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The Killing, The Quest, Sharknado 2 and Hell on Wheels; TV’s must-sees for the week of July 27

- July 27th, 2014

Sharknado 2

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of July 27:

1) The Killing
Debut of fourth and final season: Sarah (Mireille Enos) made a really questionable decision at the end of season three. She always has been really tough, but is she tough enough to live with what she did?
When: Friday on Netflix

2) Sharknado 2: The Second One
Debut: It’s fin-tastic. See it with a chum. More bite for your buck. Something to chew on. Give it a hand. Ian Ziering and Tara Reid are back to battle double shark storms headed for New York City.
When: Wednesday on Space

3) Hell on Wheels
Fourth-season debut: Awaiting the birth of his baby, Cullen (Anson Mount) toils under the thumb of The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl), while Durant (Colm Meaney) feels the chill after an icy miscalculation.
When: Saturday on AMC

4) The Quest
Debut: This sounds like a reality-competition series for Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings geeks, as 12 contestants are transported into an imaginative realm, with ogres and dragons and a dark lord.
When: Thursday on ABC, City

5) Running Wild With Bear Grylls
Debut: Bear leads actor Zac Efron on a survival journey into the Northeast Appalachian mountain range. But then Zac dances his way out of it, dammit! Take that, danger! East High forever!
When: Monday on NBC, Global

6) The Bridge
Marco (Demian Bichir) gains a new ally while discovering that cartel leader Fausto (Ramon Franco) has a wider reach than anticipated. Meanwhile, a disruption at a local bank provides new intel.
When: Wednesday on FX Canada

7) The Leftovers
A hate crime tests the resolve of Laurie (Amy Brenneman), while Kevin (Justin Theroux) turns down an offer of assistance and Matt (Christopher Eccleston) brings his pulpit to the street.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

8) Masters of Sex
When Bill (Michael Sheen) delivers a baby with ambiguous genitalia, he encourages the parents not to surgically assign a gender. Meanwhile, Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) learns about Bill’s troubled childhood.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

9) Under the Dome
After a bad plan by Big Jim (Dean Norris) and Rebecca (Karla Crome) leaves the town divided, Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) takes over as leader of Chester’s Mill. But that’s not actually a paid position any more.
When: Monday on CBS, Global

10) Masters of Illusion
Debut: Hosted by Dean Cain, this series features illusionists performing everything from sleight-of-hand to great escapes, all in front of a live studio audience. I watched it. Or did I?
When: Friday on CW

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

Liev and let die; Schreiber lets his actions do the talking in gritty drama Ray Donovan

- July 26th, 2014

Capture liev blog

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – When Liev Schreiber talks about Ray Donovan – both the show and his title character – it’s an exercise in both reticence and eloquence.

Schreiber’s responses sometimes can be clipped. He seems to prefer answering questions that way. For example, here are some of the exchanges that occurred during a recent scrum with several reporters at the Television Critics Association event:

Q: Has the success of Ray Donovan changed how the entertainment industry perceives you?
Schreiber: “I don’t know. Probably.”

Q: This character seems very different than you are in real life. How do you get into it?
Schreiber: “I put on the clothes.”

Q: Does the darkness of this series affect you sometimes?
Schreiber: “Yes. Yes.”

Q: How do you get over that?
Schreiber: “I stop. When the season is over, I get to go home.”

Q: But then is it hard when a new season begins for those character traits to re-emerge?
Schreiber: “Well, they have to. For my job.”

All-righty then.

But the funny thing about Schreiber – whose series currently is airing its second season, Sundays on The Movie Network and Movie Central in Canada, and on channel-of-origin Showtime in the U.S. – is that when you do happen to catch him with a question that piques his interest, he can be very engaging.

The drama series Ray Donovan tells the story of Ray, whose job is to make problems disappear for the rich and famous in Los Angeles. But the biggest complication of all for Ray is his dangerous wildcard of a father, Mickey, played by Jon Voight, whose re-emergence continues to shake the Donovan family to its core.

I asked Schreiber, “Is there an avenue out of this life for Ray? Do you see an avenue for him to get out?”

“I hope he has an avenue out,” Schreiber said. He paused. Then he added, “And I hope it’s not fatal.

“But he’s deep in. He clearly is a really, really damaged, really, really hurt character. That kind of pain is hard to recover from. It’s a lifetime of pain.

“I, as much as anyone else, wonder how you unravel something like that. And I think that’s sort of at the heart of what this show is. How do you unravel your pain? How do you open yourself back up to the world?”

With a lot of difficulty and violence and misdirected anger and acting out, if the series is any indication.

“I have some things in common with Ray,” said the 46-year-old Schreiber, an acclaimed stage and screen actor whose television exposure was comparatively very limited prior to Ray Donovan. “I love my kids. I’d do anything for them. I just think that Ray is put in slightly more extreme situations than I am.

“I’m not a violent person and I think Ray is a violent person. I’m not a hyper-sexual person and I think Ray is a hyper-sexual person.

“But he looks like me.”

There we are, back to the one-line quips.

Notably, it sounds as if Schreiber exhibits much the same personality with his cast-mates. Schreiber directed one of the upcoming episodes in season two of Ray Donovan, and the way he described the endeavor, it turned out to be something of a “getting to know you” project.

“The outstanding experience of (directing the episode) was the way in which the cast and the crew came to my rescue,” Schreiber said. “I never felt so supported, so appreciated, and so lucky as I did during that week and a half working with this cast and crew.

“I’m sort of a quiet person at work. When I’m playing a character, I stay kind of in the boundaries of the character, and I don’t talk a lot. So you don’t get to know people.

“But when you direct, you really get to know people. You really know where they’re coming from, and I was very moved by the support of my peers on this one. It was a very special feeling, because I could tell immediately that they all wanted me to succeed.”

Success comes in many forms, and actions speak louder than words. Both cliches, yes. But all things considered, wherever the middle is between reticent and eloquent, that’s where Liev Schreiber of Ray Donovan resides.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

‘Simpsons World’ is an unlimited pass into Springfield

- July 21st, 2014

UPDATE: FX has confirmed the Simpsons World app will only be available for U.S. subscribers. There are currently no plans to bring the app to Canada or other countries around the world at this time.

Homer Simpson once profoundly asked, “What’s the point in going out? We’re just going to end up back here anyways.”

I agree with you Homer, and it looks like FX does too.

During the TCA’s on Monday, an annual gathering of television critics and industry professionals in Los Angeles, FX president Chuck Saftler announced the creation of Simpsons World, a heaven for all Simpsons fanatics.

The multi-platform app will not only allow viewers to watch every episode of the series made to date, but will also give them ample access to trivia, character biographies, and an “ultimate” episode guide with actual scripts embedded into each episode summary.

Saftler confirmed the episodes would be partnered with commercials and in order to use the app, you must be an FX subscriber.

If that’s not a good enough reason to purchase cable, though, you probably won’t find one.

The Wrap also reported that subsequent to Simpsons World is a tool called Simpsons TV. Within Simpsons TV, users can bookmark their progress through a season, or personalize a viewing playlist based on specific characters or themes.

In order to prep for the launch of Simpsons World, FX will be carrying out a marathon of all 552 episodes –an event that will take a week a half of around the clock broadcasting. The marathon will kick off on Aug. 21 and run through Sept 1.

Personally, I think they’re missing the boat by not coordinating it to run over the Labour Day long weekend, but I’m not an executive at FX.

The Simpsons World app will be launching on all Apple and Android devices, as well as Xbox One and Xbox 360 platforms in late October.

Fargo renewed by FX with new characters and cast, return to Alberta likely but not finalized; Louie is back, too

- July 21st, 2014

fargo blood snow

BEVERLY HILLS., Calif. – FX clearly has a thing for loners and lonely landscapes, as Fargo and Louie have been renewed for second and fifth seasons, respectively.

FX announced on Monday that executive producer and writer Noah Hawley is moving forward with a second installment of  Fargo. This new chapter of the Fargo story will feature all new characters, all new actors, a new time frame (1979), new locations (Sioux Falls, S.D., and Laverne, Minn.) and a new “true crime” story that will unfold over 10 episodes.

The first season of Fargo was shot near Calgary, and while FX CEO John Landgraf said he would “like” to shoot season two there as well, it has not been finalized yet. Later in the day, Hawley and co-EP Warren Littlefield implied it is their intention to be back in Alberta. Production likely will span the winter and spring of 2015, but the story may not take place entirely in a winter climate. The earliest the second season of Fargo will air is in the fall of 2015.

The first season of Fargo – which starred Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Alison Tolman, Colin Hanks and Keith Carradine, among others – aired on FXX in Canada. It has not yet been determined if the second season will air on FX Canada or FXX Canada, both of which are owned by Rogers.

A younger version of Carradine’s Lou Solverson character will be part of the second season of Fargo.

“We could not be more proud of Fargo,” Landgraf said. “Noah’s audacious, bordering on hubristic riff on my favoruite Coen brothers film earned 18 Emmy nominations – the most for a single program in our history. Fargo was nothing short of breathtaking and we look forward to the next installment.”

Meanwhile, Louis C.K.’s multi-award-winning Louie will be back on FX and FX Canada with new episodes – the official release said seven, Landgraf said “seven or eight” – in the spring of 2015.

“Louie’s fourth season was once again groundbreaking – sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, always thought-provoking,” Landgraf said. “The show went to narrative and cinematic places no comedy has gone before and we look forward to seeing what Louis comes up with next.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

The naked truth continues tonight on Naked and Afraid

- July 20th, 2014

Naked and Afraid two

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Nakedly speaking, it’s the first few minutes that are the most uncomfortable.

“During the first half-hour, you can imagine how awkward that is, walking up to your naked partner, shaking hands,” Jeff Zausch said. “I promise you, it’s just as awkward as it looks on television.”

Zausch is a participant on the survivalist reality series Naked and Afraid, which currently is airing its third season Sunday nights on Discovery. The series pairs male and female strangers, challenging them to survive for 21 days in the wild without anything to help them, including clothes.

“After a while, you forget you’re naked,” Zausch continued. “You forget about the crew. You forget that there’s a camera guy following you around. Because our minds are so focused on survival, so focused on food, water, shelter. The whole television-show part of it gets lost.”

Well, the television-show part of it certainly is not lost on Discovery, given the success of Naked and Afraid. Zausch was among a group of participants and producers who recently attended the Television Critics Association event to talk about the series and its eyebrow-raising premise.

Of course, airing on Discovery, viewers don’t really see any nakedness.

“With the pixelation, we have a group of probably six graphic artists who go frame by frame to create the blurs,” co-executive producer Jay Renfroe said.

At which point participant Justin Bullard interjected, “They could have made my blurred spot bigger. That would be cool.”

That does lead to the question, though, why is Discovery the right channel for Naked and Afraid? After all, there are many channels that would be more than happy to just show the nudity, eliminating the laborious and presumably expensive process of pixelation.

“We never intended this to be an exploitative show,” co-executive producer David Garfinkle said. “This is a family show. Families all around the country, all around the world, are watching this show because it’s not about the nudity. It’s about the survival, and it’s really a relationship show between a man and a woman.

“I think that if we were to do that and take that approach (with the viewers seeing the full nudity), this show would be very short-lived, and it would have a very narrow viewership. We are hoping this show will last a long, long time.

“When we created this show, our idea was to come up with the most authentic survival challenge ever. The nudity, like the guys were saying, within the first hour, it’s kind of forgotten. Even as a viewer, when you see it in the tweets, it’s not about the nudity.”

Agree to disagree, at least on a marketing and promotional level. But whatever Discovery is doing, it’s working.

Everyone involved with Naked and Afraid, participants and producers alike, wanted to stress that these aren’t just normal everyday people on the show. They all have a certain amount of survivalist training and experience. Otherwise, these simply would be suicide missions.

“Why naked?” participant Eva Rupert said. “I mean, that is the ultimate challenge.”

Well, the nudity certainly makes it harder, no pun intended.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv