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Building an Empire; Hit Fox drama series gets trial run on City, in addition to OMNI

- January 26th, 2015
Terrence Howard and Taraji P
Empire is moving to the City. For a night, at least.

With hit rookie drama Empire having made such an impact on network-of-origin Fox in the United States, Rogers has decided to simulcast the series on City, Wednesday, Jan. 28.

The first three episodes of Empire have aired on another Rogers channel, OMNI, but City has a bigger reach across Canada (this Wednesday’s episode will air on OMNI, too).

Whether Empire might remain on City in future weeks largely will depend on how it does this week ratings-wise, one would assume.

Empire follows Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard, above left), the legendary head of a large music company. In the early stages of a debilitating disease, Lucious is dealing with his three sons and his fresh-out-of-prison ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson, above right), all of whom are vying for his throne.

“This phenomenon that’s happening, 1,000 years ago, or 2,000 years ago, it wasn’t a phenomenon for many people of different colours to get together and enjoy their cultures,” said Howard, asked why it seems to be the right time for a drama about a black family to be a wide-scale hit.

“Right now we’re seeing people enjoy the culture of America, the culture of the world as a whole, in this show. We’re showing real life now.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv​

 

 

 

 

 

‘Girls’ star Lena Dunham to guest star on ‘The Simpsons’

- January 9th, 2015

The Simpsons is about to get a whole lot snappier.

Girls star and creator Lena Dunham has recorded a part for the animated show’s 27th season premiere, Entertainment Weekly reported Friday.

The episode, entitled “Every Man’s Dream,” finds Homer and Marge in another one of their frivolous whirlwind marital disputes. Except unlike previous episodes that used the same confrontational narrative device, Simpsons creator Al Jean tells the magazine things get pretty heated between everyone’s favourite yellow couple.

“We wanted to take a real look at what it’s like to be Mrs. Simpson,” Jean said.

simpsons-dunham

Lena Dunham’s upcoming character on The Simpsons, Candace the pharmacist.
(Entertainment Weekly)

Enter Dunham’s character. After Homer is diagnosed for narcolepsy, he comes across a young and stunning twentysomething pharmacist who he’s immediately taken with. As the episode progresses, their conversations become deeper and deeper (or as deep as you can get in a 22 minute network comedy) and it’s apparent the two have romantic feelings for each other.

With numerous voice actors on staff, questions still circled as to why they went with Dunham for the role. Jean admitted when they were writing the part, the entire writing staff was writing it with Dunham’s voice in their heads.

“…it’s that funny, intellectual, slightly awkward, endearing tone that everybody’s familiar with, so we were just writing it with her voice in our heads.”

The 27th season of The Simpsons is set to debut later this year on Fox during the upcoming fall season.

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​

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

 

Saturday morning cartoons have officially died

- October 4th, 2014

Saturday morning cartoons are officially dead.

October 4 marked the death of a beloved past time almost everyone can relate to: waking up super early Saturday morning, dumping some kind of sugary concoction marked cereal into a bowl, overloading it with milk, and settling in front of a television set to watch cartoons.

The CW, the last remaining network who dedicated a block of programming on Saturday to children’s cartoons or animation, switched out their “Vortexx” portal in exchange for more live-action shows.

All of which resulted in the figurative death of cartoons, and the literal death of cartoon programming on any kind of network station, including CBS, NBC, and ABC.

Although they weren’t the first network to scrap their animated programs (Fox in 2008 and ABC in 2012), they were one of the last available options for families who didn’t purchase packages that included Nickelodeon or additional Disney channels.

The CW pointed to a multitude of reasons for the decision to scrap cartoons, from modern day DVR capabilities to animated shows becoming too niche for their overall market.

Whatever the reason network executives served reporters, the fact remains that cartoons have become as difficult to watch as ever.

The death of the children’s cartoon has been imminent for years, as more and more creators move toward making cartoons geared toward teenagers and adults.

From the obviously meant for adult programming like Archer or South Park to the questionable Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers, the idea of a safe haven for children to watch cartoons without worrying about the content has slowly been eroding.

Even shows like Adventure Time and The Regular show that appear on Adult Swim are far more lewd with innuendo than Scooby Doo ever was.

Long gone are the days of Hanna-Barbera’s Saturday morning treasures. There haven’t been any adventures in Bedrock or any slip ups from George Jetson in quite some time.

Long gone are the days of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fighting crime (that didn’t include a perverse amount of violence, etched in the mind of Michael Bay). Scooby Doo and the gang aren’t solving crimes anymore, Rocky and Bullwinkle aren’t heading out into the world to see all that they can, and even Yogi Bear is resting peacefully in Jellystone Park.

This generation of kids won’t have jovial theme songs to sing with their friends as adults, reminiscing over nostalgic Saturday mornings, hunched in front of the idiot box for hours.

Nor, as the networks don’t seem to comprehend, will they wake up ridiculously early on a Saturday morning to make sure Wolverine and Scott were doing okay in whatever X-Men series was playing that year.

Live action television is great, but it doesn’t replace the fantastical worlds only cartoons can conjure up.

Instead, kids will pick up a Playstation or Xbox controller and have to find their Saturday morning entertainment inside of a console, exploring new worlds with their friends over a microphone.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the same as sitting with a brother or sister, or even sitting by yourself with a bowl of cereal, and tuning in week after week to watch your favourite cartoon characters.

It was a different kind of immersive experience altogether. It was feeling like you could be one of Batman’s sidekicks, or feeling like you had become friends with different Pokemon masters on their journeys, because of how invested you were allowed to become in them.

It was a time honoured tradition, passed down from parent to child with each generation. It was discovering cartoons of years past during a repeat your mother or father sat down to relive excitedly, or embracing in the feeling of accomplishment when your parents discovered they enjoyed Sailor Moon just as much as you did.

Saturday morning cartoons were the last innocent world of adventure available to kids on television, and now that coveted time of week has been ripped from their grasps and replaced with mediocre live action shows geared toward families.

The world has become a little less Tigger and a little more Eeyore.

I hope children will understand what that means in twenty years time.​