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Michael Buble gets Played with 7 Days in Hell; TV’s must-sees for the week

- December 15th, 2013

I Love Lucy Christmas special

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Dec. 15

1) Masters of Sex
First-season finale: In an episode titled Elvis Has Left The Building, a nervous and tense Dr. Masters (Michael Sheen) doesn’t get the reaction he’s hoping for when he presents his orgasm research.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

2) Homeland
Third-season finale: OK, how many times does Carrie (Claire Danes) have to disobey direct orders before her superiors quit giving her so much “freelance” leeway? Oh well, the mysteries of TV.
When: Sunday on Super Channel

3) Michael Buble’s Third Annual Christmas Special
Filmed in Vancouver, Buble is joined by guests such as Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, British Columbia’s Coastal Sound Children’s Choir, and, um, the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.
When: Wednesday on CTV

4) Played
In back-to-back episodes to wrap up the first season, Detective John Moreland (Vincent Walsh) faces his worst nightmare when a convicted armed robber out on parole is determined to exact harsh revenge.
When: Thursday on CTV

5) The Sheepdogs Have At It
Documentary follows Western Canadian rock band the Sheepdogs as they continue to plot their career after an appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone in 2011 changed their lives forever.
When: Monday on Super Channel

6) Canada’s Walk of Fame
In a ceremony filmed earlier this year, the 2013 honorees include Carly Rae Jepsen, Terry Fox, Victor Garber, Alan Thicke, Oscar Peterson, Bob Ezrin, Christine Sinclair and Craig and Marc Kielburger.
When: Wednesday on Global

7) 7 Days in Hell
Two adventurers battle the Yukon wilderness as they experience – purposely – what it would have been like to be Gold Rush prospectors in 1885. Intriguing, but ain’t there an easier way to get your kicks?
When: Tuesday on History

8) I Love Lucy Christmas Special
This is a one-hour program that highlights two recently colourized episodes from the classic 1950s sitcom. The seldom-seen Christmas episode from 1956 (pictured above) was thought to be lost for decades.
When: Friday on CBS

9) eTalk’s Stars and Scandals 2013
I guess you could say the same thing at the end of every year, but 2013 certainly had its share of celebrity controversies. Get ready for plenty of Miley Cyrus in this sum-up special.
When: Wednesday on CTV

10) NCIS: Los Angeles
Michelle Trachtenberg guest-stars as a senator’s daughter who narrowly escapes a serious attack. Might it have been related to her dad’s attempted crackdown on international cyber warfare? I’m betting yes.
When: Tuesday on CBS, Global

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Aziz Ansari gets Seduced and Abandoned in Bunks; TV must-sees for the week

- October 27th, 2013

Capture

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Oct. 27:

1 Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive

Debut: A standup special filmed in Philadelphia starring Aziz Ansari, who is best known to TV audiences for his role as Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation.

When: Friday on Netflix

2 War of the Worlds: American Experience

Documentary debut: A new look back at the legendary Orson Welles radio broadcast, which caused a widespread panic 75 years ago when rubes didn’t know it was fake.

When: Tuesday on PBS

3  The Governor’s Wife

Reality-series debut: Trina settles into her role as former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards’ spouse. She is 50 years his junior and frozen sperm is involved.

When: Sunday on A&E

4 The Walking Dead

It’s Halloween week, so this seems like a natural. While a group leaves the prison to search for supplies, those who remain deal with recent losses.

When: Sunday on AMC

5 It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Creative differences over what constitutes “tasteful nudity” cause Frank (Danny DeVito) to pull his money out of the proposed Lethal Weapon 6.

When: Thursday on FX Canada

6 Masters of Sex

William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) arrange for couples to be included in their study of human sexuality. It’s about damn time.

When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

7 Chasing Nashville

Reality-series debut: Singers from the Appalachia region travel to the annual Hillbilly Days talent competition and are surprised to learn they may have a shot at a record deal.

When: Tuesday on Lifetime

8 Seduced and Abandoned

Documentary debut: Actor Alec Baldwin and film-maker James Toback travel to the Cannes Film Festival to try to secure financing for a movie.

When: Monday on HBO Canada

9 Bunks

Made-for-TV movie debut: Cheeky, mischievous brothers played by Dylan Schmid and Aidan Shipley accidentally unleash a curse that plagues their summer camp with zombies.

When: Sunday on Disney XD

10 Trophy Wife

In the first Halloween episode of this rookie sitcom, Kate (Malin Akerman) hijacks the holiday when a costume provided by flighty Jackie (Michaela Watkins) is found to be lacking.

When: Tuesday on ABC, CTV

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Michael Gross brings “ageless” quality to Jason Priestley’s Call Me Fitz

- October 24th, 2013

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The first thing you’ll notice when you see Michael Gross in Call Me Fitz is, well, he looks great.

Gross, of course, is best known for his role as Steven Keaton, the father on Family Ties back in the 1980s. Gross, now 66, has a guest-starring arc in the fourth season of Jason Priestley‘s Canadian cable comedy Call Me Fitz, beginning with the episode airing Monday, Oct. 28 on The Movie Network and Movie Central.

My God, it doesn’t look as if Gross has aged much.

“First of all, I think that’s delusional, but I appreciate the compliment nonetheless,” Gross says. “Because I do feel older. But having said that, I was blessed with my mother’s wonderful Irish skin. She was relatively wrinkle-free, even in her mid-80s.

“But yet, that’s a problem in some ways, too, because I should be moving into the grandfather roles and they’re going, ‘You know, you don’t look like a grandfather.’ I’m serious. There is all that sagging that takes place, the wrinkled, wizened quality, and it actually stands in my way, to be quite honest.

“I’ve got that thing that juvenile actors have, when they’ve played all these kids, then they move into their 20s and they should be playing 20- and 30-year-olds, but they still look 17.”

You know, in any other walk of life, looking young would be a good thing.

“I found a way to make it bad,” Gross says with a big laugh. “As my wife would say, ‘Well, you’ve managed to find the negative side again, Michael.’ ”

There’s plenty of comedic negativity to go around among the core family on Call Me Fitz, but Gross found a way to make that work for him, through his character.

“When I took the role, people said to me, ‘Call Me Fitz is so edgy and coarse, how are you doing that show?’ ” Gross recalls.

“And I said, ‘Simple – I play the character who is very nice.’ ”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Sean Cullen of Rocket Monkeys says today’s cartoons can’t simply “ape” the past

- January 8th, 2013

rocket monkeys - inside 2

You can’t have a cartoonish attitude toward cartoons any more.

They still can be funny. For example, that’s the point of Rocket Monkeys, a new Canadian animated series that debuts Thursday, Jan. 10 on Teletoon.

But as was pointed out by well-known Canadian comedian Sean Cullen, who is the voice of Gus on Rocket Monkeys, cartoons have come a long way since he was a kid, both creatively and technologically.

“When they used to make Scooby-Doo in the ’70s, kids would see it once and then they’d never see it again,” Cullen recalled. “Now you get it on DVD and watch it 100 times in a row, so it has to be better quality.

“It can’t just be, ‘Oh, it’ll go by so quickly that no one will know that Scooby’s foot disappeared.’ I used to watch Rocket Robin Hood. Every once in a while, someone’s arm moves. It was very basic.

“I watched a lot of cartoons when I was a kid, but they were quite stilted, and stiff, and the stories were quite predictable. These days some of the best writing for comedy and for speculative fiction is in animation. Some of the people we work with on Rocket Monkeys are some of the most talented writers in Canada.”

Besides Cullen’s Gus, Rocket Monkeys also features voice work from Mark Edwards (Wally) and Mark McKinney (Lord Peel). The series follows the cosmic exploits of primate siblings Gus and Wally, who inexplicably have been charged with carrying out important missions in space.

Cullen’s real-life face can be seen regularly these days on Match Game, which airs on the Comedy Network. On that show, Cullen is one of six panelists. But Cullen’s character on Rocket Monkeys is the one in charge. Just ask him.

“Gus is kind of the boss, if there is a boss of either of them,” Cullen said. “He’s the more bossy, pushy one.

“He’s the hero, or he sees himself as the hero, telling everybody how to behave. I kind of model his voice on Charlton Heston. Everything is so dramatic.”

Of course, Charlton Heston had a love-hate relationship with apes. But that’s a much darker tale (not a much darker tail).

Rocket Monkeys is all about fun, and sometimes the best fun can be had by taking something seriously.

“I think humour has taken leaps and bounds in the last 20 years, and animation has benefited from that,” Cullen said. “You realize how much more sophisticated humour has become. For example, The Flintstones (which first aired in primetime in the early 1960s) was aimed at the same kind of audience that in recent years has watched The Simpsons.

“The fact is, when adults take an interest in animation, it becomes better. It’s not just something for your kids to watch and to take up their time.

“And also, people finally have clued in that there’s a lot of money to be made with programming for kids.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Farewell to heroes: Dexter season-seven finale

- December 16th, 2012

Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C

Dexter has become a Bonnie and Clyde story.

This isn’t so much a lonely tale any more. It’s a bizarre partnership of self-preservation that watchers of this series in its earliest years never could have seen coming.

SPOILER ALERT: This is a review of the Dexter episode titled “Surprise, Motherf—–!” – the 12th and final episode of the seventh season – which aired Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 on Showtime in the United States and on The Movie Network and Movie Central in Canada. If you’d rather not know what occurred, now’s the time to avert your eyes.

As Dexter asked at the end of the episode, “Who is Deb now? Who am I? Is this a new beginning, or the beginning of the end?”

It feels weird even typing this, but here goes: Deb killed La Guerta. Shot and killed her. As La Guerta was begging Deb to shoot Dexter instead.

How the heck did they – and we – get to this point?

Well, the series took more than one important turn on Sunday night. The first one was that Dexter (Michael C. Hall) had wrapped his brain around the notion that he was willing to kill La Guerta (Lauren Velez), even though she didn’t meet his code. Dexter decided he could and would do it, if it meant saving not only himself but, more importantly, his foster sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter).

I guess that part shouldn’t have been completely surprising. After all, in the previous episode, Dexter had turned in to police the only woman he ever really has loved – Hannah McKay, played by Yvonne Strahovski – because he believed (rightly, as it turned out!) that Hannah was a threat to Deb.

And I’ll say this about La Guerta. She was damn tenacious in her efforts to prove that Sgt. James Doakes (Erik King) was not the Bay Harbor Butcher, but that Dexter was the rightful owner of that dubious title.

Even after Dexter had planted false evidence to make it seem as if La Guerta was trying to frame him, and La Guerta’s career was in shambles, she didn’t drop it, wouldn’t drop it, couldn’t drop it.

Why? Because she knew she was right.

And now she’s dead right.

It was La Guerta’s ability to link Deb to the torching of the church in which Dexter had killed Travis Marshall (Colin Hanks) at the end of the sixth season that put the wheels in motion for the final, important sequence of the seventh season.

Now, I’m not going to try to claim that I knew in any way PRIOR to the crucial scene that Deb was going to wind up killing La Guerta.

BUT, once Deb showed up, with La Guerta there, and Dexter there, and when Deb first pointed the gun, I think at that point they kind of telegraphed where it was going to go. The scene went on for almost two minutes, and it was great, don’t get me wrong. But you just knew Deb was going to shoot La Guerta, not Dexter. At least that’s how I saw it, anyway.

So what does this mean for season eight, which supposedly, allegedly, will be the last for Dexter? The mind whirls and swirls. This is almost too much to take in so quickly.

But we have to understand one super-important thing that has changed, and it’s something from which this series can’t back off:

There is absolutely nothing heroic about Dexter and Deb now.

They’re in it for themselves, and for each other. And for Dexter’s toddler son Harrison, I suppose.

They’re Bonnie and Clyde.

So it can be both a new beginning and the beginning of the end. In this twisted case, they’re kind of the same thing.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv