Category Archives: TV

Hoffman Comes to TV with HBO’s ‘Luck’

Coming soon to HBO in 'Luck,' Dustin Hoffman.

Dustin Hoffman has his first starring role on a television series on HBO’s upcoming horse-racing drama, Luck, created by Deadwood‘s David Milch, in a move sure to produce some of the best storytelling in all of TV.

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the talent involved.

Hoffman is one of the best actors in Hollywood.  At this point, it’s a fact.  Watch this scene from All The President’s Men to see what I mean.

See how Hoffman, as Carl Bernstein, explains Journalism 101 to Bob Woodward (Robert Redford), AKA The Audience, without coming across as a bland textbook?  That’s talent, folks.  Imagine that, along with his other talents, appearing on your television screen each week.

Luck‘s creator and head writer, David Milch, is to writing what Hoffman is to acting.  He created one of the most progressive network television series ever in NYPD Blue and his work on Deadwood is second to none.

Milch’s research is impeccable and he knows how to put impossibly good dialogue in the mouths of memorable characters, to say the least.  Look at Deadwood‘s Al Swearengen, brought to life by another great actor I can only hope he brings aboard Luck, Ian McShane (WARNING: the man has a mouth).

The other cast members aboard Luck are nothing to sneeze at, either, with the show starring other heavy hitters like Dennis Farina (Snatch, yes!), the sexiest man alive, Nick Nolte, and Rome‘s Kerry Condon.  The acting ability is great all around.

And to top it all off, the pilot was directed by Michael Mann, who did one of the greatest crime thrillers ever, Heat.  He also serves as another executive producer on the series.

I’m not even sure what Luck‘s story will entail, beyond it “taking place in the world of horse racing,” but with the talent involved, I’ll speculate it’s got something to do with gambling and back-stabbing.  Then again, it could be a light-hearted anthology about talking horses and I’d still watch for all these great people.

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Carell’s ‘Office’ Replacement? Try Cancellation.

Please, Michael Scott, take the rest of the show with you.

Speculation’s run rampant in recent weeks about The Office star Steve Carell’s impending departure from the hit NBC show when his contract ends at the end of next season.  My suggestion?  Let the show end at what would be a logical conclusion for all its characters.

Not to sound like a spurned fanboy or anything, but The Office hasn’t been all that great in recent years.  It’s good for a chuckle here and there, but its well of heartfelt moments have run dry once the show’s romantic leads, Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer), finally got married and had a baby.

With Carell’s Michael Scott leaving the Dunder-Mifflin branch to probably go work with kids, it would conceivably open his job up to Jim, transforming him from the prank-playing slacker to hard-working family man and bringing his arc to a close.

That sounds like a good ending to me, but NBC, being its terrible self, probably won’t stand for a dignified ending.  This is the network, after all, that picked Jay Leno to usher in a “new era of prime time” and even has made J.J. Abrams seem lame.  Chances are they’ll run the show into the ground with another few years of irrelevancy following the departure of its big name star.

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Breaking Bad To Return In July of 2011

Returning in July, 2011: Breaking Bad

The recently-aired third season finale of Breaking Bad was yet another example of the AMC meth-cooking show’s amazing cliffhangers, and now that creator Vince Gilligan says it won’t return for a full year, the writers have a wonderful opportunity to craft a season-two-style narrative that will, most likely, bring the superb series to an explosive end.

Season three had some of the greatest–and most shocking–moments of the show’s run (“Run,” anyone?) but it also was what Gilligan described as improvised.  He and the writers wrote themselves into corners and found ways out of it throughout the entire season.  That writing style was exhilarating and created a sense of anything-can-happen anticipation, but it’s also a recipe for disaster if continued for extended periods of time.  Eventually, the writers won’t be able to figure out a way to make everything pay off.

However, Gilligan and co. appear to be heading back in the carefully plotted direction of the show’s second season, when the show openers carefully teased the finale’s big payoff, creating a central mystery for the whole year and also providing a wealth of beautiful and haunting visuals.

Based on what Gilligan’s stated in the past, he only wants the show to last 40-50 episodes, and that would leave the upcoming season four as the final year of the show.  The writers need to spend as much time carefully figuring out how to tie up loose ends and finish character arcs.  Since they’re already planning the intricacies of episodes that won’t air for an entire year, I feel confident they’ll craft a season which rivals some of the greatest ever, like Dexter season two and Lost season four.

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Breaking Bad: Yes, Please

While I’ve patiently been waiting for one of my myriad job applications to pan out, I’ve had lots of down time so far this summer, and I have spent it wisely by starting, and nearly catching up on AMC’s Breaking Bad.

Bryan Cranston, star of AMC's Breaking Bad.

The show, a saga (that’s right, like Twilight!) about a high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth cook to support his family after a cancer diagnosis, is currently the best thing on television, and Bryan Cranston–that’s right, Hal from Malcolm in the Middledeserves the Emmys, and any other awards, he’s won for the lead role of Walter White, and the rest of the cast does a tremendous job of rounding out their characters, as well.

While the acting is incredibly rich and one of the show’s biggest strengths, it’s the carefully plotted story that really draws me in.  Each episode–hell, each scene–is an integral part of the greater tale, one which gives an on-the-ground take on the war on drugs, from the manufacturers like Walt and his former student and partner, Jesse (Aaron Paul), to the distribution rings (run by Giancarlo Esposito’s Gustavo Frings), to the D.E.A. agents like Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris), trying to take drugs off the streets.  The way Walt and Jesse build an empire through the use of good chemistry and sheer dumb luck is fascinating and makes you wonder if this is how things really are in the drug trade, and if these people actually have suffering wives and children because of what they choose to do.  I hope not, because there’s some pretty crazy and terrible stuff going on in this show.

Walt’s quest to, at first, provide his pregnant wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), and son, Walter, Jr. (RJ Mitte), with money for when he dies seems to be misguidedly noble, but as the show progresses and the audience catches on that Walt realizes he’s good at this and he’s no longer doing it just for his family is when it gets very interesting.  From turning down the offers of financial help from a former lab partner to not telling his mother about his disease, we see Walt’s a very stubborn and flawed man, and his story is an allegory about the downfalls of pride.

The visual way in which the story is told is also captivating.  The show’s gritty look is heightened by its desert location (it takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico) and the use of hand-held cameras, giving some scenes an almost documentary feel.  Also of note is the opening teaser (that’s the first scene before the credits) of every episode is very cinematic, sometimes oblique and odd, like the teddy bear sequences throughout season two, or very entertaining, thanks to the drug bust of dealer Badger.

As the series is not yet complete, there is no way to tell if Walt will work through his issues before either succumbing to cancer or getting caught in his web of lies and crime, but whatever the eventual resolution to the story is, it will probably be a ride unlike any other on TV.

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Rob Ponders The End Of Lost

In five days, Lost ends.  The story’s almost over.  The twists are nearly complete.  The biggest reveal is upon us.

What does it all mean?  It depends on who you ask.  In this in-depth and very eloquent interview with the New York Times, series masterminds Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse say the show is meant to inspire a sense of community to debate what the show was actually about, and you know what?  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

During this final season, whenever I’ve read anything about this show–and, since I am a geeky fanboy, I read a lot–everything I’ve heard has been about answers, or the lack of answers provided by the show.  As a series that is so firmly entrenched in mystery, I can’t see it ending with any sense of all-knowing finality, and I never expected it to.  I don’t think I would want it to, either.

The characters and themes of the show are enough for me.  The main message of letting go of what you cannot change is a powerful one.  Jack’s stubbornness in trying to fix everything has slowly eroded into a calmness and acceptance.  Sawyer’s path from con man to island hero was phenomenal.  Desmond’s search for, and eventual reunion with his true love made him one of my all-time favorite characters in anything.  Locke’s father issues are…  probably going to serve as a cautionary tale for not letting go, but I digress.  They, along with the rest of the characters, were complex, fun, and a joy to watch, and they made all the crazy island hootenany of smoke monsters, cultish groups of Others, and time travel even cooler.  The show even humanized island demigods in a way stuffy retellings of Greek myths never could for me.

The thing I most respect from the producers is the way they are standing firm on their doling out of answers.  Cuse and Lindelof both say if the mysteries don’t matter to the characters themselves (Juliet’s not around to ask why pregnant women die on the island, etc.), they won’t be answered.  Plus, ABC stands to make bundles of cash from all the future Star Wars-esque novels which will eventually follow the show.  And those novels need some mysteries to answer, so it makes sense.

Many more talented writers than I have written about the end of the show, so I’ll delegate to them for why it is, and soon to be was, a great show.  I’ll be watching tonight’s penultimate episode and can’t wait to see how it all ends, and I’ll probably love every second.  Unless, of course, the island is a space ship.  That will just blow.

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Happy Town: We’ll See…

Tonight, ABC launches their newest drama, Happy Town.  I’ve been seeing previews for it a lot and am pretty intrigued, so I looked up some reviews, though, and a lot of vitriol is being spewed its way, mostly because it’s being called a low-rent Twin Peaks, but I’m willing to see for myself before I decide.

The cast of ABC's Happy Town.

Now, I love me some Twin Peaks. It was originally broadcast when I was a toddler, but thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I’ve been able to catch the entire series.  It really was pretty awesome, too.  Incredibly insane, but great nonetheless.  I mean, supernatural murderers, (possible) alien abductions, backwards-talking midgets, you can’t go wrong, right?

Happy Town appears to be treading in the same waters, mostly thanks to the small-town locale and spooky melodrama its previews indicate.  Some reviewers are saying it is poorly written but competently acted, and nobody seems to think its chances of survival are strong.  Either way, I think it looks promising with a kooky, foreboding tone and it offers some opportunities for the fun quirky things its predecessor was known for.

I’ll reserve my judgements until tonight when it’s actually broadcast.

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TV Themes, Twins, Other T-Word To Complete the Alliteration

I was on Ain’t It Cool News earlier and their TV guy, who goes by the name of Hercules, posted this video.  He complained (as most nerds–myself included–do) about these two brothers not including enough classic themes.  I, on the other hand, think these guys are very entertaining.  I’m a big fan of their takes on the Charles in Charge, Cheers, and The OC (played with a faux seriousness that made me grin) themes.

On top of that, this got me thinking.  If anyone out there reading this is a twin, why on earth would you have the same hair cut as your brother or sister?  It’s hard enough to tell you apart.  If I had a twin, I’d get a mohawk and put tattoos on my forehead and stuff.  I’d be the cool rebel one that, like, plays loud music, wears leather jackets, and doesn’t live up to his potential.  Wait, I’m already doing those.  Damn you, YouTube, providing me with a case of angsty, existential woe!

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Justified: Count Me In

If you’re anything like me, you like to indulge in “what if?” scenarios.  Personally, I like to wonder what would happen if talented writers took the reigns of Walker, Texas Ranger. Most of the time it ends with me sitting in my underwear wearing a cowboy hat and playing Super Chuck Norris Bros.

Seth Bullock back in the hat.

My odd personal habits aside, FX may have answered my original question.  Graham Yost, writer of Speed (if you claim that’s not a great action movie, you are insane) and executive producer of my favorite cop show ever, Boomtown, is behind Justified, starring universally acknowledged stud Timothy Olyphant as a U.S. Marshal transferred from Miami to his hometown in Kentucky to do something…  upholding the law, I’m assuming.

Either way, it looks good based on the trailers I’ve seen.  Deadwood’s Olyphant rocks a cowboy hat like none other, spouts Elmore Leonard–the show is based on a novella of his–dialogue with skill, and the tone of the show seems to be Dexter meets the aforementioned Walker.

It starts on Tuesday, March 16 at 10 p.m./9 p.m. Central on FX.  I’ll be there, eating jerky and thinking manly thoughts.

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FOX Greenlights Fringe Season Three, Rob Swoons reports that FOX has given Fringe an order for a third season.  I didn’t think it was going to happen, considering how the sci-fi drama usually stays in the 2.5 range with ratings on Thursdays against tough competition from The Office, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, and Supernatural.  But now that it is officially coming back for a third year, my heart is all fluttery because, with Lost ending, this looks to slot into position number one on my favorite shows list next year.

Coming back for another season.

What does this mean for the show?  Well, it allows the writers to craft a fantastic cliffhanger season finale rather than scramble to give a sense of finality when season two comes to a close in May.  They can build on the parallel universe storyline involving Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy.  But best of all, it allows them to continue giving one of my favorite characters of all time, Walter Bishop, more great “Walter moments”.

Also, it shows FOX is more willing to let the series develop, growing the mythology and character interractions.  That means more episodes related to the overaching storyline of the show, rather than the standalone episodes I think have hampered Fringe in the ratings this year.

Those standalone episodes can be pretty good, like the one this year with the mutant kid living underneath a small town or the one with the slug things on the Asian ship, but they do nothing to advance the storyline of the upcoming “war” that’s been hinted at.  I think viewers can see this and I doubt they appreciate the spinning-the-wheels feel it gives.

Now that Fringe is coming back, those viewers hopefully don’t have to worry about more stalling.  The showrunners can start telling the “big” story in earnest, the story they want to tell, and they now seem to have the network’s permission to do so.

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Doc Jensen’s Lost Psychosis and How It Makes Me Smarter

A promo image from Lost's sixth and final season.

Jeff Jensen, or Doc Jensen as he’s fashioned himself, loves Lost, probably more than anyone on the planet.  As a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly, he is in a position many fans of the wacky show–myself included–would be extremely jealous of: he gets paid to divulge his (seemingly) insane theories about what the show means and how it will end.

Jensen’s theories from the current-and-final season alone include Huey Lewis & The News and Islamic Judgement Day references.  Is he off his rocker?  Probably, but I’ve never felt more informed about the world of entertainment, and perhaps life in general.

Because of the good Doc, I’ve learned quite a lot.  Did you know there’s a theory that an invisible planet we don’t know about that may or may not crash into Earth?  These things get discussed regularly in Jensen’s columns.

Beyond that, I’ve discovered some very good books thanks to the show’s, and Jensen’s, name dropping of them.  I’ve read Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Stand by Stephen King, and am currently reading Ubik by Philip K. Dick, among others.  There are plenty more on my agenda, including titles by Flann O’Brien and Mark Z. Danielewski.

Now, these myriad Lost connections could be entirely coincidental, but the way Jensen writes about the show and its cultural impact has become my main reason for reading every Tuesday and Wednesday.  I don’t even care anymore about how these wild ideas relate to the show.  I just want to learn more cool stuff and get turned onto more movies, TV shows, or books that I’d enjoy.

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