SciFi Weekend: Homeland Finale; Doctor Who; Sherlock; Victoria; Orphan Black; Sense8; Star Wars The Last Jedi; The Magicians; Supergirl; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Big Little Lies

While not as good as the first season (a very high bar), Homeland finally figured out how to reinvent itself and become an excellent show again this season. When the series had a female president-elect, there was no question that they were playing on the thought that Hillary Clinton would have been elected last November. While the used the idea of a female president, she clearly was not Hillary Clinton. For most of the season it appeared that this was a far better choice for the first female present. Rather than being a warmonger and strong proponent the surveillance state like Clinton, President-elect Keane supported seeking peace in the middle east and was no fan of the Patriot Act. The series also dealt heavily with fake news and influencing public opinion.

The finale had an all too realistic warning. (Spoilers ahead). Shocked by an assassination attempt involving portions of the deep state, Keane snapped (as Dick Cheney may have when carried down to safety during the 9/11 attack). Like Donald Trump, President Keane went to war with her intelligence community, but to a far greater degree. She was no longer the anti-Clinton, expanding the Patriot Act and rounding up innocent people based upon metadata from NSA surveillance, including Saul Berenson. A right wing talk show host spoke of how President Keane broke her promises–somewhat like how real right wing talk shows are now talking about how Donald Trump has broken his promises to them. The name of the episode: America First.

Variety discussed the series with showrunner Alex Gansa. The interview was done before the finale and therefore does not include the surprising conclusion, but does discuss how the season was relevant to real world events:

“Homeland” storylines usually reflect real-world headlines in some way. What surprised you this year about how your show dovetailed with real events?

The most surprising and alarming coincidence was that the very thing we had posited a year ago in February — that is a President-elect in an adversarial relationship with her own intelligence community – actually came to the fore after President Trump got elected was just a coincidence of epic proportions. Frankly that was the biggest surprise second only to the fact that Donald Trump got elected in the first place. That dynamic – a newly elected President at war with her intelligence community was really the fulcrum that the entire season hinged on. The fact that it played out in the real world on the national stage was shocking to witness. There were some other (developments) that made us go back into some episodes to retrofit them.

Can you give an example?

The whole idea of fake news and propaganda – that seemed to take on a much more prominent role as we moved into our story. The one major thing we went back in and changed was introducing our Brett O’Keefe character much earlier than we intended. He was originally scheduled to be introduced in episode eight. But we went back in and did some reshoots and new scenes to introduce him in episode two…

You were clear all along in the lead-up to season six that “Homeland’s” female President-elect was not meant to be a thinly veiled Hillary Clinton. But were you concerned about that choice after Trump pulled off his upset win?

Absolutely. There was a moment we all just slapped our foreheads and wondered if the show was going to be irrelevant from that point forward. However, the story of the President-elect in an adversarial situation with her own intelligence community, that certainly wouldn’t have been Hillary Clinton. She was an establishment candidate. She was front and center of American foreign policy for years. …In a crazy way, the show would have been more irrelevant if Hillary would have been elected. The fact that Donald Trump and his team were in such a contentious relationship made the show feel current and contemporaneous. We lost on the gender but we certainly gained on the dynamic.

There has been a lot of news going into the season premiere of Doctor Who. As it has been sixteen months since a regular episode, Yahoo TV has the above catch-up guide.

Peter Capaldi has already filmed his regeneration scene. Steven Moffat has discussed the regeneration:

“With Matt I had a sort of idea that his entire run should be in the pre-math of a battle he’s having at the end of his life,” Moffat told RadioTimes.com exclusively at the BFI and Radio Times Television Festival this weekend (see video below). “But with Peter I wasn’t quite sure. I wasn’t sure for a long time whether I’d be writing him out or whether he’d be carrying on with [new showrunner] Chris Chibnall.

“That fits his Doctor, though,” the screenwriter went on, before hinting that this less mapped-out path would be echoed in Capaldi’s regeneration.

“His Doctor feels sort of impulsive and in the moment and would do something reckless that you wouldn’t expect. That suits me.

“And I mean, you can overstate the difficulty of planning a finale for a Doctor. In the end, any Doctor Who story has such catastrophe going on in it, that he could be the one that gets the rock on his head.

“But I think I’m really happy with what we’re doing for his finale. I’m just working on it now. It’s quite early. I should be further through it, but there you go.”

Moffat has also said he will be working on another show with Mark Gatiss.

Normally when Doctor Who is on, the lead item of SciFi Weekend is quite frequently a review of the current episode. Because of the holiday weekend, I have moved up this week’s post to Saturday, before this season’s premiere episode has been shown. I still might add a full review as a separate post rather than waiting until next week, depending upon both available time and how much the episode warrants it.

The Telegraph ran a story entitled, Steven Moffat talks the future of Sherlock and possible recasting. Of course, while scheduling Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman might be difficult, the show would never be the same with a different cast. Fortunately Moffat agreed:

Speaking at London’s BFI and Radio Times Television Festival, Moffat revealed: “Neither Benedict, Mark or Martin are against doing more Sherlocks. We have a great time making them, it’s a very, very nice bunch of people and we enjoy our reunions very much… [but] we’d never want to do it if we didn’t think we could do it as well as we used to.

“It also means, we’ll come back to it when we feel we’ve got the right idea. It could be off the earth quite a long while now. But I would be surprised, as I’ve said before, if we never made any more Sherlocks.”

Along with concerns over future stories, Moffat and Gatiss also have the busy schedules of their two stars to contend with: both men entrenched in the Marvel universe, as well as their multitudes of additional projects. It lead to Moffat being asked whether he would ever consider a recast.

“Absolutely not,” he was quick to reply. “You can admire great cinematography, a great score, great writing, great direction, great production. You can admire all those things, but you only fall in love with people. And the people you fall in love with are Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

“You cannot replace them. They are the magic, they are the show.”

Speaking of recasting, while The Crown plans to recast Claire Foy and Matt Smith after the second season as their characters age, Victoria will be moving more slowly through the 1840’s. Therefore there are no plans yet to recast Jenna Coleman.

BBC America has released a longer trailer for the fifth and final season of Orphan Black, which returns on June 10.

Netflix has released the above trailer for season 2 of Sense8, which will become available on May 5. The description:

From renowned creative geniuses Lana Wachowski, Grant Hill (“The Matrix,” “Cloud Atlas”) and J. Michael Straczynski (Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,’ “World War Z”), Sense8 is centered around eight characters, from different parts of the world, who experience a violent vision, and soon find themselves mentally connected by the experience. They become connected, able to see and talk to each other as though they were in the same place, with access to each other’s deepest secrets. Not only must the eight adapt to this new ability and to each other, they must figure out why their lives are now in jeopardy. In Season 2, dark forces continue to track the cluster of eight connected characters. The sensates will learn more about BPO, the secret organization searching for their cluster and others like them, and will work to protect themselves from this organization that is out to hunt and kill them.

The above teaser has been released for Star Wars: The Last Jedi which will be released December 15. More at Entertainment Weekly.

Syfy has finally announced that The Magicians will be renewed for a third season. Grace and Frankie has also been renewed by Netflix.

Calista Flockhart will be returning for the final two episodes of Supergirl this season. She was written out of the show after two episodes as a consequence of the show moving production to Vancouver. Tyler Hoechlin will also return as Superman.

Manu Bennett (Slade Wilson/Deathstroke) will be returning for the season finale of Arrow.

Gotham plans to “introduce the idea of Harley Quinn” in the Season 3 finale.

The pilot for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has received excellent reviews, so it is no surprise that Amazon has picked up this series from Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino. The only surprise is that Amazon has already picked it up for two seasons, which could keep Amy Sherman-Palladino busy if the rumors come true of a second season for Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. The summary for her new series:

The series, written and directed by Sherman-Palladino, stars Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1958 New York City woman who has everything she’s ever wanted—the perfect husband, two kids, and an elegant Upper West Side apartment perfect for hosting Yom Kippur dinner. But her perfect life suddenly takes an unexpected turn and Midge discovers a previously unknown talent—one that changes her life forever. She charts a course that takes her from her comfortable life on Riverside Drive, through the basket houses and nightclubs of Greenwich Village as she storms the world of stand-up comedy…a course that will ultimately lead her to a spot on Johnny Carson’s couch.

In addition to House of Cards, Rachel Brosnahan also appeared as Abby Isaacs in the WGN series Manhattan.

Big Little Lies completed the events of  novel it was based on in its first season, but that might not keep it from getting a second season. It certainly is plausible–and there is precedent for this. The Leftovers was better in its second season, after its first season completed the novel it was based on, and early reviews suggest the third season might be even better. HBO was certainly not going to stop filming Game of Thrones when it caught up to the published novels.

SciFi Weekend: Sherlock; The Expanse; Deadpool; Stranger Things; Wayward Pines; Twin Peaks; iBoy; Humans; Victoria; John le Carré; Celebrities On Surviving Trump

I am not going to give any spoilers on the season finale of Sherlock which airs tonight but leaked out early, waiting to watch until this is posted, but there remains a lot to say about last week’s episode. Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis spoke about the big twist in The Lying Detective. (Major spoilers for those who have not seen the episode):

At the end of the episode, we found out that the woman pretending to be Watson’s therapist, rush hour crush and Culverton Smith’s daughter were the same person. Not only that, but she was Sherlock and Mycroft’s long lost sister, Eurus (which means east wind).

After a screening at the BAFTA Cymru in Cardiff, the show creators hosted a Q and A where they told all about the chaos that had just ensued.

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat explained how the idea that Sherlock had a sister had been in the back of their minds ever since the first episode. Gatiss said:

It started as a joke years, years ago. Right from the beginning of the first season, there was a line in ‘The Great Game’ when we were sort of sketching in the idea of the Holmes family and there was going to be a line about Mycroft being a member, Sherlock admitting that he was cleverer than him and then him kindly saying, mind you…my sister…

It was absolutely cut off, and that’s really where it all began.

[At the time] we thought, we won’t do too much. And thank god we didn’t, as it gives us this place to go.

But that wasn’t the only shock of Sherlock. People were frankly dumbfounded to see that Watson had been seeing a girl behind Mary’s back. Steven decided to tackle that one, head on, saying:

He’s a fully rounded character. He’s a fully rounded human being with all the normal flaws that people have.”

BuzzFeed then asked him if he was going to be back to his usual self for the next episode, to which he said:

We’re not going to say now that he’s cosy and lovely, you don’t get Martin Freeman to play that.”

The episode even contained a Torchwood Easter egg–a postcard on the mantel with the Torchwood ‘T’ logo. Technically this would place Sherlock in the Doctor Who universe.

The Lying Detective left Radio Times with thirteen burning questions. Fans are looking back through old scenes for clues.

Moffat and Gatiss did tease tonight’s finale:

“It’s a grand old finale. It’s a very very finale finale,” said Moffat, at the BAFTA screening for ‘The Lying Detective’.

“It’s the most like a Universal Sherlock Holmes that we’ve ever done,” Gatiss added. “It’s like a Basil Rathbone one. It’s absolutely crazy.”

The Expanse returns for season 2 on February 1. For those of use who didn’t make it through the entire first season, Syfy has put out a series of videos on the series, such as the one above. For those who want a briefer summary of season 1, below is a recap with cats:

Deadline interviewed the writers of Deadpool about the planned second movie. They also blamed the leak of test footage from the first movie on Putin.

The cast of Stranger Things teased season two in an interview with Vanity Fair.

Wayward Pines will not be returning this summer, but Fox has left open the possibility of it returning in the future. I’m actually happy to hear this. I’ve read the novels the show was based on by Blake Crouch, but the television show is one of many shows in this era of peak TV which I haven’t gotten to yet. Another year might give me a chance of watching the first two seasons before a third if there should be one. Incidentally, Blake Crouch is also the author of Dark Matter (no relationship to the televisions how by that name). The novel is more a page-turner thriller than hard science fiction, but, like his Wayward Pines series, was a quick and enjoyable read, and I’ve seen it on some of lists of top books of 2016. (Also, while not really related, I have used the hiatus in new shows around the holidays to catch up on Syfy’s Dark Matter and will now be able to include it in the weekly show coverage when it returns).

Return to Twin Peaks on May 21:

Kyle MacLachlan reprises his role as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper. TWIN PEAKS, the 18-part limited event series will debut with a two-part premiere on Sunday, May 21 at 9PM ET/PT. Immediately following the premiere, SHOWTIME subscribers will have access to the third and fourth parts, exclusively across the SHOWTIME streaming service, SHOWTIME ANYTIME® and SHOWTIME ON DEMAND®. In its second week, TWIN PEAKS will air the third and fourth parts back-to-back on the linear network, starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT, followed by one-hour parts in subsequent weeks…

Directed entirely by David Lynch, the new SHOWTIME limited event series picks up twenty-five years after the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town were stunned when their homecoming queen Laura Palmer was shockingly murdered.

Widely considered one of the most groundbreaking and influential broadcast series of all time, TWIN PEAKS followed the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town who were stunned after their homecoming queen Laura Palmer was shockingly murdered. The town’s sheriff welcomed the help of FBI agent Dale Cooper, who came to town to investigate the case. As Cooper conducted his search for Laura’s killer, the town’s secrets were gradually exposed. The mystery that ensued set off an eerie chain of events that plunged the inhabitants of Twin Peaks into a darker examination of their very existence. Twenty-five years later, the story continues…

Maisie Williams has a major role in an new superhero movie coming out on Netflix. It has a more modern origin story. Instead of being bit by a radioactive spider, the hero gets his powers from portions of a smartphone embedded in his brain:

Tom is an average teenager whose world is turned on its head when a violent encounter with local thugs leaves fragments of his shattered smartphone embedded in his brain. He wakes from a coma to discover that returning to normal teenage life is impossible because he has developed a strange set of superpowers. With these new powers he sets out to seek revenge on the gang, who also assaulted his best friend Lucy.

iBoy is a Netflix original film starring Bill Milner, Maisie Williams, Miranda Richardson and Rory Kinnear and is available on Netflix globally from January 27th, 2017.

The Hollywood Reporter has news on another Game of Thrones Star. Peter Linklage is engaged in talks to appear in Avengers: Infinity War.

The second season of Humans was excellent, and will become available (legally) in the United States on AMC on February 13. Deadline has some information. Syfy Wire spoke with the showrunners about topics including the comparisons to Westworld:

The showrunners were asked whether they minded that Westworld entered their same thematic storytelling space last year, but Brackley says the more, the merrier. “From our point of view, it’s only a good thing if people are interested in the issues we are all talking about. There’s plenty of room for both of us, and probably more about AI. Our shows are very different.”

Another excellent series from the UK will also become (legally) available in the US. Victoria debuts on PBS tonight. It is often compared to Golden Globe winner, The Crown, with similarities including actors from Doctor Who in key roles. While The Crown had Matt Smith in a supporting role, this one stars Jenna Coleman. Both The Crown and Victoria center around a new Queen and her relationship with the Prime Minister in their first season. Unlike The Crown, in which Elizabeth is married to Philip at the start, Victoria doesn’t meet Albert until later in the first season.  Entertainment Weekly has more on Victoria and spoke with Jenna Coleman:

Apparently there is some other show about British royalty called The Crown, which features your Doctor Who costar Matt Smith. Have you two compared notes?
[Laughs] I think both of us tried to work out our [characters’] relationship to each other. It’s funny, he’s filming the second season in London. I’ve seen all the first, which I think is fantastic.

We already know Victoria will have a second season. In an ideal world, how long will the show run?
It depends on appetite and the pacing. There’s so much story, it could run for 60-odd years!

There is another interview with Jenna Coleman at Collider.

The Night Manager was one of the highlights of 2016. This leaves me optimistic about the next John le Carré adaptation from AMC, The BBC, and The Ink FactoryThe Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

While several celebrities say that at first they were petrified about the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump, they are now singing, I Will Survive. Those singing Andrew Garfield, Chris Pine, Emma Stone, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Matthew McConaughey, and Chris Pine. Needless to say, conservatives don’t find this entertaining. The New York Times looked at how other celebrities such as Judd Apatow are responding in a different manner. I previously posted about reactions to Donald Trump at the Golden Globe Awards, including text and video of Meryl Streep’s speech, here.

SciFi Weekend: Holiday Shows (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Sense8); Holiday Gifts; Metropolis; Star Trek Discovery Casts Lead; Humans; The Man In The High Castle

We have now gone almost a year without any new episodes of Doctor Who. (At least there was Class, along with seeing Matt Smith on The Crown and Jenna Coleman on Victoria). Peter Capaldi and others have filmed the above message in advance of the Christmas special, and Capaldi has been available for interviews, including the one below:

Doctor Who does have some famous fans, including Prime Minister Theresa May, who has said she always watches the show on Christmas Day. Peter Capaldi responded to hearing this by saying, “I hope she takes this message of kindness and tolerance and compassion to heart.” When asked about whether he plans to leave the role, Capaldi responded by saying, “not for a long time, I hope.”

In another recent interview with Digital Spy, Steven Moffat has suggested someone else for the Doctor to meet, but does see a potential problem. “I’d like Doctor Who to meet the real James Bond, that’d be awesome. They wouldn’t get on at all. He’d shag his assistant!”

The fourth season of Sherlock begins on New Year’s Day. (They don’t worry about competing with the Rose Bowl in the U.K.) There have been hints that it might be the final season in light of how busy Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are, but Steven Moffat denies it will be the final season.

Among other things I’ve recently learned about Doctor Who, Matt Smith has a sister, who is one of the girls in the above video.

Gizmodo lists The Best Gifts for Doctor Who Fans. Of course I already have my own full-sized Tom Baker scarf and a sonic screwdriver.

If you prefer a different franchise, and have a big budget, Ars Technica reviews a $434 replica light sabre. Or, if you want to build your own Death Star, here is how to begin.

We have become accustomed to seeing special holiday episodes of shows from the U.K., but I believe it is a first for Netflix to do this. The trailer for the Sense8-Christmas Special is above (to be released December 23). I have seen conflicting reports as to whether they will wait until May (as the trailer states) versus releasing the second season this month. Presumably the trailer has the most up to date plans.

In other genre news this week, Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot) is planning to do a miniseries of the 1927 classic science fiction movie, Metropolis.

The lead has been cast for Star Trek: Discovery. Sonequa Martin-Green (Walking Dead), will play a lieutenant-commander. Unlike previous Star Trek series, the show will not center around the captain.

Humans ended its second season tonight. (I have the season finale downloaded but have only watched through the seventh of eight episodes). The series raises many of the same issues as Westworld. It lacks the budget, the hype, and the big stars, but it many ways it has done an even better job. AMC will be starting the second season in the United States on February 13.

Amazon started the second season of The Man In The High Castle. While I am still early in the series, it looks good so far. The show which includes Nazi occupation of the eastern United States now seems more relevant with just over a month to go until Donald Trump becomes president. Deadline also recommends another new streaming show released on December 12, OA on Netflix.

SciFi Weekend: Emmy Award Surprises & Snubs; Mr Robot Returns; Community Movie; Sherlock; Fargo; Outlander; Doctor Who

the_americans_ep313

The Emmy nominations came out this week, and I think they did a much better job than most years. The full list of nominees can be found here. Common problems in previous years included failing to recognize new shows, snubbing genre, and keeping old favorites in the nominations even when shows were beyond their prime. Last year they finally made up for snubbing Tatiana Maslany for Lead Actress in a Drama Series and she was nominated again this year. The biggest correction this year was finally recognizing The Americans–not only for Outstanding Drama Series, but also recognizing its stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell.

While it took four years for the academy to give The Americans the recognition it deserves, another good surprise was that Mr. Robot received nominations, including for the series and for star Rami Malek. As with Tatiana Maslany on Orphan Black, it is hard to picture Mr. Robot working without Rami Malek. On the other hand, they did snub Christian Slater, who won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his work on the series. Perhaps the Emmy Awards don’t recognize characters who are a figment of another character’s imagination.

It was also a pleasant surprise that Master of None received nominations including for the series and for star Aziz Ansari. Ansari might have benefited from his work on 30 Rock, while another 30 Rock alumni, Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) missed out her first year but was nominated this year.

Beyond the additions of The Americans and Mr. Robot, the Outstanding Drama Series category was fairly predictable, including Homeland and Downton Abbey remaining beyond their best years. Of course the Emmy’s have also been more likely to include a show or star when they are in their final year, so I was not surprised that Downton Abbey was included. If they must include a show which Damian Lewis was at one time connected with, I would have chosen Billions over Homeland this year.  The biggest snub this year of a show which deserved to be included was Jessica Jones. Similarly, Krysten Ritter and David Tennant deserved nominations for Best Actress and Supporting Actor. The series was nominated for some minor awards but it is hard for genre shows other than Game of Thrones to receive the major nominations.

The Outstanding Comedy Series category includes several worthy shows, along with continuing to nominate Modern Family out of inertia. I would have included Catastrophe and You’re The Worst before Modern Family.

Fargo deserves another nomination for Outstanding Limited Series, but this year I would give the award to The Night Manager, which also received nominations in additional categories. A miniseries was the best way to handle a John le Carré novel. While the same can also be said of other novels, whenever I have seen a movie based upon one of his novels which I have read I would feel disappointed by how much had to be left out.

Mr Robot Eliots Room

Mr. Robot returned with two episodes last week. One question when watching is how much is true and how much is Eliot imagining. I noticed that when the episode showed his routine, whenever he was by a television Barack Obama was on live, throughout the day. That aspect was obviously imagined, even if he really saw Obama at one point. How much of the rest of the day, or where he is living, was imagined?

TV Guide looked at one theory that everything was imagined, noticing how much his room looked like a cell in containing only a bed and a small table, his mother seemed like a guard, his meals with the same person could have been taking place in a prison cafeteria, his meeting across the table with Gideon looked like a prison visit, and the use of a wall phone as opposed to a cell phone looked like a prisoner talking on a prison phone. These, and other examples, could mean that Elliot was in prison, or perhaps a mental hospital. The knock on his door at the end of season one could have been when he was apprehended. However, there were also suggestions that the FBI is pursuing Elliot, which might argue against  him already being in prison, unless he is relating events out of order.

Community

Dan Harmon says a Community movie will still happen, although from this report it sure doesn’t sound like we will see it anytime soon (if ever).

With  Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman both becoming such big stars, Steven Moffat wonders if he will be able to continue Sherlock beyond the fourth season.

Channel 4 has renewed Catastrophe for seasons three and four. Amazon will stream them in the United States. Amazon didn’t stream previous seasons until after they were on Channel 4 so I bet I will wind up downloading them as opposed to waiting.

I would watch season three of Fargo even if it stared all unknown actors, but the addition of Carrie Coon (Leftovers) is a huge plus.

In follow up of my review last week of the season finale of Outlander, Vulture has some spoilers as to what to expect in the third season.

Digital Spy looks at the rumors of Matt Smith returning to Doctor Who and gives reasons why they do not believe they are true.

Next week we will have a miniseries of the absurd, The Republican Convention. The schedule of people you don’t really want to see speak is listed here.

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.

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.”

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Hugo and Emmy Awards; Tony Soprano’s Fate; Next Season on Arrow and Fargo; Finales of Falling Skies, True Blood, Defiance, and The Last Ship; Karen Gillan’s Hair; Rebooting Fox Genre Shows; Libby Masters vs. Betty Draper; American Gods; Jennifer Lawrence, and much more

Doctor-Who--Into-the-Dalek

Peter Capaldi’s second episode of Doctor Who was much better than the first. Into the Dalek was literally about going into a Dalek, Fantastic Voyage style. Once the reference was made, and we saw antibodies within the Dalek (for an unclear reason), I was surprised that Steven Moffat didn’t take the opportunity to recreate the attack of antibodies on Rachel Welch’s body with Jenna Coleman. Despite the Doctor’s strange criticism of Clara’s body at one  point in the episode, Clara did serve an important role as the Doctor’s moral compass, which was disrupted by the shock of seeing a good Dalek. The episode also served as the introduction of the next companion, and romantic interest for Clara, Danny Pink. There is no doubt that Clara and Danny will overcome the Doctor’s newfound objection to having a soldier join him, which certainly contradicts all the time he spent with UNIT.

While I knew the phrase was coming from advanced review, I was surprised by the context in which Resistance is Futile was used by the Dalek. There are certainly many comparisons to be made to the Borg, and I think Doctor Who did a better job than Star Trek The Next Generation with an episode about a good Dalek or Borg. Into the Dalek was a strong stand-alone episode, and now there is no doubt that Missy and “Heaven” will be a recurring storyline for the season. This time, instead of the person who the Doctor was fighting (and possibly pushed to his death), it was someone fighting with the Doctor who was seen in “Heaven.” My suspicion is that this will turn out to be something such as Missy saving people just before imminent death who are in the vicinity of the Doctor as opposed to actual “Heaven,” but even if I am right on this a lot of questions remain.

Doctor Who Extra (video above) gives behind the scenes information on the filming of Into The Dalek.

There have been two major sets of awards in the past couple of weeks, the Hugo Awards and the Emmy Awards. Doctor Who had five nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) but an episode of Game of Thrones won the award:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)
  • An Adventure in Space and Time, written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, written & directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Televison)

Gravity won for long form among these nominees:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Gravity, written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  • Frozen,screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)
  • Iron Man 3, screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)

The full list of nominees can be found here, with the winners listed here.

While the Emmy Awards generally goes with the safe bet, such as repeatedly giving the award for best comedy to Modern Family, there is at least some realization that genre is ignored. While Tatiana Maslany was snubbed for a second year for her work on Orphan Black, the snub was at least acknowledged in a skit. They finally discovered Sherlock, even if it meant awarding Emmys for the weakest of its three seasons. It was a pleasant surprise to see Steven Moffat up on stage, and he also provided some vague hints about season four in post-award interviews:

Sherlock was a big winner at the 66th Primetime Emmys, taking home three awards (to go with the four the show earned at last week’s Creative Arts ceremony), including trophies for stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

In celebrating his win for writing for a miniseries/movie or dramatic special, executive producer Steven Moffat dropped some hints backstage about the British drama’s anticipated fourth season, which begins production in January 2015 — the same time Doctor Who will also start filming.

Moffat was confident that the new season would be even more gasp-inducing than the previous year, which ended with an unexpected resurrection of a character presumed dead.

“We have a plan to top it — and actually I do think our plan is devastating,” he teased. “We practically reduced our cast to tears by telling them the plan. Honestly, Mark [Gatiss] and myself are so excited with what we’ve got coming up, probably more excited than we’ve ever been about Sherlock. … Honestly I think we can [top the last season].”

Moffat spoke of the surge of Emmy recognition the show has received in its third year.

“We’ve won outside of America, which is a place,” Moffat deadpanned. “We were just starting to think that that phase of our lives was dying down because as shows get older they don’t win as often — just like people. We’re delighted that we’ve made it here and hopefully this gets more people watching. That’d be great.”

He remained mum on when the new episodes would be premiering. “When they go out is up to the BBC,” he said. “And I am their loyal servant. I simply do what they ask me.”

Moffat reassured that the creative team behind the show will continue returning to Sherlock, no matter how busy they may be with other projects. “What’s happening with Sherlock is unusual,” he admitted. “We will keep coming back to it.”

sopranos2

I am thankful to Vox for finally settling in my mind how The Sopranos ended, even if they totally botched the story. When the finale first aired, after I realized that my cable hadn’t gone out, I interpreted it as an intentionally ambiguous ending. Sure, going to black could be what happens to Tony if shot, but I didn’t accept this interpretation as the scene was not from Tony’s perspective. The scene concentrated on many things Tony did not see, from the actions of others in in the coffee shop to Meadow attempting to park the car outside. If I wanted to think that they finished the meal and then Tony showed Meadow how to parallel park, this interpretation was as valid as any other. I saw the real meaning as that Tony would always face threats to his life. One of the people in the coffee shop might have shot him, or he could have been suddenly killed at some other time in the future. There was even a chance he could remain alive despite all the threats.

I was satisfied with this interpretation until I heard a report that David Chase had said that there was a definitive meaning to the finale. Perhaps, as happened again this week, the person reporting put too much meaning into what he said during an interview. However, if there was an answer to the question as to whether Tony Soprano lived in the ending, then I could only see this as meaning I was wrong. If limited to Tony living or dying, I thought it would be easier to making an argument that the ending meant that Tony had died.

Then Vox had an interview with David Chase last week in which it reported that Chase said that Tony had lived. I actually found this to be very unsatisfying as it lacked any further explanation. Soon afterwards, David Chase issued a statement that what he said in the interview was misconstrued:

A statement issued by Mr. Chase’s publicist, Leslee Dart, said that the Vox.com writer “misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview.”

“To simply quote David as saying, ‘Tony Soprano is not dead,’ is inaccurate,” the statement continued. “There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true.”

The statement added that Mr. Chase had said “numerous times on the record” that answering the question of whether “Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.”

“To continue to search for this answer is fruitless,” the statement said. “The final scene of ‘The Sopranos’ raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.”

This leaves me comfortable in returning to my original interpretation, more confident than in the past that I’m just not in denial over a scene intended to show Tony Soprano as getting killed.

The new promo for season three of Arrow above will make Oliver/Felicity fans happy. A digital comic will fill the gap between the second and third seasons.

Fargo season two will concentrate on strong women characters.

Falling Skies showrunner David Eick answered questions on the season four finale.

The series finale of True Blood really isn’t worth talking about. It is a shame that they couldn’t put together something more meaningful to end the series with.

The writers on Defiance did try harder. They used a formula which often works in combining elements of a season-long story in each individual stand-alone stories. Unfortunately it didn’t work very well. It just didn’t work for me to have an alien girl being used by a supercomputer intelligence to destroy New York City and the rest of the planet, and then end the crisis by having her kiss a boy who was a minor character during the season. When the show runners previously talked about expanding the show to New York and space I expected something more sensible, and more than a quick scene at the end of the season.

I was more impressed with The Last Ship. While not an A-list, must-see show, they did a good job of keeping the show entertaining. When I heard that they had renewed the show for a second season, my immediate impression was that this would mean they would not find a cure no matter how many episodes gave them a lead. I am glad I was wrong on that. If the first few episodes reminded me of Battlestar Galactica at sea, the return home to a country destroyed by plague now makes me see the show more like Revolution or Jericho (hopefully doing a better job than Revolution). So far there is nothing ground breaking. Who didn’t see the remnants of the Unites States government as being the enemy and realize they were walking into a trap? Still the show does provide solid entertainment.

Last week’s episode made my happy I stuck with The Leftovers. The episode was a flashback which explained key points, such as why a family which did not appear to have lost anyone was affected so much by the rapture-like event.

Karen Gillan filmed the shaving of her hair for Guardians of the Galaxy (video above)

Joe and Anthony Russo will be directing the sixth season premiere of Community. The Russo brothers are also working on Captain America and say the third movie will be more like Winter Soldier than the first installment (which is a good thing).

What Culture gives five reasons Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For was a huge flop.

The video above provides a synopsis of last season of Person of Interest.

I’m not sure why, but Fox plans to reboot The Greatest American Hero. Amazon plans to return Patrick Warburton as The Tick. Fox provides plenty of material for anyone who desires to bring back a genre show canceled on the network. How about Firefly? I also wouldn’t mind seeing what happened after the cliff hanger on the final episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Scribbler includes several genre actresses including Katie Cassidy of Arrow. Trailer above (NSFW–contains nudity)

…it’s a comic book adaptation that stars Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Eliza Dushku, Gina Gershon, Sasha Grey, Garret Dillahunt, Michael Imperioli and Billy Campbell, which is to say director John Suits has compiled an ensemble filled of “been there, done that” names, but they are recognizable names at least.

The film follows Suki (Cassidy), a young woman confronting her destructive mental illness using “The Siamese Burn,” an experimental machine designed to eliminate multiple personalities. The closer Suki comes to being “cured,” she’s haunted by a thought… what if the last unwanted identity turns out to be her?

Speaking of nudity by genre actresses, there has been more interest this week in the nude picture I posted of Jennifer Lawrence last year. That was a picture of her in her role as Mystique which was used as a publicity photo, and distribution of that is far different from hacking her phone or iCloud account, among with pictures of several other actresses, to obtain nude pictures which were privately stored with expectations that they remain private. As Jennifer Lawrence’s spokesperson said, “This is a flagrant violation of privacy.”

Bryan Fuller has ambitious plans for his adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Syfy has not renewed the Wil Wheaton Project. No big loss.

Assignment X has an interview with Caitlin FitzGerald, who plays Libby Masters on Masters of Sex. I’ve always been impressed with FitzGerald, who has done a lot of work in indy films. In her role as a late 50’s housewife she faces many of the same problems as Betty Draper on Mad Men. I wonder how much better Betty Draper’s role could have been if cast with someone with FitzGerald’s talent as opposed to January Jones. On the other hand, perhaps a less talented but more beautiful model is exactly who Don Draper would have married.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand provides a model for how the world should be for many libertarians. Wendy McElroy, who has strong libertarian credentials, found that the real world attempt at making Galt’s Gulch hasn’t worked out very well.

SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Continuum; Fargo; The Flash; Agent Carter; Constantine and Other New Shows Based On Comics; Neurotic Robots

"Orphan Black" Ep 208 Day 6 Photo: Jan Thijs 2013

Orphan Black introduced yet another clone on Variable And Full Of Perturbation, a transsexual clone named Tony. Besides providing for some interesting interaction with Felix, Tony introduction could be a way to get into the back stories of two other characters raised, Beth and Paul (who seems to be missing). We only saw Beth briefly in the first episode before she jumped in front of a train so it would be interesting to learn more about her.

The aftermath of the death of Dr. Leekie are important both back at Dyad and for the improved relationship between Alison and Donnie. Alison has not learned a lesson about being quiet about her role in the death of Aynsley, but Donnie now has a murder of his own to confess. Alison can theoretically be implicated due to the evidence in the car and the use of her gun, but fortunately for her Dyad will probably cover up Leekie’s murder with the claim of a heart attack. Dyad would also keep quiet about the relationship between Donnie and Leekie.

One long standing question has been answered and Rachel was not happy about the answer. Only the twins Sarah and Helena can get pregnant due to an error as all the clones were designed to be infertile. Although she is in a dominant position at Dyad, Rachel suffers as all the other clones do, making me wonder if in this show of changing alliances, if at some point Rachel will consider her shared interests with the other clones and alter her behavior towards them.

Cosima did a great job in playing the nerd girl, beating all the other nerds at Runewars when she came back to the lab at night and caught them playing. There is no way the ending scene means she will really die.

I wonder how much Kira will learn from reading The Island of Dr. Moreau , and all the scientific notes in the margins.

Orphan Black Cosima Runewars

Entertainment Weekly spoke with spoke with Orphan Black creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett about introducing Tony:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Obviously the big shock this episode is we meet a new clone, and it’s not just a clone, but a transclone named Tony. Tell me about when and how you developed this idea.

GRAEME MANSON: It really came about near the end of the first season. And I believe John and I and the writers had been mulling this idea of a transclone as, “Okay, that’s a really crazy and complex idea.” And then strangely, almost parallel at the same time, out in the hair and make-up trailer camp with Tat and Steven and Sandy and her team — who really work together on discovering character through looks — I think that they were coming up with the idea at the same time. So eventually when we brought it up with Tatiana it was like we had been thinking the same thing.

JOHN FAWCETT: We went out to dinner with Tatiana in March or April 2013 after season 1 had wrapped to just talk about some of Graeme and my ideas for season 2, and the transclone idea came up and Tat went, “Oh my God, you wouldn’t believe it but that’s what we’ve been thinking as well!” So she was very excited about the idea of doing it already, so it really was not a hard sell to say, “We want to try to tackle this.”

MANSON: And then through the early days of shooting season 2, John and I would be sitting at lunch or something, and then Sandy or Steven would come by and say, “Hey, we’ve got something to show you, can you come out back?” And we’d come out back and there would be Tat in the early guises of Tony —  like, the smoke hanging from her mouth, leaning up against the truck. And they did that to us about three times before finding the look, and each time we’d go and we’d hang out with Tony for a little while and try to get a feel for the character.

FAWCETT: And Tat was doing those make-up things with Steven and Sandy, doing it on weekends and her days off because it was very, very top secret. The crew didn’t know; we didn’t want anyone to see her dressed like that. Nobody on the crew knew. We tried to keep that absolutely under wraps, and it’s still one of our biggest secrets of the season. We want this to be a massive surprise for the audience. And it really was a character close to Tatiana that she poured her heart and soul into. It’s really something that she wanted to do.

EW: And how nervous were you guys because this is the type of thing that if it doesn’t work, it’s can be a total disaster. So there’s a risk involved.

FAWCETT: It was interesting shooting that episode, because day 1 of shooting Tony, everyone knew what we were doing now because everyone had seen the script, and I remember waiting on set for her to arrive and it was very, very quiet. I’ve never seen the crew that quiet. And when she showed up there was excitement, but very quiet excitement. It was dead silent on set that day. Because there’s a lot of respect from the crew towards Tatiana, towards what she has to do, and this just commanded that much more respect.

MANSON: I don’t think we ever looked at it as risk. We looked at it as, okay, if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it from exactly the right place creatively and story-telling wise and we’re going to commit 100%. And as long as we move forward with our hearts in the right place, hopefully the sexual politics rise above it. That’s sort of how we approached the storytelling, too. Throw the character in and treat the character exactly like you’d treat anyone else, and give them their dignity and respect.

EW: It’s funny because the scene that totally screwed with my mind was the Tony and Felix kissing scene. That threw me just for the fact that it would be creepy to make out with someone who looks like your sister, which you kind of referenced later with Tony calling Felix a “sister kisser.”

FAWCETT: That was one of those parts of the story that really solidified this concept for me. As we were trying to figure out how to use the character, that to me was the pinnacle of what made this so cool — to put Tony and Felix together in a very strange romantic way that left Felix very conflicted. And then the other aspect of these two kisses is that you have to go, “Wait a minute! That’s Tat and Jordan!” [Laughs] The reality of it is it’s not Tony and Felix, it’s Tat and Jordan. And when you go and think that, that’s even a bigger mindf—.

They also discussed Cosima:

EW: And then you have to go and screw with Cosima again at the end and have her coughing up blood and convulsing after she meets Ethan. She’s getting this treatment from Kira yet seems to be getting worse. What’s up with that?

FAWCETT: The treatment that she’s getting from Kira is a band-aid at best. As we’ll see, there may be more treatment options coming, but what she is getting at this point is not enough to counter the effects of what she’s been inflicted with.

MANSON: And the bottom line is, her situation is getting more dire and is advancing fairly rapidly. And this is the ticking bomb that we talked about way back when. But there is very much a ticking bomb, a ticking clock, on Cosima’s life. This is just a more aggressive, visceral display of what it might be to come if they don’t solve that problem.

EW: Okay, John, you huge board game nerd. How excited were you to work Runewars into this episode?

FAWCETT: Well I certainly helped kick that ball down the road. We loved the idea that Scott was going to come back and was going to join us at Dyad because it was character that we just loved and then it was like, “How can we have fun with Scott?” And we all cracked up at the idea that Cosima would come back into the lab late at night, she’s working late, and find Scott with all these super nerdy buddies playing some kind of geek ass board game. I’m a massive board game fan. I probably have a closet that has a good 80 or 90 really idiotically geeky board games and Runewars is one of my favorite games and was created by a company called Fantasy Flight games. And they’ve been so good to us that they allowed us to use this game. So we went all out and I had one of my geeky friends help as the consultant to make sure all the gameplay was accurate, all the dialogue between the characters in regard to the gameplay was accurate.

Continuum - Season 3

Continuum is now only airing five days ahead of Syfy on Showcase, making it easier to discuss the current episode without any risk of spoilers. Revolutions Per Minute showed a further deterioration in the relationship between Alec and Kiera now that Kiera knows that Alec drilled into her dead doppleganger’s head to remove her CMR. Ever since the beginning of the show back in the first season there were questions as to whether we were developing a circular paradox in which Alec would come up with his inventions due to Kiera bringing technology back from the future. This was most overt in this episode. I wonder if Kiera now wonders if she chose the wrong Alec, and if perhaps she will free the other one.

The path from here to the future has always been convoluted because of not knowing if having Kiera and Liber8 go back in time would lead to changing the future, or their actions were part of creating that future. The question is even more confusing this season with the introduction of alternate time lines. In some ways we are seeing actions leading towards creating the future we have seen. Alec was called before a secret group which just might be the first step in forming the Corporate Congress. Julian now looks more like someone headed to becoming a leader of Liber8, or is he becoming closer to Alec?.  Liber8’s actions in the past seem far more likely to be changing things than to be causing the future Kiera came from to come about.

Before this season it looked like Alec was on track to head SadTech. In this alternate time line, instead he leads Piron. Kellogg’s law suit seems to be aimed at returning Alec to SadTech, with Kellogg even pointing out that this is what Alec was destined to do. On the other hand, the guy from the future had memories of Kellogg as someone important without recognizing Alec Sadler’s name. Presumably he comes from a time line in which Kellogg had taken on Alec’s role, probably messing things up even more than Alec. Is this the future of the time line we are now viewing, did he come from a different time line, or maybe Kiera’s actions will determine which time line gets played out. It looks like he possibly had killed the other Kiera because her actions were responsible for creating a time line in which his family was killed but his story isn’t entirely clear.

The idea of multiple time lines also raises questions as to whether anything we see is really permanent. Will we wind up seeing a different time line next season in which Betty is still alive, along with other differences?

The episode also seems to have brought about an abrupt end to a plot point set up earlier in the season when Dillon arranged for his daughter to be briefly placed in prison so she could later infiltrate Liber8. She was recruited by them, but quickly extracted so that there would be no more Bettys.

With only three episodes remaining in this season we should soon have a better idea where this is all leading. It will also be easier to judge the season, which has been of mixed quality, when we can see the story as a whole.

Fargo The Heap

Fargo is also coming near the end of the season, and just as things were starting to drag they jumped ahead a year. Molly and Gus are married and Lester is looking more successful. Presumably things will change for him and Molly will finally get a chance to prove what happened. Lester was doomed from the start, but it seems more satisfying to see him get caught the more he is shown as not being such a good guy. With the success of this series it comes as no surprise that another season is being considered. Presumably it would be a completely different story in the same universe, in the same manner in which the television show is related to the movie. Martin Freeman has already indicated he only planned to be in the show for one year, and it would be best if Lester is not the main character next season. I could see the series working with some of the secondary characters still being involved.

Showtime has renewed Penny Dreadful for a second season.

Comics are providing material for multiple television shows. Arrow has been the best example, and a spin off, The Flash, has been picked up by CW (extended trailer above). ABC is adding Agent Carter as a limited episode series to run for ten episodes in the same time slot as Agents of SHIELD when it is on hiatus. As Agents of SHIELD will deal with the rebuilding of SHIELD and Agent Carter with its founding, the two stories will tie in to some degree. Marvel is also working on several projects to appear on Netflix including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. Fox has picked up Gotham, which will deal with the city prior to Batman, concentrating on Jim Gordon. Trailer below:

I’ve heard some of the most encouraging predictions about Constantine, which was picked up by NBC for next season: “A new adaptation of DC’s Hellblazer comics, Constantine stars Matt Ryan (Assassin’s Creed IV) as the title character, John Constantine, a demon hunter and master of the occult. Starring alongside Ryan is Lucy Griffiths (True Blood) as Liv, the daughter of an old friend of Constantine, who has her own abilities that prove crucial when it comes to thwarting evil.” The trailer is above. IGN interviewed the stars:

IGN: It looks like the show has a fun mixture of different elements.

Matt Ryan: Yeah, definitely. I think as with the source material, there’s so much to draw from in terms of the character and the balance of humor and wit and dark and gritty. It’s great, because John has this kind of real sarcastic, ironic British wit. It’s funny, but at the same time it’s serious and dark and gritty. It’s got it all, I think.

IGN: Can you talk about the dynamic between your characters? What does Liv make of John?

Lucy Griffiths: Like how all women like to feel about men, she loves him and she hates him. She thinks he’s an absolute idiot, and she just finds him annoying. At the same time, she can’t deny that he’s a genius, and she’s thrilled by what he has to offer her in terms of excitement. He’s irresistible to her from that point of view.

Ryan: But dangerous to her as well.

Griffiths: Yeah, and she helps him. She’s his psychic sidekick.

IGN: As you just referenced, your character has some abilities too…

Griffiths: Yeah, I actually have more magic than him. [Laughs]

Ryan: Not so much “magic.” Let’s be firm on this! But no, she actually has an ability, and John seeks her out because he’s got a message from beyond the grave, from an old friend of his, whose daughter is in trouble. That’s Lucy’s character Liv. Then John goes about saving her and at the same time discovers that she has this ability. So then he kind of uses that ability and slightly manipulates her, but they need each other, and they set about trying to rid the world of all the evil.

The trailer follows:

Discovery reports on the latest trend in robotics–building neurotic robots. This puts us closer to making Marvin the Paranoid Robot from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy a reality.

SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Orphan Black; Agents of SHIELD; Arrow; The Americans; Fargo; The Big Bang Theory

Hannibal - Season 2

Nako-Choko began as an extension of last week’s episode of Hannibal in which Will Graham was placed in a position where he was forced to kill. There were other events including first seeing Mason Verger and viewing parallel sex scenes. One involved Will and Margot Verger and the other was between Hannibal and Alana Bloom, morphed into a threesome.

Freddie Lounds was convinced that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper and Chilton was framed, but Freddie saw too much. For a moment I thought she was better off to have been discovered by Will instead of Hannibal in a scene which reminded me of Grace’s final scene before she was killed. Instead it appears that Will has morphed into Hannibal, including bringing a part of her to be prepared by Hannibal for dinner.

There was a strong suggestion that this occurred but we did not actually see Will kill Freddie, raising some suspicion that she is actually alive and Will is engaged in a plan to trap Hannibal. Interviews with Bryan Fuller suggest that Will did kill Freddie, but it is possible the is engaging in misdirection to avoid spoiling future events on the show. First from TV Guide:

But he seems to be enjoying the killing. Is he still playing the long con?
Fuller:
 In order to really seduce Hannibal and also blur the lines between who Will is and what he needs to become in order to catch Hannibal, he’s sacrificing his humanity in some ways to get the truth. Up until the end of Episode 10, Hannibal has said nothing that is actionable and has not been demonstrative in any way with his own murders. He’s not going to put himself out there until Will makes it a safe bet. We needed Will to take a life. And of all the characters Will might want to kill, Freddie was the first one to get what was coming to her in Will’s mind.

Are Will and Hannibal definitely eating Freddie? I was hoping otherwise until Will referred to the meet as longpig, which is a phrase I wasn’t familiar with.
Fuller:
 [Laughs] I guess you’re not hanging around the right cannibals.

So, in your mind that makes it clear what Will has done to Freddie?
Fuller:
 It’s pretty clear. Will has gone to the dark side and we should be fearing for him. It is very much a slippery slope for Will Graham because he is taking lives and that changes the way you think and interact with the world. We set up the theme of rebirth in Episode 8, and in 10 and 11 we’re very much exploring the child that has been born out of this unholy union between Hannibal and Will. How are they going to foster and feed it?

They discussed the sex scene:

Let’s talk about that “foursome.” That has to be the weirdest sex scene I’ve seen on TV in some time.
Fuller:  
I wanted to have a Dead Ringers moment where you have two Jeremy Irons flanking Geneviève Bujold. And I wanted to have this triangle between two heterosexual men who are getting so intimate with each other, but because they’re heterosexual, they have to make love via proxy. I wanted Alana to be kissing Hannibal and the camera would follow her as she turned her head and she’d be kissing Will all in a single shot. The lines between the two sex scenes would blur. Our director, Vincenzo Natali, came to me a day before and said, ‘Can I put the Stag-Man in there or is that too weird?’ I said, ‘[Deadpans] Not too weird. Do it.’ [Laughs]

What did you want it to mean for the characters?
Fuller:
 I felt like it was an interesting opportunity for us to reestablish that Will was still pining for Alana [Caroline Dhavernas]. Even though he was having sex with Margot [Katherine Isabelle], he was still fantasizing that he was having sex with Alana. Intercutting that with Alana having sex with Hannibal, and the lines between those two sex scenes blurring so Hannibal and Will would be sharing a bed together, felt like it was representative of where we were psychologically with these three characters. Even though it’s primarily in Will’s head, it felt like it was where the characters needed to be to express the disturbing quality of their relationships.

What is behind Margo’s attraction to Will?
Fuller:
 She sees herself in Will and Will seems himself in her. We have two characters who are in similar situations finding themselves in need of a friend that is not Hannibal because neither of them trust that guy. With Margo and Will, there’s a trust. These are two characters who are keeping each other’s confidence from Hannibal.

Hannibal - Season 2

The other key aspect of the episode was the introduction of Mason Verger:

We finally met Michael Pitt’s Mason Verger in this episode. How did you approach creating that character?
Fuller:
 We wanted him to be the Joker to Hannibal Lecter’s Batman. With Michael Pitt, I found his take on Mason to be charming and despicable, and yet I liked him as a person. And I needed to like Mason in order to write him because I didn’t want to necessarily write the character in the book who raped his sister repeatedly her entire life. I can’t get excited about sitting down and writing that character if that’s the core of him. So, we changed his pedophilia and serial raping into a general sadism and curiosity of mankind that could more closely parallel Hannibal’s curiosity with mankind. Mason is constantly introducing choices for the people that he manipulates that hold a little more curiosity. He loves to push buttons and see how people will react to various stimuli in their lives.

The antagonism between Mason and Hannibal was almost instantaneous. Will you tell the story of their relationship fully this season, or do you expect to see Mason back in Season 3?
Fuller:
 The story line with Margot and Mason and Will and Hannibal crescendos in Episode 11, and it leaves way for Mason and Will and Hannibal to deal with each other more directly. These characters are outside of the psychobabble world that we’re usually contained in and give us this — I was going to say breath of fresh air, but it’s not exactly fresh;  it’s rotten — different energy for the second half of the season. We will deliver how Gary Oldman ended up looking the way he did in the Ridley Scott movie playing Mason Verger, but I would love, love, love to have more of Michael Pitt and Mason Verger in Season 3.

There were questions on Twitter regarding Will and Margot sleeping together considering that Margot is a lesbian. Bryan Fuller had no problem with this from Will’s perspective: “I asked straight men on the crew if they would sleep with a hot lesbian if she came knocking on their door and they said yes.”

Hannibal the-threesome-found-it

More on the sex scene in an interview with AV Club:

AVC: Where did the idea to throw Margot and Will together come from?

BF: Well, actually, the idea of throwing Margot and Will together came very early on. When we started talking about Margot’s character in the writers’ room, there was a faction of the writers’ room that was like, “She should be heterosexual, and we should write this stormy love affair with Will and Margot,” and I was like, “That is so diametrically opposed to who she is in the book.” You know, there’s a bit of an affair with Barney and a dalliance, so I got it in some way. But the pitch that kept on getting thrown around the writers’ room is that she was heterosexual, and this was an opportunity to get a lot of sex in the show between Will and Margot and I just thought, “I hear you on the sex part.” [Laughs.] “But let’s make it more in line with who the character is and what the character’s agenda is.”

One of her agendas in the novel Hannibal was to have a child. She couldn’t have a child, because her uterus was destroyed by steroids, and she was barren as a result, and that was all kind of a byproduct of her brother’s abuse of her, that she destroyed her femininity as a result of that. There was this miasma of elements between Margot wanting to have a child and the inability to have a child at that stage of the story that we were kind of combining in various ways. It also seemed like it was a good place to remind the audience of this rebirth and how Will Graham has been descending into this very dark place that has to do so much with death.

AVC: The sex scene takes up the bulk of an act of the show and seems to showcase how the boundaries are blurring between all of these people. What was the impetus behind that being a centerpiece of the episode?

BF: The first sex scene that we had in episode eight, the simple one between just two people, Hannibal and Alana, was something that I’d been wanting to do since episode six. We actually had a couple of directors who were terrified of it, because what I was describing was taking a sex scene that was as innovative as, say, the sex scene in Fight Club and finding a way to produce it on a television budget. Because the Fight Club sex scene, between Helena Bonham Carter and Brad Pitt, was wackadoodle and a combination of CG naked bodies and all sorts of fantastic, elaborate controlled camera movements that I think took two or three weeks to shoot because of how detailed it was.

So every time I talked about the sex scene and how I wanted it to have that out-of-body, ethereal feel to it, one director flat-out [said], “I don’t know how to shoot that,” and another director was like, “That’s going to take forever to shoot the way you want it,” and then Vincenzo came along and was like, “I know how to shoot that.” And he did a beautiful job. Then, of course, coming around to episode 10, Vincenzo Natali was back up to bat and was so excited about doing an expansion of his Hannibal sex-scene vocabulary by just throwing more people into it.

I knew that I wanted the barriers between all of these characters to come down in a way that they are very intimately involved in the conspiracies that are afoot and that the sex scene is very much a psychological one. That was important to me: to have a deeply psychological sex scene that blurred the barriers between whose bedroom we were currently in. Also, it felt like Will Graham, in order to really engage Margot in sex, had to have some sort of ulterior motive, and him fantasizing that he was having sex with Alana felt like it was honest. I think it’s not uncommon to be in a sexual circumstance and be fantasizing about somebody who’s not in the room with you at that point, so it felt like it was an interesting use of Will’s imagination in a completely different way. And we get to have a five-way.

Orphan Black Sarah and Cal

Mingling Its Own Nature With It introduced both another clone and a new character to the Clone Club on Orphan Black. Cosima saw a video of a clone dying of the same illness she has and later assisted in the autopsy. Sarah hid out in a cabin owned by someone who is apparently Kira’s father. The Hollywood Reporter has an interview with Michael Huisman, who played Cal, getting to some of the questions raised about this new character:

What did the producers tell you early on about who they wanted this guy to be?

He opens up a little about his past to Felix. Cal is a smart guy, who has a tech background and is a successful entrepreneur. He founded a company that started as a great cause creating mini drones and pollinators, but his partners sold out from underneath him to the military. That made him bitter. That made him more anti-corporation, maybe even more anti-government involvement than he already was. I always imagined that he was there [at the cabin] to get inspired for a new plan and a new adventure. I do think he made a lot of money but he wants to press the reset button. If it were up to him, he would start something else, but this crazy girl he met eight years ago, who he was in love with and left without any announcement, shows up again and completely messes up his life.

There were scenes where Sarah, Kira and Cal acted like a normal, happy family. Do you think they could ever achieve that?

Yes, I think so — if it was on another show with the three of them. (Laughs.) I think they could be a really happy family. But to be serious, although Cal is completely shocked when he finds Sarah there and when he finds out he [fathered] a daughter she never bothered telling him about, it’s this love-hate thing. He really cared so much for Sarah that even though she did this terrible [thing] to him, he finds it hard to kick her out right away especially since he’s finding out he has a daughter with her. Maybe for a split second after the initial shock has come down, maybe he thinks, “Wow, maybe this is something that would be an option for us to be some sort of family.” But of course, it turns out there’s a lot more going on. They’re not going to be a happy family any time soon.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Cal. Intentional?

It’s one of the main themes within Orphan Black. Who are these monitors, these people who have seemingly normal relationships with the clones but turn out to be working for Project LEDA or whatever? Without giving away too much, I can imagine the audience not accepting right away of Cal not being involved.

What is the road going to be like for Cal as he attempts to be a father to Kira?

First of all, he never really seems to doubt the fact that she is his daughter because the timing makes sense. But it doesn’t [confirm] 100 percent that she is his daughter. There’s something in her that he really connects with. Her instinct is stronger than his but he also has that [trait]. I wouldn’t call it a sixth sense or anything like that but that quality of reading people and being able to go by your gut, Kira has that so he easily feels connected to her. He’s convinced this is his child. At the same time though, he has no idea how to do this. I remember when my wife [Tara Elders] and I had our child [in 2007] I had no idea how to do anything, how to be a father, but at least I had time to grow into it and slowly ease into the role. I could totally imagine what a complete shock it is to all of a sudden be responsible for an eight-year-old girl who’s supposedly your daughter.

In other developments, Allison learned that pills and alcohol don’t mix, especially when in front of an audience. The police are going undercover, both Art and his partner. Allison saw through Angie, but thought she was a new monitor rather than police. Art is snooping around the Promethians, who held a very strange wedding and an even more disturbing wedding night for Helena.

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There might be a lot of plot holes in Agents of SHIELD, but the show has become much more fun to watch, including the inclusion of Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill this week. Everyone now knows that Ward is HYDRA, with next week going more into his back story. They managed to come up with a surprise revelation on TAHITI to keep this season long story line interesting.

Arrow is heading into what looks like a second season finale which places Starling City in peril. Felicity was great as the interrogator and Bitch with WiFi.

Amy Acker’s role has evolved considerably on Person of Interest, with her character Root almost becoming the new leader with Harold captured.

Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman continue to put on excellent performances as the leads on Fargo, with the supporting cast also doing a great job. Lester Nygaard is increasingly getting caught up in his lies. He would have been better off telling the truth while withholding some of the significant details as opposed to telling outright lies such as that his car was in the shop and denying that conversation in the hospital waiting room. How long can he hide that bullet?

Also on FX, The Americans continues to do an excellent job of mixing weekly stories with the season-long storyline on the murder of the agents (with Stan and the FBI now involved) along with multiple other story lines.  Bringing back Annelise from a season one episode added additional continuity. Besides the risk of the FBI closing in with their investigation, there is now Larrick to contend with, with Elizabeth and Philip also having to devote more time to dealing with Paige and her church.

Once again, Fox is not a safe place for science fiction. Almost Human has been canceled.

Big Bang Theory Professor Proton Star Wars Day

The Big Bang Theory combined the funeral of Professor Proton (Bob Newhart) with the celebration of Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you.

FHM has named Jennifer Lawrence as the sexist woman in the world for 2014. Perhaps going around nude (but painted) in the X-Men movies as Mystique helps while falling at the Oscars doesn’t hurt.

Tricia Helfer will star in Ascension, a six hour series for Syfy.

Matt Smith will join Amelia Clarke in the upcoming Terminator movie.

Joel McHale of Community spoke at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year. More, including video and the top jokes from both McHale and President Obama, posted here.

SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Hannibal; Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; The Americans; Fargo; Continnum; Game of Thrones; The Newsroom; Hugo Nominees

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Orphan Black returned for a second season following several days of receiving a considerable amount of publicity for being such a high quality show, even if few knew about it when it aired last season. Nature Under Constraint and Vexed picked up right where the show left off last season, but BBC America did run a show last week which might help new viewers catch up, and has been rerunning the entire first season. It is definitely worth watching the full season before starting the second season.

The initial moments, while not as dramatic as the first moments of the first season, when Sarah saw someone who looks just like herself jump in front of a train, did have a similar feel. Sarah was on the run, and initially could not contact anyone else. Subsequently Sarah did reunite with Felix and then with some of her clones. Tatiana Massany has been widely praised for her work as multiple female lead characters in roles far more challenging than those faced by Patty Duke.This includes the following characters mentioned here: Sarah, Beth, Allison, Cosima, Helena, and Rachel.

Last season Sarah did frequently pretend to be Beth, taking her place after her suicide, and briefly impersonated Allison last season. Beyond this they did not take advantage of the fact that Sarah and her clones are even more alike than identical cousins. I liked that Sarah did use this to her advantage twice this week, both with using Alison as a decoy and impersonating the lesbian scientist Cosima, even fooling Delphine when she kissed her. They were also less concerned about hiding their existence, but it hardly matters that Ramone saw someone identical to Allison.

Orphan Black Sarah as Cosima

The episode made excellent use out of the supporting characters. Felix’s performance, and clothing, were most notable, but other characters were also important. I’m glad that Art is now in on what is going on and expect to see him help Sarah more in the future. Paul is at least partially under the control of Dyad, but does seem to want to help Sarah. Delphine seemed to have sided with Cosima, then betrayed her by doing the one thing Cosima told her not to do-give a sample of her blood to Dr. Aldous Leekie. Even Leekie’s motivations are not entirely clear, and in the end I can see him acting to protect the clones.

Besides the clones on one side and Leekie and the Dyad Institute on the other, it looks like other people, another branch of  the anti-clone religious extremists of Proleatheans, will have a major role in the second season. It appears that they have Kira and possibly Mrs. S, and the biggest surprise of the episode was that the presumed-dead Helena is still alive. A lesser surprise, but still unexpected, was how little interest Rachel seemed to have in Kira, except as bait to capture Sarah.

The location of the show remains purposely ambiguous. The show films in Toronto but unlike Continuum doesn’t actually state its Canadian location. They have not tried especially hard to hide this, with Canadian money and license plates visible in some scenes. The federal agency brought in to investigate was intentionally not named, while mention of a Supreme Court decision on genetic material suggests an American background. The show is written to seem like any city, including one surrounded by suburbia with big box stores (where an employee had guns and other items to sell out of his trunk) and a community theater, which fortunately is not putting on a new production of Cats.

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On the surface Su-zakana was like a first season episode of Hannibal, with Jack, Will, and Hannibal working together to solve the  murder of the week. The three even started out the episode having dinner together, except with the Chesapeake Ripper supposedly out of commission, Hannibal served fish instead of red meat. I could even imagine yet another fish in the episode–Richard Fish of Ally McBeal saying “bygones.” When speaking around others, Hannibal explained overlooking Will’s attempts at killing him as being because of Will believing that Hannibal was a killer. This included telling Alana that Will was acting to protect her.

Under the surface, both Will and Hannibal knew that Hannibal really is the killer, and they were more honest when alone. Hannibal might have revealed his own code in saying, “Doing bad things to bad people makes you feel good.” If this is his motivation for killing, he is far less consistent in sticking to his code than Dexter Morgan was to sticking with his.

The murder of the week story was also a bizzaro recreation of the Will/Hannibal dynamic. Peter Bernardorne was a crazier version of Will who was  manipulated by Chris Diamantopoulos, playing a weaker version of Hannibal. We also saw that Will remains damaged, even if not as much as Peter, by Hannibal’s manipulations. Will even considered killing Chris as a substitute for Hannibal, until Hannibal warned him that it wouldn’t feel the same.

The episode also introduced Margot and Mason Verger, who should become more significant in future episodes.

The Man Under the Hood

On Arrow, Laurel has learned more about The Man Under The Hood but took the news far better than expected, deciding against letting Oliver know she knows his secret. That should be the subject for a future episode. The writers have often had difficulty in deciding what to do with her character, and in this episode she appeared far stronger than before. The producers had also been undecided as to whether to ultimately make Isabelle an ally or villain, deciding in last week’s episode that she would be a villain working with Slade. She appeared to be dead, but we learned that Mirakuru is as effective as alien blood on Agents of SHIELD at bringing people back from the dead. While we are not certain as to all the effects of the alien blood, we do know on Arrow that Mirakuru both gives superpowers and makes people go crazy. I wonder if Slade will regret creating an army of crazy super-villains who might be more difficult to control than herding cats.

We did learn that there is a cure to Mirakuru, which might turn out to be the way that the new army is ultimately defeated, and perhaps be used to keep Roy from going insane. The back story makes more sense in giving Slade additional motivation beyond the death of Shado to want to destroy Oliver. Back on the island, Oliver had chosen to kill rather than cure Slade. The episode also introduced characters from the upcoming Flash spin-off.

Collider spoke with producer/writer Andrew Kreisberg about Oliver’s relationship with Laurel and the ramifications of the Queens’ financial problems now that Isabelle has taken control of Queen Industries:

Where are Oliver and Laurel at now, romantically?

KREISBERG:  It’s Oliver and Laurel.  It’s Lois and Clark.  They can break up, get together, sleep together, break up, get married, get divorced, and she can forget him.  The best part about the success of the show is that it’s always our desire to speed through story.  The fans appreciate that.  We just blow through things.  We’re not like, “Well, we’ll do that in Season 4.”  No, we’ll just do that now.  On the other hand, success has enabled us to slow play some things.  We’ve really adopted this mantra of, “We’ll give people what they need, even if that’s not what they want.”  Having Oliver and Laurel get together in Season 1 is what people needed then.  But then, they needed them to go on a break, so Oliver could have his storyline with Sara for this season.  That’s what felt right to us.  Oliver has women in his life.  He has Laurel.  He has Felicity.  Helena is doing a 10 to 20 stretch.  But Laurel will always be one of the closest people to him, whether that’s romantic or not.  That’s why it’s so powerful to us that, in his darkest hour, Laurel is the one who pulls him out of it.  There has been a subset of fans who have questioned our sanity and our talent, for making some of the decisions we’ve made, over the course of last year and this year, but somebody is always going to be upset.  A lot of the things we have done have been leading up to what we’re doing in the finale, and then moving that forward to Season 3.

How long-running are the ramifications of the Queens’ financial problems?

KREISBERG:  We’re gonna make it a thing.  That plays out in the last five episodes.  We’re gonna start Season 3 with Oliver in very different circumstances than he’s been before.  Obviously, him being in different circumstances changes the circumstances of his paid bodyguard and paid assistant, since he can no longer pay them.  For Season 3, you’ll see that some of our familiar standing sets from Season 1 and 2, that you’ve come to know and love as being Arrow, are gonna be retired for reasons that will become apparent, as you see these last episodes.  We have already seen designs for some of the new sets for Season 3, which are amazing.  We want the show to feel like it’s constantly evolving, changing and growing.  If this year is the sequel, then next year is Arrow 3.  As different as 2 is from 1, in 3, they got Ewoks.

BRETT DALTON, BILL PAXTON

Providence continues the story of Agents of SHIELD after the infiltration by Hydra destroyed the organization, at least as we knew it. The have a secret base, Coulson learned that Director Fury is alive, and they are determined to remain Agents of SHIELD rather than Agents of Nothing. Last week there was a lot of speculation as to whether Ward had been brainwashed like the Winter Soldier or was faking allegiance to Garrett.  Anything is possible in this series, but the exchanges between Ward and Garrett suggest that Ward was recruited as a teenager and really has been working with Garrett from the start, with many of his actions designed to obtain trust from Coulson and his team. It appears that the only way that this could not be real would be if false memories were implanted into Ward, or if Ward spying on Garrett was intentionally withheld from Coulson. Such explanations would seem extremely contrived, and I hope that they just keep Ward the villain. Besides he is more interesting that way, although his feelings for Skye might complicate matters, especially as Ward’s allegiance so far seems more personal with Garrett as opposed to Hydra as an organization.

Besides the direct continuity in the recent episodes to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there is further continuity with the Marvel universe with the Hulk’s old enemy, Colonel Talbot. Next episode Amy Acker visits as Coulson’s cellist girlfriend.

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The Americans maintained its usual quality with New Car. Once again Elizabeth and Philip had to deal with questions as to who to kill, or allow to be killed, and hand child rearing problems. Unfortunately for Lucia, it turns out that Larrick was far more important to the Russian plans than she was.  Plus Elizabeth really hates Ronald Reagan. The big surprise of the episode was to see Vasili alive along with Anton in the Soviet Union.

Fargo was off to an excellent start. It does remind me a little of Breaking Bad with over the top events portrayed as plausible in an area where I would not want to live. You would have to combine both Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard and Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo to have a Walter White. While the premiere episode had a few murders, it looks like the series will be more about the consequences of the actions than a traditional detective series to uncover the identity of the murders.

I continue to avoid writing too much about Continnum as I’m a few weeks ahead of the American schedule by downloading from Showcase and I want to avoid any spoilers. The third episode, Minute To Win It, aired in the United States this week. The sequence taking place in the future revealed Kiera as being less blood thirsty than her superiors, but perfectly willing to ignore what they do. This week it was the future police shooting someone unnecessarily. Next week look forward to seeing Kiera’s take on a shooting which really has occurred in our history.

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Major Spoiler if you have not seen last week’s Game of Thrones: I make a point of not posting predictions about Game of Thrones as many people know far more than I do about the series if they have read the books. I would have never predicted that Joffrey would be killed off until late in the series. This should create a lot of interesting situations, ranging from speculation as to the murderer, effects on various characters, and a new fight for power. Natalie Dormer discussed the impact on Margaery in this interview. George R.R. Martin discussed the death here.

There is a little more news on the script being worked on for a Farscape movie which will follow the son of John and Aeryn.

Laura Pepon is only returning for four episodes of the second season of Orange Is The New Black but will return full time assuming there is a third season.

Aaron Sorkin only plans to write six episodes for the probable third and probable final season of The Newsroom. As he writes every episode of the series, I imagine it is better that he limit this to what he can handle if this leads to better scripts. HBO has not let the cast out of their contracts in case Sorkin decides to do more according to an interview with Olivia Munn.

The Hugo Award Nominees for 2014 are out. Doctor Who dominates the nominations for Dramatic Presentation (short form) with two episodes of the show, Adventures in Space and Time, a documentary about the origin of the television show, and The Five(ish) Doctors about the former Doctors who did not make it into the 50th Anniversary episode. An episode of Game of Thrones and Orphan Black complete the nominations in that category.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)

  • Frozen Screenplay by Jennifer Lee; Directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Gravity Written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón; Directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt; Directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
  • Iron Man 3 Screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black; Directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  • Pacific Rim Screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro; Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM)

  • An Adventure in Space and Time Written by Mark Gatiss; Directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Written & Directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss; Directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” Written by Will Pascoe; Directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)