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Less singing, more stinging for Katharine McPhee in ‘genius’ new series Scorpion

- September 22nd, 2014

Katharine McPhee stars as Paige Dineen in SCORPION

Call it Katharine McPhee’s version of “networking.”

As one of the stars of the new series Scorpion, which debuts Monday, Sept. 22 on CBS and City, McPhee said she’s very happy to be where she is, network-wise.

“Some people, you know, are like, ‘It’s going to be a hit, it’s going to be a smash,’ whether it’s a song or a show,” McPhee said. “I do consider myself someone who is a bit more reserved and conservative when it comes to talking about those things. A bit more cautious, I guess, is a better word.

“But I am feeling very optimistic about this show (Scorpion), and I think CBS has a lot to do with that. I’m very excited to be on a show that’s on CBS, the No. 1 network (in the U.S.). I just think they’re really smart and they know how to promote a show.”

McPhee’s most recent TV experience, of course, was on the failed show Smash, which originated on NBC. Focusing on the making of a Broadway musical, Smash was very ambitious. But it just never caught on with audiences, and there were endless debates about the reasons for that.

“I won’t stop singing, actually – I will continue to be obnoxious on set with my cast-mates, singing them show tunes,” said a chuckling McPhee, who initially became well-known to TV audiences with she finished second on American Idol in 2006. “I mean, I’m always singing anyway. But I’m still working on releasing a record, although it has kind of gotten a bit unclear, with this show (Scorpion) taking control of the schedule.

“But I don’t say I’m only going to do one thing. I’d like to keep doing as many things as I possibly can. Music was just the first thing I realized I was good at.”

Speaking of being good at things, that’s kind of what drives the plot in Scorpion.

Inspired by a true story, Scorpion is a drama about eccentric genius Walter O’Brien (played by Elyes Gabel) and his team of brilliant misfits who battle high-tech threats. These geniuses wind up working under the direction of federal agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick), who shares an uncomfortable history with Walter.

McPhee’s character, Paige Dineen, comes into the narrative through the side door. She’s a waitress with a young son who speaks only to her, but she never fully has connected with him, and it’s assumed he is challenged in some way. It’s only after a chance encounter with Walter and his team that Paige begins to realize her son could be a genius, way up at Walter’s level.

So Paige needs Walter and his team as translators to help her understand her son. And Walter and his team need Paige to help them interact better with the everyday world and everyday people.

“Much the same way I was thrown into this project – I landed the role on a Sunday and started shooting on a Tuesday – Paige is thrown into this new environment,” McPhee said. “Before she knows it, she has this whole world exposed to her, which she feels is access to her son in a way.

“So immediately when Walter points this out to her, she kind of wants to help. And she certainly does during the (first episode).”

McPhee said she didn’t know Scorpion was based on a real person named Walter O’Brien until the actual guy showed up on set.

“It was my second day and I saw this interesting man, this tall guy who was talking to everybody, and I was thinking, he must have something to do with the series, but it’s kind of awkward that he hasn’t come up to me to say hello, he seems a bit shy,” McPhee recalled.

“Then I was in the casting room and he finally introduced himself, he said, ‘I’m Walter, I’m the real Walter.’ I was like, ‘What?’ And he said. ‘This is based on a real person.’ And I was flipping out.”

Katherine McPhee hopes you’ll flip out for Scorpion. She thinks it’s on the right network. So she wants it to be a smash, but not a Smash, if you know what I mean.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Sons of Anarchy pay a visit to Z Nation on a Package Deal and it isn’t Utopia; television’s must-sees this week

- September 7th, 2014

Z Nation

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Sept. 7

1 Boardwalk Empire
Fifth and final season debut
Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) recalls his roots as a poor kid in Atlantic City while simultaneously plotting his next move in the event that Prohibition is repealed.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

2 Sons of Anarchy
Seventh and final season debut
Jax (Charlie Hunnam) eschews legitimacy and makes vengeance a club priority, while Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Juice (Theo Rossi) continue their unholy alliance of secrets.
When: Tuesday on Super Channel

3 Z Nation
Debut (pictured above)
No, the “Z” in this case does not stand for zebras or zeppelins or zippers or Zooey Deschanel. It’s more zombies, dammit, in a new series starring Tom Everett Scott.
When: Friday on Space

4 CCMA Awards
Live
Rick Mercer and Jann Arden host the annual Canadian country music hardware handout. Performers include Autumn Hill, Gord Bamford, Terri Clark and The Road Hammers
When: Sunday on CBC, CMT

5 Package Deal
Season-two debut
Sheldon (Harland Williams) and Ryan (Jay Malone) aren’t amused when they find out Danny (Randal Edwards) went to see the new James Bond movie with Kim (Julia Voth).
When: Friday on City

6 Hell’s Kitchen
Season-13 debut
Eighteen aspiring chefs are split into two teams. The winners this week spend time with Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck. The losers set up the living arrangements.
When: Wednesday on Fox, City

7 Fashion Rocks
Live
Ryan Seacrest hosts a concert honouring the relationship between fashion and music. Like, that needs to be honoured? Performers include The Band Perry, Duran Duran and Kiss.
When: Tuesday on CBS, Global

8 Love Prison
Debut
A carefree bachelor and a single mother who’ve “dated” online for six months finally meet in person, spending a week together on an island. Hey, what could go wrong, Gilligan?
Monday on A&E

9 The Biggest Loser: Glory Days
Debut
Twenty former athletes, including NFLers Scott Mitchell and Damien Woody, and Olympic gold medal-winning tennis player Zina Garrison, aim to regain control of their lives.
When: Thursday on NBC, Yes TV

10 Utopia
Debut
Fifteen pioneer wannabes move to a remote location where they begin the process of creating their own civilization from scratch. First rule: Telemarketing is forbidden.
When: Sunday, Tuesday and Friday on Fox, City

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Tiny Talent Time is back, without a Simon Cowell or a Jenna Maroney

- September 4th, 2014

 

Capture TTT

There is no judgment here.

Tiny Talent Time is back on CHCH. And there are no judges. It’s merely about kids performing on TV just for the fun of it.

There was nothing tiny about Tiny Talent Time in its original run, which spanned 35 years, from 1957 to 1992. If you grew up in Ontario during those years, I’m willing to bet you remember it. The new version, which debuts Saturday, Sept. 6 on CHCH, will attempt to recreate some of the innocent magic of yesteryear.

Hosted by Jason Agnew and Jaclyn Colville (pictured above), Tiny Talent Time is not a competition, but rather a showcase for young musicians, singers, dancers and just about anything else you can imagine.

We’re certainly grown accustomed to TV singing shows being filled with harsh critiques. Simon Cowell became a superstar because of it on American Idol. And the trend was lampooned brilliantly on 30 Rock, with Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) becoming a judge on “America’s Kidz Got Singing,” where she was the Cowell-esque “mean judge” and verbally would rip apart cute little children. Example: “Go work on your presentation, take voice lessons, then seal yourself in a barrel and fall off a waterfall.”

If you’re looking for something a little kinder and gentler, try Tiny Talent Time. It’s a safer place for kidz. I mean, kids.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

In Brie we trust; in life and in new animated Netflix series BoJack Horseman, Alison Brie knows our secrets

- August 22nd, 2014

Diane (left, voiced by Alison Brie) and Bojack (right, voiced by Will Arnett)

Sometimes people just tell you things, no matter how animated you are.

And therein lies the one trait Alison Brie has in common with her character in the new animated series BoJack Horseman, which is available Friday, Aug. 22 on Netflix. Brie’s character Diane Nguyen (above left) is a ghost writer, hired to pen the memoirs of lead character BoJack (above right), voiced by Will Arnett.

“If there’s any resemblance, it’s that there’s something about Diane that even when BoJack is avoiding any writing of the book, she sort of gets BoJack to open up,” Brie said. “And that I can relate to, because people always are telling me their secrets. They confide in me. I seem very trustworthy.”

Brie paused just long enough to make it funny, before adding, “I seem.”

You’ll recognize Brie’s face primarily for her roles as Annie Edison on Community (cast pic below with Brie at far right) and Trudy Campbell on Mad Men. But she has done voice work as well, including the recent Lego Movie, in which she co-starred with Arnett, coincidentally.

BoJack Horseman centres around BoJack, who literally is a horse. The series exists in a universe where animals talk and interact with humans. For example, all the employees at Penguin Publishing are, well, penguins.

Anyway, BoJack was the star of a corny 1990s family sitcom called Horsin’ Around. Presently, trying to plot a comeback, BoJack has been contracted to write his autobiography, but he isn’t exactly a nose-to-the-trough kind of horse. That’s where Diane enters the fray.

“Diane quickly assimilates to that group (which includes BoJack’s roommate Todd Chavez, voiced by Aaron Paul, and his agent Princess Carolyn, voiced by Amy Sedaris),” Brie said. “And because Diane dates Mr. Peanut Butter (a canine rival of  BoJack’s, voiced by Paul F. Tompkins), and Mr. Peanut Butter seems to always make himself a part of BoJack’s life – to BoJack’s chagrin – that makes Diane part of the family as well.”

What I want to know is, what is a serious girl like Diane doing with an upbeat airhead such as Mr. Peanut Butter?

“Well, you know, it is an interesting question,” Brie said. “I have to just assume that Diane wants to take a break from herself. Diane is a very serious person and she has such a dry sense of humour. She always needs to be the smartest person in the room, and I think with Mr. Peanut Butter, that’s very easy.”

Diane may be Brie’s primary character in BoJack Horseman, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear Brie popping up in other places as well.

“Every time I come in there’s a different thing, ‘Oh, yeah, also today, you’re going to be reading cow waitress,’ ” Brie said with a laugh. “That’s one of my favourites, one of my proudest roles.”

Brie said BoJack Horseman came along at the right time, with the upcoming final seven episodes of Mad Men already having been shot, and with Community in between seasons. Community, which has more lives than a cat, recently was picked up for a sixth season by Yahoo! Screen. You know, Community may end up being the longest-running show in TV history before it’s done.

“I would believe it,” Brie said. “Except now it’s on the internet, does that count? I guess it does, since we’re here right now talking about a show on Netflix.

“This did fit in very nicely. And they’ve been wonderful about working around our schedules, which is why we’ve been able to draw such an incredible cast. It’s a smaller time commitment, and it’s a little more flexible.”

Speaking of time flexibility, does Brie think Diane ever is going to get BoJack’s book written? And if so, will Diane get her name on it?

“I doubt it – she’s a ghost writer, after all,” Brie said. “But in any case, I don’t think she wants her name on this book.”

People may confide in Alison Brie, but BoJack Horseman is not a secret she has to keep.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

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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