Terriers: Season 1 – Advance TV Review

“Terriers” [Wednesdays/10pm] has the structure of a comedy but in many way plays like a broken record. Like the aspect of “The Cleaner” on rival cable network A&E, the leads in this new series from FX are wholly broken and that is what makes them interesting to watch. The darkness might play a little too raw for some viewers but it becomes about the balance between the humor and the brimming drama. Donal Logue plays Hank, an ex-cop seemingly bent on his own destruction in very improbable ways. Like a Fisher King doing good deeds on his road to calamity, there is a throughline that points to something bad happening along the way. Michael Raymond James, late of “True Blood”, brings alot of brevity as his would-be partner Britt who has problems of his own. Having talked to Michael at Summer TCAs where he revealed that he and Donal crashed in the same house while shooting the first season [which had already been fully shot], what works the best is the easy going manners between the two of them and how that is balanced by Laura Allen who plays Katie, Britt’s girlfriend.

Over the first three episodes, the sense of Hank’s self-destructive sensibility also begins to affect everyone around him as if he has begun to form a deep black hole where some good is done but ultimately a price is paid. In the third episode which co-stars Olivia Williams, the morality and mortality of Hank begins to take a more realistic turn. Ted Griffin, who wrote “Oceans 11” and created this show, knows how to mix humor and drama but having Shawn Ryan, who worked on FX’s “The Shield” and recent a season of Fox’s “Lie To Me” as show runner shows an interesting balance. Like “Sons Of Anarchy” but with less operatic overtones, “Terriers” has the possibility of great television simply because it understands that human nature is about high and low points wherever they exist. Out of 5, I give it a 3.

Envisioning The Pace: Returning TV Shows – Summer 2010 – Review – Part I

Watching the summer bloom at full boar, one gets the feeling that summer series are much more confident in their stride than most fall series making their premiere. The pressure is off…sure but the reality is that most of these entries know their formula tried and true without breaking a sweat. The one long holdover (“Futurama”) never skipped a beat in the near decade of its absence while “Royal Pains” and “Burn Notice” throttle along at pace. “Flashpoint” knows what it is and doesn’t rock the boat while “Lie To Me” seems to have found its stride with star Tim Roth as the clock ticks.

Futurama The long awaited return of Bender, Leela and the lot shows the essentials of their possible resurgence but keeping up to date is the key. Granted with Comedy Central they can go alot further than they could before, especially in regards to sex but, in the first two episodes, the ideal is more intellectual and less sight gag related which is what the audience needs to respond to. Bender needs to find his stride for sure but Leela with the voice of Katey Sagal is as up to date as ever. The animation shows a few improvements but that was never the status quo of the series. It was a balance of Fry’s optimism and Bender’s complete ignorance of good taste which made the old series work. The good angle is that this feels like a continuation and not a redo.

Burn Notice Mixing it up with Michael Weston while still keeping his plight engaging gets harder every season that goes by even with a jump in viewers. The last time we saw Weston he was being pursued by the cops and captured. It turns out that he is being worked by another position inside the government and yet not. This gives him another structure to work within but his first assignment causes him to burn another spy. The difference is that this one is a desk jockey. The new spy Jesse who looks like a UFC/The Rock export wants to find and kill the person who burned him which creates a new dynamic (since that person is Michael). It also provides someone for Weston to get jealous of in terms of Fiona. It is a good set up that will provide necessary tension throughout the season. The question becomes: what is the end game ultimately with Michael Weston? The series is still fun to watch but unlike forensic shows, Michael’s excuses are starting to feel a little hollow.

Royal Pains Resolving the loss of money in a single episode is what makes series television persistent and irresistible to cliffhangers. With Hank Med, the paradox is to add characters while still calling into question the different traits of both the good doctor and his easily distracted brother. While the inevitable and dexterious casting of Henry Winkler as the boys’ father who chiseled them out of money last year provides a thorn from which to pluck, a jaunt to Cuba in the 3rd and 4th episodes adds a needed cultural shift which gives the series a larger world view. Like “Burn Notice” in its early episodes this season, a change of scenery is necessary to show the shifting idelogy of the characters. If they do adjust in similar ways, there becomes a pointlessness to their actions but the catch is making it negligible. The interweaving love structures of all three characters in Hank Med show a transgression of emotional traits from Evan’s newfound compassion to Hank’s relaxation to Divya’s interpretation of her identity as an individual. The subtle pushing of the writing comes off effortless in every way showing a control of character which hopefully will continue to evolve.

Flashpoint The embrace of this series is braced around the CSI brand of not changing the rush of plot progression unless need be. By sticking to simple human stories and not delving into a brand of mythology that has overcome many starting series, a hour long such as this retains a section of viewers looking for simple escape. The SWAT set-up with rookies coming up, a captain at odds with his emotions and a lieutenant looking to make his bones all plays into the game from a cult-like raid on a compound to a shock jock radio host that gets a dose of reality. This procedural knows its audience and tries not to stray far from the grain but as a Canadian acquisition as a summer fill-in, it fits the ideal perfectly, surefire but safe in its texture.

Lie To Me In his continuing go-ound as a doctor/detective who can sniff out lies purely on the instinct of tells, Tim Roth seems to have grown into his character’s wit. Whereas it seemed, in the first season, he was playing the mentality of the man as slightly aloof but mostly serious, he has reversed that balance and found a texture more like “House” while still retaining an identity of his own. From a run-in with an old Irish crime boss to his on/off relationship with his ex-wife (played with delicious candor by Jennifer Beals), the pacing and pinpoints of humor really are starting to work. The interesting angle is that at one point in the premiere episode when Roth is trying to extract information from one of his employees with the Irish boss watching, you see him figuring it out and one harks back to the transformative eyes that utterly consumed his mesmerizing performance in Tim Burton’s “Planet Of The Apes”. The pattern in this series is keeping the audience on their toes while Roth lights the screen. He looks like he is enjoying the rub but the worry is that novelty in this type of character only lasts for a certain time.

Outlaws, Espionage & The Battle For Story: The FX TCA Summer 2009 Press Tour – Feature

In comparison to Fox proper, FX has always been about darker elements and pushing what is available on basic cable. This has not been more prevalent lately than in the criminal family drama “Sons Of Anarchy”. With new elements in the way in terms of animation (“Archer”) and a new drama: “Lawman” from “Speed” writer Graham Yost, the expansion of the interesting continues.


Archer This new animated series, with a bit of the flash structuring in its edgy demeanor, comes from the mind of Adam Reed who was the madman behind “Frisky Dingo” and “Sealab 2021” on Cartoon Network, In translating to FX, the key becomes sizing and viciously attacking the demo making them see things your way. The concept of the series is based in espionage in the style of “Mission Impossible” and “Man From U.N.C.L.E” but with a bit of heinous characterization. Archer, played by H. Jon Benjamin (who has also done voices forr “Assy McGee” and “The Venture Brothers”, both on Cartoon Network), is a hero who has mommy issues. He is sent back to the office and now has to deal with his ex, Lana, an oversexed and seemingly vindictive co-worker played by The Boondocks’ Aisha Tyler. Hijinks ensue.

Reed says he likes taking familiar genres and subverting them as much as possible. You build on the backdrop and then skew it as badly or horribly as you can. The most important relationship in the series for him is between Archer and his mom. It undermines everything. FX seemed like a good fit for it and Reed thought so after seeing “Its Always Funny In Philadelphia” which is one of his favorite shows. He says that the spying is hard to animate so they just don’t do it a lot of the time. In terms of his background, he never went to school for this. Cartoon Network was his training ground and, in his own admission, animation cuts you a lot of slack.

People can do very bad things but you have to have your characters doing even worse. It has to be completely divorced from reality. Reed also hints that Ron Perlman who is on the TCA FX Press Tour with “Sons Of Anarchy”as well talked to him at the party for Fox the night before about playing a villain on the show. Reed seems to love that.

Aisha Tyler reflects that Lana was drawn before she came to the project…but the girl was stacked, and she seemed to like it. Tyler says there has been a lot of cackling in the booth. The aspect of doing these type of animation projects is that you can say and pursue angles of dialogue that you could never get away with in live action. Beyond that though, she says that there is a beauty to the animation in “Archer” much like “The Boondocks” but in a different way.

The key is the balance between the subversive, the comedy and the through progression on the series. While this style might have worked on Adult Swim, transitioning it into a larger world and staying there requires planning and effectiveness. Time will tell. The show does not have a premiere date yet but will likely be sometime in the fall.


Sons Of Anarchy This show came out of nowhere last year. I had rounded up a lot of episodes and, on a plane trip back from overseas, watched a lot of them back to back. Seeing the progression within, there is intense visceral nature to the show. It blends at kind of grounded darkness with elements of classical-based character dramas, most similarly to “The Godfather”. This is a show undeniably about family beyond anything else. Love is a hard thing and these these people beat it to death while still still staying the course: protect the club (in this case Sam Crow) at all costs.

Creator Kurt Sutter who is married to series co-star Katey Sagal, doesn’t pull his punches. The darkness that she has to confront in the premiere of the second season alone apparently changes a lot of things. Kurt wants to believe that the way he pushes the envelope is never gratuitous but instead grittingly real and engaging. The premiere he says creates an emotional engine for Sagal’s Jemma and creates the season’s overarching progression. Sending Jemma on a spiritual path is a tricky and ultimately a personal progression. The importance of family is paramount but, at times, you have to take creative liberties to make it work. Emotions dont happen in a vacuum and with these kind of characters. The kickback, as a result, is unbelievable.

Charlie Hunnam, who plays Jax, creates an organic and ultimately brilliant characterization of a young man caught between two worlds. The way he is able to play both viciousness, conscience, violence and love, all within a certain time is phenomenal. But this is only possible because of the cast around him. After the panel I talked one-on-one with Ron Perlman for nearly 15 minutes. He and Charlie are good friends off set and he sees something so soulful, good natured and brilliant in this kid that it is very hard when they really have to go at it which he says is even more hard edged this season. This world for Ron is uncomfortable to play and that is the challenge of it. The physicality of the this man Clay he plays, the emotional structure, the notion of leadership…all these figure into it. It is another in a string of wonderful career moves for Perlman following such iconic roles in “Hellboy” and “City Of Lost Children”. He says his fortune is blind luck and when Kurt came to him on this role, there was just a power to it. He also says that the premiere episode changes the relationship among many, especially with Jemma, his wife, played by Sagal, For him he said it is quite a ride, scary but fulfilling.

Charlie says that evolving Jax is the structure of the setting that the character finds himself in. He has spent times with guys who live that  style and you learn. He says that his best friend went to Sturgis in North Dakota which is one of the biggest bikers rallies in the nation and that the show is embraced by many in the biker community. In terms of the throughline, Jax is steadfast as he has been all along. His allegiance lies with the club and his future lies within the club, whatever form it may take.

The women on the show are very strong which is another aspect that very much elevates the show above others. Kurt says that there are multiple women in the writing room and that perspective is necessary, especially in such a testosterone fueled show. Maggie Siff, who plays Tara who is in love with Jax and ultimately is pulled into his life, knows how intense it can be. In mentioning a killing scene in a bedroom during the first season, she says that that was a severe edge they have to walk and sometimes cross.

Kurt told me later that they had to make adjustments to that scene to get it past the censors because after Jax kills Kohn who is the man stalking Tera, they make love but they (the writers and the production) had to make it so the bloody body of Kohn was half in the bathroom and not in the room with them. Kurt thought that this little fact, just because of the irony, was amusing

Katey says that while she and Tara still go to a head, there is more of an understanding between them in terms of love for Jax but the key is that Tara  understands one thing: always protect the club. Sagal also said the six weeks she had to exist in this new structure that her character undergoes was difficult since they have to go home to their kids (Kurt is her husband). The series is not for the faint of heart but its effectiveness speaks volumes.


Show Runners Panel In an interesting amalgamation, FX brought together the bulk of their showrunners to discuss the status of the industry and their part within in. With the Leno debate of 10pm skewing a lot of scripted programming, basic cable is the last stand against a new order. With USA and FX taking the forefront along with AMC, the stand off is approaching, Graham Yost, whose new series “Lawman” starring Timothy Olyphant, premieres later in the fall, says that because they shot the pilot late, already 40 people in terms of writers had been put out by the NBC decision. He had had a previous series at that network which had been cancelled before the last shows aired, The episodes ended up doing OK and they thought about making more but the team had already dispersed. His philosophy is when you are doing good, think about the worst thing that you have done…and prepare for that. Kurt Sutter, who runs “Sons Of Anarchy”, again pulls no punches saying that NBC is “the one to hate right now”. He doesn’t know what is going to happen. However, in his perspective the move put a lot of people on leave which, in his opinion, “sucks”. 

Todd Kessler, who runs the Glenn Close-starrer “Damages”, says that a year from now we will have a very different conversation. It might not work out. The one thing he does cite about FX is that when they give you a 13 episode order, you get to make the 13 and not worry about ratings until after the fact. Some other networks, NBC among them, do not guarantee the full airing or even production at times. Kessler says that, by comparison, FX has been true to their word and stood by them,

Peter Tolan, who runs “Rescue Me” with Denis Leary, addresses the aspect of time shifting and DVR watching as a deterrent, pointing to the fact that a very small portion of the audience actually watches every episode of your show. He spotlights that NBC (which is now a center of discussion) was known for very elegant work. He cites “Hill Street Blues” as a prime example. He says now that there is not as much spirit as in evidence there. Personally, he doesn’t care when the audience is watching as long as they “are” watching. Tolan highlights that the business is cyclical and reality will come down. 

Shawn Ryan, who was the show runner on “The Shield” and recently took over NBC’s “Lie To Me” starring Tim Roth, speaks about the attention and hand holding at FX compared to other networks. He says that the notes are comparable to the writing on the episode. If something needs to be changed, it usually makes sense. It starts new with each show. This year he is new on “Lie To Me” and they are trying new stuff so Fox’s eyeballs are on them. His perception with the Leno 10pm quandry is the perspective of the value of a show after it has aired. He says that “Heroes” is a good example. Even though it is expensive, it has significant value overseas. When these shows work, they make a lot of money. He suggested we (the TV journalists) put NBC’s “feet to the fire” and take them to task. He says that the key is to do more development and make more successful shows. Originally in the list of important things when making a show, hiring a writer was 6th. Now with the success specifically of “CSI”, that is changing.

The future is coming. But, of course, that too, is a matter of perspective.

Cleveland, Multiverses & Moving Targets: The 2009 Fox TCA Summer Press Tour – Feature

The key of progression with Fox is engendered by the slickness of its shows. The balance of the light and the dark is always in the forefront. With a majority of the shows highlighted at the Summer 09 Press Tour, the key seems to build branding and enhancing a greater thought on existing properties.


The Cleveland Show The angle on this specific series is obviously based as the spin-0ff from the “Family Guy” world. Of course, the thought becomes how far out it will go. An instigation of what the show will be like was brought to life in a distinctly vivid way with a table read with a lot of the cast during a luncheon. Watching Mike Henry dip right into the voice of Cleveland in front of you shows the power and characterization that can be explored in animation. Seth McFarlane takes on the role of Tim, a bear who works at Cleveland’s new office. Even that sentence just gets a laugh straight off. This cast of characters, unlike “American Dad”, has just the right feeling. Cleveland Jr. voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson,  just has an inherent sweetness to him that is akin to Chris on FG. Cleveland’s new hangout buddy volleys between Terry, a redneck guy that Cleveland used to party with, and Tim, the Bear. There is just so many great possibilities here. Even though we only saw a blip of animation (very similar to FG), reading along with the script gives you the visuals a mile a minute. There are pop culture references galore but the show is arranged more in a three act structure than “Family Guy”. The music will be definitely be more Cleveland style. Mike Henry just recorded a Christmas single as Cleveland with Earth, Wind & Fire. Kanye West will be in an episode this season and possibly the next as well. In this season, he does a rap with Cleveland Jr. Richardson says  it was a kick in the sound booth. Kanye plays the coolest kid in town, which by the way is called Stoolbend.

After the read, which really hit stride in one office scene, where Cleveland and Tim go back and forth, Seth talked about the gestation of the series. McFarlane was in high spirits and getting a big kick out of the critics laughing at certain places allowing himself a good chuckle as well. Seth says they always do a table read although everyone records their dialogue separate. On another note, Arianna Huffington plays Arianna (The Bear), wife of Tim. Just the bedroom discussions with the voice Seth uses for Tim make you laugh. It is kind of an undescript European accent which matches perfectly with Huffington’s Greek. McFarlane jokes that the voice is a silly one that his dad did when he was younger on the way to the dump. He also said that he wanted to continue to push the animation in terms of character. Mike Henry in one of their meetings said nonchallantly: “How about a family of bears”. And then went with it.

As far as crossover, Quagmire will show up in the first season. The Brown clan will make an appeartance on “Family Guy” but McFarlane doesn’t discount any other guest spots down the line. He highlights that Fergie and Hall & Oates will also be two of the guests this season on “The Cleveland Show” as well. And, in Episode 16, he says, we will finally see Loretta. The key in this series is that Cleveland came back to Stoolbend where he grew up and almost immediately married his high school sweetheart. In addition to his own son, he now also has a stepson and stepdaughter. Henry says that this show is “sweeter and funkier” than “Family Guy”  but runs with an almost Brady Bunch scenario with a lot of cutaways and flashbacks. The show according to him and Seth has a completely different dynamic at times than “Family Guy”: Cleveland is more like the eye of the hurricane than the storm itself. It has a great feeling building and diversifying  something new in what makes “Family Guy” so rich.


Glee This show premiered its pilot in May and discussed itself at the January TCAs this year. This time the whole cast showed up. The licensing question was always an interesting approach to this show since they are getting hot music. They announced that they just got a Beyonce song, much like the Rihanna score they spoke of in January. Ryan Murphy, the show’s creator, was in NY shooting a movie with Julia Roberts so he was unable to attend. The cast seemed exceptionally excited and are leaving on a 10 city stint to promote the show within days of the tour. The promos have just started airing for the fall. They just finished shooting Episode 13 but hardly anybody has seen the show. Dianna Agron, who plays Quinn, says that this series is a first for many of the actors. She was on the plane coming out from NY the day before watching “So You Think You Can Dance” and a promo came on for “Glee”. The guy sitting next to her did a double take.

The key with the series is that either it will hit or miss. After the pilot aired, “Dont Stop Believin”  jumped to number one on Itunes so there is possibility. Time will tell.


Fringe This exceptional series which moves its shooting location from New York to Vancouver this year has been the most exceptional character piece on TV of late,  specifically for its mythology which as Joshua Jackson relates reminds him of “The X-Files” which he was a big fan of. Jeff Pinkner, an exec producer who is exceptionally hands on, addressed the multiverse seen at the end of last season. It is all about what we see as here and what he calls “over there”. They are still learning about what it is but they are not shying away. The key for the creators is , in essence, not having the mythology take over the characters which is always a danger. Roberto Orci, a consulting producer along with his writing partner Alex Kurtzman [they both wrote “Star Trek” and “Transformers 2” this summer], says that it becomes how much you can serialize the series and s how much you can do as stand alone. The key is riffing on the world without losing sight of it.

John Noble, who plays Walter Bishop, father to Jackson’s Peter, talked to his characterization in saying that it is hard for Walter to talk at a mundane level when he is, in fact, a genius. The thought of that progression, for him, is the most natural part of the character and one of the most enjoyable because normality is something the character cannot relate to in his current existence. One of the conceits of the relationship between John and Joshua (playing father and son) is that it has to be shocking and relevant at the same time. When asked about the relativity of the science within the grounded element of the show, Noble is quite interested. So much so that he turns to Anna Torv (who plays Agent Olivia Dunham) and says that he had her eating worm puree in an episode that she did a couple days ago. She replies that she didnt think is possible, and yet it happened. Everything shown in the series has some basis in theory, according to Noble, whether it be quantum physics or biology. But he agrees that credibility is very important even if you exist in this kind of world because you still have to connect to the audience.

Noble also addresses the chemistry between Olivia and Peter on the show but says that the essence of what the series is doesn’t mean they have to sleep together. Just seeing that she cares for Peter is a big step. As far as the aspect of Leonard Nimoy returning as William Bell, they have shot one more episode with him with a couple more in the progression but it is all dependent on him. On the day they shot in the multiverse it was 106 in Vancouver and the studio they shoot in up there does not have air conditioning. But Nimoy, acccording to the actor’s wife, practices a form of meditation that allows him to keep his body temperature low. Pinkner comments that it is very Spock of him.


The Wanda Sykes Show This new late night entry takes the elements of Joan Rivers and Arsenio Hall and wraps them into one with Wanda’s specific humor shining through. While it seems this institution of the show seemed to come together after Wanda’s lauded speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner with Obama, Wanda says that the timing, especially with Obama in the White House was right. As far as her format, the structure still seems in their minds to be elusive as of the current moment. John Ridley, who wrote “U-Turn” for Oliver Stone as well as “Undercover Brother” decided to come back to writing after a self=imposed hiatus of a couple years to focus on his family. He heard about the Sykes show and wanted to get involved without necessarily a game plan of how to do it. They ironically actually came to him. Ridley’s writing is more dramatic so the dichotomy of what he will bring as head writer is somewhat paradoxical.

What might come about interestingly enough is something very highbrow along the lines of Charlie Rose but with Wanda’s “take-no-prisoners” attutude and viewpoint. This however might make it more difficult to market. Ridley said he wants the ability for Wanda to talk about issues without so much of the publicist-driven interaction in terms of promoting a product. The show will only be on once every seven days and will be a wrap-up style perspective on the week. This also would allow Wanda to keep her gig as a series regular on “The New Adventures Of Old Christine”.

In terms of musical guests, there is no immediate plans in terms of having any on. But as Wanda puts it, “if Dick Cheney puts out a hip hop album, we’re booking him.” Another nugget of joy from Wanda reveals her key to interacting with her guests: “The cream rises to the top as long as you dont stir it too much.” For a long while she didnt want to do a talk show. When she was on “The Chris Rock Show” they had the ability to hit the points that were unreachable but she hadn’t seen the possibility since then. She will take each situation for what it is and says the one thing she will be, despite anything, is fair. As far as the fact that she is both an African American and a woman, and that in taking on this show in late night, she is a first. she replies: “If it is a perception of being a woman or being black…I do have boobs but that is not the deciding factor.” Wanda is very democratic indeed.


Cookalong Live With Gordon Ramsay The intent of the head of “Hell’s Kitchen” is that he is just naturally brutish but in coming out and doing a hands-on cooking test with journalists at TCAs, you see another side of him. Smiling and laughing, it is almost disconcerting. He says when he is in “The Kitchen”, that is a different angle which is heightened of course by TV but also by the situation. He gets the joke of it escpecially using the F word. He can’t bring that aggression home to his family but it is right for that situation. With his new additional show “Cookalong Live”, there is an active pursuit to soften his image a little bit while still keeping the heat on “Hell’s Kitchen”

Gordon thinks this new companion show will be good because now, for most of the world. the new “going out”, in his words, is “staying in”. This show, in his mind, is raw and fun and also offers him a chance to cook which he never gets to do on “Hell’s Kitchen” but also to do it in an non-pressurized environment. He is hoping this show will tip the balance of showing him as a bad guy.

As far as his insights on “Hell’s Kitchen” in the seasons past, he says the biggest problem in being a chef is smoking and drinking since it kills the palette. By doing the show, it explores the weaknesses more than the advantages of the competing chef which helps define aspects to improve  and build on.

On his new “Cooking Live” show, it won’t be utterly complicated. The dishes he prepares are likely to be more two course based than anything else. On one of the last episodes he shot, the menu was green curry as a starter, lasagna as the entree and baked alaska (which we made ourselves with Ramsay) for dessert. His allowance is that unfortunately you can cheat a lot with food. People sometimes can go into restaurants on Sunset Blvd. and get a gig without cooking anything in advance. He does say that he goes all over the world trying food.

Most recently in the past couple weeks, he has been in such diverse places as Burma and Tuscany. He also relates that he went to Afghanistan last year and cooked Christmas Dinner for 1000 of the troops, both British and American. That for him was a high point.

In terms of what makes him happy as far as food, it is the Southern California institution: In & Out. He loves the Double Double especially ordering it Animal Style. On a more refined note, he says he very much likes going to Maestro (in Washington D.C.) but for him and his family, that is an event.

As he instructs us how to make a Baked Alaska, the key he is keen to point out is the battering of the egg whites and sugar in order to create a whip texture. In his mind, it should take less than 10 minutes although many of us were working well past that. He was disappointed in this, as is the Ramsay way, but checked out everyone’s handiwork. Gordon can still scold you but in this instance we saw a gentler but still stern side of the man…and it was good.


Lie To Me The sophomore outing of this show continues on its essence while attempting to infuse more edge to the show. Shawn Ryan, who previously worked on “The Shield”, has taken over show running duties in attempt to infuse more style. His thought is pushing it more in a character-based direction. He was brought on at the end of last season as a consultant to do exactly this. As a result, he felt the last 4 episodes of last season were more focused and effective. Also, for him, the key is that there needs to be actors beyond the people on Tim Roth’s team that Roth can face off with since he can be such an imposing energy on screen.

One good example Ryan gives in terms of how he is rearranging the play, is a scene where Cal, played by Roth, goes into a singles mixer and lies himself while research and coaxing different information out of the women. The crux is that he is doing to advance a case. This action makes it very specific to the character while still moving the story along. One of the first episodes which Ryan thinks will push the envelope involves a mystery of girl with multiple personalities played by Erica Christensen.

Tim Roth reflects on the evolution of his experience on television from when we saw him at TCAs last January. Roth says that he started to read the books on the “tells” of lying and it became too addicting. It is good for the show but not for his house so he backed off. He wants to know more than the audience knows but only by a little bit. He is drawn to this guy because of the perspective and the relationship he has with Dr. Gillian, Kelli Williams’ character.

Overall for Roth, the paradox of an actor is “to lie and lie well”. He does admit doing the first 13 episodes in the first season were “devastating” to him since it is such a shock to the system after having been on film sets most of his career. He has never worked like this before. But he absolutely loves it and means it genuinely. It is a complete experiment, he says, as you are basically making a movie every eight days. While it is difficult, he recommends it for film actors since there is nothing else like it.

Mekhi Phifer, who got major props from show runner Ryan because of his role in “8 Mile”  opposite Eminem, plays new agent Ben Reynolds. who came in at the end of last season but has now become a series regular. For Phifer, having worked on “ER”, the characters need to be paramount as the procedures become just a backdrop. Kelli Williams follows this up with the point that “trying to find your character within a procedural is a trick but you have make it sound like it is not” The key to definitely maintaining perception of a lie is to create as much truth as possible. And that is what this show does.


Human Target In adapting a DC comics superhero for the small screen, the key is that liberties need to be taken in terms of creative license to maintain story flow (at least according to the head writer). The aspect of the Human Target always was the ability for him to be a chameleon and take on any form he wanted which works great in comics but within a live action environment tends to be more difficult. The conceit of creator Johnathan Steinberg is not straining the credibility by making it too non-believable. The thing for him was, if you had a guy who did this job, how would he go about it in a grounded way?. Steinberg wanted a guy you could root for but not be bound to stick to a certain format in terms of story structure. Steinberg wanted this show to be a hark to “Lethal Weapon” and “Die Hard” with a bit of “Raiders”. The coup is that in the epilogue of the pilot, Danny Glover (aka Murtaugh from “Weapon’), shows up in a cameo.

For Steinberg, this story is about the action hero but also finding how faithfully, in balance, it can be represented. The eventual angle is that this character simply has to stand on his “own” two feet. Director McG, who is an exec producer on the series, loves that there is less room for bad scripts in TV nowadays as so many people are crossing over from film. This series for him is a lot of action but ultimately comes down to the three lead characters (played by Mark Valley, Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley).

For Haley, having just come off an iconic role as Rorschach in “Watchmen”, he wanted to be in something that his 10-year-old children could watch (which is not unlike something Gary Oldman told me ten years ago). What appealed to Haley beyond this point was the ability to create a character over time. The make up and look of his character Guerrero is something they came up with by chance. There is a physicality to this person in Haley’s mind, but in a very different way from Rorschach.

By comparison, Chi McBride, within his character Winston, says that he enjoys playing cynical characters who are funny but don’t think that way. With this character, unlike the one in the critically lauded but ultimately cancelled “Pushing Daisies”, there will be a lot more action. For him and in the bigger picture, this guy is crazy and has a lot of darkness. The great element about these characters from his perspective is that they are constantly in each other’s yang.

As with McG’s “Fast Lane” nearly 5 years ago on Fox as well, this series has the potential to be slick as evidenced by the completely action heavy promo from the pilot. The key, as with what made that earlier show a success, rests in the balance of humor and action and some of those little spots in between.

Fox All Star Party As the sun dimmed, the back greens, home to the previous night’s NBC soiree, came alive again with tented arenas and small bungalows allowing for secluded discussions and open thoughts. Dining on everything from mac and cheese to swordfish tacos to crab claws, the diversity of food was not unlike the characters present. Ron Perlman of “Sons Of Anarchy” was an imposing and interesting presence as CCH Pounder (of “Brothers”) and Harry Lennix (of “Dollhouse”) laughed into the night. One of the happiest and most approachable of all was Seth McFarlane, clearly enjoying the attention of many a lady admirer but also moving about with a great sense of humor in not taking it all too seriously.

Two different tents housed a special proscuitto dish that melted in the mouth as well as a make-your-own strawberry shortcake bar. As the DJ spun and the loud wailing of karaoke from a green screen corner lit up the night, the motley vision of Fox dazzled the evening.

Shining The Star: New Spring TV Shows 2009 – Part I

Different stars imbue their series with different feelings and perceptions. The first new episodics viewed highlight this in the vision of Ian McShane (formerly of “Deadwood”), Nathan Fillion (of “Firefly”) and Tim Roth (“Reservoir Dogs”). The key is taking what made them interesting and intense in their signature roles but create a whole new dynamic. In all cases, the shift is possible enough as long as the stories support it.


Kings With a king like Ian McShane, everything seems in place. Creating a whole new country in the persisting vision of New York City can be interesting. For this series, a new country has been created in a bloody war but it shows what a modern day monarchy in the States might look like. Like “Dirty Sexy Money”, it runs on the perception that great lengths are taken to protect the high and mighty. However, unlike that previous series which was entertaining but with a soapy angle, “Kings” is more hard edged and there is more the essence of the cinematic. This is none the more true in the second episode as King Silas (McShane) stands on the top of his palace skyscraper in the rain. The basis here has a soldier who saved the King’s son being brought back from the front. With some elements you see a destiny form in the visage of the soldier. What is hoped is that this series can take on a mythical tragic quality which is what it seems to be moving towards. It is just a question of sustainability.

Castle The humor keying through this series has a great proponent in Nathan Fillion. This character has some qualities but is much more likable than his “Firefly” counterpart. The aspect of a novelist being allowed to shadow the cops is a bit far-fetched but the presence seems more loose than the slightly more eccentric “Life”. The chemistry is palpable between him and his co-star but the flirting needs to be upped a notch. The premise though, like another series I liked (“Journeyman”), lacks a basis of real world logic although this one is more based in the actual real world. The series, also like “Eli Stone” before it, has a strong lead character but the angles need to keep coming. The good aspect of it, unlike “Eli”, is that it has a procedural background to it which allows it to work easier as a stand alone and not over rely on any building mythology.

Lie To Me Produced by Brian Grazer and starring Tim Roth, this drama focuses on the tells and body language which show if a person is lying or not. This can be used to break down anything from a court martial case to a suicide to affairs of the heart. The science of it has a truth to it but the evidence as it relates to cases is all circumstantial at best which is where the drama continues on a weekly basis. This series wants to be “CSI” but it doesn’t quite live up to that mode because the science itself is a little more elusive. Roth has a good team around him and the aspect of his character having a daughter seems to round out the thoughts although it seems a little too cut and dry. The stories are alright and stand alone but they don’t light the scenes on fire. It comes off as well made but nothing exceptional.

And the beat goes on…