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Friends With Better Lives win Juno Awards while Inside Amy Shumer; TV must-sees for the week of March 30

- March 29th, 2014

Cristin Milioti, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, Josh Radnor, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Bob Saget

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of March 30

1 Juno Awards
Live: Co-hosted by Serena Ryder, Johnny Reid and Classified, scheduled performers include Arcade Fire (taped), Tegan and Sara, Sarah McLachlan, Robin Thicke, the Sheepdogs and Thunderface (kudos if you get that joke).
When: Sunday on CTV

2 How I Met Your Mother
Series finale (cast pictured above): There are many rumours and theories about what might be revealed, some of them quite dark. Here’s hoping Ted (Josh Radnor) and “the mother” (Cristin Milioti) aren’t facing some horrible tragedy. It’s a sitcom, people!
When: Monday on CBS, City

3 Friends With Better Lives
Debut: New sitcom following the How I Met Your Mother series finale that clearly wants to be the next How I Met Your Mother, albeit a notably dirtier one. With Kevin Connolly, Brooklyn Decker and James Van Der Beek, among others.
When: Monday on CBS, City

4 Short Poppies
Debut: This eight-episode series sees Rhys Darby – who you will remember as hapless band manager Murray Hewitt on Flight of the Conchords – playing multiple characters in a “mockumentary” about ordinary New Zealanders.
When: Thursday on Netflix

5 The Late Late Show/The Price is Right
It’s an April Fool’s switcheroo, as Drew Carey and Craig Ferguson swap jobs. Note that Carey hosts The Late Late Show in the early hours of Tuesday, a.k.a. late Monday night, with Ferguson hosting The Price is Right on Tuesday morning.
When: Tuesday on CBS, OMNI/CBS, City

6 Inside Amy Schumer
Season-two debut: Another 10-episode campaign for this combination sketch/standup/interview series gets off to a purposely awkward start, as Amy’s characters marry a black guy, lose a tennis match and try to pray away a nasty case of herpes.
When: Tuesday on Comedy

7 Dragons’ Den
Eighth-season finale: The Dragons hit the road to surprise some of the show’s most memorable pitchers. Have the people who landed deals succeeded or failed? And what of those who were turned down but were convinced the Dragons got it wrong?
When: Wednesday on CBC

8 Raising Hope
Series finale: Back-to-back new episodes wrap up this underrated series after four seasons. In the first episode, Downton Abbey’s Lesley Nicol guest-stars. In the second, Kenny Loggins makes a musical appearance, playing himself.
When: Friday on Fox, City

9 Intelligence
First-season finale: Riley (Meghan Ory) and Gabriel (Josh Holloway) are shocked to learn there are foreign sleeper agents embedded in the U.S. government, and even more shocked when the identities of the spies are revealed.
When: Monday on CBS, CTV Two

10 Family Guy
An ad executive guest-voiced by Peter Dinklage asks Peter Griffin (voice of Seth MacFarlane) to be the face of an anti-smoking campaign, as long as he continues to smoke. Sheesh, and I thought Game of Thrones was complicated.
When: Sunday on Fox, Global

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Lindsay Lohan hears Sirens in Wild Canada; must-sees for the week of March 9

- March 9th, 2014

RESURRECTION-Season-1-Cast-PHoto

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of March 9:

1 Resurrection
Debut (pictured above): One of the most buzzed-about shows of 2014, with Omar Epps, Kurtwood Smith and Frances Fisher starring in a tale about loved ones coming back many years after they disappeared, without having aged.
When: Sunday on ABC, City

2 True Detective
First-season finale: Gripping series starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson has been razor-sharp and crazy intense from the get-go. Hard to predict how it’s going to end, but I’m betting not well.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

3 Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Debut: Meant as a successor to the Carl Sagan science series, Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane is one of the executive producers behind this new four-channel project. Hey, Stewie had a time machine, so that’s science-y.
When: Sunday on Fox, Global, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild

4 Sirens
Canadian debut: Adapted from a British show, this is a foul-mouthed but funny American series about paramedics and cops, executive produced and co-written by foul-mouthed but funny American Denis Leary (Rescue Me).
When: Thursday on Comedy

5 Believe
Debut: Created by Oscar winner Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), this story focuses on a young girl named Bo (Johnny Sequoyah) who was born with special abilities and now needs protection. Kind of Heroes meets Touch.
When: Monday on NBC, CTV Two

6 Wild Canada
Debut: From the makers of Human Planet and Planet Earth, this is a four-part natural-history documentary series using the latest in camera technology to explore our nation’s sweeping terrain and diverse species.
When: Thursday on CBC

7 Working the Engels
Debut: Starring Kacey Rohl, Azura Skye, Benjamin Arthur and SCTV’s Andrea Martin, this sitcom is about dysfunctional relatives who must unite to run the family law firm when the patriarch passes away.
When: Wednesday on Global

8 Canadian Screen Awards
Hosted by Martin Short, this is the Canadian TV and film industry’s annual “everybody gets a trophy” soiree. There’s less hardware handed out at an average kids’ soccer tournament, and that’s saying something.
When: Sunday on CBC

9 Cache Craze
Season-two debut: Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes Alex Bilodeau, Rosie MacLennan and Benoit Huot participate in this adventure series based on the GPS-aided game called “geo-caching.” Um, did they do this in Sochi?
When: Tuesday on YTV

10 Lindsay
Debut: From filmmaker Amy Rice, this documentary series follows fallen actress Lindsay Lohan through yet another period of crisis and recovery, and crisis and recovery, and crisis and recovery. And crisis.
When: Sunday on OWN

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

The new Cosmos is lucky there’s a Family Guy

- March 7th, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson

A new version of Cosmos is coming to, uh, Fox.

Actually, it’s coming to Fox as well as Global, National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild in Canada. But the point is, does Cosmos really fit on the home of Family Guy?

Not so fast, Earthling. Seth MacFarlane has a hand in both shows.

“I had always been a fan of (the original) Cosmos, I had seen it as a child, and then when I was in high school I saw it again and was able to process it in even more depth,” explained MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy and one of the executive producers of the new Cosmos, which debuts Sunday, March 9.

“I met Neil (deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and author who hosts the new Cosmos and is pictured above) through an organization called the Science & Entertainment Exchange, and I found out he was working on a new Cosmos. I said that while the networks being considered to pitch to – National Geographic, Discovery Channel – are great networks, in a way you’re sort of preaching to the converted. Wouldn’t it be nice to broaden it even more?

“I thought there was a strong possibility that this particular regime at Fox, as creative and open-minded as they are, would be receptive. And sure enough, they were.”

So more than three decades after Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which was Carl Sagan’s iconic exploration of the universe as revealed by science, we have Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. The new 13-part series is meant to be a successor.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of crossover, actually, even from the animated shows (on Fox and Global) to Cosmos,” MacFarlane said. “The show is presented very much in the spirit of the original in that you can’t really call it a documentary. It’s more a journey. It’s certainly educational, but it plays with the flavour, we hope, of a feature film.”

But not Ted.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Seth MacFarlane wouldn’t kill (and resurrect) Brian again, but not for the reasons you might think

- January 13th, 2014

brian-griffin-picture-image-wallpaper

PASADENA, Calif. – Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane said he wouldn’t kill – and then resurrect – Brian the dog again, but not for the reasons you might think.

“Would I do it again? No, we already did it,” MacFarlane said at the Television Critics Association tour. “Who knows. Season 25?”

Social media went crazy when the beloved Brian was killed off in a very touching scene in an episode that aired earlier this season, on Nov. 24, 2013 (Fox, Global). But then two episodes later, on Dec. 15, Brian came back.

It fooled me at the time, because the scene was so moving, I thought it would stick. Anyone who ever has lost a family pet knows how acutely painful it is.

“Well, yeah, if you’re killing off a character like that, you gotta give him his due,” MacFarlane said.

But ultimately, it was a stunt. Some people were offended by having their emotions yanked around, but MacFarlane said he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish.

“I mean, the simple answer to that is, it’s what, season 12 or something like that?” MacFarlane said. “We figured it has been on long enough that at this point you can either sit back and be on auto-pilot or you can try to mix it up and try to surprise people.

“And that was all we were trying to do, we were trying to continue to surprise the audience and show them that anything still can happen on the show. And really, all it was, was a three-parter without the words, ‘To be continued’ at the end of the episode. That’s all we did, put that on, and suddenly it was this big deal.”

It seems unfathomable to me that MacFarlane wouldn’t have anticipated a huge reaction in this era when social media can galvanize over just about anything. But that’s his position and he’s sticking to it.

“It surprised us,” MacFarlane said. “It just didn’t occur to us. We thought that it maybe would create a little bit of a stir, but the rage was not something that we counted on.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

No new Family Guy episode this weekend, so Brian Griffin stays dead for now

- December 1st, 2013

Family Guy Brian Griffin

Death and TV comedy always has been an uneasy mix. One struggles to know where the line is between realism and a publicity stunt.

It gets even more complicated with an animated series such as Family Guy. Wedging in a serious moment amid all those poop jokes can get squishy. Maybe it’s a hoax. Maybe the hoax is a hoax.

Either way, consider this a SPOILER ALERT if you don’t want to know any details, but as you probably have heard, Seth MacFarlane’s long-running animated series Family Guy, which airs Sundays on Fox and Global, killed off a major character last weekend. Supposedly.

Brian, the family dog who talked and essentially lived the life of a fully functioning adult, was hit by a car and succumbed to his injuries in a very sad scene with the Griffin family gathered around him. My first reaction was that Brian’s death must be “real,” since MacFarlane took the time to make it so moving.

There can be many factors at play when a TV character in a live-action series passes away. But with an animated series, it usually is nothing more or less than an editorial decision. Family Guy didn’t have to kill Brian. For MacFarlane, it’s just one fewer voice to do.

The question of where Family Guy goes from here, for me, is influenced by the fact that the show – which is in its 12th season – really has nothing to lose. Perhaps Brian’s alleged replacement – a dog named Vinnie, voiced by Tony Sirico from The Sopranos – won’t last any longer than Poochie on The Simpsons.

Speaking of The Simpsons, I’ve quoted this conversation previously, but it was back in the summer of 2009 when, at a Fox event during the Television Critics Association tour, MacFarlane told me, “I don’t want (Family Guy) to go 20 years like The Simpsons. Ideally we would go another couple of years and then wrap it up. I would like to be done before they’re done with us.”

Family Guy already has gone longer than MacFarlane envisioned. But if you’re going to stick around, you need viewers to notice you.

There is no new episode of Family Guy tonight (Sunday, Dec. 1). If you’re not among the conspiracy theorists, you can consider it a period of mourning for Brian. But next weekend Family Guy is getting right back to its madcap adventures, as Peter and Quagmire discover their singing voices create beautiful harmony together and they form a singing/songwriting team, a la Simon and Garfunkel.

Brian’s death scene pierced me. Silly, I know. But I still ache for every pet I’ve ever lost, so maybe it just taps into something.

But has this all been a ruse? Bringing Brian back now undoubtedly would create a backlash to the backlash. Or maybe Brian is getting his own heaven-set spinoff.

Whether he stays dead or not, killing Brian was an attention-grabber for Family Guy. The harder part is grabbing and holding.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca