Make Canoe my Homepage

Go beneath the Sheen; Masters of Sex star urges fans to peek under the covers, literally and figuratively

- August 10th, 2014

Michael Sheen as Dr

Masters of Sex and Mad Men have more in common than merely an era.

Both series are filled with rich scenes in which the subtext is so thick, you could slice it with scissors. And I’m talking more about the early seasons of Mad Men, which were set in the early 1960s. Masters of Sex – which airs Sunday nights across Canada on The Movie Network and Movie Central, and on channel-of-origin Showtime in the United States – is inching up to 1960 in its current second season.

Masters of Sex tells the story of real-life sex researchers Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, played by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, respectively. Partly due to the era, partly due to the deftness of the actors, partly due to the subject matter, and partly due to the blurred lines between professionalism and personal feelings that existed between the main characters, just about every scene in Masters of Sex is saying way more than it actually says.

“Sometimes we have to be directed to play less subtext, because we’re so aware of what’s going on underneath,” Sheen said. “We have to be careful that we don’t do too much of that. We have to remember to bring it out on the surface.

“By this point we know these characters pretty well.”

At first glance, Sheen’s Bill Masters is a big ball of repressed tension. He is so emotionally shut off to his poor wife Libby (Caitlyn FitzGerald) that if it were any other era where divorce wasn’t such a stigma, I think she would have left him a long time ago. Bill responds to Virginia, with whom he is having an affair in addition to their stop-and-go professional relationship, with a complex combination of desire and guilt, attraction and condescension. He really is one of the most complicated characters on TV today.

“It depends on what you can see,” Sheen observed. “I can’t really take any responsibility for what people are able to see. You bring your own humanity to what you watch. You see as much as you’re aware of in yourself.

“Some people, I think, see the vulnerability (in Bill). Things don’t have to be on the surface for you to be aware of them. One of the things I’m most interested in about this character is how vulnerable he is. The most defensive, guarded, prickly people are the ones who, on the whole, I find are guarding their vulnerability so much, because they’ve been so hurt in some way, or they’re so scared. They’re the most frightened people.

“I think, I hope, that audiences are a bit more sophisticated than just accepting what they’re presented with on the surface.”

On the one hand, Bill Masters craves respectability, and he wants the admiration of his peers. But while many people in that era would take a conservative, safe path to those goals, Bill also wants to be renowned. He is obsessed with his controversial sex study, largely because he feels the work is groundbreaking, which he hopes will get him the respect he craves through an alternate and more impressive door. He wants to be both respected and famous. And for Bill Masters specifically, the puzzle of what is driving him is what Masters of Sex is all about.

“We’ve heard him say a number of times he wants to win a Nobel Prize, so there obviously is ambition that’s driving him,” Sheen said. “And this is an area of research that was open to someone who was pioneering and leading and wanting to make a name for himself.

“Even though (the sex study) is obviously risky, it isn’t like he wants to be on the margins. He wants to be an establishment figure, he wants to be mainstream, but he knows that he has to take a risk. And on a personal level – certainly the character I’m playing, I don’t know about the real man – he’s driven by all kinds of unconscious things as well.

“There are no easy answers to those questions. Hopefully it will take six, seven seasons to answer them.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

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

Nobody picked Jon Hamm on this ’90s dating show

- April 4th, 2014

Despite his luscious Zack Morris-style  locks, Jon Hamm was rejected for the douche-bro competition on the ’90s game show The Big Date.

The video, unearthed by Lighthearted Entertainment, shows the Mad Men star promising to deliver “fabulous food, fabulous conversation” topped off with ” a fabulous foot massage.” It sounds pretty effing fabulous to me.

But, alas, the contestant misses out on her chance to spend “an evening of total fabulosity” with the future Don Draper and instead chooses the stuntman who vows  to “treat her like a lady” (barf) and  show her his “flexibility” (barf barf).

Better than the Sugar Ray-looking dude whose date plans include a trip to Vegas followed by a series of extreme sports, I guess.

h/t Huffington Post

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax to Childrens Hospital in the Klondike? TV must-sees for the week of Jan. 19

- January 18th, 2014

rs_560x374-131121123344-1024-lizzie-borden-christina-ricci-ls

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Jan. 19

1 The Following
Second-season debut: The story picks up a year later. Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) has tried to get on with his life. But he becomes obsessed with the notion that Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) is still alive.
When: Sunday on Fox, CTV

2 Klondike
Debut: Big-buzz mini-series about the 1897 gold rush airs three nights in a row. Stars Richard Madden, who is best known as Robb Stark on Game of Thrones. Um, guess he had some time on his hands.
When: Monday on Discovery

3 MasterChef Canada
Debut: A Canadian version of the international series that gives home chefs a chance to be tasty. The judges are Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung and Claudio Aprile. Please make your own poutine jokes.
When: Monday on CTV

4 Rake
Debut: Greg Kinnear stars as Keegan Deane, a charming, optimistic and brilliant criminal defence attorney. The thing is, he rarely applies any of that trademark brilliance to his own stormy personal life.
When: Thursday on Fox, Global

5 Sleepy Hollow
Two-hour, first-season finale: Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) uncover a secret in George Washington’s Bible. Wow, talk about sentences I never thought I’d type.
When: Monday on Fox, Global

6 Childrens Hospital
Fifth-season Canadian debut: I always have loved this hilarious series from Rob Corddry that spoofs the medical-drama genre. Guest-stars in the first episode of the new season include Mad Men’s Jon Hamm.
When: Wednesday on Much

7 NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other
Debut: Of particular interest heading into the Sochi Olympics, as well as more NHL event-style games, this series follows two dozen top players in that “behind the scenes” style that’s all the rage.
When: Thursday on CBC

8 Looking
Debut: Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Alvarez and Murray Bartlett star as a trio of San Francisco friends, exploring the varied personal and professional options available to a new generation of gay men.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

9 Brave New Girls
Debut: Reality series follows the glamourous life of transgender model Jenna Talackova, who became famous when she took on Donald Trump for the right to compete in the Miss Universe pageant.
When: Sunday on E!

10 Lizzie Borden Took an Ax
Debut: Christina Ricci plays the title character, who was charged with the gory murder of her father and stepmother in 1892. Her headline-grabbing trial made Lizzie the O.J. Simpson or Amanda Knox of her day.
When: Saturday on Lifetime

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

JFK was no Don Draper, and now Killing Kennedy’s Rob Lowe knows why

- July 26th, 2013

ht_goodwin_lowe_killing_kennedy_jef_130613_wblog

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Rob Lowe always wondered why John F. Kennedy never looked as spiffy as Mad Men’s Don Draper in terms of attire.

After all, even though one is real and one is fictional, JFK and Don Draper both were ladies’ men in the 1960s.

“I never understood why (JFK) didn’t have a more happening, Don Draper-type thing going on,” said Lowe, who is playing JFK in the upcoming made-for-TV movie Killing Kennedy. It will air this November on the National Geographic Channel, both in Canada and the U.S.

“(JFK’s) little kerchief, whatever the heck it is, pocket square, was always barely sticking out and sometimes smashed,” Lowe continued. “Like, ‘Dude, you are the president. Have somebody make you look tight.’ ”

Well, in researching the role and watching countless hours of JFK footage, Lowe found out some things.

“(JFK) used reading glasses always, but he was rarely, if ever, photographed (with them), because he thought it made him look old,” Lowe said at the Television Critics Association tour. “And he kept his reading glasses in his pocket.

“He had a nervous tic that he would take the glasses out, play with them, pull them out, play with them, and (when he put them back) it jammed the pocket square down into his pocket. That’s why you always see pictures of Kennedy with that little tiny (pocket square), because he’s got reading glasses in there.

“I mean, obviously we could go on and on, but I learned a ton, and I thought I knew a ton coming into it.”

Based on a best-selling book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, Killing Kennedy chronicles the buildup to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, allegedly by Lee Harvey Oswald if you aren’t a conspiracy theorist, in November 1963 – 50 years to the month that Killing Kennedy will air. Besides Lowe in the title role, Killing Kennedy also stars Ginnifer Goodwin as Jacqueline Kennedy, Will Rothhaar as Lee Harvey Oswald and Michelle Trachtenberg as Marina Oswald.

So does Lowe think Oswald acted alone?

“I’ve been following the Kennedy assassination since I was in the first or second grade and read every conspiracy-theory book known to man,” Lowe said. “I actually started off as a guy who thought there’s no way a guy could do it, and I’ve come around to thinking that they got it right, that Oswald did act alone. That’s my personal belief.

“We all like to believe that there’s some big uber thing out there. Like, even on 9/11, you would have thought, ‘We can get those planes down in two seconds.’ Meanwhile, nobody knew what was going on, the president was flying around the country. You would have thought we’d have things in place for this.

“It’s always way simpler than we think, and I think it scares us to think that things can be that simple and huge, horrible things can happen by the act of one person. We like to think there’s a safety net. Most times there isn’t. And that’s, in the end, why I come back to thinking it was the act of a mad man.”

A mad man? Or Mad Men?

People will continue to have their own thoughts on who killed John F. Kennedy. But at least Rob Lowe definitely solved the case of the scrunchy pocket square.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca