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Not-so-safe Haven for William Shatner

- November 21st, 2014

Capture shatner

William Shatner is beaming down to Haven.

Showcase has announced that the former Captain Kirk on Star Trek will guest-star in a four-episode arc on Haven, which currently is airing its fifth season. Shatner’s episodes will air in 2015, in what technically will be the second half of season five.

According to Showcase, Shatner will play “a pivotal character that has the potential to forever impact the fate of the town of Haven and its Troubled residents.”

Haven, based on The Colorado Kid by Stephen King, stars Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant and Eric Balfour.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

New TV fall preview, with Canadian and American debut dates

- September 15th, 2014

Gotham cast, with Donal Logue and Ben McKenzie at front

The beginning of the fall TV season is like the beginning of any season in professional sports. Everyone feels like a winner during training camp. Optimism abounds. Then you start to play the games, and the mood changes quickly for many.

Pre-season “lying to yourself” aside, what do the new shows look like this fall … really?

The fantasy/superhero genre continues to take over television, in terms of volume at least, if not necessarily ratings. Gotham, Constantine and The Flash are the newest entries, and I have to say, they all look pretty good in their own way. With the understanding, of course, that on the lightness-to-darkness scale, it goes The Flash, Constantine, Gotham, so target each series based on your content preferences.

I’ve written before that I was impressed by the pilot episode of Gotham, which stars Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue and Jada Pinkett Smith, among many others. And having been one of the people who was rolling his eyes at the thought of a Batman prequel, impressing me was no small feat in this case. It’s pretty violent by network TV standards, though, so be forewarned. Constantine, starring Matt Ryan, is based on characters that appear in the comic series Hellblazer. The Flash, starring Grant Gustin, is a spinoff of Arrow.

Outside of the superhero/fantasy world, perhaps the most talked-about new series is Stalker. Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott star as detectives who handle stalking cases – including voyeurism, cyber harassment and romantic fixation, etc. – for the Threat Assessment Unit of the LAPD.

When creator Kevin Williamson appeared at the Television Critics Association event in Los Angeles in July, the session actually got a little stormy. Stalker is something of a polarizing series, if we lived in a world with three poles. Some people see it as shining a light on a growing problem in society, and that’s a good thing. Some people see it as a de facto glorification of stalking, a “how to” if you will, and that’s a bad thing. And some people see it as merely a TV show, and think that the people in the other two camps should take a chill pill. In any case, there will be no shortage of Stalker talkers.

There are still more new shows centred on U.S. politics and government (State of Affairs with Katherine Heigl, Madam Secretary with Tea Leoni), more time travellers (Forever), more computer geniuses (Scorpion), a notable spinoff (NCIS: New Orleans with Scott Bakula), and a notable remake (Gracepoint, based on the British series Broadchurch). The Affair, with Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Joshua Jackson and Maura Tierney, is particularly intense in a rip-your-life-apart kind of way.

Sadly, none of the new sitcoms really jumps out at me as instant hit material, although series such as Black-ish and Cristela are demographically designed to resonate with big chunks of the U.S. population. Marry Me with Casey Wilson and Ken Marino is getting some positive buzz. And as for Selfie starring Doctor Who alumnus Karen Gillan, well, I didn’t despise it as much as many of my colleagues in the critics’ community.

First shows cancelled? For me, two candidates are Bad Judge with Kate Walsh, and yet another young-adult-relationship comedy called Manhattan Love Story.

NEW SHOWS
(Networks always can change their plans, so this is what we know as of now, please check local listings closer to broadcast)

Sept. 17
Red Band Society (Fox)
The Mysteries of Laura (NBC, CTV)

Sept. 21
Madam Secretary (CBS, Global)

Sept. 22
Gotham (Fox, CTV)
Scorpion (CBS, City)
Forever (ABC, CTV)

Sept. 23
NCIS: New Orleans (CBS, Global)

Sept. 24
Black-ish (ABC, City)

Sept. 25
How To Get Away With Murder (ABC, CTV)

Sept. 28
Canada’s Smartest Person (CBC)

Sept. 30
Selfie (ABC)
Manhattan Love Story (ABC)
The Honourable Woman (CBC)

Oct. 1
Stalker (CBS, Global)

Oct. 2
Gracepoint (Fox, Global)
Bad Judge (NBC, Oct. 3 on Global)
A to Z (NBC, Oct. 3 on Global)

Oct. 4
Survivor’s Remorse (Super Channel)

Oct. 5
Mulaney (Fox, Global)
CBC Selects: Janet King (CBC)

Oct. 6
Strange Empire (CBC)

Oct. 7
The Flash (CW, CTV)

Oct. 10
Cristela (ABC, CHCH)

Oct. 12
The Affair (TMN/MC)

Oct. 13
Jane the Virgin (CW)

Oct. 14
Marry Me (NBC, Oct. 17 on Global)

Oct. 17
Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (HBO Canada)

Oct. 24
Constantine (NBC, Global)

Oct. 30
The McCarthys (CBS, CTV)

Nov. 2
Olive Kitteridge (HBO Canada)

Nov. 17
State of Affairs (NBC, Global)

Nov. 25
Ascension (CBC)

Dec. 12
Marco Polo (Netflix)

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Returning TV fall preview, with Canadian and American debut dates

- September 15th, 2014

Jon Cryer as Alan Harper and Ashton Kutcher as Walden Schmidt in Two and a Half Men

Should Two and a Half Men be renamed Two Men and a Baby?

Two and a Half Men raised eyebrows this summer when it was revealed that one of the main story lines for its 12th and final season will involve Walden (Ashton Kutcher) and Alan (Jon Cryer) posing as a gay couple in order to try to adopt a baby. Walden wants to adopt a kid on his own, but he finds it almost impossible to do so as a single male, thus the ruse.

Some groups immediately were offended by this story line, saying it disrespects the ongoing struggle to make gay marriage legal everywhere in the U.S. The response from Two and a Half Men’s executives and actors essentially was, in no way will this devalue or discredit gay marriage. Rather, they say the story line merely is borrowing from real life, in that, presently in California (where Two and a Half Men is set), it probably is easier to adopt as a gay couple than as a single man (I’m just going by what I’m told, since I haven’t tried to adopt a kid in California in either circumstance).

The bottom line for me is, let’s actually wait to see how they handle it, rather than getting all animated about what we haven’t even watched yet.

And speaking of animation, there will be a convergence of cartoon titans in the season premiere of Family Guy, as the Griffin clan travels to Springfield to visit with The Simpsons. This would be like the cast of Friends visiting the cast of Seinfeld back in the day, or the cast of the afore-mentioned Two and a Half Men dropping in on the cast of The Big Bang Theory.

It will be interesting to see what happens on The Big Bang Theory now that Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) are engaged. You know, I’ve always wondered how Penny could afford her own apartment, while Leonard and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) have to share what essentially is the exact same apartment. Leonard and Sheldon both have good jobs, while Penny always has struggled. With the prospect of a joint bank account for Penny and Leonard on the horizon, maybe season eight will provide a better window into their mysterious finances.

With the TV landscape so cluttered, it’s always intriguing to keep an eye on the lucky shows that actually graduated past their rookie seasons, to see if they can maintain their momentum, not to mention their audiences. On the drama side, the notable sophomore shows include Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Resurrection. On the comedy side, we have The Goldbergs, Mom, The Millers and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

A critical favourite, Andy Samberg’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine has invaded the Sunday night “animation domination” block, in an effort to attract more eyeballs. Hey, Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs a bigger audience, and creaky old “animation domination” needs a transfusion. So it’s either going to be a win-win or a lose-lose.

And as we creep closer to Halloween, keep an eye peeled for spooky favourites American Horror Story and The Walking Dead. This year’s American Horror Story is subtitled Freak Show, and is set in the early 1950s. Hey, the early ’50s always have seemed spooky enough to me even without the freaks.

RETURNING SHOWS
(Networks always can change their plans, so this is what we know as of now, please check local listings closer to broadcast)

Sept. 15
Dancing with the Stars (ABC, CTV Two, M3)

Sept. 16
New Girl (Fox, Sept. 18 on City)
The Mindy Project (Sept. 18 on City)

Sept. 18
The Bachelor Canada (City)
Haven (Showcase)

Sept. 21
The Good Wife (CBS, Global)

Sept. 22
The Voice (NBC, CTV Two)
The Blacklist (NBC, Global)
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, CTV)
Sleepy Hollow (Fox, Global)
Saving Hope (CTV)

Sept. 23
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC, CTV)
NCIS (CBS, Global)
Chicago Fire (NBC, Global)
Person of Interest (CBS, CTV)

Sept. 24
Modern Family (ABC, City)
The Goldbergs (ABC)
Survivor (CBS, Global)
Chicago PD (NBC, Global)
Law & Order: SVU (NBC, CTV)
Nashville (ABC)
The Middle (ABC, Sept. 26 on City)

Sept. 25
Scandal (ABC, City)
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, CTV)
Parenthood (NBC, Global)
Bones (Fox, Global)

Sept. 26
The Amazing Race (CBS, CTV)
Hawaii Five-0 (CBS, Global)
Blue Bloods (CBS, CTV)
Shark Tank (ABC, CTV Two)

Sept. 28
Family Guy (Fox, Global)
The Simpsons (Fox, Global)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox, City)
CSI (CBS, CTV)
Once Upon a Time (ABC, CTV)
Resurrection (ABC, CTV)
Revenge (ABC, City)
Heartland (CBC)

Sept. 29
Mom (CBS, City)
Castle (ABC, CTV)
NCIS: LA (CBS, Global)

Oct. 1
Criminal Minds (CBS, CTV)
Reign (M3, Oct. 2 on CW, CTV Two)

Oct. 2
The Vampire Diaries (CW, CTV Two)

Oct. 3
Last Man Standing (ABC, CHCH)

Oct. 5
Homeland (Super Channel)

Oct. 6
Murdoch Mysteries (CBC)
The Originals (CW, CHCH)

Oct. 7
Rick Mercer Report (CBC)
This Hour Has 22 Minutes (CBC)
Supernatural (CW)

Oct. 8
American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX Canada)
Arrow (CW, CTV)

Oct. 9
Doc Zone (CBC)
The Nature of Things (CBC)

Oct. 12
The Walking Dead (AMC)

Oct. 14
About a Boy (NBC, Friday on Global)

Oct. 15
Dragons’ Den (CBC)
Republic of Doyle (CBC)

Oct. 17
Marketplace (CBC)

Oct. 22
The 100 (CW)

Oct. 24
Grimm (NBC, CTV)
The Fifth Estate (CBC)

Oct. 27
2 Broke Girls (CBS, City)

Oct. 30
Two and a Half Men (CBS, CTV)
The Millers (CBS, CTV)
Elementary (CBS, Global)

Nov. 7
MasterChef Junior (Fox, CTV Two)

Nov. 9
The Newsroom (HBO Canada)
The Comeback (HBO Canada)
Getting On (HBO Canada)

Dec. 7
Lost Girl (Showcase)

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Abba and Queen have nothing on Jaime Murray as Defiance returns for season 2

- June 13th, 2014

Jaime Murray as Stahma Tarr in Defiance, two

Whenever I see the science fiction series Defiance, I think it looks like all the music videos from the 1970s and 1980s rolled into one.

“I know!” said actress Jaime Murray, who plays Stahma Tarr. “There was a scene recently where, just the way they were shooting it, I thought, ‘My God, we look like Abba, or Queen.’ ”

Well, whether or not there’s a musical episode coming up at some point, Defiance returns for its second season, Thursday, June 19 on Showcase in Canada and on Syfy in the United States. As for Abba and Queen particularly, I imagine Stahma Tarr’s favourite songs might be The Winner Takes it All from the former and Under Pressure from the latter.

Defiance is set in a future world that has been radically transformed by the arrival of several alien races. Murray – who, prior to this series, probably was best known to TV audiences for her portrayal of Lila, the main antagonist in the second season of Dexter – plays a member of an alien race known as the Castithans.

The Castithans have the most striking look in Defiance, with their long white hair and bleach-white skin. Remember the band Nelson? Just pretend there were more than two of them and you’ll be on the right track.

“(The makeup) is a huge part of the job, it takes two hours in the morning to put it on, and then an hour to get it off, because you don’t just pull off the wig, it’s glued on,” Murray said. “After season one, I felt as if I had been home for a good two or three months before I got the white residue fully out of my skin.

“I actually do quite a lot of Pilates when I’m up in Toronto (where Defiance is shot), and the Reformer machines and the mats are all black. So the instructors always know when I’ve been in, because there are all these white Jaime shapes and marks everywhere. It’s like a chalk outline.

“I couldn’t commit a crime while I’m filming. Everyone would know it was me very easily.”

For Murray’s character in Defiance, however, getting things done without calling attention to herself has been her specialty. But there’s a striking scene in the first episode of the new season where Stahma’s icy resolve will give you a whole new way of thinking about the character.

“You see that steely moment in the first episode and you just know there’s more to come,” Murray said. “It’s quite frightening when somebody has been so repressed culturally and psychologically for such a long time. You don’t know how angry she is and what’s going to come out of that, but you definitely have a feeling that it’s not going to be good.”

Murray also has the added burden of having to speak an alien language, in addition to English, in Defiance. Jaime, please tell me you just make that up on the spot. That would be so cool.

“No! I don’t make it up on the spot!” Murray said with a laugh.

“You’d think that you could, because it’s gobbledygook. But it’s so well thought out, and there’s such a rhythm and a symmetry and there are certain vowels that just sound like Castithan vowels. I learn it from these recordings, and if I get a syllable wrong, I’m like, ‘Damn, I messed it up,’ and I go back to the beginning.”

Considering the makeup and the language, I sure hope Jaime Murray is getting paid in future “adjusted for inflation” dollars.

“I should get paid more than the other actors!” she said. “The amount of time I spend learning Castithan and being painted head to toe in white, surely there has to be more compensation than the human characters. The humans have it so easy.

“I’m like Pinocchio. I go in and by the third episode every season, I’m like, ‘I just want to be a real girl.’ ”

Hmmm … what’s the Castithan word for “renegotiate?”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Message to the Corner Gas movie: Please don’t suck

- May 20th, 2014

corner gas movie

I guess my first reaction to official confirmation of an upcoming Corner Gas movie is the same as my reaction when I heard Trailer Park Boys was coming back: Please don’t suck.

We don’t have many TV hits in Canada, particularly in comedy. Legacies are rare, so we don’t need them tarnished. Shot and set in Saskatchewan, Corner Gas holds a unique spot as a big-network show that a lot of people actually watched in its original sitcom run from 2004 to 2009 on CTV.

Ironically, all those ordinary Canadians watching network TV who made Corner Gas a hit in the first place will be the last ones to see this new project. It’ll be in theatres late this year, then it will get an exclusive run on pay channel The Movie Network (both CTV and TMN are owned by Bell Media), before finally coming to the wider audience on CTV.

But, EVERYONE has been “invited” to help pay for the Corner Gas movie through a “kickstarter” campaign, you lucky Dog River dogs.

Anyway, production begins June 23 in Rouleau, Sask. The pressure will be on series creator and star Brent Butt, along with co-writers Andrew Carr and Andrew Wreggitt, and director David Storey, to make sure the tank isn’t empty. The good news is that, in addition to Butt, the entire main original cast returns (Nancy Robertson, Fred Ewanuick, Gabrielle Miller, Eric Peterson, Janet Wright, Lorne Cardinal and Tara Spencer-Nairn).

You can understand why TV networks and movie studios look to the past with fondness, since the present is scary and the future is scarier. Fictitious network executive Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) said one time on 30 Rock that NBC was researching a way to “make it 1997 again through science or magic.” So CTV going back to something such as Corner Gas is comfortable, in a sense. There haven’t been any hit Canadian sitcoms to take its place since it went off the air.

But these things don’t always work out wonderfully. Kiefer Sutherland’s 24 came back to Fox and Global recently as a “limited-run series” after a four-year absence, and the ratings have been mediocre. Not a total disaster, but far from the big deal for which Fox was hoping. The new 24 is decent, but it appears the world has moved on a bit.

Regardless, as a Corner Gas fan, the first step is that the Corner Gas movie just can’t suck. That would be tragic. Over to you, Brent. Check the oil.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv