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The Killing, The Quest, Sharknado 2 and Hell on Wheels; TV’s must-sees for the week of July 27

- July 27th, 2014

Sharknado 2

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

1) The Killing
Debut of fourth and final season: Sarah (Mireille Enos) made a really questionable decision at the end of season three. She always has been really tough, but is she tough enough to live with what she did?
When: Friday on Netflix

2) Sharknado 2: The Second One
Debut: It’s fin-tastic. See it with a chum. More bite for your buck. Something to chew on. Give it a hand. Ian Ziering and Tara Reid are back to battle double shark storms headed for New York City.
When: Wednesday on Space

3) Hell on Wheels
Fourth-season debut: Awaiting the birth of his baby, Cullen (Anson Mount) toils under the thumb of The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl), while Durant (Colm Meaney) feels the chill after an icy miscalculation.
When: Saturday on AMC

4) The Quest
Debut: This sounds like a reality-competition series for Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings geeks, as 12 contestants are transported into an imaginative realm, with ogres and dragons and a dark lord.
When: Thursday on ABC, City

5) Running Wild With Bear Grylls
Debut: Bear leads actor Zac Efron on a survival journey into the Northeast Appalachian mountain range. But then Zac dances his way out of it, dammit! Take that, danger! East High forever!
When: Monday on NBC, Global

6) The Bridge
Marco (Demian Bichir) gains a new ally while discovering that cartel leader Fausto (Ramon Franco) has a wider reach than anticipated. Meanwhile, a disruption at a local bank provides new intel.
When: Wednesday on FX Canada

7) The Leftovers
A hate crime tests the resolve of Laurie (Amy Brenneman), while Kevin (Justin Theroux) turns down an offer of assistance and Matt (Christopher Eccleston) brings his pulpit to the street.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

8) Masters of Sex
When Bill (Michael Sheen) delivers a baby with ambiguous genitalia, he encourages the parents not to surgically assign a gender. Meanwhile, Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) learns about Bill’s troubled childhood.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

9) Under the Dome
After a bad plan by Big Jim (Dean Norris) and Rebecca (Karla Crome) leaves the town divided, Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) takes over as leader of Chester’s Mill. But that’s not actually a paid position any more.
When: Monday on CBS, Global

10) Masters of Illusion
Debut: Hosted by Dean Cain, this series features illusionists performing everything from sleight-of-hand to great escapes, all in front of a live studio audience. I watched it. Or did I?
When: Friday on CW

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

McConaughey “True” winner at 30th annual TCA awards

- July 19th, 2014

Capture MM blog
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Matthew McConaughey’s aim was “True.” The critics say so.

Both personally for his portrayal of Rust Cohle and collectively for his dark TV series True Detective, McConaughey was one of the biggest winners at the 30th annual Television Critics Association awards, which took place late Saturday at the Beverly Hilton.

McConaughey won the TCA award for individual achievement in drama for his work on True Detective (HBO). The TCA award for outstanding achievement in movies, mini-series and specials also went to True Detective.

“People ask me, ‘Why did you go do True Detective, why did you go do TV?’ ” McConaughey said. “And I’ve said it before: Quality.”

After thanking his True Detective co-star Woody Harrelson, McConaughey added, “I want to say thank you to another guy I came to love and respect, and that’s Mr. Rustin Cohle we’re talking about here. Thank you Rustin for having a bull—t meter of zero. Thank you Rustin for giving more of a damn about the truth than yourself. I do hope one day that Rustin Cohle takes it easy on himself, but I doubt that’s gonna happen. And if it doesn’t, I say Rustin, give ‘em hell. But either way, I’m gonna miss that guy. I’m gonna miss Rustin Cohle.”

Outstanding achievement in drama (series) went to The Good Wife (CBS).

Individual achievement in comedy went to Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep (HBO).

“I’d like to thank the television critics, all of them, and I’ll tell you why,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “I love being criticized – positively. And I guess that’s what this is.

“And I think it’s pretty groovy to be in a co-ed group (the TCA categories don’t separate actors and actresses). It’s kind of like having that co-ed bathroom in your dorm. At first it’s shocking, but then you get used to it.”

Outstanding achievement in comedy (series) was a tie between Veep (HBO) and Louie (FX).

Program of the year went to Breaking Bad (AMC), for the second consecutive year.

“Thank you to all the TCA members, because in the beginning, we had these big yellow signs in Albuquerque saying, ‘Parking for Breaking Bad this way,’ and nobody cared,” said Bryan Cranston, who played lead character Walter White. “We were a little show in the desert making this story about a man who contracts cancer who decides to cook crystal meth. That’s such a bad idea, I don’t blame HBO for saying no. But we’re very thankful to AMC, who was desperate.

“This group has been fantastic to work with,” added Cranston, who was joined on stage by co-star Aaron Paul, creator Vince Gilligan and others. “And this is the last time we will be seeing you up here. Without you getting the word out about our little show, we’re not up here, we’re not on any stage, we’re nowhere. It’s a little sad saying goodbye, but this is it, thank you so much.”

Outstanding new program went to Orange is the New Black (Netflix).

Outstanding achievement in news and information went to Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey (Fox).

Outstanding achievement in reality programming went to RuPaul’s Drag Race (Logo).

Outstanding achievement in youth programming went to The Fosters (ABC Family).

The career achievement award went to legendary series creator and director James Burrows, who consistently has worked on the biggest comedies in television dating back to the 1970s.

The heritage award was given to Saturday Night Live (NBC) for its long-running cultural and social impact.

The TCA awards were hosted by actor and comedian Terry Crews from the Fox series Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

OLYMPIC MYSTERY

Special Olympics athlete Kevin James and several other Special Olympics basketball players will showcase their skills on the court in a new episode of The Listener airing Monday on CTV. James, who is from Oakville, Ont., has a speaking role in the episode.

The main plot centres on a Special Olympics hoops coach named Emma (Rayisa Kondracki) whose father is killed during a home invasion. As Toby (Craig Olejnik) and Michelle (Lauren Lee Smith) investigate, they discover that Emma’s dad led a double life, and now Emma herself could be in imminent danger.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

Three reasons soccer is scoring far more often on North American TV

- July 12th, 2014

Capture world cup

There is a channel in Canada called Bite TV, and yes, wouldn’t it be appropriate if Luis Suarez were given his own show?

Suarez, of course, is the Uruguayan soccer star who was booted out of the World Cup for biting an opponent. It was the third time in his career that Suarez has been suspended for gnawing on human flesh (on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO and HBO Canada, the host joked that if Suarez bites seven more people, he gets a free person with FIFA’s “frequent biter” card).

But with the 2014 World Cup final set to air Sunday, July 13 on CBC and ABC, here’s something else to gnaw upon: Soccer has kind of arrived as a major North American viewing spectacle.

No, not all soccer. But soccer at the highest level is capable of drawing big North American TV audiences now, and in my humble opinion, this fairly recent transformation has occurred for three main reasons:

1 High-definition TV.

No sport has benefited more from the high-definition revolution than soccer. The game lends itself to the shape of a high-def screen, much better than the old box-shaped screens. And since soccer players don’t wear helmets or caps or masks, you get to see their faces and expressions (and teeth), which is more important than you think when you’re trying to introduce a sport to someone who doesn’t know much about it.

2 Availability.

With the explosion of sports specialty channels and pay services, mostly through Rogers and Bell, the biggest and best soccer leagues in the world – the Premier League in Britain, La Liga in Spain, the Champions League, which gathers the best club teams from across Europe, etc. – are much more accessible now to North American TV audiences than they ever were before. For example, personally I am a fan of Manchester City in the Premier League, and over the past few seasons, I have been able to see virtually every one of Man City’s games from the comfort of my own home. That was unthinkable a decade ago, or even a half-dozen years ago. And the more you watch the best leagues, the more interest you’ll have in something such as the World Cup, which essentially is a big all-star tournament with players competing for their home countries.

3 No commercials.

This wouldn’t be the first thing you’d care about if you didn’t care about soccer at all. But if you do have even a marginal interest in soccer, or if you’re just catching onto it a little bit, you will begin to notice something remarkable. A soccer game starts. The first half goes for 45 minutes, plus injury time. There are no ads. No TV timeouts. There will be some commercials at halftime. Then the second half begins, and it’s the same thing. And you start to get used to that. Watch five soccer games, then try watching an NFL or CFL or NHL or NBA game. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself shouting at the TV, “How is this normal? Why do we put up with this in North America? All these ads and stoppages are driving me bonkers!”

Maybe a sport with no ads speaks more to a generation that has grown accustomed to watching TV shows with no ads, through online services or premium cable channels. Is that the soccer generation?

Regardless of the hows and whys, more North American TV viewers than ever are getting a kick out of big-time soccer. It’s up to savvy TV executives – and players such as Luis Suarez – to make a meal of it.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

Murder, Liars, Suits; TV must-sees for the week

- June 7th, 2014

Capture PLL for blog

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of June 8

1 Murder in the First
Debut: Taye Diggs and Canadian Kathleen Robertson star as detectives in this San Francisco-set series from Steven Bochco that follows developments in a single case throughout the entire season.
When: Monday on Bravo

2 Veep
Third-season finale with back-to-back episodes: The team tries to make presidential candidate Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) seem more folksy as the New Hampshire primary approaches.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

3 Suits
Fourth-season debut: Wait, didn’t the previous season of this show wrap up just a couple of months ago? Yup, it was back in April. Who’s in charge of this scheduling? Lawyers?
When: Wednesday on Bravo

4 Tony Awards
Live: Hugh Jackman hosts the 68th annual edition of this hardware handout from Radio City Music Hall in New York. I have to say, Jackman was pretty great when he hosted the Oscars in 2009.
When: Sunday on CBS, CHCH

5 Chasing Life
Debut: A 20-something named April, played by Canadian Italia Ricci, is on a roll professionally and personally. But some devastating medical news forces her to adjust her thinking about everything.
Tuesday on ABC Spark

6 Graceland
Second-season debut: When a cartel puts a hit on Mike (Aaron Tveit), he returns to the supposedly safe haven of the title house, only to find that the place has changed quite a bit.
When: Wednesday on Bravo

7 The Incredible Mr. Goodwin
Debut: In this five-part series, “escapologist” Jonathan Goodwin swings from burning ropes and emerges from rocket-launched cars, etc. Seriously, I did not know “escapologist” was a word.
When: Tuesday on OLN

8 Major Crimes
Third-season debut: Mary McDonnell returns as Los Angeles Police Captain Sharon Raydor, who heads up a special squad dealing with high-profile and/or sensitive cases.
When: Wednesday on Super Channel

9 Duck Dynasty
Sixth-season debut: The lucrative leap into the mainstream for this series likely has come to an abrupt halt due to Phil Robertson’s repeated anti-gay comments. But the show goes on.
When: Wednesday on A&E

10 Pretty Little Liars
Fifth-season debut (main cast pictured above): Aria (Lucy Hale) guards Ezra (Ian Harding) at the hospital following his shooting, while the others set a trap to draw out “A.” Wouldn’t if be funny if it were Fonzie all along?
When: Tuesday on M3

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Maslany, McConaughey, Margulies earn nominations for 2014 TCA awards

- May 27th, 2014

TCA_Logo_FINAL_LARGE

Orange and True.

That would be one way to describe the list of nominees for the 30th annual Television Critics Association Awards, which were announced Tuesday.

Two new shows – Orange is the New Black (Netflix) and True Detective (HBO, HBO Canada) – were included among the five nominees for the prestigious program-of-the-year award. The others were Game of Thrones (HBO, HBO Canada), The Good Wife (CBS, Global) and defending champion Breaking Bad (AMC).

As logic would dictate (although you never can be too sure with critics), Orange is the New Black and True Detective also were nominated in the outstanding-new-program category, alongside Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox, City), Fargo (FX, FXX Canada) and Sleepy Hollow (Fox, Global).

Nominees for individual achievement in comedy were defending champ Louis C.K. (Louie), Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation).

Nods for individual achievement in drama went to defending champ Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Matthew McConaughey (True Detective) and Matthew Rhys (The Americans).

The eligibility period for the 2014 TCA awards was from May 15, 2013 to May 15, 2014. The awards will be handed out on July 19 at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv