Jeremy Likes TV

I like TV. Probably more than any human should.

Posts Tagged ‘JJ Abrams

Morning Links: 2/28/12

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Welcome to the Morning Links. Each weekday, I’ll provide you with some interesting television-related news items culled from the various TV websites I frequent on a regular basis with a slight bit of commentary attached. Pretty straightforward – no fuss, no muss. Let’s do this thing:

*That was certainly quick. James Spader will be leaving The Office at the conclusion of the current ninth season. According to showrunner/Toby Paul Lieberstein, Spader had only wanted a one-year arc from the time that he signed on as Steve Carrell’s ostensible replacement but audiences have been, to be kind, lukewarm to this season of the show and some of that comes from Spader’s character, Robert California, being rather non-descript. I haven’t had time to keep up with this season of The Office but, from everything I’ve heard, I haven’t been missing much. And now I guess I’ll never have to warm up to Spader, either. (Via Hitfix)

*Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito has been cast as the villain in the NBC pilot Revolution from JJ Abrams and Eric Kripke. Esposito has undeniable experience as a bad guy – maybe one of television’s best of the last decade – so yeah… you could say that I’m in on this one. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*Fox has shifted its Kiefer Sutherland-starring series Touch from its previously announced Monday night slot to a comfier post-American Idol Thursday night perch. After seeing its ridiculous pilot when it previewed in late January, believe me when I say the quicker this show ultimately goes away, the better off we’ll all be. (Via TV By The Numbers)

*Jim Rash, better known as the insanely funny Dean Pelton on Community, won an Oscar on Sunday night. He is also awesome. (Via EW)

*South Park returns for its 16th (!) season on March 14 and, frankly, it’s a testament to the show that it continues to remain this relevant and this biting 16 years into its run. (Via TV By The Numbers)

*Lucy Liu is joining CBS’s Sherlock Holmes adaptation Elementary as the first woman to play Watson. Intriguing. Just might be intriguing enough to… nah… Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock is still a horrible idea. (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

*Oh boy… Adult Swim has picked up a series from the entertainment collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (featuring Internet lightning rod Tyler, The Creator) called Loiter Squad that will premiere later in 2012. This should be… interesting, to say the very least. (Via TV By The Numbers)

*So John McCain says he’s not going to watch HBO’s original movie Game Change about the 2008 election? Remind me why we’re supposed to care about what John McCain thinks about anything again? (Via The Hollywood Reporter)

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Morning Links: 2/3/12

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Welcome to the Morning Links. Each weekday, I’ll provide you with some interesting television-related news items culled from the various TV websites I frequent on a regular basis with a slight bit of commentary attached. Pretty straightforward – no fuss, no muss. Let’s get to it:

*People still like Tosh.0. Its fourth season premiere attracted 3.1 million viewers to Comedy Central on Tuesday night and helped buoy the new sketch comedy series Key & Peele to a promising debut at 2.1 million viewers which was Comedy Central’s best series launch since 2009 according to TV By The Numbers. I’ve heard really good things about Key & Peele and am looking forward to checking it out in the next few days.

*I’m an avowed FX whore but, even if I wasn’t, I’d think that this project sounded interesting. From The Hollywood Reporter, comedian Dana Gould and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl are teaming up on a sitcom that follows a band that’s on the verge of breaking up that seeks counseling from a couples therapist. The relaxed content guidelines on FX makes the prospect of this series much more appealing than if it were being pitched to the networks. The THR report also mentions that Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers also has a series in development with FX so, if nothing else, the next FX company party should have a pretty kickass set list.

*While David Letterman may be more ambivalent these days, Howard Stern still hates Jay Leno and refuses to do The Tonight Show even despite the fact that he’s an now NBC employee because Howard’s good people. Leno, on the other hand, is an asshat. [Via Warming Glow]

*Lizzy Caplan (Party Down) was cast as the co-lead in a new Showtime series (Masters Of Sex) about sexytime 60s couple Masters & Johnson? Yes, please. [Via The AV Club]

*Linked from Warming Glow solely for the Alison Brie GIF. Donald Glover’s PSA about saving Community is great, too, because we all know how I feel about Community. But mostly Alison Brie.

*Very nice pilots reference list put together by James Hibberd over at EW. If you’re wondering what’s in contention for spots on the networks’ fall schedules, his list is pretty comprehensive.

*Also from Hibberd, another day… another JJ Abrams pilot, this time for NBC.

*ABC Family has renewed its inexplicable hit, The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, for a fifth season according to TV By The Numbers. The fallout? The promise that Shailene Woodley showed in The Descendants will be squandered for a fifth year.

*Fringe will be falling off of Fox’s schedule for three weeks in March but will run for eight straight weeks ending in May when most of the network’s shows will be airing their season finales. However, the three-week benching has lead some to fear that this is a precursor to Fox axing the show entirely due to its low ratings, even for its low-pressure Friday night perch. As TV critic Myles McNutt pointed out on his Twitter feed yesterday, criticizing Fox for this is pretty unfair. [Via TV By The Numbers]

*Question: If Bryan Fuller’s Munsters reboot for NBC is no longer called “The Munsters” and is ditching the signature makeup of its titular family entirely, does it then cease to be a reboot of The Munsters? [Via The AV Club]

Morning Links: 2/1/12

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Welcome to the Morning Links. Each weekday, I’ll provide you with some interesting television-related news items culled from the various TV websites I frequent on a regular basis with a slight bit of commentary attached. Pretty straightforward – no fuss, no muss. New day, new month. Let’s get to it:

*In today’s bit of good news, Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall reports that HBO has renewed their Michael Mann/David Milch collaboration Luck for a second season following its debut outing on Sunday night. Granted, its premiere ratings weren’t the best, but the show’s really damned good and HBO has a history of renewing its series after their debut outings regardless of what their ratings are. Plus, since Milch’s last series, the inscrutable John From Cincinnati was the rare HBO series not to earn a second season, this was almost a fait accompli as I’m sure they want to stay in the David Milch business and didn’t want to risk his ire again. I’ll have a review of Luck up later this week but a quick preview: it’s a very impressive – if challenging – debut for the show.

*Since Tuesday night is Justified night, why not spend the morning after reading two Justified-centric interviews (after reading my review of episode one and two, which will be posted later today, of the third season, of course). Todd VanDerWerff of The AV Club sits down with Boyd Crowder himself, Walton Goggins, to discuss the evolution of the Boyd character as well as reminiscing on his days on another top-shelf FX drama, The Shield. Meanwhile, Danger Guerrero over at Warming Glow (an honest to God hero of mine – the guy’s a Phillies fan, TV fanatic, and possessor of one of the best Twitter feeds in the world) interviews one of Justified’s writers, Jon Worley.

*If Kristen Bell is going to be absolutely adorable on a talk show, you’re damn right I’m gonna link to it. Or if she’s on a talk show at all, really. Here’s her appearance from earlier this week on The Ellen Show via The Hollywood Reporter where she recounts the surprise she received for her birthday (from her boyfriend Dax Shepard, who’s my mortal enemy).

*Speaking of adorable, The AV Club reports that Natalie Portman is developing a series for CBS based on a Judith Krantz novel. Seeing as this is not only Judith Krantz material but a CBS series, NATALIE PORTMAN STARS IN IT OR GTFO.

*The UFC’s second outing on Fox Saturday night did decent ratings for what turned out to be a boring card. I love MMA and I know good fight cards and you, Saturday night’s card, turned out to be very, very bad. I feel sad if that was some people’s introduction to MMA because I promise you, the quality of fights on Saturday night was not representative of a majority of the UFC’s events. But at least Michael Bisping lost.

*From The Hollywood Reporter, The CW picked up three pilots on Tuesday, including one that’s a collaboration between JJ Abrams and One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn. Seeing as it’s coming from those two, I can guarantee you that I will watch the hell out of that show against my will. One of the others is also described as a “time travel musical.” Uh… yeah, good luck with that one, CW.

*Again from The Hollywood Reporter, ABC also picked up a handful of pilots and since all of them look like varying degrees of garbage, I’ll have no more to say on the subject.

*On the subject of The CW, via The AV Club they’ve cast the lead of their Green Arrow adaptation with this guy from The Vampire Diaries and Hung. <shrugs>

*A bunch of people got axed from The X Factor but we don’t care, right? Right.

*Finally, RIP Mr. Pitt. Hopefully your accidental Hitler mustache doesn’t hurt you in the afterlife.


Review: Alcatraz

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Grade: C+

JJ Abrams has become a cottage industry unto himself over the past 15 years or so. He’s gone from moderately successful television writer/producer (Felicity, Alias) to moderately successful film writer (Joy Ride) to hugely successful television writer/producer (Lost) to hugely successful film director (Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek, Super 8). It’s because of these successes that his name value alone gets shows greenlit, particularly when looking at the last five years. Sometimes they become critical and niche champions [1] like Fringe, and sometimes they become generic [2] procedurals that either inexplicably hit with the masses (Person Of Interest) or flop terribly (Undercovers). Imagine, then, if Abrams were to use his name value to combine these approaches. The result would probably look something like Fox’s new Alcatraz.

Alcatraz somewhat fantastically posits: What if all 302 inmates at one of the country’s most famous prisons just mysteriously disappeared in 1963, only to begin reappearing without aging in the present-day? What if the prison’s shutdown was not because the facility was outdated, but because it was part of a massive cover-up? Is this conceit enough to sustain what is, in essence, a police procedural? Based on the two-hour premiere [3], the results are mixed. Alcatraz itself as a jumping off point is interesting. Personally, beyond the Nicolas Cage-starring The Rock, there aren’t many shows/movies that have used the prison as a setting that immediately come to mind. At the center of Alcatraz is Sarah Jones (Big Love, Sons Of Anarchy) as Rebecca Madsen, a San Francisco police detective turned quasi-government agent. Madsen stumbles upon the conspiracy central to Alcatraz’s premise while investigating the death of the prison’s former warden only to find that the perpetrator is none other than one of Alcatraz’s former inmates. The fact that the man was presumed dead for nearly fifty years leads her to seek out the help of a local Alcatraz expert, Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto (Jorge Garcia, Lost). In the course of their investigation, the two are clued into the mystery of the inmates’ disappearance by shadowy government agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park) and his assistant, Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra, ER). Madsen also has a personal connection to Alcatraz in that the man who raised her, surrogate uncle Ray Archer [4] (Robert Forster, Jackie Brown), was a prison guard at Alcatraz in the 60s and also claims to be the best friend of her biological grandfather, supposedly a fellow guard at the prison. However, as the first hour progresses we learn that Madsen’s grandfather was not who she thought he was and instead is one of the escaped inmates – a fugitive that Madsen has been chasing for murdering her partner and the reason that Hauser [5] brings her into the fold.

Abrams’ shows have often been noteworthy for the actresses that he discovers to anchor them [6] and with Alcatraz, Jones is the next potential ingénue in line. Is she up to the task? It’s hard to say, at least initially. She’s fine in the role and has been compared to early-Fringe Torv in her style, which isn’t necessarily a compliment since it took Torv a season or so to grow into her role as that show’s protagonist. Jones is attractive and has impressed in smaller roles in the past, but the jury’s still out on whether she’s going to be able to carry Alcatraz as its nominal star. She’s almost like a poor man’s Reese Witherspoon – the potential is there, but she hasn’t quite harnessed it yet. Jones does have some support from her co-stars, particularly Garcia, who’s essentially playing Hurley if he were an expert on famous prisons, and Forster who is criminally underused – he only appears in one scene total in the first two episodes – if the show decides to use them properly. Neill is a little less impressive, which could be the fault of his role as the keeper of the show’s secrets and thus needing to play things close to his vest. There’s also a nice reveal involving Nagra at the end of the second episode that had me a little more encouraged about her prospects after her not registering much of an impression for most of the first two hours.

On the subject of the second episode, it was interesting to see that Fox scheduled Alcatraz as it did by presenting the first two episodes on the same night. On the one hand, there was no wait to see how the series would settle in following its initial installment. There was an immediate look at what the show would look like post-pilot, which dispensed the need for much speculation. On the other, the second hour was by far the weaker of the two and if this is the type of show that Alcatraz decides that it wants to be, I don’t know how long I’ll have an interest in sticking around. It felt almost USA Network-ish in that it bookended itself with nods to the series’ mythology while the bulk of the episode focused on the not-very-compelling search for one of the vanished inmates, a psychotic sniper who was working through familial issues via his murderous rampages. Less of this and more of the overriding mythology in the future, please. As I mentioned, only an interesting development in the final minutes with Nagra’s character [7] saved the episode from a complete trashing.

It’s difficult to tell whether Alcatraz is going to be the type of show that not only has staying power [8] – an increasingly difficult proposition in today’s television landscape – but whether it’s going to be one worthy of any type of critical attention. In its favor: Abrams’ track record is pretty solid when it comes to female-fronted action dramas, it contains some of the elements of shows like Prison Break (before it became a parody of itself) and The Fugitive, and possesses an intriguing premise. Running against it: the second hour was dreadfully boring and Alcatraz seems like it could easily settle into the uninteresting bad-guy-of-the-week formula. One possible saving grace is that another Abrams-involved show, Fringe, also seemed ready to settle into formulaic boredom before embracing its weirdness and getting much, much better as a series. If Jones is able to find her rhythm and the show decides to be interesting instead of safe and boring, there could be something here. If not… the world will have the second Person Of Interest that no one asked for.

[1] Though terribly ratings-challenged.
[2] Read: boring.
[3] The premiere wasn’t so much a two-hour pilot because it was clear that these were two separate episodes that Fox decided to air on the same night.
[4] No relation to Sterling or Mallory.
[5] Who is himself revealed to be a former young Alcatraz guard who was to be transferring prisoners from The Rock on the night of the disappearance in 1963.
[6] Think Keri Russell (Felicity), Jennifer Garner (Alias), Evangeline Lilly (to a lesser degree on Lost), and Anna Torv (Fringe).
[7] SPOILER: She appears in a flashback to 1963 at the end of “Ernest Cobb” looking as old as she does in the present-day, meaning that the phenomenon affected the Alcatraz inmates seemingly has impacted her as well.
[8] The early ratings had to be encouraging for Fox as Alcatraz became Fox’s highest-rated drama debut in three years by attracting almost 20 million combined viewers in its first two hours.

Miscellany:
*I’d say that right now, Alcatraz is in some ways comparable to NBC’s Grimm. Both shows possess an interesting mythology that need to be fleshed out but the self-contained procedural aspects of each are pretty boring thus far.
*Another aspect of Alcatraz that I hope continues is the differing perspectives of the various inmates in the show. For example, when Ernest Cobb (the episode two baddie) is initially brought to Alcatraz, we see Jack Sylvain (episode one’s villain) in the prison from a different angle than what was presented in the pilot. It’s similar to how Lost handled flashbacks that eventually tied its own characters together.
*Beyond casting Hurley, Alcatraz’s producers also cribbed from Lost by landing composer Michael Giacchino to do Alcatraz’s score.
*After Madsen and Hauser capture Cobb at the end of episode two, Hauser shoots Cobb (an accomplished sniper) in the right hand, taking away his dominant hand to discourage more shooting. He’s a bastard and that’s kind of cool.
*”Is anyone else’s head exploding right now?” Yes, Hurley, they are a little. Alcatraz likes to pack a whole lotta exposition into a small little space.
*Episodes below via Hulu as usual. Enjoy.

Written by jeremylikestv

January 23, 2012 at 11:01 pm