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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

Sons of Anarchy pay a visit to Z Nation on a Package Deal and it isn’t Utopia; television’s must-sees this week

- September 7th, 2014

Z Nation

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Sept. 7

1 Boardwalk Empire
Fifth and final season debut
Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) recalls his roots as a poor kid in Atlantic City while simultaneously plotting his next move in the event that Prohibition is repealed.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

2 Sons of Anarchy
Seventh and final season debut
Jax (Charlie Hunnam) eschews legitimacy and makes vengeance a club priority, while Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Juice (Theo Rossi) continue their unholy alliance of secrets.
When: Tuesday on Super Channel

3 Z Nation
Debut (pictured above)
No, the “Z” in this case does not stand for zebras or zeppelins or zippers or Zooey Deschanel. It’s more zombies, dammit, in a new series starring Tom Everett Scott.
When: Friday on Space

4 CCMA Awards
Live
Rick Mercer and Jann Arden host the annual Canadian country music hardware handout. Performers include Autumn Hill, Gord Bamford, Terri Clark and The Road Hammers
When: Sunday on CBC, CMT

5 Package Deal
Season-two debut
Sheldon (Harland Williams) and Ryan (Jay Malone) aren’t amused when they find out Danny (Randal Edwards) went to see the new James Bond movie with Kim (Julia Voth).
When: Friday on City

6 Hell’s Kitchen
Season-13 debut
Eighteen aspiring chefs are split into two teams. The winners this week spend time with Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck. The losers set up the living arrangements.
When: Wednesday on Fox, City

7 Fashion Rocks
Live
Ryan Seacrest hosts a concert honouring the relationship between fashion and music. Like, that needs to be honoured? Performers include The Band Perry, Duran Duran and Kiss.
When: Tuesday on CBS, Global

8 Love Prison
Debut
A carefree bachelor and a single mother who’ve “dated” online for six months finally meet in person, spending a week together on an island. Hey, what could go wrong, Gilligan?
Monday on A&E

9 The Biggest Loser: Glory Days
Debut
Twenty former athletes, including NFLers Scott Mitchell and Damien Woody, and Olympic gold medal-winning tennis player Zina Garrison, aim to regain control of their lives.
When: Thursday on NBC, Yes TV

10 Utopia
Debut
Fifteen pioneer wannabes move to a remote location where they begin the process of creating their own civilization from scratch. First rule: Telemarketing is forbidden.
When: Sunday, Tuesday and Friday on Fox, City

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Juice cleanse: Theo Rossi says Sons of Anarchy will quench everyone’s thirst

- September 5th, 2014

 

TheoRossi_preview

It’s the irony of anarchy.

Loyalty is the one thing the characters on Sons of Anarchy value most. Yet it’s loyalty that is in the shortest supply.

“That’s so true,” said Theo Rossi with a big laugh. “It’s the one thing they talk about the most.

“And when you think about it, Juice (Rossi’s character) probably is the most loyal of any of them, because he’ll do anything for anybody. He’s the most loyal. Isn’t that weird?”

It is weird. But then, Sons of Anarchy always has been weird, in a good way, a complex way, a terrifying way. And with the seventh and final season of Sons of Anarchy debuting Tuesday, Sept. 9 on Super Channel in Canada and on network-of-origin FX in the United States, Rossi’s Juice Ortiz literally is at the centre of it all.

“In the first episode of this new season, we start to see the full-blown unraveling for Juice,” Rossi said. “Well, it has been unraveling already, and now he’s just trying to get a hold of it.”

If you’re not caught up on Sons of Anarchy, which tells the story of an outlaw motorcycle gang in California, and you don’t want to know anything at all about the sixth-season finale that aired last December, consider this a SPOILER ALERT. But if you are caught up, you know that Juice and Gemma (Katey Sagal) share a big secret.

“What Kurt (Sutter, Sons of Anarchy creator) really has done so masterfully is, he has taken these two characters, Gemma and Juice, and they have to have this relationship now,” Rossi said. “You talk about sleeping with one eye open? These are two people who are forced to be together because they know something that is the greatest secret ever created in this charming world.

“Juice and Gemma know something that can so completely affect our hero (Jax, played by Charlie Hunnam). But how can they ever trust each other, knowing what they both have done, or what they’ll both do? They’re both survivors. Their only goal every minute is survival.

“Juice doesn’t think about tomorrow. Juice doesn’t think about dinner later tonight. Juice doesn’t think about watching the new episode of CSI. Juice thinks about being alive in 60 seconds from the moment he’s talking to you.”

There’s a child-like quality to Juice that actually makes him one of the most sympathetic characters on the show. This will sound like a bit of a stretch, but Juice’s journey reminds me of a quote by former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who said (paraphrasing), the hardest part of being president isn’t to do what’s right, but to know what’s right.

“That’s actually really great, and a great quote by Johnson,” Rossi said. “Basically, there are never any ill intentions with Juice. He never, ever has done anything maliciously. He never aggressively has said, ‘I’m going to do this.’ He never says, ‘I’m doing this regardless.’ With him it’s always, ‘I’m doing this because I think this is the best way for everyone to be okay.’ And then it completely goes the wrong way, and he just spins the web bigger and bigger.

“What I love about Juice is, it’s truthful. Kurt writes him so truthful. It’s such a high-stakes world, and this kid – because he’s a kid, compared to the rest of them – this kid has to adapt to all the situations. He has done some heinous things. But you see him having to live with that in every beat.

“Juice thinks, ‘I have to be this way, I have to be like these guys.’ So externally, he is being like them. But in his eyes and in his soul, you see that he is not that person. There is no enjoyment in the stuff he’s doing. He’s lost. He’s just lost.”

I can’t imagine there could be a happy ending for anyone in Sons of Anarchy, could there? But you know, if anyone has even a remote chance for one, I hope it’s Juice.

Loyalty has to count for something in this cruel, crazy world.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Murder, Liars, Suits; TV must-sees for the week

- June 7th, 2014

Capture PLL for blog

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of June 8

1 Murder in the First
Debut: Taye Diggs and Canadian Kathleen Robertson star as detectives in this San Francisco-set series from Steven Bochco that follows developments in a single case throughout the entire season.
When: Monday on Bravo

2 Veep
Third-season finale with back-to-back episodes: The team tries to make presidential candidate Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) seem more folksy as the New Hampshire primary approaches.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

3 Suits
Fourth-season debut: Wait, didn’t the previous season of this show wrap up just a couple of months ago? Yup, it was back in April. Who’s in charge of this scheduling? Lawyers?
When: Wednesday on Bravo

4 Tony Awards
Live: Hugh Jackman hosts the 68th annual edition of this hardware handout from Radio City Music Hall in New York. I have to say, Jackman was pretty great when he hosted the Oscars in 2009.
When: Sunday on CBS, CHCH

5 Chasing Life
Debut: A 20-something named April, played by Canadian Italia Ricci, is on a roll professionally and personally. But some devastating medical news forces her to adjust her thinking about everything.
Tuesday on ABC Spark

6 Graceland
Second-season debut: When a cartel puts a hit on Mike (Aaron Tveit), he returns to the supposedly safe haven of the title house, only to find that the place has changed quite a bit.
When: Wednesday on Bravo

7 The Incredible Mr. Goodwin
Debut: In this five-part series, “escapologist” Jonathan Goodwin swings from burning ropes and emerges from rocket-launched cars, etc. Seriously, I did not know “escapologist” was a word.
When: Tuesday on OLN

8 Major Crimes
Third-season debut: Mary McDonnell returns as Los Angeles Police Captain Sharon Raydor, who heads up a special squad dealing with high-profile and/or sensitive cases.
When: Wednesday on Super Channel

9 Duck Dynasty
Sixth-season debut: The lucrative leap into the mainstream for this series likely has come to an abrupt halt due to Phil Robertson’s repeated anti-gay comments. But the show goes on.
When: Wednesday on A&E

10 Pretty Little Liars
Fifth-season debut (main cast pictured above): Aria (Lucy Hale) guards Ezra (Ian Harding) at the hospital following his shooting, while the others set a trap to draw out “A.” Wouldn’t if be funny if it were Fonzie all along?
When: Tuesday on M3

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv