SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who and The Two Masters; Legends of Tomorrow Breaks Time; Surprises On The Magicians; A Wedding On Orphan Black?; Hugo Award Finalists; Netflix Marvel Shows; Renewals and Returning Shows


Thanks to time travel, there have been many episodes of Doctor Who which featured two or more Doctors from different regeneratons. In the upcoming season, not only will there be the return of Missy, but John Sims will be returning as The Master. The BBC reports:

John Simm will return as the Master to battle the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), new companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) in the forthcoming series of Doctor Who.

John Simm says: “I can confirm that it’s true, thanks to the power of time travel I’m back. It’s always a pleasure to work with this great team of people and I can’t wait for you all to see what the Master gets up to in the next series. “

Steven Moffat, writer and executive producer, says: “Nothing stays secret for long on Doctor Who but you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to see exactly what the Master is up to and how he makes his return to face the Doctor. It’s been a huge pleasure to have fan favourites John Simm and Michelle Gomez face to face in the same role! It’s not often you get to see a solo personality clash.”

John Simm was last seen as the Master on New Year’s Day 2010. Viewers will have to wait to see exactly when and how the Master will return to the new series, which starts on Saturday 15 April at 7:20pm on BBC One.

As previously announced, Doctor Who series 10 will also star Michelle Gomez as Missy – a later regeneration of the Master. Other returning foes include the Daleks, the Ice Warriors and – returning for the first time in over 50 years – the Mondasian Cybermen. An exciting line up of new faces and adversaries will debut across the series, including adorable-but-deadly Emojibots and David Suchet as the Landlord.

Steven Moffat has also been teasing a huge spoiler, to be revealed in a trailer to one of the episodes:

“This is just a public warning,” said a playful Moffat. “Some people hate spoilers and some people love spoilers – and everybody hates me whatever way they think about it. So this is my last attempt in this role to avoid hatred.

“At the end of the episode there will be yet another awesome trailer for Doctor Who… at the very end of the trailer there is, frankly, an enormous spoiler, a spoiler that may actually melt your brains. But I promise you, you’d be better off not knowing because awesome though it will be here, it will be even more awesome in a few weeks’ time. So we’re gonna give you the option, in our frankly camp and ridiculous way…

“There will come up a warning and then there will be a countdown to the spoiler, and then there will be a warning to ‘blink now’. If at that point you close your eyes and wait until you hear the cliffhanger noise, you will have a better experience in a few weeks’ time.”

Den of Geek has a spoiler-free review of the season premier.

Series ten will finally reveal the location of the TARDIS toilet. (“It’s down there. First right, second left, past the macaroon dispenser.”) It remains unseen.

Doctor Who TV has links to series ten interviews with Steven Moffat and the cast. In an interview elsewhere,  Peter Davison discussed how the regeneration scenes were hard for both himself and David Tennant.

There have already been shows such as Broadchurch and Victoria which include at least two actors who had previously appeared in the Doctor Who universe. Another example is coming. Look at the cast in this show discussed at Deadline:

Netflix has come on board BBC Two’s contemporary thriller Collateral as co-producer and will release globally outside the UK. As Deadline revealed last month, Carey Mulligan is starring in the David Hare created drama that explores the spiraling repercussions surrounding the fatal shooting of a pizza delivery man. New cast includes John Simm (Life on Mars), Nicola Walker (Spooks) and Billie Piper (Doctor Who, Penny Dreadful).

Rose and The Master, plus staring Carey Mulligan, who played Sally Sparrow in Blink.

Legends of Tomorrow was considerably improved in the second season. After an apparently happy ending, the Legends wound up in a Los Angeles with a changed skyline with futuristic buildings and buildings from Victorian England, and dinosaurs. I wonder if they are intentionally using things which the Legends have encountered previously.  Screener discussed the aftermath of breaking time with showrunner Phil Klemmer:

It’s no secret that the Legends revisiting an event they’d already changed is bad news — and now in the Season 2 finale, that’s exactly what’s happening. What can you tell us about the episode?

I guess I’ll say this: We have to follow through on our promise. I think people would hate us if the Legends were able to perform this feat without any consequence… If this were a typical “Legends” episode, and ended with, “Alright, we didn’t get a lot of style points but we succeeded.” This really has to be different than a random episode throughout the season.

As a show, it’s always been designed to reinvent itself at the end of every season, whether that’s with the mythology or the characters or the stakes. The blocks that we build with are not designed to last from one season to the next. We’ve loved Season 2 and could continue writing this forever, but I don’t think that would be true to the spirit of the show, which is supposed to be wildly unpredictable and zany.

We had to have a seismic shift for our story, and one that will leave people scratching their heads for the next five months or whatever. I think the show is at its best when you watch an episode and honestly don’t know how the hell you got there. We never could have predicted that we would do an episode about George Lucas, or “Land of the Lost” dinosaurs. You can get a little too comfortable and we got good at doing the Season 2 thing. That’s precisely the moment where you have to blow the canon up again, you know? Crash this beautiful ship of ours and see where you land.

It’s scary — but it’s a challenge that I know, when we all sit down in the writers’ room for the first day of work, everybody’s going to be on the edge of their seat and eager to start talking, because nobody knows where we’re headed. And that’s exciting and terrifying.

While ‘Legends’ is telling a unique story, it still exists in a shared universe — your actions can be felt on other shows. Is that a line you have to walk — debating how much to blow up so it doesn’t impact ‘Arrow’ or ‘The Flash’?

It is funny. Kevin Smith said at Paleyfest how Barry has suffered endlessly for making one mistake, and we’ve sort of made a habit out of it. Usually when we’re in the Waverider and we’re traveling through time, we’re thinking the crossover is really the only time we have to make our worlds harmonious.

But you’re right, we have maybe made a really difficult challenge for ourselves. You’ll see in the last 45 seconds a different kind of mistake than we’ve ever made before — and the challenge of Season 3 is going to be coming up with a new mission-of-the-week… Because it’s not as easy as going back in time and keeping George Lucas in film school. That’s going to seem like a very two-dimensional surgical strike, compared to the historical messes that we have to clean up as a result of what we do in this finale. It’s exponentially more complicated.

Despite the changes on Legends of Tomorrow, Marc Guggenheim says we will not see dinosaurs in Central City on The Flash next season.

Last week’s episode of The Magicians had a dragon, a visit to the underworld (with bowling), and a lot of surprises. Eliot was surprised to find he was not going to get laid because a bunch of Fillorians and Lorians were turned into rats on Eliot and King Idri’s wedding day. Margo surprised Eliot when the truth serum forced her to confess, but then, surprisingly did something risky to try to fix everything. Eliot was also surprised to return to Brakebills. Senator John Gaines was surprised to learn why some people did what he wanted, and further surprised when he gave another Senator a heart attack. Julia was surprised to learn that Elysium is run by Miss Persephone. The biggest surprise was the sacrifice Julia made for Quenton, presumably now opening the door to bringing Alice back.

The Dragon got the best lines of the episode:  “You have 24 hours to return to the portal.” “Or…” “I sit patiently, waiting for you to come back. No, I eat you, I’m a fucking dragon, what do you expect?”

Deadline had a panel with cast and crew, and had some teasers for the final two episodes of the season:

With just two episodes to go, the team promised to go out with a bang (“They’re insane,” said Maeve. “Quite insane”). Added McNamara: “There’s been something for the entire season, and there’s a perpetrator behind these things that are going on, and you don’t know who it is… It’s kind of a giant whodunit.” Ralph confirmed that the April 19 finale will pull the rug out from under its characters, saying, “Just as these people think that they have real control over their lives and have made real decisions and have forward momentum and feel like they’re taking responsibility for things for the first time, we draw back the curtain and reveal that they’ve had no control – they’ve been pawns.” Gamble smiled. “Don’t you love a cliffhanger?”

Orphan Black returns for its fifth and final season on June 10. Several pictures and clips have been released, including this one which suggests that Cosima and Dephine are getting married:

 

The 2017 Hugo Award finalists are out. The awards will be presented on August 11, 2017. Here are the nominees for the two categories which include television shows and movies:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)
  • Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment)
  • Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company)
  • Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment)
  • Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)
  • Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Ed Bazalgette (BBC Cymru Wales)
  • The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)
  • Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (HBO)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Door”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Jack Bender (HBO)
  • Splendor & Misery [album], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

Screenrant has looked at how the television version of Legion differed from the comics.

On a somewhat similar topic, Vulture compared how the ending of Big Little Lies compared to the book.

Netflix has revealed that The Defenders will be released on August 18, 2017.

Daredevil will start filming season three later this year, to be released in 2018.

Iron Fist has received a number of poor reviews, but I doubt I will go entirely without seeing it before watching The Defenders. Nerdophiles has a possible solution–listing the must see episodes and recommendations for those to skip. They even have a synopsis of the episodes they recommend skipping. It won’t save all that much time, only recommending skipping three episodes (the second, third, and twelfth). The first also also gets a poor review, but I assume the author recommends watching as it is the first episode and presumably does set up the show. In other words, it appears that the series doesn’t really become all that watchable until the fourth episode.

In this era of peak TV, there are many shows I have not had a chance to see which others say are worthwhile. I’ve heard a few people say great things about Wynonna Earp. Screen Rant gives fifteen reasons to watch. The first season recently became available on Netflix, and the second season begins on Syfy on Friday June 9. Syfy has announced that Dark Matter will also return on June 9 with two episodes. Killjoys will return on  June 30. I finally manged to binge watch Dark Matter in December, when other shows were on hiatus, and really enjoyed it. I didn’t get into Killjoys, but I only watched one episode and will give it another chance if there is another slow period.

Hulu has released the first three episodes of an anthology series entitled Dimension 404, which appears to be influenced by The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror. I09 says these episodes are bingeworthy.

Netflix has renewed A Series of Unfortunate Events for both a second and third season. USA has renewed Colony for a third season.

SciFi Weekend: Hannibal, Jessica Jones, Humans Renewed, Defiance, Mr Robot, Under The Dome, Continuum Trailer, Utopia, Xena Reboot

Hannibal And Women Clothed With Sun

The Hannibal episode this week, And The Woman Clothed With The Sun…, continued with the Red Dragon storyline, and like last week, family was important. The family was the extended family which the main characters of the series have become, even including a Verger baby.

The episode included the “family reunion” between Will and Hannibal. When he surrendered, Hannibal made sure that he would always be where Will could find him. For Will the reunion was about getting Hannibal’s input into the Tooth Fairy. “I’m more comfortable the less personal we are,” said Will. Hannibal got more personal:  “You came here to have a look at me, to get that old scent again. Why don’t you just smell yourself?” Before Will left he added,  “You’re family.”

The episode also included flashbacks to the events leading to the season finale, filling in the gaps as to what happened with Abigail. Even this considered family:

Abigail: “How would you have killed me?”

Hannibal: “I would have cut your throat. Like your father did.”

Abigail was complicit in Hannibal making it appear she was killed, even asking, “Can I push the button?” I couldn’t help but wonder if Dexter Morgan would have been fooled by the spray of blood used to fake her death.

Hannibal is now following Red Dragon fairly faithfully, meaning that the structure of the series has changed, with each episode being more a piece of a book. This might leave less to say after each episode, but does not mean the show is any weaker.

jessica-jones_0

The success of Daredevil has many Marvel fans anxiously awaiting Jessica Jones. Executive Melissa Rosenberg told Entertainment Weekly that Jessica Jones will be different from Daredevil:

“Jessica Jones is a very, very different show than Daredevil,” Rosenberg said. “We exist in a cinematic universe, [and] the mythology of the universe is connected, but they look very different, tonally they’re very different… That was my one concern coming in: Am I going to have to fit into Daredevil or what’s come before? And the answer is no.”

But the contrasts don’t stop with tone. “My show’s called Jessica Jones,” Rosenberg said, noting that Cox may get a break during stunts. “There is no mask. Krysten Ritter is the hardest working woman in show biz.”

Jessica Jones is expected to be released in the fourth quarter. Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos discussed the plans for releasing the Marvel-based shows:

“I think ideally there will be a rhythm of about every six months you’ll get a new season or a new series from the Defenders group. And then they’ll crossover into a combined [Defenders] season once we’ve launched the first season of each of the four characters.”

He also said, “Some will selectively have multiple seasons as they come out of the gate. So they’ll probably be two launches a year.” It was previously announced that Daredevil has been renewed for a second season.

Episode 2.L-R Anita (Gemma Chan) and Toby Hawkins (Theo Stevenson)

Humans completed the first season in the U.K. tonight and is a couple of weeks behind in the U.S. I am holding off until I complete this post to watch the finale, but the show remained strong through the penultimate episode which I downloaded last Sunday. Channel 4 has announced that they are renewing the series for a second season, and AMC plans to once again show it in the United States.

I am also waiting to watch Friday’s episode of Defiance, but must note that last week’s episode, My Name Is Datak Tarr and I Have Come to Kill You, ended one storyline on a very strong point. At first I was a little disappointed in how they suddenly came up with a relatively easy way to destroy General Tahk’s camp, even if it probably involved a suicide mission for one character. I then became willing to overlook this in light of how well this tied into Datak’s story. I was really wondering what would happen as they showed flashbacks of Datak as a child. This often foreshadows a character’s death on television. Instead of killing him, or have him betray the plan to save himself, Datak managed to find a way, even if extreme, to both carry out the plan and save himself. I am now wondering if the loss of his arm will be a serious problem, or something easily replaced. Regardless, it was an unforgeable scene.

Mr. Robot had one of the stronger episodes of the season on Wednesday. The episode also had real consequences, and at the end spent quite a long time showing Elliot’s reaction.

Under the Dome continues to have serious flaws, but somehow remains interesting. Lately they have shifted into an Invasion of the Body Snatchers storyline, and appear to have shown the destruction of the world outside of the dome in an attempt to make it look like the random bits from the first season, like talk of pink stars falling, were actually part of a grand plan. Earlier in the season they hit a big resit switch, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is done again. The statement from “Junior” about  the “destruction of our homeworld” does confirm alien involvement, but does not exclude the possibility that what we see outside the dome is either a trick, or not necessarily characteristic of what is happening in the rest of the world.

The final season of Continuum starts September 11 on Syfy and one week earlier on Space (which like so many foreign-made shows, will complicate covering it here.) The above trailer has been released.

Deadline reports that the planned remake of Utopia on HBO might not make it due to budget issues. I remain unclear as to why it is necessary to remake shows recently shown in the U.K. as opposed to running the originals here.

A Xena reboot might be coming, but without Lucy Lawless.

SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD; The 100; Supergirl; Person of Interest; The End of Parenthood and Parks and Recreation & The Decline of NBC; 12 Monkeys; Netflix Marvel Series; The Americans; Sleepy Hollow; The End of The Marvel Universe; The Humor Of Sarah Palin; Mellisa Raunch Sex Scene

Agents of Shield Coulson Skye

Agents of SHIELD has come a long way from the first season. While they always hinted there was something special about Skye, they didn’t have the payoff on this plotline until the midseason finale with her conversion to an Inhuman. This might have major ramifications for her relationship with Coulson:

Executive producer Jeph Loeb says that the current Inhumans plotline has always been the plan for “Agents of SHIELD.” Like they always knew that Grant Ward was going to be HYDRA in Season 1, the seeds of Skye being something other were planned in the pilot.

“Once we started down that road hopefully you were coming along for the adventure, and now that you’ve come along for the adventure one of the things that’s so amazing about what’s happening on that show is so now we know she has gone through a transformation,” he says. “How is everyone going to react to that? And in the same kind of way you’re asking as an audience member, one of the things that I think is really valuable and one of the things that I think Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] and Jeff Bell and the writing staff really do have a great feeling for is they are audience members. The writers room sits around and tries to come up with, ‘What is it that you think we’re going to do and how can we then turn that on its ear in a way that makes it feel like it’s fun and valuable?'”

Blood says “SHIELD” has often gone in a different ways from what he expected. He says the latest script he read “just turned another corner,” and that audiences will “be surprised of a lot of stuff that’s coming up.” Because the SHIELD team doesn’t know about the term “Inhumans” like audiences do, Blood says “it’s going to be something that is unraveled.” He has yet to find out where the storyline is going.

The obvious turn would be that Coulson helps Skye — someone Gregg says is the “the person he cares about most” — through her transformation into an Inhuman. But what if he views her as a threat instead of an ally because of her new powers?

“His no. 1 job is to be responsible for SHIELD, which he views as being responsible for the safety of billions of people from things they don’t know about. That’s what SHIELD is. No matter how much he loves Skye — and it’s as much as you can love somebody — it’s the closest thing to a daughter he has. That’s a sacred trust,” Gregg says. “I hope he doesn’t get put in that situation [where she is a threat] because it would mess him up.”

He teases there will be trouble within SHIELD in the aftermath of Trip’s death and Skye’s transformation. “I don’t think the whole team is going to be unified behind what just went on, and it’s hard to blame them. He’s got a couple of people that he’s come to really trust,” Gregg says. “One of my favorite things about this season is that everybody comes up to me on the street really worried about Fitz and these new characters we introduced this year. Coulson also has these new people … he doesn’t have the same type of history with those people. It’s going to be hard to hold the baby brand new, on the run SHIELD together in the wake of what just happened.”

There’s also the question of Bobbi’s secret, which Blood says is as big a mystery in the second half of Season 2 as who the man with no eyes is. “I honestly think people are going to freak when they see some of the stuff we’ve been filming recently,” he says.

The 100
The 100 returned last week and the events of the fall finale continued to have a major impact on the characters. While I originally did not watch this show, thinking it was another CW show putting attractive young people in a sci-fi scenario which has been done before, I found that this was far better done than I anticipated.

Yes, it does have its attractive young cast members, led by Eliza Taylor as Clarke Griffin, who does an excellent job in the role. (Having binged on the first one and one-half seasons over a weekend, I did notice that Eliza Taylor does show less cleavage in the second season, which must have been a conscious decision by the producers considering that the characters couldn’t just run out to clothing stores in this post-apocalyptic world to change their wardrobe). There are also the CW love triangles, but they do not distract from the stories. Both the characterization and plot lines have been strong, even when going where other shows have gone before. Bustle and The Mary Sue both have posts on why you should watch the show.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Actress-Melissa-Benoist

CBS has chosen Melissa Benoist to play the lead role on Supergirl. Previous reports on the show have described it as more of a CBS procedural with Supergirl as a feminist investigating crimes, but with cross overs possible with the CW shows Arrow and The Flash.

CBS is showing success with another mixture between procedural and genre with Person of Interest. The show started out as a procedural show with a science fiction gimmick to propel it, and has evolved to what might be seen in the future as “a modern sci-fi epic that is considered a must-see show along the lines of Firefly or Battlestar Galactica…”

Many blogs and podcasts, along with this thread on Reddit, have looked at the question of how someone could get caught up with the show without watching all the old episodes. The purely procedural episodes of the first two seasons are mostly unnecessary to appreciate the more recent episodes since the show evolved into a more significant science fiction series, but it is hard to say exactly what can be skipped and must be watched as often early episodes would have a few minute segment towards the end to slowly develop the mythology in addition to the number of the week story.

There have been some posts, such as here and here, which might help in listing some of the more essential episodes. It would really be helpful if some of the other mythology segments which are only small parts of other episodes could be accumulated in a video.

Parks and Recreation

Time looked at the politics of Parks and Recreation, which is concluding its run on NBC.

But there’s a big idea in Parks’ small-scale vision. In the frame of today’s politics, it might be a liberal notion, but it’s one that for much of the 20th century was centrist, and even championed by Republicans like park lover Teddy Roosevelt: that we need government to do things the private sector can’t or won’t, like preserving public spaces.

Shockingly, Parks has dared to suggest that while some civil servants might be bumbling–sorry, Jerry!–they can also be well-intentioned and competent. (This too wasn’t considered a liberal notion before the era when Ronald Reagan joked that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”) Leslie is comically tenacious–Poehler plays her as a cheerfully overprepared super-wonk–but she’s good at what she does and is driven by a fierce love for her hometown as well as its famous waffles…

Leslie can’t do it alone, though: she’s assisted by a network of co-workers and friends (played by a comedy-powerhouse cast, many of whom–like Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza and Aziz Ansari–have deservingly become stars). Even her former supervisor Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) admires Leslie’s commitment, even though he’s so libertarian, he once illustrated the evils of taxation to a fourth grader by eating 40% of her lunch. Parks argues not only that we need our neighbors’ help but that helping makes us better ourselves; it’s in the small-town, populist tradition of Friday Night Lights and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Parenthood Series Finale

When I recently posted my list of top television shows of the year, I noted how little representation the major broadcast networks had on the list. Perhaps the biggest decline is being seen at NBC. They will soon be without two of their highest quality returning shows. Besides trying to run through Parks and Recreation as quickly as possible,  Parenthood concludes this week, apparently with Lorelei Gilmore marrying Ray Romano. If it ends with Zeke dying, I’m imaging angry mobs storming Rockefeller Center. After these are gone they will still have some shows worth watching, most notably Hannibal, which I’m amazed a network is broadcasting, but the lineup of quality shows will sure be thin. Their announcements of upcoming shows is being greeted with far more snark than interest.

In the past NBC would often be the home of some of the highest quality drama shows on television, such as The West WingFriday Night Lights, I’ll Fly Away, and St. Elsewhere. They probably had better ratings success with some, but not all of their sitcoms, which included shows such as Cheers, Frasier, Friends, Community, 30 Rock, and Will and Grace. Going further back, it was also the home of some classic genre shows such as the original Star Trek and The Man From UNCLE. (We won’t talk about some of their more recent attempts at genre such as Revolution, The Cape and Heroes after the first season.)

So, what happened to NBC? I suspect that that it is a victim of otherwise good changes in television. Writers and producers for many high quality shows are now going to cable and streaming networks, where they can develop an audience without the need for netw0rk-level ratings. (In the case of Community, it is moving directly from NBC following cancellation by NBC, with the first two episodes to be streamed by Yahoo! on March 17.) It will be a challenge for NBC to attract this type of quality show in the future, and it is questionable as to whether they even care considering that lower quality shows will probably deliver higher ratings.

Increasingly cable or smaller networks owned by the major networks are offering higher quality shows than the major networks. FX and FXX are offering some of the best shows on basic cable. CBS has Showtime and CW, with The CW Network  turning into one of the strongest networks, especially for genre, as it attracts a totally different audience than CBS. NBC/Universal have even lagged behind other cable networks which have produced better science fiction than its Syfy Network.

12Monkeys_gallery_102Recap_04

Syfy is finally trying to compete with hard science fiction. 12 Monkeys remains promising after the second episode, which aired Friday and was available for streaming last week. With Leland Goines dead, his daughter Jennifer becomes a major character. Her character in an insane asylum serves as an alternate version of the Brad Pitt character in the movie. As discussed previously, the television show can cover far more ground with changes such as having the ability to change time and with the Army of the 12 Monkeys playing a more significant role.

I saw a posted link here which supposedly allows streaming of the third episode for cable subscribers in the United States but it would not allow viewing through either my Charter or Xfinity account. I’m posting the link in case it works for other cable systems, or if it becomes active later. The first two episodes are available for streaming there.

the_defenders_poster___marvel_netflix_series_by_tchallacbm-d78ic4v

Netflix has released a brief synopsis for their upcoming Marvel shows. While previous reports suggested that we might have to wait a year between shows, it looks like the Jessica Jones show (staring Krysten Ritter) will be out sometime later this year.

Daredevil
“Marvel’s Daredevil” is a live action series that follows the journey of attorney Matt Murdock, who in a tragic accident was blinded as a boy but imbued with extraordinary senses. Murdock sets up practice in his old neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, New York where he now fights against injustice as a respected lawyer by day and masked vigilante at night. Coming April 10

A.K.A. Jessica Jones
Working as a private investigator in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, a troubled ex-superhero’s past comes back to haunt her in the live-action series, “Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones.” Coming 2015

Iron Fist
“Marvel’s Iron Fist” follows superhero and martial arts master Danny Rand in the upcoming live-action series. Coming soon

Luke Cage
In this Marvel live-action series, a street-fighting ex-con battles crime in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen as the superhero Luke Cage. Coming soon

The Defenders
“Marvel’s The Defenders” brings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage in an epic superhero team-up in New York City. Coming soon

The Americans returns this week. Unreality Primetime has a couple spoilers on upcoming episodes. The season three trailer is above.

Can Henry be redeemed? The cast of Sleepy Hollow answer questions such as this in videos available here.

The Marvel universe ends as we know it in the comics this spring.

Who needs Tina Fey to mock Sarah Palin? Her own words are ridiculous enough. Check out the reaction to her latest speech from Twitter.

bronze

Melissa Raunch of The Big Bang Theory has received a lot of attention at Sundance for her raunchy sex scene in The Bronze.

“The Bronze” kicked off the 2015 edition of the Sundance Film Festival on a foul-mouthed note Thursday, sticking a dagger through the concept of hometown heroes and providing one of the raunchiest sex sequences in movie history.

The scene in question, one that involves pole vaults, cartwheels and pirouettes, was a constant source of amusement during a question and answer period immediately following the film’s premiere at the Eccles Theater.

“Right after this there’s going to be an audition for the sex scene in the sequel,” joked director Bryan Buckley.

Melissa Rauch, the star of the film and its cowriter along with husband Winston Rauch, said, “As for the sex scene, you write what you know.”

Her husband added that it gave the couple a chance to “show you what we do in our bedroom.”

SciFi Weekend: Sleepy Hollow; Better Call Saul; Jessica Jones; Star Trek; Star Wars; Peter Pan Live; Into The Woods

Sleepy Hollow Irving

The networks have avoided new episodes around the holidays for a while, but they seem to be more formally dividing the seasons in recent years, including making the midseason finales a major event. Sleepy Hollow ended the fall season with major changes. This included the death of Frank Irving and Henry killing Moloch. This leads to questions as to whether we will see Irving again in some form and whether this suggests redemption for Henry, or will he now become the major big bad?

Variety interviewed executive producer Len Wiseman:

So, you just killed the show’s Big Bad halfway through the second season, which is a pretty bold move. Talk me through what went into that decision.
We were always leading up to wanting to [see how] Henry comes into his own. Henry has devoted his life to Moloch; he has served Moloch; and then to find out that he is just a servant, that another will take his place, and to see that he doesn’t have an importance to Moloch, is a big deal. We were always leading up to that fight within Henry. So where do we go from there, what happens? We also really wanted to present the idea that it’s not all about Moloch, and that’s why we decided that Moloch doesn’t die at the very end of the season, he dies at the midseason finale, because he’s not the endgame.

Obviously Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Katrina both want Henry to be redeemed, and killing Moloch seems like a step in the right direction, but is it as simple as that for Henry, or are there other motivations at play?
To your point, “is it?” That’s really the question: who is he doing that for, who is he trying to protect? Is he trying to protect his mother? Maybe. Is he trying to save himself? Maybe. What is the reason why he killed Moloch, ultimately? That’s what we’ll find out in terms of Henry in the rest of the season. And [that’s] what our characters are going to question. It’s not going to be clear to them why that move was made and how he benefits from killing Moloch.

The episode also said farewell to Frank Irving — what was the impetus behind that decision from a storytelling standpoint?
That decision, in terms of an ultimate sacrifice… He is controlled and he had sold his soul to evil, so that’s the one last power that he has — the fact that his soul is already taken — in having the power to wield the Sword of Methuselah. It gives him a strength and a power because he’s spent so much time regretting that choice that he made when he was tricked into selling his soul. He wants to be able to use that trick on Henry.

Since Henry was holding Frank’s soul, now that he’s dead, does that mean he can be raised by Henry in some way, or is he actually free?
It’s a pure sacrifice, it’s a soul for a soul, so it is a real sacrifice. He’s free, and where his soul goes may be something that we will find out and our characters will search out, but it’s definitely a sacrifice and he knows it is — it’s not a trick.

How does the second half of the season differ from the first 11 episodes, now that Moloch is gone?
What really takes a different turn is between Katrina and Crane, as well. There’s a lot of curiosity about why Katrina is struggling with her powers and her place in this war, and I’ve heard people say is her character underutilized — I would say there’s a difference between underutilized and not realized. When she discovers her full potential, things really get out of control.

Other fall finales coming up include Skye meeting her father on Agents of SHIELD and The Flash meeting Reverse Flash (will it be Harrison Wells?)

When we last saw Deathstroke on Arrow, he was locked up in Oliver’s island prison. He will be returning later this season.

Sneak peak of Better Call Saul,  in which Saul meets Mike in the video above. The Breaking Bad spin-off starts February 8.

Krysten Ritter, who also appeared in Breaking Bad, has been cast to star in Jessica Jones:

The Jessica Jones drama is one of four shows centering on Marvel heroes that Netflix has picked up straight to series. The streaming service has committed to a minimum of four 13-episode series, which will begin rolling out in 2015 and are slated to culminate in a miniseries about The Defenders, comprised of a dream team of heroic characters.

Ritter will play Jessica Jones, the cynical, sardonic and tough-as-nails, but innately cool and sexy, title character. Jones is described as a superhero suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder that leads to her hanging up her costume and opening up her own detective agency, where she ends up helping people and assisting other superheroes.

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Netflix has also  announced that the third season of House of Cards will become available February 27.

The final season of Parks and Recreation will start on January 13 and the series will conclude on February 24.

January Jones has already landed a post-Mad Men role in The Last Man On Earth, a post-apocalyptic comedy on Fox.

Benedict Cumberbatch, already having major genre roles in Star Trek Into Darkness and Sherlock, now enters the Marvel universe as Doctor Strange. The looks like a good move. Doctor Strange does not have as large a following as many of the other Marvel characters, and with the large number of comics-based movies being planned, a big star such as Cumberbatch will help to keep this from getting lost among bigger name movies.

Robert Orci was called in to direct the upcoming Star Trek movie after J.J. Abrams left for Star Wars. It has been announced that Orci is no longer directing. Edgar Wright’s name is coming up the most often as probable replacement but some fans are pushing for Jonathan Frakes. Frakes might be a great choice as someone who (as opposed to Abrams) understands Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek.

The second season of Broadchurch doesn’t start until next month but it is rumored that a third season is already planned.

Stephen Colbert explains why the new style lightsabers in the next Star Wars movie are a good idea in the video above. It might take you two weeks to understand.

Allison Williams said we could not hate-watch Peter Pan Live, but what about snark-watching? The play was so much more fun to watch while following on Twitter. Some reviewers have said that NBC should have used actors more accustomed to acting in plays. Both these critics and Allison Williams missed the point. Sure we made fun of her at times, but that does not mean we wanted a better stage actress in the role or like Allison Williams any less even though she wasn’t perfect in the role. The point was the fun of the evening, including watching Allison Williams live out her childhood dream of playing Peter Pan, not to see a top notch Broadway-quality play on television.

There is only one actress I would have wanted to play Peter Pan other than Allison Williams, Jane Krakowski. Here is her leaked audition tape:

The highlight of the play was when Peter began to fight the pirates and declared himself to be an Avenger. I hope that most people did not turn off the show before the credits were over and miss the scene with Peter and Tony Stark going out for schwarma. My only complaint about the play was that, in order to be more topical, the “dead maid” in the closet should have shouted out, “I can’t breathe.” I also don’t understand how Wendy grew up to be Minnie Driver and didn’t look a day older.

Anna Kendrick was among the most prolific, and amusing, celebrities tweeting during Peter Pan Live. There is symmetry here as the play began with Wendy reading Cinderella to her younger brothers and Anna Kendrick is playing Cinderella in the movie version of the Broadway play,  Into The Woods. The movie doesn’t come out until December 25 but Disney has released the audio below of Anna Kendrick singing a modified version of the Broadway version of On the Steps of the Palace. Audio below:

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Arrow; More Marvel on TV; Almost Human; S.; Batman vs. Superman; Better Call Saul; Downton Abbey

The BBC has released two trailers for The Day of the Doctor, with the longer version above. The 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who will be simulcast internationally, starting at 2:50 EST in the United States on BBC America. (From my point of view, this is an awful time, interfering with both noon and 3:30 football games.) There is discussion of the trailers and images here and here. The official synopsis has also been released: “In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.”

The BBC America Trailer is above.

Steven Moffat has some major teases as to the meaning of the episode:

Moffat’s previous comments that the episode “will change the narrative in a big way” encouraged speculation that writers have found a solution to the fact that the Doctor can only regenerate twelve times. He has now further added to this by saying, “This should be the next step on the journey, guaranteeing the 100th anniversary”.

He said: “The story focuses on the most important thing that ever happened to the Doctor. We very rarely do that in Doctor Who as it’s usually about the people the Doctor meets or the companion that travels with him. This time it’s different.”

More from Moffat here.

McQ by Alexander McQueen

Jenna Coleman has been doing some modeling. The Guardian has more pictures.

Joanna Page (Stacey of the British sitcom Gavin and Stacey) will play Queen Elizabeth. She discussed kissing David Tennant.

BBC America has released their schedule of shows for the 50th anniversary (via TV Addict). Beyond Day of the Doctor, highlights include An Adventure in Space and Time about the initial development of Doctor Who. The cast includes Jessica Raine of Call the Midwife as producer Verity Lambert.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited Marathon – 9:00am – 9:00pm ET
The First through Tenth Doctor

Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS – 9:00 –10:00pm ET
An all-new special, Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS, features the series’ actors and producers sharing their experiences and memories of the world’s longest-running sci-fi show. The special features exclusive interviews with principal cast members from the show’s 50-year history, including actors who have played the Doctor: Matt Smith, David Tennant, Tom Baker, and Peter Davison, actors who have played companions: Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman, and William Russell, as well as the current lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat. The discussion includes how the actors got cast, how the roles changed their lives, how a ‘regeneration’ is recorded, and how filming the show in the 60′s compares to today.

The Science of Doctor Who with Brian Cox – 10:00–11:00pm ET
A former rock star and Britain’s popular TV physicist, Professor Brian Cox explores the universe of the world’s favorite Time Lord when he takes the audience on a journey into the wonderful universe of Doctor Who, with the help of celebrity guests. In this exclusively recorded special from the lecture theatre of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, Brian reveals the science behind the spectacle and explains the physics that allows Doctor Who to travel through space and time. Fun, but filled with real science, it’s a special night for Who fans and anyone with a thirst for understanding.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19
Doctor Who – The Ninth Doctor Marathon – 10:00am –11:00pm ET

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 20
Doctor Who – The Tenth Doctor Marathon – 2:00am –11:00pm ET

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part I – 9:00am – 11:00pm ET
The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part 2 – 9:00am – 8:00pm ET

Doctor Who Explained – 8:00pm – 9:00pm ET
An all-new special, Doctor Who Explained, explores the mysterious and two-hearted alien who is the Doctor. Through exclusive interviews with principal cast members from the show’s 50-year history, including actors who have played the Doctor: Matt Smith, David Tennant, Peter Davison, and Tom Baker as well as actors who have played companions: Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan, and Freema Agyeman, viewers get an insight to what happens behind-the-scenes of the award-winning sci-fi show.

An Adventure in Space and Time – 9:00pm ET
What do you get when you mix C.S. Lewis with H.G. Wells, and sprinkle in a bit of Father Christmas? An alien Time Lord exploring space and time in a Police Box spaceship called the “TARDIS” (Time And Relative Dimension in Space). Written by Mark Gatiss, the BBC AMERICA co-production, the film stars David Bradley (the First Doctor, William Hartnell), Brian Cox (BBC Head of Drama, Sydney Newman), Jessica Raine (Producer, Verity Lambert) and Sacha Dhawan (Director, Waris Hussein). An unlikely trio of misfits set out to create a genre series that all ages would love. William ‘Bill’ Hartnell, displeased with his career, was presented with a chance to break out of the hard-man roles he’d become known for. And with the instincts of first time producer, Verity Lambert and first time director, Waris Hussein, the Doctor was born. As the success of the show grew, William went from unhappy curmudgeon to beloved television star who relished his career resurgence and found a new lease on life. But all good things come to an end. How will Bill face leaving behind the part that has made him a hero to millions of children? And can the show survive without him? Journey back fifty years through space and time to witness the exciting beginning and untimely end of the First Doctor in this touching drama.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23
Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Marathon Part 3 – 1:00am – 2:00pm ET
The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor – Global Simulcast – 2:50pm ET
The centerpiece of BBC AMERICA’s celebrations is the global simulcast of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary special, Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor, written by Steven Moffat. The Doctors (Matt Smith and David Tennant) embark on their greatest adventure across space and time. In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him. Starring Matt Smith, David Tennant, Jenna Coleman, with Billie Piper and John Hurt. Last seen as the Doctor on January 1, 2010, this will be the first time David Tennant has reprised his role as the Tenth Doctor. During his reign as the Time Lord, Tennant appeared in three seasons as well as several specials. He was first revealed as the Doctor in the 2005 season finale, The Parting of the Ways. Meanwhile Billie Piper, who played companion Rose Tyler for two seasons following the reboot in 2005, will appear in the show for the first time since featuring in David Tennant’s last episode, The End of Time in 2010. The special is directed by Nick Hurran, executive produced by Steven Moffat, Faith Penhale and produced by Marcus Wilson.

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor encore primetime broadcast – 7:00pm ET.
BBC AMERICA will premiere exclusive Inside Look interviews with Matt Smith and David Tennant during the broadcast. The special will be followed by the premiere of new fantasy-adventure series Atlantis at 9:00pm ET.

The Graham Norton Show with guests Matt Smith and David Tennant – 10:00pm ET
Doctor Who stars Matt Smith and David Tennant make their first appearance together on BBC AMERICA’s hit talk show The Graham Norton Show. Emma Thompson, singer Robbie Williams and comedian Jimmy Carr will also be guests.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24
Doctor Who – Matt Smith Countdown – 9:00am – 8:00pm ET
BBC AMERICA counts down the top 11 episodes from the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, as voted on by fans.

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited –The Eleventh Doctor – 8:00pm –10:30pm ET
BBC AMERICA celebrates the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, in a new special of Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited. Matt Smith first stepped into the TARDIS in 2010 and, after starring in the 50th Anniversary Special on November 23, will regenerate in the Christmas special. The Doctors Revisited begins with Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman (companion Clara Oswald), Karen Gillan (companion Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (companion Rory Williams), lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat, among others, examining the human side of this Doctor and taking a look at how his extraordinarily long life has affected him. The special is followed by the Eleventh Doctor two-part story, The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon, in which a strange summons reunites the Doctor, Amy (Karen Gillan), Rory (Arthur Darvill) and River (Alex Kingston) in the middle of the Utah desert and unveils a terrible secret the Doctor’s friends must never reveal to him. These were the first Doctor Who episodes to be filmed in the U.S

 

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I’ve frequently said that Arrow is far better than SHIELD, regardless of any comparisons of the DC versus Marvel lines. After an especially strong episode this week, League of Assassins, I’ve seen reviews (including at The Hollywood Reporter) calling Arrow the best live action superhero television series ever. Considering the competition, and poor translation of superheroes to television, this is a fairly low bar. The question then is whether it is compared to Heroes season one, which was excellent, versus the entire run of Heroes.

There is criticism of the current story lines on Arrow which everyone seems to agree with. It is not plausible that Laurel would be involved in the prosecution considering the conflict of interest. We know we have to accept unrealistic sequences when a man with an bow and arrow can regularly win out against guns. We also must ignore how people do not see though secret identities of people they know well. While this is necessary for the show to exist, they should avoid unrealistic scenarios unnecessary for superhero shows such as Laurel being involved with the prosecution in this situation.

There is more Marvel coming to television (besides a second rumored show on ABC about Agent Carter). They are planning for a set of thirteen episode series on Netflix of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. Just as the movies led to a joint movie in The Avengers, these Netflix individual series will be followed by a joint mini-series entitled The Defenders. Considering that they have not done all that great a job with Agents of SHIELD, I wonder if it is a good idea to go ahead with four more series. Maybe, not being limited by the constraints of a prime time network television series these could be better for genre fans.

SHIELD really teased viewers last week. How many others were hoping that Simmons was not rescued when she jumped off the plan, and Fitz would follow her?

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Spoiler TV has a lot of information on the upcoming television show, Almost Human in an interview with J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman:

The series is set in the year 2048 and stars Karl Urban as John Kennex, a cop who is forced to partner with an android (named Dorian) played by Michael Ealy after an increase in crime leads to all human law officers being accompanied by robots. J.J says that “The idea when Joel pitched it was that Dorian, who is a synthetic, was in some ways more human than his partner.” Wyman told reporters that Ealy heightened what was already on the page with “an incredible sense of thoughtfulness and compassion. He’s playing a character who is by design, literally, as brave and as knowledgeable and as strategic as you’d want your partner to be if you were riding along as a cop, but he’s also as sympathetic as you’d want. What Michael brings is that kind of depth and humanity.” His dubious partner, in turn, is “forced to kind of deal with the idea that his well-being now relies on this technology which he sort of holds in contempt.”

So what sets this latest series apart from the increasingly present action and sci-fi shows on networks today, let alone from the duo’s previous work in the genre? First of all, Wyman began, he wasn’t interested in presenting another dystopian vision of Earth’s future. “I hope that we’re not really in that territory and that we’re successful in that.” Often in the genre, the writer says, the outlook seems to be “‘Look what you humans have done!’ whereas what we’re talking about, I think, is a little more hopeful. There’s a sense of going forward. We’re resilient, we’re going to succeed.”

Abrams mentioned that unlike many of his past efforts this series has much less of an emphasis on mythology and will instead focus on a procedural case-of-the-week type format that will allow us to explore the characters as well as the unique complexities of navigating in an increasingly technology-reliant world. He also promised “a level of humor that is distinct from what we’ve done before” which backs up his partners talk of the series leaning towards a more ‘popcorn’ movie vibe than their previous collaboration. That’s not to say the show is all-action-all-the-time, as Wyman went on to explain his hopes to create a conversation about what these human-computers are at their core and how we should interact with them. “They’re thinking beings, so what are their rights? And where are those lines drawn? A lot of those things are sort of examined in our later stories: What is a robot? What is an android? What is a being?” Wyman, to be sure, did his homework. “J.J had set us up with some very brilliant people from MIT and one was a woman who studied robot ethics, which is pretty amazing, that they’re actually… real.”

The case also includes Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights.

I haven’t had a chance to read J.J. Abrams’ new book, S., yet, but it looks intriguing. Besides a conversation in margin notes going along with the narrative of the book, there are many postcards, maps, and letters at various points in the book. Librarians are not very happy about this.

Alan Alda will be going up against James Spader’s character on The Blacklist later this season. I’m hoping for a reunion with William Shatner.

Adam Driver of Girls is being considered for the role of Dick Grayson/Nightwing in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. It is scheduled for release July 17, 2015.

When news came out about plans for Better Call Saul it was being called a prequel to Breaking Bad. There remains interest in what will happen to Saul after going to Nebraska, and now Bob Odenkirk says the show might be both a prequel and sequel.  There has been speculation that the show might be more of a comedy but Odenkirk says, “It’s going to be 70% drama and 30% comedy.” He also played down the speculation that characters from Breaking Bad will pay a major role in Better Call Saul. If it is a sequel, they should at least work in Gus and Mike. It is also feasible that Saul would cross path with a certain DEA agent, and a high school science teacher could briefly appear as long as any contact with Saul is minimal.

With the success of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and other books by Stieg Larsson in the United States, HBO is planning an hour-long series based upon the works of another Scandinavian author, Jo Nesbø. They are planning an adaptation of his 2008 novel, The Headhunters.

Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey will play Lancelot in Night at the Museum 3. It is hard to believe that the season finale already aired tonight on ITV. I haven’t watched today’s season finale yet, but as of last week there were several loose ends. I wonder how many were tied up tonight, and how many will be extended to the Christmas episode. Thanks to British television, Christmas has become a big television day with episodes of Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, and Call the Midwife. Update: News came in shortly after this was posted that Downton Abbey has been renewed for a fifth season.

Republican Ideas on Health Care

The main strategy of Republicans is to block any meaningful health care reform. Their overall plans would do little if anything to help the uninsured, increase the ability of insurance companies to avoid consumer protection laws by operating out of the states with the weakest regulations, and would increase out of pocket expenses for most people. However, when Republicans have made suggestions which could be considered as part of an overall health care reform measure many Republican ideas have already been included.

Newt Gingrich and John C. Goodman list several suggestions in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. This hardly represents a meaningful health care reform proposal but many of the Republican ideas are already included in the current health care legislation. The Wonk Room goes through many of these suggestions noting how many are now in the bill. I’ll just add comments on a few of the topics.

The Republicans are trying to portray themselves as the defenders of Medicare  after years of trying to destroy the program. The Medicare cuts being proposed are not serious cuts to the program. Most of the cuts would be to Medicare Advantage programs which use the bulk of the subsidies they receive to increase profits for insurance companies and sometimes use a small amount to provide extra benefits to entice customers. In addition, if there is near-universal health care it will not be necessary to fund as much money for Medicare to pay for added expenses due to cost shifting because of the uninsured.

The article is misleading when it says Medicare pays doctors by the task but  doctors “do not get paid to advise patients on how to lower their drug costs.” No, there is not a CPT code for advising patients on lowering drug costs but Medicare does pay for office calls in which such matters can be discussed, and does pay more when more time is spent counseling patients.

They also write that “Under Medicare, doctors are not paid if they communicate with their patients by phone or e-mail.” True, but the same is true of most private payers. This is an area which is just starting to be considered. It could either be added to health care reform legislation or could be added in the future.

Gingrich and Goodman advocate meeting the needs of the chronically ill but one of their key recommendations for doing this will not have this result. They write that “Having the ability to obtain and manage more health dollars in Health Savings Accounts is a start.” The problem is that when people with chronic diseases have to pay for more expenses out of money in their own account they tend to avoid many necessary tests and office visits to save money. In the long run this leads to poorer outcomes and higher costs. There is also the danger of these accounts being depleted leaving patients with chronic medical conditions without sufficient coverage.

They also advocate eliminating junk lawsuits. I agree, but Republicans tend to greatly exaggerate the effect of this. Malpractice suits and the resultant defensive medicine do result in wasted money we should attempt to recover but this is a small part of overall health care costs. The health care legislation does provide for state demonstration tests regarding tort reform. I would be happy to see some actual solutions included in the bill. Perhaps if the Republicans took an attitude of compromising to get their ideas included, as opposed to all deciding early on to vote against health care reform, they might have been successful in having more concrete solutions for tort reform included.

Continuing The Fight For Health Care Reform

Most of the talk about health care reform in the blogs since the loss in Massachusetts has been about ways to ram through health care reform despite losing the super-majority in the Senate. While I agree with the importance of passing health care reform, both in terms of public policy and politically, such arguments often overlook what really must be done first–win over the hearts and minds of the voters. We cannot afford to fail to pass health care reform, but nothing good will come out of ramming through unpopular legislation.

Some liberals think that once the health care plan is passed everyone will see that it is nothing like what is being portrayed by the right wing noise machine and will learn to love the new plan. Most key provisions of health care reform will not take effect until after the 2010 and 2012 elections. During this time people will continue to hear scare stories about the doom we will face. These scare stories about health care reform are no more true than the scare stories of planetary doom in 2012 based upon the Mayan calendar, but they will still be believed by far too many people.

Ramming through health care reform before obtaining the support of the voters is also a mistake as it would reinforce one of the right wing’s criticisms of Democrats as being arrogant in their exercise of power. Sure, it is true as Democrats counter that the Republicans have done far worse than this when in power, but voters will respond to what they see today. Acting like Republicans is no way to convince the voters that the Democrats are any better. Fortunately the Democratic leadership decided against actions such as delaying the seating of Scott Brown or quickly holding a vote before he was seated.

There are many obstacles to selling health care reform but the distortions from the right wing noise machine could have been predicted. Polling does prove that most Americans do not really understand what is in the bills and are more willing to support them once they understand. Obama needs to to campaign for his policies as strongly as he campaigned to beat Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He is now showing that he realizes this.

As Americans do support most of the individual aspects of the health care plan I have suggested that different portions be proposed and debated separately. Pushing everything at once provides too many avenues for the right to obfuscate the real issues. A majority would be likely to support eliminating restrictions on pre-existing conditions, eliminating rescission of policies after people become sick, offering the choice of a public option, establishing exchanges to provide a choice of health care plans, eliminating the Medicare donut hole, and even paying a little more in taxes to provide coverage for those who cannot afford it. Even if there are not enough votes in the Senate to pass portions such as the public option, we should have a public debate and a vote. Sooner or later the public will figure out who it is that is blocking the measures they want. Let the Republicans try to run on such a record.

At present Democrats have far too many points to defend at once, allowing the Republican to create their distortions such as claiming the massive bill contains death panels. Democrats  needed to do a better job of explaining that the Medicare Part D cuts being proposed are cuts in subsidies given to the insurance companies by George Bush, and not actual cuts in Medicare. It is astounding that the Democrats could ever wind up in the situation of allowing the Republicans to falsely portray themselves as the defenders of Medicare.

There is  increased hope that a deal might be reached to have the House pass the Senate bill in return for plans to fix the problems with separate legislation. If this was the fantasy world of The West Wing I would prefer to see a series of individual battles and victories for health care reform, but a deal such as what is being discussed is more realistic in this world.

If such a deal cannot be reached, and ideally even if one can, Obama should take advantage of the State of the Union Address to explain what is actually in the health care plan and to also tell the American people that he has heard their concerns and is recommending that Congress make some changes.

One mistake which Obama can still rectify is backing away from his opposition to the individual mandate. The mandate changes how people see individual fixes they might otherwise support, and plays into the talking points of the far right. Many independents voted for Obama because they realized after Katrina that we cannot have a government which ignores the need for government action when necessary. However, while many are willing to support government helping those who need assistance at obtaining health care, they are justifiably nervous about government programs designed to help people whether they ask for the help or not.

People who see this as a more voluntary plan to help either themselves or others would be more willing to support this as opposed to a plan which is mandatory for themselves. There are many other ways around the free rider problem which would not lead to opposition from many on both the left and the right as has occurred as a result of the individual mandate.

There are many other details I would change but this is already far too long for a blog post. I will end by repeating one of my other objections to the course the health care debate has taken even if, in this case, it might not be politically feasible to change course.

The Democrats have fallen into a trap of accepting the Republican dogma that taxes should never be raised, as most forget that even Ronald Reagan did raise taxes. They are forced to find ways to limit the people who pay for the health care reform measures, leading to opposition from certain groups and an overall impression that they are trying to sneak something by the American people. Everyone benefits from health care reform in the long run and far more money can be raised less painfully if there is a broad based tax. If Barack Obama had used his oratory skills from the start to explain to people exactly what they must pay and what they get in return I wonder if Americans would have understood this. Or perhaps I’m returning to the fantasy world of  The West Wing on this argument.

The Public Still Opposes Republicans, And Will Support Health Care Reform If Handled Better

Republicans are feeling very good this week, as would be expected after winning a Senate seat in Massachusetts and possibly being successful with their strategy to do anything to block health care reform regardless of how much they harm the country. They should not get over confident that they can win without several unusual factors which helped them in Massachusetts. Public Policy Polling found that only 19 percent of voters are happy with the direction of the Republican Party:

One lesson that can be taken from the recent GOP successes in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia is that your party can be a complete mess and still win an election.

Our national poll this week found that only 19% of voters in the country are happy with the direction of the Republican Party, compared to 56% who are unhappy with it. Even among independents, who have voted overwhelmingly for Scott Brown, Chris Christie, and Bob McDonnell 58% say they don’t like the direction the GOP is headed in.

The GOP’s own voters are displeased with where the party’s going- 38% say they are unhappy with the current direction to 35% who support it. In a trend that perhaps provides at least a ray of hope to Democrats the Republicans unhappy with their own party are disproportionately moderates. 54% of them are displeased to 25% content- the question is what Democrats can do to get those folks to actually jump ship.

Disliking the Republicans does not necessarily mean people will vote Democratic. Far too many Democrats saw the repudiation of George Bush and the previous Republican-controlled Congress in 2008 and 2006 as support for a specific agenda as opposed to opposition to the status quo. If voters remain upset about the status quo, many are likely to respond by voting Republican.

I don’t normally pay much attention to anonymous blog comments, but part of the problem can be seen in the first comment at Public Policy Polling’s site:

Tom, I personally think that you’re analysis isn’t correct, but I do think that many ppl I know, from around me, who always voted for Democrats, their whole life, and are promising never ever to put a ballot with a D near it in the ballot box! We’ll vote for the Republican always b/c the Dems went to the extreme left with Obama et al. That’s the problem!

In reality it is the Republicans on the extreme right with Obama taking a centrist course. The Republicans have managed to distort a fairly conservative fix to our health care delivery problems as a radical solution. Democrats deserve part of the blame here. This includes failing to properly prepare for this inevitable attack  as well as some policy mistakes, including Obama backing away from his opposition to the individual mandate.

Democrats  needed to do a better job of explaining that the Medicare Part D cuts were cuts in subsidies given to the insurance companies by George Bush, and not actual cuts in Medicare. It is astounding that the Democrats could ever wind up in the situation of allowing the Republicans to falsely portray themselves as the defenders of Medicare.

The Democrats  might have been better off pushing for pieces of health care reform in smaller chunks which the pubic could understand rather than having to defend themselves on far too many fronts at once. A majority would be likely to support eliminating restrictions on pre-existing conditions, eliminating rescission of policies after people become sick, offering the choice of a public option, and even paying a little more in taxes to provide coverage for those who cannot afford it. The Democrats might have won on each of these as individual battles while they now risk losing the war. It is not too late for the Democrats to take up each of these measures. Public support might lead to their victory, or if the Republicans continue to block everything they will then risk being the party which is shocked in November.

White House Blog Addresses Change In Email Program

As I noted yesterday, the White House has discontinued the email address used to send copies of viral email with misinformation about health care reform less than two weeks after the program began. While those wearing tin foil hats on the far right saw a government conspiracy to track down dissidents, this was really a case of new technology creating concerns which had not previously been considered. The White House blog has discussed the issue, correctly describing the irony of the situation:

An ironic development is that the launch of an online program meant to provide facts about health insurance reform has itself become the target of fear-mongering and online rumors that are the tactics of choice for the defenders of the status quo.

The even greater irony is that those engaging in this fear-mongering are often the same people who supported acts of true surveillance when performed by the Bush administration. Their actions betray the fact that their true concerns are over partisan politics, not civil liberties.

They also discussed how the program is being changed and affirmed their support for privacy:

The Reality Check website exists to inform public debate about health insurance reform – not stifle it.  As the President said, “We are bound to disagree, but let’s disagree over issues that are real.”  To that end, we’ve seen incredible response from website visitors who are using the tools provided on the site to share videos and other content with friends and family.

To better understand what new misinformation is bubbling up online or in other venues, we want your suggestions about topics to address through the Reality Check site.  To consolidate the process, the email address set up last week for this same purpose is now closed and all feedback should be sent through: http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck/contact

The White House takes online privacy very seriously.  As our published privacy policy makes clear, we will not share personal information submitted through the site with anyone. We also ask that you always refrain from submitting others’ information without permission.

Now the right wingers can get back to worrying about Obama’s birth certificate, the NAFTA superhighway,  floride in the water, or whatever else the voices in their heads are warning them about today.

Steven Pinker on The Impact of Bush’s War on Science

AlterNet has posted an interview with Steven Pinker regarding the “war on science” conducted by the Bush administration. Here is an excerpt:

JAS: Quite a few people argue that the Bush administration has been especially misleading and meddlesome in distorting the truth about scientific research, suppressing evidence in favor of a political agenda. Do you think it’s true that the Bush administration is more anti-science than previous administrations, or do some of these problems stretch back even farther?

SP: To some extent they go back further. To be honest, I was skeptical of claims that the Bush administration is worse than previous ones. But I have now been turned around, and I see that the accusations are correct, that there is a Republican war on science, and that it does seem unprecedented. I see that in the areas with which I have firsthand familiarity. For issues like sex education and climate, I have had to take the word of the scientists who have been directly involved.

JAS: What changed your mind?

SP: I’ve been personally involved in three issues, and in each case, intervention from the Bush administration has gone against scientific consensus.

The first involved bioethics, where the President’s Council on Bioethics has been packed with cultural conservatives and opponents of biomedical research, with a concerted effort to exaggerate the downside of biomedical research and to play up the fears.

The second is evolution, where Bush himself called for the so-called “controversy” between intelligent design and evolution to be taught in schools, whereas virtually every intelligent scientist believes that there is no such controversy.

The third involves regulation of language on the airwaves, where my book The Stuff of Thought was cited by the solicitor general in a brief to a U.S. Appeals Court on whether the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to sanction the networks for failing to bleep out fleeting expletives — that is, celebrities such as Cher or Bono or Nicole Richie saying “fucking brilliant” or “they can fuck themselves” during live television broadcasts. And the government cited what I think are bogus considerations about protecting the mental health of children as a rationale for restricting speech on the airwaves. They used my writing to support their case in a way that I felt was deceptive.

JAS: Do you believe that the Bush administration’s actions will have any lasting impact on Americans’ levels of trust in science and scientific institutions?

SP: Yes. For example, the Religious Right and their supporters in the Bush administration argue that scientists are suppressing debate about evolution. Having long ago lost the legal battle to have intelligent design taught in the classrooms, they are now framing the issue as an attempt to “teach the controversy,” therefore putting scientists on the side of appearing to want to suppress controversy.

To the extent that they succeed in framing the debate that way, it would look as if scientists are pushing their own dogma. And that is simply dishonest. Scientists would have no interest in a debate between astronomy and astrology or chemistry and alchemy, simply because you have to draw the line somewhere and impose some barrier to entry of basic scientific credibility before you engage in a debate. But that can be distorted into making it seem as if scientists are as dogmatic as the defenders of religious fundamentalism.