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Bonnie and Clyde meet Sons of Anarchy in Lilyhammer; top 10 must-sees for the week

- December 7th, 2013

Emile-Hirsch-and-Holliday-Grainger-play-Bonnie-and-Clyde-in-miniseries

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

1 Bonnie & Clyde
Debut: A four-hour, two-night simulcast over three channels that stars Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger as the infamous Depression-era title couple. Also with Holly Hunter and William Hurt.
When: Sunday on History, Lifetime, A&E

2 Lilyhammer
Second-season debut: Steve Van Zandt, best known as Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist in the E Street Band and Sil on The Sopranos, heads back to Norway for more criminal and cultural clashes.
When: Friday on Netflix

3 Sons of Anarchy
In a special extended episode to wrap up the sixth season, the ramifications of the choices made by Jax (Charlie Hunnam) put his club and his family in jeopardy. Um, isn’t that every episode?
When: Tuesday on Super Channel

4 Kelly Clarkson’s Cautionary Christmas Music Tale
Debut: This is billed as a comedic musical take on a traditional Christmas morality story. Joining Clarkson are the likes of Blake Shelton, Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Heidi Klum and Danica Patrick.
When: Wednesday on NBC, Global

5 Dragons’ Den
The Dragons – Arlene Dickinson, Bruce Croxon, Jim Treliving, David Chilton and Kevin O’Leary – get into the Christmas spirit by listening to holiday-themed pitches. Ugly festive sweater, anyone?
When: Wednesday on CBC

6 Civil War 360
Canadian premiere: Hosted by Ashley Judd, Trace Adkins and Dennis Haysbert – all of whom had ancestors who were greatly impacted – this three-part series explores the American Civil War.
When: Sunday on the Smithsonian Channel

7 Cedar Cove
Back-to-back episodes: Olivia (Andie MacDowell) is shocked by the arrival of a pregnant woman with a possible connection to Jack (Dylan Neal). Yep, might put a damper on turkey dinner.
When: Wednesday on W

8 The Sing-Off
Return: Hosted by Nick Lachey, this reality-competition holiday extravaganza for “a cappella” groups will air seven episodes before Christmas, including the two-hour finale on Dec. 23.
When: Monday on NBC, CTV Two

9 Holidaze
Debut: Made-for-TV movie follows Mel (Jennie Garth), an executive who unexpectedly finds herself in her home town trying to convince residents to let her company construct a massive discount store.
When: Sunday on ABC Spark

10 Modern Family
In a holiday episode directed by Bryan Cranston, Gloria (Sofia Vergara) is on edge because her mother is visiting. Likely will be slightly less violent than Cranston’s recent work on Breaking Bad.
When: Wednesday on ABC, City

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

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

Five cast members from The Sopranos reunite in Steve Schirripa’s Nicky Deuce on YTV

- May 26th, 2013

nickydeuce

Woke up this morning, got myself some gum.

No fewer than five former cast members on The Sopranos make appearances in the youth-oriented made-for-TV movie Nicky Deuce.

It starts with Steve Schirripa, who played Bobby Baccalieri on The Sopranos. Nicky Deuce is based upon a book written by Schirripa and Charles Fleming, and Schirripa also executive-produced the project.

The Sopranos movie is not happening, this is as close as it’s going to get,” Schirripa said of Nicky Deuce, which debuts Monday, May 27 on YTV.

You’re not going to see five guys from The Sopranos on the screen again. It won’t happen.”

Of course, too many of the characters on The Sopranos are dead to make a reunion project viable.

That’s what Tony Sirico (who played Paulie on The Sopranos) keeps telling me,” Schirripa said. “He says, ‘You don’t want a movie because your character is dead.’ He wants a movie because his character was alive when the series ended.

That’s why he brings it up. And believe me, he’s constantly bringing it up.”

Sirico also appears in Nicky Deuce, as do Michael Imperioli (who played Christopher), Vincent Curatola (who played Johnny Sack) and none other than Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini.

Let’s just say Gandolfini (pictured below) displays a talent for physical comedy that you might not have expected.

Absolutely, I laughed out loud,” Schirripa said. “Its so funny to see him doing that stuff, just because of the roles he has played before. He was such a good sport. We had a great time doing the movie up in Montreal.”

Nicky Deuce stars Noah Munck (iCarly) as a nerdy, over-protected teenager who transforms into the title character through his new association with his Uncle Frankie (Schirripa) and some of the other colourful characters dotting the Brooklyn landscape.

I watched some of the iCarly episodes, and then I met (Munck) in person, he’s a very sweet kid,” Schirripa said. “He wasn’t that familiar with Brooklyn, so I was telling him all about the world, and I told him which movies he should be watching, like The Godfather. So he did a little research, and I gotta tell ya, hes a terrific young actor, kind of fearless.

I mean, this kid went toe to toe with Vince Curatola, who is a terrific actor. He went toe to toe with me, I’ve been around for a while. And the scene with Jim Gandolfini, I mean, he’s right with him every step of the way. I think he has a very bright future.”

Nicky Deuce may be aimed at YTV’s traditional audience, but adults can enjoy it, too.

I know it’s a kids’ movie, but it’s not so big and ridiculous,” Schirripa said. “There are a lot of adults in it. There aren’t a lot of moments where an adult watching would go, ‘This is silly.’

There are some really good moments in the scenes with Nicky and Donna (played by Cristine Prosperi from Degrassi). It’s a comedy but it’s very real. That’s the way we wanted to make it.

The truth is, if you’re a Sopranos fan, I think you’ll love the movie.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

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If the F-bomb “Fitz,” say it; Call Me Fitz swears it’s the new Trailer Park Boys

- November 30th, 2012

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Call Me Fitz continues to try to top Trailer Park Boys for rapid-fire usage of foul language. In a comedic way, of course.

What is it about the East Coast?

Pushing the F-bombs-per-minute meter into the red, the original Canadian series Call Me Fitz airs its third-season finale this Sunday, Dec. 2, on HBO Canada.

Fittingly, the finale has an F-bomb in its episode title, specifically, “And Baby Makes … F—! Part Two.” Part One aired last weekend, but it repeats just before the debut of Part Two on Sunday.

If you saw Part One, you know that lead character Fitz (Jason Priestley) was sent to jail. It was part of a setup by Fitz’s alter-ego Larry (Ernie Grunwald) to reunite Fitz with his estranged father Ken (Peter MacNeill), who also happened to be in jail.

Of course, the rivalry between father and son merely intensified behind bars as the two of them battled for control of “the yard.”

In the finale, with Ali (Kathleen Munroe) in labour, Fitz sets out to buy back the car dealership before his son is born, and also before his own father buys it back first.

Guest-starring as “Sean the Gay” – the head of the homosexual mafia – is Steve Schirripa, who you’ll remember for his role as Bobby Baccalieri on The Sopranos.

Not that there was any foul language on THAT show. Hope Schirripa remembered to cover his sensitive ears.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv