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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

 

Ray Donovan feels The Strain of Dating Naked; must-sees for the week of July 13

- July 13th, 2014

Capture Strain

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of July 13

1 The Strain
Debut: Creator Guillermo del Toro admits he is obsessed with the biological element of vampires. Like, how would it actually work? Um, let’s just say the first episode bites into that question.
When: Sunday on FX Canada

2 Masters of Sex
Second-season debut: So now Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) knows how Bill (Michael Sheen) really feels about her. Love complicating sex? Wow, I don’t think that ever has happened before.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network and Movie Central

3 Ray Donovan
Second-season debut: Ray (Liev Schreiber), Mickey (Jon Voight) and FBI Bureau Chief Cochran (guest star Hank Azaria) deal with the fallout after the murder of Sully (James Woods).
When: Sunday on The Movie Network and Movie Central

4 The People’s Couch
Debut: Watching TV is one thing. But how entertaining is watching people watch TV? This new Canadian series, styled after a show called Gogglebox in the U.K., coddles couch potatoes.
When: Sunday on Bravo

5 Apocalypse: World War I
Debut: Co-produced by companies in Canada and France, this five-part documentary series uses colourized archival footage to bring the horror, lunacy and legacy of the Great War to life.
Monday on TVO; Tuesday on TVO.org

6 Camp X: Secret Agent School
Debut: The first North American school for spies secretly was opened near Whitby, Ont., during World War II. This documentary explores how Camp X laid the foundation for the CIA.
When: Monday on History

7 Rush
Debut: This flashy 10-episode medical drama stars Tom Ellis as Dr. William Rush, an on-call, problem-solving doctor for elite L.A. clients who are willing to pay a cash-only premium for discretion.
When: Thursday on Bravo

8 Married
Debut: This comedy allegedly is about being “miserably in love,” with Russ (Nat Faxon) and Lina (Judy Greer) trying to recall what life was like before kids, debt and suburbia ruined their romance.
When: Thursday on FXX Canada

9 You’re the Worst
Debut: A comedic investigation of what happens when two toxic, self-destructive people – Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) – hook up. So, just like every relationship, ever.
When: Thursday on FXX Canada

10 Dating Naked
Debut: This 10-part “cheeky” reality series sees new suitors, male and female, exposing themselves as they really get to know each other in exotic locations. Wait, don’t they call this Survivor?
When: Thursday on M3

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

Josh Hartnett cuddles the creepy in Penny Dreadful

- May 11th, 2014

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler in Penny Dreadful, gallery

From Pearl Harbor to Black Hawk Down to 30 Days of Night, Josh Hartnett has been in some pretty perilous situations through his acting career.

That’s all peanuts compared to what his character faces in Penny Dreadful, a new historical horror-thriller TV series that debuts Sunday, May 11 on The Movie Network and Movie Central in Canada, and on network-of-origin Showtime in the United States.

Penny Dreadful, which is set in London, England in the 1890s, is one of the oddest shows I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a mishmash of well-known fictional figures from the era, along with other characters who were created specifically for this, with dark supernatural elements poisoning the mix.

“The interweaving of the historic horror characters and our characters is almost, I mean, it’s seamless,” Hartnett said. “You won’t watch the show and say like, ‘Oh, well, there’s a character we’ve all seen before.’ Because I think that even the people who are playing characters you’ve seen before are playing them in a different way.

“It just feels unique from beginning to end. You’re not seeing an interpretation that has been done before.”

Hartnett plays Ethan Chandler, the American star of a second-rate Buffalo Bill-style “wild west show” that has travelled to London. As a money-challenged sharp-shooter who isn’t afraid of a little violence, Ethan gets sucked into working for a couple of creepy strangers named Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and Vanessa Ives (Eva Green).

Let’s just say what Ethan sees on his first night working for Sir Malcolm and Vanessa would have sent me swimming back to North America in a hurry.

“(Ethan) finds himself in London in the middle of this intriguing situation, and he decides to stick around and see what happens,” Harnett explained. “We don’t know why really, and that’s why you have to watch the show.”

Just, uh, don’t watch it alone.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv