Creating Identity & Mysterious Energy – New Television – Fall 2011 – Part II

Creating characters with a sense of self and putting them in a mileau which puts the notion of identity to the test is the landmark of any great new series because personas need room to grow or else they are of no consequence to the audience. Whether it be secret computers, new roommates or traveling 85 million years in the past, if the mystery and energy is not there, no narrative can save a misguided concept.

Person Of Interest Melding ideas of “Big Brother” with a vigilante intention has different angles to pursue but only with the plot device to push it forward. A supercomputer which configures possible motives insinuates the plot. With exceptional actors like Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson [of “Lost”] there is always interesting character work but the line that the creators want to create between reality and high drama is short lived. The comparison can be made to “Life On Mars” which, while still trying to be grounded and slick, varied because of a sliver of disbelief that creeps into the progression (much like “Unforgettable”]. Uncovering a secret past in the gist of Caviezel’s soldier character keeps the intrigue going but the mythology of Emerson’s eccentric billionaire needs to be expanded because without the mystery and stakes, the series feels simply like another procedural with a couple new neat toys.

The New Girl Throwing a girl (and a weird one at that) into the mix always makes for interesting television if the actress can sell it. Spinning a reverse “Three’s Company” in an age of cynical relationships and quick bedding with a sense of innocence though is not an easy sell. Zooey Deschanel has the ability to play out the backstory of eccentric and uncool while still being cute and likeable (which is helped by her friend in the series who happens to be a hot model). The key is watching her extrapolate the indiosyncracies of the men without losing her own identity which she does by forming a relationship with a similarly weird violin player. The series works in its quirky way because of its relatability whether being at a wedding or picking up stuff from an ex’s house. Add to this essence a killer music supervisor who can mix nostalgia with a sense of new and that gives this show a consistent spin.

The Secret Circle Making a witch’s haven comparable to the “Buffy” universe is always a difficult persistance especially if humor cannot play as much of a placement in your arsenal. The idea of high school witches unable to Cope with an onslaught of demons threatening their town feels like an ode to “Witches Of Eastwick” more than anything else without the comedy. The angle here is to key it into CW’s young demographic and make it slick while also vivid enough to appeal across the board. While the soap essence overwhelms the show at times, the characters are aware enough to make their dire circumstance personal to the audience depending on the interrelation of what the characters actually want to accomplish.

Terra Nova The big wait is over in terms of this highly anticipated series that has been watched for like the second coming of “Lost”. The problem is that no series can live up to that type of scrutiny. Granted the pilot is impressive but it is necessary to sell the world. It is not so much the element of the dinosaurs and the prehistoric period that the money was spent on as it is the future world coming to ruin. One can tell that the latter angle took most of the special effects budget there but as the series progresses into subsequent episodes, it becomes truly “Swiss Family Robinson” with some high tech gadgets. While the family is interesting, it doesn’t carry the cool attitude or simple energy of say the family from “Lost In Space”. The addition of Stephen Lang as the commander of the post keeps the tension running as an ongoing feud between him and a rebelling faction keeps the ammo firing as does various prehistoric creatures. However, the immersion factors feels both authentic and yet fake at the same time despite the modern family take.

Ironic Social Endeavors & Artistic Paradox: The CBS Summer 2011 TCA Press Tour – Feature

The texture of comedy versus drama placates itself in the idea that people act and function a certain way because of notions of situation, upbringing and general perceptions of morality.

With the greatest market share of viewers, CBS uses their intentions to pick shows that both reflect the brand but progress the narrative to create a sense of tension, both sociologically and psychologically.

With “2 Broke Girls”, creator Whitney Cummings envisions an ideal of life that is prevalent very much in youth culture today in the aspect of doing bad jobs against a better thought process. Whitney herself dictates that the concept is very relatable. What motivated her though was the opportunity to mix with Michael Patrick King, the creator of “Sex In The City” saying that his “work formed me as a person” adding that after consuming “Sex” she “went and bought 100 Christian Louboutin shoes”. The key for this series she says King came up with and would not back down from is “two girls in yellow uniforms” and the fact there “was a diner and places where you put trays down” alluding to his style as more “visceral”. For her, the original names of the two girls were “Black” and “Blonde” which evolved when one of her descriptions for “Blonde” became “Homeless with a Horse”.

King, for his part, wanted to try to make “Girls” as “contemporary and edgy as it could be”. He did what he deems his “Scarlett O’Hara search” before integrating with Whitney in terms of the style. One of the cruxes that drew him to this specific concept was the idea of the “scary dynamic of talking about money on TV”. In terms of comparison with his earlier show, King says Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex” and these girls are very different in their DNA. If Carrie Bradshaw and her closet were Narnia then “2 Broke Girls” is their evil twin with chick lit. “Sex”, he interrelates, was playing with “the reality and fantasy of girls in their 30s”. Whereas the girls in “Sex” have check lists, the girls on “Broke” barely have checks.

Adding within the ideal of sociological structure and its reverse intentions, “How To Be A Gentleman” works in the congruence that equal reaction in terms of manners requires a bit of a kick in the pants.

David Hornsby plays the lead character here who is a bit of a stick in the mud. The idea to create this sort of buddy comedy of sorts grew out of a short manners book that crossed his desk. The progression, he dictates, is based in idioms like “When waiting at an ATM, a gentleman does not check his balanc”e. The structure of a gentleman he finds rests within the auspices of Cary Grant or George Clooney who reflect in the ideals of the “strong-jawed but less-misogynistic James Bond” types.

Dave Foley, ever in lighthearted mode, moonlights with gusto as Hornsby’s boss explaining “I think that he knows it is pathetic trying to stay relevant” but that he “is charming in his need to try to appeal to the younger” sect. Part of the notion for him in the character reflects on the idea of being 50 in the workplace because “the intention is hilarious”.

Kevin Dillon, playing the macho structure to Hornsby’s featherweight, was shooting the end of the HBO series “Entourage” at the same time though he said he hardly planned it like this. The irony is that besides the pilot, the first day of the cast being together is right now.

Angling away into the perspective of drama, “A Gifted Man” takes on a more paranormal structure while dictating a grounded scenario where a doctor recently mourning the death of his wife begins to become aware of other possibilities around him as he makes his rounds.

Patrick Wilson, playing the doctor of note, says people will want to assume certain aspects about his character especially in the fact that “he has an answer for everything”. Wilson explains that this man has a connection to the spiritual world and that “this constant struggle will be explored” in the fact that he is battling “being frustrated and being heartbroken”. The biggest challenge for him, as an actor, relies in the fact of not being a film or a play, is that “you have to give it out in small doses” which necessitates not thinking “from an acting perspective too far ahead”.

Exec producer Neal Baer indicates that, as the series progresses, the character that haunts the doctor will be revealed more than simply in the texture of a morning drink. Visually the idea of the show will develop , even though in the pilot, whilst setting up the relationship, doesn’t show the clinic prevalently.

Resolving the idea of a more procedural intention, “Person Of Interest” tries to spin the narrative on its head through the story influx of creator Jonathan Nolan who specifies that “the title for me suggests alot of what the show is about”. This theme, he explains, that fascinates him, is “uncertainty” which “we are all very aware of these days”. The basis for him suggests a-case-a-week structure. While the process within the medium is very different than working in film, approaching these kind of characters in this structure has always been of interest to him in that he “wanted to write something all the more dangerous”. Nolan continues that “the Batman analogy is not so far away” because these ideas were “a small feature of ‘The Dark Knight'” in that “it examined Batman and the lengths to which he will go”.

In reflection of the genesis of “Interest”, Nolan speaks about growing up as a kid in England in the 70s noting that “there was a lot of cameras up in London during the IRA attacks”. His family moved to Chicago a little later but when 9/11 happened, “you started seeing cameras everywhere again. For this reason, he explains, “it was a rich story to tap” but, for him, “the draw of the characters” is within “the way they can build change and grow”.

Michael Emerson’s character is enticed as the catalyst. Emerson describes him as “a shadowy tech millionaire…who wanted to apply himself to a justice mission” but “needs to team up with someone who is more active and skilled than he is”. The actor offers that the character can be called “Mitch”. In reflection of his earlier TV exposure, Emerson says that part of him wants to leave behind the “Lost” perception but “at the same time I have a working method” and “it has a certain sound and feeling to it”. He explains that his character on “Lost” was supposed to be just another guest spot but “I was never allowed to go home from the Hawaiian Island” which for “every character actor would be a secret dream” though it became “a little harder for me to hide”. He hopes though to “still do the odd turn here” adding that “I’d like it to have a limp or an accent”. The key for him though is “the idea that you can never have a life unobserved” because “it doesn’t seem so far out anymore”.

Jim Caviezel who plays the officer that Emerson’s character recruits for his “mission” describes his character as “a former Special Forces/CIA operative on the surface” but “deep down is a guy who is searching for a performance”. Ultimately the ideal for him is about becoming “redeemable” though achieving this through different roles was a “little more controversial than he thought it would be”.

Examining the new shows of CBS leading into the fall, the inherent balance shows the continued predilection towards a movement of both broad comedy but also edgy drama fare which challenges the norms of audience involvement with a definite creative edge.

Finality, Character & Texture: The ABC Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

ABC has show an ability for a specific cross-section of shows that push the envelope. While some like “Pushing Daisies” and “Better Off Ted” sometimes start to fall along the wayside, other successes like “Castle”, “Cougar Town” and “Modern Family” show that by angling the formula to a not-set portrayal, one can reap great awards. However with “Flash Forward” not performing as high as thought, the behemoth of “Lost” accelerates into its final season.

Lost The influx of many of the cast members for the final season were met with a thundering round of applause for this show who, in many ways, captured the zeitgeist the way few other shows in the past couple years have been able to do.

Emile de Ravin, who plays the returning Claire who had been missing since we saw her in Jacob’s hut a few seasons back, mentioned that they have seven more episodes to film in Hawaii. Her fondest moments have been when the whole cast has been together because of its family connotations though when she read the pilot back in the beginning, it took 3 times before it made any sense.

Evangeline Lilly, who was picked out of obscurity to play Kate, admits that as she was coming out for these final interviews, she knew she was going to “cry like a baby when it ends”. One of the aspects people don’t know is how hard filming the show can be. For her, the most lingering moments that stay in her mind come from the first season especially in the scenes when Claire gave birth and Boone died. That specific episode for her “culminated everything we were talking about”. The most intrinsic point for her was trying to find Kate as a character. Also being on Hawaii shooting can be a double-edged sword (in her estimation). She says “living in paradise is a little bit of a prison” because “when we’re on the island, we are on the island” but there is “an innate sense of freedom now that we are anticipating the end”.

Daniel Dae Kim, whose character Jin, morphed from a non-English speaking character to utterly subtle feats of discourse, says that the moment for him that defined the show was when they were launching the raft in the first season because that provided a culmination of thought. Now with the 6th season, the narrative style is again changing somewhat which distinctly makes it all the more challenging.

Josh Holloway, who created one of the most nuanced con-men in TV history, with the nickname-spewing Sawyer, says the whole experience has been incredible but there has been something about this last year. He admits a certain propensity for group scenes. He says they take two or three days to film but if you position yourself right, that is key, and admits he has gotten very good at that. For him, the premiere this year felt big like a finale which points for an interesting end to come. He thinks back to when he read the original pilot. His first impression was that Sawyer “was an asshole” and that he, as an actor” had “to figure out how to stay alive” because “unless [Sawyer] became something different, he might die soon”. He parallels the aspect of Kate explaining “as Evy says, to play a character within a place, you have to explore new character perspectives”. Josh’s observation of this man becomes that “Sawyer has been walking the fine line of humanity but retaining his edge”. This comes on the aspect of the writers putting him through every possible situation, both emotionally and physically. The scariest thing of all was “the whole Juliet thing”. He thought the audience might reject those two characters getting together because it was “discovering his humanity while being salty”. He admits that many of the greatest points of his life happened during the show: “validation as an actor, marrying, having a baby, my first home”.

Michael Emerson, who emerged in later seasons as a major character in Benjamin Linus, says that, with a show like “Lost”, it is better to be in the dark adding that “it is nice not to be burdened with the secret” because “that seems to get in the way”. In terms of the moments he remembers most, he jokes “that I have alot of fond memories of breathless confrontations in small rooms”. He says the Whidmore Bedroom and Jacob scenes are “scary and I love them”. He also mentions a scene when he and Sawyer are on a cliff and trading Steinbeck quotes all the while with Ben saying “I have a rabbit in my backpack”. In terms of the ending of season five, he thought it to be a master move adding “that it was a two-part cliffhanger but sufficiently mind-bending”. He ultimately sees Ben “as a character that reacts in a calculated way but once in while acts in a childishly impulsive way”.

Terry O’Quinn, who undertakes the enigma of Locke, says that he found out that he wasn’t real Locke during last season about a month before the episode aired, indicating that he was completely unaware to the fact for most of last season. For him, there is no true special moment in the series though he remembers when they were hanging out between a break in filming listening to Naveen Andrews playing guitar under the famous Banyan tree. He also reflects back to the pilot with JJ telling him that at first in the beginning with Locke there wouldn’t be alot but later on there would be.

Damon Lindelof, who along with fellow executive producer Carlton Cuse, have become the think tank of “Lost” after the departure of co-creator JJ Abrams, says that the idea of ending with the 6th season is “doing it while we still care” calling “Lost” “a once-in-a-career experience”. ABC allowing them to end the series on these specific terms is what Damon terms “a tremendous gift”. He echoes Evangeline in that they can’t believe it is coming to an end. In terms of what they tell the actors in terms of the story, he jokes that “quite honestly, we don’t speak to them at all”. He uses the example that if they told Terry O’Quinn (who plays Locke) that he was actually playing a guy from 1000 years ago, it would completely alter the approach. For Lindelof, the most memorable points in the show are the bridging aspects in creating these connections. For the following seasons, they usually start writing in the summer time but the inherent challenge always was walking the bridge, even when time travel came into play. In terms of the finale, he says with a wry smile: “Get ready to scratch your heads America”.

Lindelof says the major shift since the show started is informational because of the minutae that the fans follow vigorously. The biggest obstacle is to “guarantee a shitty ending” to “Lost”. For him, “the worst ending we could provide is a safe ending” but “you can’t take a risk just to take a risk” because ultimately in respect they “have no excuse to say anything other than ‘this is the way we wanted it to end'”. He admits that there is hope on their parts to wow the audience with the finite possibilities of the finale because “it wouldn’t be ‘Lost’ if it wasn’t an ongoing or active debate”. In terms of story for the final season, “there is an inherent process that when ending something, you always think about the beginning. He reflects on an earlier comment by Josh about the essence of new character perspectives because “you want to show the audience the before of where the characters were then”. He says he does reflect on what the legacy of the show will be but realizes that in the weeks after the series finale airs, the only thing people will be thinking about is just that episode. He makes a comparison to “The Sopranos” because people remember absolutely everything about the diner scene and the fade to black. The end always moves in mysterious ways.

Carlton Cuse, who runs the show with Damon, says that “we came up with the final image of the show in the first season but we started to add elements to that as we went along towards the end point”. The character stuff, he adds, works itself out as you go along but that the process of ending the show was fun because, as in many seasons before, the actors didn’t know where it was going beyond the next given script. The network has not pressured them for a spin-off but definitely says that “we are ending this story”. As far as the moment he remembers most, it involved Jack swimming out with the dog to save the drowning girl. In terms of the new season, the premiere picks up exactly where the finale last season left off. He agrees that they have been very circumspect about what actually might be going on in the 6th season. Jack and Farraday, he says, believe that the bomb going off might reset everything. He warns that not every question will be answered because they still want to maintain a fundamental sense of mystery.

Executive Briefing: Stephen McPherson The enigmatic and charming head of ABC entertainment actually made a point of introducing the “Lost” cast stating that many of the crew and some of the cast were still in Hawaii shooting but that “we look forward to finishing the journey”.

He recollects that when they were shooting the pilot for “Lost”, “with Evangeline, it came down to 24 hours before” when they barely got her work visa cleared from Canada. He credits Abrams and Lindelof for having a plan and a mythology in what “arguably will be one of the most influential shows of the decade”. He compares the season premiere “to nothing different than a gigantic movie” adding that “they put all they spend on the screen”.

In terms of ABC’s fall, McPherson announced the picks up of “Cougar Town”, “Modern Family” and “The Middle” for next season. No decisions, he says, have been made yet on “Hank” or “Better Off Ted” while “Castle” is their highest performing repeat show saying that, with the Alyssa Milano episode, the show “has met its stride” adding that he “hears so much anecdotally about that show”. To that point, he says that many “shows are alchemy to some extent”. With “Modern Family”, the pitch was simply “a big family”.

In terms of two new and expensive shows finding their footing, McPherson says, first off, with “V”, they always intended it to be in chapters but that production issues came into play. With “Flash Forward”, he said, it was a bit different because the repeat viewers didn’t seem to be coming back. The show’s reaction has to be supportive of its production. That is why they did a big push about bring “Flash Forward” back while making “V” more independent of that conversation. He sees a similar possibility in the upcoming “Happy Town” because it is also “serialized and event” but “honestly it all comes down to how it performs in the end” adding that they don’t have a set premiere date as of yet.

In terms of the response on the ongoing NBC difficulties, he says that “seeing a great network tumble is not something we revel in” because “it is disconcerting to see that happening in the industry”. That said, McPherson states that they are actually up 8% in their 10pm slots because the inherent situation has put “an emphasis on creative shows” adding that “we are very happy with the way things have gone down.”

The Deep End One of the few new shows that ABC is bringing forth is this lawyer drama which uses the rookie perception to show this cutthroat world in a new era.

Exec Producer David Hemingson, whose experience in the legal world provided the basis for the series, calls it “a confluence of circumstances” since “the show mirrors the beginning of my career. Billy Zane, as the venemous Cliff Huddle, calls his character “a shark” with a personality “always moving…always calculating”. He sees Cliff as operating on his own code because even though he and his wife are very passionate, he can’t keep his hands off of everybody else so he is interested how they handle his infidelity.

Clancy Brown, an actor best known for his genre turns in “Highlander” and “Starship Troopers” and recently mentioned as a front runner for the movie adaptation of “Lobo”, sees the story as a reflection of present day mediaries in that “you just look at the headlines and see the struggles between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law”. Matt Long, embodying series lead Dylan Hewitt who must deal with attacks on all sides, used lawyers in his family as reference but understood the key to the character is “to add to the situation but not add to what the hell is going on” but “it also helps to know what you’re [actually] saying.