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Archer and Agent Carter read The Book of Negroes and start an Empire with Glee; TV for the week of Jan. 4

- January 4th, 2015

Anna Faris, Allison Janney, People's Choice Awards

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Jan. 4

1 Marvel’s Agent Carter
Debut
Decades before the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, there was Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). She pledged a similar oath, but as a female in the 1940s, she had to fight from being marginalized when all the men returned home from World War II.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 6 on ABC, CTV

2 Downton Abbey
Fifth-season debut
Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) feels a bit insulted when the townspeople choose someone else to head up a local project. Meanwhile, Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) has trouble keeping her distance from her big secret.
When: Sunday, Jan. 4 on most PBS affiliates

3 People’s Choice Awards
Live
From the Nokia Theater in L.A., awards season kicks off by honouring fan favourites in movies, music and TV. Anna Faris and Allison Janney (pictured above) from the sitcom Mom are the hosts, with musical performances from Iggy Azalea and Fall Out Boy.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 7 on CBS, Global

4 The Book of Negroes
Debut
Six-part mini-series follows the harsh journey of Aminata Diallo (Aunjanue Ellis), who was abducted and enslaved as a child, but eventually returns home to West Africa. Also with Cuba Gooding, Jr., Lyriq Bent and Allan Hawco, among others.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 7 on CBC

5 Empire
Debut
Music-company kingpin Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) learns he has a disease and must choose one of his three sons to take over. But it gets even messier when Lucious’ ex-wife re-emerges unexpectedly and is determined to claim her share.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 7 on Fox

6 Archer
Sixth-season debut
Notice something different about this long-running animated series? The producers announced last fall that the spy agency no longer will be called the International Secret Intelligence Service – a.k.a., Isis – for obvious reasons.
When: Thursday, Jan. 8 on Teletoon

7 Sunnyside
Debut
Canadian sketch series featuring Kathleen Phillips and Pat Thornton centres on a quirky town where, for example, a voice from an open manhole replaces the internet. It’s the voice of Norm Macdonald, so I assume it’ll be sarcastic.
When: Thursday, Jan. 8 on City

8 Say Yes to the Dress Canada
Debut, back-to-back episodes
Set at a Toronto bridal boutique, Canadian brides must be more patient and polite than their American counterparts, right? Hello? Well, maybe brides are brides wherever you go, and they all speak the international language of tension.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 7 on W

9 UFOs Declassified
Debut
“Take me to your leader” aside, this six-episode series purports to present a balanced examination of the subject matter, with state-of-the-art CGI based on both eyewitness accounts and government/military documentation.
When: Friday, Jan. 9 on History

10 Glee
Sixth-season, two-hour debut
Upon learning that Sue (Jane Lynch) has banished the arts at McKinley High, Rachel (Lea Michele) endeavours to re-establish the glee club. More and more of the old gang will return home to help. Thank goodness this is the final season.
When: Friday, Jan. 9 on Fox, City

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv​

Allen Leech of Downton Abbey warns: Use the wrong fork? You can be certain Maggie Smith will notice

- January 2nd, 2015

downton-abbey-season-4-allen-leech

All things are not created equal. It’s as true today as it was in the Downton Abbey era a hundred years ago.

Allen Leech, who plays chauffeur-turned-awkward-aristocrat Tom Branson in Downton Abbey, has some first-hand experience in this regard.

Alastair Bruce, our historical advisor, has always left me slightly outside the group in relation to etiquette,” Leech said. “I’ve never been given the full brief. So if you ever notice, sometimes I do accidentally pick up the wrong cutlery. And Tom should do it wrong.

“Actually, the best at this is Maggie (Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess), because she’ll throw a look. It’s often in the show, where I pick up the wrong cutlery, and she’ll go, ‘Hmmm.’ There’s a reason for that. She doesn’t do that accidentally. Because she knows. She sees it.

“But oh my God, she’s the most fun ever. Between takes, she has me in fits. We all make mistakes with our lines, but the first person to enjoy that and make fun of it is Maggie. It puts you at ease immediately. And when she does it, she’s the first to go, ‘Oh my God, this is going terribly.’ She is a legend, she really is.”

I should point out, Leech’s impression of Smith was shockingly good. But he has had quite a bit of time to work on it, with season five of Downton Abbey making its North American debut, Sunday, Jan. 4 on most PBS affiliates (the fifth season already has aired in the U.K.).

“What Julian (Fellowes, Downton Abbey creator) does so well is, you’ve got 22 characters, and he constantly keeps those plates spinning,” Leech said. “You constantly have 22 stories, really. So you’re always going to find someone to root for, and someone to hate, and someone you’re in the middle of the road about and you hope they come around.

“While there is a hierarchy within the story, there is no hierarchy within the story-telling. What Julian gives us is a platform. You have 22 characters who are given exactly the same amount of opportunity to show what they are as people.”

Leech’s Tom Branson certainly has shown many sides of himself through the first four seasons of Downton Abbey, which commenced in 1912 and has progressed to 1924. In season five, Tom basically has reached the peak of how high he can rise within the household, and with echoes of his past life calling to him, the question is what he does next.

“(Tom) has accepted that these people (the Crawleys) genuinely love him, and he loves them, they are his family,” Leech said. “He had to create this life around what was best for his daughter (following the death of Tom’s wife, Lady Sybil, who was played by Jessica Brown Findlay). But in relation to series five, you see Tom wrestle with what’s best in the future.”

While Leech admitted Downton Abbey has opened doors for him in the acting world that weren’t open previously, there remain some gender-related limits to the level of fame he has achieved.

“Myself and Rob (James-Collier, who plays Thomas Barrow) have been out numerous times as two members of the cast, and we don’t get recognized at all,” Leech said. “The women get recognized a lot more than we do.”

By “the women,” Leech is referring to the likes of Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary, Joanne Froggatt, who plays Anna, Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith, Lily James, who plays Lady Rose, and Sophie McShera, who plays Daisy.

“I don’t know if that’s because women tend to follow the fashions a lot more, and the way the girls look, and the style,” Leech added. “We (the male cast members) don’t tend to get that at all. We go under the radar.”

But do you think Allen Leech would get noticed more often if he simply stopped using the wrong fork?

Somewhere, somehow, Maggie Smith just raised a subtly disapproving eyebrow.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Modern Family gets Cook’d in a Labyrinth; TV must-sees for the week of May 18

- May 16th, 2014

rookie blue small

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of May 18

1 Rookie Blue
Fifth-season debut: Andy (Missy Peregrym) and Dov (Greg Smith) try to pull themselves together at a diner, but let’s just say some Pulp Fiction-style complications ensue.
When: Monday on Global

2 Labyrinth
Debut: A four-hour historical Holy Grail-themed mini-series airing over two nights, starring Jessica Brown-Findlay, who played the ill-fated Lady Sybil Crawley on Downton Abbey.
When: Thursday and Friday on CW

3 Modern Family
Fifth-season finale: Wedding-day chaos threatens everything, but an unexpected turn of events gives Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) the ceremony they’ve dreamed about.
When: Wednesday on ABC, City

4 Last Comic Standing
Eighth-season debut: The new judges are Russell Peters, Roseanne Barr and Keenen Ivory Wayans. The new host is J.B. Smoove. But it’s the competitors who’ll have to be funny.
When: Thursday on NBC

5 Cook’d
Debut: Kids can be the pickiest eaters in the world, so why not make a TV show about it? Each week celebrity chefs prepare meals in the hopes of impressing a panel of jaded juvenile judges.
When: Tuesday on YTV

6 Gang Related
Debut: An action drama centring on Detective Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez), a rising star on L.A.’s gang task force whose gang connections might be a little too good, if you know what I mean.
When: Thursday on Fox

7 Buy It Fix It Sell It
Debut with back-to-back episodes: More “junk TV,” so to speak. Pro “fixers” battle over auction items that need just a little love before hopefully becoming money-making masterpieces.
When: Friday on HGTV

8 Shannon and Sophie
Debut with back-to-back episodes: This essentially is a delayed spinoff of Gene Simmons Family Jewels, starring Gene’s wife, model/actress Shannon Tweed, and their daughter Sophie.
When: Tuesday on W

9 The Middle
One-hour fifth-season finale: After Sue (Eden Sher) wins a family trip, the Hecks must overcome a series of setbacks if they want to enjoy their time at Walt Disney World.
When: Wednesday on ABC

10 The Maya Rudolph Show
Debut: Yet another attempt to revive the so-called variety-show format that basically has been co-opted by all the late-night dudes. Rudolph is joined by Andy Samberg, Kristen Bell and more.
When: Monday on NBC

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Friends With Better Lives win Juno Awards while Inside Amy Shumer; TV must-sees for the week of March 30

- March 29th, 2014

Cristin Milioti, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, Josh Radnor, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Bob Saget

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of March 30

1 Juno Awards
Live: Co-hosted by Serena Ryder, Johnny Reid and Classified, scheduled performers include Arcade Fire (taped), Tegan and Sara, Sarah McLachlan, Robin Thicke, the Sheepdogs and Thunderface (kudos if you get that joke).
When: Sunday on CTV

2 How I Met Your Mother
Series finale (cast pictured above): There are many rumours and theories about what might be revealed, some of them quite dark. Here’s hoping Ted (Josh Radnor) and “the mother” (Cristin Milioti) aren’t facing some horrible tragedy. It’s a sitcom, people!
When: Monday on CBS, City

3 Friends With Better Lives
Debut: New sitcom following the How I Met Your Mother series finale that clearly wants to be the next How I Met Your Mother, albeit a notably dirtier one. With Kevin Connolly, Brooklyn Decker and James Van Der Beek, among others.
When: Monday on CBS, City

4 Short Poppies
Debut: This eight-episode series sees Rhys Darby – who you will remember as hapless band manager Murray Hewitt on Flight of the Conchords – playing multiple characters in a “mockumentary” about ordinary New Zealanders.
When: Thursday on Netflix

5 The Late Late Show/The Price is Right
It’s an April Fool’s switcheroo, as Drew Carey and Craig Ferguson swap jobs. Note that Carey hosts The Late Late Show in the early hours of Tuesday, a.k.a. late Monday night, with Ferguson hosting The Price is Right on Tuesday morning.
When: Tuesday on CBS, OMNI/CBS, City

6 Inside Amy Schumer
Season-two debut: Another 10-episode campaign for this combination sketch/standup/interview series gets off to a purposely awkward start, as Amy’s characters marry a black guy, lose a tennis match and try to pray away a nasty case of herpes.
When: Tuesday on Comedy

7 Dragons’ Den
Eighth-season finale: The Dragons hit the road to surprise some of the show’s most memorable pitchers. Have the people who landed deals succeeded or failed? And what of those who were turned down but were convinced the Dragons got it wrong?
When: Wednesday on CBC

8 Raising Hope
Series finale: Back-to-back new episodes wrap up this underrated series after four seasons. In the first episode, Downton Abbey’s Lesley Nicol guest-stars. In the second, Kenny Loggins makes a musical appearance, playing himself.
When: Friday on Fox, City

9 Intelligence
First-season finale: Riley (Meghan Ory) and Gabriel (Josh Holloway) are shocked to learn there are foreign sleeper agents embedded in the U.S. government, and even more shocked when the identities of the spies are revealed.
When: Monday on CBS, CTV Two

10 Family Guy
An ad executive guest-voiced by Peter Dinklage asks Peter Griffin (voice of Seth MacFarlane) to be the face of an anti-smoking campaign, as long as he continues to smoke. Sheesh, and I thought Game of Thrones was complicated.
When: Sunday on Fox, Global

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

The Oscars get Spun Out in Chicagoland; TV must-sees for the week of March 2

- March 1st, 2014

ellen-degeneres-leads-flashmob-in-2014-oscars-promo

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of March 2

1 Academy Awards
The 86th edition of the annual hardware handout will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Scheduled performers include Bette Midler, Karen O, U2 and Pharrell Williams. What is this, the Grammys?
When: Sunday on ABC, CTV

2 Big Brother Canada
Second-season debut: Pack a bunch of young people into a confined space. What could go right? What could go wrong? Hosted again by Arisa Cox. And new this season is a Side Show following evictions.
When: Wednesday on Slice, Global

3 Bates Motel
Second-season debut: No, this isn’t a Downton Abbey spinoff with Mr. Bates starting his own business. Rather, it’s the return of a creepy Psycho prequel starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore.
When: Monday on A&E

4 Spun Out
Debut: Starring Dave Foley from Kids in the Hall, this sitcom is set at a dysfunctional PR agency. Hmmm, they never should have taken on Rob Ford as a client. Also with Rebecca Dalton and Holly Deveaux.
When: Thursday on CTV

5 Kirstie
Debut: Kirstie Alley plays a Broadway star suddenly faced with the son she gave up for adoption 26 years earlier, played by Eric Petersen. Not to be confused with Eric Peterson, a.k.a. Oscar on Corner Gas.
When: Friday on CTV

6 Seed
Second-season debut: Harry (Adam Korson) and “sperm recipient” Rose (Carrie-Lynne Neales) try to raise a baby in a platonic arrangement. Reminds me of Hermey in the Rudolph Christmas special: “Let’s be independent together.”
When: Thursday on City

7 Those Who Kill
Debut: It seems every second show on TV these days is about serial killers in some way, shape or form. Well, here’s another one, with Chloe Sevigny starring as a recently promoted Pittsburgh homicide detective.
When: Monday on A&E

8 Chicagoland
Debut: No, this isn’t yet another scripted series about cops or firefighters in the Windy City. It’s an eight-part documentary series, executive produced by Robert Redford, about real-life Chicago issues and politics.
When: Thursday on CNN

9 The Next Step
Season-two debut: The A-Troupe has won regionals, but the dancers are shocked to learn that prior to nationals they must re-audition with rivals from other studios. Bet those wimps on Fame never had to do that.
When: Friday on Family

10 Almost Human
Season finale: Years ago the father of Kennex (Karl Urban) put away a bad guy. Now new copycat murders are being committed. As always, Dorian (Michael Ealy) is there to help with his dreamy eyes.
When: Monday on Fox, Global

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv