SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; The Americans; Arrow; Revolution; Orphan Black; Heroes; Farscape; Firefly; Better Call Saul; Doctor Who; Sherlock; The Crazy Ones; Mixology

Hannibal season 2

With the Olympics over many weekly series have  returned and two of the best shows from last season which aired in the spring or winter have started their second seasons. Hannibal and The Americans both began their second seasons. Hannibal began with an extended fight scene between Hannibal and Jack Crawford which foreshadows what we know must eventually occur before moving backwards twelve weeks in the narrative. The brutality of the fight indicates it is not a simple temporary falling out between friends, such as Watson being angry at Sherlock for pretending to be dead.  Jack must have found out the truth about Hannibal. As the series is part of a seven year plan (should it last that long) to retell the Hannibal novels (with some variations), we know that eventually everyone will know that Hannibal, and not Will, is the serial killer. (More on Bryan Fuller’s seven year plan for Hannibal here.)

After the fight scene we go back to just after the first season ended, with Will in jail for the murders committed by Hannibal. So far only Will, and some of Hannibal’s victims who did not live to tell what they know, really suspected the truth about Hannibal. Now that Will is healthy and no longer suffering from encephalitis, he can begin what will probably be a season-long cat and mouse game with Hannibal to reveal the truth. Hannibal has essentially taken over Will’s role in advising the FBI in serial murder cases, but we know he will not be able to resist Will’s request for Hannibal’s therapeutic help. Hannibal might even realize what Will is up to, but based upon his relationship with Will in the first season, this will be irresistible for Hannibal. We know where everything is leading and have already seen how the season ends. The suspense will be in seeing how we reach that point.

The Americans s02eo1

The Americans returns to 1982 with two Soviet spies living undercover as an American couple. Elizabeth has returned home two months after she was shot in the first season finale, claiming to have been caring for a sick aunt. We immediately see that 1) not everything works out perfectly for spies and 2) even the spy we have been led to root for (even if from an enemy nation) can be a cold blooded killer when there is an innocent witness around. While the first season centered around the relationship between Philip and Elizabeth, the second season will deal more with the entire family.

Elizabeth and Philip have tried to keep their children safe from their activities and we saw how important this is as another undercover couple were killed, along with their daughter. We know Paige is suspicious, but so far instead of learning the truth about her parents she caught them having sex. It is not certain which revelation will ultimately be more shocking.

The Americans did an excellent job of working all of this into the season premiere, along with returning to other subplots. We saw the fake marriage between Martha and Phillip (or Clarke as she knows him) in order to spy on the Americans. Their FBI agent neighbor Stan continues to use Nina, unaware that she is now really using him. The nature of Stan’s relationship with Nina came up as they watched a pirated copy of The French Lieutenant’s Woman before Stan went to see the same movie with his wife and a friend. We also learned that Claudia has remained in the United States and she will have an influence on the season.

Arrow Time of Death

Arrow, yet another excellent genre show in its second season, returned after the Olympic hiatus with Time of Death. With Sara now making out with Oliver in the Arrow-Cave, it was time for Felicity to more firmly establish her importance. (“You’ll always be my girl, Felicity.”) The episode introduced another worthy opponent, The Clock King. It also brought the present day and island stories together further in the final scene where Moira brought Oliver in to introduce her son to the man she was meeting with–Slade. The first photo has also been released of Barry Allen in costume as The Flash in the planned spin off.

Yet another sophomore show, Revolution, is well below the quality of the other shows discussed above. They do try to keep coming up with new things to keep the show fresh, but in the end they just wind up without anything really compelling happening. The supposedly upcoming battle to the death between Monroe and his son sounds guaranteed to disappoint. Having Aaron wake up in an alternative reality in 2014 with the power on after trying tying to upload a virus into his nano-bot children (or are they now Gods?) made for a good final scene, but will anything significant really come from this? At least it sounds it might make for a good episode. In this alternate reality, Giancarlo Esposito will be back in his old life as a sleazy insurance salesman. If they were really creative, the episode would take place in a different alternative universe where instead he runs the Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant chain.

Hannibal, The Americans, and Arrow were all excellent new series which began last year, but the best of all the series to premiere last year was Orphan Black. BBC America has released the above sneak peaks, with the show returning on April 19. More news on season two here.

Aaron Paul has again expressed interest in appearing in the Breaking Bad spin off, Better Call Saul. Bryan Cranston and Jonathan Banks have also expressed interest. Dean Norris is not interested, failing to understand that one episode of anything by Vince Gilligan is far more significant than an entire season of Under the Dome. (The series finale of Breaking Bad was reviewed here.)

Disney has always excelled at their synergy in using each of their holdings to make money for others. ABC will be running a documentary (extended commercial?) March 18 on Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe.

Heroes is coming back for a thirteen episode miniseries, possibly with some of the original cast “popping back in.”

“The enormous impact ‘Heroes’ had on the television landscape when it first launched in 2006 was eye-opening,” said NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke. “Shows with that kind of resonance don’t come around often and we thought it was time for another installment. We’re thrilled that visionary creator Tim Kring was as excited about jumping back into this show as we were and we look forward to all the new textures and layers Tim plans to add to his original concept. Until we get closer to air in 2015, the show will be appropriately shrouded in secrecy, but we won’t rule out the possibility of some of the show’s original cast members popping back in.”

I don’t care either way about Heroes but am happy to see that an American network is getting away from the usual season format. Heroes itself would have been much better as a miniseries rather than continuing it beyond the point where Tim Kring seemed to know what to do with the show. Note that almost all of the shows I mentioned above were aired for short seasons, generally on cable, which I think helps make a better quality show. Fox is also doing something similar with 24.

While I don’t  care whether Heroes returns, I am looking forward to the return of Farscape. A movie is planned:

Set to follow the awesome comics written by our favorite Keith R.A. DeCandido, the film would follow John and Aeryn’s son, D’Argo (or Little D, as we will always refer to him). Because their baby was exhibiting a set of interesting powers that made him a magnet for galactic villains, we find that John and Aeryn hide their son on Earth to grow up. Now the kid is 19 and ready to go into space with his parents.

There has also been recent talk about a limited series reboot of Firefly.

coupling

Last week I questioned making US versions of British shows as opposed to airing the same shows here. Steven Moffat has had experience with cases where that did not work. His excellent sit-com Coupling flopped when an American version was aired, but I would highly recommend watching the original on Netflix. It is sort of a combination of Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex in the City with just a little bit of The Big Bang Theory thrown in. Moffat wisely says it would be insane to make an American version of his current shows, Sherlock and Doctor Who:

Not just popular on a worldwide level, it’s so distinctively local in outlook that a remake of any sort would destroy what makes it work in the first place.

Doctor Who’s everywhere,” he said. “You can bump in to the Doctor anywhere,” adding that the series has, “probably penetrated enough that it’s no longer regarded as an import, it’s just that show.”

Sherlock and Doctor Who are both doing rather well but they couldn’t be more definitively British. They’re obtusely British. They’re about as British as it gets. You shouldn’t be afraid of being British because that’s what you’re selling.”

And of course, if a remake were to be proposed and the Doctor were no longer British in demeanor (albeit British via Gallifrey), would he even be the Doctor?

“If anyone were to ask me, I’d say it’s an absolutely insane idea. You couldn’t have more than one Doctor Who in the world. It would just be dreadful.”

CBS did approach Moffat about making a US version of Sherlock and when turned down developed Elementary.

The.Crazy.Ones.S01E16

This has not been a good season for new sit-coms, especially for NBC but last week’s episode of The Crazy Ones (on CBS) was its best episode of the season. The cast put on both a Bar Mitzvah and a musical. While far from a great series, Robin Williams has kept the show amusing through a lot of otherwise weak scripts. I actually don’t mind that the new NBC sit-coms were flops. It just increases the chances that Community will be renewed.

Mixology premiered last week, showing some promise even if the premise is far-fetched. Personally I’ve always found the prospect of successfully meeting anyone in that type of bar to be less realistic than most of the shows discussed in this post. Besides, if I can spend the entire final season of How I Met Your Mother showing a weekend at the inn where Robin and Barney’s wedding is taking  place, I can try a series taking place all in one night in this bar. It will be interesting to watch to see if the idea works or turns into a flop.

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SciFi Weekend: Black Widow; Arrow; Continuum; House of Cards; Fantastic Four; Hannibal; Man From UNCLE; The Americans; Two More US Remakes Of British Shows; Karen Gillan; If Ikea Sold A TARDIS

Black Widow

Variety reports that Black Widow will continue to have a major role in upcoming Marvel movies and then Scarlett Johansson will star in her own stand-alone movie:

According to Chris Evans, who plays Captain America, Black Widow’s storyline in “The Winter Soldier” revolves around “her coming to terms with her history, that she’s been a spy, and spies aren’t necessarily trustworthy,” he told Total Film.

That will be further explored in “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” out in 2015. Film starts production in March.

“(Black) Widow’s part in that is very big,” Feige said. “We learn more about her past and learn more about where she came from and how she became in that film. The notion of exploring that even further in her own film would be great, and we have some development work with that. When we meet the Avengers at the top of ‘Age of Ultron,’ it’s a very different landscape than we left them at the end of the first film. Partially, that’s because we love the rhythm that the comicbooks have developed — each of the characters appear in their runs, occasionally they get together for a big event or crossover series, they part again, and then they come back together again.”

It’s unclear whether Marvel hopes to have a Black Widow movie become part of its third phase of films, which so far includes “Ant-Man,” “Doctor Strange” and the third installments of “The Avengers” and “Captain America.”

Phase two includes “Iron Man 3,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

Bringing Sarah into Team Arrow raises questions as to Felicity’s role. That is answered with a Felicity-centered episode. Preview above. More about Arrow here.

After Arrow, I’m far more willing to take a show on CW seriously. They have ordered  pilots from the creators of Sleepy Hollow and Veronica Mars:

The CW has given pilot orders to dramas Identity, from Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, Jane the Virgin, from Jennie Snyder Urman, and iZombie from Rob Thomas, TVGuide.com has learned.

In Identity, when a young woman in need of a transplant learns she is related to a powerful family whose son is her only hope for a donor organ, the CIA approaches her to investigate the family’s involvement in domestic terrorism and to infiltrate their rarified world.  Her loyalty, morality and ethics are tested as she’s forced to slowly build a case against the family who saved her life. Sleepy Hollow‘s Kurtzman and Orci will executive-produce with The Good Wife‘s Corinne Brinkerhoff, who will also write. Heather Kadin, Rob Golenberg and Alon Aranya are also attached as executive producers…

Based on DC Comics’ series, iZombie is a supernatural crime procedural about a med student-turned-zombie who takes a job in the coroner’s office to obtain the brains she must eat to maintain her humanity. However, with every brain she consumes, she also inherits the corpse’s memories. In order to silence those disturbing voices in her head, she solves homicide cases along with her medical examiner boss and a police detective. Veronica Mars‘ Thomas and Diane Ruggiero will write and executive-produce with Danielle Stokdyk and Dan Etheridge.

Showcase has released another trailer for the third season of Continuum. It returns on  March 16  or you can wait until April 4 and see cut episodes on SyFy. Guess which version I plan to watch.

If you haven’t seen the first episode of season two of House of Cards yet, you just better get off the Internet if you don’t want to see spoilers. It turns out that the shocking event from the first episode was planned from the start with a similar event in the season finale of the first season of the U.K. version. How realistic is the show? A star such as Robin Wright may or may not know very much about actual political life, but it is easy to have their opinion covered by being a bit titillating:

During a Q&A in the upcoming issue of Capitol File magazine, a reporter asked whether Wright’s White House source thought the fictional events depicted in the Netflix series were close to the mark.

“Did she think reporters sleeping with sources and members of Congress was factual?” the reporter asked.

“Oh, yeah,” the actress replied. “D.C. is more corrupt than Hollywood. It really is. It’s more sleazy than Hollywood… how much infidelity goes on.”

Kate Mara might soon become better known for another genre role. The cast has been announced for the Fantastic Four reboot, with Mara playing Sue Storm. Think how House of Cards might have turned out differently if Zoe Barnes also had Sue Storm’s power to turn invisible.

Orange Is The New Black returns on Netflix on June 6. No relation to Black Widow, Black Canary, or Orphan Black.

Hannibal returns on February 28, with the first season available to binge on Netflix and Amazon. Here is some more information on  the second season.

man-from-uncle-henry-cavill-set-filming-3

Open Channel D. The Man From UNCLE movie opens on January 16, 2015. The movie stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris, Hugh Grant and Luca Calvani. One of the key things I remember from the original show was the use of cigarette cases and pens as communication devices. Is there any point in this with smart phones? But if these are not used, will the movie really feel like UNCLE? It might be fun to go back and look at some of the old episodes to see how they stand up today. My guess is that they would be better than SHIELD.

Actually Agents of SHIELD has improved. They did try experimenting with storytelling a little in the last episode, TRACKS, telling the same story from the perspective of different characters. I also enjoyed seeing a train heist as it reminded me of one of the first Joss Whedon shows I had ever seen, The Train Job episode of Firefly. (Yes, I have never seen Buffy). The episode ended with a cliff hanger but I doubt Skye is really dead considering how they appear in the midst of developing her back story. Besides, people on comic-based shows are rarely ever dead. A clue to this is that the next episode when SHIELD returns from hiatus will be entitled  TAHITI. Bill Paxton will be joining to assist in saving Skye.

Producer Joel Fields answered questions about the second season of The Americans, which returns this week. One of my favorite moments from the first season was when Reagan was shot and the Russians saw it as a coupe attempt by Alexander (“I am in control here”) Haig. Fields was asked if any real life events will be included in the second season:

Season two will begin in early 1982 and, as our show was last season, it will be informed – but not shaped – by real life events. Philip and Elizabeth will deal with threats ranging from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the covert American assistance taking place in Nicaragua, and everything they do will happen under the specter of constant brinkmanship that was a hallmark of US-Soviet relations at that time.

Last year it was discovered that Robert Galbraith was really a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. She has a second novel about Cormoran Strike coming out on June 19. With character names such as Cormoran Strike, we should have guessed who the author was.

Joel McHale of Community will be hosting the White House Correspondents Dinner on May 3.

Broadchurch US

The first pictures have been released from filming of Gracepoint, the US remake of Broadchurch. David Tennant reprises his staring role from the ITV version, along with Anna Gunn of Breaking Bad.

An American adaptation of Utopia is being planned by HBO and is to be written by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn.

Both Broadchurch and Utopia have completed their first season in the U.K. and will be returning for a second season. The first season of each was excellent, but as accustomed as I have become to downloading shows from the U.K. I can’t help but wonder why they don’t just show the original versions here. Yes, there are references which Americans might not understand, and David Tennant’s accent was a bit thick in the ITV version, but I think American audiences can cope. Look how popular Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife are becoming here without need to remake them for American audiences.

The above trailer has been released for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

Karen-Gillan-Joins-Selfie-Comedy

Doctor Who and Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan has been cast in an American sit-com, Selfie:

The actress, who next appears in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Oculus, has been tapped to star in ABC’s Emily Kapnek comedy Selfie, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The modern take on My Fair Lady is inspired by the musical and tells the story of a self-obsessed 20-something woman named Eliza Dooley (Gillan) who is more concerned with “likes” than being liked. After suffering a public and humiliating breakup, she becomes the subject of a viral video and suddenly has more social media “followers” than she ever imagined — but for all the wrong reasons. She then enlists the help of a marketing expert at her company to help repair her tarnished image.

The casting marks the Scotland native’s return to TV following Doctor Who – where she played the Doctor’s companion, Amy Pond, for more than 30 episodes on the show’s fifth through seventh seasons — and Adult Swim’s NTSF: SD: SUV

No word as to whether Karen Gillan will be doing any nude writing or baking as in  Not Another Happy Ending.

I’ve seen a number of posts about people building their own TARDIS. With so much interest, it is only a matter of time until Ikea comes up with a kit. This is what the experience might be like:

TARDIS Ikea

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SciFi Weekend: Valentine’s Day and Girls SciFi Geeks Love (About Time; Karen Gillan; Scarlett Johansson; Arrow; Almost Human)

SciFi Weekend is a weekly feature at Liberal Values, and is now being cross posted at The Moderate Voice. To introduce the feature to new readers, every week  this post generally deals with Science Fiction along with other topics. Sometimes, like last week, it is about a single topic (Sherlock Season 3). More often a variety of topics are discussed, typically starting with science fiction and genre television, but often including other topics in pop culture. Some weeks there is a theme. The theme this week is Valentine’s Day and Girls SciFi Geeks Love. Beware that there are frequently spoilers, especially for television shows which have aired in the United States. I do frequently leave out some details or only refer to them obliquely to limit this, and try to warn about spoilers when discussing movies or shows which have not aired yet in the U.S.

About TIme

This year we had not one but two major movies combining science fiction and romantic comedy. As I had already watched and blogged about Her, this left About Time to watch with my wife after we returned from dinner last night. About Time uses time travel much more like Groundhog Day than Doctor Who, except unlike Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, the protagonist of About Time can control which portions of his life he relives. The review does include spoilers.

On his twenty-first birthday Tim (Domhnall Gleeson)was told by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in his family all have the ability to travel in time. There are limitations. You can only go back and revisit portions of your own life. As his father put it, you can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy. Tim asked about the butterfly effect and his father told him he hadn’t run into it. To add some drama later in the movie, it turns out he wasn’t entirely correct here.

There are other limitations, including one standing in the way of Tim’s number one interest, getting a girlfriend. You can’t make someone love you. He failed in his first attempt with a girl spending the summer with his sister. He did later manage to meet Mary (Rachel McAdams) but the meeting was erased from time when he went back in time to help out a crabby playwright who he was briefly living with. There was no butterfly effect which destroyed civilization as we know it, but it is possible to change one’s past. It should surprise nobody that he did manage to meet Mary again, but had to go back in time to dispense with the boyfriend she met because of not meeting Tim.

From there time travel continued to come in handy. No more awkward first times in bed when for Tim it became the second and then third time after going back in time. It wasn’t even necessary to keep his first awkward attempts at removing Mary’s bra or meeting her parents. Minor mistakes later in their life, such as choosing the wrong best man, were also easily fixed.

Some problems were not so easily fixed. Tim found a serious problem in going too far back in time to help reverse a poor decision made by his sister, Kit Kat. Fortunately for Tim, his mistake was easily reversed, but he had to find another way to help his sister. Tim learned that time travel cannot fix all problems. Sometimes something terrible in life must occur to get people to change. If he was truly trying to help Kit Kat, he might have also bought her a comb.

The relationship between Tim and his father became as important to the movie as the relationship between Tim and Mary, even leading the two to once again break the rules, but this time with no dire consequences. Over time, Tim preferred a simpler form of time travel, moving forward in time day to day and fully appreciating every day. “The truth is, now I don’t travel back at all, not even for the day. I just try to live everyday as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day. To enjoy it. As if it was the full final day. Of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” About Time is far from a hard science fiction look at time travel, but it was an enjoyable movie.

Karen Gillan’s romantic comedy, Not Another Happy Ending, is being released in the U.K. on DVD this week but there are no current plans for a U.S. release. Trailer above.  Iain De Caestecker of Agents of SHIELD (Fitz) is also in the movie. The actress who formerly played Amy Pond does not do any time traveling during the movie, but she does write and bake in the nude (more of that scene here). Update: Not Another Happy Ending will be shown at the Cleveland International Film Festival on March 19.

Scarlett Johansson is becoming the go to girl for sexy female leads when she is not in The Avengers movies. When they needed an actress to make it seem realistic for a voice alone to seduce the male lead, it was Scarlett Johansson’s voice used in Her. She is also the female lead in Under The Skin, playing an alien female who seduces men for sexual experimentation. Trailer above. It reminds me a bit of an early episode of Torchwood, back before the show got to be too big and they messed it up.

Doctor Who Both Hearts

If you missed buying a card for Valentine’s Day you might have to use Tim’s trick from About Time to go back and fix that. Or you can go back in your TARDIS, perhaps to use one of these cards.  For the last four years I have posted Doctor Who Valentine’s Day cards, with the latest set posted here.  Cards from 2013 can be seen here. Older ones also available from  2012 and 2011.

Heir to the Demon

I had not initially watched Arrow during its first season believing it would just be more CW fluff with attractive people in glitzy backdrops. At times it is, but as I later found out, it is far more. With a rich playboy crime fighter, and now the League of Assassins, in many ways it is one of the best live action adaptations of Batman ever made. Plus there are flashbacks to an island which might remind viewers of Lost. Still, it is on CW, so there is plenty of romance and love triangles in this superhero soap opera.

Before going on a brief hiatus for the Olympics, Arrow looked back at the triangle Oliver had with Sara and Laurel Lance, but things became even more complicated. In Heir to the Demon, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter managed to incapacitate airport security agents without any of the publicity and follow through which such an event would generate in our world. Her mission was to return Sara to the League of Assassins or to kill her, but it became clear that her mission would be more complicated when the two kissed upon first seeing each other. A discussion with the show’s producer over this turn of events can be read here:

With the introduction of Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) — Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter — hunting down Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) to bring her back to the League of Assassins, the stakes would have been high enough. But the show added another, more emotional level to Nyssa’s journey: She was Sara’s ex and wanted to win her heart again.

Of course, Nyssa ended up releasing Sara from her duty to the League when it became clear Sara would rather die than leave her family again. But watching Nyssa deal with the pain of that revelation was what made her one of the series’ best villains so far — a fact with which executive producer Andrew Kreisberg wholeheartedly agrees.

“It’s been pointed out that sometimes our villains get short shrift and we don’t always do right by the villains,” Kreisberg tells Zap2it and a handful of other reporters. “We just don’t have enough time for them because our show is just so dense. We’ve gotten away with casting really cool people in the parts and asking our audience to just fill in the rest.”

Kreisberg and fellow showrunner Marc Guggenheim are glad that they were able to give Nyssa enough of a backstory to make her a sympathetic villain. “I actually feel bad for her. She really does seem like this broken-hearted person who got the shaft,” Kreisberg says. “She has the advantage of having an emotional and personal tie to one of our characters. She goes on a complete journey from start to end as opposed to someone who just wants to rob a bank.”

Guggenheim is quick to point out, however, that “Arrow” can’t have every villain be like that. “If every episode had a Nyssa, and didn’t have let’s say a Clock King, when the Nyssas of the world showed up it wouldn’t have any import,” Guggenheim says. “It would lack the weight that this kind of episode has. Because some episodes, yes, it’s just a guy bombing the city, but there’s other stuff in that episode that makes it worthwhile and worth watching. If everything becomes special, then nothing becomes special.”

Law was excited to portray Nyssa, but she wasn’t expecting her to have such a rich history with Sara. “I was surprised that I was going to be a lesbian,” Law says with a laugh. “When we did the chemistry read, I wasn’t quite understanding why I was [with Lotz].”

According to Kreisberg and Guggenheim, the decision to make Nyssa a lesbian came from the idea of what it could do for Sara. “We thought of this at the beginning of the season,” Kreisberg says. “If you watch [episode] 205 there’s a reference to ‘the beloved,’ and ‘You think that’s going to keep you safe.’ We talked about, ‘Well, does Ra’s al Ghul have a son?’ And then we were like, ‘Well, can it be Talia?’”

Since Talia al Ghul was portrayed recently in “The Dark Knight Rises,” the writers decided to go with the lesser-known story of Nyssa al Ghul.

“It just felt like something new and different,” Kreisberg says. “At the same time, we didn’t do it to be salacious, because it’s a pretty chaste relationship from what you see onscreen. It just touched on a couple interesting things, like the idea that Sara found one person who treated her with love and kindness. And then for Lance to be this hardened, tough cop and probably not the most progressive guy, even he was just like, ‘I’m glad you had someone who loved you and took care of you during those nightmare years.’”

Nyssa wasn’t the only one getting action with Sara in the episode though, as it ended with her and Oliver (Stephen Amell) hooking up in the Arrow lair.

“We were anxious to have in the same episode where we reveal that Sara had had this lesbian relationship, she was also sleeping with Oliver again,” Guggenheim says. “We wanted to be sensitive and realistic. We specifically avoid using the term ‘bisexual’ because we didn’t want to label her at all. Let her be her own person, and if the audience wants to label, fine. We didn’t want to do something just to shock

Before this was all resolved, Nyssa kidnapped Sara and Laurel’s mother, played by Alex Kingston. I had half expected the Doctor to save River Song. It now appears that Amy Pond is the Black Canary’s grandmother. There is yet another triangle, as Sara joined Team Arrow and Felicity can wonder once again about what was going on over on that island between Oliver and all those women.

almost-human-season-1-episode-10-dorian-kennex

During most of the first season, Almost Human‘s best moments were its humor and the buddy cop relationship between the two male leads (one being an android). Unfortunately the last two episodes before its Olympic hiatus lacked the humor of previous episodes, but both episodes (Unbound and Perception) did more to flesh out the world the show takes place in. Perception returned to the events of the pilot and the relationship between Kennex and his probably-evil ex-girlfriend. Now that we now she is still tracking Kennex, there is the increased likelihood this will be used to find her and shed more light on what happened.

The episode also expanded upon the back story of Stahl, who turns out to be a genetically enhanced Chrome. Minka Kelley seemed almost too perfect on Friday Night Lights. She seems more plausible on Almost Human as being more than human, a character whose intelligence and beauty are the product of genetic enhancement.

Amelia Clarke of Game of Thrones was voted the Most Desirable Woman by Ask Men magazine. Alison Brie of Community and Mad Men came in second, with many other women in genre roles also on the  list.

continuum02

Two recent Canadian science fiction shows feature strong female leads. Syfy has announced that  Continuum, staring Rachel Nichols will return in the United States on April 4. Unfortunately this is after it returns on Showcase in Canada on March 16, making it harder to cover on line as I will definitely get a hold of each episode as soon as possible rather than waiting for it to air on Syfy.

Tatiana Maslany does an amazing job playing multiple roles on Orphan Black. Maria Doyle Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly that season two is like season one on crack:

That was just one of the tidbits Kennedy dropped when she stopped by Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) to chat about the show as well as her music career. Another tidbit? Looks like we can expect more Mrs. S in season 2. “You’re going to see more of her,” says Kennedy. “I had a great time in season 1 and there were some great scenes, but there was also a lot of hovering. They just really liked me so wrote me more this time, so that’s great.”

But on which side will Mrs. S. land in the war between Sarah and Rachel (both played by Tatiana Maslany)? Kennedy says her character’s ultimate objective is protecting Sarah’s daughter, Kira, whose whereabouts are currently unknown. “In the war between Rachel and Sarah and the whole idea about the clones trying to find out about themselves, she keeps going through that and beyond it and goes, ‘Where does Kira land in all this? What’s happening with her? How safe is she? Are they close to her? Can they get her?’”

Okay, but we still don’t quite know where Mrs. S stands and her connection to the clone conspiracy. Is she good, bad, or somewhere in between? “She is an incredibly pragmatic woman with a strong moral compass,” says Kennedy. “That’s how I feel about her. She has definitely done bad things in the past. She came through an era of protest and squatting, so she’s not afraid to be anarchic or against the law, but she always has a strong proper reason for doing what she does.”

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover 2014

Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge, and Chrissy Teigen appear on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Three girls would normally mean six bikini pieces, but apparently that would have put them above budget, forcing the models to pose topless. The theme is The Past, The Present and The Future. Is this another time travel magazine?

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SciFi Weekend: Sleepy Hollow & Other Cliffhangers; Doctor Who & Sherlock Win At National Television Awards; The Americans; Arrow; Wonder Woman; Revolution; Hannibal; SHIELD

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Sleepy Hollow ended its first season with several cliffhangers, placing virtually all the major characters in some sort of danger. If they had known how successful the show would be, perhaps they wouldn’t have had to resort to such gimmicks. Get the viewers to return the next season based upon the quality of the show rather than ending with cliffhangers for the sake of cliff hangers. With all the shows now on, people aren’t even likely to recall all the cliffhangers, especially with the longer wait following a show with only a thirteen episode run.

This isn’t to say I oppose all cliff hangers. Back when Dallas first ran the Who Shot JR? storyline, this was somewhat unique for network television, and the buzz around it was a major television event. Star Trek The Next Generation had a great cliffhanger in Best of Both Worlds with Riker ordering the Enterprise to fire on Borg Picard.  The buzz over that summer helped make the show. Most cliffhangers are not this good and do not provide comparable benefits.

An alternative to the cliffhanger which I prefer is for a show to tie up the major story lines at the end of a season and then foreshadow what is coming next. Once Upon A Time did an excellent job with this. The show has been mixed quality-wise, but the old Lost writers on the show manage to keep things interesting by changing things every season. The Peter Pan story from the fall season was drawn out too long, but if you take out the middle episodes where everyone seemed to just wander around Neverland, it did end well. After concluding the story, there was a great final scene taking place a year later which sets up the show when it returns. They got the benefit of favorable publicity and talk about what is happening next without making the viewers wait to see the current story tied up.

Sleepy Hollow didn’t need a bunch of cliffhangers in the finale to create discussion among the fans. Without putting everyone in immediate danger, there was a major revelation and change for the show via John Noble’s character. It was like having him change from Walter to Walternate on Fringe but remain the same person. I was happy to see Captain Irving’s wife find out what is going on so he will no longer need to make lame excuses for not being home, but now we have to see him get off on the charges he confessed to to protect his daughter when processed. On top of all this, we got a flashback to see Zombie George Washington!

Doctor Who did well at the National Television Awards. The show won as Best Drama, beating Broadchurch, Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. Matt Smith won for Best Drama Performance, beating  Miranda Hart (Call The Midwife), Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) and Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey). He was not present to accept the award in person. Instead it was accepted by Steven Moffat and Jenna Coleman (video above). Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) won the award for Best TV Detective.

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The Americans returns February 26. Here’s some information released about the second season during a panel at the Television Critics Association press tour:

This season will turn the focus back on the family.
“We felt like [season 1] had been so focused on the marriage,” says EP Joe Weisberg, “and the natural place to go next was the family.” Particularly with Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth’s (Keri Russell) marriage on more solid ground, they wanted to move on to exploring “the next point of fracture” — the family unit.

Paige’s curiosity continues
At the end of the first season, the Jennings’ teenage daughter started to show signs of increasing curiosity about her parents and their ongoings, and this season, questions will start being asked and “it’s not going to go great,” says EP Joel Fields. “Teenagers are hard,” adds Weisberg. “They’re all tough on mom and dad.”

Margo Martindale returns
The actress will be back for several episodes this season as KGB handler Claudia. The fate of her CBS comedy The Millers will not determine what comes next for that character, as The Americans will be done filming the second season in March — well before broadcast network renewals are typically announced. That said, if Martindale finds herself available full time and the show gets a third season, “It’s hard to argue with more Margo Martindale,” says Fields. “We love that character and we love her.”

Martha will get a backbone this season!
Martha’s faux-marriage with Philip will actually serve to strengthen the character, who is widely thought of as insecure, the producers said. “Who she was was extremely lonely and extremely vulnerable and she’s less lonely this season, so it’s allowing her to grow,” says Weisberg. “It’s a law of unintended consequences,” adds Fields.

There’s a racy scene in the premiere
Without giving away too much, a racy scene in the season premiere had critics buzzing. According to Weisberg, the purpose was to depict a show of love between Philip and Elizabeth that was “powerful, shocking, and funny.” You’ll see.

Stan is in a power struggle.
“He’s got such an interesting season coming up,” says Weisberg. “Nina is getting ahead of him. You see that at the end of the first season, and that’s such an interesting place for him to be in and so true and so real for what happens to people when you’re playing this back-and-forth game. People who are smart and good can have people get ahead of them because they are also smart and good at what they do too.” And while Stan is a man who is used to a certain amount of pressure, what it does to him will be “great” to watch, he says.

BONUS BURNING QUESTION: Is the show ever heading to Russia?
The producers said they have “half-joked” about having a season that takes place in Russia, later admitting that such a task would require heaps of funding. But, they said, “I think we’re going to eventually have some storylines there,” teases Weisberg. In fact, he added, there will, like season 1, be some material set in Russia. But filming in the country remains on their to-do. “It would basically be a budget question,” he said.

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Arrow star Stephen Amell says that episode 15, The Promise, is “grandest, most challenging and most difficult episode” of the series:

“Episode 15 that we have coming up – and this is breaking news – it’s an island-centric episode,” he revealed to Entertainment Weekly Radio. “We take our usual format of 75% of the time in Starling City and 25% of the time on [the island], and we flip it upside down.”

He continued: “[In this episode], there is a shot where we establish where we are and it’s the biggest shot that we’ve ever done on the show. There’s people getting blown up. There’s people getting thrown overboard.

“There are all of these incredible things happening, and then the camera zooms from way, way, way out and it comes in to end on a close-up of me. And all I had to do was evade a punch and bang a guy’s head into the wall. I was super nervous!”

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Gal Gadot has been signed to appear as Wonder Woman in three movies: the Superman vs. Batman movie, a Justice League movie, and a Wonder Woman standalone movie. Presumably this might be extended further if the character does well.

I don’t know if this is the official final storyline, but this synopsis  (spoiler) of the Fantastic Four reboot leaked out from casting calls:

“The Fantastic Four’ will tell the story of two very young friends, Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. After an event transforms the boys, they find themselves empowered with bizarre new abilities. Reed becomes a scientific genius who can stretch, twist and re-shape his body to inhuman proportions. Ben becomes a monstrous, craggy humanoid with orange, rock-like skin and super strength. However, the two end up being owned by the government and used as weapons. But after they mature, two others with powers come into the picture – Sue Storm “The Invisible Girl” and Johnny Storm “The Human Torch.”

I’m glad I stuck with Revolution. The show still has its flaws, but when it gets away from the daddy issues of major characters, the current story lines are getting better. (Along these lines, when will they reveal that Miles is Charlie’s father? This is so obvious, even if it isn’t intended by the writers.) One good thing about the show from the start has been that the story does advance and they are not constantly repeating similar stories. Now there are the Patriots who are getting into eugenics. I thought the story line with Aaron and the nanobots was pretty dumb last fall, but suddenly that is becoming interesting. Of course any storyline with Giancarlo Esposito has hope due to the quality of his acting. Currently Tom and Julia Neville/Doyle are in Washington, D.C. but unfortunately for Tom his plot has been exposed. I’m sure he will recover from his current setback, but should they ever decide to end his time on the show, I hope he goes out in a scene where half his face is blown off, as happened with his character Gus on Breaking Bad.

A longer trailer for Season 2 of Hannibal, which starts February 28, has been released–video above.

Two characters will be killed in the first episode when Under the Dome returns. I’m having a tough time getting down to only two characters who I would like to see get killed. Maybe they can kill two characters every week. That might help the show.

HBO has renewed The Newsroom for a third and final season. I’m glad that Aaron Sorkin’s show will be returning, but wish there would be more than one season to go.

CHLOE BENNET

Maybe I’m getting softer, but I also think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has improved. I am glad to hear that there will be more than has been revealed so far on the mysteries surrounding two of the characters according to an interview with Chloe Bennett:

Though “Seeds” and its “SHIELD Hogwarts” storyline was one of the series’ more playful episodes, Bennet says that the end of episode 13 “TRACKS” is “f***ing crazy” and will leave viewers “very worried.” Henstridge backs her up, saying that the rest of this season gets very serious and very intense.

“The thing about the next few episodes that we’re about to film and that are about to be shown, it starts getting very serious and the tone goes a lot darker,” Henstridge says. “There’s less kind of comedic things for us to do. The stakes just go through the roof. With Coulson having been kidnapped, things start to get very scary. So I think it’s more focused on the mission and there’s a lot of mystery around Skye, and that starts to be explored. So that’s kind of the main mystery.”

In terms of the mystery surrounding Coulson’s death, Bennet also acknowledges that there is a lot left fore viewers to find out — and that she thinks we’ll find out those answers before the end of Season 1.

“We found out what Tahiti was — or lack thereof — but we didn’t know why. Why is it a huge secret?” Bennet asks. “There’s a couple big question marks. There’s: What am I? Where am I from? Why the f*** are they not telling Coulson why he died? And then there’s: Who’s the Clairvoyant? Who’s the head of Centipede? What is happening? Basically starting next episode, it’s bam bam bam bam bam from here on, so it will be a lot of answers and a lot of drama.”

Jamie Alexander will be appearing on an upcoming episode reprising her role as Lady Sif from the Thor movies. There are also upcoming guest appearances from Stan Lee and Bill Paxton.

Parks and Recreation has been renewed for a seventh season, and it is looking hopeful that Community will return for a sixth season.

Colin Jost has been named to replace Seth Meyers as the anchor of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

Mr. Selfridge returned last week for a second season on ITV. It picks up four years after season one, but the events of the end of the season still have ramifications.

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SciFi Weekend: Continuum; Sherlock; Arrow; Person of Interest; The Avengers; Better Call Saul; The Labyrinth; The Fall; Hannibal; Communty; Sleepy Hollow; Almost Human

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Collider spoke with Rachel Nichols about her role in the recently released movie Raze and then got to the third season of Continuum. She has some news here, such as that Season 3 will reveal more about The Freelancers. Beware there are spoilers as she tells what happens with the Season 2 cliff hanger in which Alec traveled through time. She reveals exactly where/when Alec went, which is one of the more common answers which people speculated about after Season 2 concluded. Not surprisingly, it is also clear that Kiera does get out of that cell she was dropped into.

Continuum has really become one of the best sci-fi shows on TV, right now.  What can you say to tease where Season 3 is going, especially with how ripped apart all of the characters were, at the end of last season?

NICHOLS:  We started shooting Season 3 already.  We got three episodes finished before Christmas break.  What I can tell you is that, at the end of Season 2, Alec (Erik Knudsen) clearly betrayed Kiera and went back in time.  At the beginning of Season 3, you learn a lot more about The Freelancers.  I can’t say how, but I can say that Kiera ends up going back in time to the point where Alec went back in time to save Emily (Magda Apanowicz).  So, suddenly there are two Alecs and two Kieras and we can’t run into each other, obviously.  Right off the bat, in Season 3, you’ve got craziness ensuing.  There’s a death.  There’s a description of The Freelancers.  I’m happy to say that Terry Chen is back, in a big, big way.  And overall, for this season, what I’m feeling is that where Kiera was always about getting home before, acknowledging her impact on the world, with everything she was doing in the present day, now I think there’s a part of her that’s going to be relegated to staying here and really setting up life and knowing she’s going to be here for awhile, and maybe even wanting to.  That will be a back change for her, given the fact that her family is in the future. 

Teasers from Showcase and SciFi above.

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Sherlock returns in the United States this weekend, but as the show already completed the season on BBC One I wonder how many fans are still unaware of what happened. I will avoid any spoilers here and have a few comments leading into the series. The first two episodes are written far more than other episodes for the fans, but would not be good episodes to start with for those who are not already fans of the series. Start with the first two seasons. At very least watch last season’s finale and cliff hanger before the first episode of this season, The Empty Hearse.

The second episode, The Sign of Three, is about a very difficult task for Sherlock and doesn’t start out seeming like a typical episode at all. It is the weakest of the three but if you stick with it you will find that there is a mystery, and the events brought up earlier turn out to really matter. Quite often this season, things are not as they seem.

The third episode, His Last Vow, is the best of the three, and some reviewers have called it the best of the series. It is a more conventional mystery. Lars Mikkelsen, brother of Mads Mikkelsen of Hannibal, makes a fantastic villain, and there is a huge cliff hanger. Make sure you watch until the very end. I’ll hold off until it airs in the United States to discuss speculation about the cliff hanger.

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Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim told Entertainment Weekly about upcoming plans for Roy:

After being injected with Mirakuru in the mid-season finale, the first episode back, airing Wednesday night, will explore the benefits — and consequences — of his newfound strength. “We’re going to learn starting with episode 10 that the Mirakuru may give you incredible strength and it really may accelerate your healing, but it comes with some very significant mental downsides as well,” teases executive producer Marc Guggenheim. “And Roy will be experiencing those in the present, and Slade in the past [via flashbacks] will begin to develop those difficulties.”

Guggenheim adds that as everything about Roy’s current predicament becomes clearer, we’re also going to see how it affects the people around him — Thea and Oliver included. “We always said that this year, Roy is going to go through a crucible. And the Mirakuru [storyline] is basically that ordeal and for sure when he comes out the other side — if he comes out the other side — he will be a different person and set on a different path,” he says. “You will start to see that as early as episode 12.”

It’s part of the longer story the writers are telling with Roy, explains Guggenheim, one that shows him going “from being sort of the street urchin we met in episode 15 last year to somebody who could potentially inherit the Arrow’s mantel as Roy Harper did in the comic books. We’re never really driven too much by what we call the comic book destinies of characters, but we’re very much aware of them and we’re very much aware that we’re telling a Batman Begins-style story for all of our characters. And obviously the Mirakuru and what Roy will experience in the wake of episode 9 is a big part of that Batman Begins-like story for him.”

Some additional points were discussed:

+ Have they decided what they’re doing with Flash in episode 20?
Not yet. After it was decided that the Flash pilot would stand alone — rather than being part of the 20th episode of the season — plans had to change, said Guggenheim. But the official plan is still in the works. “We’ve had a lot of afferent internal discussions of how episode 20 basically becoming an Arrow episode instead of a backdoor pilot could operate in terms of the connection to Barry. But we haven’t come to a decision yet, so we’re not ready to talk about it yet,” he said.

+ Will Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) continue to have tension over Barry?
Yes. And you will see more of it in Wednesday night’s episode. “One of our pet peeves is when a show does a backdoor pilot and the episode that follows it tends to ignore what happened in the backdoor pilot. And episodes 8 and 9 served as the introduction of Barry Allen, and it struck us as wrong not to acknowledge everything that happened in those two episodes, particularly in regard to Barry’s burgeoning relationship with Felicity,” he says. “So a good chunk of the emotional real estate in episode 10 is spent on Felicity’s reaction to Barry being electrocuted at the end of episode 9 and being struck by lightning.”

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Guggenheim also discussed Slade with The Hollywood Reporter:

In the winter finale, Slade declared that his sole mission was to turn Oliver’s world upside down. Has Slade turned pure evil, or is there some redemption for him?

What a great question. I will say that I don’t think anyone on our show is pure evil. We always try really hard to write according to the axiom that everyone is the hero in their own story. In other words, in real life, even the most evil people think they’re doing the right thing — at least, through their own lens through which they view their world. Slade is taking actions that he feels are very justified and thus in his mind, he’s not pure evil, he’s not even evil. He’s just a man with a very serious vendetta. For us, the advantage of doing it that way are even our antagonists are grounded and realistic, and I think they’re made more compelling when their motivations are made more human than the comic-book trademark “pure evil.” That’s just as true for Slade as for any of the villains on our show.

Hypothetically, if Oliver were to find out about Slade, how do you think he’d take the news?

I can tell you that hypothetically, were he to find out that Slade is alive and kicking in Starling City, Oliver would not take that well. (Laughs.) And I guess I can spoil and say that it is just a matter of matter of time before Oliver discovers that Slade is in Starling City. We actually have a whole episode and a whole storyline devoted to Oliver’s reaction to that news. I won’t tell you what episode that is.

He was also asked about Sara:

Will Sara come back into the fray in the modern day? Will she come face to face with Laurel?
It’s probably not spoiling anything to say that it’s only a matter of time before Sara returns to modern-day Starling City. We’ve already made the decision as to when and how and why exactly all that [Sara coming face to face with Laurel] will happen. When, over the course of the next 13 episodes that happens, I’m not saying.

So, it appears that Oliver will figure out what is going on with Slade, but still not figure out that Sara is not the same girl he last saw on the yacht in the Season one pilot, with Jacqueline MacInnes Wood’s scenes later reshot with Caity Lotz.

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While both series had already been excellent, there are two shows I watch which have become even better this year: Arrow and Person of Interest. In early episodes, Person of Interest was often just a procedural with the machine used as a gimmick to get the leads into the action. Over the last couple of seasons the series has evolved more into a science fiction show about the surveillance state. The Nerdist discussed how the show has become our reality:

Person of Interest is unique in the world of procedural dramas. While plenty of shows have been able to claim they’re ripped from the headlines, POI has the distinction of being able to say it predicted them. As The New Yorker points out, the show predicted Edward Snowden a year in advance with its episode “No Good Deed.”

Is is worth reading the entire article on this show by Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman now that the show has become increasingly relevant. Another passage:

Nolan and Plageman are on the same page as to where this data mining will lead: the singularity. “The cornerstone of the show is that out of this arms race of information technology that we’re now thoroughly engaged in,” said Nolan, “cyber warfare, which was a silly idea, a silly phrase fifteen years ago, is now an absolute reality and quite terrifying in its own way. This is definitely the moment we find ourselves in and our idea was that out of the kind of carnage of this aggressive information arms race you might well see the emergence of something that probably in hindsight we’ll see was an Artificial Intelligence. It’s probably going to emerge out of the NSA or out of a data call center like the one the New York Times profiled. It’s either going to be a sales tool or it’s going to be a spy tool.”

With the audience now fully on board with the Orwellian nature of the show, Plageman says his fake world collides with the real one more than he thought it was going to. “On the show,” Plageman responded, “even though there is this science fiction aspect, there’s a heightened tone to the show – we always try to ground that. We always try to use technology that is in existence. That’s actually here and material. So, I’m always surprised when we talk about something in the writers room, whether we’re talk about AI or Ray Kurtzweil and the singularity. Then all of a sudden he’s hired at Google and you’re like, ‘Wait a minute.’ That’s just ridiculous. We’re talking about this now and you see these things converging and you’re going, ‘Okay, what’s that going to look like?’ [Amy Acker's] Root is, to a degree, an acolyte of Kurtzweil, and all of a sudden he’s in the hen house. There’s this non-stop drum beat of material coming our way; We’re even struggling to keep up with to a degree.”

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Scarlett Johansson spoke with Parade about Her and about reprising her role as Black Widow in Avengers 2:

“Oh boy! Well, we can expect the Avengers. Joss [Whedon], again, is back, wrote the script, and is directing. I think the script is dark and it’s dry, it’s got this amazing one-liner, glass-cutting sense of humor. Obviously the script is very cerebral. It doesn’t lose that exciting comic book aspect that people enjoyed in the first film, but it’s smart and it feels like the next installment. It doesn’t feel like a rehashing, it feels like these characters are moving forward, plotlines are moving forward. It’s deep and I think that’s why people really respond to the Marvel universe, because the films are fun and exciting and have all that flashy stuff, but there’s a gravity to them. People can expect that gravity this time around.”

Aaron Paul says that both he and  Bryan Cranston are interested in reprising their roles in the Breaking Bad prequel/sequel Better Call Saul.

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The CW Network has obtained the US rights to show The Labyrinth

The CW Network has acquired LABYRINTH, the four-hour event miniseries with a multi-national and award-winning cast, including John Hurt, Sebastian Stan, Jessica Brown-Findlay & Tom Felton, it was announced today by Mark Pedowitz, President, The CW. Premiere night and time will be announced at a later date.

Filmedon-location in the medieval town of Carcassonne in southwest France and Cape Town, South Africa, the historical miniseries jumps back and forth between modern and medieval France as it follows the lives of two women who are separated by centuries, but united in their search for the Holy Grail.

In Carcassonne, France, in the year 1209, 17-year-old Alaïs (Jessica Brown-Findlay, “Downton Abbey,” “Misfits”), is given a mysterious book by her father; a book which he claims contains the secret of the true Grail. Although Alaïs cannot understand the book’s strange words and labyrinth symbols, her father instructs her to protect the book no matter what happens to him. Alaïs realizes that her destiny lies in keeping the secret of the labyrinth safe. Eight centuries later, at an archeological dig in the French Pyrenees, a young volunteer named Alice Tanner (Vanessa Kirby, “The Hour,” “Great Expectations”) discovers two skeletons in a forgotten cave. Puzzled by the labyrinth symbol carved into the rock, she realizes she’s disturbed something that was meant to remain hidden. Somehow, a link to a horrific past – Alice’s own past – has been revealed.

In addition to Brown-Findlay and Kirby, LABYRINTH features a multi-national cast which includes two-time Oscar(R) nominee, three-time BAFTA Award winner and Golden Globe(R) winner John Hurt (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”), Sebastian Stan (“Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Gossip Girl”), Tom Felton (the “Harry Potter” films, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”), Oscar(R), BAFTA and Golden Globes(R) nominee Janet Suzman (“Nicholas and Alexandra,” “Midsomer Murders”), multi-award winner Claudia Gerini (“The Passion of the Christ,” “Under the Tuscan Sun”), Katie McGrath (“Merlin,” “Red Mist”), Emun Elliott (“Game of Thrones,” “Black Death”) and Tony Curran (“The Pillars of the Earth,” “The Adventures of Tintin”).

It would have been better if this was being shown on premium cable so that it wouldn’t be necessary to cut the nude scenes with Jessica Brown-Findlay and Katie McGrath which are in the original version. I wonder how many people will wind up downloading the show as opposed to watching on CW.

In somewhat related news. the sex scenes in the movie version of Fifty Shades Of Gray are being toned down compared to the books.

Season two of The Fall, starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan starts filming in Belfast in February. The first season of the the BBC mystery, also released simultaneously on Netflix, was excellent. Filming will be delayed a month as Gillian Anderson has been tied up with filming for Season two of Hannibal.

Entertainment Weekly has more news on Season two of Hannibal:

1. Will Graham is in prison and everybody thinks he’s guilty: Fuller brilliantly subverted audience expectations at the end of season 1 by having FBI profiler Graham (Hugh Dancy) framed for Hannibal’s (Mads Mikkelsen) crimes when fans expected the show to follow Thomas Harris’ novels and have the cannibal psychiatrist end up in prison (he’ll get there, we assume, eventually). Graham hasn’t magically been released between seasons and he isn’t going to pop back into his old job after one episode (unlike, for instance, Patrick Jane on CBS’ The Mentalist). Graham is also going to be a much more focused and proactive character this season now that he’s no longer suffering from encephalitis and knows he’s not crazy. He’s going to actively try to get himself released, or at least take down Hannibal.

2. Hannibal has Graham’s old job: With Graham in prison, now the FBI is relying on Hannibal even more to help solve crimes, so we’ll get plenty of scenes of the serial killer working to catch other serial killers. “Hannibal becomes the new Will Graham in many ways,” Fuller teases. “There’s a lot of fun seeing him interact with the FBI.”

3. It’s still surreal, though more clear: Hannibal‘s haunting surreal imagery is a signature of the show and will continue. But with Graham no longer ill, he’s a more reliable narrator, which helps ground the storytelling a bit more.

4. Gillian Anderson is back: Anderson reprises her role as Hannibal’s psychiatrist. Expect this season for her character to grow suspicious of her most mysterious patient. “She’s doing a really fun closer examination of her patient and figuring some things out for herself, and that’s dangerous for anyone,” Fuller says.

5. The opening scene of the premiere. Though I suspect it will be widely reported before airing (Hannibal‘s TCA press tour day is Sunday, where it will probably come up), I can’t bring myself to reveal this. I’ll just say it’s the best scene the show has done to date.

6. The murders are more grotesque than ever: You thought that human mushroom farm was unappetizing? Just wait until you see “the beehive”…

7. Mason and Margo Verger are in this season: Fans of the books know the story of Hannibal’s tragically doomed wealthy patient and his sister from the Hannibal novel. They will be introduced later this season and have not yet been cast. Yet another major character from the canon, Francis Dolarhyde from Red Dragon, will likely not come into play until season 3.

A musical version of Groundhog Day is in the works. I loved the movie but am not sure about a musical. Will we have to sit through the same songs over and over?

Community had one of its better episodes last week with Cooperative Polygraphy, showing what Dan Harmon can accomplish with just the group sitting around the table for the almost the entire episode. The episode also concluded the storyline for Pierce, despite him not appearing, and revealed how Troy will be leaving the series. Plus we had this great line from Britta, after finding that Jeff kept her underpants and made up the story of a hawk stealing them: “You exploited me…and made me believe in a slightly more magical world!”

I’m looking forward to the two-hour season finale of Sleepy Hollow this week. Monday nights on Fox shows the advantage of a genre show having a continuing storyline and a strong mythology. Given the premise of the two shows, I’d expect to be far more interested in the harder science fiction of Almost Human. While I do enjoy it, the lack  of signs (so far) of the story really going anywhere have made Sleepy Hollow the show I more look forward to. Next season Fox plans to run Sleepy Hollow uninterrupted  without dividing the show up as it did this year.

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SciFi Weekend: Sherlock Returns; Helix; Veronica Mars Trailer; Searching For Time Travelers; House of Cards; Star Wars; Better Call Saul; Community; Big Bang Theory

Sherlock Returns

Sherlock returned last week. I won’t say much to avoid major spoilers until the show returns in the United States. It should be safe to reveal that Sherlock lives. The episode shows how he survived the fall, but it was more interesting to see Mark Gatiss make fun of all the fan theories. A full review of the episode can be found here. Q&A with cast and show runners here.

The second episode, The Sign of Three, airs tonight on BBC One. A spoiler-free review can be found here.

Helix premieres on Friday. The fifteen minutes can be viewed above. Press release follows:

Helix is an intense thriller about a team of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control who travel to the high-tech research facility, Arctic Biosystems, to investigate a possible disease outbreak, only to find themselves pulled into a terrifying life-and-death struggle that may hold the key to mankind’s salvation or total annihilation. However, the lethal threat is just the tip of the iceberg, and as the virus evolves, the chilling truth begins to unravel.

Executive produced by Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), Steven Maeda (Lost) who is also showrunner, and Lynda Obst (Contact), the 13-episode drama stars Billy Campbell (The Killing, Killing Lincoln) and Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine, 47 Ronin).

Campbell stars as Dr. Alan Farragut, leader of the Centers for Disease Control outbreak field team called upon to investigate and control a potential outbreak. Sanada also stars as Dr. Hiroshi Hatake, director of Arctic Biosystems and its mysterious viral research program. Helix also stars Kyra Zagorsky (Supernatural) as Dr. Julia Walker, Mark Ghanimé (Emily Owens, M.D.) as Major Sergio Balleseros, Jordan Hayes (House at the End of the Street) as Dr. Sarah Jordan, Meegwun Fairbrother as Daniel Aerov, Catherine Lemieux (White House Down) as Dr. Doreen Boyle and Neil Napier (Riddick) as Dr. Peter Farragut.

Helix is produced by Tall Ship Productions, Kaji Productions and Lynda Obst Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television. Prolific director and producer Jeffrey Reiner (Friday Night Lights) directed the first episode of Helix, which was written by creator and co-executive producer, Cameron Porsandeh.

The trailer for the Veronica Mars movie was released last week. Video above.

Attempts were made to see if time travelers were active on social media and if they would provide clues as to their existence. The attempt to find time travelers was unsuccessful. What about these clues that John Kennedy and Barack Obama are time travelers?

House of Cards will return on February 14. For those who want to revisit the first season, Netflix has added director’s commentary tracts.

It looks like the Superman vs. Batman movie is a good deal financially for Michigan. Awaiting details on what is being filmed–will Detroit be the next Gotham City?

David Lynch is filming new material in preparation for the Blu-Ray release of Twin Peaks.

Star Wars Marvel

After Disney purchased the rights to Star Wars, it comes as no surprise that Star Wars comics will be returning to Marvel, which Disney also owns.

The Walt Disney Company’s Lucasfilm Ltd. and Marvel Entertainment are joining forces to bring new Star Wars adventures to readers across the galaxy, with Marvel granted exclusive rights to create and publish Star Wars comics and graphic novels beginning in 2015.

The agreement marks a homecoming for the Star Wars comic books. Marvel Comics published the first Star Wars comic book, STAR WARS #1, in March 1977, which went on to sell more than 1 million copies. Marvel Comics published its STAR WARS series for nine years. In 1991, Dark Horse Comics took over the license, publishing fan-favorite titles like Dark Empire and Star Wars: Legacy. Last year, Dark Horse released The Star Wars #1, an adaptation of George Lucas’ original rough-draft screenplay for the film, garnering rave reviews and national media attention and ranking among the top-selling Star Wars comics of all time.

“Dark Horse Comics published exceptional Star Wars comics for over 20 years, and we will always be grateful for their enormous contributions to the mythos, and the terrific partnership that we had,” said Carol Roeder, director of Lucasfilm franchise publishing, Disney Publishing Worldwide. “In 2015, the cosmic adventures of Luke, Han, Leia and Chewbacca will make the lightspeed jump back to Marvel, to begin a new age of adventures within the Star Wars universe.

TV-Breaking Bad Wisdom

Entertainment Weekly discussed both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul with Vince Gilligan. A portion of the interview:

What has been the big challenge in formulating Better Call Saul? And can you clarify how much of the show will be a prequel and whether we might see scenes that take place after the events of Breaking Bad? Are we going to hop around in time a little?
Peter Gould is a wonderful writer and producer and director who worked on Breaking Bad with me from the first season, and he created the character of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). He and I have been turning that over in our heads quite a bit. We think, by and large, this show will be a prequel, but the wonderful thing about the fractured chronology we employed on Breaking Bad for many years is the audience will not be thrown by us jumping around in time. So it’s possible that we may indeed do that, and we’ll see the past and perhaps the future. Nothing is written in stone yet, we’re still figuring it out, but the thing we realize is tricky with the character is that Saul Goodman is very comfortable in his own skin. He seems to be a character who is pretty happy with himself, especially when we first meet him. He seems to be a pretty happy-go-lucky guy, and that makes him everything that Walter White is not. And that also makes for tricky drama. When I say drama, even in a comedy, you want drama, you want tension and conflict, and a character that at heart seems at peace with himself is intrinsically undramatic. [Laughs] So we’ve been thinking about how to address that issue.

Could some of the action be set in the Breaking Bad era as well?
It could. That’s why I love the possibilities of the show so much. Anything is possible, and I can’t make any promises that we will indeed see that kind of stuff, but I can tell you from a writer’s point of view, it’s very freeing and emboldening to have those opportunities available to you.

How many characters from Breaking Bad might pop up or even have an extended role?
The character that springs to mind would be Mike (Jonathan Banks). That would be a great deal of fun. I would say the sky’s the limit, at least theoretically speaking. Realistically speaking, we’ve got a whole lot of actors, and the world is now well-aware of their wonderful talents and abilities, and therefore Breaking Bad has probably made it tougher for Peter and I to get some of these folks pinned down for another TV show. They’re off making big movies and doing Broadway plays and whatnot, and that’s exactly the way it should be. That is a high-class problem that we will have to contend with as we go forward with Better Call Saul, if we do indeed want to touch base with some of these characters… Better Call Saul could be The Love Boat of its generation, where instead of Milton Berle showing up in a sailor’s cap, hopefully it could be Aaron Paul, also in a sailor’s cap. [Laughs]

I would suggest using a lot of Jonathan Banks in order to add drama which might not be found in Bob Odenkirk’s character. Incidentally, we have already seen Jonathan Banks on Community and Vince Gilligan will also be making an appearance.

Community - Season 5

Community returned with two episodes, Reboot and Introduction to Teaching. Dan Harmon returned and did successfully reboot the show, putting the changes from last season behind. Reboot was the weaker of the two as Harmon did have to spend time setting up the scenario of having everyone back again at Greendale. I would have been satisfied if they simply said the fourth season was a dream and picked up from where season three left off but there was the obvious need to continue the narrative where the show left off last season. I bet that after this, repilot and gas leak year will enter the general vocabulary to describe future shows in similar situations which have a down year under the wrong creative team and then reboot afterwards.

The surprising thing about the episode was the cameo from Chevy Chase. Dan Harmon explained in this interview with IGN:

IGN: Chevy’s cameo was a very nice surprise. How did that come about, and how did you decide upon the specific way it happened in the episode?

Dan Harmon: Well, there’s always the point in every story when a character that’s gone down a certain path needs to have a reason to turn. One of the easiest things to do is have a moment with a mentor, a kind of Obi-Wan figure. I was really just considering what the story needed in the moment where Jeff is walking away with the power to destroy or save Greendale in his hands. What the story needed was someone to turn him, and I did picture Pierce immediately because if he was still on the show, that’s exactly how we would use him, and it’s a greater fact that he was always at his best as this sort of hapless Obi-Wan or a cautionary tale or unintentional mentor – trying to be a mentor in one way, but actually inspiring in a different way. It just seemed like one of those big moments where it was like, “Man, I really miss having that Pierce character,” and I literally pictured him in my head like this Industrial Light & Magic ghost that would appear in front of Jeff and say, “Don’t do this. Go back.” Then I thought, “Okay, then how do we actually make that happen, logically?” The answer was, “Well, actually what you’re describing could just be a hologram, because it doesn’t need to be having a conversation with Jeff. He just needs to say something. He just needs to be a vision.” He can’t be a literal ghost, but he could be a hologram, because Pierce has money, and that seems like the kind of thing you associate with Pierce — that whole Baby Boomer/Sharper Image kind of technology for its own sake kind of thing. And actually, that would work perfectly, because it would allow Chevy to come back to the show without panicking Sony legal, because he wouldn’t be on the set.

I wasn’t there when Chevy departed, but I know he had a specific agreement with Sony in which the terms of his departure were contractual and there was an agreement on both sides. I don’t really know more details than that except to say that simply bringing him back would be a contractual issue. So I was able to say to the studio, “What if we weren’t bringing him back? What if we were shooting him on a separate stage with no other actors around. Would that be allowable?” And they said, “Yes.” So it became this idea. I knew Chevy would be on-board because he’s an arch character, but I know that at the end of it all he always loved doing the show and would be more than willing to come back. He’s very passionate about making people laugh. So I texted him, and he said, “Absolutely, I’ll do it.” And then there was the weird thing of, we really didn’t want that to leak too early because it’s such an easy thing to spoil, and it really does spoil it, I think. So we wanted to see if it was possible to keep it under wraps until it aired. We actually kept it a secret from as much of the crew as possible, other than there were some people we needed to shoot Chevy, but we didn’t tell anybody that we didn’t have to tell. At the table read for the episode, we wrote a fake scene where Jeff is turned by Star-Burns. [Laughs] That’s actually, unfortunately, a really funny scene that the actors got really excited about, because it’s the reveal that Star-Burns is alive and that he’d been hiding on campus and faking his death to avoid death charges. The question is, why would he pick the campus to hide on? It’s the dumbest hiding place in the world, and he doesn’t know why, there’s just something special about the campus, like it was home or something. And that’s what turns Jeff.

the-big-bang-theory competing comic book store

There is new conflict coming up on The Big Bang Theory next week as Bernadette goes to a rival comic book store to purchase something for Howard in the picture above.

NPR’s Morning Edition had a recent segment on the show.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who 50th Anniversary; Agents of SHIELD; Arrow; Community; How I Met Your Mother Sequel; Big Bang Theory; Alpha House; Almost Human

The Night of the Doctor, a prequel video for The Day of the Doctor was released during the past week, showing a regeneration from Paul McMann’s Doctor to John Hurt’s.  There is a difference in the nature of Hurt’s Doctor which we will undoubtedly learn  more about in the 50th anniversary episode. Despite what we learn in this video, Steven Moffat says that the numbering of the Doctors will remain the same.

A clip from The Day of the Doctor played at Children in Need above showing when Matt Smith and David Tennant met is above.

There are many more shows planned for the 50th anniversary celebration. I posted a schedule of BBC American broadcasts here.

The trailer for An Adventure In Space And Time, on the development of Doctor Who fifty years ago, is above. A spoiler-free review has been posted here.

Steven Moffat discussed fifty years of Doctor Who in a twenty-minute video available on line here.

SHIELD The Hub

The Hub was one of the better episodes of Agents of SHIELD so far, but still remained weak. Last week Simmons was in danger but fans were disappointed to see her survive. Fitz came out looking much better in this week’s episode which was centered around placing him in danger. On the other hand, Simmons came out looking like an even weaker character than before, if that was possible. Once again we were teased with the possibility of being rid of her. One would think that Simmons would be history after shooting a superior officer, but nothing really happened. They advanced the mystery of the season about Coulson returning after being killed when Coulson found that the file about his time in “Magical Tahiti” is being kept from him. Speculation ranges from there really being magic involved to Coulson being a robot.  More credence was given to the robot theory when Sky said during the episode that “He’s acting like a robot version of himself right now.” Considering the weak level of writing in this series, that might be intended to foreshadow the end result.

While this episode involved Russia and Georgia, Arrow (the far better of the two superhero series) also had its characters travel to Russia. Summer Glau’s character was a little less robotic as she wound up going to bed with Oliver in a scene which was primarily designed to frustrate the fans who have been rooting for Felicity and Oliver to get together since last season. (Yes, while this is a fun genre show, it is also a CW show.)

COMMUNITY -- "Introduction to Teaching" Episode 502 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jonathan Banks as Hickey, Joel McHale as Jeff Winger -- (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

We have to wait until January 2, but a lot of photos from Community have been posted on line. In the picture above, Jonathan Banks of Breaking Bad appears as Professor Nichols. We don’t know the circumstances or his position (student or faculty), but Jeff is definitely back at Greendale Community College.

CBS is going ahead with a sequel to How I Met Your Mother entitled How I Met Your Father which will presumably be the same format from a woman’s point of view. I am glad that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas will be doing another sitcom but question whether network television can manage to be a little more original as opposed to doing the same thing over again. It was amusing when the original pilot, in which viewers expected to see how Ted met his wife, instead said it was how he met “Aunt Robin.” The actual answer as to how Ted met his wife took nine years and once seems to be enough to for that idea. At least the format is quite loose and does leave open the possibility of having unique aspects in the new show. There have been a lot of shows about a group of friends in New York since Friends left the air, and How I Met Your Mother was the best of them which I have seen.

THE BIG BANG THEORY

What Culture! has five reasons that Big Bang Theory is good for nerds. This includes the many prominent guest stars, such as Stan Lee in the photo above.

Garry Trudeau’s political comedy Alpha House has been released on Amazon video. Review at The New York Times.

They can’t kill The Killing. It will receive a fourth season, this time on Netflix.

Almost Human premiers on Fox tonight. Trailer above.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who News; Matt Smith’s Is Bigger Than David Tennant’s; Counting Regenerations; Wonderland; Arrow; Community Returning; Big Bang Theory; Tatiana Maslany Does Comedy

The trailer for the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, The Day of the Doctor, has been released with video above. Discussion and breakdown of the frames from the trailer here and here.

There’s been more news out about Matt Smith and David Tennant working together, including confirmation that Matt Smith’s is bigger than David Tennant’s:

“Mine’s bigger” confirms Smith. “I won… on that one”. “His is much bigger!” laughs Tennant. Everyone’s since 1963 is bigger than mine! Well, maybe I just don’t have as much to compensate so much; maybe I’m very happy with my sonic’s length. And it does everything it needs to.”

Celebration of the anniversary includes additional events including a TV movie on BBC 2 about the development of the series,  An Adventure In Space And Time. Five pictures have been released here, including  one with Jessica Raine (of Call the Midwife) as producer Verity Lambert:

Jessica Raine

Steven Moffat has been teasing the regeneration in recent interviews. From a statement in Doctor Who Magazine, it appears that Matt Smith’s regeneration into Peter Capaldi will occur in the TARDIS:

“Pretty soon [Peter] will arrive and he’ll be whisked off to begin the trip of a lifetime, probably wondering what it will be like, where it will take him, and how long it will last. And about then, Matt Smith will be standing in his TARDIS for the very last time, with his eyes on the studio door – because about to step through is a Scottish actor, dressed as him.”

Moffat discussed the twelve-regeneration limit in an interview with Radio Times:

The fact that the Doctor could be close to using up his apparent limit of 12 regenerations is one that hasn’t passed Doctor Who fans by. What will happen when his time is finally up we don’t know but there’s an assumption that whoever’s in charge of the show will find a way.

After all, there is a precedent here. The Doctor’s Time Lord adversary the Master used up his entire allocation but was handed a new regenerative cycle after taking possession of a non-Time Lord body and later having it restructured (it’s a long story).

However, Steven Moffat today confirmed of the Doctor, “He can only regenerate 12 times”, while simultaneously suggesting there has been a miscalculation of how many regenerations he has actually been through.

“I think you should go back to your DVDs and count correctly this time,” said Moffat, “there’s something you’ve all missed.

What can it all mean? If we were attempting to explain how the Doctor might already have had more than his fair share of regenerations, we could do it. John Hurt’s newly introduced dark Doctor would presumably add one, making Peter Capaldi the 13th and final incarnation. If we then followed the argument that David Tennant’s tenth Doctor used up a whole dose of regenerative energy when he re-grew his lost hand almost immediately after having transformed from the ninth Doctor, that would give us an illegal 14 versions of the Doctor. Whether the new hand counts as a full regeneration is very much up for debate, of course, but either way these are both arguments for adding not subtracting regenerations.

On the other hand (pardon the pun), we didn’t witness Paul McGann regenerating into either John Hurt’s ninth(?) Doctor or Christopher Eccleston’s ninth/tenth Doctor. If somehow neither of those counted as regenerations we would have one fewer than we’d previously thought – Matt Smith would be the tenth Doctor and Peter Capaldi would be the 11th. But how could the Doctor have changed bodies without regenerating?

Needless to say, there has been a lot of speculation regarding this on various blogs.

MICHAEL SOCHA, SOPHIE LOWE

It seems that in recent years there have been more genre shows and movies which attract female following–not that these shows are for women only.  I had almost skipped Once Upon A Time in Wonderland until I read good reviews of the first episode, and thought the second episode was even better. In this version, Alice is an older action figure, not a small girl, and she is in love with a different version of the Genie from Aladin. Besides the new impressions of classic Disney characters, the magic in Wonderland reminds me of the fun in the early Harry Potter movies. The original version of Once Upon A Time, is spending the season in Neverland. The creators of the shows, who previously worked on Lost, discussed the two shows, and explained why the made Peter Pan evil in this interview.

Arrow cliffhanger

Arrow, which is also fun even if sometimes feeling too much like a soap opera, ended with quite a cliff hanger. Earlier in the episode, Oliver Queen acknowledged the same issue I brought up last week and made Felicity his executive assistant (over her objections) to explain why he spends his days as well as nights with her. (“And I love spending the night with you.”) Laurel tried to explain why she suddenly hates the vigilante so much but it is hard to accept her arguments as to why he is to blame for Tommy’s death. This leads to the cliff hanger and brings up two more of my ongoing complaints about the series (or two reasons why it is best to just enjoy the show and not to think much about it). We have seen repeated examples of predictable crimes with little done to prevent them. With medical supplies being stolen, you would think that guarding the trucks carrying them would be a top priority for police. That didn’t happen as it turns out that Laurel had all the well-armed police officers on stand-by for the next time the vigilante encountered her. In the past, Oliver has escaped such traps with far too  little difficulty. With all the guns aimed at him, I hope they come up with a more creative and plausible way for him to escape.

Following the recent criticism on Twitter on how he handled the finale of Lost, compared to the Breaking Bad finale, David Lindelof has left Twitter.

Steve Buscemi of Boardwalk Empire hopes people remember the shutdown in the next election:

“I think the shutdown is ridiculous. I think the Republicans in Congress are holding the country hostage. I think it’s criminal. I don’t see why they’re allowed to do it.” Buscemi on politics livens up. “The Tea Party faction of the Republican party are holding the Republican party hostage. They’ve hijacked it. I don’t understand their philosophy. I think that in their own hearts and minds there’s a reason why they feel they’re doing good. But I certainly don’t agree with it. And I hope the shutdown effects change. I hope people remember this in the next cycle of elections.”

The assassination of the Vice President on  Homeland was not only plausible, but a scenario which Dick Cheney’s doctor had taken precautions against several years previously.

BBC America is going for even more genre:

BBC America has greenlit Intruders, an eight-episode original series based on Michael Marshall Smith’s 2007 novel The Intruders. Glen Morgan (The X-Files, Those Who Kill) is the writer and executive producer on the series that’s about a secret society devoted to chasing immortality by seeking refuge in the bodies of others. BBC Worldwide Prods is producing, with production to begin in early spring 2014. Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner are exec producing, and BBC Worldwide is handling global distribution. The Intruders joins BBC America’s breakout original drama Orphan Black.

Community is returning to Thursday nights on January 2. Unfortunately, in terms of ratings, it goes up against The Big Bang Theory again. That’s why we have DVR’s.

The Workplace Proximity

This week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory included a break-out event for Sheldon Cooper. He was relieved to learn that the old adage about not defecating where you eat does not mean he shouldn’t use the men’s room at the Cheesecake Factory:  “Not as relieved as I’m about to be. It’s a brave new world, little lady.” Amy saw a bright spot in Sheldon’s incessant knocking: “I don’t mind. I’m hoping to put his love of repetition to use someday.” Meanwhile Raj got it right while watching Howard digging himself into quite a hole when talking to Bernadette: “His only options here are to fake a heart attack or have a real one.” She didn’t fall for it, especially when he chose the wrong arm.

I have often randomly pulled up old episodes of The Big Bang Theory to rewatch. It might be easier to choose which episode the next fifteen times I do this if I follow this guide to the top fifteen episodes. I may or may not wind up agreeing as to whether they are the fifteen best, but I’m sure they will all be excellent.

Also on last Thursday’s sit-coms, Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black added comedy to the many roles she plays on Parks and Recreation. She will return next week.

Parks and Recreation - Season 6

 

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SciFi Weekend: Breaking Bad; Dexter; Hannibal; The Blacklist; Sleepy Hollow; The Americans; Community; True Blood; Broadchurch; Doctor Who

Breaking Bad Series Finale Elliot and Gretchen 1

Vince Gilligan ended Breaking Bad just as most would have predicted if not for feeling that this was too obvious and trying to throw in a twist. In the end, Walt killed the Nazis, rescued Jesse and then died. Jesse escaped, Lydia was killed, and plans were made to get money to Walt’s family. Realistically Walt’s death was the most probable end-point for the series since the first episode. Initially it might have been from the cancer. Events since then changed how it most likely to occur. It became inevitable that he would face a violent death, but also achieve some measure of victory.

The only surprises in the finale were the details in how everything would be accomplished, such as threatening Elliott and Gretchen with assassination by “the two best hitmen west of the Mississippi” who were really Skinny Pete and Badger armed only with laser pointers. There was no need for a surprise ending, and certainly not a gimmick such as a dream or fading to black. Breaking Bad feels more like a continuous story in a novel, leading to the most likely conclusion. The finale has received universal praise, showing that no gimmicks were needed. Hopefully writers of future series will learn from this.

The success of the finale of Breaking Bad led to inevitable comparisons to other finales. To be fair to other show runners who fell short, the structure of Breaking Bad lent itself to coming to such a definite and obvious conclusion. While I was not satisfied with the ending to The Sopranos, an ambiguous ending was more in line with that show than Breaking Bad. After the full run of the series, it was realistic that Tony Soprano had made enough enemies that one would just walk up to him and shoot him in a diner. It would similarly be realistic to interpret this otherwise and see Tony Soprano continuing as he had for years, as with Sam Malone on Cheers. Breaking Bad had a clear storyline leading to an inevitable conclusion.

Damon Lindelof was blasted on Twitter during the Breaking Bad finale for not providing such a satisfactory conclusion to Lost. While I think they could have done better with Lost, a key difference here is that Lost had developed such a complex mythology that there was no realistic way to end the series. Lindelof defended his ending in The Hollywood Reporter, which was more a plea for everyone to stop talking about it.

The remaining questions are trivial compared to the questions raised by Lost. There was no question to the motivations of the main character. Walt revealed to Skyler that he was doing this all for himself. Did Walt initially plan to kill Jesse, and then change his mind when he saw how he was enslaved? That change in motivation is suggested in several interviews where Vince Gilligan compared the ending to The Searchers:

On the story inspiration for Walt, who was hellbent on killing Jesse, saving his ex-partner out of sudden instinct 
“A lot of astute viewers who know their film history are going to say, ‘It’s the ending to The Searchers.’ And indeed it is. The wonderful western The Searchers has John Wayne looking for Natalie Wood for the entire three-hour length of the movie. She’s been kidnapped by Indians and raised as one of their own, and throughout the whole movie, John Wayne says, ‘I need to put her out of her misery. As soon as I find her, I’m going to kill her.’ The whole movie Jeffrey Hunter is saying, ‘No, we’re not — she’s my blood kin, we’re saving her,’ and he says, ‘We’re killing her.’ And you’re like, ‘Oh my god, John Wayne is a monster and he’s going to do it. You know for the whole movie that this is the major drama between these two characters looking for Natalie Wood. And then at the end of the movie, on impulse, you think he’s riding toward her to shoot her, and instead he sweeps her up off her feet and he carries her away and he says, ‘Let’s go home.’ It just gets me every time — the ending of that movie just chokes you up, it’s wonderful. In the writers room, we said, ‘Hey, what about the Searchers ending?’ So, it’s always a matter of stealing from the best. [Laughs]“

Did Walt have any plan for after he killed the neo-Nazis if he survived? It did not appear that he did. If not for the last-second decision to save Jesse, I wonder if he had planned to jump to the floor, or remain standing and die with everyone else in the room.

We know Jesse is free but from there it is all speculation:

“We always felt like the viewers desired Jesse to get away. And it’s up to the individual viewer to decide what happens next for Jesse. Some people might think, ‘Well, he probably got two miles down the road before the cops nailed him.’ But I prefer to believe that he got away, and he’s got a long road to recovery ahead, in a sense of being held prisoner in a dungeon for the last six months and being beaten to within an inch of his life and watching Andrea be shot. All these terrible things he’s witnessed are going to scar him as well, but the romantic in me wants to believe that he gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature.”

Unfortunately it wasn’t realistic to have Jesse wind up raising Brock, providing him with a true happy ending.

What was going through Jesse’s mind when he didn’t shoot Walt? Was this the outcome of Jesse previously saying he would never do what Walt told him to do again, a desire to be done with killing, or did a remnant of his old respect for Walt prevent him from pulling the trigger? Would he have shot Walt if he didn’t see that Walt already had a gunshot wound?

Will Walt’s scheme work and will Gretchen and Elliott really get the money to Walt, Jr.? There’s no way to know. On this show many elaborate schemes have worked well. It was quite fortunate for Walt that Lydia kept to her old schedule and was the one to take the pack of poisoned Stevia. Everything also had to go right for his plan to kill the neo-Nazis to succeed. While throughout the series many elaborate plans were successful, not everything went right for Walt. Most notably, Walt ruined his plans by leaving the Walt Whitman book out in his bathroom, and easily fell for Jesse’s plan to lead the DEA to the money. We also do not know if his plan for Skyler to negotiate with the coordinates of  Hank and Gomez’s bodies will save her, with his previous phone call not appearing to have helped her very much.

In comparing the recent finales of Breaking Bad and Dexter, it seems like the Breaking Bad finale was planned from the start while Dexter‘s finale decided late in the series. The opposite turns out to be true. Vince Gilligan had no idea about some major aspects of the ending, and has revealed other endings under consideration.

Dexter and Hannah

It was the opposite for Dexter. While Clyde Phillips, the original show runner, had a different idea, current show runner Scott Buck and longtime executive producer Sara Colleton told Entertainment Weekly that this ending had been planned for years:

Before the season started, you said the core idea behind this finale has been in the works for years. What was the original concept?
BUCK: The kernel idea were the last few scenes. They were what I pitched a few years ago. The main idea was Dexter is forced to kill Debra. And there are many ways that could happen. But those final scenes were pretty much unchanged.
SARA COLLETON: From the very beginning the paradox was here’s a guy who doesn’t feel he’s a human being, who has to fake it. But in faking it, he’s a better brother, boyfriend, colleague that most real people. People think of him as a monster, but he yearns to be human. We’ve seen him go forward on this journey every year. Now we found out what the final price was. What sums up the entire journey was the scene on balcony of his apartment before going on the boat to put Deb down — that’s horrible to say aloud. The voiceover: “For so long all I wanted was to feel like other people … now that I do just want it to stop.” It’s the horrible awareness of what it was to be a human being and how overwhelming that is for him. His punishment is banishment. He sends himself into exile. Killing himself is too easy. When he turns and looks into the camera at the end he’s stripped everything away.

Were there any other versions of the ending that you rejected?
BUCK: The only real variation was what he would be doing. I knew he would be in a self-imposed prison that would be as far from Miami as possible. We’d find him working in some solitary environment where even if other people were around he would make no contact and not talk to anyone. We would follow him home and he would have no human contact.

In a way that’s his new code — avoiding human contact.
BUCK: Yes. For us, that’s the tragedy. The one thing we felt Dexter wanted more than anything was human connections. Even in the first season we see him trying to get with Rudy. Now that he’s finally made that journey and he’s almost poised to have a real human life, he has to give all that up to save Harrison and Hannah.
COLLETON: He went into an absolute shutdown. He no longer has even his voiceover.

 Hannibal Season 2

The above poster was released for the second season of Hannibal. Bryan Fuller explains: “After a horrifying descent into madness in season 1, this image ironically represents the perspective of a scrappier, clearer-minded Will Graham in season 2.  The scales have fallen from his eyes and he finally sees Hannibal Lecter for the monster he is.”

The Blacklist remains the best new network show so far, and has become the first to receive a full 22-episode pick-up.

Sleepy Hollow will remain with a thirteen episode run this year, and has been renewed for a second 13-episode season.

The Americans was one of the best new shows last year. Creator/executive Joe Weisberg and executive producer Joel Fields discussed the show at PaleyFest.

Nathan Fillion will guest star on Community, making Firefly references inevitable.

Rob Kazinsky says True Blood “kind of ran out of ideas and now they’ve got an idea again and they’re trying to finish stronger than ever… which they’re going to do next season!”

David Tennant will reprise his role as star of Broadchurch for a US adaptation from Fox. It was an excellent show, but I’m not sure why we need a second version. I imagine that many US viewers neither have a way to  pick up British shows and don’t watch BBC America, leaving an untapped audience for Fox.

David Tennant will also be staring in Day of the Doctor, the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who. Current plans include simulcasting the show in 75 countries.  Steven Moffat has also discussed the upcoming regeneration from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi:

If you haven’t seen it, there is a particularly fine interview Steven Moffat has given to Nerd3 in which he discusses, well, a lot of things you don’t often hear Steven Moffat discuss.

One section is devoted to regeneration, and the fact that it would not be a break with Whovian tradition for the Twelfth Doctor to look a lot like someone the Doctor has already met. In fact Peter Capaldi has been in Doctor Who (as Lucius Caecilius Iucundus in “The Fires of Pompeii”) and Torchwood: Children of Earth, and Steven has already had a chat with Russell T Davies over how this will all work.

He said: “We are aware that Peter Capaldi’s played a part in Doctor Who before and we’re not going to ignore the fact. I’ll let you in on this. I remember Russell told me he had a big old plan as to why there were two Peter Capaldis in the Who universe, one in Pompeii and one in Torchwood. When I cast Peter, [Russell] got in touch to say how pleased he was, I said ‘Okay, what was your theory and does it still work?’ and he said ‘Yes it does, here it is’. So I don’t know if we’ll get to it… we’ll play that one out over time. It’s actually quite neat.”

If they try to be too clever I  suspect they might run into problems analogous to explaining why the Klingons look different in different versions of Star Trek. There’s a simple explanation–the same actor played three different roles. Sure, you could come up with an explanation which includes the Doctor taking the form of people he encountered in the past when regenerating. Then how do we explain Karen Gillan’s appearance, as she also appeared in The Fires of Pompeii as a different character before playing Amy Pond?

J.J. Abrams has apologized for all the lens flairs in Star Trek Into Darkness.

And finally, this video on the finale and a farewell video from the cast of Breaking Bad:

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Cast Changes At Saturday Night Live With Cecily Strong Joining Weekend Update

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Seth Meyers will be leaving Saturday Night Live in February to take over as host of Late Night. The New York Times reports that Cecily Strong, the Girl You Wished You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party, will be hosting Weekend Update along with Meyers starting this fall. Lorne Michels, who produces both SNL and Late Night is also hoping that Seth Meyers will continue working on SNL just to do Weekend Update. This might be possible as Late Night doesn’t have a Friday night show, giving Meyers some time off to moonlight on a second show.

With Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis all leaving, following other recent major departures from SNL, this is being called one of the biggest transitions in the history of the show. Lorne Michaels has this to say about cast transitions:

“People attach to the cast they see in high school,” Mr. Michaels said. “In those years they generally can’t drive. They don’t have any money. Staying up late is exciting. Being with friends up late is really exciting. So they’re very connected to the cast they see then.”

The cast I was most attached to was the original cast: : John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman,  Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner,  Garrett Morris, and Chevy Chase. Maybe it was because I was in high school when they started, but I do think they were by far the best group. As with Community, Chevy Chase left earlier, then the rest of The Not Ready For Prime Time Players left in 1979-80. Replacing them was even more difficult than replacing the cast members who left recently.

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