SciFi Weekend: The Americans Season Finale; Arrow; Orphan Black; Hannibal

THE AMERICANS -- "March 8, 1983" Episode 313 (Airs Wednesday, April 22, 10:00 PM e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings, Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings. CR: Patrick Harbon/FX

The season finale of The Americans felt more like a mid-season break, consistent with the earlier statements from the producers that they were carrying the plot threads from the third season into the fourth. This makes good sense as shows such as Homeland have shown how easy it might be to use up the story lines which really propel a show and then have to search for a reason to continue.

There were at least two major plot lines addressed in this episode, with one providing a major cliff hanger. Taking Paige to meet her Russian grandmother only served to make her more upset about her identity, leading to the final scene when she called Pastor Tim and told him that her parents are Russian spies.

There are many conceivable ways that this can go. Will Pastor Tim, assuming he believes the story, feel obligated to preserve her secret? Assuming that Elizabeth and Philip find out, will they make sure that Pastor Tim does not survive to tell anyone? There is also speculation among some fans that Pastor Tim is also a spy, but that might be a too convenient way to resolve the issue.

While this is the major cliff hanger of the season, the Martha story line also remains more fascinating after last week’s revelation. This week we learned that Martha is still alive, and that Philip covered for her by framing an FBI tech person for planting the bug. We still don’t know what cover story he is now telling Martha. Does Martha now know he is a Russian spy, or maybe she thinks he is working for a more secret US organization. Martha clearly knows that the person was framed, and should be able to figure out that his suicide was actually a murder. There is a lot for Martha to consider here. This all has Philip questioning his life as he searches for answers at the EST meetings, while Elizabeth has no doubts, especially while listening to Ronald Reagan call her home the evil empire.

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Producers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields discussed the cliff hanger with The Hollywood Reporter:

Why did you decide to leave it on a cliffhanger?

Fields We’re glad to hear you say it’s a cliffhanger. We talked about that in the room actually, whether or not it should be called a cliffhanger. I suppose it’s a cliffhanger in the show in the sense that one really wants to find out what’s going to happen next, and that’s a good thing. But, to us, it’s all about the characters. What’s most interesting to us is what’s going to happen to these people next, and what personal dramas will they go through next. That’s always more interesting to us than someone kicking in the door with a gun in their hand.

Weisberg We’re also used to drama where a cliffhanger means that somebody is or isn’t going to die or something like that. So the idea that the real question is: Is this guy who got a phone call going to make another phone call? We were really debating if that would count as a cliffhanger.

Fields More like a telephone-hanger. (Laughs.)

And why did you choose for the cliffhanger to be Paige telling Pastor Tim the truth about her parents?

Fields We knew Paige was going to tell Pastor Tim for quite some time, but we just didn’t know exactly where it would fall in the drama — just like we knew that Philip and Elizabeth were going to tell Paige, but we didn’t know exactly where that would fall into the drama. This family is truly a family, and as such loves each other in its own way. Yet, at the same time, their family has blind spots. The idea that these parents had thought that they had gotten through a rough patch with their daughter and thought that things were on an even keel while missing entirely what was going on, it just rings very true. Somebody just said in our writers’ room today, “What’s really going on is that Philip and Elizabeth have an adolescent.”

For all we knew, Paige could have turned into her own KGB agent this episode. When did you know the story wasn’t going in that direction?

Fields Toward the last third of the season.

Weisberg We considered the possibility of her making that phone call the night that they told her, and then we decided that we definitely didn’t want to do that. So then it became a question of whether or not she would tell them this season or next season, and the finale seemed like the perfect point. What’s most moving in a way is how much pain she’s in there after she comes back from her trip with her mother, and how she expresses that pain and what it drives her to do. For us, it was really moving just to see her crying there in bed when her parents are in the next room not really able to connect with her or fully comprehend how much she’s suffering. Then we have her call Pastor Tim and so openly and clearly express the pain she’s in, which is something her parents are not able to do.

Arrow -- "The Fallen" -- Image AR320B_0053 -- Pictured (L-R): Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak, Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, and Willa Holland as Thea Queen -- Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TV Line has information from Marc Guggenheim on what happens the rest of this season on Arrow now that Oliver has remained with the League of Assassins following his deal to save Thea:

With Oliver choosing to stay behind in Nanda Parbat, “the character journey of [Episode] 321 is how the hell Team Arrow moves forward without Oliver,” Guggenheim previews. Whereas last time the group thought he was dead, “knowing that he’s out there and alive, but a member of the League of Assassins, that’s a whole lot harder” for Team Arrow to handle, the EP adds.

“There is a real trinity formed between Laurel, Diggle and Felicity,” Guggenheim says. “They’re all leaning on each other. They’re processing things in different ways. Laurel is throwing herself into her work saving the city. Felicity is struggling with heartbreak and grief. She really goes through the seven stages of grief with Oliver. And Diggle, something happens in [Episode] 21 that really upends Diggle’s world, certainly vis-à-vis Oliver. That’s something that will have repercussions for the remainder of the season.”

The EP adds that next week’s hour is “one of our most emotional episodes” because it’s a baddie-of-the-week installment in which “the villain of the week is Oliver.”

So with the hero giving in to the darker nature of the League, what does his future hold?

“The last three episodes spend a lot of time addressing the question of: ‘Is there hope for Oliver?’” the EP says. “And: ‘Is there hope for Oliver in Felicity’s mind?’ [Episodes] 21 and 22 have some very specific things to say about that and Felicity’s coming to grips with the conclusion of Episode 20.”

ORPHAN BLACK s03e02

The second episode of Orphan Black this season included the return of Sarah pretending to be Beth Childs, and for a second episode Tatiana Maslany also provided the voice of another character, the scorpion. Something is clearly wrong with the Castor clones, and finding the original clone lines might provide the clue, or at least propel more episodes this season.

Logic tests might be useful to evaluate the neurological status of some clones, but Helena sure messed that up in dwelling on finding the mangoes and discussing the issue with the scorpion. Plus we know more about Cal, we saw Allison and Donnie as drug dealers, and it is time for Kira to leave for a while to get away from too many stories about having to save her.

Buddy TV discussed the episode with the show’s creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett:

What went into the decision to have Seth’s death happen the way it did and to start the episode off with that crazy threesome?

Manson: “First on the crazy threesome. The crazy threesome was just something that we – you know…I guess what it was was when we looked at those characters, it seemed like they would potentially, because they grew up together, that they share, because they’re brothers. They share and I think that they’re of a very different kind of upbringing than our girls, and so that because they’re brothers and they share…I don’t know, it just seemed like there was a natural kind of sharing, that sexual exploits would be part of that.

But the further answer to that question is that we just thought it was kind of something that we hadn’t seen before, but it would be kind of a really terrifying way to begin the episode, to discover actually there’s a second person in the room with you. From this woman’s point of view, it’s very scary to realize that the other person in the room is a twin.”

Fawcett: “It’s also a transgression and a crime that we do not take lightly throughout the season.”

Manson: “And then in regards to the termination of Seth at the end, what’s different about this is that that is very much a mercy killing, and it is meant to be a very emotional moment. The fact that these boys have this potential terminal illness is a really horrifying kind of thing that they all have to come to grips with, and I think it’s an emotional moment between Rudy and Seth there that we wanted to explore.”

Is the glitching from the Castor clones equivalent to the illness we see with the Leda clones?

Manson: “It’s part of our scientific mystery, and discovering what ails them, it sort of parallels our Ledas searching for what their own disease is, so that is indeed part of the story, part of the mystery we’re unfolding and part of our scientific mystery.”

Is that what Project Castor is testing for, with the questions Paul asks Seth and Rudy and Helena’s being asked?

Manson: “Again, as part of the mystery of what is biologically with the Castor clones, that’s just kind of the tip of the iceberg to some degree. The thing that we do know after watching episode 2 is we do know that the Castor clones, whatever’s wrong with them, whatever’s potentially causing this, is neurological, and so I think that that’s where these tests come from, and it’s our little tip-of-the-hat homage to Blade Runner.”

Digital Spy has eleven spoilers from Bryan Fuller on the third season of Hannibal.

Netflix has renewed Daredevil for a second season.

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SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD; Better Call Saul; Arrow; The Flash; The Americans; Outlander; 12 Monkeys; Orphan Black; Continuum; X-Files; Big Bang Theory; Good Riddance, Carrie Matheson

The Flash Rogue Time

It felt like almost every show I watched last week had major episodes. Agents of SHIELD went back to the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier and showed the origin of the other SHIELD. Will Nick Fury or Tony Stark settle this dispute? Better Call Saul revealed who was sabotaging Jimmy’s career all along. Arrow blew everything wide open with Lance arresting Oliver and Roy taking his place.  I’m undecided as to who I was more disappointed in, Captain Lance on Arrow or Chuck on Better Call Saul.

On The Flash, Rogue Time made changes in the timeline and had some major revelations, including  how Eobard Thawne took over Wells’s body. Andrew Kreisberg spoke with IGN about these revelations:

The father and son Trickster team proved themselves capable of wreaking havoc, and we likely haven’t seen the last of them, When asked whether the Trickster will be hanging out with the rest of the Rogues’ Gallery in the future, Kreisberg said, “Yes, that is the plan. When I sit down and I think about Wentworth Miller [Captain Cold] and Mark in a scene together and watching the dichotomy of them… I think sometimes there’s a tendency to spit out the same villain week in and week out on these shows, and for us, having people who are so different, and having people who have powers, and having people who are slightly unhinged but geniuses [keeps it interesting]. The other reason we really wanted to do the Trickster is because you have so many villains who have these amazing abilities, either because they’re meta-humans or they have this incredible weaponry, and what was always cool about the Trickster on both series is that he was smart. No matter how crazy he was, he was so smart, and he thought like four steps ahead. Watching The Flash and our team go up against somebody brilliant — a lot of times our shows are about how to figure out how to [stop villains] chemically or scientifically or how The Flash can use his powers to stop somebody, but in this one, they really had to out think him [Trickster]. And Wells had to give Barry something he probably didn’t want to let him know that he could do.”

Kreisberg also mentioned it’s a challenge to find and include adversaries who are worthy of fighting The Flash. “If The Flash can move at super speed, he can’t just be fighting bank robbers. Or if he is fighting bank robbers, they have to be able to do something pretty special. And again one of the reasons The Trickster — both in the comics and the old show, and hopefully people will think on our show — is so cool is because he doesn’t have any of that. He’s just really, really smart. And he’s able to use that smartness to out think the gang.”

Wells, or Eobard Thawne, is out thinking everyone. Barry is finally suspicious of Wells but has no idea about what we learned. Thawne used future tech to take Wells’s body. Kreisberg explained, “It’s what we’re calling genetic camouflage, where he basically stole his body. He basically took his body, he rewrote his DNA to match Wells’s. But what happened to Harrison Wells’s real body and what happened that night — all of these things are going to start coming out. And I know people were concerned that the events of Episode 15 were erased in 16, but what happened in Episode 15, not all of it went away, as people are going to find out soon.”

And as far as whether any part of Wells was left after Thawne swiped his body, Kreisberg said, “That’s actually something we’re just writing the other day. He’s had a lot of times when he’s talked about Tess and I think that one of the things that kind of bled through was Wells’s love for Tess, that Thawne absorbed when he absorbed his body. So that’s sort of a fun thing that that’s come through.” Kreisberg said they wanted Matt Letscher for the role of Thawne and that we haven’t seen the last of him…

Other changes include both Eddy and Snart, now knowing Barry’s secret, but after he went back in time the scene in which Iris learned it no longer happens. Some have been disappointed that two major events, Wells killing Cisco and Iris admitting her love for Barry, have been erased due to time travel, feeling it was a cheat. I did not mind because it was easy to predict this would happen once we say Barry going  back in time at the end of last week’s episode. The two scenes still told us more about both Wells and Iris. What we learned about Wells helped prepare for the events of Rogue Time, even if it is now Barry as opposed to Cisco who is likely to investigate Wells.  While it was hardly a surprise, the scene between Barry and Iris was a good way to make clear how Iris feels deep down. Barry should have realized that Iris would not feel the same when meeting for coffee as when it appeared the city would be destroyed before he changed the timeline.

It was also meaningful to show that Barry can make changes by going back in time, but that changes have consequences, with Barry thinking about going back in time to try to save his mother. One question is whether it is this time travel which actually leads to her death. The nature of time travel was also unclear on these episodes. When Barry went back in time and there were momentarily two versions of The Flash, what happened to the other version?

The Americans Stinger

Last week’s episode of The Americans,started early with a tease when Paige came to the travel agency:

Philip: “We were headed home in about an hour. If you help with the stack of ticket requisition forms, we’ll all get home a little sooner.”

Paige:  “Are you trying to turn me into a travel agent?

If only she knew the truth. After a wide range of dramatic scenes this season, the big scene of the season turned out to be a conversation around the dinner table later in the episode. During what Vox calls “one of the best runs of episodes in TV drama history” the inevitable moment came on Stingers. Paige, who was obviously realizing that there was more to her parents than being travel agents, finally asked the big question: “Do you love me? Then tell me the truth.  What — are you in the witness protection program? Did you kill somebody? Are you guys drug dealers like your friend Gregory? Am I adopted? Are we aliens? What?”

This left Elizabeth and Philip little room but to tell her the truth, although I’m sure that for a moment they considered going for alien drug dealers in the witness protection program. “We were born in a different country” We’re here to help our people. Most of what you hear about the Soviet Union isn’t true…We work for our country getting information. Information they couldn’t get in other ways.” Plus the obvious warning: “Just in case you’re not thinking quite clearly enough, we’re going to have to say this: If you do tell anyone … we will go to jail. For good.”

Phillip took the phone off the hook the first night, but beyond that all they can do is hold their breath and hope, even when Paige sees how easy it would be to say something to their neighbor Stan, the FBI agent. Instead it was Henry who bonded with Stan, over a pirated copy of Tron which Stan recovered and an old video game. Plus there is the other connection Stan does not know about–the picture of Stan’s estranged wife in Henry’s porn collection.

Of course a lot more happened in the episode. Oleg was called upon to obtain photos, having no idea how he was helping Nina back in the Soviet Union. Arkady assumed that the person who threatened Zinaida, who we finally saw is really is a faking her defection, was a KGB agent who had no idea what was going on, and had no reason to suspect Oleg. Over at the FBI, where the investigation regarding the bug in Gaad’s office is still underway, Stan was asked if he has any suspicions about who may have done it. He hesitated, and the first thing he asked after leaving was where Martha was.  Kimmy returned, partially to give Phillip reason to think about his relationship with Paige.

We will have plenty of time to see how all these story lines play out over time. FX has renewed The Americans for a fourth season.

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Outlander returned with a controversial episode, The Reckoning, in which Jaime saved Claire from Black Jack Randall but also punished her for being captured. This led to an eventual renegotiation of their relationship, including threats to cut out balls and hearts. More on the spanking scene here and here:

Executive producerRon Moore noted that although they had Diana Gabaldon’s book to work from, their focus was on “digging in to the scenes themselves, and the page, and working with the actors, and really wanting it to be as raw and emotional as it was. It’s the culmination of a lot of things that they just haven’t been sharing because [they were] in that magical ‘get to know you’ kind of phase. And then here [we thought], let’s have a real problem and really see them go at each other. It was a great opportunity.”

But the verbal confrontation wasn’t the end of the argument, as Claire discovered after the Highlanders began to shun her for putting them in danger and disobeying her husband.

While Heughan understood why the spanking scene might’ve been shocking or repellent to modern audiences, he was able to rationalize Jamie’s decision, given the time period and surroundings the Highlander was raised in. “He has to punish her, whether or not he believes in it. He says he doesn’t, but he has to because otherwise the Highlanders won’t protect her. She’s in danger. There’s a moral code, and it’s the way he’s been brought up, and he’s now got responsibility, and he’s trying to do everything that’s right. He’s trying to play that role and be responsible, and she keeps bloody messing with it,” he laughed. “And obviously, out of that, he learns a very valuable lesson, and she does, and their relationship is yet again developed and moved forward. And if he hadn’t, if he’d said, ‘I won’t punish you, it’s okay — it’s not the right thing to do, but you’re very naughty,’ then they wouldn’t have learned anything. And I think it’s interesting, because this relationship is just developing, and it’s like any marriage — it’s taking on different forms. It’s going to keep doing that. God knows where it’s going to be in a year’s time.”

Moore admitted that the producers and writers “talked about a lot” before the scene finally arrived. “I always knew we were going to do it because it was a key moment in the book and we wanted to do it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s really about justice and that’s what Jamie says in the scene: it’s a scene about justice; it’s not a scene about domestic abuse; it’s not a scene about anger. These were the mores of the time. As he says to Claire, if she was a man, she would’ve had her ears cropped, or something worse. And so there was a sense of righting the scales of justice. To her mind and to ours, as 21st century people, we kind of recoil from it like ‘oh my god,’ but I think we also understand the context of the time and why he’s doing it and what it’s about.”

“We knew it was going to be a controversial scene that people were going to ask a lot of questions about,” Balfe conceded. “We really had a lot of conversations about it. We went back and forth with the writers about how they wanted to do it and what we felt comfortable with, but we had the blueprint of the book, which was great. But we really wanted to give it the respect that it deserved, because it’s not something that can be taken lightly. And the thing we always came back to is that we have to understand that, no matter how we as modern people perceive it, this has to be taken in the context of 1743, and this was a perfectly acceptable justice in that time.”

While the scene itself is memorable, it’s the aftermath that truly redefines Claire and Jamie’s relationship. “What happens after is very important because here we see two people figuring out how to make their marriage work, because not only has Claire suffered physical wounds from this, but there’s been a great psychic wound,” Balfe observed. “And I think that the betrayal she feels — that this man she’s fallen for with heart and soul has now betrayed her, in a sense — that’s a big thing for her to get over. But I think the thing they’re learning within the confines of their marriage is that you don’t always have to accept what the person does, but if you can understand where they’re coming from, then you can build a bridge to forgive and move forward. And he also realizes, ‘okay, I can’t treat you as everyone else treats everyone else in this time, and I’m willing to change, and to grow, and to meet you halfway.’”

Claire doesn’t forgive or forget easily, however — banishing Jamie from their bed and giving him the cold shoulder even once they’re back at Castle Leoch, until they finally confront their feelings and reconnect physically — allowing Claire to pick up Jamie’s blade mid-coitus and warn her husband that if he ever raises a hand to her again, she’ll cut out his heart.

12 Monkeys Paradox

While one weekend time travel show has just returned, 12 Monkeys is nearing the end of its first season (and has been renewed for a second). It is probably best not to think too much as to why a transfusion from young Cole caused the Paradox which saved his life, and appears to have permanently teathered him to 2015. I imagine we also shouldn’t ask Cassie why she felt she should threaten the 2015 version of Dr. Jones with a gun as opposed to showing her evidence which was bound to catch her attention.

As with most episodes of 12 Monkeys, this episode raised more questions than it answers. Apparently Jones knew about meeting Cole in 2015 all along. It appears that the events of this episode were events which always happened, as opposed to a change in the time line, such as with the now orphaned Cole meeting young Ramse. (What if Cole had just killed the kid?) This might suggest that things cannot be changed. Or maybe not everything is playing out the same for everyone. As Jones pointed out, “Your always and my always are not the same.”

While it appears that Cole will not be traveling in time in the foreseeable future, there are still events in 2043 to be sorted out. I have no idea what the red leaves mean, but they must mean something. Jones might still send someone back in time from 2043, or perhaps the time travel machine will fall under the control of those mysterious people seen at the end of the episode. We know Jessica is still around. Does that other woman know so much because she comes from the future. She looks like she might be Jessica’s mother– or with time travel involved, maybe her daughter, like River Song and Amy Pond. Any chance Ramse is still alive in 2043 as a very old man after his travel back in time?

There is still much to do in 2015 if Cole and Cassie are going to stop the plague from occurring in 2017, with Aaron out of that triangle for the moment. The connection between Cole’s mother and the Army of the 12 Monkeys will probably be significant.

Of course any comments on Paradox must mention Jennifer Goines’ hilarious hostile takeover of Markridge. How idiotic were those people who actually raised their hands when Jessica said, “Raise your hand if you want to be the new him!”

Orphan Black returns April 18 and new previews have been released. More clones to come.

The fourth and final season of Continuum has started filming and will start airing on Showcase on July 26th. No word as to when Syfy will run it in the United States.

Mitch Pileggi (Assistant FBI Director Skinner ) and William B. Davis (Cigarette Smoking Man, aka Old Alec for Continuum fans) will both be returning to the six-episode X-Files revival.

Big Bang Theory TARDIS

This week was also a genre-heavy episode of The Big Bang Theory. One storyline dealt with Sheldon and Leonard taking a detour to attempt to visit the Skywalker Ranch while on their way to Berkley to give a talk about their paper. In the other storyline, the Wolowitz garage is being emptied for a sale, and Howard resists Bernadette’s efforts to sell his TARDIS. They decided to leave the fate of the TARDIS to a Game of Thrones-style contest on the battlefield of the Transformers and the Thunder-cats. I’m afraid you will just have to watch the episode to make any sense out of that last sentence, or to learn how Amy just didn’t think things through.

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Maureen Dowd says that real women working at the CIA are ready to say good riddance to Carrie Matheson:

THE co-creator of “Homeland” on Showtime revealed recently that when the new season starts, Claire Danes’s Carrie Mathison will no longer work at the C.I.A.

Her real-life counterparts can’t wait for her to clean out her desk.

The C.I.A. sisterhood is fed up with the flock of fictional C.I.A. women in movies and on TV who guzzle alcohol as they bed hop and drone drop, acting crazed and emotional, sleeping with terrorists and seducing assets.

“The problem is that they portray most women in such a one-dimensional way; whatever the character flaw is, that’s all they are,” said Gina Bennett, a slender, thoughtful mother of five who has been an analyst in the Counterterrorism Center over the course of 25 years and who first began sounding the alarm about Osama bin Laden back in 1993.

“It can leave a very distinct understanding of women at the agency — how we function, how we relate to men, how we engage in national security — that is pretty off,” Bennett said. She was sitting in a conference room at Langley decorated with photos of a memorial for the seven C.I.A. officers — including Bennett’s close friend Jennifer Matthews — who were blown up in 2009 by a Jordanian double agent in Khost, Afghanistan.

Agreed Sandra Grimes, a perky 69-year-old blonde who helped unmask her C.I.A. colleague Aldrich Ames as a double agent for the Russians after noticing that he had traded up from a battered Volvo to a Jaguar: “I wish they wouldn’t use centerfold models in tight clothes. We don’t look that way. And we don’t act that way.”

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SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; DC vs. Marvel Movies; SHIELD; Why You Should Watch The Americans; Big Bang Theory On Leonard Nimoy; The Last Man On Earth; The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; House of Cards and Hillary Clinton

The Orphan Black Season 3 trailer is above. Following is the official season synopsis for the third season, which starts April 18:

No sooner has Sarah caught her breath after a stealthy escape from DYAD and the ruthless clone Rachel (Maslany), she is called upon to face the crazed, captive Castor clone, Rudy (Millen). But it is the discovery of Helena’s disappearance that spurs Sarah into action, rallying her sisters in the quest to reunite their clone family, and find peace once and for all.

Their greatest threat is a band of highly trained soldiers – identical brothers dubbed Project Castor. Unlike the sisterhood, Mark, Rudy, Seth, Miller and others (Millen) grew up together, fully aware of who and what they are. Developed by the military, this wolf pack was raised as regimented clones – singular in thought, movement and allegiance. Hell-bent on kicking up dirt, they’re dispatched to tackle their mission from all sides. But differences in approach betray cracks in their armor, and may be the very thing the sisters need to escape their clutches.

The sisters will need all the help they can get. With Cosima’s fluctuating health and no known cure for the mystery illness that ails her, she is holding onto life by a thread while nursing a broken heart left by her scientist lover Delphine (Evelyne Brochu).  Can she find a cure in time to save herself and her sisters? As the turbulent world of Alison turns, she faces fresh suburban woes and new marital challenges with lovable oaf of a husband Donnie (Kristian Bruun). How far will Alison go to keep up the façade of her cookie cutter life?  Sarah’s torn between her desire for a life with daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler) and Kira’s father Cal (Michiel Huisman) and the urge to protect her foster family – loyal and feisty brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and mother Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). But Mrs. S’s betrayal may cause her to turn her back on the only mother she’s known.

The hits keep coming for the girls but their commitment to this new family is as important as ever. No clone can do it alone, and Sarah must align with unlikely bedfellows in order to take on what is yet to come… and hopefully, discover the truth – her truth – along the way. How far are they willing to go to save each other and protect their families?

More on the upcoming season at The Mary Sue

Superman Warner CEO Interview

There are a lot of superhero movies planned making some wonder if viewers will have sufficient interest.  Warner CEO Kevin Tsujihara says that the DC movies will be edgier and more steeped in realism compared to Marvel’s movies:

“The key thing is that the movies and the television shows and the games, everything looks very different …you have to be able to take advantage of the diversity of these characters,” said Tsujihara.

Not everyone seems to agree. The comic book movie pile-up was the subject of numerous jokes at this year’s Oscar ceremony, and the eventual best picture winner, “Birdman,” is a satire of the craze for superhero films.

However, Warner Bros. is making a big bet that the comic book phenomenon won’t fizzle out just as the craze for disaster movies, biblical epics and other once-hot genres cooled off. The studio is using sister company DC Comics’ stable of masked vigilantes and villains to make roughly two superhero movies a year beginning in 2016 with the release of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” Other films include bigscreen adaptations of “The Flash,” “Aquaman” and “Shazam.”

The idea is to create a connected cinematic universe in which characters from one film interact with those from another, partnering, warring and creating super-teams such as the Justice League, DC’s answer to Marvel’s “The Avengers.” It’s a strategy that owes a lot to Marvel, but Warner Bros. chief Tsujihara stressed that characters like Batman and Deadshot are very different from that company’s signature Iron Man, Spider-Man and Captain America brands.

“The worlds of DC are very different,” he said. “They’re steeped in realism, and they’re a little bit edgier than Marvel’s movies.”

The major DC comics programs were on hiatus last week and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD returned. While Agent Carter was well-received, and people thought it was a good idea to use it to fill a hiatus in SHIELD if there is a hiatus, there have also been a lot of complaints that the hiatus destroyed the momentum of the show. It was also a bit confusing for those who were forgetting the events of two months ago, and haven’t been reading up on the significance of adding the Inhumans. Bleeding Cool has a good summary of six key events from the return of SHIELD, which might be especially helpful if anyone is a bit lost.

Saturday Night Live has coverage in the video above of the Avengers beating Ultron.

Chris Evans spoke with Collider about Captain America in Avengers: Age of Ultron. ComicBookMovie.com has more on the movie from Joss Whedon.

The Americans 69 Scene

The Americans continues to have excellent episodes week after week. Many critics agree that it is the best scripted drama which continues with the same cast from season to season, but very few people are actually watching. Many reviewers have pointed out that more should watch. Uproxx presents a good argument for watching which might get more attention than favorable critical reviews abut its smart story telling:

It’s a show about sexy spies doing sexy things, with wigs and intrigue and great music and a teenage daughter who isn’t Dana Brody and violence and 69’ing. Maybe that’s the problem. The Americans is too vague a title. For the rest of Season 3, and hopefully into Season 4, FX should start promoting the series as The Show Where Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys 69.

There really was such a scene–see picture above. Plus their daughter walked in on it. Maybe that is what drove her to going to church. Paige is still a much better television daughter than Dana Brody.

I have mocked NBC for trying to copy The Americans with Allegiance. It has been canceled after only five episodes.

Big Bang Theory Nimoy Tribute

The Big Bang Theory ended with a tribute to Leonard Nimoy last week. I couldn’t read the text as my DVR popped up the window asking if I wanted to save or delete at the end of the show. In case anyone missed it, I have obtained and posted a screen grab above.

NBC has announced that Hannibal will return on June 4. Zachary Quinto will be guest staring on an episode. I hope someone Slaps him.

There was a reason for all those rumors that Jenna Coleman was going to leave Doctor Who after last season, along with all those hints in various episodes. Steven Moffat has confirmed that Coleman did plan to leave after last season but was persuaded to stay.

kimmy23f-6-web

It feels like the number of quality sit-coms had dropped tremendously by last season. Then last summer we got You’re The Worst, one of the best ever. Three new sit-coms worth watching have premiered recently. I discussed The Last Man on Earth in a separate post here. Also worthwhile are Fresh Off The Boat on ABC and Netflix released the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Friday. The last was developed by Tina Fey, originally to air on NBC. It would have fit well on Thursday night on NBC with shows such as Community, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation. Now that all of the shows of this type are gone from NBC’s lineup, it is far more likely to survive on Netflix. Netflix also plans a second season, which will be produced without concern for the standards of network television. Tina Fey has claimed it primarily consist of shower sex.

Some have criticized The Last Man on Earth for being totally unrealistic, but the same can be said about many events in other shows such as House of Cards (as I’ll discuss in the future). If all the unrealistic aspects of Last Man On Earth bother you, pretend it is just a bizarre dream. Who knows, maybe that will be the explanation in the end. Regardless, it is funny enough to get away with an unrealistic view of how things would be after most people die of a plague.

As people are watching at different rates, I’ll wait a little longer to discuss Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt along with the third season of House of Cards. While avoiding any spoilers, I will mention that watching House of Cards did have me wondering who would make the worse Democratic president–Frank Underwood or Hillary Clinton. Saturday Night Live also tied Hillary Clinton to House of Cards in this skit, following her Nixonian email problems.

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

The Americans Nina Gulag

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

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

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

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

IGN: Oh yeah, it plays.

Flash Firestorm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lily James Matt Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mad Men 70's

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

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

“Bambi”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SciFi Weekend Part 2: The Best of 2014

Part 1 of SciFi Weekend looked at shows from the past week, including Last Christmas, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. Part II lists some of the top and most improved shows of the year. The point is not really to rank them so much as to highlight shows worth watching. Really, how do you compare Cosmos to Penny Dreadful? I am at a disadvantage compared to professional television critics as I have neither the professional obligation nor time to watch nearly everything. Therefore this is limited to the shows I have actually watched, and I will address this after the first list.

Rather than list the overall best shows, as most sites are doing, my first list will be limited to shows which premiered in 2014. Lists of all the best shows drive out most of the new shows, and I’m sure you are aware of Game of Thrones by now. I have limited this to shows available in the United States, including a couple which were primarily British shows but available here on cable or streaming. This list is not limited to genre but is biased by my preferences.Therefore Jane the Virgin (CW), listed by many television critics among the best of the year, did not make the list as, regardless of its quality, I still stopped watching after a few weeks due to the large number of quality shows which I’m more interested in.

Top 15 New Shows Of 2014

About A Boy

15.  About A Boy (NBC)

Family friendly sitcoms (or actually sitcoms of any nature) have not done very well on the networks recently. For that matter, relatively few network shows made this list at all. About A Boy, the second attempt to adapt the Nick Hornby novel, finally gets it right, also being a rare case of the television version being better than the movie version. The shows combines saccharin and snark, and can be highly entertaining in episodes where it gets the right percentage of each. Besides an excellent regular cast, Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights and Agents of SHIELD has had a recurring role.

14. The Knick (Cinemax)
Think of this Steven Soderbergh show as being like ER, except set early in the 20th century. I don’t know if they got all the facts right, but it is an authentic look at medicine of the era.

13. Black-ish (ABC)
Another of the rare successful sitcoms premiering recently. It came along at just the right time, when Bill Cosby is no longer on his pedestal

12. Penny Dreadful (Showtime)
Imagine if the main characters of classic horror novels all lived in the same city and interacted with each other. I am  hopeful of an even better second season now that the main characters and situations were introduced.

11. Silicon Valley (HBO)
Comedy is doing much better on cable than network television these days. Silicon Valley does a great job of mocking the tech industry.

The Honorable Woman

10. The Honorable Woman (BBC Two/Sundance)
The original story has the feeling of what it might be like if John le Carré were to write a spy novel on the middle east directly for television.

9. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Fox)
Neil deGrasse Tyson was inspired by Carl Sagan as a student. Now he tries to cure some of the scientific-illiteracy which has become a serious problem in this country.

8. True Detective (HBO)
The story had moments of brilliance, and moments when it dragged, but the performance by Matthew McConaughey earned it a spot on most top ten lists.

Transparent

7. Transparent (Amazon Prime)
Jeffrey Tambor leads an excellent cast in a story about an already dysfunctional Jewish family which now must deal with the father coming out as trans-gender. This is the story which Jill Soloway has been wanting to do since Six Feet Under, and she does an excellent job.

6 .Last Week Tonight (HBO)
This new comedy take on the news came along at the right time, with Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update being awful with the loss of Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert ending his show. John Oliver has done a better job than many others who have attempted to satirize the news with in-depth segments which are likely influence opinions.

5. The Flash (CW)
The best of this year’s attempts to enter the superhero genre. Lighter than Arrow but so far this season more compelling with its ongoing story line.

4. Happy Valley (BBC One/Netflix)
This British crime mystery does a far better job than most of the American counterparts, being far more successful than most other attempts at combining  the personal story of the main character with the mystery.

3. The Affair (Showtime)
Showing the events before the murder from the perspective of two people involved in an affair is a gimmick which works well for the story. When their stories differ are we seeing failings in memory, one or both characters lying, or even the plot of one of the protagonist’s novels?

Youre-The-Worst-690

2. You’re The Worst (FX)
The best new comedy in ages, with an often hilarious look at a couple of flawed individuals, frequently skewering millennials. The show is especially impressive in both gradually developing the supporting characters and telling a story over the course of the season. The season can easily be watched in one or two sittings as one of the best romantic comedies to come along in years, even by those who normally don’t like romantic comedies. It might also be worth rewatching this time of the year as a reminder of how good television can also be educational, showing why it is not a good idea to plug a vibrator into a string of Christmas lights. The more you know.

Billy Bob Thornton stars as Lorne Malvo in the Emmy award-winning series Fargo

1. Fargo (FX)
A dark comedy and crime drama which does justice to the movie which inspired it, and easily stands on its own. There is both outstanding writing and an excellent cast led by Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, and Colin Hanks.

Honorable Mention:
Among shows which did not make this list, and which aren’t mentioned elsewhere in this post, there are a some other good shows with a genre element: Gotham (Fox), Outlander (Starz),  How To Get Away With Murder (ABC), The Last Ship (TNT), Leftovers (HBO) (which has made many lists of both best and worst of the year), and Resurrection (ABC).

Some of the new genre shows which were left off this list were intentionally omitted.  Extant (CBS) might have made at least honorable mention if they stuck to the story of the AI child and stayed away from the ludicrous alien plot. Some shows couldn’t be ranked as I have not seen them, but reliable sources have recommended others to me which very well deserve to be highly ranked, and which I will hopefully catch up on later. These include The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). There are also two limited run shows which I have recorded and have heard excellent things about but have not seen yet: Olive Kitteridge (HBO)  and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (PBS).

Most Improved Shows Of 2014

Some shows do better in their first year, often due to first raising a situation, but are not able to sustain the quality for a second season. Sleepy Hollow (Fox) has not been able to maintain the quality of the first season, but perhaps it will improve now that they appear ready to move on to a  new storyline. Orphan Black (BBC America) also couldn’t maintain the quality of the first season, when everything was still a mystery, but still remains better than most shows on television. House of Cards (Netflix) also did not have as great a second season as first but remains worth watching.

There are six shows which many consider better in their second season, or at very least did not deteriorate a bit going into their second season, listed in alphabetical order:

Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
The show was mediocre until Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released. It became much better late in the first season as it mirrored the movie developments, and has become even better this season as it is now ahead of planned Marvel releases.

the-americans-fx

The Americans (FX)
This was one of the best television shows of 2013 when it premiered, and was even better in its second season. The season was successful for both its season-long mystery and for how it combined the personal and professional lives of the main characters. It did one thing far better than other shows such as Homeland: making good use of a teen-aged daughter.

Arrow (CW)
The second season of Arrow started in 2013 but extended into 2014, allowing the show onto this list.  The second season surpassed the second season. The third season, starting in fall 2014, isn’t as good, but I’m still hoping it will return to the level of the second season.

Hannibal (NBC)
It is just amazing that a show of this quality can be shown on network television.

Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Actually a close call between the first and second season, with both worth watching.

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
Another example of a great show becoming even better in its second year, as the show successfully went beyond Piper to tell major stories with other characters.

Once again this list is limited to shows I have actually watched. Based upon recommendations from others, I hear that Rectify (Sundance) was another show with an excellent first season and an even better second season in 2014.

There are a couple shows which might not make a list of the best of the year, but these two shows which improved tremendously from their pilots in 2014:

Selfie Karen Gillan John Cho

Selfie (ABC)
The pilot was awful and the show never recovered, but it has gotten much better over the course of the season. Unfortunately this wasn’t soon enough as the show was canceled. The remaining episodes are being shown on Hulu and, with one left to go, have been worth watching.

Married (FX)
This show initially received more hype than You’re The Worst which followed it, but it was soon apparent that this was by far the weaker of the two. Still Married did manage to improve after a weak pilot and, being on cable during the summer when low ratings were expected, was able to survive to get renewed for a second season.

While I concentrated on second season shows in order to provide more coverage to relatively new shows in the list above, there are a few longer-running shows which have improved this season which are worth noting, also in alphabetical order:

Homeland (Showtime)
The show was at its best with the Brody storyline of the first season and they managed to stretch it out through a second season. The third season was just too much, and they finally let it go. The fourth season was mixed as they tried to reestablish the show with only a cameo from Damian Lewis in a hallucination. Some episodes dragged, including the season finale, but there were also some excellent moments during the season. Homeland not only must contend with the loss of Brody. Now it being criticized by Pakistani officials who are furious about how their country was portrayed.

New Girl (Fox)
I had stopped watching around the time that Nick and Jess were getting together, but heard it is much better with the two broken up but saying dumb things to each other, and I have resumed watching.

Person of Interest (CBS)
This was a good show from the start but every season gets better as the show has successfully transitioned from a procedural mystery of the week with a genre gimmick to a true genre show, which is also topical with current controversies over surveillance.

I added the networks to the show listings after I compiled these lists and find it notable that FX has the top two new shows along with one of the best shows of 2013. As expected, HBO and Showtime are well represented, with CW also doing quite well. Amazon has joined Netflix as a valuable streaming service with original shows. The broadcast networks are represented, partially due to having some successes among the larger quantity of original programing than any other source, but are frequently being beaten in quality by cable and streaming sources, which in some cases are owned by the broadcast networks. Showtime and CW now have better shows than CBS as FX has better shows than Fox.

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SciFi Weekend: Mid-Season Finales For Arrow (Is Oliver Dead?), The Flash, and Agents of SHIELD; Agent Carter; Spider-Man; Continuum Renewed; The Office In Middle Earth; Krypton; The Newsroom; Fargo

Arrow-Finale-Oliver-Killed-Explained

Arrow, The Flash, and Agents of SHIELD all had major revelations in the midseason finales aired last week. Needless to say, there are major spoilers following. Besides revealing who killed the Black Canary, Arrow had the biggest cliffhanger, except the lead character actually was shown falling off the cliff after getting killed by Ra’s al Ghul. Stephen Amell even played along with comments on Facebook and Twitter such as, “It was a good run.” The most common belief among fans is that Oliver might have really been killed, but he doesn’t stay dead. The most likely explanation is the Lazarus Pit, which is sort of the Genesis Planet for DC comics. I also noted that a drug used for mind control played a major part in the episode and wonder if this could also somehow plays  a part in how Oliver ultimately survives if he had managed to drug Ra’s al Ghul and influence his behavior and perception of the fight.

Oliver’s death, even if temporary, does provide an opportunity to highlight the show’s strong supporting cast. However Oliver won’t be gone long. Episode 13 is entitled The Return, but  Marc Guggenheim has said this does not refer to either Oliver or Slade Wilson (who will be returning at some point). This leaves open the question of who does return, which could be significant considering the large number of characters who have come and gone from the series. Set photos have appeared on line showing that the Arrow is back in that episode.

The revelation that Thea Queen (while drugged) killed the Black Canary was a bit of s surprise, but it did seem obvious that she was killed by someone we knew. I just wouldn’t have guessed Thea. Most likely she was about the last person most would have guessed, which is why the writers did make her the Canary’s killer.

Emily Bett Rickards engaged in bathroom therapy and answered questions about Arrow in a video filmed in her bathtub. (She is fully dressed, but really is in a bathtub in her video tweet.)

The Flash revealed the identity of Reverse Flash as Harrison Wells, as I predicted last week, but there remains much more to discover. It appears that Wells might not be described simply in terms of good or evil with his actions, presumably including killing Barry’s mother so that he becomes the Flash, and later protecting Barry, being motivated by doing what he thinks needs to be done for history to play out as it should.

Variety interviewed Andy Mientus about playing the openly gay villain Pied Piper in an episode airing January 27:

“With the gay thing, I feel like I’m representing a whole community,” Mientus, 28, told Variety at the “Into the Woods” premiere in New York on Monday night. “People are excited to see this character, so it is a lot of pressure. But I’m glad they are introducing the character to the show. It’s a huge step forward, and I’m thrilled to help make that happen. It’s awesome.”

Mientus, who is engaged to actor Michael Arden, admits he’s more nervous about pleasing the comicbook’s avid fans than addressing his character’s sexuality.

KYLE MACLACHLAN, CHLOE BENNET

Agents of SHIELD revealed that Skye is actually Daisy Johnson  and tied the show into Marvel Phase 3 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Executive producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen explained much more about where the show is headed in an interview at Marvel.com:

Marvel.com: So I’m sure many fans are wondering what exactly that ending means for the future of the series?

Jed Whedon: We’ve dropped her name and it’s the origin of the new version of her.

Maurissa Tancharoen: Or the origin of the true version of herself, which is Daisy Johnson.

Marvel.com: When you were breaking these characters and first developing them, was this a discussion you had at the very beginning?

Jed Whedon: It was somewhat of a moving target early on, in that we knew Skye would be an orphan and would uncover secrets about her past. We had an idea of what we wanted some of those to be that found their ways into the storyline, but exactly who she was we landed on early last season, or midway through last season. We started setting it up early in the beginning of last season.

Marvel.com: We also get the reveal of her dad as Mister Hyde, or Cal. What does bringing him into the series give you guys?

Maurissa Tancharoen: As we always do, we pulled from what exists in the Marvel Universe and put our own spin on it. We had always had our eyes on Daisy Johnson, and therefore her father and her whole history. We sort of planted that throughout the first season and a half. You knew the story of her parents and the havoc they caused, the massacre in the Hunan province in China. We lay in things like that, and over time you put the pieces together. But of course Daisy’s powers aren’t really activated until that moment you see in the Winter Finale.

Jed Whedon: There are parts of it that move away from the story in the comics, but partially that’s because we’d invented our own way [of getting there]. We also wanted it to be a surprise to the people who are familiar with the comics, but [it’s] also because we’re tying it to a larger world. [It’s] not just her origin story, it’s the origin story of a bigger, other world.

Marvel.com: And that is a somewhat “inhuman” world, you could say?

Jed Whedon: It’s safe to say that.

Marvel.com: When did you hit upon the idea of introducing that Inhuman element into the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time?

Maurissa Tancharoen: It’s been a property in the Marvel Universe that we’ve been interested in since the beginning. Our tagline when we began the show was “not all heroes are super,” and we wanted to focus on that and highlight that for the first season. Now as we move forward we’re diving deeper into the Marvel Universe, and it’s our way of exploring a whole new world that may be comprised of people who have special abilities. We think that’s going to open everything up for us.

Jed Whedon: Not all heroes are super, but what happens to a hero when they become super?

Maurissa Tancharoen: Essentially what we’ve built since the beginning of the show is an extended origin story, and we’ll dive into that in the back half of Season 2.

There is a long hiatus until Agents of SHIELD returns, which will be filled with Agent Carter. The first two episodes of Agent Carter will air on January 6, with a clip from the series above. Here is the series description:

It’s 1946 and peace has dealt Agent Peggy Carter a serious blow as she finds herself marginalized when the men return home from fighting abroad. Working for the covert SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), Peggy finds herself stuck doing administrative work when she would rather be back out in the field, putting her vast skills into play and taking down the bad guys. But she is also trying to navigate life as a single woman in America, in the wake of losing the love of her life, Steve Rogers – a.k.a. Captain America. When old acquaintance Howard Stark finds himself being framed for unleashing his deadliest weapons to anyone willing to pony up the cash, he contacts Peggy — the only person he can trust — to track down those responsible, dispose of the weapons and clear his name. He empowers his butler, Edwin Jarvis, to be at her beck and call when needed to help assist her as she investigates and tracks down those responsible for selling these weapons of mass destruction. If caught going on these secret missions for Stark, Peggy could be targeted as a traitor and spend the rest of her days in prison – or worse.

The synopsis of the first episode:

“Peggy is contacted by old acquaintance Howard Stark when he is framed for unleashing his deadliest weapons and can trust no one else. To help Peggy clear Stark’s name, he insists his butler, Edwin Jarvis, be at her beck and call–whether she likes it or not. But the risk is great: If caught, Agent Carter could be targeted as a traitor and spend the rest of her days in prison…or worse.”

And the second episode:

“Howard Stark’s deadliest weapon has fallen into enemy hands, and only Agent Carter can recover it. But can she do so before her undercover mission is discovered by SSR Chief Dooley and Agent Thompson?”

Spider-Man Reboot

There have been reports that Sony, who owns the rights to Spider-Man, has denied requests to allow the use of  Spider-Man in the next Captain America movie, which was desired because Spider-Man did have a role in the storyline taken from the comics. There was also talk of Marvel Studies doing the next Spider-Man trilogy with Sony retaining “creative control, marketing and distribution.” Despite the last movie being a flop, Sony is looking at plans at continued use of the character, most likely as yet another reboot as opposed to a conclusion of a trilogy following the last two movies. Screen Rant looks at many of the ideas floating around. While I really don’t care if they do it with Spider-Man as a teenager or adult, I do agree with the idea of just jumping into a good story and not bothering with yet another origin movie. More at IGN and The Daily Beast.

Gotham shows life before Batman. Smallville showed Clark Kent’s earlier life. Now Syfy is going back even further with a planned show about Krypton.

Continnuum

Continuum was renewed by Showcase for a shortened six-episode final season.  Rachel Nichols responded, “All great stories deserve an end. I am excited and grateful to finish Continuum with the riveting conclusion it deserves … this series finale is dedicated to the devoted fans who have loyally supported us since day one.” Indiewire discussed the ending of the series with Simon Berry. Here are some of the questions and answers:

What went into the decision to make the fourth season the final season?

I’m obviously not privy to the conversations that happen inside the network, but I think from their perspective… whether it was an issue of internal profits or the money that gets recycled back into the broadcaster, to cover what they’re paying out or whether we’re simply making a creative decision, I think ultimately we were probably on the bubble in terms of how we were bringing money back in for the Canadian broadcaster. In terms of their decision-making process, we probably received the benefit of the doubt in terms of not being canceled, which a lot of shows are when they’re not performing to expectations. They wisely recognized there was an opportunity to service the fans, and also to make more of an event around this final season. It seemed like a lot of things lined up in our favor in that sense. Obviously, I’m speculating, because you never get to hear the inside information.

You seemed pretty confident, back in October, about the show getting picked up.

We definitely had indications early on. When there’s a delay and there’s no cancellation, you know people are working on finding a solution. That’s pretty clear. The delay is usually because somebody is working hard to find a solution that isn’t cancellation. The longer it went, the more I felt we had momentum, and I certainly started hearing things early on in terms of getting prepared for ideas and getting ready to present plans for Season 4, which gave me the indication that we had a final chance. But a lot of that has to do with how everything comes together, because we still have to do our jobs as producers to put together the mechanism by which the show gets made, which is the right people and the right budget, things like that that everyone has to agree on.

Every season on “Continuum,” we’ve had less money. One of the reasons we have less money is because when a show succeeds in its first season, usually the first season is the gamble season to launch it — much like opening a business. You put a lot of effort and a lot of energy and a lot of money into having a strong launch, then you kind of hope that the longer you last the more you can claw back that investment and the show can generate revenue in a positive sense.

It’s so hard to make time travel work narratively in just a two hour movie. For you, hitting Season 3 and going into Season 4, how do you handle every complication that you’ve created?It’s a good question. There was probably a time where we went into the show feeling like time travel had to be something that was touched on all the time. But we realized in the beginning, that once we’d set up the time travel event there was a ton of stuff to mine before we did time travel again. Really, for me, the challenge was how much of this story can we really exploit before I use this time travel trope, or that time travel device — I mean time travel device, literally and figuratively — to create more drama.We had an idea, at the beginning of Season 2, that we wanted to have another time travel event in the show, just as a component of our experience. The goal after Season 1 was let’s work toward a travel time moment, because we knew we hadn’t done it. We had really kind of avoided using time travel, because it does kind of get you in a ton of trouble. As you know, out of Season 2 and Season 3 that this one decision for Alec (Erik Knudsen) to go back in time reverberated in so many ways. I’m really glad we didn’t do more time travel. [laughs] Because it’s been so complicated dealing with that one end-of-Season-2 moment. Season 3 was incredibly complex as a result.

We had a great dramatic moment at the end of Season 2 with Alec going away, but I don’t think we appreciated, when we wrote that, all of the things we would have to deal with in Season 3. Season 3 became a really hard lesson — not a hard lesson in the sense that it was difficult, but a hard lesson in that we felt an obligation to pay off the results of that time travel choice. It was much more impactful than I realized, in terms of how it would affect the drama, how it would affect the characters. They were great opportunities, dramatically, but I think with the complexity of people trying to track it and follow it, we didn’t anticipate how hard it would be.

Did you always have, in your head, an idea for the series finale?

I’ve always known how the show ends, from day one. It was the first conversation I had with the writers — “Here’s how the show will end” — just so everyone knew where we were heading and that we understood that we couldn’t violate certain rules to get to that point. It wasn’t necessarily just how the show would end, it was like: “Here are the rules of time travel that I’m adhering to in the philosophy of time travel,” so that everyone kind of understood what we could hint at.

How close is what you’re planning for the finale to what you initially had planned?

Well, it’s certainly a shortcut to the original idea we had. I think we’re definitely staying true to the plan. We’ve had to adjust a little bit as to where we left off and where the story needs to go, so we’ve built a story bridge, if you will, to link the ending we wanted to where we left off. So I feel very good about how these things are connecting.

When you say shortcut, how many seasons were you expecting the show would last initially?

I always expected it to be cancelled every year! So it was less about what I expected and more about what I was hoping for. I was hoping we could get seven years to tell the full story and all the various chapters. There were certainly opportunities to tell half a dozen specific, episodic stories — we had chatted about it internally, but ultimately it’s still a linear story and I don’t think we’re compromising anything by getting to the ending in four seasons as opposed to seven. It’s maybe some other stories that won’t get told, but those, at the end of the day, didn’t make a difference as to how the show would end or not.

Given how complicated things got in Season 3, will Season 4 be scaling back or will it take all those threads and take them to the next level?

It’s hard to sort of qualify “complicated.” We’re definitely building off of Season 3 because that’s the natural evolution of storytelling. You’re always building off what you just did. But I would say that because we’re now dealing with a shorter season in six episodes, it’s also an opportunity to not deal with the reality of thirteen, which is to tend to want to have more layers of storytelling and multiple threads. Now with six, we’re actually more focused on one clear story, which means the show could be closer to more of a limited series than a traditional 13-episode series.

How different is the rhythm of a six-episode season?

Well, it’s naturally different because it’s shorter. But it also provides opportunities that the longer seasons don’t. I’m actually excited for the shorter number, in the sense that it allows for a different style of storytelling, which is more appropriate for finishing the story, rather than trying to service the balancing act of 13 hours, which tends to balance more serial and episodic.

Of course I wouldn’t expect him to say anything different about being able to finish the series in six episodes, but I can’t help but think it will result in a lesser story than planned. Individual seasons very well might have been better if shorter, but suddenly shortening the 4th season should be more difficult. They not only have to show the story planned for the season after the major changes shown in the third season finale, but also have to tie up the entire series in such a short amount of time. At least it is much better than having no conclusion at all.


Martin Freeman was guest host on Saturday Night Live last night. He appeared in the above skit as Bilbo Baggins in which an episode of The Office took place in Middle Earth.

The second season of Broadchurch starts on ITV on January 5. The US adaptation, Gracepoint, did have a different ending for the first season. The Guardian did think that the change in the ending was the one thing the US adaptation got right.

Tonight is the series finale of The Newsroom as yet another Aaron Sorkin television series ends way too early. (Yes, I know that The West Wing lasted seven seasons. For me, even that wasn’t long enough.) It looks like the death of Charlie Skinner  might be just one sign that ACN will end as we know it, plus Jim and Maggie look like they are finally getting together. Sorkin has discussed the recent rape storyline.

If you gave up on watching Homeland during the weak episodes to start the season, the show has become much better the last couple of weeks. Best line from Homeland: “It can’t be my belt.” It was also interesting to see the Ambassador’s reaction when her husband did not go through with his suicide plans.

Tony Stark is literally Iron Man in the parody video above.

Last week I expressed interest in the fan movement to bring in Jonathan Frakes to direct the next Star Trek movie. Reportedly Frakes is interested and has contacted JJ Abrams regarding this.

Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons were the latest announced additions to the cast of the second season of Fargo.

Bill Cosby was asked about the recent rape accusations in a phone conversation with a reporter from The New York Post. He refused to respond to specifics and said, “Let me say this. I only expect the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism and when you do that you have to go in with a neutral mind.”

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Benedict Cumberbatch on Sherlock and Sex; Agents of SHIELD; Agent Carter; Gotham; Arrow; The Flash; 12 Monkeys; Billy Bob Thornton and Other Sitcom News; Crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

Doctor Who Black Water

Black Water is so far likely to be the most memorable episode of this season of Doctor Who, but any such judgment will be influenced by the second part of the story, Death in Heaven. It is difficult to review the first episode of a two-part story as when an interesting idea in genre is raised we never know how well the story will play out. Of course this could also be said of both individual stories and entire series (such as Lost and The X-Files.)

The episode demonstrated how much the Doctor cared for Clara: “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” Fortunately the betrayal was in a dream sequence. Before realizing it was a dream I expected that the Doctor would either pull out a spare key or show that he can still get into his TARDIS even without a key. Clara pointed out a common issue on the the series in which the Doctor is inconsistent as to whether he can change time. Such inconsistencies are unavoidable on a long running time travel series and actually seem less objectionable when openly acknowledged by a character.

Danny Pink appears to have died, but it isn’t clear if it is final. After all, the idea of the episode is that death is not what we think it is, although it is not clear if we were told the truth or if it was entirely lies coming from Missy. We were told,  “This isn’t really an afterlife. It’s just more life than you were ever expecting.” With rumors that Jenna Coleman might be leaving the series, it is possible that he really is dead, but also possible that he can be rescued from the Nethersphere for further adventures. The previews of Death in Heaven suggest that Clara might have never existed, but previews are often misleading.

The biggest danger to Danny might not be that he appears to be dead, but that he might delete his emotions and voluntarily become what was hidden away in the black water, which hides all not-organic material. Even though it was well known that the finale involved the Cybermen, and it might not have made sense keeping all of them stored in water, the scene revealing what they were as the water drained away still had considerable impact.

If we can believe what we heard, the dead are still conscious and feel what their body feels–making “don’t cremate me” a crucial plea and avoiding being studied for science also an important goal. One reason we cannot be certain of anything we were told was the reveal as to the identity of Missy: “Try to keep up. I’m Missy. Short for Mistress. Well, couldn’t very well keep calling myself the Master, could I?”

Although there was widespread speculation that Missy was the Master, we were kept guessing until the end, including with a claim earlier in the episode that she was just a droid. Now that we know that Missy is the Master, the question remains as to whether she really was the one who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number in The Bells of St. John, and if so what the purpose was. We can be certain that her use of the Cybermen is not a good thing,

Having the Master regenerate as a woman has been received with excitement by a lot of fans who have been hoping for a female doctor. While this establishes that it is possible for a Time Lord to regenerate in the opposite sex, having this be possible and actually doing it are quite different things. I suspect that for now this might have been done to placate fans calling for a female doctor with no current plans to actually do so.

The Doctor Who Extra for Black Water is above.

Benedict Cumberbatch discussed Sherlock and sex in an interview with the UK edition of Elle.

ELLE UK: What do you think Sherlock would be like in bed? How would you play a love scene as Sherlock?

BC: Oooh… You know I’d get the, I’d probably test the latex, if it involved prophylactics, beforehand.

BC: I’d do a little experiment to do with durability, length, girth, and um, strength. And um, I would probably take a lot of vitamin supplements to make sure that I could perform, and had had my sleep, and probably not had many cigarettes. Or drink, for that matter. Not that he does drink.

ELLE UK: You see. Proficient, but lacking enthusiasm.

BC: Yeah, no wait for it. I would probably watch a lot of porn…

Cumberbatch is currently in negotiations to star in Doctor Strange but perhaps he should also be signed for a guest appearance on Masters of Sex.

Agents of SHIELD Ward

SHIELD could really use better security. We figured that Ward wasn’t going to spend the entire season in Coulson’s basement, but I would think that they would have taken even more precautions to transport him. Brett Dalton discussed his character with Entertainment Weekly.

ABC has released the official synopsis for Agent Carter.

It is too early to judge Gotham as they are busy building their pre-Batman universe. Screen Rant looks at Arkham Asylum. Of course any discussion of Arkham leads to the Joker, and the post also mentions the fan theory that Oswald Cobblepot actually turns out to be the Joker, not the Penguin.

It has been announced that Morena Baccarin (Homeland, Firefly, V) will be playing Dr. Leslie Thompkins:

She will play Dr. Leslie Thompkins, a gifted and dedicated physician who was a friend of Bruce Wayne’s parents, Thomas and Martha. She is determined to use her skills to aid Gotham’s most in need, which currently means working at the newly opened Arkham Asylum’s Home for the Criminally Insane. In addition to her medical skills, her coolness under pressure will serve her well as she finds herself drawn close to James Gordon and into more and more dangerous waters.

Blastr looked at Christopher Nolan’s original ideas for the Dark Knight trilogy, which were changed with the death of Heath Ledger (the Joker).

At this point CW is doing the better job of bringing the DC universe to television, and Gotham has a long way to go to compete with Arrow as the best television adaptation of Batman. Last week Felicity visited The Flash and the next episode of Arrow features her in The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak. The synopsis for the episode reads:

When a cyber attack brings Starling City to its knees, Oliver and Felicity are pushed to their limits to contain the destruction. Life gets even more complicated for Felicity when her mother, Donna (guest star Charlotte Ross), stops by for a surprise visit. Meanwhile, Ted Grant (guest star JR Ramirez) questions Laurel’s motives, and Thea buys an apartment with Malcolm’s “estate””money, which infuriates Oliver.

 Stephen Amell discussed Arrow, The Flash, and DC movies;

We’ve heard so much in recent weeks about Marvel and DC announcing so many comic book movies over the next few years. Are you ready for a Green Arrow movie? I am completely indifferent. First of all, wanting a movie undersells the idea that making 23 episodes a year isn’t a huge achievement. It is and I would put that degree of difficulty up against any feature film that has ever been made… except “Lord of the Rings” and that gigantic Peter Jackson-led undertaking… and maybe “Titanic.” But, other than those two movies, I’d put making 23 hours of interesting content in a TV season up against anything on the film side. It is difficult to me to want or envision an “Arrow” movie when we are shooting the 10th episode of our third season with 13 more episodes to go and in all likelihood 3 more seasons on the other side of that. I’m interested in keeping that content fresh. Once we get to the end of that road, maybe then I’ll shift my focus. There was some talk and controversy about the fact that Grant Gustin is doing the “Flash” TV show but was not named the Flash for the “Flash” movie. If Green Arrow was going to be on screen, do you feel like it should be you? Yeah. Of course. And I feel like it should be Grant doing the movie. But the important thing to remember is just because Grant Gustin plays the part of Barry Allen doesn’t mean Ezra Miller can’t also play Barry Allen. There can be different interpretations of the character. Anyone who is a fan of the comics knows the Flash character is one of the forces that leads to parallel universes. And who knows, they might find a fantastic actor to play Oliver Queen on the feature side who has a different take on the character. I’m certainly a departure from the typical Oliver Queen from the comic books. I just think that everybody needs to be patient with the whole thing. The fact that DC and Warner have announced all these comic book features is nothing but good for business.

Syfy has released the above extended footage for their upcoming series (based on the movie) 12 Monkeys.

Last season CBS killed Cristin Milioti in the series finale of How I Met Your Mother.  Now NBC has killed her on A to Z, or for now turned her into a zombie. She is currently walking dead, not unlike Brady Hoke as Michigan’s football coach. The series will complete its initial thirteen episodes but end at that point. Unless the thirteenth episode is rewritten we will never learn about what happens in that final hour of her eight-month, three-week, five-day, and one-hour relationship. I would expect that viewership will fall even further now that we know the show will not be on much longer. I have already deleted it from my DVR’s schedule.

NBC also canceled Bad Judge along with A to Z. NBC still has Marry Me for now but, having watched the pilot only, it hardly seems worth watching. Seeing these shows leads to the inevitable question–why did NBC cancel Community to make room for these? (Fortunately it has been saved by Yahoo!)

It has not been a good year for romantic comedies, with ABC having already canceled Manhattan Love Story.  At the moment, the only new network sitcoms I’m watching are Blackish and Selfie. Weak romantic comedies seem even lamer than most years after watching You’re The Worst which premiered last summer.

Big Bang Theory Billy Bob Thornton

Billy Bob Thornton was largely responsible for the success of Fargo. Late in the series he impersonated a dentist, and last week he went on to portray a doctor on The Big Bang Theory. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed showrunner Steve Molaro about his memorable appearance (which hopefully will be repeated). Billy Bob Thornton is a big fan of the show, and he is the one who pitched the idea of playing a doctor who tries to steal Penny away from Leonard. Molaro also states that “a major move forward in the Sheldon-Amy relationship occurs” in next week’s episode.

It was a real tragedy when Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo experimental space plane crashed on Friday.  While a huge setback, hopefully this is not the end of the idea of commercial spaceflight:

For now, the future of the New Mexico spaceport intended as the hub and central customer for Virgin Galactic’s operations seems uncertain.

And for Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic, Messier says, “it’s obviously a massive setback.

“I’m hesitant to try to make predictions this soon after the accident,” he says.  “They’ve been working on SpaceShipTwo for ten years now. If the engine blew, they may have to go back to the drawing board.”

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; You’re The Worst Renewed; Dallas Cancelled; Twin Peaks May Return; Marvel News; Arrow; Homeland; Community; Another Stephen King Novel To Television; Outlander; Short Skirts And Invented Languages In Genre

Doctor Who Kill The Moon

Kill the Moon could be seen both as one of many totally implausible and scientifically absurd episodes of Doctor Who along with another high concept episode with a major role in the series. Even if we accept that the moon could really be a giant egg, it makes no sense for the development of the space dragon to also lead to giving the moon more gravity. Doctor Who also has a strange cell phone technology on several episodes where cell phones seem to be connected to the time and place of their origin, in this case allowing Courtney to post to her Tumblr account (which has died out by 2049).

If you ignore its absurdity, which Doctor Who fans are accustomed to doing, the show does fill in a gap in the future history of mankind as presented on the show. The present earth of Doctor Who sees aliens as monsters and invaders. The far future has been shown with humans spread throughout space. At the time of this episode, mankind has given up on space exploration and even needed to restore an old museum shuttle to return to the moon. Thanks to Clara ignoring the input from humans at the time, earth was able to see space as a wonder and not threatening, encouraging mankind to start to look outwards.

The episode even answered the question raised during the episode of how the moon could be destroyed when they knew it was present in the  future. Now I’m wondering how the moon remained attached to the earth when the earth was dragged to elsewhere in the universe in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.

Dr-Who-Kill-The-Moon-alien1

The episode was originally written for Matt Smith, and must have had major rewrites in order to fit in so well with the story of the current Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi. The decision to go to the moon came about because the Capaldi Doctor couldn’t bring himself to tell Courtney that in some way she is special without actually making this true. The episode ended with Clara rejecting the Doctor, making me wonder if this is part of a planned arc. It certainly fits in with the personality changes in the Doctor since his last regeneration.

This might set up next week’s episode to be one without Clara, or show further advancement in their relationship. The entire lineup of companions is now in question. Danny Pink kept the possibility that Clara isn’t really done with the Doctor alive. Last summer we were teased with the idea of another couple in the TARDIS but Danny has yet to actually travel the the Doctor. Courtney has even beaten Danny in traveling in the TARDIS. If his relationship does not go further, I imagine it is debatable as to whether to consider Danny a (limited) companion. He is certainly involved with a continuing character, he is aware of what the Doctor is, and even did work with the Doctor at defeating an alien (after first messing up his plans) in The Caretaker.

Other continuity issues were touched upon. The doctor claimed he could regenerate forever. Did he really obtain an infinite number of lives, or is the Doctor who could not tell a white lie at the start of the episode now telling a lie? Was he lying when telling Courtney she would be the first woman on the moon? Polly traveled to the moon with the second Doctor in 1966 in Moonbase but it was set in 2070 while Courtney, from 2014, traveled to the moon of 2049. The Doctor could have been lying, could be using a timey wimey technicality, or could have just forgotten. At least he did remember his old catch phrase, “When I say run, run.”

There was not a scene with Missy and any of the astronauts who got killed during this episode.

The Doctor Who Extra video is above.

In other Doctor Who news, filming for the season concluded on October 3 with completion of the Christmas episode.

The best television news of the week is that You’re The Worst has been renewed. It is being moved to FXX and will be expanded to thirteen episodes. Married, which was paired with You’re The Worst, was also renewed and will remain on FX. The renewal and increase in number of episodes of You’re The Worst is no surprise considering the strong critical reaction to the show as people discovered it over the summer. If you haven’t seen it, the show is highly recommended. It would be easy to bing on as with only ten episodes the entire series only around three and a half hours after commercials are cut.

With all the late spring and summer television shows, there are probably several which we haven’t heard news on regarding renewals. In my opinion, the only one which we haven’t received word on yet which really matters is Continuum. Besides wanting to see this for several years to come, they just cannot end the show where it ended. In terms of ending a show with an unexplored change in the final episode, this would be reminiscent to the ending of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

As for shows I don’t care as much about, TNT has canceled their reboot of Dallas. Now we will never find out if Christopher Ewing, who died in the finale, will reappear in Elena’s shower, or if Nicolas is really the father of her baby.

Twin Peaks ended with Special Agent Dale Cooper disappearing for twenty-five years, and now that it is time for him to reappear there are rumors that the show might return. Update:  It was announced Monday that it is coming back as a limited series on Showtime.

mystique-xmen-first-class-jennifer-lawrence

Collider has information on X-Men: Apocalypse which opens in 2016 and concludes the current trilogy. The relationship between Mystique and Beast plays a large role in the movie:

Part of what’s really interesting about Mystique’s character is that she is, in some ways, the child of both Erik and Charles. She grew up with Charles and then she sort of became a woman with Erik, so her being the cross-pollination, if you will, of those two philosophies and those two men is something we can explore in the movie too.

Perhaps Mystique/Jennifer Lawrence will go after whoever  spread the  nude photos of her, without the body paint, around the Internet.

If you are having difficulty keeping track of all the mutants in the X-Men movies, Screen Rant has a guide.

Robert Downey, Jr. has said he will not appear in another Iron Man movie, but now says that Mel Gibson deserves another chance and would do so if Gibson directs it.

Adrianne Palacki, who will be playing Mockingbird on Agents of SHIELD, has said her character might also wind up appearing in a future Avengers movie.

It appears that the Fantastic Four comic might be canceled prior to the release of the upcoming Fantastic Four movie reboot. If true, this comes from the manner in which different Marvel Studios/Disney only have the movie rights to some of the Marvel characters. Other studies have the movie rights to characters including Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Fantastic Four, and X-Men as long as they are using the characters. This is one reason for the lack of cross overs of some of the characters with The Avengers, and also why some dreadful movies have been shoved out in order for other studios to maintain their movie rights.

Arrow returns this week–clip above. With Oliver losing the business it looks like everyone has to get new jobs, but Felicity is still helping him out. More at The  Hollywood Reporter.

Homeland returns tonight. TV Guide has some information on changes in the show now that they finally got away from the Brody storyline.

Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley) won’t be continuing on Community when it returns on Yahoo! due to having to care for her sick father. She will have recurring roles on th CBS reboot of The Odd Couple and on a new USA Network show, Benched. With Jonathan Banks also leaving the show due to his commitment to Better Call Saul, two new characters will be added: “One is described as a woman who’s brought in as a consultant to help shape up the school. The other is a retired salesman who comes to Greendale to reinvent himself.”

The number of outlets for original programing has sure expanded. Beyond broadcast and cable television, both Netflix and Amazon have put out multiple shows. Yahoo! becomes far more significant with the addition of Community. Now Hulu is planning a miniseries based upon Stephen King’s time travel novel on the Kennedy assassination, 11/22/63. The show will be produced by J.J. Abrams and run for nine hours. This is certainly a far better way to do a book of its length as opposed to a movie adaptation. They have left open the possibility of doing additional seasons beyond the events of the book, which I am wary of after seeing what happened with Under the Dome.

Starz won’t have to worry about running out of material for Outlander if they want to continue the series for several more years. Diana Gabaldon has  signed a multi-million dollar book deal for the ninth book in the series. Thanks to the Starz series, the first Outlander novel from twenty-three years ago has jumped to the top of the bestseller lists.

Zoe Seldana’s short skirt while playing Uhura in the Star Trek movies was not very practical, unless flashing is encouraged in the J.J. Abrams universe. She discussed this problem, and other wardrobe malfunctions.

Wired looked at science fiction worlds and languages, such as the Klingon and Dothraki languages.

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Hillary Clinton Was Born In Kenya

The right wing has come up with letters tying Hillary to Saul Alinsky when young–just like Muslim Socialist Barack Obama. It is only a matter of time until someone uncover’s Hillary Clinton’s secret Kenyan birth certificate.

The right wing blogosphere is salivating over these letters. To them, this proves she is a radical leftist, no matter how conservative the left considers Clinton to be. The average voter is asking, “Saul who?” or perhaps “Is he the guy Carrie hung out with on Homeland?” or maybe “Isn’t Saul Walter White’s lawyer?”

It is also strange that to the right these  innocuous letters suggest that she is secretly a radical leftist, but her past as a Goldwater Girl doesn’t mean she is  secretly a Goldwater conservative.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton, following her recent trip to Iowa, is next going to New Hampshire. To believe she is mounting a campaign for the nomination is certainly not a wacky conspiracy theory.

(Post revised when cross posted at The Moderate Voice)

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Homeland; Hannibal; The Americans; Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series; Welcome To Yesterday

BBC America has released the above extended trailer for The Time Of The Doctor.

With the regeneration almost here, see the above video in which David Tennant tells Matt Smith about the inevitable fate of every actor to play the Doctor.

Steven Moffat felt it was wrong to kill off the Doctor (not that this is stopping him from doing it:

“Regeneration scenes are the toughest but most exciting part of Doctor Who – you don’t really know the show until you’ve written one.

“Previously, I’d only written Matt’s end of David’s regeneration – this is the first time I’ve actually killed off a Doctor. “It feels like a very wrong thing to do to your childhood, not to mention one of your friends!”

Above is a clip from The Time Of The Doctor in which Clara and the Doctor find that they need a time machine to finish the Christmas dinner turkey

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Besides scenes of cooking a turkey, the Christmas special includes a nude scene. Regrettably it is of Matt Smith and not Jenna Coleman. At least having Jenna Coleman’s name and nude scene in the same line should be good for several additional hits.

Moffat has discussed what would have happened if Christopher Eccleston had been willing to return for the 50th Anniversary episode, The Day Of The Doctor:

In the latest DWM, Moffat confirms that Eccleston would have filled what became John Hurt’s role: “Yes, but I was pretty certain Chris wouldn’t do it, although he did agree to a couple of meetings. So instead we had the challenge and excitement of introducing a BBC audience to a brand new Doctor.”

Asked if it would have been Eccleston ending the Time War instead: “Yes, but do you know, I was always nervous of that one, because it doesn’t fit with [2005’s] Rose at all.

“[Eccleston] is a brand new Doctor in Rose, he’s absolutely, definitely new. It couldn’t have been is who pushed the button in the Time War, cos that’s a new man, very explicitly, in that episode. I also had trouble, I have to be honest, imagining it being Paul McGann’s Doctor.

“So all of this led me to the idea that if you’re going to sell to the Not-We audience a Doctor who essentially they haven’t seen before, then you have a freer hand than saying it has to be one of the ones you’ve already had. And it was predicated in getting an enormous star to be able to do it. We got John Hurt, so that was cool! Think of the fuss it’s created for us!”

Strax has issued a field report on Christmas in the video above.

Homeland Carrie Pregant

The season finale of  Homeland was essentially a reset for the entire series. (Mayor spoilers here for those who have not seen it yet). During the first season of the show, I had wondered how they could possibly do a second season with Brody. We learned later that the producers had planned to kill him off but Showtime intervened. They managed to find a way to do a second season with him, but it was not as good as the first season. There had to be a limit to how long they could base a show on questions of Brody’s loyalties. They even managed to drag this out into a third season, but the quality suffered.

They did manage to have a moment of suspense in which we weren’t sure whether Brody would seek asylum in Iran or complete the mission. The finale allowed for even more suspense as this was a rare situation in which viewers really could not be certain if the star of a show would live or die. We had hints that Brody would not make it. The show runners discussed in interviews how Showtime had not allowed Brody to be killed off earlier, but did agree he could die at some point. Shortly before the finale aired we learned that the roles of Brody’s wife and daughter would no longer be series regulars. Despite these opportunities, the past season was a disappointment compared to previous years.

Next season we will no longer face questions of Brody’s loyalties. Other aspects of the show were also reset. Carrie gave up her baby, and her mental illness does not appear to be an issue, at least for the moment. Even her disputes with the new CIA director are forgotten with Carrie being made a section chief. It remains to be seen whether Claire Danes can continue to carry the series, but it was clear they could not redo the first season yet again.

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Two of the best new series from last year return in February. NBC has released the above poster along with the release date for Hannibal Season 2–February 28. The Americans also returns in February–teaser below:

At the time of his death, Stieg Larsson had been at work in the fourth entry in his Millennium series which included The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. There had been hopes that someone else would complete the book but so far this has not been possible. It was announced last week that the series will continue with a new author:

With Larsson’s own fourth book unlikely to be completed soon because of a dispute between Larsson’s partner, Eva Gabrielsson, and his family, the publisher, Norstedts Forlag, has sought another author to take up Larsson’s standard. On Tuesday the publisher said that it has found its man in David Lagercrantz, a journalist and author who has published several novels and biographies, and is the co-author of “I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic” (2011) the autobiography of a Swedish soccer star.

Larsson’s unfolding tale of the computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and the journalist Mikael Blomkvist has sold more than 73 million copies worldwide. Film versions of the first three books were produced in 2009, followed by David Fincher’s 2011 English language version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

The next book in the series is scheduled to be published in August 2015.

Welcome to Yesterday trailer is above. Looks like fun, even if not an original idea, with the movie set for release on February 28. I will be watching Hannibal that night, but if reviews are at all decent I will catch this movie eventually.

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