SciFi Weekend: Season Finales For Agents of SHIELD, Timeless, Arrow, The Blacklist, and Gotham; More Renewal News; The Orville & Star Trek News; Nebula Awards

Shortly after I listed Agents of SHIELD as one of the shows in which the fate was unknown when I listed renewals last week, word came out that SHIELD was renewed for a thirteen episode season, which will not air until summer. With SHIELD often dividing the season up into two arcs, a thirteen episode season should work well to concentrate on one story line. Delaying until summer also avoids conflicting with the events of Avengers: Infinity War. While I’ll avoid any significant spoilers, the movie ends with a cliff hanger which left the world changed–until it is presumably resolved in the next Avengers movie. It would be difficult to do a season of SHIELD while ignoring this. This way SHIELD can be written based upon how the matter is resolved, and could just refer to the events of the movies in passing, as was done late this season.

Agents of SHIELD ended the season with two possible character deaths, but there ways that they might not be permanent, especially with another version of Fitz out in orbit. The biggest question might be whether Jemma immediately tells Fitz they are married, or waits for him to propose as he was planning when he awoke in the future.

Syfy has an interview with the producers which was conducted before news that the series would be back for another season:

But you did seem to leave the door open for a possible Fitz return, judging by what Jemma was talking with Coulson about in the aftermath.

JW: Right. Everybody got zapped to the future, and zapped back, plus Fitz. But Fitz traveled to the future the long way. He basically slept in cryo-freeze for 80 years. So there are technically two Fitzes in this timeline, so we just killed one of them.

MT: We killed the blond one.

JW: It’s hard to follow, we know (laughs).

I blame you guys for the confusion because the tears you made us shed!

JB: That scene was written to be that way. That kind of, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there, but when you see him, tell him I say ‘Hi.’” Coulson makes a turn in the middle of it that could make someone miss that bit.

As if that wasn’t heart-wrenching enough, Coulson sacrificed himself to allow Daisy the chance to stop Talbot and save Earth. During his farewell speech at the end of the episode, Clark Gregg looked like he was barely keeping his emotions in check. What was that like, filming that moment, seeing the team’s heart and soul, the captain, saying goodbye?

JW: That was a big day, a tough day. We agree with everything you said. We think of Clark as the foundation that the show is built on. But we also knew that we wanted Coulson’s deal with Ghost Rider to have a price, and we wanted the show to … he’s approaching a point where’s he is pushing Daisy into a leadership role. His relationship with May has grown into something new. We felt it was a way of honoring the foundation of our show by giving it real stakes and hoping that he can pass the lessons, that he’s so good at teaching, to his teammates, in a more permanent way.

JB: This entire season we’ve been looking back at where we’ve come from. If you think about it, Coulson in the Avengers movie really brought the team together and allowed them to save the world. And then there was Tahiti.

So for us to take him back to Tahiti and for him again to make the sacrifice, in the sense that he didn’t take the injection that could save his life, and instead gave it to Daisy, he again was the character who, in a sense, saved the world. And we thought there was a nice circular return there for Coulson.

gain, one can guess you left yourself just enough room to bring Coulson back, if you wanted to and Clark wanted to return. Because he was still alive in that last scene.

JW: In terms of moving forward, we’ll have to figure out how to address that. In thrilling fashion, of course. But going into this season, not knowing if we would get another year, we felt like it was the right way to wrap up the show and Coulson’s storyline.

Filming the series finale this way made sense when it was not known whether it would be a series finale. This would suggest that Coulson was going to die if the series ended, eliminating the differences between the television show and movies, but leave matters open should the show return.

Clark Gregg was interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter about his potential role in the sixth season:

The golden rule of TV is if a character dies but it isn’t shown on screen, then they’re not really dead. That said, is Coulson really dead or is there a way that he can be cured in time for the abbreviated sixth season next year?

My understanding is that Phil Coulson is no longer alive. He’s been brought back, he’s been really clear that he didn’t want supernatural measures used again. I always felt like he thought almost like he wasn’t supposed to be here. That got more complicated for him when he started to form this new family and to have this surrogate daughter that he probably always wanted and to, in the most recent weeks of this SHIELD timeline, really opened himself up to his feelings for Melinda May. But I don’t think there is a real buy back for the fact that this deal he made with the Ghost Rider is killing his body.

How much have you discussed your future on the series with producers?

I have a meeting with [executive producers] Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen and the showrunners and I know there is some interest in having me involved in this 13-episode season six. I don’t know in what form that will take, whether that will be flashbacks or hopefully some sexy dreams that Melinda May is having. [Laughs.] That would be nice. But that’s all I know so far. There is some desire that is going to be explained to me but it’s why this finale is so deep and emotional. I knew by then that this was really a farewell to that character and his life. It was also before we knew anything about whether or not we were picked up so the scene where he is saying goodbye to people was a scene that we couldn’t even rehearse or read aloud successfully. We just had to figure out where we were going to stand and start shooting it because it was just so emotional for me and everybody there.

With these plans to continue having Coulson on the series in some capacity, does that mean you’ll be returning as a series regular next season?

That’s all what’s going to be part of this discussion and working it out. I’m available for whatever they need me to do and we’ll just be figuring it out. We just got picked up a few days ago. That’s what we’ll have to figure out going forward. I hope to be involved, maybe I’ll be an LMD or maybe I’ll be in a C3P0 suit and I’ll be everybody’s starchy Brit robot.

What did you think of Coulson’s goodbye in the finale, where he finally got to go to Tahiti and share that experience with May?

I found it all so moving. I’ve been playing this guy for 10 years now. In between shooting that stuff I was back shooting Captain Marvel with Brie Larson and Sam Jackson and playing him again in the ’90s so extending his timeline even further, and the membrane between the two of us, although we’re in some ways very different, it’s very thin. And my connection with the people on Agents of SHIELD and the number of hours we’ve all put in together and what we’ve all been through together, it feels very real. All of it, saying goodbye to those people, was very heavy. And then to step out onto the sands of Tahiti, I really have to thank ABC again for giving us the Disney jet and letting us have this really magical weekend in Tahiti. I’m just kidding. [Laughs] But that would have been nice. I loved the way they did it. I really thought it was a masterful idea by the writers of SHIELD and a really beautifully executed script by Jed and Maurissa and really beautifully directed by Jed.

Timeless is one of the few remaining network shows with no news regarding renewal or cancellation. The second season did leave with a big cliff hanger. Moments before the end, when I did not know what would happen, but it was obvious they were setting things up for a cliff hanger, I was thinking it would be really interesting if a second Lifeboat appeared next to the one which had just returned, possibly with Rufus (who had been killed earlier in the episode) aboard. They did even better with a newer version of the Lifeboat appearing, with future versions of  Lucy and Wyatt asking, “You guys want to get Rufus back or what?”

This was a perfect ending to grab the curiosity of fans, but there are some risks in a time travel show such as this. A relatively minor issue is that it does show that Lucy and Wyatt will both be around in the future. More seriously, it shows that they find a way around the limitation of not being able to travel back to where they have been, and lowers the stakes in the future if they can redo adventures if anything goes wrong. Presumably Rittenhouse will be able to do the same, complicating any attempts at stopping their efforts to change history.

Executive producer Shawn Ryan spoke with TV Line about the finale:

TVLINE | Where did these other versions of Lucy and Wyatt come from?
The episode that aired this past Sunday, Flynn referenced that he got the journal from Lucy. It seemed as if a future version of Lucy had given it to him, so that was a little bit of a tease that that was possible. It’s something that we hope to address in greater detail in Season 3 [if the show is renewed], exactly where that particular Wyatt and Lucy came from and what their circumstances are…

TVLINE | Where did these other versions of Lucy and Wyatt come from?
The episode that aired this past Sunday, Flynn referenced that he got the journal from Lucy. It seemed as if a future version of Lucy had given it to him, so that was a little bit of a tease that that was possible. It’s something that we hope to address in greater detail in Season 3 [if the show is renewed], exactly where that particular Wyatt and Lucy came from and what their circumstances are…

TVLINE | You’ve been playing all season with this idea of fate versus free will when it comes to Rufus’ life. Why did you decide to go through with Rufus’ death in the end?
We really like the idea of Jiya’s visions and how powerful they are, and the idea that what she saw were things that did come true in a way. One of her first visions was that Rufus was going to kill this pilgrim, and we ultimately saw in that episode that he actually didn’t shoot the guy, but the guy ended up being run over by horses and a carriage and died anyway. So the idea that there is some sort of fate thing that was going to befall Rufus, that despite all their best efforts to avoid it, they couldn’t, was something that was powerful to us — although, obviously, in the context of the twist end, where there’s a feeling like, “Hey, there’s a way to get him back now.”

Arrow ended the season on a cliff hanger which was awfully similar to what has already occurred on The Flash with Oliver going to prison. The death of Quentin Lance was not really a surprise as it was already announced that Paul Blackthorne was leaving the show. Presumably Oliver will not spend the rest of the series in prison. Unless Oliver can convince people that his statement that he is the Arrow was part of a ruse (similar to others covering for him in the past), the world will now know his identity, changing the show forever.

Marc Guggenheim is leaving as show runner after this season. He was interviewed about the finale by The Hollywood Reporter:

Season finales always include huge game-changing moments for Arrow and this was no different with Lance’s death and the Legends crossover with Sara (Caity Lotz) coming to the hospital. Where did the decision to kill off Lance come from? Was that always the plan or did that come as a result of conversations with Paul about the future of the character?

I wouldn’t say it was always the plan. It was something that we slowly came to. Sometimes we know exactly what our plans for a character are and other times it’s a slow discovery. In the case of Paul, it was a combination of two things. We started thinking about Lance’s character in season seven and coming to the conclusion that we felt like we told all the story there is to tell with Lance. We ran out of story with him while at the same time we were thinking about Katie Cassidy’s character, Earth-2 Laurel, and thinking about if Diaz were to kill Lance, what does that do for her character? It opened up a lot of very exciting storytelling possibilities for us and it fit in with a lot of things we were already thinking about in terms of the trajectory for Laurel’s character in season seven.

Oftentimes, we do what we call story math: If we killed off Lance, X, Y and Z happen. What are X, Y and Z? If we get excited about X, Y and Z, the idea starts to develop its own momentum. The more we talked about it, the more it felt like the natural and right thing to do. It’s always hard but at the same time, the show has always had an element to it where no one was safe. Unlike some of the other Arrow-verse shows, we’ve killed off more characters on Arrow than all the other Arrow-verse shows combined. There is something in the DNA about the show that makes that resonant and makes that visceral. As a result, we’re less precious about holding on to characters past their expiration date. But it’s hard because I will really miss working with Paul.

With Oliver now having publicly confessed to being the Green Arrow and getting sent to prison, after so many fake-outs in the past, what does this mean for the series moving forward now that he can’t go back to leading a double life?

When we were doing the pilot, I had a bucket list of ideas for the show. The identity reveal in my original conception happened in a very different way, but the idea of him revealing his identity, that was my penultimate card to play. Going into this season, we knew that that’s how we wanted to end the season. We were cognizant going into season six that if the show was going to be a six-plus-season show, it needs to constantly evolve and change. Oliver revealing his identity at the end of the season would be a great way to fundamentally change the series going into season seven.

He’s not going to remain in prison for the remainder of the series. When he gets out of prison, the fact that he now has to deal with the consequences of the public knowing his secret identity, that is huge. It’s not just Oliver, it’s also Felicity (Rickards) and his son, William (Jack Moore). She’s now married to the Green Arrow. William’s dad is the Green Arrow. That’s going to be huge for their family. That just creates so many cool stories to tell, interesting complications, challenges, dangers. It makes the prison storyline so much more visceral. If we wanted to just stick Oliver in prison, we could have done that without revealing his secret identity, but for us what always made the prison storyline exciting was he’s not just trapped in prison, but he’s trapped in prison with all these people who know that he’s the one who put him there. That’s such rich, exciting territory for us to be able to undertake in season seven.

Another change for the Arrowverse is that Batwoman and Gotham City will be introduced in next season’s cross over event. Oliver did mention Bruce Wayne earlier this season, showing that this is part of their universe.

The Blacklist managed to change things again with the revelation of whose bones were in the bag in the season finale. While watching I was wondering whether this was something planned all along or a twist they came up with this season to keep the show going. Entertainment Weekly received an answer to this question from Jon Bokencamp:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you know from the beginning that James Spader was not playing Raymond Reddington? 
JON BOKENKAMP: Yeah, this is something that we’ve talked about from the inception of the show. It is part of the underlying mythology that we’ve slowly been unraveling. I think there are a number of episodes that we can go back and sort of map and chart how we got here. Hopefully that is proof of concept to the audience that this is not something we’re just winging, and that we’re on a very specific path, and this is a well-earned reveal.

Did Spader know? Did the cast?
Yes, James has known and it’s something we’ve talked extensively about. The cast did not know, as far as I know. I’m always the last to know, so I have really no idea who else knew. But the thing I want to point out is that it doesn’t change tuning in to watch Spader be Raymond Reddington. He’s lived as Raymond Reddington long enough to be this person, right? He has told great stories, he has had great experiences, he’s become a world-class criminal and probably become a far more interesting person than the real Raymond Reddington ever dreamed of becoming.

I remember talking with James, it was probably right after we shot the pilot, and we were talking about what the show would be, how it would look and feel, and who this character was. The thing that has always stuck with me is that when James read the pilot, he had said that he felt like, at the end of the episode, it’s almost like he knew less about the character than he knew when he started reading the episode. We wanted to somehow hold on to that concept, that Reddington should be somebody who, once you think you understand who he is, you realize you know nothing about him. I think tonight is an example obviously of how we have tried to stay true to that, that he’s a very enigmatic figure that is a bit of a shape-shifter.

If he’s not Red, is there anything you can say as to who he is?
Well, I do think that is primarily the reason to come back in season 6, but you can go online and find all kinds of theories, imposter theories of who he is. There are a great number of them, by the way, many of which could make sense. But one of the things I love best about the show is that I can read some of these and I’d be like, “Well, that actually tracks.” What’s going to be the most fun about next season is watching Liz peel back this onion and get to the truth of why this man entered her life five years ago…

Liz has vowed to destroy Red. She went pretty dark in this episode. How far will she go? 
Yeah, well remember that she knows this truth about Reddington, but he does not know that she knows. I think that piece of information is really compelling. Not only has she learned a great deal from this man that she believed was her father, Raymond Reddington, she’s also learned a great deal from her now-deceased husband, who was a spy. So this is not the first-day-on-the-job FBI agent in the pilot who has just had a bombshell dropped in her lap. This is somebody who is struggling with who she is at the very core, and has not only killed people, has stewed people, has lied to people she’s worked with, so the potential darkness and the way in which she may approach handling this bombshell I think has real possibilities.

Watching Megan perform this year, I think she’s been fantastic. The character has always been fundamentally changing since the day we met her, but I think specifically in season 5, we’ve seen her take some pretty big steps. It’s some of the best stuff that character has had to do this season, because of the inner strength and the anger and everything she’s gone through to really put her in the corner. When she’s in the corner, she becomes a very interesting character.

Gotham has been renewed for a fifth and final season. One scene seemed to tease the Bat-signal. The producers had previously warned that the next season would bring many changes to the show in response to the catastrophe in the fourth season finale.

Fox also reports no current plans for another season of The X-Files but they are attempting to revive 24 once again. Of course the last season left matters quite open for another season of The X-Files if they manage to correct some of the creative problems in a way which entices Gillian Anderson to return. I am glad they have stayed away from trying to continue it with other stars.

The Last Ship will also receive a fifth and final season.

Netflix has renewed Lost in Space for a second season. Some  hints as to what will occur in the second season are in an interview posted here.

Amazon has renewed The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for a third season even prior to the release of the second season later this year.

I previously posted news on renewals and cancellations here.

While we already knew it was renewed, Fox has announced the return date for The Orville. It will return on Sunday, December 30th following football and return to Thursday evenings following the conclusion of the football season. Jonathan Frakes will continue to do work for the show, and another Star Trek writer, Joe Menosky, has been made a co-executive producer.

Last week we also found about another show which was planned but has been indefinitely delayed. Nicholas Meyer, who directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and worked on Discovery in its early days, had previously hinted about a new Star Trek project. Trek Core now  has information regarding this:

Last night, speaking to an audience at the University of California, Irvine, at a public “Shakespeare and Star Trek” discussion, Meyer shared details about his Trek project for the first time — and thanks to exclusive coverage from this event, we can share his comments with you.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: A while back there were reports that you might be working on a ‘Star Trek’ miniseries, is there any truth to that, if you’re allowed to say anything about that?

MEYER: No, I can say something. I was hired to write a stand-alone ‘Star Trek’-related trilogy, [details of which] I can’t discuss or I’d have to kill you. [Laughs] I was writing it for CBS [All] Access… but at the moment CBS is at a war with Paramount/Viacom [about merging].

They’re in a power struggle which turned really nasty this past week when CBS decided to sue Viacom. So I don’t think my project is going anywhere in a hurry, because everything is on hold while they sort out this merger business. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

I’ve always thought that Star Trek worked better as a television series than a movie, but I do find this project interesting. First, Meyer had directed one of the best Star Trek movies. Secondly, a streaming trilogy could be like a short Star Trek season, allowing for more time for ideas and characters, as opposed to blockbuster films which concentrate on action.

The Nebula Award winners have been announced, with a listing here.

Further Evidence From Congress Shows No Evidence That Clinton Lost Election Due To Russia

While Hillary Clinton is on a world-wide bitterness tour to continue to give excuses for her loss, further evidence released from the Congressional investigations continues to show that Russia did not cause Clinton to lose. This includes both a review of the Facebook ads from the Internet Research Agency and the testimony regarding the Trump Tower meeting. Democratic attempts to blame Clinton’s loss on Russia, as opposed to Clinton’s own serious flaws and poorly run campaign, again fail to hold up.

USA Today reviewed the Russian ads which were released last week:

The roughly 3,500 Facebook ads were created by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency, which is at the center of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s February indictment of 13 Russians and three companies seeking to influence the election.

While some ads focused on topics as banal as business promotion or Pokémon, the company consistently promoted ads designed to inflame race-related tensions. Some dealt with race directly; others dealt with issues fraught with racial and religious baggage such as ads focused on protests over policing, the debate over a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and relationships with the Muslim community.

The company continued to hammer racial themes even after the election.

USA TODAY NETWORK reporters reviewed each of the 3,517 ads, which were released to the public this week for the first time by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The analysis included not just the content of the ads, but also information that revealed the specific audience targeted, when the ad was posted, roughly how many views it received and how much the ad cost to post.

Among the findings:

  • Of the roughly 3,500 ads published this week, more than half — about 1,950 — made express references to race. Those accounted for 25 million ad impressions — a measure of how many times the spot was pulled from a server for transmission to a device.
  • At least 25% of the ads centered on issues involving crime and policing, often with a racial connotation. Separate ads, launched simultaneously, would stoke suspicion about how police treat black people in one ad, while another encouraged support for pro-police groups.
  • Divisive racial ad buys averaged about 44 per month from 2015 through the summer of 2016 before seeing a significant increase in the run-up to Election Day. Between September and November 2016, the number of race-related spots rose to 400. An additional 900 were posted after the November election through May 2017.
  • Only about 100 of the ads overtly mentioned support for Donald Trump or opposition to Hillary Clinton. A few dozen referenced questions about the U.S. election process and voting integrity, while a handful mentioned other candidates like Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush.

To repeat the key finding, out of approximately 3,500 ads, “Only about 100 of the ads overtly mentioned support for Donald Trump or opposition to Hillary Clinton.”

It is also to keep the impact of Facebook ads in perspective. While perhaps bombarding people’s newsfeeds with product ads might account for some sales, people are far less likely to change their views regarding political parties based upon a Facebook ad. As I noted previously, the Russian ads and other material accounted for a minuscule portion of overall Facebook content. Information previously released from the Congressional investigations found that this accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half of the ads were not seen until after the election and, as is confirmed with this new data, most had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton.

Earlier this year Philip Bump reviewed the data and noted that the ads did not target the swing states which affected the election, with larger numbers of ads being targeted to users in states such as New York and Texas. After reviewing the evidence, Bump concluded, “There’s still little evidence that Russia’s 2016 social media efforts did much of anything.” He also wrote, “As it stands, the public evidence doesn’t support the idea that the Russians executed a savvy electoral strategy on social media to ensure Trump’s victory. In fact, it seems less the case that they did so now than seemed might be possible back in July.”

Russia’s use of Facebook for propaganda appears to just be an updating of the propaganda methods used by both Russia and the United States against each other for decades. There is no evidence that this was a unique effort to attack Hillary Clinton or anything which impacted the election results. While it raises some concern that they are attempting to increase racial tensions, this is also nothing new. Actual racism in the United States, including American news footage of violence against minorities by police officers, is also likely to be far more damaging to race relations than anything coming from Russia.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also released 2,500 pages of congressional testimony today regarding the Trump Tower meeting. This confirms what we already knew that Donald Trump, Jr. attended the meeting hoping to receive dirt on Clinton. While his actions might be unethical, and possibly in violation of elections laws, again there is no evidence that this had any effect on the election results. As The Washington Post found in reviewing the testimony, “the meeting was a bust.” Trump failed to obtain the desired information on Clinton. There is evidence that at least some in the Trump family and campaign were willing to collude with Russia and even attempted to collude with Russia. There is no evidence of any actual collusion or any actions with Russia which affected the election results.

Do The Morons Running Facebook Really Think They Are Fighting Spam When They Censor Political Views?

Facebook has released ts first quarterly Community Standards Enforcement Report, bragging about how they have closed fake accounts and shut down spam. Never mind that much of what they block includes political views on both the left and right which vary from their establishment Democratic Party views, along with certain verboten topics which I will not list here to decrease the risk that this is censored from Facebook groups. While Facebook brags about eliminating spam, among the “spam” they have censored this year has been this post on the corporate money being taken by members of the party with the donkey symbol, even when they make noise about not taking corporate money. That post was enough to put me in Facebook Jail for three days, and I have any Facebook friends who have spent far more time there this year.

The Guardian has more on the report:

In its first quarterly Community Standards Enforcement Report, Facebook said the overwhelming majority of moderation action was against spam posts and fake accounts: it took action on 837m pieces of spam, and shut down a further 583m fake accounts on the site in the three months. But Facebook also moderated 2.5m pieces of hate speech, 1.9m pieces of terrorist propaganda, 3.4m pieces of graphic violence and 21m pieces of content featuring adult nudity and sexual activity…

Facebook also managed to increase the amount of content taken down with new AI-based tools which it used to find and moderate content without needing individual users to flag it as suspicious. Those tools worked particularly well for content such as fake accounts and spam: the company said it managed to use the tools to find 98.5% of the fake accounts it shut down, and “nearly 100%” of the spam.

Automatic flagging worked well for finding instances of nudity, since, Schultz said, it was easy for image recognition technology to know what to look for. Harder, because of the need to take contextual clues into account, was moderation for hate speech. In that category, Facebook said, “we found and flagged around 38% of the content we subsequently took action on, before users reported it to us”.

Facebook has made moves to improve transparency in recent months. In April, the company released a public version of its guidelines for what is and is not allowed on the site – a year after the Guardian revealed Facebook’s secret rules for content moderation.

Either their AI-based tools are failing miserably with an incredible amount of false positive results or they are failing to disclose their true criteria for blocking material on Facebook. Either way, it is a serious problem with a site which has become a major avenue for speech around the world.

SciFi Weekend: The Big Bang Theory Wedding; Anson Mount on Star Trek Discovery; George Kirk Is Still Dead; The Expanse Cancelled By Syfy And Other Renewal/Cancellation News; 12 Monkeys; Bafta Awards

The wedding of Amy and Sheldon occurred on The Big Bang Theory last Thursday. TV Line discussed the episode with Steve Holland:

TVLINE | You mentioned when we spoke last week that Meemaw’s “cameo” was cut for time. Was there anything else you had to lose?
Usually our scripts come in at about 40, 45 pages. This one was about 65 pages. [Laughs] We spent the week [of production] paring it back. There were some jokes here and there that we lost, but I think the episode is stronger for it. We knew we weren’t going to skimp on the vows. We knew we weren’t going to skimp on the wedding. Some of those cuts were painful, but anything that wasn’t servicing [the central story] fell by the wayside.

TVLINE | What was the most painful cut?
Probably the Meemaw phone call. It was a lovely moment. That was a hard one. But it was 35 seconds in a script that was [already] five or six minutes long.

TVLINE | How and when did it come up with the idea to have Mark Hamill be the officiant?
When we first started talking about the wedding, it had come up that maybe one of Sheldon’s friends could get him a surprise officiant. And Mark was the first name on the list, so we reached out to him to see if he’d be interested. We didn’t have a script at the time, so [he] really had to take a leap of faith and trusted that we were going to do right by him… He was the nicest human being you could ever imagine.

TVLINE | Will we see much of Sheldon and Amy’s honeymoon when we pick back up next season?
I don’t know. We have some overall conceptual thoughts about next season, but we haven’t nailed down any of the specifics. But it’s certainly possible. It’s something we have talked about as an option.

More on the wedding last week.

Another cut scene with a tribute to Stephen Hawking was released on Twitter. I really think they should have made an expanded episode for the wedding.

More on the wedding last week.

BleedingCool.com has a guide for for those interested in seeing every moment possible of coverage of next week’s wedding of Prince Henry of Wales and Meghan Markle of Suits. Television coverage starts at 4 am on BBC America, with BBC America devoting more time for coverage than the BBC.

StarTrekMovie.com shows how Anson Mount is turned into Captain Pike for season two of Star Trek:Discovery.

Last week I quoted Jennifer Morrison refer to George Kirk’s “supposed death” in the 2009 Star Trek movie. She later clarified that she was just joking and wrote on Instagram, “I have no idea what they are planning for the next Star Trek. I’ve never talked to anyone involved with the project. I’m excited to watch and see how it turns out just as much as all the other fans.” So he might have never died, he might have died and is coming back, or there will be some timey wimey stuff going on.

Den of Geek summarizes what else is known about Star Trek 4.

We received a lot of news about television renewals and cancellations this week. From a science fiction perspective, the biggest cancellation is of The Expanse. There is talk of trying to get another network to pick it up but Ars Technica discussed why this might be difficult, as well as why it had problems at Syfy. At least there are the novels to find out what happens next.

The one show which so far has been successful in finding a new home was Brooklyn Nine-Nine. After talk of it being picked up by Netflix of Hulu, NBC wound up taking it.

Fox has cancelled The Last Man On Earth, with talk of Hulu possibly picking it up. Otherwise we will never know what is going on with those people who were underground.

Lucifer was cancelled with a huge cliffhanger, causing Fox to once again frustrate genre fans.

Timeless received a reprieve after being cancelled last season and remains on the bubble. Eric Kripke says it could go either way.  NBC has renewed The Blacklist.

The other major bubble show is Agents of SHIELD with no word yet from ABC. (Update: SHIELD has been renewed for a thirteen episode season). It came as no surprise that ABC officially cancelled The Inhumans. It was pretty much assumed that it would not be returning.

The CW Network has renewed The 100 and iZombie. They also announced new series including reboots of Charmed and Roswell.

Syfy has released the above trailer for season 4 of 12 Monkeys, which returns June 15.  All eleven episodes will be shown over four week. Three episodes will air on each Friday for the first three weeks of the season. The two-part season finale will be on Friday, July 6.

The Bafta TV Awards were presented today. Winners include Peakey Blinders for Drama Series and The Handmaid’s Tale for International. The full list of winners can be found here.

As regular readings might guess from the scarcity of the usual comments on the week’s shows, I remain seriously behind following last weekend. Hopefully I can get caught up for some of the season finales coming up imminently.

Haspel Evades Questions On Torture, Cheney Backs It, And Will Democrats Back Down On Resisting Once Again?

The American Civil Liberties Union has outlined how Gina Haspel evaded multiple questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee this week. This included a question from Kamala Harris whether she found torture to be immoral. She evaded questions from Ron Wyden about whether she had wanted the use of torture “to be continued or expanded” between 2005 and 2007. She refused to recuse herself from decisions on declassifying her role in torture, with Haskel making the decisions regarding which documents the CIA will release. She misrepresented the content of torture tapes. She evaded questions on Trump’s views on torture.

While Haspel evaded questions, Dick Cheney had no qualms about presenting his views, which unfortunately consist of strong support for resuming the use of torture. He also said that that he thinks Haspel would “be a great CIA director.”

The vote on Haspel could be very close. So far one Democrat, Joe Manchin, said he would vote for her while John McCain has said he would vote against. Rand Paul previously stated he would oppose the confirmation of both Pompeo and Haspel, but folded on Pompeo.

Stopping her confirmation will depend upon the remaining Democrats sticking together, along with additional Republican defections. Glenn Greenwald questions whether the Democrats will stick together to block her nomination:

It is difficult to be optimistic, to put that mildly. The history of Democrats throughout the war on terror is to ensure that just enough members of their caucus join with the GOP majority to ensure passage of even the most extremist pieces of legislation or nominees justified in the name of terrorism or national security.

The ruse Democrats typically use to accomplish these dirty deeds is quite ingenious: The defectors change so that no one member bears the blame for enabling right-wing measures, while the party itself is able to claim that a majority opposed the extremism. In 2010 — as the Bush-era tactic of Democratic defections to the GOP continued under Barack Obama — I referred to this tactic as “Villain Rotation” and described it this way:

The primary tactic in this game is Villain Rotation.  They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.  One minute, it’s Jay Rockefeller as the Prime Villain leading the way in protecting Bush surveillance programs and demanding telecom immunity; the next minute, it’s Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer joining hands and “breaking with their party” to ensure Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General; then it’s Big Bad Joe Lieberman single-handedly blocking Medicare expansion; then it’s Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb joining with Lindsey Graham to support the de-funding of civilian trials for Terrorists; and now that they can’t blame Lieberman or Ben Nelson any longer on health care (since they don’t need 60 votes), Jay Rockefeller voluntarily returns to the Villain Role, stepping up to put an end to the pretend-movement among Senate Democrats to enact the public option via reconciliation.

We most recently saw the Democrats act more like collaborators than a resistance civil liberties during the votes on FISA renewal with eighteen Democrats siding with the Republicans to prevent consideration of amendments to reform the law. The eighteen Democrats provided exactly the number of votes for cloture to pass.

Democrats Are No Allies Of The Anti-War Left When Bill Clinton Is Telling The DNC To Keep Sanders Supporters Out

Among the many things which supporters of the Democratic Party establishment fail to understand is the vast difference in views of many on the left and the Democratic Party. They think that we refuse to vote for Democrats because we think they are not liberal or progressive enough. The reality is that we don’t see them as being liberal or progressive at all, and instead see them as a force which has been opposing true liberal values just as much as the Republicans have. This divide is exacerbated by the on-going actions by the pro-Clinton wing of the party to oppose the left.

Jonathan Allen was the co-author of Shattered, a book which clearly shows that Hillary Clinton lost due to being a terrible candidate who ran a dysfunctional campaign, and not due Russia or any others on the long list of those she has  blamed. Allen was on C-SPAN last week and discussed how Bill Clinton told Tom Perez to not let Sanders’ supporters become powerful in the party (video above).

NBC News national political reporter Jonathan Allen said on C-SPAN Thursday that former President Bill Clinton told Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez to not let Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I., Vt.) supporters become powerful in the party.

Allen is the author of Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign and wrote a book about Clinton’s work as secretary of state in 2014.

“The DNC is unpopular with its own base,” Allen said. “Roughly half the Democratic Party felt like the DNC was unfairly tipping the scales in the last presidential election trying to get Hillary Clinton nominated trying to hurt Bernie Sanders.”

The bad blood between the Clinton and Sanders camps resumed “the minute Donald Trump was elected,” Allen claimed…

Allen said Perez got “very explicit” instructions from Clinton “not to let the party go to the Bernie Sanders folks.”

Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver has lots of issues with the DNC and called it a “fantasy” that Sanders will hand over his voter data to them.

“We’ve also got to make sure that all the different factions of the party are represented at the DNC,” Weaver said in January. “Tom can do a little bit more to bring in some other voices.”

The Democratic establishment has been working hard to keep other voices out while the Clintons remain active in the party. This includes efforts to demonize both those to the left and the right of them. We saw plenty of red-baiting during the primaries from Clinton supporters during attacks on Sanders. Clinton picked up this line of attack again last week in blaming her loss on declaring herself to be a “capitalist” while she called Sanders’ supporters socialists. While true of some, Sanders and many of us who voted for him are capitalists who desire reforms in the system, not socialists. As I pointed out in a post three years ago, as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders was very friendly towards business growth.

On the other hand, there are attacks such as this article from Noah Berlatsky criticizing anti-war leftists such as Glenn Greenwald for aligning with anti-war rightists on some foreign policy issues. Berlatsky wrote off rightists as a bunch of authoritarians and conspiracy theorists. While true of some, this is no more accurate than it is to say that everyone on the left who opposed Clinton is a Marxist Socialist.

Berlatsky also criticized Greenwald for appearing on Tucker Carlson’s show, despite Carlson being one of the few people on broadcast or cable news to speak out against intervention in Syria. While his views on immigration are distasteful, Clinton’s pro-war and far right views on civil liberties are just as distasteful. Using Berlatsky’s logic, the anti-war left should not align with establishment Democrats either.

Berlatsky failed to recognize this, arguing that, “Bad as they are, though, the Democrats are, in practice, less likely to use military force than Republicans.” This is hard to reconcile with the new Cold War mentality we are seeing from establishment Democrats. Berlatsky does include criticism of the Democrats while advising that we should be, “working with Democrats when we can, and protesting against both political parties when they try to lead us to war.” Working with them is far less of an option when Democrats fight against us as much as they fight against the Republicans who are far closer to them ideologically.

SciFi Weekend: Late and Abbreviated Wedding Edition Including Star Trek News, Renewals for Westworld & The Handmaid’s Tale, And How To Find Out If Thanos Killed You

There have been reports for a while that Star Trek 4 will include Chris Hemsworth reprising his role as the father of Captain Kirk, despite being killed in the first J. J. Abrams Star Trek movie. Jennifer Morrison might have given away how that can happen while at a panel where she was primarily speaking about her role on Once Upon A Time. From ComicBook.com:

However, her moderator was Star Trek: Voyager star Garrett Wang and Wang began by referencing Morrison’s role as Winona Kirk, the mother of James T. Kirk, in the opening scene of 2009’s Star Trek movie.

Wang said, “As an actor, I think it is incredibly difficult to play the role of a mother who just gave birth to James Tiberius Kirk, knowing that your husband is 36 seconds away from death, basically…”
And that’s when Morrison interrupted and corrected Wang’s statement, saying “Supposed death,” and then smiling to add, “Just saying.”

A reunion between James Kirk and his father is not the only Star Trek related reunion lately. Star Trek: Discovery has begun filming season two, with Jonathan Frakes directing the second episode. He was joined on the set by Star Trek: The Next Generation co-star and eventual on-screen wife, Marina Sirtis.

Two excellent genre series are currently showing their second season. Not surprisingly both  Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale have also been renewed for a third season.

This week is both a late and abbreviated version of SciFi Weekend. This has been posted continuously every week for over ten years and I was not going to entirely skip a week, but it was also complicated this week as I did not have much time to either watch any of the past week’s shows or read very much on line. That does not mean I did not think of genre. I wore the Star Trek cuff links in the picture above for my daughter’s wedding while my nephew, who also officiated the wedding, wore the Yoda cuff links. The groom wore ones with Darth Vader. There was also a Welcome Reception the night before the wedding which occurred on Star Wars Day (May the Fourth…) and this was reflected at the event. Finally, my speech at the wedding included brief references to Tolkien, Wakunda, Star Wars, and I quoted the great Jewish philosopher Leonard Nimoy in wishing that the newlyweds Live Long and Prosper.

There is another big wedding to come this week. TV Line spoke with, Steve Holland, the showrunner for The Big Bang Theory about Sheldon and Amy’s upcoming wedding.

Finally, while I won’t give any specifics or numbers, I don’t think it is a real spoiler to say that there were many deaths in Avengers: Infinity War. There is a web site to tell you whether you lived or died entitled Did Thanos Kill Me?

Tonight’s Music Videos

Conan O’Brien and James Corden on Donald Trump

Porn star Stormy Daniels is suing President Trump for defamation for something he said in a tweet. When they heard this, Muslims, African-Americans, gays, and Hillary Clinton said, “You can do that?” –Conan O’Brien

Trump skipped the correspondent’s dinner on Saturday night, and instead hosted a rally in Michigan. Trump said he’d rather be around people who loved him, so he went to Michigan and left behind the White House press corps and Melania. –James Corden

This morning, President Trump made a special phone call to his favorite television program, “Fox & Friends.” Trump and the hosts talked about lots of things, and at one point, he was asked to grade his presidency. Take a look at what he said. [Trump clip] “I would give myself an A-plus.” An A-plus! From where — Trump University?  –James Corden

A Response To Attacks On The Iran Nuclear Deal

Daniel Larison responded to attacks on the Iran deal at The American Conservative, Here is a portion:

Ending the deal now because of Iran’s brief flirtation with nuclear weapons research that ended a decade and a half ago makes no sense. Iran is doing everything that it is required to do now to limit its nuclear program, and that is what should matter most for those genuinely concerned to keep Iran’s nuclear program peaceful. Only someone looking for the slightest excuse to blow up the deal regardless of the consequences would want to scrap an agreement that is working because of “revelations” that revealed nothing new.

Stephens gives the game away at the end of his column when he is talking about threatening to start a war:

“Punitive sanctions combined with a credible threat of military force should follow.”

If punitive sanctions and threats of military action follow, we should expect Iran to resume some or all of the activities that it stopped as part of the agreement. There is a remote but real possibility that Iran could leave the NPT all together in a major setback for the cause of nonproliferation. Now that we are faced with a nuclear-armed North Korea, opponents of the nuclear deal would like to repeat the Bush administration’s North Korea mistakes with Iran.

Punitive sanctions would have little effect without international support, and reneging on an agreement endorsed by the U.N. Security Council and supported by all of the other P5+1 governments will guarantee that no international support for a new sanctions regime will be forthcoming. Military action would be worse than useless, since it would drive Iran to build the very weapons that it is supposed to discourage them from building. Reneging on the deal because of old and irrelevant information would be an exceptionally stupid thing to do, and it would put the U.S. and Iran back on the collision course we were on a decade ago. That is exactly why Iran hawks want to wreck the deal, and they all but admit it in their own arguments.