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Mad Men and Orphan Black’s clones visit Fargo; must-sees for the week of April 13

- April 11th, 2014

Jon Hamm as Don Draper

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of April 13

1 Orphan Black
Season-two debut: Clone-based series sees Tatiana Maslany returning in her signature role as Sarah. And Rachel. And Cosima. And Alison. And on and on and on. I hope Maslany is getting paid accordingly.
When: Saturday on Space

2 Fargo
Debut: This is not a direct remake of the Academy Award-winning movie, but rather a new story, “inspired by” the original. Billy Bob Thornton stars as Lorne Malvo, a dangerous drifter with a cruel sense of humour.
When: Tuesday on FX Canada and FXX Canada

3 Mad Men
Seventh-season debut: This technically is the final “season” for this acclaimed series, but it’s airing over two years, just like Breaking Bad. Last we saw Don Draper (Jon Hamm, pictured above), he was out of a job. Poor ugly schmuck.
When: Sunday on AMC

4 MTV Movie Awards
Live: Conan O’Brien hosts yet another annual hardware handout. So does this officially bring an end to “awards season?” Regardless, scheduled presenters include Kate Upton and Mila Kunis, so count me in.
When: Sunday on MTV

5 Vegas Rat Rods
Debut: No, this isn’t about an infestation of rats in Sin City and the questionable methods used to control them. Rather, it focuses on a company called Welder Up, which specializes in crazy vehicles known as “rat rods.”
When: Thursday on Discovery

6 When Calls the Heart
Canadian debut: Family drama based on a book series by Janette Oke, this stars Erin Krakow as Elizabeth Thatcher, a 19th-century, high-society teacher suddenly living in a coal town. Also with Lori Loughlin.
When: Wednesday on Super Channel

7 Mom
First-season finale: Christy (Anna Faris) and Bonnie (Allison Janney) try to help an emotional Violet (Sadie Calvano) through labour. This series has been renewed, so time to buy some cutesy baby clothes.
When: Monday on CBS, City

8 Unusually Thicke
Debut with back-to-back episodes: This is a reality show with Alan Thicke, his young wife Tanya, and his three sons, including pop star Robin Thicke. I’ll bet Robin gets into more mischief than Kirk Cameron on Growing Pains.
When: Wednesday on Slice

9 Californication
Debut of seventh and final season: As usual, Hank (David Duchovny) is desperate to reunite with his eternal love Karen (Natascha McElhone), while Charlie (Evan Handler) is overcome by performance anxiety.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Monday on Movie Central

10 Nurse Jackie
Sixth-season debut: Jackie (Edie Falco) is “using” again. And lo and behold, she is getting her drugs at the gym. You know, this show seemed a lot more daring and shocking before Rob Ford dulled our senses.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Monday on Movie Central

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Vikings and Mr. D try Mixology for a Remedy? TV must-sees for the week

- February 22nd, 2014

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Feb. 23

1 Vikings
Second-season debut: Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) faces new challenges, both to his authority and on the home front. Will his brother Rollo (Clive Standen) have the guts to go through with his betrayal?
When: Thursday on History

2 Remedy
Debut: New Canadian medical show stars Enrico Colantoni, Sara Canning, Sarah Allen and Dillon Casey. High-stakes surgeries are fine for TV, but what this country really needs is a few more family doctors, am I right, people?
When: Monday on Global

3 Mr. D
Third-season debut: In his third year at Xavier Academy, Gerry Duncan (Gerry Dee) is determined to finally land the only job he really wants: Gym teacher. Just think, he’d get to yell at kids and wear shorts all day. Dare to dream.
When: Monday on CBC

4 Late Night with Seth Meyers
Debut: As Saturday Night Live alumni continue to populate the showbiz universe, Meyers joins the weeknight world. His opening-show guests are Amy Poehler, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and A Great Big World.
When: Monday (technically early Tuesday) on NBC, CTV

5 Mixology
Debut: This is a high-concept sitcom, with the entire season taking place on one night in a bar. Ten attractive young people are looking for sex and/or love. Who gets lucky and who goes home alone is the big question.
When: Wednesday on ABC, CTV

6 The Ron James Show
Fifth-season debut: Just how far would you go to avoid “spoilers” if you hadn’t seen the previous night’s Game of Thrones? That issue is explored in one of the sketches, and let’s just say more than winter is coming.
When: Monday on CBC

7 Growing Up Fisher
Debut: Eleven-year-old Henry (Eli Baker) always has been the eyes for his blind dad Mel (J..K. Simmons). So Henry understandably is a little insecure when a new guide dog basically takes over the job.
When: Sunday on NBC, Global

8 Hannibal
Second-season debut: Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is locked in an asylum, accused of crimes we know were committed by Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). The trick for Will is to get someone, anyone, to believe him.
When: Friday on NBC, City

9 Mind Games
Debut: This has nothing to do with the John Lennon song, although that would be cool. Rather, Steve Zahn and Christian Slater star as brothers who are part mental magicians, part master manipulators and part con artists.
When: Tuesday on ABC, City

10 The Americans
Second-season debut: Elizabeth (Keri Russell) comes back from her injury, but what should be a routine mission goes awry. She also cheers way too loudly for Russia in the Sochi Olympics. Wait, that’s not right.
When: Wednesday on FX Canada

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Sean and Catherine’s wedding is an American Horror Story at the Grammys? TV must-sees for the week

- January 26th, 2014

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Jan. 26

1) Grammy Awards
Live: Paul McCartney (above right) and Ringo Starr (above left), the two surviving Beatles, will take the stage as the legendary band is honoured with a lifetime achievement award. Fab, but should have happened long ago, huh?
When: Sunday on CBS, City

2) American Horror Story: Coven
Third-season finale: Another campaign for this innovative and frightening series comes to a close. Which witch will rise as the new “supreme?” The last episode sets up as a kind of in-coven Super Bowl.
When: Wednesday on FX Canada

3) Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials
Canadian viewers diverted by simulcasting often complain that they never get to see the American ads that air during the big game. Often it’s much ado about nothing, but here’s a chance to catch up.
When: Wednesday on CBS

4) Episodes
Frustrated by his current role and intrigued by an unexpected new opportunity, Matt (Matt LeBlanc) tries to convince Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tasmin Greig) to kill him off Pucks.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Monday on Movie Central

5) The Following
Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) receives some mysterious phone calls – no, not from telemarketers – while information comes to light about the new life put together by Joe Carroll (James Purefoy).
When: Monday on Fox, CTV

6) Community
As Annie (Alison Brie) and Professor Hickey (Jonathan Banks) prepare the cafeteria for the mid-term dance, they must negotiate with Greendale’s head custodian, played by guest star Nathan Fillion.
When: Thursday on NBC, City

7) True Detective
Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) sets up Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) with a friend, which you know won’t go well. Meanwhile, parishioners identify a scarred man who was seen with the murder victim.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

8) Republic of Doyle
This represents the back end of a crossover-episode arrangement with Murdoch Mysteries. Yannick Bisson guest-stars as Bill Murdoch, a descendant of Detective William Murdoch.
When: Wednesday on CBC

9) 19-2
Debut: Set in Montreal, this is a 10-episode English-language adaptation of a French Canadian series. It’s about two reluctantly partnered beat cops, in this case played by Jared Keeso and Adrian Holmes.
When: Wednesday on Bravo

10) The Bachelor: Sean and Catherine’s Wedding
Live: In this special presentation, Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici exchange vows in front of family, friends, paparazzi, gossip-mag reporters, hangers-on, puzzled passers-by, you know the drill.
When: Sunday on ABC, OMNI

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Aziz Ansari gets Seduced and Abandoned in Bunks; TV must-sees for the week

- October 27th, 2013

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

1 Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive

Debut: A standup special filmed in Philadelphia starring Aziz Ansari, who is best known to TV audiences for his role as Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation.

When: Friday on Netflix

2 War of the Worlds: American Experience

Documentary debut: A new look back at the legendary Orson Welles radio broadcast, which caused a widespread panic 75 years ago when rubes didn’t know it was fake.

When: Tuesday on PBS

3  The Governor’s Wife

Reality-series debut: Trina settles into her role as former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards’ spouse. She is 50 years his junior and frozen sperm is involved.

When: Sunday on A&E

4 The Walking Dead

It’s Halloween week, so this seems like a natural. While a group leaves the prison to search for supplies, those who remain deal with recent losses.

When: Sunday on AMC

5 It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Creative differences over what constitutes “tasteful nudity” cause Frank (Danny DeVito) to pull his money out of the proposed Lethal Weapon 6.

When: Thursday on FX Canada

6 Masters of Sex

William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) arrange for couples to be included in their study of human sexuality. It’s about damn time.

When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

7 Chasing Nashville

Reality-series debut: Singers from the Appalachia region travel to the annual Hillbilly Days talent competition and are surprised to learn they may have a shot at a record deal.

When: Tuesday on Lifetime

8 Seduced and Abandoned

Documentary debut: Actor Alec Baldwin and film-maker James Toback travel to the Cannes Film Festival to try to secure financing for a movie.

When: Monday on HBO Canada

9 Bunks

Made-for-TV movie debut: Cheeky, mischievous brothers played by Dylan Schmid and Aidan Shipley accidentally unleash a curse that plagues their summer camp with zombies.

When: Sunday on Disney XD

10 Trophy Wife

In the first Halloween episode of this rookie sitcom, Kate (Malin Akerman) hijacks the holiday when a costume provided by flighty Jackie (Michaela Watkins) is found to be lacking.

When: Tuesday on ABC, CTV

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

The NFL is back, and so is The League on FX Canada

- September 4th, 2013

theleague

If you think The League goes a little overboard sometimes, try joining a fantasy football league yourself.

“If you had access to what actual fantasy football message boards or email chains were like, it would make our show look like Little House on the Prairie,” says Nick Kroll, one of the stars of The League, a comedy that returns for its fifth season Thursday, Sept. 5 on FX Canada.

You’d have to think most of the people who watch The League are in fantasy football leagues. But it isn’t an absolute prerequisite.

The series is centred on a group of competitive friends in Winnetka, Ill., but you don’t really need to know anything about sports to enjoy it. You’ll just get a few more of the references, and recognize a few more of the famous faces making cameos, if you do.

A lot of NFL players are big fans of The League and have made appearances, but the main cast and creators understand instinctively that they can’t overdo that stuff.

“The very first season, we had good relationships with a couple of players and agents who were willing to take a chance on the show, because the entire season was shot before anything had aired,” says Jackie Schaffer, who co-created The League with her husband Jeff. “Now through social media, they reach out to us. So it’s a completely different thing from the first season, where it was us chasing them.

“We talk a lot about one of the pleasures of the show being wish fulfillment. And it’s not just wish fulfillment about, ‘This is the most fun fantasy league you could possibly be in.’ It’s also about having that ability to meet players.

“The biggest issue with us – because we’ve got more players than we have opportunities – is it has to feel like it’s a story. I know there are other shows that did a lot of celebrity and athlete cameos, like Entourage. Our rule always has been, it has to have a point. It has to feel realistic at least for the world of The League.”

In the debut episode of the fifth season, which is titled The Bachelor Draft, the gang travels to Los Angeles for the wedding of Andre (Paul Scheer) and Trixie (Jayma Mays). Meanwhile, Ruxin (Kroll) refuses to live up to his league-mandated punishments and therefore may be forced to make alternative arrangements for the coming campaign.

“We always say there are three scripts for the show,” Jackie Schaffer says. “There’s the script that we write; there’s the script that happens on the day with contributions from an amazing cast, who are brilliant improvisors; then there’s what we do in the edit. Well, we should say four (scripts), because then we drag them back on hiatus week to make it seem timely with what’s actually happening in the NFL.

“We try to make it feel authentic. I mean, people sometimes say we’re pretty raunchy or that we go over the edge a little bit sometimes. But I think probably it’s a pretty good reflection.”

That’s no fantasy.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca