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Why stop the bleeding now? The Originals takes another bite at the vampire genre

- August 1st, 2013

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Another vampire show. Like we really need one.

Julie Plec has heard it all before.

Plec is the executive producer of The Originals, which debuts this fall on CW and CHCH. It’s a spinoff of The Vampire Diaries, on which Plec also is an executive producer.

“When we did The Vampire Diaries we got that exact same question because of  Twilight and True Blood,” Plec recalled. “And everyone was pretty much like, ‘There has already been Buffy (The Vampire Slayer), which was so terrific, and now there’s all the saturation in the marketplace for this particular genre, aren’t you afraid of being the tipping point?’

“And we were like, ‘Yes! We’re so afraid, because it’s going to happen. That’s it.  We’re going to be the thing that kills it forever.’ But not only did it not kill it forever, it thrived. It even reinvigorated the genre and opened the doors to, I think, a lot of other genre shows since then.

“So, same answer. Yep, this could be the thing where finally people are like, ‘No more vampires, darn you.’ Or, it could just continue to breathe powerful life into the genre that has been around in literature, film and television for a hundred years.”

If you watch The Vampire Diaries, you probably already recognize that last season there was a so-called “backdoor pilot” for The Originals, when Klaus, played by Joseph Morgan, took a trip to New Orleans. Klaus and his siblings Elijah, played by Daniel Gillies, and Rebekah, played by Claire Holt, were exiled from New Orleans a century ago by their relentless hunter father.

Drawn back by a tip that a plot is brewing against him in the supernatural melting pot that is the French Quarter, Klaus eventually is joined by Elijah and Rebekah. But they must deal with Marcel, the vampire who runs New Orleans now, played by Charles Michael Davis.

According to Plec, The Originals can function as a stand-alone show. The first episode will be a re-telling of the backdoor pilot from a different perspective. In other words, you don’t need to have seen The Vampire Diaries. In fact, the idea of The Originals is to skew a little older than The Vampire Diaries does.

“(The Vampire Diaries) is more of a coming-of-age story, cemented in the idea of first love and the struggles of being a vampire,” Plec said. “(The Originals) is a show that is not about struggling to be a vampire. It’s about embracing vampirism. It’s about revelling in it.

“Some of these vampires are a thousand years old, and really, it’s about the power struggle over the family community and the supernatural community of an entire city. We like to look at it as, we graduated high school and went to college and are getting our little master’s degree in The Originals.”

Continuing along those lines, the vampire genre will get to the old-age home eventually. But perhaps not just yet.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Boobs really ARE the answer; a look back at TV trends in 2012

- December 23rd, 2012

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In his opening monologue at the Emmy Awards in September, host Jimmy Kimmel noted that cable networks accounted for all the shows in the outstanding drama category in 2012.

“The Academy is sending a clear message,” Kimmel said. “And that message is, ‘Show us your boobs.’ ”

That’s Lena Dunham of Girls in the above picture, by the way, taking Kimmel’s advice to heart – or is it having her cake and eating it, too? – in the opening bit that kicked off the Emmys.

True enough, boobs are the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems, to paraphrase Homer Simpson (he was talking about alcohol). But it actually is more complicated when it comes to TV.

The calendar year 2012 continued the trend of viewers peeling off to specialty programming and specialty channels, as the big broadcast networks try to figure out where they fit in the future of television.

The past year also saw a significant increase in the amount of internet-first “TV” programming, through services such as Netflix and the like.

Genre-wise, there has been a notable push in the past year toward fantasy, at least when it comes to drama. Shows such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Once Upon a Time and American Horror Story remind us that when real life gets boring, we always can make something up.

Isn’t it strange that in some ways we now expect our comedies to be more grounded than our dramas? When an alien-based sitcom like The Neighbors comes along, many people turn up their noses because it’s too “ridiculous.” But some of those same people happily will watch Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead and think, “Wow, great art.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just amusing when you think of it that way.

So looking back at TV in 2012, we’ll remember zombies and dwarves, good wives and mad men, drug dealers and high-class schemers, butlers and bootleggers.

And boobs. Lots and lots of boobs.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

All Arrow, no slings, as Stephen Amell gets to tell crew about record ratings

- October 12th, 2012

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Arrow was on the mark ratings-wise on both sides of the border for its debut this week, and Canadian star Stephen Amell was thrilled to share the news with his co-workers.

“It was really encouraging, because everything seemed to be in place, but then you just never know if people actually are going to watch the show,” Amell said on Friday. That’s Amell above, celebrating the success of the show with some kind of torture ritual, apparently.

“So I woke up to the news of the (U.S.) viewership (Thursday) morning,” Amell continued. “And then when Bell Media released their Canadian numbers, I was in a quick break on set and I got to tell the crew about the Canadian numbers (Arrow is shot in Vancouver).

“Which was really cool, because most of the crew are Canadian. So to have such a big bow here (in Canada), I think it resonated just as much if not more as the news in the States.”

In Canada, Arrow’s debut on Wednesday scored the highest viewership in the history of CTV Two, at 1.1 million viewers. Bell Media is going to re-air the Arrow pilot on its main CTV network Sunday night.

In the States on CW, which is Arrow’s network of origin, the premiere averaged 4.14 million viewers. That was CW’s best debut for a new series since The Vampire Diaries in 2009.

“In both instances, in the States and here, it seemed that the viewership went up through the hour,” Amell said. “And that makes me excited, because in the same way that I’m proud of the show overall and proud of the pilot, I think that episode two and episode three, I like them better.

“They take everything we do in the pilot, that template, and we start to zero in on it. So I’m excited for next week already.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Well-rested Stephen Amell prepares for Arrow with some “private practice.”

- October 3rd, 2012

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When Stephen Amell was cast in the new superhero series Arrow, he happened to be working on an existing series, Private Practice.

So, Amell thought, why not take advantage of this opportunity to pick some brains?

“I asked Benjamin Bratt, Amy Brenneman, Kate Walsh and Tim Daly, who all have played leads in shows, I asked each one of them for a tidbit of advice,” recalled Amell, who is pictured above in Arrow garb (at least, we hope it’s Arrow garb, and not casual Fridays). “Not like a game plan or anything, just, ‘Hey guys, give me one thing.’

“Each of them had something different. But then all of them added, ‘Oh, by the way, when you get more than 30 minutes to yourself, sleep.’

“They were like, ‘Lunch time is not for eating. Lunch time is for sleeping. You have to train yourself to be able to shut down for 25 minutes.’ They all said it, independent of one another. Sleep.”

So both Amell and TV viewers should aim to be well-rested for the debut of Arrow, which takes place Wednesday, Oct. 10 on CW and CTV Two.

Arrow, not shockingly, is based on a comic book. But purists aside, most people actually don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of every comic book ever written, so here are the basics.

After a deadly shipwreck, billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Amell) goes missing and is presumed dead. Five years later he is discovered alive on a remote island in the Pacific.

Oliver returns home, but his friends and family quickly detect that he is not the man he used to be, mentally or physically. But only Oliver knows just how dramatically he has changed, and how he now is on a quest to right past wrongs.

Amell is a Canadian actor whose resume includes not only Private Practice, but also a season on Hung, a stint on The Vampire Diaries, the Canadian series ReGenesis and Rent-a-Goalie, as well as loads of episodic work on various series.

But Arrow is a big step in Amell’s acting career, and he knows it.

“I don’t feel like it’s live or die, but I do feel ready for it,” Amell said.

“I felt comfortable taking an ownership. I felt comfortable dealing with actors who are much more experienced than I am, either because they’re older or just because I haven’t been in the business that long, who are looking to me to anchor the show.

“I felt like a host at first. I felt like it was my responsibility to introduce people (on set).”

Arrow, which is shot in Vancouver, also stars Colin Donnell as Tommy, Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance, David Ramsey as John Diggle, Willa Holland as Thea Queen, with Susanna Thompson as Moira Queen and Paul Blackthorne as Detective Quentin Lance.

“I know actors say this all the time, but we have a great ensemble cast,” Amell said. “I get what you’re saying about the responsibility, though.

“I’m playing a superhero on TV. It’s not called Arrow and Friends.”

All the more reason Amell needs his sleep. Remember, Stephen, a weary Arrow is a dreary Arrow.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv