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Margaret Atwood wonders how HBO will adapt wagging blue penises

- August 20th, 2014
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Canadian author Margaret Atwood at her Toronto home (Fred Thornhill/Reuters).

When beloved Canadian author and one-time Sun guest columnist Margaret Atwood sat down with Vulture to discuss HBO’s upcoming adaptation of her Oryx and Crake trilogy, she tackled such high-brow literary topics as Godzilla cosplay and the mechanics of getting blue penises to wag on television.

Atwood’s speculative fiction series features bio-engineered humans called Crakers, who are  simple-minded, orgy-loving nudists who purr and get bright blue erections that wag like puppy-dog tails. Asked how HBO, no stranger to nudity but not big on the male genitalia, would adapt the Crakers, Atwood admitted: “I’ve not got any inside information on that.”

But being a speculative fiction writer, she speculated.

“Well, that will be easy to simulate. Perhaps with little motors? We’ll see how far they’re willing to go, and how much people are willing to put up with it.”

She also discussed the potential for, God help us, Craker cosplay.

“It would require quite a bit of chutzpah to do that! Are they going to use shrubs? Nude behind the shrub, and just let the top half stick out? Are they going to go Adam with the fig leaf? How daring will they be?”

HBO’s MaddAddam is being developed by Black Swan‘s Darren Aronofsky.

 

 

 

 

Liar, liar, lab’s on fire; Could Marley Shelton of The Lottery be preparing for politics?

- August 17th, 2014

Marley Shelton, episodic one, The Lottery

Marley Shelton’s character lamented in a recent episode of The Lottery that she actually had to go on national TV and lie.

Um … clearly Dr. Alison Lennon, played by Shelton, has never heard of politics. Isn’t it more newsworthy when someone isn’t lying on national TV?

But we’ll cut Alison some slack, because she’s a scientist and a medical researcher, not a politician, and she understandably doesn’t want to give people false hope. The Lottery – which airs Sundays on Lifetime – is set in 2025, and the human race has not produced a baby since 2019, when only six of them were born.

“For me it’s so tangible, because (in real life) I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, and they’re still in that phase where they’re very dependent on their mother and we are really tight,” Shelton said. “Having that incredibly intense bond is so instinctual. The drive to populate and keep the human race going forward, it’s just so in us. It’s in our DNA.

“To be in a society that’s stripped of that, and with the implications of that, there is so much hopelessness and despair. More than anything, there’s the moral ambiguity. What are you living for if there’s no future?”

Well, if that were the case, some of us would be partying like it’s 2099. But Dr. Alison Lennon is not like that, thankfully for humankind. In the early episodes of The Lottery, Alison had a major breakthrough by somehow finding a way to fertilize 100 human eggs. But she immediately was booted from her own research by government operatives with questionable motives.

As the story progressed, circumstances brought Alison back to the job, but with conditions and side deals at play. Hence her reassuring but fake performance on national TV, encouraging healthy women to register for the lottery that will determine the birth mothers for the fertilized eggs. As she spoke, Alison had no real idea why the fertilization of those 100 eggs was successful, and she didn’t know if she’d ever be able to repeat the process. When she said a cure was close, she didn’t know for sure.

“What’s interesting about Allison is that she was adopted, she was an orphan,” Shelton said. “This drive to solve this particular issue comes from basically being abandoned at conception. It really is in her to devote her entire life to solving the fertility crisis, trying to right the wrong, maybe on a subconscious level.

“She has intimacy issues. We saw even in the first episode, when she was trying to collect sperm (by having sex with a stranger who allegedly had decent prospects for fertilization), that was like a laboratory experiment for her, really clinical. It was not about sex or even about wanting to impregnate herself. It was about figuring out how to solve this crisis.

“And then after the breakthrough, she had that mother-bear instinct, like, ‘Give me my embryos back!’ ”

The Lottery films in Montreal, and Shelton said there were some funny moments due to the challenges of depicting an essentially childless world.

“We were shooting a scene where the President (played by Yul Vazquez) is giving a press conference in a park,” Shelton recalled. “Then while I was giving my speech to the press, a school bus drove by behind us, and we had to cut, because it was a real school bus filled with children.

“It’s tricky when you start to think about what would be gone, the subtle things.”

Subtle or not-so-subtle, The Lottery certainly deals with heavy issues. Shelton took a lighter view, though, when asked what her frame of mind would be if she personally were living in a world that stopped having children.

“Let’s see, I would be an actor, presumably,” Shelton said with a laugh. “So I’d probably be too worried about getting my next job to worry about a world crisis.”

Either way, don’t be surprised if we see Marley Shelton running for elected office someday. After all, through her character in The Lottery, she already knows how to lie convincingly on national TV. That’s pretty much half the battle right there.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Watch: ‘Better Call Saul’ teaser

- August 11th, 2014

The first glimpse of Better Call Saul is a fleeting one.

Blink your eyes a couple of times and you’ll miss it.

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But the nine-second teaser for AMC’s Breaking Bad spinoff, starring Walter White’s lawyer Saul Goodman (then known as Jimmy McGill) is all we’ve got for the time being.

In the short clip, which debuted last night during a Breaking Bad marathon, a younger- looking Goodman is telling a prospective client about the importance of having a lawyer.

“Lawyers: we’re like health insurance,” Goodman explains. “You hope you never need it, but man oh man, not having it? No, phew.”

Better Call Saul, starring Bob Odenkirk, is set to debut in February 2015. It is a prequel to AMC’s ratings juggernaut Breaking Bad, featuring Goodman as the crooked lawyer for chemistry teacher-turned meth maker White.

Executive producer Vince Gilligan says the prequel will initially be set in 2002, but will jump around in time.

Have a look here:

Go beneath the Sheen; Masters of Sex star urges fans to peek under the covers, literally and figuratively

- August 10th, 2014

Michael Sheen as Dr

Masters of Sex and Mad Men have more in common than merely an era.

Both series are filled with rich scenes in which the subtext is so thick, you could slice it with scissors. And I’m talking more about the early seasons of Mad Men, which were set in the early 1960s. Masters of Sex – which airs Sunday nights across Canada on The Movie Network and Movie Central, and on channel-of-origin Showtime in the United States – is inching up to 1960 in its current second season.

Masters of Sex tells the story of real-life sex researchers Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, played by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, respectively. Partly due to the era, partly due to the deftness of the actors, partly due to the subject matter, and partly due to the blurred lines between professionalism and personal feelings that existed between the main characters, just about every scene in Masters of Sex is saying way more than it actually says.

“Sometimes we have to be directed to play less subtext, because we’re so aware of what’s going on underneath,” Sheen said. “We have to be careful that we don’t do too much of that. We have to remember to bring it out on the surface.

“By this point we know these characters pretty well.”

At first glance, Sheen’s Bill Masters is a big ball of repressed tension. He is so emotionally shut off to his poor wife Libby (Caitlyn FitzGerald) that if it were any other era where divorce wasn’t such a stigma, I think she would have left him a long time ago. Bill responds to Virginia, with whom he is having an affair in addition to their stop-and-go professional relationship, with a complex combination of desire and guilt, attraction and condescension. He really is one of the most complicated characters on TV today.

“It depends on what you can see,” Sheen observed. “I can’t really take any responsibility for what people are able to see. You bring your own humanity to what you watch. You see as much as you’re aware of in yourself.

“Some people, I think, see the vulnerability (in Bill). Things don’t have to be on the surface for you to be aware of them. One of the things I’m most interested in about this character is how vulnerable he is. The most defensive, guarded, prickly people are the ones who, on the whole, I find are guarding their vulnerability so much, because they’ve been so hurt in some way, or they’re so scared. They’re the most frightened people.

“I think, I hope, that audiences are a bit more sophisticated than just accepting what they’re presented with on the surface.”

On the one hand, Bill Masters craves respectability, and he wants the admiration of his peers. But while many people in that era would take a conservative, safe path to those goals, Bill also wants to be renowned. He is obsessed with his controversial sex study, largely because he feels the work is groundbreaking, which he hopes will get him the respect he craves through an alternate and more impressive door. He wants to be both respected and famous. And for Bill Masters specifically, the puzzle of what is driving him is what Masters of Sex is all about.

“We’ve heard him say a number of times he wants to win a Nobel Prize, so there obviously is ambition that’s driving him,” Sheen said. “And this is an area of research that was open to someone who was pioneering and leading and wanting to make a name for himself.

“Even though (the sex study) is obviously risky, it isn’t like he wants to be on the margins. He wants to be an establishment figure, he wants to be mainstream, but he knows that he has to take a risk. And on a personal level – certainly the character I’m playing, I don’t know about the real man – he’s driven by all kinds of unconscious things as well.

“There are no easy answers to those questions. Hopefully it will take six, seven seasons to answer them.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Jonah from Tonga finds Partners and Mistresses at The Knick; TV must-sees for the week of Aug. 3

- August 3rd, 2014

The Knick cast, with Eve Hewson as Lucy Elkins, centre rear

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Aug. 3

1 The Knick
Debut: Set at a New York hospital in 1900, Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) becomes chief surgeon but quickly is pressured by benefactors to hire a black assistant, Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland).
When: Friday on HBO Canada

2 Partners
Canadian debut with back-to-back episodes: On a bad day for both of them, community lawyer Marcus Jackson (Martin Lawrence) meets unscrupulous corporate reject Allen Braddock (Kelsey Grammer). An unexpected alliance forms.
When: Thursday on Global

3 Jonah from Tonga
Canadian debut with back-to-back episodes: Chris Lilley revisits one of his characters from Summer Heights High, but this update caused a lot of controversy in Lilley’s native Australia earlier this year.
When: Friday on HBO Canada

4 Bachelor in Paradise
Debut: Twenty-five of the franchise’s most controversial contestants, both men and women, are back again, still looking for love. It all begins in an isolated romantic paradise in Mexico. Hey, what doesn’t?
When: Monday on ABC, City

5 The Strain
A secret autopsy demonstrates the bizarre progression of the mysterious virus, while Ephraim (Corey Stoll) and Nora (Mia Maestro) race to find the father of the youngest victim of the plane tragedy.
When: Sunday on FX Canada

6 Halt and Catch Fire
First-season finale: Gordon (Scoot McNairy) and Joe (Lee Pace) prepare to transport the Giant, but a suspicious defect threatens the partnership and Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) takes control of her future.
When: Sunday on AMC

7 Perception
When an FBI agent is found dead, Pierce (Eric McCormack) must face the one case he never solved. It could mess him up mentally, but he agrees to help Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook) anyway. What a guy.
When: Tuesday on Bravo

8 True Blood
As Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) and Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) close in on Sarah (Anna Camp), Adilyn (Bailey Noble) finds refuge with Violet (Karolina Wydra). Um, don’t trust her.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

9 Unforgettable
Al (Dylan Walsh) becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a parolee he helped put in jail, forcing Carrie (Poppy Montgomery) to conduct an off-the-books investigation to prove his innocence to Internal Affairs.
When: Sunday on CBS, CTV

10 Mistresses
April (Rochelle Aytes) worries her past is coming back to haunt her after receiving a shocking phone call, while Savi (Alyssa Milano) reaches out to her long-absent dad. Hey, could it be Tony Danza?
When: Monday on ABC, CTV

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv