Make Canoe my Homepage

Jayma Mays understands parental discretion is advised when watching The Millers

- October 17th, 2014

Nelson Franklin, Lulu Wilson, Sean Hayes, Margo Martindale, Will Arnett, Beau Bridges, Jayma Mays and J

According to recent studies, more than half the adult population in North America is dealing with, or supporting, or in some way taking care of aging parents.

Maybe you’re just worrying about your parents as they get older and a bit goofier, which can be a burden on its own.

I would wager this is one of the reasons The Millers connects with TV audiences.

“Yes, well, my parents started going goofy at a very young age, so I was ahead of the curve on that, I have a really kooky mother,” said Jayma Mays, who plays Debbie on The Millers (pictured above on the far right of the couch, and below).

“I didn’t know there were that many people dealing with aging parents, it seems incredibly high. But on the flip side, with the economy, a lot of (adult) kids are having to live with their parents, too. So these multi-generational homes are becoming more common, I think.”

The multi-generational homes on The Millers are in flux as season two begins, Monday, Oct. 20 on CBS and then Thursday, Oct. 23 on CTV.

Will Arnett stars as Nathan, and Mays plays Nathan’s sister Debbie. Season one saw Nathan and Debbie’s parents – Carol, played by Margo Martindale, and Tom, played by Beau Bridges – split up, with mom moving in with the recently divorced Nathan and dad moving in with Debbie and her husband Adam, played by Nelson Franklin.

“In season two, mom decides to move out, so that’s a big plot change for us,” said Mays, who also is well-known to TV audiences for her roles on Glee and Heroes. “Mom is exploring her independence and freedom. And also, Sean Hayes has joined our cast as her new kind of best friend, and also Nathan’s nemesis. Sean has a two-parter there.

“For Debbie, what they’re doing this season that I love so much, they’re exploring the relationship between Debbie and Adam a little bit more. That’s great, because they’re kind of a buddy-buddy misfit couple. We’re learning more about him, like he was raised in a commune, there’s a whole episode about that.

“Despite being the weirdest ones on the show, Debbie and Adam have the most functional relationship. We’re the only ones still married, so we must be doing something right. We’re two weirdos who found each other.”

Now there’s something fit for a romantic-movie poster: Two weirdos who found each other.

“You can quote me on that,” Mays said with a laugh.

Coincidentally, some critical evaluations of The Millers have accused the characters of being too nasty. Sure, they can be nasty, in a comic sense. But given the wide scope of what’s on TV these days, I find it hard to accept that The Millers is the poster child for nastiness, if you know what I mean.

“Like, what are people comparing it to, exactly?” Mays agreed. “That does surprise me. But maybe it’s because, I like to describe the characters on our show as saying things to each other that you might think but might not actually say out loud. That’s why it’s funny, because you’re thinking it anyway.

“Personally I feel our show has a lot of heart. It reminds me of some of the sitcoms I grew up watching and loved, in that the family ultimately loves each other. And when you think about it, we actually put each other first in everything. That often is the message at the end of almost every episode.

“So maybe the people who are saying we’re nasty are only watching the middle bits and not watching the end?”

Fortunately for Jayma Mays and her cast-mates, the end is nowhere near for The Millers. Allow it to age gracefully, like fine wine and goofy parents.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv
Jayma Mays as Debbie

 

The Flash feels The Strain as a Million Dollar Critic of American Horror Story; television this week

- October 5th, 2014

Grant Gustin as The Flash, two

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Oct. 5

1 The Flash
Debut
Yup, more superheroes on TV. Barry Allen (Grant Gustin, pictured above) gains powers when lightning strikes him during a freak storm. Almost immediately, those raw new powers are needed.
When: Tuesday on CW, CTV

2 American Horror Story
Fourth-season debut
A “freak show” struggles to stay in business as TV conquers showbiz in the early 1950s. The likes of Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Evan Peters are back again, in new roles.
When: Wednesday on FX Canada

3 Homeland
Fourth-season debut, back-to-back episodes
Carrie (Claire Danes) makes a critical decision, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) struggles with his new role in the private sector and Quinn (Rupert Friend) spirals out of control.
When: Sunday on Super Channel

4 The Strain
First-season finale
Eph (Corey Stoll) and Fet (Kevin Durand) prepare an assault that Setrakian (David Bradley) assures them will kill the Master. Um, what’s the betting line on that one?
When: Sunday on FX Canada

5 Murdoch Mysteries
Eighth-season debut
While investigating the murder of a merchant, Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) uncovers possible connections to the assault on Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig).
When: Monday on CBC

6 Arrow
Third-season debut
With crime at an all-time low, Oliver (Stephen Amell) lets his guard down. You know, given all of my TV-watching experience, I’d wager that turns out to be a really bad idea.
When: Wednesday on CW, CTV

7 Strange Empire
Debut
A fateful convergence of lost souls near the Alberta-Montana border in 1869 leads to tragedy and a struggle for survival. Cara Gee, Melissa Farman and Tattiawna Jones star.
When: Monday on CBC

8 Million Dollar Critic
Debut
Giles Coren reviews food hot spots across North America, but in the first episode he meets Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to discuss where the city’s best hot dog can be found.
When: Tuesday on W

9 Cristela
Debut
Sitcom stars standup Cristela Alonzo. In the pilot, she gets an offer for an internship at a law firm, but her traditional Mexican-American family doesn’t quite understand.
When: Friday on ABC, CHCH

10 Mulaney
Debut
Sitcom stars former SNL staffer John Mulaney. In the pilot, he gets a writing job that turns out to be less glamorous than he expected. That sounds preposterous to me, boss.
When: Sunday on Fox, Global

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

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