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


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.

Quote of The Day With Seth and Amy

“Really, Tea Party? Really? You’re surprised that you’re targeted by the IRS? You named yourself after a group of people who proudly and historically violated tax laws! Look, if I had a vanity license plate that said ‘Weed 420,’ I might expect to get pulled over now and then.” –Amy Poehler

“And really, politics aside, should we be surprised that the IRS takes special attention to the tax forms of the Tea Party? Judging from the terrible spelling on their protest signs, attention to detail isn’t really their thing.” –Seth Meyers

SNL Close To Signing Betty White

There’s been a big campaign on Facebook and elsewhere to have Betty White host Saturday Night Live. Ausiello reports that SNL is close to signing White, but with a catch:

When a grassroots campaign involves both Facebook and a beloved Golden Girl, the scope of its influence cannot be underestimated. To wit: Sources confirm to me exclusively that Saturday Night Live is this close to signing TV legend Betty White to host the show for the very first time.

But there’s a catch — and a pretty cool one at that.

White would not be hosting alone. Rather, I hear SNL is putting together a “Women of Comedy” episode that would team the former Rose Nylund with several of her younger contemporaries. Ex-SNL MVP Molly Shannon is on board, I hear, and feelers have also been put out to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. (An NBC spokesperson insists no one has been confirmed at this time.)

SNL Skits on Paterson Tasteless, And Not Funny

Normally I don’t have much sympathy for politicians who are ridiculed on comedy shows like Saturday Night Live, but I did find the segments above to be in poor taste, and not very funny. The New York Post and The New York Times also report that New York Governor David Paterson has strongly objected to the manner in which his blindness was portrayed.

The most offensive segment was at the end of Weekend Update, while Amy Poehler was saying good-by on her final appearance on the show. Fred Armisen (playing Paterson) was shown wandering around in front of the camera appearing disoriented while Poehler was talking.

…Paterson and advocates for the visually impaired didn’t appreciate stock blind jokes that had Armisen pretending to be disoriented and wandering aimlessly.

“I can take a joke,” Paterson told reporters.

But he called the SNL spoof a “third-grade depiction of people and the way they look” that could lead others to believe that “disability goes hand-in-hand with an inability to run a government or business.”

The real disability displayed is the inability of Saturday Night Live to present a consistently funny show. While they have had a number of good moments during the campaign, most of which I have posted here, the jokes during most of the show have not been very funny. Resorting to making fun of the blind is a poor substitute for real comedy writing.

The Next Secretary of State

Amy Poehler has returned to Saturday Night Live with this message from Hillary Clinton on becoming Secretary of State.

Seth Meyers on Fresh Air

There have been rumors of another appearance by Barack Obama on Saturday Night Live before the election. Seth Meyers, head writer of SNL was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air earlier today. Meyers said that originally Obama was going to be on last week, but this was cancelled due to his visit to his grandmother in Hawaii. Meyers said that both Obama and McCain have an open invitation to appear but that nothing is known for this weekend. There was also no information on whether Weekend Update will be adding another co-anchor to replace Amy Poehler.

Saturday Night Live will be on in prime time again Monday with both new material and clips of their previous political skits.

SciFi Weekend: Lost Promo, Kristin Bell Returns to Heroes, A Non-Wedding, Lesbian Sex, and Don Draper’s Guide to Picking up Women

The promo is out for the upcoming season of Lost (video above), along with lots of other reports going around. Nothing specific here, but there are reports that the upcoming season of Lost “is definitely going to be the strangest thing that’s ever been on network television. Ever.” Reportedly Locke fans will be stunned.

Bryan Fuller, former Star Trek Voyager producer and creator of Pushing Daises, wants to produce the next Star Trek television series. Just don’t make the mistakes that Voyager made. There is hope as he said, “I told my agent and told the people of J.J. Abrams team I want to create another STAR TREK series and have an idea that I’m kicking around. I would love to return to the spirit of the old series with the colors and attitude. I loved VOYAGER and DEEP SPACE NINE, but they seem to have lost the ‘60s fun and I would love to take it back to its origin.”

The BBC has issued a press release for this year’s Children in Need show on November 14. A clip will be shown with two minutes from an upcoming Christmas Special entitled The Next Doctor. My guess is that they are announcing this to create discussion about a potential change in The Doctor, but by the end David Tennant will remain in the role, at least through the planned specials through next year.

I’ve been wondering if Kristin Bell’s character would be returning to Heroes after being fired from the Company. While there are probably too many characters and subplots going on, one thing I do like about the show is that they don’t feel the need to give every character a part every week as occurs on most television shows. Watch with Kristin reports Kristin Bell is returning in tomorrow’s episode:

Kristen Bell is back next week as Elle! It seems Elle’s powers now control her, not the other way around. She’s overcome by the electrical forces within her, and when she can’t find HRG to help her, she goes with the next best thing: Claire. Yep, next week Claire and Elle try to team up against Pinehearst—but first they have to overcome the fact that they, you know, hate each other.

Ausiello quotes Edward James Olmos as saying the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica “is like a great book. You love reading it and you want to find out what happens in the story, but you also are so sad it is ending. That’s how I feel about Battlestar. It has been a great experience for me. I don’t want it to end, but I think the ending is so strong that I am happy to have fans see it. People are going to get their minds blown.”

How I Met Your Mother was written to suggest that Sarah Chalke would be the mother in last season’s final episode in case the show was not renewed, but last week’s episode shows Ted is moving on as his wedding to Stella fell apart due to the invitation of their ex’s. Last week’s episode won’t be the last we will see of Chalke, but Ausiello does say that her last episode will air November 3.

House was out to pick up their ratings with last night’s episode, Lucky Thirteen. As House described it, Penthouse Forum met medical mysteries as we learned about Thirteen’s sex life. FOX hopes that higher ratings for House will also spill over to Fringe. I think that J.J. Abrams is going to have to advance the underlying mystery on Fringe further (or resort to lesbian sex as on House) to maintain an audience for Fringe.

We might learn more about the underlying mystery on another show. The promos for next week’s episode of Life on Mars show that it will involve Sam’s mother and give more information as to why Sam is back in the 1970’s.

Billy Piper , formerly of Doctor Who and currently staring in the second season of Secret Diary of a Call Girl on the BBC, underwent an emergency c-section last Tuesday, giving birth to Winston James Fox. On Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update last night Seth Myers announced he was working alone as Amy Poehler was busy having a baby, giving a new meaning to Live From New York and making Poehler a real Baby Mama to Archie Arnett. Poehler will be off on maternity leave but there are rumors of a guest next weekend, just prior to the election–Barack Obama.

Last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live was guest hosted by John Hamm, Don Draper of Mad Men, who did some of the rare non-political skits on SNL this year which were actually amusing. The first video shows a skit entitled Two A-Holes Go An Ad Agency In The 1960s, and includes guest appearances by Elizabeth Moss and John Slattery. The second clip shows Don Draper’s Guide to Picking Up Women:

Mad Men has been picked up for a third season on AMC. In other renewal news,Dexter, currently in its third season on Showtime, has been renewed for two additional seasons.

Sarah Palin and Tina Fey Both on Saturday Night Live

Sarah Palin and Tina Fey both appeared on Saturday Night Live last night but it was the least amusing of the Tina Fey appearances. The introduction was primarily notable for having Palin act true to reality in having her refuse to answer questions from the press and instead give the “Live from New York…” line.

Palin appeared once again on Weekend Update in which she acted as if she was declining to proceed with a skit and instead Amy Poehler (in an obviously planned move) performed a rapact instead:

Transcript of the Weekend Update skit is under the fold.

Clinton Camp Blames Obama For Kennedy Flap

With Saturday Night Live off for the summer I regretted not being able to see Amy Poehler parody Hillary Clinton’s latest gaffe as she parodied her electability arguments last week. There’s no doubt that Clinton’s comments on the assassination of Robert Kennedy would have been her major target. Fortunately for those of us who expect humor over the weekend, the Clinton campaign has now become fully self-parodying. In a statement which ranks high among so many absurd arguments coming from the Clinton camp, Terry McAuliffe has actually blamed Barack Obama for this incident. Once again they show why we do not want this freak show back in the White House.

SNL on Clinton’s Arguments Regarding Electability

Amy Poehler performed a fantastic satire of Hillary Clinton’s arguments for being more electable than Barack Obama on Saturday Night Live (video above). The arguments come down to being a sore loser who would undermine Obama’s campaign so she could run in 2012, her supporters are racists who won’t vote for Obama (partially because she secretly would tell them not to), and that she has no ethical standards.

To see the full video click here.

I bet Clinton won’t be citing Saturday Night Live in the near future.