Fun, Rules & Marriage: The NBC Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

NBC has weathered some turmoil over the past months as the structure of returning full bore to the restructured pertinence of scripted programming reflects in many of their aggressive pilot strategies. With new shows like “Parenthood” moving into the fray and “Parks & Recreation” gaining traction in an increasingly powerful Thursday night line-up, the process of recovery within a constantly malleable structure continues.

Parks & Recreation With the new season approaching, the show, always in the shadow of “The Office”, is beginning to make strides and find its own identity.

Michael Schur, one of the exec producers, admits there was an arbitrary pause in their first season. Their set is very simple with a big building and a big long hallway. The role of Chris came through on a technicality and now seems to be one of intense loyalty to the fans. It comes down to when the story calls for it, comedic license can be taken.

Nick Offerman who plays Ron, the boss, said initially, during the auditions, all Shur said was that this guy had a really big mustache. And that is all he said.

Amy Poehler jumps in quickly for her few-words co-star saying that she believe Ron liked her character Leslie because he made her job easier. It became for her all about that co-dependent relationship. She admits that she likes that there was a slow build to the heat. She says “it felt very genuine…like a fine wine”. Even when they were tweaking the rules of the characters, she said Leslie’s fundamental beliefs remained the same.

Greg Daniels, who also exec produces “The Office”, says that the moment when Nick’s character stood up and defended Leslie created a sense of optimism in the show’s trajectory because that began a type of “grudging relationship”. For him the idiom that describes it is “more nope…less dope. Initially the stories were structure within Leslie being responsible for predicatments but found it worked better when she was simply placed there. Most of the time when the camera catches Leslie’s eye rolls, she doesn’t even know it’s happening.

Amy volleys back in that it is because “we have the sweet freedom to improvise”. She then jokingly says though that when they give Aubrey Plaza, who plays the sullen and effortless secretary April, money, she throws it back at them yelling “Keep your dirty money!” Aubrey responds in monotone fashion, saying that she “does like these people sometimes” and that she “doesn’t hate everything” but “this her reality”. She deadpans the fact that they shot a scene a couple days ago and she didn’t even know they shot it.

Aziz Ansari who plays the always schemiing co-worker Tom, runs at a nice clip. He says that it surprises him what kinds of lines of his character people quote back at him. He lets loose with another zinger that he “likes dickin’ around and wastin’ my time” but that he “throws in little jokes here and there”. He said that The Roots compared the Parks cast to the WuTang Clan calling Amy “The RZA” and Ron “ODB”. When asked about maybe some cross-over into “30 Rock” or other such shows, he mocks that “it would be a terrible idea”.

The Marriage Ref Jerry Seinfeld returns to television in a format where he hardly needs to be on-screen and admits it was brought to his mind by his wife. Again the angle that brings simple perceptions like this can always make the best ideas.

Seinfeld, for his part, says that what he has learned in talking about the show, is that it is impossible to explain or even nail down what kind of show it is. In trademark style, he puts the question to the media as a challenge. Some of the arguments they encounter on the show are familiar. Some are not. It has to feel like something that is already there which is what most excites him about the scenario. This show is basically about married couples having real fight in their home. The selected panel will watch the argument and comment. He posturizes that sports simplicity is what is missing from marriage. He has lived in his apartment in NY for 10 years and he and his wife have had new differences of opinion. He says that “we are not going to fix your marriage”. One argument for example, involves a couple where the dog dies and there is an argument whether or not to stuff it. What they do is end the argument once and for all. To make another sports analogy, Jerry says that he likes it when an ump blows a call at a game.

His wife again is the one that actually said he should do this show. The crew that works on location is the one who did “Supernanny”. As far as if the panel should be experts, Seinfeld says that is not their thing calling it “more about laughing at yourself”. They won’t be approaching certain subjects like kids or things like that because “that shows that the marriage is really in trouble”. In true Seinfeld fashion, he makes another analogy, saying that he was thinking about the AOL/Time Warner deal the other day and saw it not as a screw up but just that “the timing was wrong”. For him “sometimes it can be the right idea at the wrong time…that’s show business”. In terms of how that figures into his comedic approach, Seinfeld simply says “I’m a stand up comic. There are no rules. Once you have the cameras, it is on you.” He makes the concession that it was the critics that kept “Seinfeld” on the air. In his estimation, there are no refs in show business but, in marriage, everyone has an opinion on it. He said his uncle used to pull him aside and say “Jerry…don’t get married” but reflects that “now experiencing the conversations Jess [his wife] and I have, I thought it was funny enough”. That is why it was his wife’s idea and not his.

Seinfeld then talks about the host of the show Tom Papa whom he calls “a very dangerous man” and “an addictive human being” reflexively calling himself jokingly “like a drug dealer on a school playground” because “the more you get, the more you want”. He says all of his comedian friends love Papa. Seinfeld likes him because “mainly he’s funny and we share a marriage perspective in that it is funny”. In terms of interesting arguments shown on the show, Jerry mentions one couple in which the guy parks his motorcycle in the living room. However, even when Tom approaches them, Jerry says that the man doesn’t raise his voice. In true sardonic style, Seinfeld says “the prizes are not going to be that good” but that the drive “in making the show is making you laugh”. He uses his still popular sitcom as a reference point saying “when I was doing my TV show, people would come up to me and say ‘this would be great on your show, and I would walk away. On this show though, it works”.

Tom Papa, shiny with a glint of mischief in his eye, sits right next to Jerry with the simple idea that “this show is about surviving”. In his mind, the way comedians think is “whether this one is right or this one is wrong”. His role in this experiment is that “if you are married and have trouble, it is the judges’ call is to convince me which way I should go”. His angled perception that when a husband and wife are in a fight, the husband is always trying to find out what the fight is about. Reaction is all about instinct and this show Papa perceives, like Jerry, is sports oriented. For Papa, “ultimate power is quite a responsibility” but says that ” he is just there to be funny” which “is a role very natural for me”.

Advertisements

Family Guy: Something Something Something Dark Side – BD Review

“Something Something Something Dark Side” as a presentation of the second of the “Star Wars” movies looks great because, in many instances, it seems done shot for shot. One, of course, would think that they just animated over the actual “Star Wars” masters but that might or might not be the case. Some of the best lines are delivered by the non-major charcaters specifically our favorite “Oh No” guy as Admiral Piett. Meg still barely gets one line in the episode. James Woods makes it work in a quick cameo as an underling. Seth Green as Chris in many ways jumps in front especially with his show-stopping line when Luke is being rescued: “It’s me you f**kers!” What is funny is during the table read (which is also included on the disc) when Seth reads the line “Good god I’m hit!”, Mila Kunis, who is sitting next to him, doubles over laughing. It shows they get as much of a kick out of it as many of the viewers. In the table read as seen before, creator Seth McFarlane jumps around in his voices fairly quickly as does Mike Henry who also voices Cleveland. The work on the episode is painstaking but almost not as funny as it could be because they have almost too much reverence. What is interesting is how certain jokes were eliminated from the table read to the actual episode dependent on whether it was legal, Lucas or something else.

The commentary is a little meandering but all commentaries by rote can be unless everyone comes in with notes. Green never saw the episode before so it is interesting seeing his perceptions versus the small parts at times he saw previously. The moment that reflects story progression to the table read is in the Dark Force cave on Dagobah. Chris now sees his own self instead of before when the decapitated head became that of Homer Simpson. The aspect of taste does play in at a certain point dependent on its meanness which is an interesting parallel. The Fun Facts Pop-Up track is pretty funny since it can make additional jokes which many of these kind of  ancillary tracks don’t do making it extremely effective. “The Dark Side Of Poster Art” gives a little bit of fanboy presence showing the original painter of “The Empire Strikes Back” poster and then the guy on the “Family Guy” staff who repeated it though his video at home seems a little too much. The director’s animatic comparisons (this was the last “Family Guy” episode storyboarded on paper) to certain scenes are pretty much spot-on. The only addition obviously were alot of backgrounds and in-between work. Another quick bit that is included is part of the table read for the upcoming “Return Of The Jedi” parody which has the beginning bits in Jabba’s Palace. “Something Something Something Dark Side” continues to show the love for the Lucas Empire with almost at times too much of a spot-on rendition that can blur the line on the humor but just keeps it above water. Out of 5, I give the BD a 3.

Returning Television – Animation – Fall 2009 – TV Review

The animation progression shows a differentiation of matter in terms that the emotional investment predicated in their narratives show a diversification that balances both humor and effectiveness.

force1

Star Wars: The Clone Wars The second season preliminaries show the paradox we want to see heightened which is the relationship between Padme and Anakin and the splitting of duty versus emotion. This is where the darkest elements come into play. Ahsoka, Anakin’s Padewan, is coming into her own but showing more signs of recklessness which is what is inherent in Anakin’s teachings. The key is to show Anakin’s furthering differential with the needs of the Jedi Council as the holes in their defense become bigger and bigger. The most outstanding technical advance is how good the immenseness of the passing star freighters look. The hardest thing is to create that sense of depth in a heightened comic book style. It gives a sense of intensity that heightens last season’s capabilities.

ike-sp1

South Park The series is great simply and, in many ways, because of its quick turnaround which can sometimes be less than a week. What is becoming more apparent is within its interesting human subtext. While the first couple episodes attack essences such as wrestling, it is one of the first ones about ghosts which turns into the angle of Michael Jackson not being at peace that is the most interesting, but not for the gloved one. There is a moment at the beginning when Ike, Stan’s little brother, is seeing ghosts. Now granted it is Billy Ray coming after him but the general fear and emotion that Ike is played with is almost heartbreaking. It is interesting thinking this about “South Park” but these moments are becoming more prevalent and are what balance it out and interestingly give it more depth than the other animated programs. Think about “I’m So Lonely” from “Team America”. Here is Kim Jong Il, a quite despicable person whom the guys make almost sympathetic. Of course bodily functions and sex jokes come back almost immediately but the poignancy, ironically, is there.

fg-mltvrse1

Family Guy With two integrated sequences in the first two episodes, “Family Guy” still reigns as the king of cool despite the fact that many young viewers might not get it. From the premiere with its extended ode to Disney 2D animation to some snarky side comments to the “Superfriends” Opening Credits sequence around Episode 3, the intent is simply inspired for those who grew up with it in the early 80s. The personification of the characters simply is in full stride since they don’t have to prove anything anymore as long as the pop culture references are sweet. Some social commentary however fleeting doesn’t hurt either.

simpsons-hr1

The Simpsons The pendulum of the “Family Guy” competition resonates here simply because of the difference in the age of the creators of the shows which is being more obviously personified as both productions go on (and will inevitably be compared). “The Simpsons” head team is slightly older so their references are more old school. A good example is in the Halloween episode which pays its tributes to Hitchcock and the New Wave filmmakers while McFarlane is all about Spielberg, Lucas and the like. Not to say that some of The Simpsons’ inklings aren’t inspired. However there is a growing differential. The ode to Salvador Dali in the Halloween episode shows the production’s ability to still slice but an earlier episode with Homer becoming the Everyman Hollywood superhero comes off a little flat.

peng1

The Penguins Of Madagascar The key here which is continually interesting is the evolution of what kids are able to process. While this is a Nickelodeon cartoon, some of the elements it angles into are definitely bordering within the realm of adult. One episode has the Penguins trying to teach Roger the alligator to become more aggressive. In doing so they end up switching out his brain for Rico (the Penguin Braun). This causes the pathological elements of the unstable penguin to wreak havoc on the regular streets on NY like something out of a horror movie. Another episode has a female gopher who had never been out of the zoo (she was born in captivity) going insane when she sees the space around her. The angles show a form of psychosis which is great when you can have the cartoons function on separate levels because kids a lot of the time will just go for the surface but subconsciously get the messages that are there. Of course, then you have the aspect when the King Lemur looses his ability to bootie shake because some African monkeys put a vex on him when his ego gets out of control. The balance is maintained but it is interesting to see how the creators of the filmmakers continue to challenge the small screen.

Animation continues to build in earnest in consideration of the different cross-sections of what is being produced but the superstructured is becoming more interesting because of the different outlets. “Clone Wars” is on a different level because it is independently produced. “South Park” continues to excel because of its ability to do a quick turnaround. However, it is the emotional resonance of some scenes that is starting to shine through. “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” are like Jay and Conan: compatriots vying for the same audience while still on the same network. “Penguins” meanwhile flies under the radar and goes on its merry way.

The competition continues.

Nip/Tuck – Episodes 1 & 2/Season 6 – Advance TV Review

NTS6

The aspect of “Nip/Tuck” involves nihilism personified. The key to these two doctors is dictating how they deal with the reality and their conception of what that is. Unlike a show like “Royal Pains” where the lives of the characters have a sardonic wistfullness about them, the key with the doctors of this show is that they are dealing with their mortality without being aware of it. One of them is about to lose everything he has because he failed to understand the impact of his actions on his female compatriots. However the business angle of his practice does not faze him as long as he has his confidence whereas his partner in this debacle is beseiged by elements of guilt and repression. He goes so far as to become insomniac which leads to bigger problems including a would-be overdose.

The first episode of the new season involves the downfall of their practice in the new economy. They bring in a new playboy-type plastic surgeon on call (sort of like the private physician of “Royal Pains” with less scruples). Our antithetical heroes think they can live up to this low style of selling that the new kid on the block prevails with high ending results. Look for their infomercial to show all is not right in the world. In the meantime their lives are falling apart.

Sean McNamara (played by Dylan Walsh) cannot maintain his relationship with one of his female employees because he fails to read her correctly. He makes an incessant mistake which causes him to lash out and places him in a much more dangerous situation with another girl. The implications oddly enough are reminscent of “Fight Club”. Meanwhile Christian Troy (played by Julian McMahon) tries to tell his partner to come back from the brink but he himself cannot understand where his faults lie especially in regards to his own behavior. He really needs to take a fall but the question is what will cause it. There is a catalyst at the end of Episode 2 which shows this is both on and off the books as if the writers brought him to the brink but weren’t sure if they should make him fall off. That’s the rub.

Having never watched the show before the Season 6 openers, the opinion of this reviewer is “How did the characters survive this long?” as the risk taken doesn’t always seem to bring reward. Bad boys have fun but can they survive? Life is too short especially if your job is fixing somebody else’s problems, however superficial they might be.

Mythic Bikers & Parallel Existence: Returning Television Fall 2009 – Part I – Review

As the new fall season enters in texture, the returning shows entering display a differential that plays the same with an added sense of knowing. With the cable networks still outpacing in general story, the writers on all sides are keeping their intensity at a high level which shows in the first inferences of the new.

mm3

Mad Men The key with this show is allowing the characters to breathe with finesse. The greatness of the show lies in its ability to let you watch the characters’ thoughts unfold with the knowledge that it might not work for them in the end. Don Draper continues to move in mysterious ways and his interaction with the would-be Conrad Hilton sends him on a disnomer of emotional proportions just when he seems to be finally bringing things under control. Don’s by-the-wayside Rockwell type moment with his daughter and newborn son show both the inevitability but also the paradox of the American Dream. As his relationship disentegrates with Roger over what should be a tryst and Cooper pulls a dark card to make him sign a contract, the walls seemingly are starting to close in again. Don is a MacGuffin more than ever. Add to this a rich surrounding of women between his wife (played with just the right amount of knowing by January Jones) who is looking for life extension especially after the death of her father to Peggy (played by an increasingly aware Elizabeth Moss) who continues to rise up the corporate ladder acting like one of the boys and finding her true rhythm in business deals. Also one must not forget Joan (played with distinctive knowing by Christina Hendricks), an exceptional shark in her own right who makes a decision based on traditional values that is inevitably biting back at her. There are also so many other characters that are secondary that are simply being ignored at times because the main proponents are so engaging and allowed to develop organically. This is the show’s great gift: its ability to create the essence of time while seemingly moving the story along without being rushed.

sons2

Sons Of Anarchy This story operates in an antithetical way because it is about instinctual, visceral and primal elements not shrouded by stiff suits (although Adam Arkin is giving it a run for its money). Last season, the culimation of Jax’s perception of Clay as a divisive change in the rule of the club made him a bit of a tragic hero. Kurt Sutter, who also worked on “Deadwood”, has created a modern family story shrouded in love, death, crime and brotherhood within a story about a biker club with killer follow through. He had the series run at an incessant pace with an almost “Godfather” exit in the finale last season. The thing about Sutter is that he doesn’t pull the punches. Gemma, played by Katey Sagal (who is also Kurt’s real life wife), is put through the wringer in the first episode that completely changes the dynamic of the season in an instant. Sagal takes on a whole different dimension in a sharp turn in terms of the choices she needs to make. This directly affects her life with Clay, who has secrets of his own, not the least of which is that he ordered the botched murder of an innocent woman in trying to kill one of his own men. Ron Perlman told me at TCAs that playing the role of Clay can be very uncomfortable. He likes Charlie [Hunnam] who plays Jax like a son so he says it is hard for them to go at each other with such thinly veiled hate. That for him is the challenge. People are pushing themselves on the show. Even in the first four episodes of this season, you can see Charlie Hunnam simply melding into the role but the fact of how he can modulate between the life of the club and the life at home with his re-united childhood sweetheart as well as his new son comes off as heartbreaking because you know something bad is going to happen as time goes on. This show has Emmy written on it simply because of the performances, especially Charlie. Even the way his girlfriend in the series has to assert herself in the politics and alpha female intensity of the club’s dealings to retain her man is great. The power here lies in the women which is a phenomenally underlying truth. This to me in a plethora of good TV is one of the most cutting edge shows out there because it doesn’t need a high concept to make exceptionally riveting. And where it is going is ratcheting up.

fringe1

Fringe At the end of last season, a new world unfolded before the eyes of the audience and of agent Olivia Dunham (played by Anna Torv). As the new mythology evolved, the story aimed to jump start the stakes. Whereas Jared Harris (who is also on “Mad Men”) led her to a bit of ruin last season, the key here is unfolding a showing an intensity of will, which seems to come to fruition when Anna emerges from nowhere into the world almost dead in the opening moments of the season opener. It is Peter Bishop (played with restrained authorship by Joshua Jackson) that takes control and finds a way to make the division work under threat of shutdown. The relationship between Peter and his father Walter (played with delicious inventiveness by John Noble) is really starting to anchor the series. There is a degree of connection that is starting to be apparent and the humor definitely is getting a following. At one point Walter is doing an autopsy but is having his assistant help him make pudding at the same time. There is just something in that paradox that makes it work. The cornerstone in terms of the drama does revolve around Dunham but a smile or two (like in “Castle”) works miracles. The crux with her that keeps developing is her relationship with men and the betrayal of her trust (which continues to happen). Her relationship with her former partner now dead motivated her last season. This year, the problem rests in her close friend inside at FBI who is not who she believes him to be. The shake up of this structure will continue to affect her both personally and professionally. In terms of mythology versus stand alone, the alternation continues. The second episode actually includes a Gollum-like creature as if something out of “Children Of The Corn”. “Fringe” shows that it is mixing it up but the ultimate personification of William Bell is still the focal point with [Leonard] Nimoy nowhere in sight yet with his presence still lingering. It is just a matter where this story leads since the danger is of the mythology becoming too intrinsic. The show has infinitely more potential than “Warehouse 13” yet that show already has distinct control over its trajectory which in turn creates the effectiveness and clarity in ways of its storylines. “Fringe” needs to simply optimize its machine which it has the power to do.

parks2

Parks & Recreation At the end of the abbreviated last spring introduction of this “Office” type mockumentary, its charm had not yet settled in. It was seemingly trying a little harder than it should have. However, the texture has seemed to relaxed heading into its fall progression. Having not watched “The Office” at its inset, the ability to see this show from inception focalizes that the inherent nature of it rests in creating the situation in an offset manner to the character development. The relationships in last season seemed to be more of a focal point whereas the starting point of this new season works because it makes use of events in each of the episodes to motivate the characters which inevitably works much better in terms of structure. The first episode has Amy Poehler’s character mistakenly marrying two male penguins at a function at a zoo seemingly creating a gay rights issue. The trouble that she and her Indian Carolina-born associate get into trying to live it down ends up involving a party where she is heralded as Queen. Another subsequent episode has Poehler discovering what is supposedly “marijuana” growing in the community garden she planted. While she is cultivating the garden, her associate is getting a suntan on a reclining chair nearby. It is just a perfect balance of earnestness and sheer ridiculous humor perpetrated by these two lead characters. There are couple more characters establishing themselves slightly but with the exception of Poehler’s boss pulling something in the most recent episode, there hasn’t been anything to truly diversify the rest of the cast in true form yet. But according to most, it took “The Office” in the US a couple seasons to get in stride. The question becomes will the ratings here be good enough in general to allow for that kind of possible success. Poehler fuels the show and the writing is starting to know what it needs to be so there is possibility but not quite yet.

The key with these first 4 returning shows is their different levels of intention and acceptance and how each is purveying its individual trajectory. “Mad Men” can make its story work while looking effortless in terms of character and interweaving storylines which has caused it to hit a stride of sorts in its third season after two exceptional seasons before. “Sons Of Anarchy”, in terms of energy, burns brighter with a sense of Shakespearean tragedy but rivals “Men” at times in terms of mythic perception even though it has not gotten anywhere near the kudos of the former. It however seems very steady in its identity and knowing what it needs to be. “Fringe” is a good show that is still very much finding its focus while discerning its balance between mythology and stand alone and between drama and biting humor leading towards the direction it is choosing. “Parks & Recreation” is a much simpler creature but, in the beginning of its second season, is realizing the the story/situation must take precedence and the character arcs will naturally follow. However, all in all, positive progressions for all involved, some more than others, but all showing a tightening of ranks.

Archer – Sneak Peek – TV Review

archer1

The essence of “Archer”, animation newest entry (premiering on FX) is one of subterfuge, most specifically the emotional kind which is at the heart of this character’s perception. Brought together by the brains behind Cartoon Network’s “Frisky Dingo” and “Sealab 2021”, this new cartoon sneak previewed its pilot episode in advance of its January bow. The key here is tone but also maintaining a standard of quality consistent with FX. Cartoon Network has a very separate trajectory in terms of its Adult Swim content so the maintainence here rests between appealing to a separate audience but also switching over some of the old ones to a new home. The humor tends towards the blue with an intent of a rather pointed stand off at the end of the episode. The overarching mischief is that Archer seems to know where he’s going but just doesn’t have a clue how to get there. Now this might be part of the charm but the essence is time. As indicated as the TCAs, the key is no big set pieces. The aim is to keep the intersections domestic but with Archer’s mom in control of the madhouse and Archer’s ex-girlfriend wanting to chop off his extremities at any opportunity, Archer should tread lightly. But that is not his way. Ignorant and blatantly oblivious of it, he has a rocky road ahead. In terms of the series though, the key lies with the banter and the narrow line it walks…for better or worse.

Crypts, Chemistry & Dolls: Fox Studio Day Set Visits: Bones & Dollhouse – TCA Summer 2009 Press Tour – Feature

The next adventure unfolded in earnest as the bus curled away from Hollywood into the cusp of Century City making its way onto the Fox Lot for a diversive selection of moments that held both laughs and serious business.

Bones-SV-TCA

Bones Having not followed the series and knowing it only by its marketing, the one thing that could always be told (like Maggie and Joel from “Northern Exposure) is that Emily Deschanel who plays Brennan and David Boreanaz who plays Booth have chemistry. The series itself, of course, indicated by the title is about dead bodies. The impromptu gathering was held in the FBI Office set with the lighted mattes of the city outside lit in earnest. Trying to plug my computer into the outlet on set proves that the scene is real in every specific way but not in others. David had not been working that day but Emily had just come off shooting a scene where she is try to talk to her adopted daughter about sex.

The series itself got picked up for two additional seasons which, for co-creator Hart Hanson, allows them  the ability to mold stories into a timeline. The essence, according to the two stars, of last season is that it ended with them supposedly in bed together. However, it existed more apparently in their minds. Brennan was buried in a book and Boothe was in a coma. Some people apparently claim that the connection wasn’t real but it was real enough to them. Emily says that what she has heard from fans is that they half want them to get together; the other half doesn’t. That of course is the rub of all such romances. Best thing, of course, to do is to draw it out as long as possible. David thinks that he and Emily have great chemistry and it translates on screen but  it lies within the characters. Brennan for example, even admitted by Emily, is very naive. According to Emily, Brennan barely knows who Stewie is from “Family Guy”. Hanson makes the point that he is glad  they moved from Friday night to Thursday at 8pm. It is not the greatest move but it is better than where they were before.

Looking around the set, there is defintely a little bit of a modern “Catch Me If You Can” vibe with the deep oak shadows behind the actors while a glass wall sporting the FBI logo dully shines in its translucence. In the essence of Booth, Boreanaz says his character, who is still dealing with the effects of being in a coma, is learning to do things again. He has to learn how to plumb in the most recent scenes he shot. There are now all these new little nuances to discover. Emily and David are also producers now on the show. David explains how into detail with casting and photography he likes to get. Hanson says he’s happy because the actors now get to share the pains of production logistics with him. Emily says, for her, it is a natural extension of collaboration on the show. In terms of new additions next season, Brennan and Booth are still revolving through assistants. Hanson says that all  the guest runs are great but committing to a series regular hasn’t happened yet. Boreanaz teases that it might be interesting to bring in a purely FBI and CIA based guy to up the ante. That means more brain power to use.

[Bones returns Fall 09]

Dollhouse-SV-1

Dollhouse Curling up past the Star Wars mural and slithering behind the new administration building, the new Fox soundstages I had not seen (as they were built after I worked on the lot in development) came into view, hidden away but obviously decently big in their breathe. Hugh Laurie nonchalantly rides past on his bike. As we turn up a little ramp and around a corner, the full reveal of the entire main “Dollhouse” set comes into play. The sleep sarcophoguses are in an adjoining room but the main foyer is a beautiful set, even more so when you are standing completely within it. Water is actually flowing beneath the floor. The doctor’s viewport is directly where it is supposed to be and the catwalks are laid out in real time.

Dichen Lachman, who plays the silky crisp and beautiful doll Sierra, told me later that she was able to throw a football across this wide expanse. This is when the Doc gave her the memories of his friend and they were chilling out. It was a nice release. “Dollhouse” sometimes works like that but the character work seemed to take a back seat in the general thought. Despite best intentions, an overwhelming weight  was placed on creator Joss Whedon’s creative wrangling (especially involving the series renewal) which seemed to overshadow the set visit. Whedon however took it in stride.

As this is being written, it is a Friday and they were finishing up Episode 1 (Eliza with Joss directing was shooting a scene in the adjoining set as I ran out to catch the shuttle back to the TCA HQ in Pasadena). They start Episode 2 two days from now on Monday. 

Whedon says that he has a much clearer view of where everything is going. “Epitath” which is considered the “lost pilot” using future footage has become almost the Trojan Horse, but despite anything to the contrary, Whedon tends to revel in it. He is the first to admit that he didn’t think he would be sitting here for this season. But he says that “Dollhouse” was merely an idea before. Now it is refined. The studio now gets it. But Whedon knows enough not to go too futuristic. He points to what happened to the other future show (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”]. Of course, the question is how can you keep making a possibly 2-million-dollar-an-episode show and still bring in enough viewers?

“Dollhouse” is cult for sure but gets big numbers on DVR and on ITunes. It is a bonafide hit within that structure but how does the studio perceive that? And more important, what do the advertisers think? These are the questions being asked of Whedon in this forum. He knows expectation is high but he seems to brush it off in a healthy way, His most important question is how to build Echo. Locking eyes with both Eliza and Dichen while sitting in the front row, you get how game this cast is.

From what Dichen and Enver Gjokaj (who plays Victor) told me after the panel, they don’t get the script until two days before they shoot so it is more about sinking or swimming in the scenario. Enver says that, at times, it is absolute fear that drives him in terms of his characterization. My question, of course, is about the physical strain as well as emotional since it can be trying to be these different people at times. With Dichen, there is a coolness at times in the characters that her doll takes on but, in real life, Dichen is very still and almost shy with a wonderfully delicate nature about her. Talking to them both together on the cusp of the brook bubbling underneath the Dollhouse was almost surreal in its nature simply because the arena is the embodiment of a metaphor and specifically a construct of Whedon Mythology. 

Dichen admits she is scared sometimes when she does one of the dolls because she doesn’t know if she is hitting it right. The thing is that more often than not she hits the nail sometimes with more viciousness than Eliza. The reality is that Eliza gets to be more sexual in some of her doll experiences. Talking at the event, Eliza said she would rather take the risk and do it than not. She likes being girly. She says she was a tomboy growing up and the paradox of this show allow her to revel in her sexual side as some of her alluring and seductive scenes attest to. But she is always empowered and in control. We would want nothing less.

Jumping back to Whedon lore in terms of where “Dollhouse’ will go, it is now life after Alpha. Ballard, the detective, is also now within the Dollhouse. My question, of course, is about the primal nature and the power struggle of these people and how it will evolve but Whedon won’t reveal his plan. Even when Enver asks him what is going to happen, Whedon teases him and says “Wait and see what you will have to do in Episode 2!”

It seems that the actors gets to fly by the seat of their pants as well, especially in terms of the dolls. Dichen says she trained a little bit with kickboxing for this but that is all. Enver had been in “Taking Chance” with Kevin Bacon before this started but you have to keep on your game  physically since you don’t know what might be coming your way, 

In summation as the sun sets, Whedon says that the “Epitath” puzzle serves two masters. He promises that we will see the future shown in the lost episode by the end of the first episode. Whedon’s path is anyone’s guess but it always has possibility. As I bid Enver and Lichen farewell, the soothing calmness of the Dollhouse main set disappears down a corridor into the darkness of night.

[Dollhouse returns September 22nd]