, red, white and blue programming that CBS has gotten so comfortable with lately. And bring back Grace Park!!
RAISING HOPE: FOX (Season Four Winter Premiere).
SHARK TANK: ABC (Season Five Winter Premiere). Does this mean that these eps will end up on CNBC too?
9:30pm ENLISTED: FOX (Series Premiere). The worst new show of the season finally debuts to prove it!
10pm BANSHEE: CINEMAX (Season Two Premiere). If you missed the first season of this new crime show from True Blood’s Alan Ball, then you missed out on a wild ride! I’m still not sure about Anthony Starr as anti-hero Lucas Hood, but there’s a whole mess of really beautiful women taking their clothes off on a regular basis on this show (i.e. Lili Simmons, pictured) and where else are you going to go to see Amish gangsters?
BLUE BLOODS: CBS (Season Four Winter Premiere). I used to say I’d watch Tom Selleck read the phone book, but I’m no longer sure that’s true. This is a great show, but I lost my fire for it back at the end of season two and not even Bridget Moynahan and get it back for me. Sigh.
HELIX: SYFY (Series Premiere). Ronald D. Moore of BSG-fame returns to SYFY for this The Thing-esque show about a CDC team investigating an outbreak at the North Pole. Billy Campbell and the excellent Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine, 47 Ronin) star.
11pm LUCAS BROS. MOVING COMPANY: FOX (Series Premiere). You got me. I have no idea.
11:15pm GOLAN THE INSATIABLE: FOX (Series Premiere). This one either. [Ed note: FOX just ran both this past Sunday, following a rerun of Family Guy. Lucas Bros. is a bit too "Adult Swim" after midnight for my tastes, but Golan - about a demi-god from another dimension stuck in suburbia - has real twisted potential.]
SUNDAY, JANUARY TWELFTH:
8pm THE 71ST ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS: NBC (One night three hour special event). It’s the night the HFPA tries to both predict the Oscars and show just how unique and original they are! Can you do both? Signs point to “not well.”
9pm SHAMELESS: SHOWTIME (Season Four Premiere). William H. Macy returns to lead a Master Class in Acting and prove why he is one of the most under-rated talents in Hollywood today. [Ed. Note: Emmy Rossum. Case closed.]
TRUE DETECTIVE: HBO (Series Premiere). Matthew McConaughey in his first series ever and Woody Harrelson in his first since Cheers star as two Louisiana cops in this much-anticipated limited series.
10pm GIRLS: HBO (Season Three Premiere). Lena Dunham and her gal pals return in this polarizing show about becoming a woman in the 21st Century. Or something like that. All is know is that there’s a lot of swear words and marijuana and boobies.
HOUSE OF LIES: SHOWTIME (Season Three Premiere). Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell return with more sharp-tongued tomfoolery about working for a big-time PR firm.
SHERLOCK: UNLOCKING SHERLOCK: PBS (One hour preview special). A last chance who’s who and what’s what before the best show on television returns next week.
10:30pm EPISODES: SHOWTIME (Season Three Premiere). Matt LeBlanc plays a twisted version of himself in the third season of a sitcom about being in a sitcom.
MONDAY, JANUARY THIRTEENTH:
8pm AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR: NBC (Two hour special). It’s the USA vs. Japan! Winner gets Godzilla and all the sushi they can eat!
HART OF DIXIE: CW (Season Three Winter Premiere). Rachel Bilson is back! And while I would rather it be on a different show on a different network, how can that be a bad thing?
LOST GIRL: SYFY (Season Four Premiere). Well, as much as anything can be a premiere when it’s already run in another country.
SWITCHED AT BIRTH: ABC FAMILY (Season Three Premiere).
8:30pm TWO BROKE GIRLS: CBS (Season Three Winter Premiere). Whitney Cummings’ one decent show continues to tie Kat Denning down and keep her from pursuing a movie career beyond the Thor franchise.
9pm BEAUTY & THE BEAST: CW (Season Two Winter Premiere). Enjoy this show while you still can kids! It’s got about as much chance of getting a season three as I do winning a Pulitzer.
BEING HUMAN: SYFY (Season Four Premiere). Now that it’s the only Being Human (the original UK version ended last year), maybe we can lose the feeling of Déjà vu we had before and really veer off into some undiscovered territory for our supernatural roomies.
THE FOSTERS: ABC FAMILY (Season One Winter Premiere). What is this show about? I have no idea. The best I can come up with is that it’s about an Australian family who owns a brewery, and while I’d watch the heck out of a show like that, it can’t be right.
MIKE & MOLLY: CBS (Season Four Winter Premiere). If you’re a big fan of Melissa McCarthy’s movies, you’re not gonna find a lot of that edgy comedy here. Watch my friend Katy Mixon (pictured) as Molly’s wacky sister…otherwise, I got nothin’.
SLEEPY HOLLOW: FOX (Season One Winter Premiere). It’s baaack! Next to NBC’s Dracula, this one wins the prize as the most jumped-up and insane show on television. Unlike Dracula, people actually watch this one. In droves. Fans of the original short story will be woefully disappointed, but the real reason to stay is the crazy chemistry between Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Abbie (Nicole Beharie).
9:30pm MOM: CBS (Season One Winter Premiere). Gobs of talent on display here as Allison Janney and Ana Faris put the “fun” back in dysfunctional.
10pm ARCHER: FX (Season Five Premiere). It’s not for everybody, but if you can get into it, this decidedly adult toon is sharp as a tack and wickedly funny. Sterling Archer may not be James Bond, but he is The Duchess.
BITTEN: SYFY (Series Premiere). Remember how for a while, zombies were the new vampires? Well, thanks to Teen Wolf and others, Werewolves are the new zombies! The lovely Laura Vandervoort of Smallville and V returns to genre telly with a werewolf series based on Kelly Armstrong’s Women of Otherworld books.
THE BLACKLIST: NBC (Season One Winter Premiere). TV’s wildest ride returns with James Spader and Megan Boone as they chase the bad guys and try to figure out who’s pulling their strings. Is Spader’s Raymond Reddington really Lizzie’s dad? His mouth says no, but is his heart saying yes? I can’t wait to find out!
INTELLIGENCE: CBS (Regular time slot premiere). Well, if there was ever an argument to break down and invest in The Hopper for my DVR, this is it! Four shows I really want to watch, all in the same hour on the same night! Argh!
TUESDAY, JANUARY FOURTEENTH:
8pm THE ORIGINALS: CW (Season One Winter Premiere). The surprisingly good TVD spin-off returns as the New Orleans supernatural community discovers that Klaus is a far less benevolent king than Marcel ever was!
9pm NCIS: LOS ANGELES: CBS (Season FIve Winter Premiere). Like its predecessor, this show lives and dies, not on the stories, but on the personalities of its cast. Get ready, because rumor has it that NCIS: New Orleans is on deck (I wonder if they’ll be fighting Klaus’ vampires?).
SUPERNATURAL: CW (Season Nine Winter Premiere). Here’s another show that needs to shuffle off into that good night. I’m with you if you want to go out on a season ten, but it’s gotta be a damn sight better than this one has been!
FACE OFF: SYFY (Season Six Premiere). More fun with make-up and special effects.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY FIFTEENTH:
8pm AMERICAN IDOL: FOX (Season Thirteen Premiere). Can we call it Lucky 13 and say it’s the last one?
ARROW: CW (Season Two Winter Premiere). This show has improved by leaps and bounds this year and I can’t wait to see what happens when Oliver realizes Deathstroke has come to town. And may I confess my serious TV crush on Emily Brett Richards who plays Felicity? If Ollie doesn’t want her, I do!
MELISSA & JOEY: ABC FAMILY (Season Three Winter Premiere). Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence (Yo!), how can that not be a recipe for comedy gold??
8:30pm SUBURGATORY: ABC (Season Three Premiere). More fun in those beautiful ‘burbs!
9pm CRIMINAL MINDS: CBS (Season Nine Winter Premiere). Another show that’s hemorrhaging cast members as the net tries to control the ever-increasing budget. It’s still a hit, but for how long?
TOMORROW PEOPLE: CW (Season One Winter Premiere). After a strong start, this show’s glaring inconsistencies in terms of story and mythology are costing it huge numbers from week to week. If something doesn’t happen fast, there will be no tomorrow, people (did you see what I did there? God, I’m funny!).
10pm CSI: CBS (Season Fourteen Winter Premiere). Just like a great song is always open to a number of interpretations, a great TV is more than any one actor or character. Now into its third lead (Ted Danson, following Laurence Fishburn and William Petersen), the original CSI just keeps on going.
NASHVILLE: ABC (Season Two Winter Premiere). I enjoyed this show at first, but it progressively got so soapy that even the great music and all the views of the beautiful Nashville skyline weren’t enough to keep my attention. Is it OK to say I’ll wait for the album?
DUCK DYNASTY: A&E (Season Five Premiere). What a difference a month makes, huh? Already the most successful show on cable, the Ducks go into a tail spin when patriarch Phil Robertson makes racist and homophobic remarks in a GQ article. The net suspends him indefinitely, but when the public outcry becomes too negative, they recant and the Robertson clan comes out of the whole debacle looking stronger and more invincible than ever. This season was already shot before the brown fecal matter hit the large spinning air-circulation device, but I’m told that for sweeps in season six, the Robertsons will give the A&E execs their balls back.
MEN AT WORK: TBS (Season Three Premiere).
THURSDAY, JANUARY SIXTEENTH:
8pm AMERICAN IDOL: FOX (Second night time-slot premiere).
THE 19TH ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE MOVIE AWARDS: CW (One night, two hour special). Critics’ choices on the CW? Isn’t that kind of like Republicans at a Gay Pride parade? Not something you see every day, is what I’m saying…
FRIDAY, JANUARY SEVENTEENTH:
8pm COLD JUSTICE: TNT (Season Two Premiere).
10pm REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER: HBO (Season Twelve Premiere). America’s favorite feistiest liberal is back!
SUNDAY, JANUARY NINETEENTH:
10pm SHERLOCK: PBS (Season Three Premiere). Three two-hour episodes, that’s all you get. And it’s still the most amazing, most well-written, most brilliantly-acted, most satisfying show on television, on either side of the Atlantic! We know Holmes survived his death last season, but how?
THE FOLLOWING: FOX (Season Two Premiere-special night and time). Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy return in one of the most addicting games of cat and mouse to be found anywhere!
10:30pm LOOKING: HBO (Series Premiere).
TUESDAY, JANUARY TWENTY-FIRST:
10pm OPPOSITE WORLDS: SYFY (Series Premiere). SYFY’s reality game show about teams competing for dominance in a variety of other-worldly locales. Reminds me of Christmas dinner at my folks’ house, actually.
TEEN MOM 2: MTV (Season Ten Premiere).
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY TWENTY-SECOND:
9pm GHOST HUNTERS: SYFY (Season Ten Premiere). Ten years and no actual evidence of a ghost. Anywhere! Kinda’ makes you think that either there are no ghosts or that these guys are pretty crappy at their jobs!
THURSDAY, JANUARY TWENTY-THIRD:
8pm THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: CW (Season Five Winter Premiere). Damon and Elena are broken up! Katherine is dying! Bonnie’s back from the dead and Caroline is having boy trouble. It’s just another Thursday in Mystic Falls!
9pm RAKE: FOX (Series Premiere). Greg Kinnear stars in one of the most interesting-sounding premises to come down the pike in quite a while.
REIGN: CW (Season One Winter Premiere). It’s Gossip Girl Meets The Tudors with a little touch of Downton Abbey. Mary Queen of Scots is back, y’all!
10pm KING OF THE NERDS: TBS (Season Two Premiere).
SATURDAY, JANUARY TWENTY-FIFTH:
9pm BLACK SAILS: STARZ (Series Premiere). I’m totally guessing here, but…Pirates?
SUNDAY, JANUARY TWENTY-SIXTH:
MONDAY, JANUARY TWENTY-SEVENTH:
9pm THE FOLLOWING: FOX (Regular time period premiere).
TUESDAY, JANUARY TWENTY-EIGHTH:
10pm THE CAPONES: REELZ (Series Premiere). A realistic look at Al and his penchant for boot-legging and murder, or a dime store knock-off of Boardwalk Empire? Anybody wanna take a guess?
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY TWENTY-NINTH:
10pm FLEMING-THE MAN WHO WOULD BE BOND: BBCA (Series Premiere). This Dramaville presentation looks at author Ian Fleming’s life as a real-life spy and how it inspired his iconic literary creation.
Whew! And that’s just January! Coming up soon I’ll have a look at the February, March and April premieres and what to expect from the Nets in the Spring with renewals and cancellations (I’m betting ABC’s Betrayal is the next to get the axe. With CBS’s Hostages right behind it. Or maybe Fox’s Enlisted will avoid the rush and just get cancelled the same night it premieres). In the meantime, enjoy your New Year celebrations, don’t forget to take a Designated Driver and remember, friends don’t let friends watch bad TV! Ciao!