From Sesame Street to Downton Abbey, many of us share a lifelong love affair with PBS. As a kid, Sesame Street was one of the only shows that I was allowed to watch (oddly enough, the super sexist Smurfs cartoon was one of the others, but that's totally irrelevant). Years later, as a broke recent college grad with no disposable income for cable, I became addicted to PBS-aired BBC sitcoms like As Time Goes By, Keeping Up Appearances, and — my favorite — Are You Being Served?
So, I knew my love affair would continue with the launch of You Ought To Know Nashville, which we we told you about last week. The You Ought To Know Nashville series is a new collaboration between Nashville Public Television (NPT), our local PBS affiliate, and Under the Guise's Heidi Jewell. Yesterday, PBS hosted a launch party for the new series at the Stone Fox. We tagged along to get a first look at the episode, featuring Nashville legend Prince's Hot Chicken and new Nashville hotspot Husk.
Legal shows have been TV staples since the days of Perry Mason and the original Defenders, but it's doubtful USA expected the reaction and response viewers have had to Suits, their program about machinations and misadventures at a high-powered Manhattan law firm.
For one thing, Suits neither devotes much airtime to specific cases nor spotlights (often) its main characters opposing other attorneys in court. Instead, it focuses on inter-office politics, tangled relationships between principal figures, and other plot devices that have only a slim connection to the law. So while you seldom see supposed top attorney Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) representing anyone, you see him in action everywhere else.
Yet that formula's worked very well. Over its first two seasons, Suits has not only become USA's top-rated drama, it has dominated every demographic category. When Season Three begins tonight at 9 p.m., the fallout from last year's explosive finale is plentiful. Specter and his boss Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) were once close allies, but her decision to merge with a British law firm against his wishes drove a huge wedge between them. Even worse, in his view, was that Specter's hand-picked associate Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) supported that decision.
Just one hour from now, as every American knows who's concerned with deadly weather and predatory fish, Sharknado premieres on the Syfy channel. We had our doubts, but after this must-read io9 interview with screenwriter Thunder Levin, we are totally sold:
How are the sharks cognizant enough to keep biting people while they're flying through the air?
If you were a shark and you found yourself flying through the air, wouldn’t you keep biting? I think you’d be pretty pissed about being plucked out of your nice familiar ocean where you’re king of the predators, and you’d probably take it out on whoever got in your way. Honestly, I don’t understand why people are so perplexed by this concept. The logic is undeniable.
How many sharks does an average sharknado contain? How many sharks are ejected per 5-minute period?
I can’t count that high.
Aren't the sharks at least as much victims of the sharknado as humans are?
Ah, well, now we’re into the larger philosophical issues of the film. What does it say about humans that when poor displaced sharks are ravaged by nature’s uncaring fury we try to kill them with chainsaws? I think we need to take a good long look in the mirror over that one.
Like many a complex and pressing issue, immigration gets reduced all too often to a soap-opera element in TV treatments. FX's new drama The Bridge, which debuts 9 p.m. Wednesday, has the look of something special.
Based on a Swedish/Danish series Bron, The Bridge spotlights tensions on the Texas/Mexico border through the eyes of two homicide detectives working on what may prove a sensational and controversial case.
Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) represents the laws of the U.S. and Texas, while her Mexican counterpart is Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir). They discover a body left on a bridge between the cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, the latest victim of a serial killer who ignores national boundaries in the ongoing quest for victims. It's a split jurisdictional situation.
Their pursuit of this murderer will take the bulk of The Bridge's thematic focus, at least in the first season. But the show is also about a clash of worldviews between the cops. Ruiz doesn't view life in as moralistic a fashion as Cross. Cross also is a loner, while Ruiz is far more outgoing.
The Bridge won't just juggle the two universes through the characters. Nearly half the dialogue will be in Spanish with English subtitles. The producers have given A Better Life Oscar nominee Bichir (who speaks fluent Spanish) additional duties as a language consultant to ensure accuracy and proper use of slang and vernacular.
Kruger hasn't had a showcase this promising since Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, while Bichir had a long-term stint in Weeds playing the mayor of Tijuana. Executive producer Meredith Stiehm's impressive resume includes writing on Homeland and Cold Case. FX is developing an ever-growing list of quality productions, so there's a good chance The Bridge could lead somewhere interesting.
One such team is Floyd County Productions, née 70/30, whose heads Matt Thompson and Adam Reed are responsible for some of the shows at the foundation of Turner's Adult Swim empire, including Sealab 2021. On the heels of their much loved and missed AS series Frisky Dingo, they created Archer for Fox. The wildly popular spy spoof has spawned a live tour with some of the cast, which hits the Ryman tonight at 8 p.m.(tickets start at $39.75).
In preparation for the story I wrote for this week's Scene, I got to chat with the awesome Amber Nash, an Atlanta-area improv comedienne who voices the show's "indestructible party girl" Pam Poovey. Some of our conversation dealt with Archer Live! directly, but she also shed some light on the relationship between community theater and the network and cable biz. Read through our conversation after the jump.
Considering how many times the character Hannibal Lecter has appeared in various films, the odds were not high that yet another project could succeed using him as its foundation, let alone a weekly TV show. But that's exactly what's happened with Hannibal for NBC, a network desperately in need of successful scripted dramas. Mads Mikkelsen's portrayal of the erudite serial killer and cannibal Lecter has been exceptional, and the program did well enough to merit a second-season renewal.
Lecter's relationship with FBI profiler Will Graham (well played by Hugh Dancy) has ranged from fascinating to disgusting to baffling, with Graham also battling encephalitis that causes blackouts and hallucinations. Lecter's used his knowledge of that situation to personal advantage, and the Lecter/Graham dynamics have affected other situations in Graham's life, especially his interactions with both Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) and Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park).
The first-season finale Thursday (WSMV-4, 9 p.m.) provides some powerhouse resolutions to a series of issues, which executive producer Bryan Fuller tells TV Guide will result in "the worst is yet to come." Fortunately, he also assures audiences that he's not going to leave them hanging with loose ends, and instead will conclude the year in a manner that enables the program to restart itself when it returns for a second 13-episode season in 2014.
As with The Following, those who don't like gore and overt violence are advised to avoid Hannibal. It's not quite the revolting equal of Showtime's Dexter, because this is still network TV — but it gets about as close as possible.
Now that the 2012-13 season has mercifully come to a close (NBC's Revolution finale was delayed a week), here are some reflections on another tough year at the networks. With viewership continuing to decline, and more threats appearing on the horizon from everyone like Netflix to other streaming services like Roku, the TV universe keeps evolving in unexpected ways. Whether that results in better programming remains to be seen.
Here are 10 things that surprised (or in some cases, stunned) us from September through early June.
1. NBC's horrendous performance
No one expected Robert Greenblatt, in his second season at the helm, to totally turn things around at the Peacock network. But few thought the situation might get worse. From such horrific programs as Do No Harm and Animal Practice to fiascos in both daytime (The Today Show) and late night (the PR debacle with Jay Leno), NBC often looked more adrift than usual.
NBC's few good developments — Sunday Night Football, Revolution nearly topping all new shows in the 18-49 demographic, The Voice overtaking American Idol among the target audience — were overwhelmed by their consistently abysmal primetime performance (e.g., multiple weeks in fifth place). Given his record at Showtime, it's anticipated Greenblatt will eventually restore NBC's luster. But the time it's taking has plenty of Comcast executives nervous.
Hale will be on hand for a VIP reception before the show starting at 6 p.m. — no word if the food and drink menu includes juice boxes — and doors open for the GA crowd at 6:30. Lightning 100’s Wells Adams will be your MC, and after the screening and Q&A The Young International will play a short set. Both VIP and general admission tix appear to be sold out, but Hale graciously hopped out of his shower and took a few minutes to chat with me this morning.
How was your trip? Did you get in okay?
I had a great trip. A little delayed, because I think Obama was flying into the airport in L.A. I got in and went last night to the Husk restaurant. I think that’s only been open about two weeks? It was a beautiful place. Had some fried green tomatoes and ribs, just perfect for the South.
The first cut is self-inflicted. Going into a situation where we know we can be hurt. With eyes open and using what we perceive as awareness and context as a shield, we let the first barb draw blood to acclimate, to get a base reading of how things are, to show we can handle whatever comes our way. We insist that we know what we're getting ourselves into, designing elaborate defenses and if/thens for if things deviate from our plan.
The second cut is very gradual, and it is born of routine. Consistency. And feeling like we've broken a pattern. We feel special, because the routine has inured us to the valleys with its dependable peaks. Just by being ourselves, we feel good about ourselves — the cowboy individualist stays the course and saves the day; cue the fireworks and power ballad love theme.
The third cut is the realization that it was all for naught, and that you bought the same line as countless others. You weren't special. You didn't manage to shake things up in a fulfilling way. And now you're back where you started, but burnt out inside and completely bereft of the energy it takes to give a shit and try again.
Those three cuts form pretty much the structure of every Lifetime movie, complaint-rock "love" song, and season-long romantic arc on any established form of episodic TV. But damned if Steven Soderbergh didn't find a way to make it all feel like something you've never experienced before, in what may be his last feature film for a while. Behind the Candelabra (which repeats on HBOEast at 11:30 a.m. today and remains available on demand) is specifically the story of pianist/entertainer/international superstar Władziu Liberace (but call him Lee, darling — everybody who's anybody does) and the few years he spent tangled up in the life of Scott Thorson.
Thorson, an aspiring veterinarian and animal trainer (no, not in the Siffredi sense — get your minds out of the gutter), started out beautiful and decent. But he ended up another casualty of love — a used-up trophy spouse who couldn't even take some degree of satisfaction from any sort of legal recognition. If nothing else, Behind the Candelabra is a valuable social tool for recognizing that rich old men, whether gay or straight, have similar patterns of behavior when it comes to beautiful people and things.
NBC hasn't had many success stories this season, especially with its new shows. But one that has found a home and audience is Revolution, which combines family angst and futuristic drama while earning top status among the 18-49 demographic for first-year programs (though it trailed CBS' Elementary by a wide margin in terms of total viewers).
As the show concludes its first season tonight at 9 p.m., things have come full circle for several characters. Once-close friends and allies Monroe (David Lyons) and Miles (Billy Burke) are now facing each other down with guns, while it seems Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) has been hiding a lot of secrets regarding what's contained within the tower. It's true power can be restored across the world by just flipping a switch, but it's also possible this action will trigger a global disaster.
The fact Rachel doesn't seem to care whether the world survives or not puts her on a collision course with her daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos). There's also the question of threats inside (murderous types) and outside (rebellious troops about to switch loyalties) the tower.
Revolution got off to a quick start, then was pulled for several weeks by NBC, who felt it made sense to keep the show paired with The Voice. While the finale is coming after the sweeps have ended, it's providing the network with new material on a night when most competitors are either airing reruns or shifting into summer fare.
Show runner and creator Eric Kripke promises fans will definitely see some major events during the finale, among them the death of two major characters. There's plenty of online speculation brewing about which ones don't make it to Season Two.
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