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Fargo renewed by FX with new characters and cast, return to Alberta likely but not finalized; Louie is back, too

- July 21st, 2014

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BEVERLY HILLS., Calif. – FX clearly has a thing for loners and lonely landscapes, as Fargo and Louie have been renewed for second and fifth seasons, respectively.

FX announced on Monday that executive producer and writer Noah Hawley is moving forward with a second installment of  Fargo. This new chapter of the Fargo story will feature all new characters, all new actors, a new time frame (1979), new locations (Sioux Falls, S.D., and Laverne, Minn.) and a new “true crime” story that will unfold over 10 episodes.

The first season of Fargo was shot near Calgary, and while FX CEO John Landgraf said he would “like” to shoot season two there as well, it has not been finalized yet. Later in the day, Hawley and co-EP Warren Littlefield implied it is their intention to be back in Alberta. Production likely will span the winter and spring of 2015, but the story may not take place entirely in a winter climate. The earliest the second season of Fargo will air is in the fall of 2015.

The first season of Fargo – which starred Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Alison Tolman, Colin Hanks and Keith Carradine, among others – aired on FXX in Canada. It has not yet been determined if the second season will air on FX Canada or FXX Canada, both of which are owned by Rogers.

A younger version of Carradine’s Lou Solverson character will be part of the second season of Fargo.

“We could not be more proud of Fargo,” Landgraf said. “Noah’s audacious, bordering on hubristic riff on my favoruite Coen brothers film earned 18 Emmy nominations – the most for a single program in our history. Fargo was nothing short of breathtaking and we look forward to the next installment.”

Meanwhile, Louis C.K.’s multi-award-winning Louie will be back on FX and FX Canada with new episodes – the official release said seven, Landgraf said “seven or eight” – in the spring of 2015.

“Louie’s fourth season was once again groundbreaking – sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, always thought-provoking,” Landgraf said. “The show went to narrative and cinematic places no comedy has gone before and we look forward to seeing what Louis comes up with next.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

The naked truth continues tonight on Naked and Afraid

- July 20th, 2014

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Nakedly speaking, it’s the first few minutes that are the most uncomfortable.

“During the first half-hour, you can imagine how awkward that is, walking up to your naked partner, shaking hands,” Jeff Zausch said. “I promise you, it’s just as awkward as it looks on television.”

Zausch is a participant on the survivalist reality series Naked and Afraid, which currently is airing its third season Sunday nights on Discovery. The series pairs male and female strangers, challenging them to survive for 21 days in the wild without anything to help them, including clothes.

“After a while, you forget you’re naked,” Zausch continued. “You forget about the crew. You forget that there’s a camera guy following you around. Because our minds are so focused on survival, so focused on food, water, shelter. The whole television-show part of it gets lost.”

Well, the television-show part of it certainly is not lost on Discovery, given the success of Naked and Afraid. Zausch was among a group of participants and producers who recently attended the Television Critics Association event to talk about the series and its eyebrow-raising premise.

Of course, airing on Discovery, viewers don’t really see any nakedness.

“With the pixelation, we have a group of probably six graphic artists who go frame by frame to create the blurs,” co-executive producer Jay Renfroe said.

At which point participant Justin Bullard interjected, “They could have made my blurred spot bigger. That would be cool.”

That does lead to the question, though, why is Discovery the right channel for Naked and Afraid? After all, there are many channels that would be more than happy to just show the nudity, eliminating the laborious and presumably expensive process of pixelation.

“We never intended this to be an exploitative show,” co-executive producer David Garfinkle said. “This is a family show. Families all around the country, all around the world, are watching this show because it’s not about the nudity. It’s about the survival, and it’s really a relationship show between a man and a woman.

“I think that if we were to do that and take that approach (with the viewers seeing the full nudity), this show would be very short-lived, and it would have a very narrow viewership. We are hoping this show will last a long, long time.

“When we created this show, our idea was to come up with the most authentic survival challenge ever. The nudity, like the guys were saying, within the first hour, it’s kind of forgotten. Even as a viewer, when you see it in the tweets, it’s not about the nudity.”

Agree to disagree, at least on a marketing and promotional level. But whatever Discovery is doing, it’s working.

Everyone involved with Naked and Afraid, participants and producers alike, wanted to stress that these aren’t just normal everyday people on the show. They all have a certain amount of survivalist training and experience. Otherwise, these simply would be suicide missions.

“Why naked?” participant Eva Rupert said. “I mean, that is the ultimate challenge.”

Well, the nudity certainly makes it harder, no pun intended.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

McConaughey “True” winner at 30th annual TCA awards

- July 19th, 2014

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Matthew McConaughey’s aim was “True.” The critics say so.

Both personally for his portrayal of Rust Cohle and collectively for his dark TV series True Detective, McConaughey was one of the biggest winners at the 30th annual Television Critics Association awards, which took place late Saturday at the Beverly Hilton.

McConaughey won the TCA award for individual achievement in drama for his work on True Detective (HBO). The TCA award for outstanding achievement in movies, mini-series and specials also went to True Detective.

“People ask me, ‘Why did you go do True Detective, why did you go do TV?’ ” McConaughey said. “And I’ve said it before: Quality.”

After thanking his True Detective co-star Woody Harrelson, McConaughey added, “I want to say thank you to another guy I came to love and respect, and that’s Mr. Rustin Cohle we’re talking about here. Thank you Rustin for having a bull—t meter of zero. Thank you Rustin for giving more of a damn about the truth than yourself. I do hope one day that Rustin Cohle takes it easy on himself, but I doubt that’s gonna happen. And if it doesn’t, I say Rustin, give ‘em hell. But either way, I’m gonna miss that guy. I’m gonna miss Rustin Cohle.”

Outstanding achievement in drama (series) went to The Good Wife (CBS).

Individual achievement in comedy went to Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep (HBO).

“I’d like to thank the television critics, all of them, and I’ll tell you why,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “I love being criticized – positively. And I guess that’s what this is.

“And I think it’s pretty groovy to be in a co-ed group (the TCA categories don’t separate actors and actresses). It’s kind of like having that co-ed bathroom in your dorm. At first it’s shocking, but then you get used to it.”

Outstanding achievement in comedy (series) was a tie between Veep (HBO) and Louie (FX).

Program of the year went to Breaking Bad (AMC), for the second consecutive year.

“Thank you to all the TCA members, because in the beginning, we had these big yellow signs in Albuquerque saying, ‘Parking for Breaking Bad this way,’ and nobody cared,” said Bryan Cranston, who played lead character Walter White. “We were a little show in the desert making this story about a man who contracts cancer who decides to cook crystal meth. That’s such a bad idea, I don’t blame HBO for saying no. But we’re very thankful to AMC, who was desperate.

“This group has been fantastic to work with,” added Cranston, who was joined on stage by co-star Aaron Paul, creator Vince Gilligan and others. “And this is the last time we will be seeing you up here. Without you getting the word out about our little show, we’re not up here, we’re not on any stage, we’re nowhere. It’s a little sad saying goodbye, but this is it, thank you so much.”

Outstanding new program went to Orange is the New Black (Netflix).

Outstanding achievement in news and information went to Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey (Fox).

Outstanding achievement in reality programming went to RuPaul’s Drag Race (Logo).

Outstanding achievement in youth programming went to The Fosters (ABC Family).

The career achievement award went to legendary series creator and director James Burrows, who consistently has worked on the biggest comedies in television dating back to the 1970s.

The heritage award was given to Saturday Night Live (NBC) for its long-running cultural and social impact.

The TCA awards were hosted by actor and comedian Terry Crews from the Fox series Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

OLYMPIC MYSTERY

Special Olympics athlete Kevin James and several other Special Olympics basketball players will showcase their skills on the court in a new episode of The Listener airing Monday on CTV. James, who is from Oakville, Ont., has a speaking role in the episode.

The main plot centres on a Special Olympics hoops coach named Emma (Rayisa Kondracki) whose father is killed during a home invasion. As Toby (Craig Olejnik) and Michelle (Lauren Lee Smith) investigate, they discover that Emma’s dad led a double life, and now Emma herself could be in imminent danger.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

Jon Cryer reacts to gay-marriage story line on Two and a Half Men

- July 18th, 2014

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Jon Cryer says Two and a Half Men is not going to trivialize gay marriage and adoption in its final season, although he totally gets why some people are wary.

“We will be fully aware that this is not something trivial for people, we don’t want to trivialize it, and I completely can understand why some people might be afraid that Two and a Half Men might trivialize an important issue,” Cryer said.

“It’s still an issue, and I totally understand why people might be afraid that we’re not going to handle it particularly well. After all, this is Two and a Half Men.

“People have been fighting for this and it means a great deal to people, so we’re not making light of that. We are, however, making fun of the fact that the marriage of convenience has been a comedic trope for centuries. So we are taking advantage of the fact that the winds of change are finally blowing in the States, so we can have some comedic fun with it. But obviously we’re not going to make fun of gay marriage at all.”

Cryer made the comments late Thursday night at a CBS function during the Television Critics Association tour. Earlier in the day, CBS chairman Nina Tassler had provided some details about the final season of Two and a Half Men, in which Walden (Ashton Kutcher, above left) will conspire with Alan (Cryer, above right) to pretend they’re a gay couple so they can adopt a child, after Walden’s efforts to adopt as a single male are unsuccessful

“There’s a certain amount of, now that same-sex marriage is legal, you get to have fun with it as well,” Cryer said. “And we’re going to bring up the fact that it’s still not legal for gay people to adopt in some states. We’re going to talk about the fact that this is California, where that’s fine, and that precedent has been set.”

Coincidentally, Cryer will be appearing at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal next week. He said he’s looking forward to it and has heard great things, although he never has attended before, because he never has been asked.

“What’s up with that? Who dropped the ball?” Cryer said jokingly. “I’ve only been on one of the top-rated comedies on TV for, I don’t know, let me count them, 12 seasons.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Alan and Walden look to adopt a child as a fake gay couple in the final season of Two and a Half Men

- July 17th, 2014

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -  A gay marriage and adoption storyline featuring the lead characters on Two and a Half Men will kick off the final season of the show.

“Walden (Ashton Kutcher) is going to have a major health scare and it is going to give him a little bit of an existential crisis,” CBS chairman Nina Tassler said Thursday at the Television Critics Association event. “And he wants to find a way to add more meaning to his life.

“So he decides he wants to adopt a child. He starts the process and he realizes it’s very difficult to adopt a child as a single straight man. So once and for all he decides he’s going to propose to Alan, we’re going to get married, and adopt a child as a gay couple. That’s going to start the season for Two and a Half Men.”

According to Tassler, the Walden and Alan characters will not be turning gay, but rather pretending to be gay in order to attempt the adoption.

Tassler was asked if she feels there will be any push-back from the gay and lesbian community about the gay marriage and adoption storyline.

“Positive – I think it’s a very positive statement,” Tassler said. “I am going to adopt a child as a gay couple. And the reality is, he can do that. In a universe when at one point you couldn’t do that and now you can do that, I think that’s a much more positive statement that he’s making.”

Are there any chances Charlie Sheen might return at any point in the final season?

“We’re not having those conversations right now,” Tassler said.

Additionally, Tassler offered nothing concrete as to the participation or non-participation of Angus T. Jones in the final season of Two and a Half Men.

The series also airs in Canada on CTV.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv