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The Killing, The Quest, Sharknado 2 and Hell on Wheels; TV’s must-sees for the week of July 27

- July 27th, 2014

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

1) The Killing
Debut of fourth and final season: Sarah (Mireille Enos) made a really questionable decision at the end of season three. She always has been really tough, but is she tough enough to live with what she did?
When: Friday on Netflix

2) Sharknado 2: The Second One
Debut: It’s fin-tastic. See it with a chum. More bite for your buck. Something to chew on. Give it a hand. Ian Ziering and Tara Reid are back to battle double shark storms headed for New York City.
When: Wednesday on Space

3) Hell on Wheels
Fourth-season debut: Awaiting the birth of his baby, Cullen (Anson Mount) toils under the thumb of The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl), while Durant (Colm Meaney) feels the chill after an icy miscalculation.
When: Saturday on AMC

4) The Quest
Debut: This sounds like a reality-competition series for Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings geeks, as 12 contestants are transported into an imaginative realm, with ogres and dragons and a dark lord.
When: Thursday on ABC, City

5) Running Wild With Bear Grylls
Debut: Bear leads actor Zac Efron on a survival journey into the Northeast Appalachian mountain range. But then Zac dances his way out of it, dammit! Take that, danger! East High forever!
When: Monday on NBC, Global

6) The Bridge
Marco (Demian Bichir) gains a new ally while discovering that cartel leader Fausto (Ramon Franco) has a wider reach than anticipated. Meanwhile, a disruption at a local bank provides new intel.
When: Wednesday on FX Canada

7) The Leftovers
A hate crime tests the resolve of Laurie (Amy Brenneman), while Kevin (Justin Theroux) turns down an offer of assistance and Matt (Christopher Eccleston) brings his pulpit to the street.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

8) Masters of Sex
When Bill (Michael Sheen) delivers a baby with ambiguous genitalia, he encourages the parents not to surgically assign a gender. Meanwhile, Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) learns about Bill’s troubled childhood.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

9) Under the Dome
After a bad plan by Big Jim (Dean Norris) and Rebecca (Karla Crome) leaves the town divided, Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) takes over as leader of Chester’s Mill. But that’s not actually a paid position any more.
When: Monday on CBS, Global

10) Masters of Illusion
Debut: Hosted by Dean Cain, this series features illusionists performing everything from sleight-of-hand to great escapes, all in front of a live studio audience. I watched it. Or did I?
When: Friday on CW

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

Liev and let die; Schreiber lets his actions do the talking in gritty drama Ray Donovan

- July 26th, 2014

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – When Liev Schreiber talks about Ray Donovan – both the show and his title character – it’s an exercise in both reticence and eloquence.

Schreiber’s responses sometimes can be clipped. He seems to prefer answering questions that way. For example, here are some of the exchanges that occurred during a recent scrum with several reporters at the Television Critics Association event:

Q: Has the success of Ray Donovan changed how the entertainment industry perceives you?
Schreiber: “I don’t know. Probably.”

Q: This character seems very different than you are in real life. How do you get into it?
Schreiber: “I put on the clothes.”

Q: Does the darkness of this series affect you sometimes?
Schreiber: “Yes. Yes.”

Q: How do you get over that?
Schreiber: “I stop. When the season is over, I get to go home.”

Q: But then is it hard when a new season begins for those character traits to re-emerge?
Schreiber: “Well, they have to. For my job.”

All-righty then.

But the funny thing about Schreiber – whose series currently is airing its second season, Sundays on The Movie Network and Movie Central in Canada, and on channel-of-origin Showtime in the U.S. – is that when you do happen to catch him with a question that piques his interest, he can be very engaging.

The drama series Ray Donovan tells the story of Ray, whose job is to make problems disappear for the rich and famous in Los Angeles. But the biggest complication of all for Ray is his dangerous wildcard of a father, Mickey, played by Jon Voight, whose re-emergence continues to shake the Donovan family to its core.

I asked Schreiber, “Is there an avenue out of this life for Ray? Do you see an avenue for him to get out?”

“I hope he has an avenue out,” Schreiber said. He paused. Then he added, “And I hope it’s not fatal.

“But he’s deep in. He clearly is a really, really damaged, really, really hurt character. That kind of pain is hard to recover from. It’s a lifetime of pain.

“I, as much as anyone else, wonder how you unravel something like that. And I think that’s sort of at the heart of what this show is. How do you unravel your pain? How do you open yourself back up to the world?”

With a lot of difficulty and violence and misdirected anger and acting out, if the series is any indication.

“I have some things in common with Ray,” said the 46-year-old Schreiber, an acclaimed stage and screen actor whose television exposure was comparatively very limited prior to Ray Donovan. “I love my kids. I’d do anything for them. I just think that Ray is put in slightly more extreme situations than I am.

“I’m not a violent person and I think Ray is a violent person. I’m not a hyper-sexual person and I think Ray is a hyper-sexual person.

“But he looks like me.”

There we are, back to the one-line quips.

Notably, it sounds as if Schreiber exhibits much the same personality with his cast-mates. Schreiber directed one of the upcoming episodes in season two of Ray Donovan, and the way he described the endeavor, it turned out to be something of a “getting to know you” project.

“The outstanding experience of (directing the episode) was the way in which the cast and the crew came to my rescue,” Schreiber said. “I never felt so supported, so appreciated, and so lucky as I did during that week and a half working with this cast and crew.

“I’m sort of a quiet person at work. When I’m playing a character, I stay kind of in the boundaries of the character, and I don’t talk a lot. So you don’t get to know people.

“But when you direct, you really get to know people. You really know where they’re coming from, and I was very moved by the support of my peers on this one. It was a very special feeling, because I could tell immediately that they all wanted me to succeed.”

Success comes in many forms, and actions speak louder than words. Both cliches, yes. But all things considered, wherever the middle is between reticent and eloquent, that’s where Liev Schreiber of Ray Donovan resides.

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