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A Super Fun Night with Masters of Sex; TV must-sees for the week

- September 29th, 2013

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Sept. 29:

1 Breaking Bad

Series finale: The twisting and turning story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) finally comes to a close. Finales often disappoint, but if any show possibly can live up to its own hype, maybe this one can.

When: Sunday on AMC

2 Super Fun Night

Series debut: Rebel Wilson, Lauren Ash and Liza Lapira are three nerdy girls who have enjoyed exclusively each other’s company for a long time. But now the outside world is calling. Are they ready?

When: Wednesday on ABC, City

3 Masters of Sex

Series debut: Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan play real-life sex-study pioneers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who first must convince cohorts in the 1950s that their research even is worthwhile.

When: Sunday on TMN, MC

4 The Millers

Series debut: Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Running Wilde, Up All Night) gives it another try in the sitcom genre, this time with his parents being played by Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges.

When: Thursday on CBS, Global

5 Homeland

Third-season debut: Following the shocking events that occurred at the end of season two, it’s obviously a new game for Carrie (Claire Danes), Brody (Damian Lewis) and Saul (Mandy Patinkin).

When: Sunday on Super Channel

6 Ironside

Series debut: Borrowing the name and the wheelchair from the original show but not much else, Blair Underwood is the title character, whose spinal injury hasn’t slowed him down literally or figuratively.

When: Wednesday on NBC, Global

7 Scandal

Third-season debut: The world now knows that Olivia (Kerry Washington) is the president’s mistress. And as I recall, the world usually reacts quite calmly to such things (see: Lewinsky, Monica).

When: Thursday on ABC, City

8 Murdoch Mysteries

Seventh-season debut: Set in the early 1900s, Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and his team find themselves aboard a steamship for its maiden voyage. Hope things don’t go, um, overboard.

When: Monday on CBC

9 Hello Ladies

Series debut: A gawky, 6-foot-7 Englishman – longtime Ricky Gervais collaborator Stephen Merchant, essentially playing himself, I guess – endeavors to infiltrate the beautiful-people scene in Los Angeles.

When: Sunday on HBO Canada

10 Revenge

Third-season debut: Okay, does anyone have a non-confusing explanation why Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) still was in the Hamptons for season two? Cast and creators promise a clearer story.

When: Sunday on ABC, City

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Aging like a fine “vine?” The Vineyard plucks from the early days of reality TV

- July 23rd, 2013

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How can anyone on the new series The Vineyard concentrate with all that contemporary soft rock playing in their ears?

Oh wait. The music is added afterward. The people in the show can’t hear it. Never mind.

Either way, the cast members on The Vineyard – which debuts Tuesday, June 23 across Canada on ABC Spark – aren’t really dancing to their own tune.

Reality TV has been around long enough now that you could consider The Vineyard to be a throwback show.

It reminds you of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County and its spinoff, The Hills. And although it’s hard to believe, Laguna Beach debuted almost a decade ago, in 2004.

Like those previous shows, The Vineyard truly exists in the middle ground between reality TV and scripted TV. The members of the cast aren’t actors, so that’s the reality part of it. But the scenes and situations obviously are set up.

Originating on ABC Family in the United States, The Vineyard is fairly tame by modern reality-TV standards. It’s not gross. It’s not crude. It’s not profane. Sure, there are scantily clad babes and hunks everywhere, but how quickly you get used to that will determine whether or not you find The Vineyard to be kind of bland.

Dubbed a docu-series, The Vineyard is set against the idyllic backdrop of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Every summer the “wash-ashores” arrive, mostly rich kids, or if not rich, at least in a position where they can have a summer of shenanigans like this. The “wash-ashores” mix with the locals, sometimes uneasily.

If you’ve ever seen the scripted drama Revenge, with airs on ABC and City, that’s kind of the world we’re talking about. That is, if you took anyone over, say, 26 years of age out of that series.

The initial focus of The Vineyard is Katie Tardif, who essentially has come to get her head straight, ponder her future with her current boyfriend (who isn’t with her) and work for a couple of friends named Jackie Lyons and Gabby Lapointe at a local tavern known as the Black Dog. However, the people in The Vineyard seem to have more time for swimming, sun-bathing and parties than anyone with actual employment responsibilities.

Katie immediately has two guys vying for her attention: An old friend, and a new guy who she describes as an “overly confident meat-head.” We all know dudes like that, right?

The Vineyard obviously is directed at an audience that was too young to watch Laguna Beach or The Hills. Maybe you’re slightly older and you really miss those shows. But do young audiences today still get off on this kind of thing, or have they long ago moved past it?

I guess what I’m getting at is, even though it’s jam-packed with startlingly attractive young people, The Vineyard actually seems kind of old-fashioned.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

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

Olympics? When did those start? Emerging from the Television Critics Association tour bubble

- August 5th, 2012

Russell Brand scrum

Charlie Sheen scrum

TCA TLC: Random thoughts at the conclusion of the Summer 2012 Television Critics Association tour in Beverly Hills, Calif.  See if you can spot me in the scrums pictured above with Russell Brand of Brand X with Russell Brand (FX, FX Canada) and Charlie Sheen of Anger Management (FX, CTV) – kind of a “Where’s Dumbo” thing.

Person I never anticipated I’d speak to: Sarah Palin poolside at the Beverly Hilton. Her husband Todd is in a reality show about snowmobile racers. Just kidding, it’s called Stars Earn Stripes (NBC, Global).

Most bizarre panel session: Kelsey Grammer of Boss (Starz, Super Channel) takes a non-emergency, personal phone call from his wife for 90 seconds as an entire ballroom full of journalists waits for him.

Most electric session: Normally blase critics genuinely were excited to see the stars of Downton Abbey (PBS, Vision TV). Hugh Bonneville’s “Free Bates” T-shirt was the topper.

Best interview in a post-panel scrum: Sophia Bush of Partners (CBS, Citytv). Intelligent, thoughtful, fun, swears like a sailor, will talk about anything.

Best interview at a party: Let’s call it a three-way tie between Elisha Cuthbert of Happy Endings (ABC, Citytv), Matt LeBlanc of Episodes (Showtime, The Movie Network, Movie Central) and Kiefer Sutherland of Touch (Fox, Global).

Misplaced arrogance: A dude in a tank top and a trucker cap calls critics “ignorant” for daring not to take his TV series 100% seriously. The series is called Finding Bigfoot (Animal Planet).

Nice girl: Canadian Emily VanCamp of Revenge (ABC, Citytv) sends word to reporters before our set visit that she isn’t feeling well, so please don’t be offended if she doesn’t shake hands. Awww. You could tell she was under the weather by her crackly voice, but she patiently and pleasantly answered questions for a long time.

Coolest party: The folks behind Copper (Showcase, BBC America) – filmed in Toronto, set in 1860s New York – turned a West Hollywood restaurant into an 1860s whore house, complete with come-hither actresses-as-hookers in the balcony. Saw a picture afterward of what the restaurant normally looks like and it was virtually unrecognizable.

Sad moment: Just before I interviewed Michael C. Hall of Dexter (Showtime, The Movie Network, Movie Central), I realized I was very near the exact spot in the hotel where, one year ago, I interviewed Davy Jones of the Monkees. Jones passed away last February.

Best individual panel performance: Toronto native Stephen Amell of Arrow (CW, CTV Two). Charming, engaging, speaks in sound-bytes, told stories people could use. Good-looking show, good-looking guy. Star in the making.

Panel at which the reporters were most prickly: The panel for The Newsroom (HBO, HBO Canada) with Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniels. Apparently a high percentage of TCA members take this series very seriously and very personally.

Panel at which the main panelist was most prickly: Showbiz mogul David Geffen, who supposedly was there to “promote” the PBS documentary Inventing David Geffen, would have preferred to be anywhere else on earth. He seemed completely bored, even exasperated, with the subject matter, namely himself.

Panel at which one of many panelists was most prickly: At the panel for Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars (ABC, CTV), Bristol Palin (Sarah and Todd’s daughter) was equal parts bold and cold. Keeping politics out of it, when I spoke with Sarah and Todd Palin (pictured below at the NBC party), there seemed to be genuine warmth there. They were cordial and pleasant and friendly. I actually found Bristol to be icy.

Breaking news: Fox president Kevin Reilly announces Mariah Carey is joining American Idol (Fox, CTV) as a judge, then gets her on the phone immediately to give a statement to reporters.

Right place, right time: Being seated beside Whitney Cummings of Whitney (NBC, CTV) and Love You, Mean It (E!) when she first found out about the Kristen Stewart cheating scandal. Cummings gleefully exclaimed, “That whore!” (Not to be confused with the whores at the Copper party.)

Coincidental “in the TCA bubble” benefit: I was completely, blissfully oblivious to the first half of the Olympics. Checked in just in time to see Usain Bolt, though. That dude is Usain in the membrane.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Todd and Sarah Palin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice shirts and nice Canadians on the set of Revenge: TCA day 6

- July 27th, 2012

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Day 6 at the Television Critics Association tour. Network: ABC.

DRESSED FOR SUCCESS: Margarita Levieva (pictured above) complimented me on the colour of my shirt. This qualifies as a very good day.

Of course, on Thursday Levieva – who plays the fake Amanda Clarke, or “Fauxmanda” on Revenge – was sporting a very different look from the one in the photo. To my amateur physician’s eye, she’s about a million months pregnant.

Fauxmanda’s pregnancy actually was one of the major developments on Revenge, which airs on ABC and Citytv, as the first season ended. Dangerous diva Fauxmanda returned, and she was pregnant. But we wonder, who’s really the daddy? After all, things never are simple with Fauxmanda.

Anyway, speaking with the charming Levieva was part of a pleasant and productive afternoon on the set of Revenge. All the main cast was there except for Madeleine Stowe, presumably increasing the intrigue, since the survival of her character Victoria Grayson was the main cliff-hanger at the end of season one.

And how’s this for a “Canadians are so nice” moment? As critics were riding the bus on the way to the Revenge set, an ABC publicist got our attention and announced, “Emily VanCamp is feeling a little under the weather … ”

Immediately we thought, “Uh-oh, the series lead won’t be there? This just turned into a waste of time.” It especially was disappointing for the Canadian critics on the bus, since VanCamp, who plays Emily Thorne/the real Amanda Clarke, is from Port Perry, Ont.

But then the publicist continued: “So Emily just wanted to let you know, she won’t be shaking anyone’s hand, because she doesn’t want to spread anything around.”

How sweet is that?

You could hear the frog in VanCamp’s throat, but she answered questions like a trooper for a long time. Besides VanCamp, I also spoke with Gabriel Mann, who plays Nolan Ross, and of course Levieva.

The shirt, by the way, is royal blue. Brings out my eyes.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv