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The eyes have it; versatile Kurtwood Smith of Resurrection has glaring skill

- September 27th, 2014

MARK HILDRETH, KURTWOOD SMITH, LANDON GIMENEZ, FRANCES FISHER, OMAR EPPS, DEVIN KELLEY, MATT CRAVEN, SAMAIRE ARMSTRONG, SAM HAZELDINE

Kurtwood Smith chuckled when I told him he has great “icy eyes.”

He uses them well for both comedy and drama.

Seeing Smith (pictured above, second from left) in the drama series Resurrection, the second season of which begins Sunday, Sept. 28 on ABC and CTV, those icy eyes reflect turmoil. But back in Smith’s signature comedy role as grumpy dad Red Forman in That ’70s Show, those icy eyes always made me laugh.

I don’t know how quality actors do that.

“Neither do I – sounds great, though,” said Smith, laughing.

“I think you’re probably right in terms of the turmoil you’re talking about in Resurrection. That’s exactly what’s going on for my character (Henry Langston). He has so many different things in his mind and in his heart.

“In comedy usually the approach is simpler, although the technique is not. For the characters in comedy, you’ve got stuff that you need to lay out to set up laughs, and you hit those, while at the same time kind of enjoying what you’re doing. You probably see a little bit more fun reflected in my eyes when I’m doing comedy.”

Well, there was nothing but confusion and stress in those peepers in the first season of Resurrection, and understandably so. Smith’s character Henry and wife Lucille (Frances Fisher) were confronted by the return of their son Jacob (Landon Gimenez), who had disappeared 32 years previously when he was eight. But when Jacob came back, he hadn’t aged.

Lucille went with her heart, believing it was her son right away. Henry went with his head, because this simply wasn’t possible, right?

“But what happened throughout the show in that first season for my character, his arc primarily was coming around to accepting  (Jacob),” Smith said. “So it became much more of an emotional journey for him in that sense.”

Jacob’s re-emergence was followed by the return of several other previously dead people in Arcadia, Missouri, all of them the same age as they were when they died. Obviously, the residents of the town who had just lived normal lives and hadn’t gone anywhere were faced with a maze of moral dilemmas. And there also was the complication of nefarious government agencies poking around.

As for the first episode of the second season, without getting too specific if you haven’t heard about anything, let’s just say that people have not stopped coming back from the dead.

“In season two Henry has a new character come back in the first episode, which kind of changes the entire dynamic,” Smith said. “Myself and my brother, for example, have different ideas and different appreciation for (what has happened), and the same with my wife. So that really shakes up the whole family-at-large dynamic.

“And then, of course, there’s still the business of how the ‘returned’ are being treated. And also, Henry always has to look out for Jacob. So my character has all of that going on and a little bit more. But he’s not quite as torn up as he was in that first season.

“At a certain point, you just end up dealing with things, and not having enough time to really reflect on them and worry. It’s more, ‘What am I gonna do?’ You get up in the morning and you have a house full of dead people.”

I just had to ask, what would Red Forman have said if his son Eric (Topher Grace) had disappeared and then suddenly returned after 32 years, without having aged, in That ’70s Show?

“Red would say, ‘Oh for God’s sake, not you again, dumb-ass!’ ” Smith barked.

There he goes again, switching from drama to comedy. All with those icy eyes.

“A lot of it is what you’re reading into it as well,” said Kurtwood Smith, laughing again. “I’ll go with it, though. As long as you’re enjoying it, that’s fine with me.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Madam Secretary and The Good Wife turn Black-ish in Gotham; TV this week

- September 21st, 2014

Tea Leoni in Madam Secretary

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Sept. 21

1 Gotham
Debut
The Riddler, the Penguin, Catwoman, they’re all here in their formative years, prowling the dark streets under the suspicious eye of Det. James Gordon (Ben McKenzie).
When: Monday on Fox, CTV

2 The Big Bang Theory
Eighth-season debut, back-to-back new episodes
Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) make an unexpected trip to Arizona to fetch Sheldon (Jim Parsons), while Penny (Kaley Cuoco) interviews for a new job.
When: Monday on CBS, CTV

3 Black-ish
Debut
Dre (Anthony Anderson) is close to becoming the first African American senior VP at his firm, just as his son Andre Jr. (Marcus Scribner) declares he’s converting to Judaism.
When: Wednesday on ABC, City

4 The Blacklist
Second-season debut
Mary-Louise Parker and Krysten Ritter guest-star as Red (James Spader) faces a new threat from a man named Lord Baltimore and Liz (Megan Boone) tries to move forward.
When: Monday on NBC, Global

5 The Good Wife
Sixth-season debut
Despite pressure, Alicia (Julianna Margulies) is determined not to run for State’s Attorney. Instead, she’s beating Hillary Clinton to the punch and officially running for president. I kid.
When: Sunday on CBS, Global

6 Scorpion
Debut
Katharine McPhee plays a waitress with a supposedly challenged son. But an encounter with a group of geniuses during a crisis opens her eyes to new theories about her boy.
When: Monday on CBS, City

7 Madam Secretary
Debut
Tea Leoni (pictured above) stars as U.S. Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord. Question: Why are there so many TV shows about American government when so few Americans actually vote?
When: Sunday on CBS, Global

8 How To Get Away With Murder
Debut
Every year professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) selects the smartest students to work at her law firm. But she represents only the most hardened, violent criminals.
When: Thursday on ABC, CTV

9 Saving Hope
Third-season debut
After being stabbed in the heart in the season-two finale – literally, not romantically – Dr. Alex Reid (Erica Durance) has a profound experience in the liminal space.
When: Monday on CTV

10 Sleepy Hollow
Second-season debut
Abbie (Nicole Beharie) is stuck in purgatory, Ichabod (Tom Mison) is buried alive and Katrina (Katia Winter) is kidnapped by the headless horseman. Just another day in paradise.
When: Monday on Fox, Global

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

New TV fall preview, with Canadian and American debut dates

- September 15th, 2014

Gotham cast, with Donal Logue and Ben McKenzie at front

The beginning of the fall TV season is like the beginning of any season in professional sports. Everyone feels like a winner during training camp. Optimism abounds. Then you start to play the games, and the mood changes quickly for many.

Pre-season “lying to yourself” aside, what do the new shows look like this fall … really?

The fantasy/superhero genre continues to take over television, in terms of volume at least, if not necessarily ratings. Gotham, Constantine and The Flash are the newest entries, and I have to say, they all look pretty good in their own way. With the understanding, of course, that on the lightness-to-darkness scale, it goes The Flash, Constantine, Gotham, so target each series based on your content preferences.

I’ve written before that I was impressed by the pilot episode of Gotham, which stars Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue and Jada Pinkett Smith, among many others. And having been one of the people who was rolling his eyes at the thought of a Batman prequel, impressing me was no small feat in this case. It’s pretty violent by network TV standards, though, so be forewarned. Constantine, starring Matt Ryan, is based on characters that appear in the comic series Hellblazer. The Flash, starring Grant Gustin, is a spinoff of Arrow.

Outside of the superhero/fantasy world, perhaps the most talked-about new series is Stalker. Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott star as detectives who handle stalking cases – including voyeurism, cyber harassment and romantic fixation, etc. – for the Threat Assessment Unit of the LAPD.

When creator Kevin Williamson appeared at the Television Critics Association event in Los Angeles in July, the session actually got a little stormy. Stalker is something of a polarizing series, if we lived in a world with three poles. Some people see it as shining a light on a growing problem in society, and that’s a good thing. Some people see it as a de facto glorification of stalking, a “how to” if you will, and that’s a bad thing. And some people see it as merely a TV show, and think that the people in the other two camps should take a chill pill. In any case, there will be no shortage of Stalker talkers.

There are still more new shows centred on U.S. politics and government (State of Affairs with Katherine Heigl, Madam Secretary with Tea Leoni), more time travellers (Forever), more computer geniuses (Scorpion), a notable spinoff (NCIS: New Orleans with Scott Bakula), and a notable remake (Gracepoint, based on the British series Broadchurch). The Affair, with Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Joshua Jackson and Maura Tierney, is particularly intense in a rip-your-life-apart kind of way.

Sadly, none of the new sitcoms really jumps out at me as instant hit material, although series such as Black-ish and Cristela are demographically designed to resonate with big chunks of the U.S. population. Marry Me with Casey Wilson and Ken Marino is getting some positive buzz. And as for Selfie starring Doctor Who alumnus Karen Gillan, well, I didn’t despise it as much as many of my colleagues in the critics’ community.

First shows cancelled? For me, two candidates are Bad Judge with Kate Walsh, and yet another young-adult-relationship comedy called Manhattan Love Story.

NEW SHOWS
(Networks always can change their plans, so this is what we know as of now, please check local listings closer to broadcast)

Sept. 17
Red Band Society (Fox)
The Mysteries of Laura (NBC, CTV)

Sept. 21
Madam Secretary (CBS, Global)

Sept. 22
Gotham (Fox, CTV)
Scorpion (CBS, City)
Forever (ABC, CTV)

Sept. 23
NCIS: New Orleans (CBS, Global)

Sept. 24
Black-ish (ABC, City)

Sept. 25
How To Get Away With Murder (ABC, CTV)

Sept. 28
Canada’s Smartest Person (CBC)

Sept. 30
Selfie (ABC)
Manhattan Love Story (ABC)
The Honourable Woman (CBC)

Oct. 1
Stalker (CBS, Global)

Oct. 2
Gracepoint (Fox, Global)
Bad Judge (NBC, Oct. 3 on Global)
A to Z (NBC, Oct. 3 on Global)

Oct. 4
Survivor’s Remorse (Super Channel)

Oct. 5
Mulaney (Fox, Global)
CBC Selects: Janet King (CBC)

Oct. 6
Strange Empire (CBC)

Oct. 7
The Flash (CW, CTV)

Oct. 10
Cristela (ABC, CHCH)

Oct. 12
The Affair (TMN/MC)

Oct. 13
Jane the Virgin (CW)

Oct. 14
Marry Me (NBC, Oct. 17 on Global)

Oct. 17
Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (HBO Canada)

Oct. 24
Constantine (NBC, Global)

Oct. 30
The McCarthys (CBS, CTV)

Nov. 2
Olive Kitteridge (HBO Canada)

Nov. 17
State of Affairs (NBC, Global)

Nov. 25
Ascension (CBC)

Dec. 12
Marco Polo (Netflix)

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Returning TV fall preview, with Canadian and American debut dates

- September 15th, 2014

Jon Cryer as Alan Harper and Ashton Kutcher as Walden Schmidt in Two and a Half Men

Should Two and a Half Men be renamed Two Men and a Baby?

Two and a Half Men raised eyebrows this summer when it was revealed that one of the main story lines for its 12th and final season will involve Walden (Ashton Kutcher) and Alan (Jon Cryer) posing as a gay couple in order to try to adopt a baby. Walden wants to adopt a kid on his own, but he finds it almost impossible to do so as a single male, thus the ruse.

Some groups immediately were offended by this story line, saying it disrespects the ongoing struggle to make gay marriage legal everywhere in the U.S. The response from Two and a Half Men’s executives and actors essentially was, in no way will this devalue or discredit gay marriage. Rather, they say the story line merely is borrowing from real life, in that, presently in California (where Two and a Half Men is set), it probably is easier to adopt as a gay couple than as a single man (I’m just going by what I’m told, since I haven’t tried to adopt a kid in California in either circumstance).

The bottom line for me is, let’s actually wait to see how they handle it, rather than getting all animated about what we haven’t even watched yet.

And speaking of animation, there will be a convergence of cartoon titans in the season premiere of Family Guy, as the Griffin clan travels to Springfield to visit with The Simpsons. This would be like the cast of Friends visiting the cast of Seinfeld back in the day, or the cast of the afore-mentioned Two and a Half Men dropping in on the cast of The Big Bang Theory.

It will be interesting to see what happens on The Big Bang Theory now that Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) are engaged. You know, I’ve always wondered how Penny could afford her own apartment, while Leonard and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) have to share what essentially is the exact same apartment. Leonard and Sheldon both have good jobs, while Penny always has struggled. With the prospect of a joint bank account for Penny and Leonard on the horizon, maybe season eight will provide a better window into their mysterious finances.

With the TV landscape so cluttered, it’s always intriguing to keep an eye on the lucky shows that actually graduated past their rookie seasons, to see if they can maintain their momentum, not to mention their audiences. On the drama side, the notable sophomore shows include Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Resurrection. On the comedy side, we have The Goldbergs, Mom, The Millers and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

A critical favourite, Andy Samberg’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine has invaded the Sunday night “animation domination” block, in an effort to attract more eyeballs. Hey, Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs a bigger audience, and creaky old “animation domination” needs a transfusion. So it’s either going to be a win-win or a lose-lose.

And as we creep closer to Halloween, keep an eye peeled for spooky favourites American Horror Story and The Walking Dead. This year’s American Horror Story is subtitled Freak Show, and is set in the early 1950s. Hey, the early ’50s always have seemed spooky enough to me even without the freaks.

RETURNING SHOWS
(Networks always can change their plans, so this is what we know as of now, please check local listings closer to broadcast)

Sept. 15
Dancing with the Stars (ABC, CTV Two, M3)

Sept. 16
New Girl (Fox, Sept. 18 on City)
The Mindy Project (Sept. 18 on City)

Sept. 18
The Bachelor Canada (City)
Haven (Showcase)

Sept. 21
The Good Wife (CBS, Global)

Sept. 22
The Voice (NBC, CTV Two)
The Blacklist (NBC, Global)
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, CTV)
Sleepy Hollow (Fox, Global)
Saving Hope (CTV)

Sept. 23
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC, CTV)
NCIS (CBS, Global)
Chicago Fire (NBC, Global)
Person of Interest (CBS, CTV)

Sept. 24
Modern Family (ABC, City)
The Goldbergs (ABC)
Survivor (CBS, Global)
Chicago PD (NBC, Global)
Law & Order: SVU (NBC, CTV)
Nashville (ABC)
The Middle (ABC, Sept. 26 on City)

Sept. 25
Scandal (ABC, City)
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, CTV)
Parenthood (NBC, Global)
Bones (Fox, Global)

Sept. 26
The Amazing Race (CBS, CTV)
Hawaii Five-0 (CBS, Global)
Blue Bloods (CBS, CTV)
Shark Tank (ABC, CTV Two)

Sept. 28
Family Guy (Fox, Global)
The Simpsons (Fox, Global)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox, City)
CSI (CBS, CTV)
Once Upon a Time (ABC, CTV)
Resurrection (ABC, CTV)
Revenge (ABC, City)
Heartland (CBC)

Sept. 29
Mom (CBS, City)
Castle (ABC, CTV)
NCIS: LA (CBS, Global)

Oct. 1
Criminal Minds (CBS, CTV)
Reign (M3, Oct. 2 on CW, CTV Two)

Oct. 2
The Vampire Diaries (CW, CTV Two)

Oct. 3
Last Man Standing (ABC, CHCH)

Oct. 5
Homeland (Super Channel)

Oct. 6
Murdoch Mysteries (CBC)
The Originals (CW, CHCH)

Oct. 7
Rick Mercer Report (CBC)
This Hour Has 22 Minutes (CBC)
Supernatural (CW)

Oct. 8
American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX Canada)
Arrow (CW, CTV)

Oct. 9
Doc Zone (CBC)
The Nature of Things (CBC)

Oct. 12
The Walking Dead (AMC)

Oct. 14
About a Boy (NBC, Friday on Global)

Oct. 15
Dragons’ Den (CBC)
Republic of Doyle (CBC)

Oct. 17
Marketplace (CBC)

Oct. 22
The 100 (CW)

Oct. 24
Grimm (NBC, CTV)
The Fifth Estate (CBC)

Oct. 27
2 Broke Girls (CBS, City)

Oct. 30
Two and a Half Men (CBS, CTV)
The Millers (CBS, CTV)
Elementary (CBS, Global)

Nov. 7
MasterChef Junior (Fox, CTV Two)

Nov. 9
The Newsroom (HBO Canada)
The Comeback (HBO Canada)
Getting On (HBO Canada)

Dec. 7
Lost Girl (Showcase)

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Men love Mistresses; And one of them, Jes Macallan, says dudes can learn a few things

- August 29th, 2014

Jes Macallan one

Sometimes watching Mistresses is like being in high school and sneaking into the girls’ bathroom. If you’re a male, that is.

“Oh my God, I love that metaphor!” said Jes Macallan, who plays Joss Carver in Mistresses.

“It’s like those men who got sucked into watching Sex and the City because of their wives, but then never could admit that they really couldn’t turn away. Because this is the secret other side, these are the reasons why we go on dates with you, or sleep with you, and it’s why we’re all crazy, or not, you know what I mean?”

Um, yup.

Mistresses, which airs its second-season finale Monday, Sept. 1 on ABC and CTV, focuses on the lives and loves and ups and downs of four female friends. Besides Macallan’s Joss, there’s her sister Savi, played by Alyssa Milano, Karen, played by Yunjin Kim, and April, played by Rochelle Aytes.

It seems that at least once per episode, Joss, Savi, Karen and April get together for a “girl chat” session that is terrifying to men, because they’re left to think, “Oh my God, is this really the kind of stuff that women talk about?”

As a counterpoint to that, I remember an episode of the old animated sitcom King of the Hill, when Hank made a new friend. Hank happily explained to his wife Peggy that he and his new pal were having such a great time “not talkin’ about stuff.”

“It’s that whole ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ concept,” Macallan said. “We’re wired differently. And I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, whatever, it’s just the genetic makeup of how we communicate.

“In Mistresses we are those women in the demographic who have a glass of wine and tell each other everything and are super emotional and want to express. We over-think everything. And men, you guys are so frickin’ rational, you jerks.”

Well, I don’t know if “rational” necessarily is the right term. Maybe more like, “emotionally constipated.”

“I think this all goes back to hunter-gatherer, in that there’s necessity and practicality and that comes first (for men), because it has to,” Macallan said. “If we were all running around flying by the ass of our emotions, and whatever feelings come up and whatever thoughts happen, it would be chaos.

“But also, I think men need women to kind of soften that, and make sure that everybody feels loved and nurtured. If we combine it, we both have what it takes to meet all our needs.”

In a perfect world, sure. But Mistresses mines the cracks in that system for both drama and comedy.

For example, with Macallan’s character Joss now engaged, there were some funny scenes a couple of weeks ago when Joss met her fiance’s massive family for the first time. Of course, they instantly all were playing charades. What is it about big families and charades?

“Oh my God, seriously!” Macallan said. “And to people who aren’t from big families, what is it about charades that are so horrifying? My family (in real life) is so the charade people. I am the oldest of seven, so that’s why I frickin’ played charades over and over, because my family is gi-normous. But yeah, the size of family is equally proportionate to the inevitability of playing charades.

“Joss is kind of freaked out by the whole scene. She starts to realize, ‘Wow, Savi and I never had this growing up.’ For better and for worse. And I can totally relate to that. I come from very strong parents, but a very broken background as far as marriages and kids. We’re like The Brady Bunch on crack. But my Canadian husband, his parents were married for 30 years, they had this perfect little family.

“So I get it, I’ve been there, when you’ve been dating somebody and you go into something so unfamiliar for the first time, it’s like, ‘Whoaaaaaa.’ ”

In the season finale of Mistresses, Joss’ engagement party is front and centre. If you’re a male, charades or no charades, the whole extravaganza will be like sneaking into the girls’ bathroom in high school.

“That’s exactly what it’s like!” Jes Macallan agreed excitedly.

Meet you in there.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv