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Meloni says his Surviving Jack character is “Archie Bunker without the racism”

- March 26th, 2014

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If everyone had a dad like Christopher Meloni’s character in Surviving Jack, we’d all be greeting each other in therapy.

“Sometimes I would think of Archie Bunker without the racism,” said Meloni, whose new sitcom Surviving Jack debuts Thursday, March 27 on Fox and CTV.

Set in the early 1990s, Surviving Jack is based on Justin Halpern’s autobiographical book, I Suck at Girls. Halpern also is responsible for the Twitter feed and book Sh*t My Dad Says, which was turned into a TV series starring William Shatner that got cancelled after one season.

In this new series, Jack Dunlevy (Meloni) is a no-nonsense oncologist who mostly has been at work while his teenage kids Rachel (Claudia Lee) and Frankie (Connor Buckley) were growing up. But now that mom Joanne (Rachael Harris) is going to law school, Jack suddenly is “in charge of parenting,” as he puts it.

“Yeah, this also is based on my father, and I think the line we try to never cross, and the line that my father won’t cross, is I always feel he’s saying what he thinks honestly,” Halpern said. “And sometimes that will sting.

“My dad was worried I would go out into the world and live in what he calls a world of bull—-, which is, like, people in L.A. telling you, ‘Oh, this is great,’ but they don’t really think it is..”

Halpern said he knew Meloni (Law & Order: SVU, True Blood, NYPD Blue, Oz) was the right guy for Surviving Jack after seeing some of the interaction between Meloni and his own kids.

Meloni explained, “The highest compliment I have yet received in my parenting job was when I gave a look to my son like this – (Meloni glared blankly but intently) – and my son’s response was, ‘I don’t know if you’re kidding or not.’

“And I said, “That’s where I want you.’ ”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Kristin Bauer van Straten “voices” theories on Pam being True Blood’s most human character

- November 22nd, 2013

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Kristin Bauer van Straten is the voice of Pamela Swynford De Beaufort. Phew, that’s a lot of names.

But we mean it both figuratively and literally with regard to the long-running vampire series True Blood. Only select actresses have the pipes to deliver Pam’s sarcastic zingers.

“Yes, but I had to lower it, because in my normal voice – my higher, optimistic voice – it just doesn’t work,” van Straten says. “It had to drop a little bit. And the Southern drawl helps.”

True Blood is heading into its seventh and final season next summer on HBO and HBO Canada, and van Straten recently was in Toronto to promote the series. The fifth season currently is available on DVD, with the sixth season due to arrive on DVD next spring.

“I did not, boy, I did not,” van Straten says when asked if she anticipated True Blood would run this long. “I guess there always is that hope in an actor’s mind that at some point you will get a great role to sink your teeth into, for lack of better words. But you can’t hope for that with every audition.

“At a certain point you have to see yourself in it, you have to really create it before you book it, so you can book it. Then all the rest of it, which keeps it going for seven years, is so out of your control. But it has surprised me.

“I’m so biased, because I love these people and these writers so much. But they’ve taken it to a new depth. Saying they’ve taken it to a new level almost implies superficiality. They’ve peeled the onion every year, for each character.”

For Pam, a vampire whose coldness provides much of the humour on True Blood, the onion-peeling has revealed a softer side when it comes to her maker Eric Northman, played by Alexander Skarsgard. Some observers actually have called Pam the most human character on the show.

“I know, isn’t that funny?” van Straten says. “It’s almost like in painting, where I like to paint fairly dark, because the highlights just pop.”

In that regard, True Blood‘s Kristin Bauer van Straten is a “pop-culture” icon.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

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

Top 10 TV must-sees for the week of July 21

- July 20th, 2013

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of July 21:

1 Animation Domination High-Def

Debut: This project gives us two new cartoons, namely Axe Cop, with the voice of Nick Offerman, and High School USA!, with Mandy Moore and Vincent Kartheiser.

 When: Preview Sunday on Fox; regular time slot the following Saturday on Fox

2 Top Chef Masters

Season-five debut: Canadian celebrity chef Lynn Crawford is one of the competitors on this U.S.-made show this year. And Canadian Gail Simmons is the new head critic.

When: Wednesday on Food Network

3 True Blood

Bill (Stephen Moyer, pictured above) seeks advice from that mysterious vampire deity Lilith (Jessica Clark) regarding the ongoing vampire-human crisis. Can’t we all just retract our fangs and get along?

When: Sunday on HBO Canada

4 The Vineyard

Debut: Set in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., this reality series follows a mix of 11 locals and so-called “wash-ashores” who are working, living and playing together for the summer.

When: Tuesday on ABC Spark

5 Ray Donovan

Ray (Liev Schreiber) and the family visit Bel Air Academy, in the hope that his daughter Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) might be enrolled there.

When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

6 American Haunting

Debut: Get ready for three hours of spookiness, examining three families whose lives have been tormented by paranormal activity in their homes. This is not a drill, ghosts.

When: Saturday on A&E

7 Cedar Cove

Debut: This series stars Andie Macdowell as Judge Olivia Lockhart, whose municipal court in Cedar Cove is where the town’s surprises and secrets are unveiled.

When: Sunday on W

8 Dexter

Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) tracks down another serial killer from a list provided by Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling).

When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

9 Breaking Pointe

Second-season debut: If TV has taught me anything, it’s that new dancers always bring new drama. It’s proven again at an elite ballet school in Salt Lake City.

When: Monday on CW

10 The Newsroom

Maggie (Alison Pill) gets an assignment she has been begging for, but it turns out some professional wishes are better left unfulfilled.

When: Sunday on HBO Canada

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

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