Republicans In Political Chaos, Clinton “Covering Up Some Shaddy Shit”, And Sanders’ Unconventional Debate Preparation

McCarthy Drop Out

Both political parties are facing a fight against the party establishment in their presidential campaigns, with the Republican battle extending to Congress. Unfortunately the insurgents on the Republican side are the extremists who, while right in finding fault in the establishment, seek to paralyze the political system rather than improve it. Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the race for Speaker, and at this point it is difficult to predict how the Republicans will get out of this mess. It is even possible that Boehner will be around a lot longer than he intended.

It is likley that anybody in the Republican leadership would fail to receive enough Tea Party support to become Speaker, but McCarthy sure did not do himself any favors with his comment on the Benghazi hearings in late September. His statement will probably be quoted quite frequently by Hillary Clinton, who has a strong case in criticizing that witch hunt.

Unfortunately for Clinton, she is also guilty herself of quite a bit of unethical and foolish behavior, along with violation of multiple government regulations. There is another quote mentioned in The Hill which Clinton will hope does not get repeated very often (emphasis mine):

Perhaps Clinton has learned the value of distraction from Donald Trump; fresh off her comedy skit on “Saturday Night Live” she mailed copies of her book “Hard Choices” to the entire GOP presidential field with a cheeky note about them starting a book club together. She also spoofed McCarthy’s blunder in an online video and her surrogates continue to rage about it on Twitter.

But a Senate investigation has now revealed a second company that backed up Clinton’s emails, and it has turned over its data to the FBI investigation into whether she mishandled classified information. Documents also show the first company is now concerned it may have deleted emails following the initial request the State Department made for her work records. One employee of Platte River Networks, which turned the server over to the FBI in August, wrote to another of concern that “this whole thing is really covering up some shaddy [sic] shit,” according to documents.

Next week’s debate has the potential to further shake up the Democratic race. The trend so far has been that the more people see of Bernie Sanders, the more they like him, and the opposite for Hillary Clinton. Politico reports on Sanders’ unorthodox debate preparation:

Hillary Clinton has had aides lined up to run her debate prep for months. A Washington super lawyer is mimicking Bernie Sanders, and her top policy staffer is acting as Martin O’Malley.

Sanders started studying for next Tuesday’s event not even a full week ago. And that’s because his two top aides sat him down in Burlington on Friday and asked whether he had a plan.

Sanders has briefing books, a couple of meetings with policy experts and an abiding aversion to the idea of acting out a debate before it happens. He knows the stakes are high, his staff says. But the candidate, whose New Hampshire polling and fundraising prowess have put a scare into Clinton, is uninterested in going through the motions of typical debate practice.

The Vermont senator’s debate preparations, in other words, don’t look a ton like debate preparations.

While CNN is billing the event as a showdown, Sanders’ team sees the first Democratic debate as a chance to introduce a fairly niche candidate to a national audience. So his team intends to let him do what he’s been doing. Far from preparing lines to deploy against Clinton — let alone O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee or Jim Webb — Sanders plans to dish policy details, learned through a handful of briefings with experts brought in by his campaign.

He won’t attack Clinton personally but will instead identify where their positions differ — on foreign policy, for example — and try to leave an impression with viewers of the substantive differences between the party’s two front-runners.

“You’re looking at a candidate who has run in many, many elections who has never run a negative political ad in my life — and hopes never to have to run one. You’re looking at a candidate who does not go about attacking personally, I just don’t do that,” Sanders said Wednesday.

He’s working to be prepared to stand his ground if Clinton — or O’Malley — comes after him. His team contends, though, that those defenses won’t come through as pre-written one-liners.

“The one thing Bernie’s not going to do is be a politician that delivers canned soundbites. That would be a disaster,” said Tad Devine, the campaign’s chief strategist, who met with Sanders and campaign manager Jeff Weaver last week to kick off the debate planning. “And one of the reasons to not do formal debate prep sessions is it gets rehearsed.”

This is quite a contrast from how Joe Biden has decided that, even should he announce that he is running, he does not plan to participate in the debate because of not having time to prepare his “canned soundbites.”

Unlike Clinton, Sanders has been saying the same things throughout his career, and perhaps this has served as sufficient debate preparation. I just hope that he is not making a mistake. I think back to occasions such as Obama’s first debate in 2008 where I suspect he felt over-confident as he knew the material, which is not the same as being prepared for a televised debate. Plus sound bites cannot be ignored, as these are what appear in subsequent newscasts where impressions of the debate by the public are often different from those who watch the entire debate. Regardless of how Sanders prepares, what I hope does come out of the debate is how he has been right, and Clinton wrong, on so many of the key issues over the past decades.

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SciFi Weekend: Continuum; Doctor Who; Agents of SHIELD; X-Files; Orphan Black; Jennifer Lawrence on Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton on SNL

Continuum s04e04

Zero Hour, the fourth episode of the final season of Continuum, was by far the most significant episode so far this season. After my teasers last week, I will go ahead with a more detailed discussion now that it has aired in the United States. The episode answered some questions going back to the first season, while suggesting where the final episodes are headed. I suspect that a lot was crammed into this episode due to the cancellation of the series and need to compress everything planned into only six episodes. Considering these limitation, they did an excellent job of providing a tremendous amount of information while keeping the story flowing well.

The Traveler was introduced last season and I suspect that little more has been done with the character due to the limited time left. The episode revealed both the role of The Traveler and how Curtis was bought back. The Traveler had apparently meddled in time, causing his future timeline to be eliminated. In some ways The Traveler is much like Kiera, trying to find a way back their own timeline.

The question of whether Kiera can go back to her timeline has not only been raised by fans over the course of the season, but even characters on the show have suggested to her that she cannot go home because her future no longer exists. Knowing about The Traveler provides contradictory arguments. On the on hand, if even the Traveler is having trouble making things right, wouldn’t this suggest that there is nothing which can be done for Kiera unless the timeline is fixed?

This matter changed entirely when The Traveler created a paradox during this episode in which both young and old Alec met together.  The original timeline with old Alec must still exist in some form in order for this meeting to occur. While the Freelancers worked to stop time travelers like Liber8 and Kiera, by arranging this meeting it appears that The Traveler was now working to ensure that they were sent back in time by old Alec. Even if he previously objected to meddling in time by others, does this now mean that the presence of the time travelers is necessary for The Traveler to fix the timeline? The contradiction might be another effect of having to speed up the ending of the show. If there was more time, it might have been possible to provide an explanation for The Traveler appearing to change his agenda.

At this meeting we learned that old Alec was considering sending the prisoners from Liber8 back in time but had not yet decided, or put any plan into effect yet. It was young Alec who actually encouraged his older self to proceed. This also excludes the possibility of a single timeline in which this always happened, and old Alec was sending people back in time with memories of having encountered Kiera and Liber8 when young (although this theory had already been contradicted by other events on the show).

Another question raised previously came up when old Alec recognized Kiera’s name in an early flash forward scene taking place before they were sent back in time. We now know that old Alec recognized her name not because sending her was part of his original plan, but because young Alec mentioned Kiera.

Continuum Zero Hour

When Alec lost Emily in season two, he wound up going back in time to try to save her, causing the destruction of an entire timeline. This time when Emily left him, his actions were not as destructive. After Alec demanded it, Jason took Alec to see his mother (and Alec’s future wife) Annie, but said she had died in Jason’s past. Alec received a different explanation from his future self, who said Annie committed suicide to get away from the monster he became. Young Alec could prevent this by staying away from Annie. I wonder if instead Alec will decide he can still meet Annie, and could change her fate by not becoming that monster. This might also be a storyline which would have a better chance of playing out if there were more episodes left.

In this episode both viewers and Kellogg learned what the Time Marines were up to, and learned he better not trust his future self. As expected, they are building a time portal which more people from the future could use to escape. This includes relatives of Brad, if we can trust Zhorin–a big if. Brad thought the relatives were already dead but Zhorin stated they were on the list to come back. Maybe Brad was mistaken about their deaths, maybe Zhorin is lying, or maybe when Brad came back in time, his actions changed the timeline which led to his relatives not being killed as he remembered. This does complicate any decisions by Brad as to which side to take.

Things are more ominous for Kellogg. Vasquez revealed that future Kellogg has renal failure, which can be cured. Presumably the cure is the transplantation of one or both of young Kellogg’s kidneys. It has already been established that time travel on Continuum is not like time travel in the movie version of 12 Monkeys. The removal of younger Kellogg’s kidneys will not cause them to disappear in old Kellogg, and the death of young Kellogg will not affect old Kellogg. Continuum has always been a show with changing alliances, and this discovery led Kellogg to reach out to Kiera to join forces.

The other question about alliances involves Dillon, who has qualms about acts he is being asked to perform as the new security chief for Piron. Will this lead to him changing sides again, and what exactly would this mean should Kellogg and Kiera wind up on the same side?

I will avoid any spoilers on episode 5, The Desperate Hour but the name does fit the episode. There are not the same sort of major revelations as in Zero Hour, but there are major advances seen in the storyline based upon what we learned the previous week, and  some of the questions I raised above are at least partially answered.

Doctor Who Under-the-Lake-1

Under The Lake is reminiscent of older Doctor Who stories featuring a monster of the week, except that it is a two-part story with a real cliffhanger. The full story, written by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse,  cannot be judged yet, but like the first two episodes of this season was enjoyable regardless of whether the full plot ultimately holds up well.

As is usual with many episodes of Doctor Who, it is all the little moments  which make the episode enjoyable. After leaving a planet which has been celebrating New Year’s for two centuries (I’m not sure if this is fun or a real horror), the TARDIS brought the Doctor and Clara to an  underwater mining facility in Scotland of 2119 where there appear to be real ghosts. The ghosts disturb the TARDIS, and the Doctor wonders why the TARDIS brought them here. This reminds us of The Doctor’s Wife by Neil Gaiman, in which the TARDIS said that while she didn’t always take the Doctor where he wanted to go, she always took him to where he needed to be.

The Doctor saved time by not having to earn the trust of those on the mining facility by saying he was with UNIT. He did continue to have other problems relating with humans, which have been present since his last regeneration. Clara tried to help him by writing out index cards with things for the Doctor to say in certain circumstances, but his delivery was a problem. Some examples:

“I’m very sorry for your loss. I’ll do all I can to solve the death of your friend slash family member slash pet.”

“No one is going to get eaten slash vaporized slash exterminated slash upgraded slash possessed slash  mortally wounded slash turned to jelly. We’ll all get out of this unharmed.”

Well, not everybody got out of this unharmed. It was obvious from the moment we met him that Pritchard, the  corporate lackey who was looking for ways to  profit from the situation, would be one of the first to die.

The index cards also did not prevent the Doctor from saying other things which some might be offensive, even if viewers might have sympathized with the first of these two examples:

“So who’s in charge now? I need to know who to ignore.”

“Surely just being around me makes you cleverer by osmosis”

The episode did address the question of why characters stick around when it is getting dangerous by giving reasons why they couldn’t leave. Before it turned out they could not leave, their options were considered: “You can stay and do the whole Cabin In The Woods thing…”

The episode had a couple of things in common with the initial two parter of the season, The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witches Familiar. Both raised the prospect of the death of the Doctor–in this case seen in the ghost Doctor at the end of the episode. Both also used going back in time as a plot point. It certainly makes sense for the Doctor to use the TARDIS to go back into time to change things or find out information when he is in trouble, but this very rarely occurs. I wonder if this is coincidence or a plan to make this season more timey wimey.

Use of time travel does complicate story telling as it then becomes necessary to create reasons why time travel cannot be used. Otherwise the Doctor could go back in time and rescue himself before he ever gets in trouble. There must be rules which are only understandable to Time Lords. The most notable example in recent years were the rules which prevented him from rescuing Amy and Rory after the Weeping Angels sent them back in time in The Angels Take Manhattan.

In other Doctor Who news, a young adult spin off to Doctor Who taking place in Coal Hill School, entitled Class, has been announced.

Agents of SHIELD Simmons Planet

Agents of SHIELD was off to a good start this season, turning to concentrating on the Inhumans. There were also references to other aspects of the Marvel universe. Bobbi both mentioned when”Sokavia fell out of the sky” in Age of Ultron and used her PhD which was established in the comics. Coulson mentioned Pym Technologies from Ant-Man. In a recent interview, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige did also say that events on television shows such as Daredevil  will be mentioned in the movies. This is in line with the usual Disney synergy between its various products as television shows, movies, theme parks, and merchandise all help sell each other.

The biggest surprise of the season premiere was to find that Simmons is now on another planet. Jed Whedon discussed this with Entertainment Weekly:

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wasted no time in revealing exactly where Simmons is during Tuesday’s season premiere — but that doesn’t mean she’ll be reuniting with the team anytime soon.

Missing in action for most of the premiere, Simmons was finally revealed to be in the desert … on another planet, that is, and definitely not in our solar system. “It can’t be because of the terrain and what you see,” executive producer Jed Whedon tells EW. “There’s very few planets that have that configuration that she would not be dead if she were there.”

During the season 2 finale, the recently discovered Kree monolith suddenly turned into liquid form, absorbing Simmons before reforming as if nothing ever happened — causing S.H.I.E.L.D. fans to spend the summer pondering what happened to the intrepid scientist. “It was so cool,” Elizabeth Henstridge says of her first reaction to the planet reveal. “I hadn’t thought of that. Everything that happens, I hadn’t thought of that as an option.”

Because she’s been stranded there for six months, executive producer Jeffrey Bell says this is a “profoundly different” Simmons than the one we last saw in the finale. “She’s definitely still her essence — she doesn’t just completely change,” Henstridge says. “But she’s been through so much. She’s hardened. She’s had to face things that she never would’ve imagined, also by herself without Fitz [Iain de Caestecker], so she’s definitely changed, stronger and kind of damaged.”

Finding out how Simmons landed in a galaxy far, far away won’t be revealed right away, though. “There will be some breadcrumbs, and then at some point we will fully explore what’s happened to her in a way that is maybe the craziest thing we’ve done,” Bell says. “We’ve very excited. It’s a different kind of episode for us — to give Elizabeth and Simmons the chance to really show what she went through seems really cool.”

The interview also notes that Simmons is running from something suggesting “She thinks she’s not alone.” There will be more on the planet in future episodes.

The above trailer was released last week for the six episode revival of The X-Files.

The BBC has started filming on season 4 of Orphan Black and have released this summary:

Sarah, reluctantly return home from her Icelandic hideout to track down an elusive and mysterious ally tied to the clone who started it all — Beth Childs.  Sarah will follow Beth’s footsteps into a dangerous relationship with a potent new enemy, heading in a horrifying new direction. Under constant pressure to protect the sisterhood and keep everyone safe, Sarah’s old habits begin to resurface. As the close-knit sisters are pulled in disparate directions, Sarah finds herself estranged from the loving relationships that changed her for the better.

Returning this season is Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s battle-worn foster brother Felix; Maria Doyle Kennedy as Sarah and Felix’s foster mother Mrs. S; Kristian Bruun as Donnie, Alison’s partner-in-crime and husband; Kevin Hanchard as Art, Beth’s detective partner who’s torn between his job and his loyalty to the clones; Skyler Wexler as Sarah’s long-suffering daughter Kira; Ari Millen as a mysterious new Castor clone, the likes of which we’ve never seen before; and Josh Vokey as Scott, Cosima’s lab partner. Also returning this season is James Frain as Ferdinand, an intimidating “cleaner” for shadowy organization, Topside; Allison Steadman as Kendall Malone, “the original”; and Rosemary Dunsmore as Susan Duncan, Rachel’s adoptive mother and one of the leading scientists of Project Leda. Joining the Orphan Black cast this season is Joel Thomas Hynes as Dizzy, an edgy, self-reliant hacker who doesn’t conform to group mentality. Additional casting for the series will be announced in the coming weeks.

Jennifer Lawrence warns that if Donald Trump becomes president, “that will be the end of the world.”

It seems Jennifer Lawrence’s thoughts on Donald Trump echo Katniss Everdeen’s feelings toward President Snow. For the uninitiated, that means she’s not a fan. During a lively conversation with the three leads of the final installment of The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay — Part 2, the Republican presidential candidate became the topic of conversation.

“If Donald Trump becomes president, that will be the end of the world,” says Lawrence.

Her co-star Liam Hemsworth feels the same: “I’ll back you up on that,” he adds.

Josh Hutcherson, the third lead in the massive franchise, can’t quite believe Trump’s run for the presidency is legitimate. “It’s a publicity stunt,” he says. “It can’t be real.”

Lawrence doesn’t seem quite sure of his validity either. “I genuinely believe that reality television has reached the ultimate place where now even things like this might just be for entertainment,” she says. “It’s either that or it’s Hillary’s brilliant idea.”

Hillary Clinton appeared on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live opposite Kate McKinnon, doing her Clinton impersonation. The skit made fun of Clinton’s delay in supporting gay rights ( “I could’ve supported it sooner”), and Hillary did an impersonation of Donald Trump.

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SciFi Weekend: Avengers Age of Ultron; Agents of SHIELD; Orphan Black; Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell; Community; Revenge; Scarlett Johansson On SNL

Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron..Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and James "Rhodey" Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle)..Ph: Film Frame..?Marvel 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron opened with the second highest box office receipts of all time, trailing only The Avengers 2012 opening. I would rank the first Avengers movie, along with the better Iron Man and Captain America movies, above Age of Ultron, but it was still a very enjoyable movie, falling in the middle of the recent Marvel releases. My discussion here is primarily as to how it fits into the rest of the Marvel universe and I avoided major spoilers of plot points, but those who want to totally avoid any information about the movie before seeing might want to jump down to the next section. Some of the linked articles have even more significant spoilers.

There is an attempt at continuity between the Marvel television universe and cinematic universe, but it is largely one way. The movie definitely takes place after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier with SHIELD broken up. The members of the Avengers are working out their own hierarchy, no longer taking orders from SHIELD. Agents of SHIELD did have a lead-in for the movie in last week’s episode, including the search for Loki’s scepter, but as far as the movie series goes, Coulson is dead. While Nick Fury and Maria Hill appeared in the movie, there was no sign of Coulson, even at a party where it seemed everyone who ever appeared in a Marvel movie was invited. For those who primarily watch the movies, they avoided having to explain how he is alive, and viewers of the show could just assume he was too busy hiding from HYDRA and the other SHIELD to attend. Joss Whedon discussed the conflict between the television and movie people, including a reference to the ending of St. Elsewhere:

“Yeah he’s dead. The entire television series is just a fever dream. It’s a Jacob’s Ladder moment he’s having at the point of death, but we don’t give that away until after season seven. And there’s a snow globe. Now I’ve given it away. Bollocks!

“It’s a weird little yes and no. As far as I’m concerned in the films, yes he’s dead. In terms of the narrative of these guys [The Avengers] his loss was very important. When I created the television show, it was sort of on the understanding that this can work and we can do it with integrity, but these Avengers movies are for people to see the Avengers movies and nothing else. And it would neither make sense nor be useful to say ‘Oh and by the way remember me? I died!’”

The Agents of SHIELD show runners discussed the tie in to the movie with Variety. Note that it is not necessary for understanding of the television show to have seen the movie to make sense of its references in last week’s episode. We will see how the events tie into future shows, but my bet is that the movie and television show are sufficiently self-contained so that it won’t necessary to have seen the movie.

One limitation of Avengers movies is that there are too many characters to spend much time on each individually. They did throw in a new romance, and we learned much more about Hawkeye and about The Black Widow. The most significant opportunity for characters to be seen as individuals  occurred when Scarlet Witch caused them to have dream sequences. These sequences told more about the motivations and thoughts of the characters, and are discussed further at Slate.

It shouldn’t come as a spoiler to note that the Avengers win in the end. The ending shows some of the original Avengers leaving the group, although we know they will be seen again in Captain America: Civil War. The ending did suggest that newer superheroes would be replacing some of them, but I would not be surprised if more of the original Avengers also play a role in the future. It looks like the Avengers will primarily consist of Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, War Machine, and two introduced in this movie: Scarlet Witch and Vision. More on this here , here, and here. There was not a scene at the end of the credits, but there was a brief scene during the credits which also ties the movie to Guardians of the Galaxy. Discussion of that scene can be found here. Of course there was the obligatory Stan Lee cameo.

Orphan Black s03e03

Orphan Black got back to Mark and the Prolethean storyline, and had a big revelation about the Castor clones (I am  your sister). In watching it is hard to tell to what degree the writers had a long range plan and to what degree they are making things up as they go along. This is most apparent in how they retcon Paul’s role to fit into whatever is happening each season. This season they have him working with Team Castor, and therefore retroactively came up with the explanation the he had previously infiltrated Dyad. There is an even more retcon with Mark. Ari Millen was originally intended to only play Prolethean Mark, but at the end of the season it was decided to have him play the line of male clones. I had wondered how they would reconcile Mark’s character with the other clones. Now the explanation is that he was only with the Proletheans to retrieve material from Henrik. The change in each character seems even less plausible when considering the scene last season where Mark and Paul met in a bar and gave no indication that they were both on Team Castor. While they should have recognized each other, I imagine this scene could be explained away as each engaging in meaningless banter to avoid giving themselves away to anyone who might have been around them.

The Hollywood Reporter discussed the episode with Graeme Manson and John Fawcett, who pretend this was their plan all along:

Though the male line of clones was only introduced in the second season finale, it took just three episodes of season three for a key piece of the puzzle to fall into place: The clones from Project Castor (the males, played by Ari Millen) and Project Leda (the females, played by Tatiana Maslany) are biological siblings.

“There’s no doubt that’s been a plan of ours for a long time,” Orphan Black co-creator Graeme Manson tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It does shape the season going forward. We wanted a big revelation about these male clones, and the revelations are going to keep on coming.”

Cosima (Maslany) shared the truth with Sarah (Maslany), and then Sarah informed Mark (Millen) of their connection. And while Sarah has fiercely embraced protecting her new sisterhood, the discovery will lead to her own mixed feelings on the matter.

“It certainly adds a massive layer of complexity for Sarah, especially,” says series co-creator John Fawcett. “She’s just coming to grips with the fact that it really wasn’t that long ago where she was basically running away from her own daughter. Shunning her responsibilities of her immediate, biological family. Sarah’s done a lot of growing up in the past; going from street urchin, running around, avoiding the fact that she’s a mother to changing her life, wanting [her daughter] back, wanting to be a mother, going, ‘Oh my God, I have clones running around.’ There’s been a lot of acceptance and discovery for Sarah through this journey. There’s this other brain-numbing facet that Sarah has to take on board. It’s a big part of the mystery going forward.”

“Bearing in mind, none of these ‘brothers’ are acting very much like siblings,” added Manson. “So, we are also raising questions in terms of family of, ‘What makes family?’ Does biology make family? Do you choose your family? Sarah, like John said, has grown up a lot. She’s choosing her clone family. Are they going to choose the males or not?”

The above trailer for the television adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has been released.

Looking to the week ahead, both Gotham and Person of Interest have each set up a high stakes battle for their season finales, and the end games for The Flash and Arrow appear near. I will wait until these stories have played out more to discuss them further. I have not been thrilled by the last couple of episodes of Outlander, but those who have read the book do say that big things are happening in the remaining episodes of the season.

Syfy has canceled Helix after its second season.

Community Annie Pleasure Droid

With twenty-eight minute episodes. Dan Harmon can get into more into an episode of Community now that it is on Yahoo! instead of NBC.  This week’s episode, Intro to Recycled Cinema, mocked commercials, Chris Pratt, and movie-making. It amusingly ripped off Star Wars, including the Cantina and garbage chute scenes. Chang was briefly a star, Jeff was the Mayor of Outer Space, Abed did his thing, and Annie was a  pleasure droid-turned-bounty-hunter Scorpio 9, who sometimes reached into her shirt and pulled out a laser bomb.

In an act of mercy killing, ABC is canceling Revenge. This is a perfect example of the problem with the US model for television series. It was a fine escapist show the first season, but continued long after there was any reason to drag out the story. While the BBC or cable might have ended the series at a natural point, even if only after a season or two, the American networks don’t work that way. The final straw was, after the rational for the show was seeking revenge for the false imprisonment and death of David Clarke, he suddenly turned up alive.

Scarlett Johansson was guest host on Saturday Night Live this week, and in this video showed how Marvel would make a girl superhero movie:

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Obama Took On The Right At White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Obama White House Correspondents Dinner

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner has turned into a major event in recent years, and Barack Obama did a fine job. Among his jokes:

“For many Americans, this is still a time of deep uncertainty. I have one friend, just weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year, and she’s now living out of a van in Iowa.”

“Michele Bachmann predicted I would bring about the biblical end of days. Now that’s big. … Lincoln, Washington — they didn’t do that.”

On Bernie Sanders: “Apparently people really want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.”

On Dick Cheney: “He thinks I’m the worst president of his lifetime, which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime.”

Cecily Strong, while not as good a comedian, as Barack Obama, did better in this situation than as anchor on SNL’s Weekend Update. She had a number of jokes about the media, from the number of prison documentaries on MSNBC to the nature of Fox’s audience: “Fox News has been losing a lot of viewers lately, and may they rest in peace.”

She was clearly backing Hillary Clinton but she did mention the email scandal: “Hillary Clinton said that she used her private email because she didn’t want to use more than two devices. Now if that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also one of the rules of the sex contract of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.'”

Obama’s expression of political views has received far more attention than Strong’s. On climate change: “Look at what’s happening right now. Every serious scientist says we need to act. The Pentagon says it’s a national security risk. Miami floods on a sunny day, and instead of doing anything about it, we’ve got elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate! It is crazy! What about our kids?! What kind of stupid, short-sighted, irresponsible…”

Both conservative liberal blogs agreed that Obama was expressing liberal views in such jokes, but the spin was quite different. Power Line’s headline was Our Mean-Spirited President Cuts Loose. Ezra Klein put it differently (and more accurately): The joke was that Obama wasn’t joking.

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SciFi Weekend: 12 Monkeys and Better Call Saul Season Finales; The Americans; Daredevil; iZombie; SNL on Clinton’s Announcement


I had been wondering where 12 Monkeys would go after a first season. The season finale, Arms of Mine, doesn’t give the answer but does show that they are probably heading in new directions. Some of the minor questions from previous episodes were answered but far more was left open.

Time travel has become messy, as it should be. Ramse turned out to have been the one responsible for the time travel device after he went back in time. “It took time travel to create time travel. That’s how it works, brother. There are no straight lines.”

The episode ended with Jennifer Goines going on a 12 city tour, and we know the outcome of that. What is not clear is if there is any way to change this. During the episode Olivia said,  “There is nothing more powerful than fate.” Even Dr. Jones said,  “I can’t change the past. Nobody can. All that matters is what happens here.” Yet there might still be wild cards, such as Cassie splintering into 2043. It appears that this is significant from this teaser for season 2:

An interview with the new show runners at The Hollywood Reporter  also indicates that Jones was wrong:

While Jones’ belief in changing the past to save humanity has been shaken, new showrunnerTerry Matalas says the character “is about to be proven wrong.”

“Jones above all else is a scientist,” fellow showrunner Travis Fickett explained. “She’s going to take evidence into account and that will change her assumptions about things. She’s going to get some new evidence, but the mission for her next season will become even more personal.”

Meanwhile, Cole (Aaron Stanford) and Cassie (Amanda Schull) finally come face-to-face with Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) at the Temporal Facility in 2015. Ramse tries to explain that he is not The Witness — the mysterious leader of the 12 Monkeys — during a standoff, but Cassie doesn’t buy a word he’s saying. That results in a firefight that ends with both Cassie and Ramse shot.

In order to save Cassie’s life, Ramse then offers Cole the time travel serum he planned on using to return to 2043. Cole injects Cassie with the serum and sends her to Jones in 2043. Cole leaves Ramse to bleed out, but in a change of heart returns to save his former best friend.

“He’s still his brother. Ultimately everything that has transpired between these guys doesn’t undo the bond they have and share,” Matalas explained. “Even the Striking Woman’s last line in the finale is, ‘There is nothing more powerful than fate,’ and Cole proves there is something more powerful than fate and that’s love. He goes back to save his brother.”

But don’t expect everything to be patched up. “They have a whole lot to sort out in season two,” Fickett adds.

The relationship between Cole and Ramse isn’t the only one the showrunners are aiming to explore in season two.

“We’re going to lean a lot more into the relationships” Matalas says. “Season one was more about setting the dynamics between Cole and Ramse, Cole and Cassie, Jones and Ramse, Jones and Cole, Jennifer and Cole. We’re going to spend a lot more exploring those relationships and delving a lot deeper. We plan on taking a breath or two next season to sit with our characters more and let them talk.”

Time traveling will also see a change of scenery next season. Matalas noted the Syfy series will explore new time periods as well “an exploration into a deeper past.”

When it comes to the identity of The Witness, Fickett assures fans will learn the truth of who is behind the mask next season along with more about the mysterious Red Forest. “You’ll know exactly what the Red Forest is and what it means for the whole world in season two.”

“The second season is definitely a more emotional season,” Matalas noted, with Fickett adding: “And maybe a bit scarier. Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, but there is still hope.”

Better Call Saul Marco

Many critics were skeptical about Better Call Saul before it premiered, but the first season did exceed expectations. In response to Chuck’s betrayals, Saul returned to his old haunts and went through through petty scam after petty scam as Slippin’ Jimmy.  (An expert in cons discussed them with Esquire). Remember back in season 3 of Breaking Bad when Saul told Walter than he he convinced a woman he was Kevin Costner? We saw the con in which Saul (still going as Jimmy) actually did trick a woman into going to bed with him by claiming to be Kevin Costner:

When he returned home it appeared for a moment that he might have Slippin’ Jimmy out of his system and get an actual job with a law firm from Santa Fe. Instead he decided against the interview, thinking about how much bigger scams Slippin’ Jimmy could accomplish with a law degree. He thought back about returning stolen money earlier in the season: “I know what stopped me. And you know what? It’s never stopping me again.” He is clearly on the path towards turning into Saul Goodman.

It was an excellent season, and we knew from Breaking Bad which direction Jimmy would go in. I did feel that Jimmy’s decision in the parking lot came too quickly. I assume that the writers had Jimmy make the decision after receiving a legitimate job offer to show that it was a decision based upon who he was deep down, as opposed to out of desperation, but I thought more was needed to justify showing such an abrupt change of mind.

HitFlix interviewed Peter Gould:

How does the show change now that he’s decided he’s going to be Slippin’ Jimmy again? How are Chuck and the other HHM characters still involved?Peter Gould: That’s a good question. Has he decided to be? I’m interested that you say that he’s decided to be Slippin’ Jimmy. He drives off, and he’s definitely got a new idea, and it’s pleasing him an awful lot. It might be about Slippin’ Jimmy. I don’t want to be coy, but I don’t want to assume anything. We spent a lot of time as we opened up season 2 thinking about what the ending of season 1 meant, and all the implications of that. I will say that Chuck is his brother, and the connection between these two guys has been disrupted. Their relationship has been changed forever. But they are still brothers, and Jimmy says to Marco in the finale, “I have to go back, because he’s my brother.” These guys are not finished with each other.

If the emotional arc of the first season involves a bad man trying to be good and discovering that the universe has no interest in that, what is Jimmy’s arc going forward? And how far away is he from being the Saul Goodman we met on “Breaking Bad”?

Peter Gould: I love the way you put that. I wish we had had that synopsis when we started season 1. It could have saved us a couple of months. In my mind, he’s got a ways to go before he’s Saul Goodman. The question is, is Saul Goodman just the person that Jimmy McGill was going to be at any moment, and all that was restraining him was Chuck? Or is Jimmy McGill someone else? I have to say, watching Jimmy throughout season 1, I don’t think the only reason he’s a decent guy is he’s got Chuck in his life. Chuck might think so, and Jimmy might even think so. But when I see Jimmy give the money back in episode 7, when I see how he is with his elderly clients, I think this is a guy who has fundamentally got a decent streak. Maybe deciding to be a bad guy, or deciding to be unleashed ethically, maybe that’s not going to be as straightforward as it seems.

Can you say at this point when Gus might become part of this series? Or could the show end before Mike begins that relationship?

Peter Gould: Everything’s on the table. Obviously, we love the character of Gus, and love Giancarlo Esposito. But think about where Mike is right now. Yes, he killed two police officers in Philadelphia, but that was motivated by revenge, and a sense of vigilante justice over the death of his son. But what crimes has he committed in Albuquerque so far? So far, he facilitated one drug deal armed with a pimento sandwich. He is a long way from being Gus Fring’s right hand man and hired gunman. Just like Jimmy’s journey has a lot of twists and turns to it, so does Mike’s. It’s a challenge, because Mike is a character who is fundamentally not materialistic. This is a guy, when we meet him in “Breaking Bad,” he lives in a modest house, drives a lousy car, doesn’t seem to have a lot of expenses. How much money do you really need to earn in order to take care of one little girl? It’s a real challenge for us to think about Mike’s journey. Boy, let me tell you, though, we would love to see Gus, and would love to have Giancarlo on the show. The question is, when is Mike going to be ready for that? And why would Gus hire Mike at this point? He doesn’t really seem to be the man he will be later.

Well, Walter White was never as likable as Jimmy is this season, but in that first season he was a relatively sympathetic character, and you eventually turned him into the biggest monster in the history of the medium. Peter Gould: That’s true. When you say it that way, it sounds familiar. But to us, it’s a big surprise. We, on “Breaking Bad,” this is one case where the writers room saw the character very differently from the audience, and from the way the cast saw him. Very early on “Breaking Bad,” we started to see this was a portrait of a man with a raging ego. And we would go back and forth between empathizing with him and marveling with his ability to fool himself about why he was doing what he was doing. Maybe the answer is that we’re buying Jimmy’s bullshit better, but Jimmy is ultimately a more sincere character than Walt. He’s also a character who knows himself a little bit better. Walt really did have this mist of self-deception that didn’t part until the very end of the show. Jimmy, I think is a little bit more honest with himself, although not as honest with himself as Mike is. He’s openly on a quest to find out who he should be in this world. You know, the more I talk about it, the more similar it sounds, which surprises me. Because I have to say, I find Jimmy likable in a way that I never found Walt likable. But your memory of it may be better than mine.
The Hollywood Reporter looked at Breaking Bad Easter Eggs you might have missed.

The Americans One Day In The Life

There were no shocking scenes in this week’s episode of The Americans but the show was sure reinvigorated by Paige finding out that her parents are Soviet spies. The episode did what the show does so well–gradually move several different plot lines forward. Martha has acquiesced to her situation for now, with Clarke giving her advice for handling questions. In contrast, Lisa’s husband figured out what is going on, and decides to capitalize on this to make money. Nina both betrayed Anton when, following orders, she searched his room, and also protected him, saying she will not expose his writings. Most likely only Nina will survive this.

Assignment X interviewed Joe Weisberg on the third season:

AX: Does Elizabeth view the possibility of recruiting Paige into the KGB the way someone from an American military family might think, “Well, we’re Navy SEALs, and she should have the opportunity to be a Navy SEAL”?

JOE WEISBERG: I’ve said that a hundred times. Nobody judges a guy when he wants to have his son join the military. That’s the most accepted thing in America, that a father is proud to have a son who’s also proud to join the military. Some people think, “Well, that’s not great,” but mostly, that’s completely accepted in this society. She wants her daughter to be of service.

AX: Also, it seems like Elizabeth genuinely believes what she’s saying when she talks about trying to make the world a better, more peaceful place through what she and Philip are doing …

WEISBERG: That’s right. That is the ambition, the goal. Also very high-minded.

AX: Since some of the audience doesn’t seem to understand how Elizabeth views the situation, do you ever feel like you want to be any more didactic about that aspect of the show, just so people understand what you’re talking about?

WEISBERG: Well, I feel like, yes, but no. Because you can’t. You’d kill it. And I also feel in a way it’s part of Elizabeth’s character, I don’t mean as a television character, I mean as part of who she is, to be misunderstood, that she’s not in the world. In the television world she inhabits, it’s part of who she is, it’s her cross to bear to be misunderstood a little bit. So I think it’s okay.

AX: She holds these things to be self-evident, so when people don’t get it, she thinks they’re being perverse?

WEISBERG: Exactly. And she’s behind enemy lines. But then when her husband doesn’t get it, that hurts more, because he’s supposed to get it. And so it’s in synch with that if there’s a portion of the audience that doesn’t understand her.

AX: What do you think Philip actually thinks of Martha?

WEISBERG:  I think he probably, A, has probably a very realistic and similar assessment of her, more than any of us would have, but B, I think that she’s been very good to him and that he’s developed real feelings for her. I don’t mean that he’s madly in love with her, but I think he’s developed real feelings. She’s been very good to him, taken care of him, comforted him, and he’s been bad to her. And I think he’s come to really care for her.

AX: Can Stan stay in the show if he finds out that Elizabeth and Philip are KGB?

WEISBERG: We could come up with endless stories where he did or didn’t know and stay.

AX: How are you enjoying playing with the 80s technology?

JOEL FIELDS: This year, we’re going to have the first mobile phone. We’re going to have one of those handheld Mattel electronic phones – remember, with the blinking LED? We’ve got some other good stuff, too, this year. Sony Walkman, of course, you’ve got those orange headphones – “Just listen to this,” [Philip] says, and he puts it on [Kimberly’s] ears.

Daredevil Matt and Karen

Daredevil was released on Netflix on Friday. I’ll avoid any spoilers, but the show is well worth watching. Think of Arrow, but much darker, without the CW glitz, and in a much poorer part of town. Of course it isn’t entirely without attractive women, including Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page. I am having some difficulty accepting scenes of her out in the light after True Blood.

I’m also enjoying iZombie. Rose McIver gets to do a little of what Tatiana Maslany does on Orphan Black (which returns next Saturday). While she does not play multiple clones, she takes on characteristics of people after eating their brain, giving her the opportunity to alter her character each week.

Saturday Night Live began with a  parody of Clinton’s announcement. I have posted the video here. My comments on Clinton’s actual announcement are here. A street artist in Brooklyn also has expressed an opinion.

Update: A study shows that men are more likely than women to go back in time to kill Hitler.

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Saturday Night Live On Hillary Clinton’s Announcement

Saturday Night Live gave their impression of Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she is running for the Democratic nomination in the video above. She did not come across very well in her first attempt at filming a video on her phone: “Citizens: You will elect me. I will be your leader.”

Other attempts were interrupted by Darrell  Hammond, who returned to play Bill Clinton, with lines such as, “Hillary, isn’t it crazy that phones can take videos now? I mean, if they could have done that in the 90s, I’d be in jail.”

Of course the answer to attempts they did not like was to delete them from Hillary’s phone, leading to a reference to the recent email scandal: “I know a thing of two about that, right?”

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Saturday Night Live Spoof of CNN, And Hillary Clinton Deleting Her Email

Saturday Night Live had a good parody of CNN this weekend, starting with their coverage of airline disasters. Check out their simulations, along with their coverage of the Iran nuclear talks, using puppets as the actual meeting was behind closed doors. Also check out their simulation of Hillary Clinton deleting her email, using a cat for the simulation, about four minutes in.
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SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; DC vs. Marvel Movies; SHIELD; Why You Should Watch The Americans; Big Bang Theory On Leonard Nimoy; The Last Man On Earth; The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; House of Cards and Hillary Clinton

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

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

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

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

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

More on the upcoming season at The Mary Sue

Superman Warner CEO Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Americans 69 Scene

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

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

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

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

Big Bang Theory Nimoy Tribute

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

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

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


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

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

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

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SciFi Weekend 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.


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?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selfie Karen Gillan John Cho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Arrow, 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.


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

Jed Whedon: It’s safe to say that. 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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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