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The hills are alive with Martians and asteroids in Mob City? Must-sees for the week of Dec. 1

- November 29th, 2013

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Dec. 1

1 The Sound of Music Live!
As the title suggests, this is a live telecast based on the stage version of the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Carrie Underwood (Maria) and Stephen Moyer (Captain von Trapp) star.
When: Thursday on NBC, City

2 Return to Downton Abbey
Host Susan Sarandon looks back at the first three years of this lush early 20th century-set drama, and also looks ahead to the fourth season, which makes its North American debut on Jan. 5, 2014.
When: Sunday on PBS

3 Futurama
Haven’t we been through this before? These guys have more series finales than the Who have farewell tours. Anyway, in what purports to be the REAL series finale, Fry asks Leela to marry him.
When: Thursday on Teletoon

4 Mob City
Based on a true story, this series follows the decade-long battle in 1940s Los Angeles between the mob and the police. Jon Bernthal, Ed Burns, Milo Ventimiglia, Robert Knepper and Neal McDonough star.
When: Wednesday on Bravo

5 Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans
Patrick Dempsey the actor bluntly has voiced his complete and utter boredom with his continuing role as “McDreamy” on Grey’s Anatomy. That just pays the bills. Car racing apparently is his real love.
When: Sunday on Discovery World

6 Mission Asteroid
Airing as part of the Doc Zone series, this examines what would happen if the Earth were pummeled by asteroids, as the threat of such a thing actually appears to be increasing.
When: Thursday on CBC

7 Christmas in Conway
Andy Garcia and Mary-Louise Parker star in this made-for-TV movie about a man who wants to build a ferris wheel in his backyard as a romantic gesture. Um, do the town bylaws enforcers know about this?
When: Sunday on ABC

8 Treme
The fourth and final season of this New Orleans-set series, which follows people trying to rebuild their lives post-Hurricane Katrina, begins in November 2008 as residents celebrate Barack Obama’s election.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

9 The Great Martian War
Okay, I know it sounds confusing. But this is a Canadian film that re-imagines the years 1913-1917 with humankind fighting a war against extraterrestrial invaders. And you thought the Kaiser was tough.
When: Thursday on History

10 Once Upon a Time
Regina (Lana Parrilla) decides to adopt a baby. I would hope that a mere Google search by adoption authorities would turn up the term “Evil Queen.”
When: Sunday on ABC, CTV

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Sidelined Henry needs some better parents on Once Upon a Time

- April 15th, 2013

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Maybe part of what’s occurring on Once Upon a Time this season can be explained by the wisdom of Patty and Selma Bouvier on The Simpsons.

In a long-ago episode of The Simpsons where they were flashing back to the story of Lisa’s first words, toddler Bart, feeling threatened by baby Lisa, was preening for attention.

Bart’s aunts Patty and Selma glared at him. One of them coldly observed, “The older they get, the cuter they ain’t.”

Same could be said for most of us, to be fair.

But does that philosophy relate to the conspicuous sidelining of Henry, played by Jared Gilmore, on Once Upon a Time?

It’s the perfect week to consider the state of sophomore fantasy drama Once Upon a Time, which airs Sundays on ABC and CTV. This past Sunday, a new retrospective episode titled “The Price of Magic” looked back at how the residents of Storybrooke have handled themselves and their surroundings since their fairy-tale memories were restored.

Season one had a very cool framework: Fairy-tale characters had been cursed to live in our world, unaware of their true identities.

This season the characters realize who they are – Snow White, Prince Charming, the Evil Queen, Rumpelstiltskin, Pinocchio, Red Riding Hood, Jiminy Cricket, etc. Some of them want to get back to their own world and some of them don’t. But as it stands, if they leave Storybrooke and venture into any other part of our world, their minds go blank and they forget everything.

The thing that’s exasperating about the Henry character this season is that he is experiencing some of the worst parenting in TV history.

With all manner of dangerous and magical mayhem occurring, every time Henry walks into a room, the adults awkwardly change the subject. “Don’t tell Henry” is by far the most repeated phrase on Once Upon a Time.

Don’t tell Henry? Are you serious?

Henry is the reason all of this is happening in the first place!

It was Henry who brought his biological mom Emma (Jennifer Morrison) to Storybrooke, because only he understood that Emma could break the curse.

So now, after Henry spent a year convincing the dim adults in his life that they unwittingly were trapped in something beyond their comprehension, those same adults are patronizing him?

To paraphrase Jack Nicholson‘s Col. Jessep character in the movie A Few Good Men, “You don’t think Henry can handle the truth?”

I’ll bet he can. He probably even can help.

I know Henry isn’t as cute as he was in season one. Perhaps it has affected his camera time. It happens with child actors. In real life, Gilmore turns 13 next month.

But that merely emphasizes Henry is getting older, not younger. He should be able to handle more, not less. They’ve turned the character into an annoying little resentful wimp.

Apparently even fairy-tale heroes can be crappy moms and dads.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

The Amazing Cult on the March to the Jeselnik Offensive; TV must-sees for this week

- February 17th, 2013

Amazing Race cast - season 22

 

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Feb. 17:

 

1) The Amazing Race

Why you should watch: So, everybody keeps trying to tell me what a “small world” it is. So how is it that this series is entering its 22nd season (participants are pictured above) and they still keep finding exotic places to visit in different countries? Ex-NHL player Bates Battaglia is one of the competitors this time.
When: Sunday on CBS, CTV

 

2) Cult

Why you should watch: In the series debut, investigative journalist Jeff Sefton (Matt Davis) begins to delve into the dark underworld of a TV show called Cult, and its super-devoted fans. Yes, it’s one of those show-within-a-show things.

When: Tuesday on CW, CTV Two

 

3) Killing Lincoln

Why you should watch: Narrated on-screen by Tom Hanks and starring Billy Campbell in the title role, this two-hour historical drama isn’t a biopic, but rather focuses specifically on the assassination of the 16th president of the United States.

When: Sunday on National Geographic Channel

 

4) Leverage

Why you should watch: In the series finale, Nate (Timothy Hutton) takes a case linked to his son’s death. But when the job goes bad, Interpol interrogates Nate and tries to figure out not only what went wrong, but also what he really was seeking.

When: Monday on Super Channel

 

5) March to the Top

Why you should watch: A documentary about emotional and physical rehabilitation as 12 injured Canadian soldiers attempt to work together to climb the 20,305-foot Island Peak in Nepal.

When: Full-length version Sunday on Documentary Channel; one-hour version Monday on CBC

 

6) Come Date With Me

Why you should watch: An offshoot of the series Come Dine With Me, this new foray sees four eligible suitors try to out-dine, out-shine and out-date each other for the heart of one hottie. You know, just like every night in all bars.

When: Wednesday on W

 

7) The Jeselnik Offensive

Why you should watch: Comedian Anthony Jeselnik has produced some of the most fearless, or offensive, or hilarious Tweets (depending upon your point of view) that I ever have read. You may have seen him on some of those celebrity roasts. Now he gets his own series.

When: Tuesday on Comedy

 

8) Revenge

Why you should watch: The Graysons host their annual Labour Day party – my God, these people throw a lot of parties. Meanwhile, Jack and “Faux-manda” embark upon what is sure to be a stress-free honeymoon.

When: Sunday on ABC, City

 

9) The Good Wife

Why you should watch: Tensions flare when Will and Diane ask Alicia and Cary to face off against them in a mock trial. Hey, remember “Mock Trial with J. Reinhold” on Arrested Development? Now that was funny.

When: Sunday on CBS, Global

 
10) Once Upon a Time

Why you should watch: While Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle), Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Henry (Jared Gilmore) seek out Mr. Gold’s son in New York, Regina (Lana Parrilla) attempts to track down one of Rumplestiltskin’s most treasured possessions back in Storybrooke.

When: Sunday on ABC, CTV

 

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Boobs really ARE the answer; a look back at TV trends in 2012

- December 23rd, 2012

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In his opening monologue at the Emmy Awards in September, host Jimmy Kimmel noted that cable networks accounted for all the shows in the outstanding drama category in 2012.

“The Academy is sending a clear message,” Kimmel said. “And that message is, ‘Show us your boobs.’ ”

That’s Lena Dunham of Girls in the above picture, by the way, taking Kimmel’s advice to heart – or is it having her cake and eating it, too? – in the opening bit that kicked off the Emmys.

True enough, boobs are the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems, to paraphrase Homer Simpson (he was talking about alcohol). But it actually is more complicated when it comes to TV.

The calendar year 2012 continued the trend of viewers peeling off to specialty programming and specialty channels, as the big broadcast networks try to figure out where they fit in the future of television.

The past year also saw a significant increase in the amount of internet-first “TV” programming, through services such as Netflix and the like.

Genre-wise, there has been a notable push in the past year toward fantasy, at least when it comes to drama. Shows such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Once Upon a Time and American Horror Story remind us that when real life gets boring, we always can make something up.

Isn’t it strange that in some ways we now expect our comedies to be more grounded than our dramas? When an alien-based sitcom like The Neighbors comes along, many people turn up their noses because it’s too “ridiculous.” But some of those same people happily will watch Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead and think, “Wow, great art.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just amusing when you think of it that way.

So looking back at TV in 2012, we’ll remember zombies and dwarves, good wives and mad men, drug dealers and high-class schemers, butlers and bootleggers.

And boobs. Lots and lots of boobs.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Evil Queen applies for job at CTV

- June 1st, 2012

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“Lana Parrilla, thanks for coming in. We’ll keep your resume on file. Our people will be in touch.”

That’s how my interview with Lana Parrilla ended at the Bell Media/CTV upfront event in Toronto on Thursday.

The interview had taken place in PR whiz Amanda Rinaldo’s office at the CTV building downtown, which actually was a perfect place – private, quiet – to have a chat. But it also led to a running gag, since I was seated behind the desk, and when Parrilla came in, it was as if she were interviewing for a job.

As Parrilla walked out, the joke continued as I bellowed “next applicant,” and Jordana Spiro from The Mob Doctor entered the office for our interview.

Later in the office of another PR whiz, Mary Costa, it was Kyle Bornheimer of The Family Tools behind the desk, and I was the one applying for the job. Kyle ended our interview by saying, “We’ve seen some pictures of you on Facebook that we aren’t completely comfortable with, so don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

CTV had a thick list of talent for its upfront. Stephen Amell of Arrow impressed me with his appropriately green socks, although he insisted it was a personal fashion choice, not a contractual obligation. I had a great chat with Hayden Panettiere of Nashville about how her career seems to be going in something of a diabolical direction. The story I wrote about that, as well as the scheduling of Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management and other things at the CTV upfront, for Sun Media/QMI Agency can be found here.

Who knew that women loved Shemar Moore of Criminal Minds so much? I haven’t felt so out of touch since last year’s Anderson Cooper incident (column here).

Anyway, The ladies went crazy on Thursday when Moore took the stage at the upfront presentation. Later, I hear people almost fainted when Moore was posing for pictures with some of the advertising folks and he took off his shirt.

In support, I also took off my shirt. Reaction: Different.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv