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Winter Olympics, Super Bowl, Jay Leno; TV must-sees for the week of Feb. 2

- February 1st, 2014

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Feb. 2

1) Super Bowl
Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos meet Richard Sherman’s Seattle Seahawks in New Jersey. The weather could be nasty. Hope the power doesn’t go out. Oh wait, that happened last year.
When: Sunday on Fox, CTV

2) MasterChef Canada
Post-Super Bowl slot: The first Mystery Box Challenge takes place. You know, I really don’t like the word “mystery” associated with food. Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung and Claudio Aprile judge.
When: Sunday on CTV

3) New Girl
Post-Super Bowl slot: A chance encounter gets Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Cece (Hannah Simone) an invite to a party at Prince’s mansion. Prince guest-stars as himself. Really, who else could he play?
When: Sunday on Fox, City

4) Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Post-post-Super Bowl slot: Jake (Andy Samberg) learns that Amy (Melissa Fumero) may be up for a new job. This rookie series recently won the Golden Globe award for best comedy.
When: Sunday on Fox, City

5) Downton Abbey
It’s gutsy to air a new episode of anything against the Super Bowl. There probably is more of a crossover audience than you think. Anyway, no surprise, Edith (Laura Carmichael) gets troubling news.
When: Sunday on PBS

6) Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony
Remember that old SCTV skit with Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas playing hosts on Soviet television? I’m betting the festivities from Sochi, Russia will be a little more elaborate than that.
When: Friday on CBC, NBC

7) The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Billy Crystal and Garth Brooks are the guests on Leno’s final Tonight Show. Yes, yes, we’ve heard that before. But Leno might actually be leaving this time. Jimmy Fallon takes over on Feb. 17.
When: Thursday on NBC, CTV Two

8) Saving Hope
When a couple is attacked by a bear, Alex (Erica Durance) and Charlie (Michael Shanks) start to suspect there’s more to the story. Like, who was the bear working for?
When: Thursday on CTV

9) The Best Laid Plans
Season finale: It’s time for the election, as Daniel (Jonas Chernick) finally confesses and Angus (Kenneth Welsh) is faced with some unexpected developments when he returns home.
When: Monday on CBC

10) Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: 50 Years of Beautiful
Host Heidi Klum is joined by swimsuit icons Kate Upton, Tyra Banks, Marissa Miller, Kathy Ireland and Christie Brinkley. But to me, Brinkley forever will be Mrs. Jerry Gergich on Parks and Recreation.
When: Monday on NBC

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

Top 10 TV must-sees for the week of July 21

- July 20th, 2013

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of July 21:

1 Animation Domination High-Def

Debut: This project gives us two new cartoons, namely Axe Cop, with the voice of Nick Offerman, and High School USA!, with Mandy Moore and Vincent Kartheiser.

 When: Preview Sunday on Fox; regular time slot the following Saturday on Fox

2 Top Chef Masters

Season-five debut: Canadian celebrity chef Lynn Crawford is one of the competitors on this U.S.-made show this year. And Canadian Gail Simmons is the new head critic.

When: Wednesday on Food Network

3 True Blood

Bill (Stephen Moyer, pictured above) seeks advice from that mysterious vampire deity Lilith (Jessica Clark) regarding the ongoing vampire-human crisis. Can’t we all just retract our fangs and get along?

When: Sunday on HBO Canada

4 The Vineyard

Debut: Set in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., this reality series follows a mix of 11 locals and so-called “wash-ashores” who are working, living and playing together for the summer.

When: Tuesday on ABC Spark

5 Ray Donovan

Ray (Liev Schreiber) and the family visit Bel Air Academy, in the hope that his daughter Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) might be enrolled there.

When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

6 American Haunting

Debut: Get ready for three hours of spookiness, examining three families whose lives have been tormented by paranormal activity in their homes. This is not a drill, ghosts.

When: Saturday on A&E

7 Cedar Cove

Debut: This series stars Andie Macdowell as Judge Olivia Lockhart, whose municipal court in Cedar Cove is where the town’s surprises and secrets are unveiled.

When: Sunday on W

8 Dexter

Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) tracks down another serial killer from a list provided by Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling).

When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

9 Breaking Pointe

Second-season debut: If TV has taught me anything, it’s that new dancers always bring new drama. It’s proven again at an elite ballet school in Salt Lake City.

When: Monday on CW

10 The Newsroom

Maggie (Alison Pill) gets an assignment she has been begging for, but it turns out some professional wishes are better left unfulfilled.

When: Sunday on HBO Canada

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

Axe Cop, High School USA! anchor Fox’s Animation Domination High-Def

- July 19th, 2013

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There’s nothing funny about cartoons, at least from a TV business perspective.

Fox has been at the forefront of primetime animation for more than two decades. In fact, it built much of its TV empire on The Simpsons, which eventually was followed by Family Guy and all its offshoots.

But it’s 2013. The Simpsons debuted all the way back in 1989, Family Guy in 1999.

Thus the creation of a new project Fox is calling Animation Domination High-Def. It basically is a safe place where varied shows can develop in various forms.

The first two “series” from the Animation Domination High-Def stable are called Axe Cop and High School USA! They will debut in primetime on Fox on Sunday, July 21, before moving to their regular time slot late Saturday nights, beginning July 27.

Fox has a successful history of animation and having a space to do experimental and more interesting kinds of animation is really important,” said Nick Weidenfeld, the head of Animation Domination High-Def. “It’s how The Simpsons grew from The Tracey Ullman Show into a behemoth on Sunday night.

So I actually think there’s space for this. Really, if we’re competing with anybody, we’re competing with the internet more than another network. It’s just about making really good stuff and trying to attract that audience, that young audience, to watching TV or watching our website or our app.”

Whereas High School USA! – with voices provided by singer/actress Mandy Moore and Vincent Kartheiser, who plays Pete Campbell on Mad Men – is an R-rated take on the old Archie cartoons, Axe Cop is the more outlandish of the two new shows.

Axe Cop began as a webcomic, written by five-year-old Malachai Nicolle and illustrated by his adult brother Ethan Nicolle. The title voice for the TV version is provided by Nick Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation.

There’s not a group of children writing it,” Weidenfeld assured. “But (the source material) was created by a five-year-old and written by a five-year-old and illustrated by his 30-year-old brother. I mean, it’s adults writing in the room. Ethan, the older brother, is in the room. But Malachai, who is now eight, we definitely call him a lot.”

Is the ultimate goal here to move some of these series into Sunday night slots when shows such as The Simpsons and Family Guy go to pasture?

I think that’s absolutely a goal – it’s one goal of Fox, it’s a path we could go down – but it’s not the only metric of success,” Weidenfeld said. “The stuff we’re making is not the exact same fare as a Sunday night, really broad show. So if that should come out of it, which potentially is possible, it would be really exciting, but we’ve definitely not been given the directive to do that.

We don’t want to have restrictions on it, because those (Sunday night) shows need to be huge hits, you know? We need to make stuff that, at the beginning, could be just for a niche audience, and that would be okay.

This is a new business, a new frontier. We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to do this kind of thing, what’s going to work.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

Amy Poehler on series-changing Parks and Recreation scene: “I cried.”

- October 26th, 2012

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So just how series-changing is the series-changing moment that we just saw on Parks and Recreation going to be?

SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want to know what happened in the Parks and Recreation episode titled Halloween Surprise, which aired Thursday on NBC and Citytv, now’s the time to bail.

We all know of sitcoms that changed forever after a hookup or a proposal or an engagement or a wedding. Well, Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler, above right) and Ben Wyatt (played by Adam Scott, above left) now are engaged after a simple but emotional proposal scene.

“Well, starting next week it’s an hour-long medical drama,” joked Parks and Recreation co-creator and executive producer Mike Schur in a conference call with TV reporters on Friday. “So it definitely is a before-and-after kind of a situation.”

Poehler and Scott were asked for their thoughts on the big moment.

“When I read that scene, I cried,” Poehler said. “Because I was so happy that I had my job at Parks, and I got to do that scene with Adam, and that Mike Schur wrote it, because I knew it would be great. I was really happy for Leslie.”

Added Scott, “I felt like this was a really big deal for all of us. We, of course, are well aware that these are fictional characters that we are playing on television, but we all care about them. Speaking for myself, I care about them quite deeply. There was a feeling that this was very special, and we wanted it to be special for the fans and for the characters.”

Just a reminder, don’t forget to tune in next time for the debut episode of Leslie Knope, M.D.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv