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.”

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who and Daleks; Community and Inspector Spacetime; Sherlock as Cartoon; Person of Interest; The Americans; Utopia; Downton Abbey; Batwoman’s Gay Marriage; Captain America

Daleks London

Steven Moffat discussed the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who in a recent interview. Doctor Who returns March 30 with the final eight episodes of the season. Next fall we will have the 50th Anniversary episode (which will also be in 3D and released at movie theaters). In addition there will be the usual Christmas episode and An Adventure in Space and Time about the making of Doctor Who. This would still leave us with less Doctor Who than last fall, but Moffat does say there will be even more than these shows.

Ray Cusick who designed the look of the Daleks in 1963, died at last week at age 84.

The video above has an interview with Jenna-Louise Coleman on The Last Leg.

Last week’s episode of Community  featured a trip to an Inspector Spacetime convention and ended with how an American version of this Doctor Who parody would appear, after the producers received advice from Pierce. Here’s another take on how an American version of Doctor Who might have turned out.

sherlockanimated9

Angela Taratuta has re-imagined Sherlock as a cartoon series with pictures such as the one above.

Revolution returns on March 25. NBC is launching a prequel web series tomorrow which starts eleven years after the blackout:

In this webseries, premiering Feb. 25 on NBC.com, we flashback to 11 years after the blackout and the night Miles (Billy Burke) first tried to assassinate Gen. Monroe (David Lyons). The story will follow Capt. Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) on a mission to hunt down and kill and those who had a hand in the attempt to assassinate Monroe. While on his journey, however, Neville will apparently stumble “upon an even greater conspiracy that could change the course of the Republic forever,” according to a description.

Person of Interest Relevance

Person of Interest had an excellent episode, Relevance, in which we saw the machine used as intended. There was another team receiving numbers from the machine to fight actual terrorist threats, but they believed the information came from more conventional sources. They went after people found by the machine to be relevant, as opposed to the cases investigated by Finch and Reese not involving terrorism, and therefore considered irrelevant. One member of the team started to get too close to what is actually going on so both were set up to be killed. The female member of the team, Shaw, survived, with a little help from Reese after Shaw and her partner came up as the new numbers for Finch and Reese.

Shaw is quite a fighter on her own, and stated she has an “Axis II personality disorder,” meaning  she “doesn’t really feel anything” when she kills people. Her best moment was when she showed she was still a loyal soldier in fighting terrorism and also remained determined to avenge the killing of her partner. “A good soldier does both.” She initially refused to take Finch’s card, but later agreed after they saved her from poisoning, leaving her old superiors believing she was dead.

Shaw will make a welcome addition to the reoccurring cast of Person of Interest (assuming this as she was too good a character to only use once). Making the episode even better, Amy Acker  returned to reprise her role as Root (actually starting in the final moments of last week’s episode). Now, besides the team of Finch and Reese, we have the group involved in using the machine to fight terrorism as part of the show, with these people portrayed as both being engaged in an important task and as being somewhat evil. Having them infiltrated by Root will make matters even more interesting.

The Americans

FX has renewed The Americans for a second season. The series is about Soviet spies embedded in the United States during the Reagan years. Last week was their best episode to date, taking place at the time of the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. The Russians were worried about whether the attempt would be pinned on the KGB. Some of the Russians also were concerned that generals led by Alexander Haig were carrying out a coup following Haig’s “I am in control” statement.

Utopia completed its first season last week, and hopefully will receive a second season. While not reducing my recommendations to watch the entire series or my hope for a second season, the first season finale was not up to the level of previous episodes. It was probably harder to write this episode because it had less mystery many of the secrets of the first season already revealed but also having to keep some things unresolved for second season. Major spoiler in the rest of this paragraph: I did have one problem with the explanations in the finale. If the manuscript didn’t really matter and the search was all to get Jessica out in the open, what were they doing with the interrogation of Grant and what did that chemical diagram mean? Perhaps the explanation to Jessica wasn’t entirely honest and there was information on recreating Janus to be found in case Jessica wasn’t captured.

The BBC has canceled The Hour after its second season. Hypable explains why you should watch the show despite being cancelled.

As expected following the Christmas episode of Downton Abbey, Lily James will become a regular member of the cast next season. With two members of the cast dying last season, her addition serves much the same purpose of Lesley Anne-Down joining Upstairs Downstairs as Miss Georgina. Vulture gave several reasons why ITV and PBS won’t both broadcast the show at the same time. I was especially interested in this point:

Editing episodes for PBS more quickly would also be more costly.
The version of Downton that airs in the U.K. is slightly different than the one that airs in the U.S. ITV is a commercial network that ran season three over eight installments, while commercial-free PBS ran the same season in just six. That requires some “stitching together and filling out” for the American version, Hoppe says. And because the editing is done entirely by the creative team in the U.K., “what it would mean in order for us to go simultaneously with them is that we’d have to have two editing rooms going at the same time during postproduction, one for our version and one for theirs,” Hoppe says. “It’s not one of the main factors in the decision, but it’s not an insignificant financial implication.”

I downloaded the series when it first aired on ITV and then, based upon following media stories, the series seemed to go by much faster when aired on PBS. This explains that it really did go by faster, with fewer episodes in the US. I wonder if some things were taken out of the US version. For example, there hasn’t been much discussion in the United States about the arc involving the Dalek invasion of Downton.

The Saturn Award nominations have been released–full list here.

Batwoman-Proposal

Batwoman is entering into a same-sex marriage but Alyssa Rosenberg says this  portrayal of a gay marriage is not enough to make up for DC hiring homophobe Orson Scott Card:

Something I wish I’d said more clearly the first itme I wrote about DC’s decision to hire Card to write Superman is that calls to fire him don’t appeal to me that strongly because it separates out his hiring from DC’s other hiring practices, which among other things, have produced a staff with very few women and no lead African-American writers on any comics titles. A decision by comics stores not to stock the title, demonstrating that Card’s values turn them off from a product that otherwise might have been profitable for them, makes more sense. And what would be most interesting to me is an explanation from DC about what process lead to Card’s selection. What made his pitches’ stronger than other writers? How did they weigh the likely publicity challenges from his employment against what appears to be a larger institutional imperative to modernize the brand by telling stories about committed gay couples? If DC Comics wants its image to be gay-friendly, then it should have been expected to be evaluated for consistency. More same-sex engagements doesn’t eliminate the appearance of a glaring contradiction in DC’s image.

If all DC wants is our money, rather than our social approval, that’s fine. But it needs to recognize that fishing for money on the grounds that it’s producing progressive and game-changing content is going to be a more difficult task if there’s a disconnect between what the content is, and who the money spent on it ends up going to.

The next Captain America movie, The Winter Soldier, will differ from the first, and from The Avengers, in being more of a political thriller according to Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios:

The challenge is not the number of projects but rather making sure that each is a fresh take on the genre. Being able to populate the films with rich, three-dimensional characters and employing a wealth of storylines that have been developed over the decades in print makes it much easier to pull off, Feige says.

And when it all comes together, the results are boffo: “The Avengers” was one of 2012’s most popular pics, according to Rottentomatoes.com, and with more than $620 million in ticket sales it was the year’s box office champ by a large margin.

As long as Marvel stays on its game, Feige believes its pics will continue to do well in a genre that is far from a passing trend.

“If it is a fad, it’s one that lasts 30 to 40 years, as the Western did, because each one is so different,” he says. “There’s an opportunity to graft almost sub-genres onto them. Our first Captain America film was a World War II picture, and the next is a political thriller. They all have their own textures and patinas, and that’s what is exciting about it.”

 

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Karen Gillan Takes Manhattan; Billy Piper Beat Her There; Californication; Big Love; Merlin and Camelot; Mad Men; The Borgias

BBC America has released its trailer for the upcoming season of Doctor Who (video above) which starts out with a two part episode in the United States. The BBC America trailer does contain different scenes compared to the BBC One trailer previously posted. The season will have a hiatus over the summer, but we will still be able to see Karen Gillan. During the summer she will be staring in We’ll Take Manhattan:

The BBC has announced the commission of single drama, We’ll Take Manhattan, which explores the explosive love affair between photographer David Bailey and sixties supermodel Jean Shrimpton.

Focusing on a wild and unpredictable 1962 Vogue photo shoot in New York, the drama brings to life the story of two young people falling in love, misbehaving, and inadvertently defining the style of the Sixties along the way.

Karen Gillan will play Jean Shrimpton, in her first lead role since starring alongside Matt Smith as Amy Pond in Doctor Who. The drama is produced by Kudos Film and Television for BBC Four.

Karen said: “Jean Shrimpton is an icon of the Sixties and I am so excited to be playing somebody who had such a lasting impact on the fashion world. I can’t wait to take on the challenge of bringing Jean and Bailey’s fascinating love story to life. Sixties here I come!

Richard Klein, Controller BBC Four, says: “The story of David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton is classic territory for BBC Four – a moment in time, a fusion of talents, that had a huge impact on cultural life. It is a drama that is all about being alive and taking a chance, being young and kicking down the statues, and yet it is also a beautiful love story. And if you want to know why our world looks like it does, then this is the drama that tells you.”

Set predominantly in 1962, but also exploring the story of how Bailey and Shrimpton first met, this one-off drama reveals how a young, visionary photographer refused to conform. He insisted on using the unconventional model Jean Shrimpton on an important photo shoot for British Vogue and, over the course of a freezing week in Manhattan, threw out the rule book and made startling, original photographs.

We’ll Take Manhattan is the story of that wild week, of Bailey and Jean’s love affair, and of how two young people accidentally changed the world forever.

About the drama, Claire Parker of Kudos Film and Television, says: “In Jean, Bailey found someone that he and his camera fell in love with. We’ll Take Manhattan captures the essence of their dynamic affair and how they unwittingly changed the face of a decade. This is a really exciting opportunity to tell an intimate love story that plays out against the backdrop of Britain on the cusp of huge social and cultural change. We’re delighted to have the opportunity to make another film for BBC Four and are thrilled to have Karen Gillan on board as Jean.”

Billy Piper

An actress who previously stared as a companion on Doctor Who has  beaten The Doctor to America and has beaten Karen Gillan to Manhattan. Billie Piper’s character on Secret Diary of a Call  Girl had an episode taking place in New York City concerning making a movie of the book written the previous season. The fourth season recently completed its run in Great Britain and resumes on Showtime on April 7.  The relationship between Belle and Ben was a major component of the season. Other major characters in the fourth season include Lily James as Stephanie’s teen-age daughter, Paul Nicholls as a vice cop who becomes interested in Belle, and Genna Chan as a dominatrix.

Also on Showtime, Californication and Big Love recently concluded, with statutory rape becoming a major issue on both last season. Californication might resume three years in the future, after Hank has written a successful book about his life in California,  while Big Love has concluded the series. I was disappointed with the ending of Big Love. I didn’t object to Bill’s fate, but didn’t like that his murder occurred leaving major story lines unresolved. The charges of statutory rape dominated the season. The pressure’s on Bill’s business even were escalated during the final episode, but suddenly these problems were made irrelevant with Bill’s death as opposed to resolving them.

Also on cable television, the contract battles between Matthew Weiner and AMC were resolved, somewhere between the positions of both. Mad Men has been renewed for two more seasons, with Weiner also getting an option to do a seventh. This would provide time for Weiner to plot out where he wants to take the show long term. Mad Men will return in early 2012.

Starz began Camelot, its racier version of the King Arthur legend, while SyFy is in the midst of the two-part season finale of Merlin. The end of the season of Merlin has brought the story far closer to the more traditional legends and the two-part season finale was among the best episodes of the series. The stories are quite different, with Arthur actually living with his father in Camelot on Merlin, but  Merlin has now reached a situation comparable to where the Starz version of  Camelot is starting with the conflict between Arthur and his half-sister.

Showtime is starting The Borgias tonigiht. As has occured with other series on Showtime, the first episode “leaked” out early and I watched last night. The series shows promise as a new version of The Tudors, this time taking place in the Vatican.