SciFi Weekend: The Top 20 New Shows of 2015

Once again, as I did last year, I’m concentrating, I’m concentrating on the top new shows of the past year (but will include some comments on returning shows below). This is for a few reasons:

  • Not having the time to devote professional time to television as professional television critics do, there are many shows I have not watched purely due to lack of time. Limiting to a single year reduces the impact of this.
  • Limiting to new shows eliminates the problem in many “best of” lists of including the same shows every year.
  • Talking about new shows could be of greater value. It is more likely that readers know about the top shows which have been on for the last several years, but might not be aware of some of the shows which started more recently.
  • If readers are inspired to catch up on a show from a list such as this, it is far more practical to catch up after one season than several. I know this from personal experience. This is why I cannot say much about the series finale of Justified, which has received great reviews, as I’m years behind. It was much easier to catch up on Manhattan and The 100 after missing the first season, allowing me to say more about them below.

Besides being limited to shows I have watched, this is also biased towards genre shows. Therefore, what might be the year’s biggest hit among new shows, Empire, is excluded from consideration on both counts. Rankings are also quite arbitrary, and some shows could easily be a few spots higher or lower if I were to redo this fifteen minutes later. Still, this gives a general idea of which I consider among the best as compared to those ranked lower. It is a sign of the increased number of good shows coming out, partially due to the increased influence of steaming video along with cable, that I have expanded from a top fifteen list last year to a top 20 list this year.

Top 20 New Shows Of 2015

Last Man On EarthCa

20. Last Man on Earth (ABC)

This would have ranked far higher if it could have maintained the quality of its original premiere, but adding new characters just led to it devolving into a number of more standard sitcom tropes. Still, while many gave up on the show, I continued to have interest in the first season finale and into the second season.

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19. Childhood’s End (Syfy)

Adapting a novel from Arthur C. Clarke seemed like a sure winner, but there were problems I didn’t expect from doing this until I viewed the miniseries. It seemed far more dated in 2015 compared to when I read the novel in the 1960’s now that we have seen so many shows with alien visitation to earth. This story worked out much better as a novel as they could not capture important aspects of the story, including the magnitude of the ending, on television as compared to in prose. The show also failed to make the new world created in the miniseries seem believable, compared to the far better adaptations in a couple of other shows listed below. We heard about all the changes on earth, but rarely saw them, and what we did seem, such as mankind giving up science, didn’t seem believable.

Togetherness

18. Togetherness (HBO)

An excellent sitcom showing how cable and streaming have replaced the “must watch TV” from NBC and the other broadcast networks.

The Expanse

17.The Expanse (Syfy)

Syfy returns to space, with a mystery and quite a bit of world building in the series based upon the novels by James S. A. Corey. I have only seen the first two episodes so far, so my opinion of the show could change once I see more. It was just recently renewed for a second season.

Fresh off the Boat

16. Fresh Off The Boat (ABC)

Both Blackish last year and Fresh Off The Boat this year offer new variations on Modern Family. Constance Wu makes the show.

Casual

15. Casual (Hulu)

Yet another twist on a family sitcom, done far better by Hulu than the networks.

12Monkeys

14. 12 Monkeys (Syfy)

A time travel show which took aspects from the movie, but improved upon them for a weekly series. The series did an excellent job of building on its mythology, providing surprises, and moving in a new direction in the season finale.

Programme Name: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - TX: n/a - Episode: Ep2 (No. 2) - Picture Shows: Mr Norrell (EDDIE MARSAN) - (C) JSMN Ltd - Photographer: Matt Squire

13. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (BBC One/BBC America)

An excellent adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s novel, making a world in which magic exists seem real.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Actress-Melissa-Benoist

12. Supergirl (CBS)

Another show from the produces of Arrow and The Flash, with his being much closer to The Flash in style. The show had an excellent pilot, but for a while seemed like a weaker version of The Flash. It started getting more interesting toward the end of the fall season as the show had an opportunity to develop. Spoilers ahead: Major events before the hiatus included the revelation that Hank Henshaw is the Martian Manhunter. Calista Flockhart is excellent as Cat Grant, but considering her profession can she be trusted now that she figured out Supergirl’s secret identity? So far Supergirl doesn’t know about Hank, but it is inevitable that she learns who he is. A shape shifter could be useful to show both Supergirl and Kara in the same place to fool Cat.

Sense8 Will and Riley

11. Sense 8 (Netflix)

A very ambitious show, which took time to develop its story, but well worth the wait. Enjoy the scenery from around the world while trying to figure it out in the early episodes.

agent-carter_promo-cast-photos-616x462

10. Agent Carter (ABC)

This shows how much better a network show can be when limited to a single eight-episode story.  Maybe that is why it is the only network show which cracked the top ten. Of course a network still could not compete with streaming when entering the Marvel universe.

kimmy23f-6-web

9. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

This shows how the networks have surrendered quality sitcoms to streaming and cable. The show was originally produced by Tina Fey for NBC, but they passed on it and it was picked up by Netflix. It will be interesting to see if the show is even better when the second season is produced, knowing it will appear on Netflix rather than NBC.

Daredevil Matt and Karen

8. Daredevil (Netflix)

The first of a series of shows from the Marvel universe. Dardevil was darker, grittier, and more violent than any of the superhero shows before this. The series also took advantage of the streaming medium, often telling a continuous story, but sometimes including a more conventional single episode on a specific topic (which was still part of the greater story for the season).

Master of None

7. Master of None (Netflix)

Aziz Ansari shows how good a comedy could be on what I bet is a low budget if there is excellent writing. Besides comparisons to his character on Parks and Recreation, the show is often compared to Louie. I also see a lot of early Seinfeld in it.

Catastrophe

6. Catastrophe (Channel 4/Amazon)

The British show, also made available in the United States from Amazon Prime, was the best new sitcom of the year. It was this year’s, You’re The Worst, with Sharon Horgan playing what felt like could be an older version of Aya Cash’s chacter, and the nationalities of Jimmy and Gretchen’s nationalities reversed.

Man In The High Castle Poster

5. Man In The High Castle (Amazon)

While changes were made for the new version, Man In The High Castle was an excellent adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, providing a realistic look at what could have happened if Germany and Japan had won World War II and occupied the United States. Changes were made in some characters, and there were plot differences to turn this into an ongoing series. Hitler remaining alive in the 1960’s provides for a difference in the politics. Instead of a book with an alternate history in which the Allies won, using film reels worked better on television. While the main storyline was tied up, the finale raised new questions, making me very happy that it was renewed. Spoilers ahead: As happened earlier in the book, the finale did show a character crossing over into an alternate universe looking like ours, partially explaining the meaning of those news reels. I still have a lot of questions about them, and if the book gave any further hints, I read it too long ago to remember. The finale did wrap up the major storyline and led to an unexpected character living in a “high castle” who was interested in the news reels. Is he really the title character, and how is he connected to the films?

Humans

4. Humans (Channel 4/AMC)

Yet another British import on this list which was also shown in the United States presented a look at how robots (Synths) could change our society, along with a thriller storyline involving a small group of  Synths which were more than they seemed. I’m not sure if the second season could be as strong as the first now that all the secrets have been revealed, but they definitely left matters open to continue the story.

MR. ROBOT -- "Pilot" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rami Malek as Elliot, Christian Slater as Mr. Robot -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/USA Network)

3. Mr. Robot (USA)

A cyber-thriller which is totally different from what anyone would expect from a show on USA. The show gave a lot of hints about one element which was not confirmed until later in the season, but still came up with surprises along the way. The season finale also left room for a lot more.

Better Call Saul

2. Better Call Saul (AMC)

Better Call Saul greatly exceeded expectations, standing on its own in addition to being a prequel series to one of the greatest television series of all time, Breaking Bad.

Jessica Jones

1. Jessica Jones (Netflix)

Netflix exceeded what was accomplished on Daredevil with Jessica Jones, staring Kristin Ritter in the title role. The series, even more than Daredevil, was like a single long movie, with only brief breaks in the narrative to fill in viewers on the back stories of the major characters. This works as a stand alone story, but also has references to The Avengers, a character from Daredevil, and sets up future shows, especially Luke Cage.

Spoilers ahead. The show did so many things well.  While many super hero stories suffer from trying to create yet a bigger danger to the entire world to fight, Jessica Jones was a personal story between Jessica and the villain, with David Tennant doing a fantastic job playing Kilgrave. Without their powers, this is essentially the story of an abused woman who once again confronts the man who abused her. Add on the super powers, and it becomes a story of a man who can have whatever he wants and does not understand why Jessica does not love him when he is nice to her.

Most of the supporting cast was also excellent, including Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Rachel Taylor as Trish Walker. One neighbor initially seemed to be a stereotypical drug addict, but turned into a significant figure. The brother and sister also living in the same building were the weakest characters, but the sister was useful to allow Kilgrave to escape. The length of the story did require a series of  near-captures, captures, and escapes. Plus it was necessary to change the situation so that the ending could take place, when earlier Jessica had reason to not only capture Kilgrave alive, but provide proof of his powers.

Honorable Mention

Grace and Frankie Season 1 netflix handout .... Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the Netflix Original Series "Grace and Frankie". Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.Ê

Grace and Frankie (Netflix) Any show staring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston has to be good, even if some of other new sitcoms were more consistent.

Blindspot (NBC) A fascinating premise made the early shows feel like something unique from network drama, but far too often it is just a gimmick to introduce the case of the week. Whether the show becomes a great will depend on whether the underlying mystery of the show remains compelling. Also on NBC, Blacklist almost felt like a new show with Lizzie now on the run, reminiscent of how Person of Interest evolved into more of a genre show last year on CBS.

Limitless (CBS) A lighter genre show which shows potential to be entertaining, but I doubt will rise to greatness.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix) A prequel to the movie.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (Comedy Central) were two excellent additions to light night television, a genre which I arbitrarily left out of the rankings. They help make up for the loss of David Letterman and Jon Stewart. I haven’t actually watched much of Larry Wilmore but he has been hilarious when I’ve seen clips. I’m looking forward to seeing him host the White House Correspondents’ dinner.

The Republican Debates have become an amusing reality show, featuring reality television star Donald Trump. His previous reality show had a similar format in gradually eliminating candidates vying for a job.

Besides the above changes on late night television,  this year marked the end of many excellent shows including Mad Men, Parks and Recreation, Hannibal, Parenthood, Continuum, and Justified. Downton Abbey concluded in the UK with the Christmas special, but the final season is just now beginning in the United States. (No spoilers, but the series ended well).

Last year I left out some shows only because I had not had a chance to see them yet. These included The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). These turned out to both be extremely high quality shows. and both would have made the top five if I had seen them when compiling last year’s list.

Among shows I’ve heard excellent things about, and very well might deserve to be ranked among the top shows but I have not had a chance to see so far are Narcos (Netflix), Wolf Hall (BBC Two/PBS), and The Jinx (HBO). While not as critically acclaimed, I have received a plug for another genre show, Wayward Pines (Fox).

Late Night Television: Jon Stewart Does Donald Trump Impression & Presidential Candidates Condemn Trump For Proposed Muslim Ban

Over the last few months, Stephen Colbert has established himself as the best late night talk show host. He is a worthy successor to David Letterman on The Late Show, while also in a sense both succeeding himself from The Colbert Report. For many liberal television viewers, watching the monologue and initial segment on The Late Show has also replaced watching Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

The one downside is that having the most openly liberal show on the major broadcast networks is  alienating Republican viewers, resulting in a drop in ratings. While conservatives knew that David Letterman was not one of them, he was never as blatantly political as Colbert. From the perspective of a viewer that is fine with me, but it does raise a concern as to whether CBS will continue him on the air long term.

For as long as it lasts, The Late Show is the late night television home for fans of Letterman, Colbert, and Jon Stewart. Thursday night we got a chance to see two of the three together. Jon Stewart joined Stephen Colbert in the monologue, calling for funding for medical benefits for 9/11 first responders–as he previously did with a guest return to The Daily Show. Video above.

Stephen Colbert offered advice to Jon Stewart to “Trump it up” when he thought that the pitch was boring. Colbert advised, “Face it, Jon, the media won’t pay attention to anything, it won’t pay attention to anything at all, unless you are Donald Trump.” (Others have argued the same).  This led to Colbert bringing out a Donald Trump wig which he keeps on hand just in case he has to say anything important, and Jon Stewart did his impression of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has also been criticized for his statement that he would ban Muslims from entering the country by many politicians, including on late night television. Bernie Sanders condemned Donald Trump as a demagogue on The Tonight Show (video above).

The straight-talking senator lashed out at Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country on NBC’s Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Tuesday night, calling the Republican poll topper a “demagogue.”

“What somebody like a Trump is trying to do is to divide us up,” Sanders said. “A few months ago, we’re supposed to hate Mexicans; now we’re supposed to hate Muslims. That kind of crap is not going to work in the United States of America.”

Hillary Clinton, who previously did an impression of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live (video here), also commented on Trump. As a guest on ate Night With Seth Meyers, Clinton condemned Trump, saying she no longer finds him to be funny (video above);

“I have to say, Seth, I no longer think he’s funny,” she told the host in an interview that aired early Friday morning. “You know, I think for weeks you and everybody else were just bringing folks to hysterical laughter and all of that, but now he has gone way over the line.”

Clinton said the real estate mogul’s recent call to bar Muslims from entering the United States is not only “shameful and wrong” but “dangerous.”

“This latest demand that we don’t let Muslims into the country really plays right into the hands of the terrorists. And I don’t say that lightly, but it does,” she continued. “He’s giving them a great propaganda tool, a way to recruit more folks from Europe and the United states.”

Martin O’Malley, plus multiple Republican candidates have also condemned Trump’s statement. Even Dick Cheney criticized Trump’s statement. If you are too far right for Dick Cheney, you are really outside of the American mainstream.

Related: Stephen Colbert, Larry David, and Bill Maher On Bernie Sanders & The Democratic Race (a collection of videos)

Donald Trump Praising Barack Obama (2009-10) And David Letterman Mocking Trump

DONALD-TRUMP

“I would hire him. He’s handled the tremendous mess he walked into very well. He still has a daunting task ahead of him but he appears to be equal to the challenge. He has kept his eye on both national and international issues and his visits to foreign countries have shown him to be warmly received, which is certainly a change from the last Administration.” –Donald Trump in 2009

Plus Trump in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, 2010:

BLITZER: His economic policies, President Obama says, have saved us from another depression, is he right?

TRUMP: Well, I do agree, and this did start prior to him getting there, but he also kept it going. You had to do something to sure up the banks, because the psychology of the banks and you would have had a run on every banks, the strongest and the weakest. So, you have to do something. And I hated the ultraconservative view on that. And ultraconservative is nothing should ever happen. If they go out of business, everybody said, that’s fine.

Via BuzzFeed News

Trump now simultaneously leads the Republican field and is the weakest competitor among the top seven Republican candidates against Hillary Clinton in the USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll. Republicans can at least take some comfort in the fact that polls at this point have near zero predictive value. It is hard to believe even the current Republican Party would nominate him.

In related news, David Letterman came out of retirement last week in response to Trump’s candidacy saying, “I have made the biggest mistake of my life, ladies and gentlemen.” He then presented a Top Ten List of Interesting facts about Donald Trump. The Washington Post has the full list, with some edits:

No. 10: That thing on his head was the gopher in “Caddyshack.”

No. 9: During sex, Donald Trump calls out his own name.

No. 8: Donald Trump looks like the guy on the lifeboat with the women and children.

No. 7: He wants to build a wall. How about building a wall around that thing on his head?

No. 6: Trump walked away from a moderately successful television show for some delusional bulls— … oh wait, that’s me.

No. 5: Donald Trump weighs 240 pounds — 250 with cologne.

No. 4: Trump would like all Americans to know that that thing on his head is free-range.

Letterman declared No. 3 “a tie.”

No. 3: If president, instead of pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving, plans to evict a family on Thanksgiving./That’s not a hairdo, it’s a wind advisory. 

No. 2: Donald Trump has pissed off so many Mexicans, he’s starring in a new movie entitled “No Amigos.” 

No. 1: Thanks to Donald Trump, the Republican mascot is also an ass.

The video is below:

SciFi Weekend: Mad Men Ends In Perfect Harmony; The Flash Season Finale; Orphan Black; David Letterman’s Final Show; Gilmore Girls Reunion; Community’s Homage To The Captain America Elevator Scene; John Nash

Mad Men Don Meditating

 Mad Men really did end somewhat like I discussed last week–Don Draper on the California coast, analogous to the season finale of Arrow with Oliver and Felicity driving up the coast.  Don even traveled with a woman from Arrow–Caity Lotz, the Black Canary. In this case she played Stephanie, Anna Draper’s niece. The choice was probably because of Stephanie knowing Don as Dick Whitman. Spending the episode being called Dick culminated the trend of the last few episodes with Don symbolically as the falling man in the opening titles. By this time Don had given up virtually everything involved with this identity. During the finale he was rejected by his family, who thought that others should raise his sons after Betty dies, and hit rock bottom after talking with Peggy.

In the end Mad Men might be called an eight-year anti-smoking public service announcement and coke ad. Don was moved when he heard Leonard speak. While not as bad off, Leonard’s talk of being the person nobody wanted to take out of the refrigerator resonated with Don. In the final scene Don was meditating on a cliff and came up with the idea for the classic coke ad, which even included two girls who looked  like the receptionist at the retreat. Up until this point I had one complaint about how the series appeared to be ending. The first half of the final season was all about Don losing his position in advertising  and then moving back to the top. It seemed strange to then have Don walk out on it all, even if not comfortable with how the larger company does business, along with being wrong about the future of light beer.

Don’s return to advertising was foreshadowed, as was Betty’s development of cigarette cancer. The promos showed a previous scene of Roger shrugging off Don’s disappearance by saying simply that, “He does that.” Stan reassured Peggy by pointing out that “He always does this, and he always comes back.” Peggy told Don that he could return and that McCann Erickson would take him back. She even asked, “Don’t you want to work on Coke?”  Don was asked to fix a coke machine in another recent episode. The coke ad also was the culmination of Don’s difficulties over the years understanding hippy subculture. He may or may not really get it at the end, but he understood enough of the philosophy to develop the message of the ad. It clicked with him while meditating. While the message of a coke ad might on one level be somewhat superficial, this was a series which revolved around the advertising industry after all.

While Matthew Weiner has given support to the interpretation that the ending does mean Don returned to do the coke ad, while watching the show it does appear valid to come to other conclusions, such as that Don reached a spiritual awakening which was analogous to the message of the ad, giving him the strength to do other things, as opposed to actually writing the ad. If the show is seen as ending with an open ended question as to whether Don did create the ad, then in some ways the ending could be even more ambiguous than the ending of The Sopranos. With The Sopranos, Tony Soprano was either killed in the diner or lived to continue as he had previously lived. If Don did not create the coke ad, then things were left wide open. He could have returned to advertising, possibly return to raise his children, take a new job elsewhere, or just remain on the road for an indefinite period of time.

Mad Men ended with a happy ending for almost everybody. Pete Campbell wound up far better than expected after he realized he did not have to be a philanderer like his father, and convinced his wife to return to him. (Perhaps they have a daughter who grows up to attend Greendale Community College who looks just like her mother). Joan, who was never the type to live off someone’s money to use cocaine in the Florida Keys, returned to work. Her company may or may not succeed, but if Mad Men were to continue we know that Joan would be working somewhere regardless of how long it were to run. While providing an ending, the show also left things open for the characters to move on in other ways in the future. Joan’s business may or may not succeed, and things may or may not work out for Roger and Marie in long term.

Two characters who might have the most interesting futures should we see them on a sequel such as Better Call Sally are Sally and Peggy. Sally’s future is most in question due to her age. Short term she will help care for her younger brothers while her mother is dying, but we know she will accomplish more long term. A couple of scenarios were already outlined by others for Peggy. She might succeed in becoming Creative Director by 1980, or she might take the route suggested by the head hunter in a previous episode and move on to a great job in a few years after having McCann Erickson on her resume.

In a way even Betty wound up with a good ending for her character. After being disliked by many viewers over the years, she became far more sympathetic after we learned on Mother’s Day that she is dying of  lung cancer. She is also dying on her own terms, rejecting treatment which in 1970 was probably of little value.

The final moments of Mad Men, which includes where the key characters were at the time, can be seen in the video above, which concludes with the classic coke commercial after Don smiled and a bell went off in his head.

Matthew Weiner discussed the finale at the New York Public Library a few days after it aired. Here are some excerpts from a report on the event from The Hollywood Reporter:

Yes, Don Draper created the Coke ad. The last scenes of the series features Don hugging a stranger at a retreat and meditating with hippies before the episode cuts to the 1971 Coca-Cola “Hilltop” commercial. Viewers can infer that Don returns to McCann-Erickson and creates that ad. “I have never been clear, and I have always been able to live with ambiguities,” said Weiner. “In the abstract, I did think, why not end this show with the greatest commercial ever made? In terms of what it means to people and everything, I am not ambiguity for ambiguity’s sake. But it was nice to have your cake and eat it too, in terms of what is advertising, who is Don and what is that thing?”

That commercial shouldn’t be read cynically. “I did hear rumblings of people talking about the ad being corny. It’s a little bit disturbing to me, that cynicism. I’m not saying advertising’s not corny, but I’m saying that the people who find that ad corny, they’re probably experiencing a lot of life that way, and they’re missing out on something. Five years before that, black people and white people couldn’t even be in an ad together! And the idea that someone in an enlightened state might have created something that’s very pure — yeah, there’s soda in there with a good feeling, but that ad to me is the best ad ever made, and it comes from a very good place. … That ad in particular is so much of its time, so beautiful and, I don’t think, as — I don’t know what the word is — villainous as the snark of today.”

Leonard was “probably the most important role in the series.” The post-war period in which the beginning of the show is set, “the word ‘depressed’ was not part of the vocabulary except for doctors, and men certainly didn’t express their feelings other than in bar fights,” Weiner explained. In casting Evan Arnold, “I needed someone who’s not famous and can cry, and really do it. … We believe it right away that he’s invisible.” He played the role of the everyman, “even if they’re not veterans, the alienation that was created by success, political racial tension, the technology — which is, I think, what’s happening right now — the isolation, these guys, they’re gonna crack. … I don’t think there’s enough empathy right now in the world.”

That hug between Don and Leonard had two meanings. “I hope the audience would feel either that he was embracing a part of himself, or maybe them, and that they were heard. I don’t want to put it into words more than that. … I liked the idea where he’d come to this place, and it’d be about other people and a moment of recognition. I don’t think I can put it into words, but I knew.”

Don’s road trip was inspired by The Fugitive. “I thought, ‘I want to see Don on his own. I want to do an episode of The Fugitive where Don comes into town and can be anyone,'” Weiner said, pointing to the ’60s series. “That netherworld of being on the run — I don’t know about you, but I think everyone has dreams of committing a crime and being on the run. Am I the only one? I think it’s very common. You’re lying!” he told the audience with a smile.

In the history of television, Mad Men is the real thing.

The_Flash_S01_finale_TVGM-1431462169

The season finale of The Flash left many things open due to the effects of time travel. Barry went back in time with the intent to save his mother but was quickly waived off by his future self, and he decided not to change the events which led to him becoming the Flash. I was disappointed by this aspect of the episode as presumably Barry gave a lot of thought to this decision. Considering the risks which he had accepted, I would think it would have taken more to convince him to change his mind. Regardless, he decided against changing history at this time, but after he returned history was changed by another event. Eddy shot himself, making his descendant, appear to cease to exist. (It is a shame that Eddy hadn’t previously thought to get a vasectomy instead.)

As far as we could see, after Eddy shot himself and Thawne faded away everything seemed the same, other than for the time travel having caused the development of  a singularity which threatens to destroy the planet. The annual threats to Starling City which culminate every season of Arrow now seem so trivial. Theoretically once Thawne disappeared everything should have been different and the group wouldn’t have been together at Star Labs, but this timey whimy stuff can be unpredictable. We did see a brief image of an alternate Earth Flash helmet from the DC comics and Kaitlin as Killer Frost. Both or neither might ever be seen in the timeline of the television show. There was also an homage to Douglas Adams with Cisco saying, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” Plus his memories of the alternate timeline were explained as being a power he gained when the particle accelerator exploded, possibly foreshadowing him turning into the Vibe as in the comics.

One consequence of this could be that the real Harrison Wells is still alive, never having been killed and having his body snatched by Thawne. Plus should the Reverse Flash return (and does anyone really doubt this will happen) instead of Wells under the mask it might be the face we say before he disappeared.

The Flash Jay Helmet

Andrew Kreisberg discussed the season finale with The Hollywood Reporter:

When did you know Eddie would make this sacrifice?

When we decided to name him Thawne, we hoped the audience would suspect Eddie was the Reverse-Flash because of his last name. We always knew Eddie would be his ancestor, but we weren’t quite sure how we would end the season. The way things were moving forward, it felt like it was the best thing to do for his character. Like with Colin Donnell [whose character Tommy died in Arrow‘s season one finale], it was literally the worst thing we could do to ourselves as writers, producers and friends, because we all love Rick so much both personally and professionally, and we think he’s crushed it as Eddie all season. We’ve all become very close. It’s one of those terrible things. The story sort of tells you what it wants to be and as much as it broke our hearts, we knew this was the way the season needed to end…

Will Eddie be back?

The great thing with our show — you saw it with Colin Donnell and with Caity Lotz [whose deceased Sara is returning for spinoff Legends of Tomorrow] — is just because you are dead doesn’t mean you’re not coming back. Especially in the world of The Flash, which involves time travel and real hardcore science fiction, there’s always a way for Eddie to return, and we hope Rick will.

How does Eddie’s sacrifice work? Eobard disappears — but everything he did up until the finale still happened?

Our time travel hopefully holds together as much as it can. It doesn’t completely obliterate all of their memories of Eddie and everything, but it has the desired effect of “harm to Eddie means harm to Tom Cavanagh’s character.”

How did you lay the groundwork for Eddie to make this choice?

Eddie has been struggling these last few weeks, hearing about the future and about how there is no place for him in the future. He wasn’t going to believe in Wells’ interpretation of the future. He was going to make his own decision and he basically decided to recommit to Iris, which only makes his sacrifice that much more heartbreaking. He didn’t do it because he didn’t have anything to live for. He did it because he had everything to live for.

What does this mean for Tom Cavanagh’s future on the show?

Tom Cavanagh will be back. That is not in question. Tom Cavanagh will continue to be a regular…

You’ve said season two will introduce more Speedsters. Is that going to be a major theme akin to the Rogues in this season?

Yeah. We are going to introduce a few more speedsters next year and a bunch more villains. How they and those villains come about is part of the surprise of season two. We’re really excited. [Executive producer] Greg [Berlanti] and myself and [executive producer] Geoff Johns and the writers, the cast, the crew, the directors — we are so proud of this season of television. It really is a high mark for all of us, and we feel a great deal of pressure and anxiety to live up to it because it’s been so well received. As proud as excited as we are about everything we’ve done this year, we really are just as proud and excited for all the things we are planning coming up. Hopefully people will continue to take this ride with us.

Alison (TATIANA MASLANY) and Donnie (KRISTIAN BRUUN)

This week’s episode of Orphan Black, Certain Agony Of The Battlefield, gave viewers the pay off for the set up of the previous couple of episodes which had many slow moments. This included two deaths, Paul and Pupok the Scorpion. Paul’s death was foreshadowed in television logic by the manner in which the episode returned to his role in the first season, along with the dream sequence which brought Sarah face to face with Beth. After having ambiguous motives for much of the series, Paul was shown as the good guy. If that wasn’t enough to foreshadow his death, the clincher was his admission to Sarah that, “It was never Beth I loved.”

In other key developments, Helena returned to help Sarah, after eating the scorpion. Rachel has the key to decoding Duncan’s code in the margins of The Island of Dr. Moreau (poroviding references to H.G. Wells in two of the shows I am reviewing this week). Allison and Donnie have gone Breaking Bad-lite, with their daughter walking in on their bedroom celebration in a scene reminiscent of Paige walking in on Elizabeth and Phillip in the 69 position on The Americans (picture here). There will be a longer version of the sequence on the DVD.

John Fawcett discussed the episode with The Hollywood Reporter:

  1. The loss of Paul is one of the more significant character deaths the show has done. What made the timing right now, and is there anything you’d like to tell fans about making that decision?That’s what drama’s about — having characters that can sacrifice themselves, and open new doors, and throw themselves on bombs, and reveal themselves emotionally, and elicit big reactions from people. That’s what makes great storytelling, and what Graeme and I have strived to do. Also, [to] keep people off-guard, and never certain. I don’t like people getting too comfortable. We like that people tune in to our show, and they don’t know what they’re going to get. They don’t know where we’re going to take them. That’s part of the fun of the show, and something we can continue to do. Because I really do think people get all tense and excited about watching the show, and what’s going to happen. This is an element of the way we tell stories on Orphan Black. … Was it necessary we kill a character? I don’t know. But what it does is it’s such a big emotional explosion for Sarah, and it sends her on a different course. This teamed with the fact that she’s had this strange vision of Beth, this is pushing her towards the end of the season. It means big things to help push her towards the drama of the finale.Up until now, viewers were left to draw their own conclusions about Paul’s feelings for Beth and Sarah. What discussions were there about him saying, pre-death, so concretely that he didn’t love Beth, but he did love Sarah?We talked about so many different aspects of that. I was always a little worried about introducing a dream sequence into the show. But it kind of worked so well with Paul, and Paul’s departure from the show, and [resolving] the thread we left kind of hanging a little bit. Does Paul actually have feelings for Sarah? Does Sarah actually have feelings for Paul? It was nice to hear him voice it. It was just one of those big epic lines, where you get some clarity before he dies.Paul sacrificed himself with the intention of taking down as much of Castor as possible. How successful was he in destroying the samples, etc.?

    The point of it was to corral all of the Castor [operatives], all of the DNA, all of their research into one room and blow the f—ing shit out of it. So that was his point. Beyond that, you have to see the remainder of the season.

Sarah (TATIANA MASLANY) and Paul (DYLAN BRUCE)

More in that interview, as well as in an interview at TV Line:

TVLINE | Is Paul definitely dead?
I don’t know, man… [Laughs] He blew himself up. I think that’s cool. I like the fact that Paul is a character that we have not really been able to trust. We never knew where we stood with him. Was he a good guy? Was he a bad guy? Why is he doing the things he’s doing? And we’ve come through the last bunch of episodes to realize why he’s making the decisions he’s making. And, at the end of the day, he makes the right choice and heroically throws himself on the bomb. Literally. It was the way we wanted to see that character depart.

TVLINE | This is the first series regular character to be killed off. What was it like deciding to say goodbye to Paul and Dylan?
[This] was our plan from the beginning [of] plotting out Season 3. We knew. Dylan knew. It was a bit sad on set, though, I have to say. It was a little sad to see him go. [There were] a lot of feels on set, if you know what I mean.

TVLINE | Should we be questioning whether Dr. Cody and Rudy were actually taken out by that grenade? ‘Cause we didn’t see any bodies…
[Laughs] Yeah, you should question everything, of course.

TVLINE | Now more than ever, Sarah has so much information about herself and her sisters. What does that mean for her going forward? I felt like Beth, in a way, was telling her to step back. But does knowing all this just make her want to look for answers even more?
Absolutely. It’s more important than ever that Sarah gets to the bottom of this — and not just for herself and for the safety of her immediate family. The driving force with Sarah is that she’s really had to step up and become the leader. She’s gone from being a teenage-runaway-reluctant mother, to having to be not just a responsible mother, but a leader. The one who is keeping the sisters together, and the driving force behind trying to find a cure for Cosima.

TVLINE | There was another death in this episode. Have we seen the last of Pupok the Scorpion?
I can’t say that. Listen, Pupok’s not really real. Pupok’s a spirit animal. Can you really kill a spirit animal? I don’t know.

This has been a big year for saying good-by. Not only was it the end for the world of Mad Men, it was the end for Pawnee, the Bravermans, and last week was the final show of Late Night With David Letterman. I’m not giving up hope of seeing Dave on television again–I remain hopeful that he will still get The Tonight Show.  He probably will not be hosting the Oscars, but now he does have more free time to hang out with Oprah, and maybe Uma. So far since the finale I have been watching some of the great interviews and Top Ten lists he did in his last month on You Tube. Terry Gross had an excellent interview with his producer Rob Burnett on Fresh Air. You can read highlights or listen to the interview here. I heard it on a downloaded podcast which had an extra not present on the show–an interview with David Letterman from 1981. Among the highlights was Letterman talking about the great comedians of the time as well as new comedians who showed promise, including Jay Leno. David Letterman’s last sign off is in the video above, followed by highlights of the show which were aired as the Foo Fighters performed Everlong after David Letterman said good night for the last time on a television program.

While we will not see Pawnee, the Barvermans, the various manifestations of Sterling Cooper, or David Letterman, Scott Patterson has hinted that we might be able to return to another place which is missed–Stars Hollow. A Girlmore Girl reunion remains possible.

Community featured an homage to the elevator scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Both scenes above.

A Beautiful Mind

There was one unexpected additional farewell this week. John Nash, whose life inspired the movie, A Beautiful Mind, along with his wife were killed in a traffic accident. The New York Times reports:

John F. Nash Jr., a mathematician who shared a Nobel Prize in 1994 for work that greatly extended the reach and power of modern economic theory and whose decades-long descent into severe mental illness and eventual recovery were the subject of a book and a 2001 film, both titled “A Beautiful Mind,” was killed, along with his wife, in a car crash on Saturday in New Jersey. He was 86.

Dr. Nash and his wife, Alicia, 82, were in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike in Monroe Township around 4:30 p.m. when the driver lost control while trying to pass another car and hit a guard rail and another vehicle, said Sgt. Gregory Williams of the New Jersey State Police.

Jennifer Connelly as Alicia Nash and Russell Crowe as John Nash are in the picture above from the movie.

Conan & Dave Hate Jay

Conan O’Brien visited David Letterman on May 17. Neither like Jay Leno. Letterman’s final show airs tonight.

Quote of the Day: David Letterman on Donald Trump

letterman

“I can hardly wait until Donald Trump announces his celebrity cabinet.” –David Letterman

Quote of the Day: Conan O’Brien and David Letterman on Hillary Clinton

Conan Photo

“Hillary Clinton is making income inequality a central theme in her campaign. Yeah, for example, today she pointed out that her husband makes $300 million a year. She has to get by on $200 million a year, and that’s not fair.” –Conan O’Brien

Bonus Quote:

“Recently a guy was having trouble with his computer. So he unplugs it, takes it out in the alley, pulls out a gun, and shoots it eight times. Coincidentally, that’s how Hillary got rid of her emails.” –David Letterman

David Letterman’s Take On Hillary Clinton’s Announcement Video

There have already been many comments about the vacuousness of Hillary Clintons’s announcement video (along with her entire campaign so far). Ruth Marcus called it “a Verizon commercial without the substance.” David Letterman had a unique take on it last Friday–video above and transcript below:

Hillary Clinton made her long-awaited announcement earlier this week to run for President. You’ve probably seen her website announcement, and this part was a bit of a surprise. We take a look at the announcement.
PERSON 1: “I’m getting ready for a lot of things.
PERSON 2: “It’s Spring, so we’re getting to get the gardens ready.”
PERSON 3: “I’m getting ready to retire soon.”
HILLARY: “I’m getting ready to do something, too. I’m joining Scientology. Learn how to unlock your inner power at Scientology.org.”

Letterman also had two jokes about Hillary Clinton in his opening monologue the same night besides this video:

“Hillary’s traveling through Iowa on a listening tour, to listen to the Iowa constituents. It’s a listening tour because if you want her to speak it’ll cost you $200,000.”

“Hillary’s in a van with a bumper sticker that reads, ‘If the van’s a rockin;, I’m deleting e-mails.”

I’m going to miss Dave.

Brian Wiliams And The Problems At NBC News

Vanity Fair Brian Wilson

Vanity Fair has a fascinating article on Brian Williams and NBC News. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Much of the blame is placed on Comcast–an easy target to blame:

Since Comcast took control of NBC, the network’s news division—famously termed Comcast’s “crown jewel” by C.E.O. Brian Roberts—has endured one debacle after another. “When Comcast took over, they had the No. 1 morning show, the No. 1 Sunday show, and the No. 1 evening broadcast,” says a former top NBC executive. “That’s all completely fallen apart. I don’t know how you blame anyone but Comcast and the people it brought in. It’s been a nightmare.”

Behind the scenes much of the blame has been laid at the feet of three executives: Turness, a British-trained newcomer to U.S. television; Fili, who had virtually no experience in journalism; and Fili’s boss, the steely, driven C.E.O. Comcast installed to run NBCUniversal, Steve Burke. Under Burke the network has done well overall—its ratings have rebounded from last to first in the coveted 18–49 demographic, and NBCUniversal’s profits were up 18 percent last year—but he and his deputies, their critics charge, time and again proved unable to rein in the news division’s high-priced talent. “News is a very particular thing, NBC is a very particular beast, and Deborah, well, she really doesn’t have a fucking clue,” says a senior NBC executive involved in recent events. “She’s letting the inmates run the asylum. You have kids? Well, if you let them, they’ll have ice cream every night. Same thing in TV. If you let the people on air do what they want, whenever they want, this is what happens.”

The problem is also attributed to Brian Williams being more interested in corporate politics than national politics or foreign affairs:

One might expect that, in the wake of Williams’s suspension, his colleagues would be brimming with stories of other fanciful tales he told. That’s not the case. There are a few tales, it’s true, but when asked for the unvarnished truth about Williams, the two topics people at NBC News return to again and again are these: his prowess as a bureaucratic infighter and his limited interest in the kind of “heavy” news topics and investigative pieces that had long been championed by such NBC stalwarts as Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert.

“What always bothered Tim was Brian’s lack of interest in things that mattered most, that were front and center, like politics and world events,” says a person who knew both men well. “Brian has very little interest in politics. It’s not in his blood. What Brian cares about is logistics, the weather, and planes and trains and helicopters.”

“You know what interested Brian about politics?” marvels one longtime NBC correspondent, recently departed. “Brian was obsessed with whether Mitt Romney wore the Mormon underwear.” (A supporter says that this characterization is unfair and that Williams reads deeply and broadly, especially about history and politics.)

Williams took the anchor chair in December 2004, after a career handling the news at local stations and MSNBC; though he had worked as NBC’s chief White House correspondent for two years, he was never a foreign or war correspondent. He was deeply insecure about this, some of his friends believe. These people suggest that his storied broadcasts from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which proved a boon to his ratings, were in part an effort to overcome the perception that he was a journalistic lightweight. In his first years on Nightly News, several colleagues say, Williams’s weaknesses were kept in check by other strong figures at the network, from Brokaw and Russert to Capus and a Nightly News executive producer named John Reiss. With the departures of each of these men, especially Russert, who died in 2008, Williams slowly consolidated his power.

Plus Williams often appeared to be more interested in entertainment than hard news:

For a while, he was. In fact, as an excellent article by Gabriel Sherman in New York magazine recounted, Williams had long displayed an ambivalence with continuing in the anchor chair. With his abundant charisma and disarming wit, what he truly wanted, it appears, was his own talk show. According to New York, he talked to Steve Burke about succeeding Jay Leno. When Burke refused, Williams reportedly pitched Les Moonves, at CBS, to replace David Letterman, who was soon to retire. Moonves also allegedly declined. Though his appearances on shows such as 30 Rock and Jimmy Fallon successfully repositioned Williams as a good-humored Everyman—and thus expanded not only his own brand but that of Nightly News—they were not popular among many of his colleagues.

“He goes on Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon and all that, that’s where his heart was, and [at NBC] that’s seen as running away from the news division,” says a former NBC executive.

A Williams partisan disagrees. “The irony is that the very things people are criticizing Brian for now were the things they loved most about him at the time, the fact that by going on all these shows, with their young audiences, he was building bridges to the younger people who weren’t watching network news anymore,” this person says. “It was something the previous generation of anchormen, like Brokaw, hadn’t been able to do. Brian was doing it.”

After refusing Williams the Leno spot, Steve Burke offered him a consolation prize: his own magazine show, Rock Center, a bid to anchor what he hoped would be the second coming of 60 Minutes. It wasn’t. Rock Center debuted in 2011 to tepid reviews and worse ratings. Its journalistic efforts received less notice than its stunt hiring of Chelsea Clinton, whose signature contribution was the interview she did with the Geico Gecko that appeared on the show’s Web site.

After more discussion of the scandal which led to Williams being taken off the air there is speculation on his future–including what might be a perfect solution:

Williams’s future, NBC insiders insist, remains up in the air. He and Andy Lack are close friends, leading to widespread speculation that Lack will reinstate him once his suspension is complete. But people close to Lack say nothing has yet been decided. Many NBC observers simply can’t imagine a network anchorman ever returning to his former position after being exposed as Williams has. The most Machiavellian scenario, floated by an NBC partisan, is that Jeff Zucker, whose distaste for Comcast executives is well known, has fanned the flames of controversy so that he can eventually snare Williams for CNN—not as a newsman but as the long-sought replacement for Larry King. “That’s the perfect solution,” a source says. “Zucker gets a star, and Brian gets the talk show he always wanted.”

Quotes of the Day: Meyers, O’Brien, Letterman, & Fallon On Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz

“Senator Ted Cruz has officially announced that he is running for president. But if you see a T-shirt that says ‘Ted Cruz 2016,’ those aren’t election shirts. That’s just how old he thinks the Earth is.” –Seth Meyers

Bonus Quotes

“People are questioning if Ted Cruz can legally run for president because he was born in Canada. And the last thing we want to do is pave the way for a President Bieber.” –Conan O’Brien

“Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced he is running for president. Ted Cruz was born in Canada, his father fled to the United States from Cuba, and yet Ted Cruz is against immigration. Isn’t that odd?” –David Letterman

“Texas senator and tea party favorite Ted Cruz announced he’s running for president. He pledged to lead America boldly forward into the 1950s.” –Conan O’Brien

“Republican Ted Cruz announced that he will run for president in 2016. So finally, Carnival is no longer the most dangerous cruise in America.” –Jimmy Fallon