SciFi Weekend: Leonard Nimoy, Who Lived Long And Prospered 1931-2015; Parks and Recreation Finale; Sleepy Hollow; Agent Carter; How To Get Away With Murder; Broadchurch; Arrow; 12 Monkeys

star-trek-spock-leonard-nimoy-nbc-pic

News of the death of Leonard Nimoy dominated the news and blogosphere since Friday. I had previous posts on Friday and Saturday, including  tweets from those who worked with him, those at NASA who were inspired by him, and even from President Obama. Obama also issued this longer statement:

Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.

I loved Spock.

In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person. It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for “Live long and prosper.” And after 83 years on this planet – and on his visits to many others – it’s clear Leonard Nimoy did just that. Michelle and I join his family, friends, and countless fans who miss him so dearly today.

As Vulture pointed out, it is fitting that Obama had such a personal statement considering how often there have been comparisons of Obama to Spock.

Parks and Recreation Finale

The week also featured the series finale of Parks and Recreation along with several season finales. The series started with a weak first season. Probably as a combination of this, initially just seeing it as a spin-off of The Office, and not being excited by the premise of a small town in Indiana, it did make it on my DVR every week, but for a while it was often put off until I finished the other Thursday sit-coms. Then at some point I realized that the show which had me laughing the most was usually Parks and Recreation.

Part of the success of Parks and Recreation was the manner in which over the years many cast members were developed, allowing the show to go in many different directions. The heart of the show was the dichotomy between Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), but there was so much more going on. Both Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza were excellent supporting characters, and their roles become even more terrific with their romance and eventual marriage. Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe followed a similar trajectory. Adam Scott started as a semi-straight man to Rob Lowe, and then fulfilled a similar role, in a way replacing her best friend Ann Perkins, with Amy Poehler after Lowe and Jones left the show. Cast members including Aziz Ansari, Retta, Jim O’Heir, and others further fleshed out the people Pawnee far more than is seen in a typical sit-com. I think the show which came closest in this regard was not a half hour sit-com but was Northern Exposure.

With this diverse cast there was a wide variety of types of humor, not the repeated jokes which are rapidly recycled for laughs on many other sit-coms. Being a blog about politics and often genre, I would point out that both were included on Parks and Recreation. There was Leslie Knope, who was always optimistic about what government could do, even when facing obstacles, contrasted with the libertarian Ron Swanson, who was in government to try to make sure it didn’t do too much. Genre sometimes did sneak in, such as when Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) once said told Leslie,I went back to season one of Fringe to check for plot holes. As suspected, it’s airtight.

The finale, like the finale of Parenthood, followed the Six Feet Under precedent of showing how the characters wind up. They did an excellent job. Instead of putting this at the end, the fate of each major, and some minor characters, were interspersed into a story in which the former employees of the Parks Department got back together for one last task. Although they thought it would be their last time together, their futures did include getting back together at key moments in their lives.

The Hollywood Reporter interviewed showrunner Mike Schur. He left it to our imaginations as to whether in one future scene we are seeing President Leslie Knope with Secret Service protection.

Sleepy Hollow Season 2 Finale

It is not known yet whether Monday’s episode of Sleepy Hollow will be a season or series finale, but after a weak season the show had an excellent episode which would work well as either. Abby’s trip into the past paralleled the series premiere, but this time Abby was in Ichabod’s role. Rather than having cliff hangers like last season, the episode tied up past plot threads, leaving only a vague mention of future battles should there be a future season. The episode ended with the core characters back together, and despite a weak second season I would be quite willing to give them another chance if the writers have figured out what to do with them for a third season.

Agent Carter Finale

Agent Carter concluded a self-contained story, and due to relatively poor ratings it is questionable if it will return. The season ended with Howard Stark exonerated, his inventions rescued, and the prevention of a disaster. Peggy had a moment of closure regarding the loss of Captain America. If the series returns, Dotty did survive to be a formidable ongoing enemy with her Black Widow training. Being Marvel, of course there was also a final scene, tying this into the rest of the Marvel universe. E! News spoke with the show runners:

E! News: Walk me through the decision to bring Dr. Zola onto the show, because as a fan of the Captain America movies, that was such a fun treat to find out what happened to him in between the first and second movie!
Tara Butters: We really wanted to connect Agent Carter to the greater MCU, and when we pitched the series to Marvel, they had brought up using Fenhoff as a way to connect to the Winter Soldier program. We had this idea of how great it would be to bring Toby Jones on for a scene—
Michele Fazekas: But we never thought that would actually happen. We thought we’d have to figure out a different way to make that happen. But then he was available and he was interested! That was really nice since a lot of different things could have gone wrong but it worked out.

The similarities between Peggy talking to Howard as he flies to his certain death and Peggy talking to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he flew to his death were so striking. Did you shape the finale to mirror that final scene in Captain America: The First Avenger, or did that happen organically?
TB: When we broke out the season, we knew that that’s where we wanted to end, a version of that scene, a version of her talking down Howard. There’s been different iterations of it, though. At one point, it was Jarvis [James D’Arcy] talking him down and then Peggy, and then we flew Jarvis in the plane. But it was really lovely how ABC and Marvel gave us a lot of time to break out the eight episodes, so it felt like we really knew where we were going and it was really nice to see all of it pay off in the final episode.

How To Get Away With Murder Finale

How To Get Away With Murder ended its first season by tying up one murder and ending with another. It did seem anticlimactic to go an entire season to only find that the most likely suspect was guilty, even if he called on someone else to do the actual killing. For a while the format of having a season-long mystery on shows such as Veronica Mars, along with a mystery of the week, seemed like something new and refreshing. Now it has been done so many times that the US shows doing this seem much weaker than shows which don’t try to stretch things out for a whole season, or longer, and deal with a single storyline over a shorter season.

Executive producer Pete Nowalk discussed the season finale with E!

Broadchurch funeral

Several British shows have been successful with the more compact formula of a single story instead of interspersing a crime of the week, with season one of Broadchurch being among the best. The second season just concluded in the U.K. and a third season is planned. While not anywhere as good as the first season, the second season did turn out to be worth watching.

The second season of Broadchurch starts on BBC America on March 4 and there are major spoilers in the rest of this section for those planning to watch. The second season dealt with two story lines. The major story line is that Joe Miller recanted his confession to the killing of Daniel Latimer and the case wentto trial. This is the show which could have been named How To Get Away With Murder, as the person the viewer knows to be guilty was found not guilty in court in the season finale. The show has always concentrated on how the people of Broadchurch reacted to the murder, and for a moment it looked like they were going to respond to the faulty verdict with a lynch mob. Fortunately they did not go that far.

The show has a more powerful lesson about the limitations of the justice system with the erroneous acquittal of Joe Miller. It had me thinking that, if it also extended the story this long, how Gracepoint could have been a more significant show than it was by nearly copying everything from Broadchurch. The high profile cases in which the legal system has failed in handling whites who have killed blacks in this country could have provided a more topical influence, while still retaining aspects of Broadchurch.

The B storyline from Broadchurch involving the killings of two girls years ago was by far the weaker, and was tied up very quickly following the more interesting aspects involving Joe Miller. The season might have been better if it was shorter and this was left out.

Arrow Oliver and Ra’s al Ghul

Arrow was not a finale but, going on hiatus for a month, there was yet another cliff hanger on Nanda Parbat. How does Oliver respond to Ra’s al Ghul’s offer and also save both Diggle and Malcolm Merlyn? Marc Guggenheim answered some fan questions, including questions about Felicity sleeping with Ray Palmer, but no clues as to how the cliff hanger will be  resolved.

There are also reports of yet another planned spin-off. It will star Brandon Routh (Ray Palmer/The Atom), Victor Garber (Martin Stein, one-half of Firestorm on “The Flash”), Wentworth Miller (Captain Cold) and Caity Lotz (The first Black Canary). This raises at least two question. If Victor Garber is present, what about Robbie Amell, who plays the other half of Firestorm? As the Black Canary was killed, does this mean that the Canary will return to life, or that she will play a different character?

The other planned show in the same universe, Supergirl, has added a former Superman and Supergirl to the cast,  Dean Cain, who played Clark Kent in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Helen Slater, who stared in the 1984 Supergirl movie. Calista Flockhart has also been added to the cast.

12 Monkeys 2

12 Monkeys had another strong episode in which time travel, along with the relationship between Cole and Cassie, played a big part. There was also a sort of role reversal here like on Sleepy Hollow. With his time jumping, there was a period in which Cassie was ahead of Cole, and realized he could be going to his death but could not warn him. There is no doubt that Cole will return, as was verified by executive producer Natalie Chaidez, but with time travel it is possible that he will not return in the same timeline to the point after this episode concluded for Cassie. He is certainly going to make it back to 1987 at some point. The episode also included an evil version of Edward Snowden, but the CIA was far more evil in unleashing a virus to try to kill him without taking the blame.

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Inhabitants Of A Class M Planet Say Goodbye To Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy Twitter

Above is the final tweet posted by Leonard Nimoy, who died yesterday. His twitter feed remains open, retweeting messages of condolence.

Among those with tweets in memory of Nimoy were Barack Obama, President of the United States and William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise:

George Takai posted this on Facebook:

Today, the world lost a great man, and I lost a great friend. We return you now to the stars, Leonard. You taught us to “Live Long And Prosper,” and you indeed did, friend. I shall miss you in so many, many ways.

From NASA:

Yesterday night I pulled out the Blu Ray remastered discs of Star Trek: The Original Series. The picture quality is amazing, and for a short time Spock lived. There will be additional material on television this weekend in honor of Leonard Nimoy. Syfy will devote five hours of programing to the memory of Leonard Nimoy with his appearance on The Twilight Zone, the two part story which he appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and his last movie role with the original Star Trek cast. (He also had an appearance in the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.) The following will be on Sunday morning:

9:00AM The Twilight Zone/”A Quality of Mercy” 9:30AM Star Trek: The Next Generation/”Unification: Part I” 10:30AM Star Trek: The Next Generation/”Unification: Part 2” 11:30AM Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country

Epix is running two interviews with Leonard Nimoy:

The premium netowrk will run A Conversation with Leonard Nimoy on Friday, Feb. 27 at 11 p.m. (ET), followed on Saturday at 5:40 p.m. and 10 p.m., as well as Sunday, March 1 at 8 p.m.

Nimoy looks back at his 50-year involvement with one of the sci-fi genre’s more famous franchises with Star Trek Into Darkness on Saturday at 10:15 p.m. and the following day at 8:15 p.m.

The following video is of Leonard Nimoy at Comic Con 2011:

Update: More in SciFi Weekend, our weekly review of science fiction and genre. A longer statement from President Obama on Leonard Nimoy and the comparisons between Obama and Spock.

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Spock Is Dead–Sadly No Genesis Planet This Time

Leonard Nimoy

Sad news today: Leonard Nimoy died at age 83 of end-stage COPD. Nimoy, best known for playing Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek series and subsequent movies, lived long and prospered. His roles included Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Being science fiction, his death did not prevent him from returning to life on the Genesis Planet in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. His movie death and funeral in Star Trek II are in the video below:

Nimoy directed two of the Star Trek movies (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and also appeared in the first J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek, along with a brief cameo in the second. He has also appeared in several other movies and television shows. This included playing William Bell on Fringe, who also had an on-screen death.

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Seth Meyers Responds To Giuliani and Walker Regarding Obama’s Love For America

It is never good for a politician to become a frequent punchline of the late night comedians. Seth Meyers had the above response to Rudy Giuliani’s false claim that Obama does not love America, along with Scott Walker’s difficulty in responding to a question as to whether he agreed. (Media and graphic below via Mediaite).

Walker is complaining of being hit with gotcha questions but  he has made two major errors which a serious candidate for the presidency should not have made. At this stage in what used to be called the invisible primary, but now is very open, questions serve the purpose of dividing out the serious and not serious candidates. On the one hand a candidate does have to be able to handle difficult questions, including questions which might not be fair. On the other hand, in an era of 24/7 news and Twitter, it is hard for anyone to go for a couple of years without giving a poor response and seeing it spread instantly.

Walker’s problem is that he has recently given two bad answers which shouldn’t have been that difficult. He will face far more difficulty, and potentially unfair, questions if he runs for president. The worst response from Walker, to me, was on evolution. On the other hand, questioning evolution is a common view among Republican primary votes so it might not hurt him. The Democrats are not effective enough politically to capitalize on that in a general election.

The question of whether Obama loves America was also not difficult. Other Republicans have given answers along the lines that Obama loves America but his policies are bad for America. Obviously I disagree, but I see that as a good answer politically for a Republican. Most of the base will not object as they are still critical of Obama, and sane people will not see them as kooks for saying this.

It is still early and I doubt that this will be enough to derail Walker’s campaign. Plenty of other candidates will have bad moments before the first primary. This will only hurt if it is a trend which continues, in which case many Republicans will question whether he is ready for a national presidential campaign. If he continues to make such unforced errors, this will start to become how Walker is known by the general public and the campaign sign made by Seth Meyers will then stick:

Scott Walker I Dunno

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Question of the Day: Jon Stewart On Lies About Iraq

Jon Stewart

“Never again will Brian Williams mislead this great nation about being shot at in a war we probably wouldn’t have ended up in if the media had applied this level of scrutiny to the actual f**king war.” –Jon Stewart

This again raises the question–if Brian Williams is now being punished for lying about Iraq, what about Bush and Cheney?

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SciFi Weekend: The Americans; The Flash; Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; Doctor Who (The Doctor Dates Cinderella); 12 Monkeys; Big Bang Theory; Two And A Half Men Finale; Mad Men In The 70’s; Orphan Black; Kristen Bell; If Ayn Rand Wrote Harry Potter; Birdman Parody; Politics And The Oscars

The Americans Nina Gulag

One of the things which makes The Americans one of the top television shows now on is the manner in which several story lines involving different characters are carried out so well. Whether or not the different story lines become intertwined, one storyline often has lessons for another. On Dimebag, while Elizabeth and Phillip fought over whether Paige should become a spy, neither seemed to have thought that if Paige had been trained they could have used her to get information from Kimberly, the young daughter of the CIA’s Afghan group, instead of Phillip seducing her. Neither realized initially the degree to which they were in danger of losing Paige to her church–hardly acceptable if she were to be a good Communist. There is some similarity to how Pastor Tim is “recruiting” Paige to how Phillip is using Kimberly and the Russians want them to recruit Paige. Meanwhile in Russian, Nina might be saved due to Oleg’s family relationship to the future Russian oligarchs, and she went to work on her cell mate as Elizabeth would work on getting information. On top of this, the episode included a defector who might be double crossing them, an EST meeting, and a visit with an AA sponsor.

Keri Russell discussed the relationships with her character’s daughter and mother this season, and described the scene earlier this season in which Annelise’s body was packed into a suitcase:

IGN: I have to ask about that second episode and the scene of having to get rid of the body in that hotel room. First of all, there’s the “Oh my god!” of it all. And then also is it interesting for you to play a character who already had to compartmentalize everything, but this is a woman that her husband was sleeping with as a part of the job, and now she has the reality of that in front of her?

Russell: All I have to say is so many naked girls! Naked, beautiful actress, naked beautiful contortionist, yeah. Then on a second unit day of reshoots, a second naked beautiful girl. I was like, “There’s a lot of pretty, naked girls on this show!” Yeah, so bizarre! Really gruesome. I haven’t seen it. Does it play?

IGN: Oh yeah, it plays.

Flash Firestorm

Last week The Flash was both a back door pilot for Firestorm and further advanced the idea of time travel for Barry Allen. We saw once again how far Harrison Wells is willing to go, and his motives remain unclear. We should be learning more when the show returns in March.

Also on CW, we saw a reversal on Arrow, as the flashback took place in Starling City while the present day action took place back on the island. It was strange to see Oliver from the period when he was missing back around his home. Seeing Oliver snooping around Queen Consolidated gave the feeling of a time travel story in which a character is in their past but cannot risk being seen.  Meanwhile, on the island, there was a deliberate reference to Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn with Slade’s comment, “I’m going to leave you as you left me.”

Agents of SHIELD returns March 3. Marvel has released this synopsis of the episode:

After discovering an alien city with ties to his resurrection, Coulson and his team destroyed it before the forces of Hydra could claim its secrets, eliminating the villainous Whitehall (Reed Diamond) in the process. But new threats to the world have arisen, including Skye’s father, Cal (Kyle McLachlan), who now seeks retribution against Coulson for stealing his revenge against Whitehall; a disturbing alliance between former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Ward (Brett Dalton) and Agent 33; the enigmatic Raina (Ruth Negga), who struggles with her transformation into something inhuman by the alien Obelisk and seeks vengeance; and Skye (Chloe Bennet), who developed mysterious new powers from the Obelisk but whose lack of experience with her new abilities may threaten the safety of those she loves.

Meanwhile, Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Mack (Henry Simmons) begin the next phase of a plan which seems to have grave repercussions for Coulson and his team, who are unaware that there’s another mysterious force moving against them. And as Hunter (Nick Blood) is forced to make the biggest choice of his life, Coulson will find his mission threatened by this shocking endgame.

In the midseason premiere, “Aftershocks,” Coulson’s team must deal with the consequences of their war with Hydra as shocking revelations threaten to tear them apart, and Hydra makes a dangerous move that may involve a traitor in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s midst.

Adrianne Palicki has been promoted to a series regular on Agents of SHIELD, which probably means that Will will not be getting back together with Doctor Sam on About a Boy anytime soon.

Lily James Matt Smith

The Doctor is dating Cinderella–Matt Smith has confirmed that he is dating Lily James. I don’t know if it has occurred yet in the US broadcasts of Downton Abbey so I won’t give any specifics, but I did like her character’s triumph in a late season episode. Of course anything is better than revisiting certain past events yet once again.

In other Doctor Who and related news, The BBC has announced that Michelle Gomez will return as Missy in a two part episode to open the next season of Doctor Who. Add Eve Myles to the list of those interested in another season of Torchwood.

Speaking of Lily James in Cinderella, Ellen DeGeneres has presented a mash-up of Cinderella and Fifty Shades of Grey. Video above.

I thought there was a chance that 12 Monkeys might be able to make it into the upper tier of genre shows with The Night Room last week but The Red Forest couldn’t keep up the same quality this week. Not that it was a bad episode, but it was too easy to fix the timeline when it simply came down to Cassie getting captured in our present, and saving her would fix things. There are still a number of questions raised last week which could provide interesting episodes. Plus they now know how important Cassie’s role is and will make sure that they do not change history involving her, ensuring that she can deliver the message for Cole before she dies.

Amazon has renewed Mozart in the Jungle (which I recommend watching, now about half way through the first season) and is going ahead with the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. I have intentionally held off on watching the pilot, preferring to wait until Amazon shows are released in full as opposed to watching the pilot months earlier, but reviews have been excellent for the pilot.

Last week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory seemed to throw far too much into a single episode, including the reopening of Stuart’s comic book store, a cameo by Nathan Fillion, and (the most amusing part of the show), Sheldon telling Penny how Amy was doing experiments on her. Then we learned what the episode was really about–a tribute to Carol Ann Susi, the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz, who died in November. There is a toast to her in the video above, and there is an unseen tribute to her in every episode:

After we had that impromptu memorial the morning she passed away, Johnny and I were hugging—like everybody was—and right then we found our prop person and asked to get a little picture of Carol Ann and we put it on the refrigerator [in Leonard and Sheldon’s kitchen] so she’s there in every episode now. It’s so small you wouldn’t even see it, but on the fridge is this tiny little wallet-size picture of Carol Ann that’s been there since the day she passed away.

It also appears that The Big Bang Theory is so subversive that China doesn’t want its citizens to be able to watch the show.

We are going into the final week of one of the best network sit-coms in recent years, Parks and Recreation. Last week we had the finale of Two And A Half Men, a multi-cam sit-com which over the last twelve years has shown everything wrong with the format. If anyone cares, Chuck Lorre explained his intentions for the finale. There were no apologies to the nation, but at least our great national nightmare is over.

Mad Men 70's

Mad Men enters the 1970’s for its final half-season, and from the music playing in the trailer it might even be doing a time jump to the mid 70’s. After that, I’m looking forward to the inevitable spin-off. Better Call Sally. Just kidding but considering how good Better Call Saul has been so far as a spin-off of Breaking Bad, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if AMC went that route again.

AMC purchased 49 percent of BBC America, and this has implications for the promotion of the third season of Orphan Black. The show probably has many less viewers than a show of this quality might otherwise have due to not being seen on BBC America. In the hopes of increasing exposure, the third season premiere will be shown on all of AMC’s channels, including AMC, Sundance TV, IFC and We TV. The one problem with this strategy is that Orphan Black is not a good show to come into late. Perhaps they should have been rerunning the first two seasons on some other channels prior to the start of the third season.

Forget any thoughts of John Oliver taking over for Jon Stewart. HBO, perhaps thinking along those lines and wanting to lock him in, has signed Oliver for two more seasons of This Week Tonight, with 35 episodes a year. Meanwhile Jon Stewart, after having to put out new shows daily, near year round, might envy Oliver’s deal.

Kristen Bell has no tolerance for anti-vaxxers, and won’t let them around her children. “It’s a very simple logic: I believe in trusting doctors, not know-it-alls.”

morena_baccarin
Morena Baccarin (of Gotham, Firefly, V, and Homeland) has been cast as the female lead in another superhero adaptation, this time the movie version of Deadpool. I don’t know if this will impact her work on Gotham, but we know that sooner or later Jim Gordon has to get back with Barbara, or else Batgirl will never be born.

BoingBoing has pointed out an example of Harry Potter fan fiction by Mallory Ortberg, written as if it was written by Ayn Rand. Thus there are passages such as, “It’s also why I never water my plants in Herbology. They must learn to survive with or without me. Self-sufficiency is not just a human virtue. It is the highest virtue.”  Plus don’t miss the link to Mallory Ortberg’s reviews of children’s movies as if they were written by Ayn Rand. For example:

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

An industrious young woman neglects to charge for her housekeeping services and is rightly exploited for her naïveté. She dies without ever having sought her own happiness as the highest moral aim. I did not finish watching this movie, finding it impossible to sympathize with the main character. —No stars.

“Bambi”

The biggest and the strongest are the fittest to rule. This is the way things have always been. —Four stars.

“101 Dalmatians”A wealthy woman attempts to do her impoverished school friend Anita a favor by purchasing some of her many dogs and putting them to sensible use. Her generosity is repulsed at every turn, and Anita foolishly and irresponsibly begins acquiring even more animals, none of which are used to make a practical winter coat. Altruism is pointless. So are dogs. A cat is a far more sensible pet. A cat is objectively valuable. —No stars.

Big Bird meets Birdman in the video spoof above. Birdman is considered a heavy favorite to win an Oscar for best movie.

When actors go on stage to accept Oscars tonight, many of them are contributing to the Democrats, and some to the Republicans. The Hill reports:

Democrats are the biggest winners when it comes to raking in political donations from Academy Award nominees.

Some of the Oscars’ most famous contenders — including this year’s hopefuls Reese Witherspoon, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo, Bradley Cooper, and Meryl Streep — are delivering big bucks for the left.

Norton plays an egotistical movie star in “Birdman,” — which snagged him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at Sunday’s awards — but the real-life film star is one of Hollywood’s biggest Democratic donor…

Witherspoon, who earned her second Best Actress nomination this year for “Wild,” has also donated generously to Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission records. The 2005 Oscar winner gave $1,500 to Warren’s camp in 2012. She’s also given in excess of $6,000 to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and $1,500 to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

While Clint Eastwood, the director behind Best Picture nominee “American Sniper,” is known for his support of Republican candidates — famously delivering his “empty chair speech” at the 2012 Republican National Convention — the film’s star, Bradley Cooper, gave $750 to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Cooper is vying for Best Actor for his portrayal of real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in the record-breaking movie.

The article later discusses how Democrats often use celebrities in fund raising campaigns while “Republicans have capitalized on conservative celebrity activists by encouraging them to run for office.”

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SciFi Weekend: 12 Monkeys; Arrow; The Atom; Spider-Man Joins MCU; X-Men; The Black Widow Project; A Female Thor; Orphan Black; Constantine; How Not To Get Away With Murder; The Americans; The Casual Vacancy; The IT Crowd In Space

12 Monkeys Decaying Body

I had fears that 12 Monkeys could settle on a simple formula of searching for the Night Room and the Army of the 12 Monkeys in our present, and a battle for the facility in the future. I no longer have such concerns about the direction of the show after this week’s episode, The Night Room. Major spoilers ahead for those who might be a week behind. The location of the Night Room was found (mostly off screen last week) and this week’s episode primarily took place there. The relationships between the main characters will not be exactly the same, especially after The Pallid Man told Cassandra that Cole killed Dr. Henri Toussaint in Haiti. There are also questions raised about Jones.

The episode was really interesting when the time travel implications of the virus are considered. Is the skeleton with the virus really Cole’s? Does he eventually develop the plague, despite his current immunity, or is he just a carrier? Does the repeated time travel play a part? Did Jones send his rotting body back in time, and for what reason? Did Jones (inadvertently?) cause the plague? If the answers are in the future which Cole came from, he won’t find them immediately. Although he failed in preventing the plague, he did enough to change the future. With West 7 and not Jones now in control of the time travel facility in the altered future, and with Cassie kidnapped in the past, Cole starts out next week with no allies in either time period beyond an insane girl.

12-monkeys Cassie Night Room

The shows’s executive producers Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett discussed the impact on the mythology with The Hollywood Reporter:

The Night Room is a big return to our mythology and the next big step in learning more not only about the virus, but the origin of this conspiracy,” Matalas says. “We learn quite a bit about the future, too. There is a very big storyline regarding Jones (Barbara Sukowa) in the Night Room. We get to learn what it took to get this time travel project up and running and the sacrifices she made. This episode is the one where we inhibit our skin a little bit more. The show gets a little bit more unique and a little more off-beat from what you may expect. We bring the weird a little bit here in a good way. It’s what makes it 12 Monkeys.

The two creators have a bigger plan in mind for Jones, which began with the early and rare moment of levity from the character at the beginning of “The Night Room.” “It’s definitely building up to something. Jones becomes from here on out a more prominent character with more screen time. That is something we wanted to see, her among the other characters, but also her backstory is really important to the mythology of the show and that is the first hint of it,” Fickett said. “When Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) goes into her room and opens up that chest you see the baby blanket with the name Hannah on it. Suddenly we know there is a whole lot more to this woman and maybe she has deeply personal reasons for changing time as well.”

Matalas, however, notes that messing with time has its consequences both to Cole and time itself. Throughout the Night Room, Cole starts to experience debilitating headaches. “Keep in mind, this is a new process. Cole is the pilot program for this. No one has traveled as much as him. He does have a time clock on himself,” Matalas said.

The changes brought about from the destruction of the Precursor are a major according to Matalas. It’s big enough to break time. “We are not talking about multiple universes. We are talking about one singular timeline. Jones, in [episode] six, explains the difference between loops, or what’s called a jinn, and that’s basically the Sarah Connor. … How Reese had to come back in time to pregnate Sarah Connor so that she can give birth to John Connor who will send his father back in time. It’s one of the infinite loops. That’s called a jinn,” Matalas explains.  “When there are more traumatic changes to the timeline, then you can break the change and that’s what happens in episode six.”

Among the big changes was The Pallid Man’s first mention of hierarchy within the Army of the 12 Monkeys by naming dropping someone called The Witness. When questioned about the character, Matalas and Fickett remained tight-lipped, promising only that the answer will not be what viewers expect.  “It’s not the answer Cole is expecting either,” Matalas said. “Or any of our characters,” Fickett added.

“There is a lot going on with the Army of the 12 Monkeys and by episode eleven you’ll learn a lot more about them. Enough to make your brain explode,” Matalas said. “Releasing the virus could be one of their intended goals, but the end result may not be what you expect it to be. With time travel you’re playing the long game and if you’re dealing with the fate of the entire planet, destruction can be creative in the long run.”

Arrow Ray Palmer Atom Suit

Arrow showrunner Marc Guggenheim is not one of those who subscribe to the theory (mentioned last week) that John Diggle might be John Stewart, who succeeds Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern. I do think that Diggle plays such a key role on Arrow that it makes sense to keep him as he is, although it might be a way to give him a spin-off series in the future after Arrow ends.

We do know that Arrow is on the verge of introducing another superhero. Ray Palmer will put on the Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism (A.T.O.M.) suit, which so far we have only seen as a holograph,  in episode 15, Nanda Parbat. His course as a superhero sounds a lot like Laurel’s. Guggenheim said, “He’s definitely a sloppy superhero in the sense of all of our characters don’t immediately have the easiest time fighting crime. I would say episode 19 really digs underneath what does it mean for Ray to be a hero. Is he a hero because of who he is? Or is he a hero because of the suit that he’s made?” He will not be shrinking initially but will fly:

For me, the most satisfying thing about the costume is, it looks like Brandon walked off of a movie set. I’ve never seen a TV show do a costume of this level of ambition before. He’s got a lot of cool tricks up his sleeve. People who are immediately expecting him to shrink are going to be disappointed. I will say that upfront.

We always say, we’re doing the “Arrow” version of The Atom. That said, there will be some flying involved, which looks remarkably amazing. He has a lot of little gadgets and tricks and abilities built into that suit. I don’t want to spoil exactly what they are, because I think part of the fun of watching is seeing what that suit’s going to do next.

A Felicity Smoak action figure is being released. I won’t discuss this further to avoid getting into Lars And The Real Girl territory.

Spider-Man and Avengers

After several weeks of rumors, it has now been announced that   Spider-Man will become part of the Marvel cinematic universe. It is believed that this means that The Amazing Spider-Man trilogy will not be completed and Andrew Garfield is out as Spider-Man. The deal will allow Spider-Man to appear in an upcoming Marvel Studios movie, assumed to be the upcoming Captain America movie considering that in the comics Spider-Man played a role in the civil war storyline. Afterwards, while Sony will retain ownership and handle distribution, Marvel Studies will collaborate with Sony on the creative end. Considering that Sony has failed in two different attempts at a Spider-Man trilogy, this deal should help both Sony and Marvel. There is also talk of future Marvel cross overs in future Spider-Man movies.

While most fans seem to have been rooting for Marvel Studies to get creative control of Spider-Man, I recently discussed a contrary opinion that this would reduce exposure for some of the lesser comics characters which Marvel Studies has done an excellent job with. I think that, if necessary, it would be worth reducing the number of other Marvel movies in order to have a quality Spider-Man movie series. So far it appears that the only consequence will be to move back the releases dates of four of the planned phase 3 movies. The updated release schedule can be found here.

Wolverine-3-Hugh-Jackman-and-Patrick-Stewart

Hugh Jackman discussed future Wolverine and X-Men movies and the possibility of an X-Men cross-over with the Marvel cinematic universe.

“I like to think there’s that possibility for all of it, and I would even like to think more that it doesn’t happen out of necessity, y’know, when someone’s run it into the ground or something. I optimistically love the idea of “What the hell, Batman versus Iron Man versus Wolverine!” Let’s just chuck ‘em in.

We’ll see what happens, but maybe as these things go on more and more they’ll want to and need to do all that stuff. I’m optimistic, I’d think it’d be great, but hey, it’s not my billions of dollars behind this promise. [laughs] It’s easy for us to speculate, “Why did they do that?!”

Agent Carter has primarily tied into the Marvel cinematic universe with connections to Captain America and SHIELD. Another connection has been the revelation that Carter’s former neighbor Dottie was trained in the Black Widow program. Bridget Regan discussed her role with Comic Book Resources.

Thor Female
I was a bit skeptical when I first heard that the Thor comic was to change to feature a female version of the character, but I saw it more as an attempt to bring in female readers as opposed to anything political. As I do not read it I cannot judge it myself but it does seem from the blogs that comic fans are receiving this favorably. Some conservative see it differently, both disliking the comic and turning it into a political argument. An article on the comic at Breitbart has the title, Female Thor Is What Happens When Progressive Hand-Wringing And Misandry Ruin A Cherished Art-Form. Vox Populi says it is  “exactly the same thing as a communist government taking over a capitalist society.”

BBC America has released a set of teasers for the upcoming season of Orphan Black, which returns on April 18.

Many people were predicting that Constantine would never make it to a second season after the decision to limit it to the first thirteen episodes this season. Now there are rumors that NBC might keep it alive, except move it to the Syfy network and renaming it Hellblazer. This would help with the goal of increasing the number of origianl shows on Syfy, and ratings expectations would be far lower. It is expected that if it does move to Syfy, it would also be able to concentrate more on the horror elements as opposed to trying to be a network procedural.

How To Get Away With Murder is really getting wild as it approaches its season finale. Despite all the flash backs earlier in the season regarding the attempts to burn Sam’s body, they now appear to be in serious danger of getting caught due to portions of his body being found. Didn’t any of them watch the first season of Breaking Bad? Knowing that the show will be coming back for a second season has major implications for any speculation as to how the season will end. Any of the students could conceivably get arrested but Annalise will have to continue with the show. Either she gets off, the mystery is dragged into next season, or perhaps they do a variation on the second season of Broadchurch in which she is arrested and next season deals with her trial. That would also spare them from having to either come up with a new season-long mystery or settle for case of the week episodes.

The Blacklist shows how great acting can save what otherwise would probably be a weak show. Repeatedly we get hope of really learning something and it turns out to be very little. We saw Elizabeth’s memories from the night of the fire, and then were told her memories might have been tampered with and are not accurate. There was more talk about the Fulcrum and it was ultimately found in Elizabeth’s bunny, but it is really just a McGuffin. I just could not imagine watching this show without James Spader.

The Americans remains the best drama which continues a story from season to season on television. (I used this awkward description to exclude Fargo and True Detective, two shows which some critics ranked above The Americans last season.) Personally I didn’t find packing Annelise into the suitcase all that cringe-worthy, but Elizabeth’s tooth-extractions were a different matter. Executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg discussed the creation of the scene in the video above, from Slate.

Frank Langella is also an excellent addition to the cast as their former and current handler Gabriel. Among the many history lessons from the series, the episode also showed today’s kids how television stations did not stay on around the clock, signing off for the night by playing The National Anthem and then running a test signal.  I haven’t bothered to watch, but I hear that the NBC rip-off, Allegiance, is doing terribly in both reviews and ratings and is not expected to last very long.

A television version of The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling airs tonight on BBC One. The Guardian has a review.

The Guardian reports that the creators of The IT Crowd are working on a sitcom set in space for Channel 4. Shows from Channel 4 have sometimes been made available in the United States over Hulu.

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John Podesta Believes The Truth Is Out There

The most curious headline of the day was Obama adviser John Podesta’s biggest regret: Keeping America in dark about UFOs. The story came in response to this tweet:

The mention of Maureen Dowd in the tweet is presumably due to her interest in UFO’s, expressed in a column from 1997.

This is not the first time Podesta has raised this question the question of whether UFO’s are out there. This exchange was from 2002. Podesta said, “It’s time to find out what the truth really is that’s out there. We ought to do it, really, because it’s right. We ought to do it, quite frankly, because the American people can handle the truth. And we ought to do it because it’s the law.”

Karen Tumulty had once asked Podesta about reports that the Clinton Library was inundated with Freedom of Information Act requests for email with with subject lines like “X-Files” and “Area 51.” Podesta’s response was the tag-line to The X-Files, “The truth is out there.” Podesta also wrote an introduction to the 2010 book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record.

The news reports do not answer the real questions I had when reading. Does Podesta claim to have inside information which he knows is being kept secret, or is he just like many others who suspect the government knows more than it is telling but has no evidence? Is he basing this on real inside information or episodes of The X-Files?

This also raises the question of whether the government is keeping other things from us. For example, do they know more about the Kennedy assassination than has been made public? Do they know whether Tony Soprano lived and how Game of Thrones will end? With Podesta giving reason to speculate but zero information, this sure could set off conspiracy theorists, who don’t need actual facts to back up their views.

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Quote of the Day: Seth Meyers on CNN

Seth Meyers

“CNN is developing a game show to be hosted by Anderson Cooper. It will be just like the other CNN shows except the contestants will make wild guesses instead of the news anchors.” –Seth Meyers

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Jon Stewart Leaving The Daily Show

Jon Stewart

Comedy Central has confirmed reports that Jon Stewart will be leaving The Daily Show by the end of the year when his contract expires.

As with most major news these days, the mainstream media was bypassed, and this was released on Twitter:

There is no news as to what Stewart plans to do next. Considering he plans to be free prior to the first primaries, maybe Stewart plans a last minute challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Or perhaps he will replace Brian Williams at NBC News. It is only fair that Williams be punished for lying about Iraq, but I’m still waiting for Bush and Cheney to receive their punishment.

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