Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Guess We Couldn't Handle the Truth!

ABC has cancelled the struggling legal drama, The Whole Truth, starring Maura Tierney and Rob Morrow. The show which attempted to show a court case from both the prosecution and defense sides, revealing the 'truth' at the end, just didn't make it. It isn't clear how many of the remaining 13 episodes will air.

An original episode will air tomorrow night but no telling what will happen after that. The following week, an ABC Special In the Spotlight with Robin Roberts: All Access Nashville will take the Wednesday at 10:00 slot. Country music will be the focal point the week after that when all of ABC's Wednesday night programming will be pre-empted for the Country Music Awards.

On a brighter note, ABC ordered a full season of the family superhero drama, No Ordinary Family and the rom-com, sit-com Better with You. They have also ordered extra episodes of the police drama Detroit 1-8-7.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gibson is no Tyson!

Sequels to good movies always seem like a good idea, at least they do to studios, after all, the first one made a crapload of money! Rarely do they live up to the expectation though. So it’s with some trepidation that I report, The Hangover 2, is in production. I loved the first one. But, the thought of a second one? Meh, I don’t know if lightning can strike twice.

Of course, Mel Gibson is a lightning rod of another sort. He been able to attract boatloads of negative attention over the years. Many people objected to his portrayal of Jews in The Passion of the Christ. Then there was his anti-Semetic and sexist rant when he was pulled over and arrested for drunk driving. His Christian fan base (who loved The Passion of the Christ) took a hit when the long-time Catholic left his wife and all of their kids, for a Russian hottie, Oksana Grigorieva, who was pregnant with his child at the time. And most recently, Oksana released a series of recording of a seething, ranting Mel who at one point, wished that she’d get raped.

Just as people were wondering if Mel would ever work in Hollywood again, he got an offer to make a cameo in The Hangover 2. However, apparently the cast (and especially Zach Galifianakis, if the reports are true) wasn’t too fond of the idea and Gibson has been replaced by Liam Neeson. Reports say Gibson is livid.

A lot of people, Gibson included, thought it was hypocritical of the Hangover cast to object to Gibson when Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist played a critical role in The Hangover. I don’t think those are exactly the same, and I’ll tell you why.

Mike Tyson was convicted of his rape and served three years. After he came out of prison, his fighting career was pretty much over. It was definitely in decline when he bit off part of the ear of Evander Holyfield. Over the years, Tyson has become a parody of himself. Basically, way before The Hangover came around, he’d already become a joke, a tired punch line (no pun intended).

Gibson and all of his behavior is still fresh in our minds (especially the tapes). As far as I know, he did no jail time for his DUI and his apology for his anti-Semitic ranting didn’t satisfy many people. The Oksana situation is on-going. Right now, Gibson is a villain. He’s someone we love to hate. And I don’t think anyone is ready to laugh at him or with him right now.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Likin' LOLA a Little More

Last night’s LOLA felt more like Law & Order. A lot of the cosmetic touches were back. My voiceover at the beginning (“In the criminal justice system…”), the dum-dum and the black screens introducing each segment. So, I was a little bit happier that LOLA is making more of an effort to be and L&O show.

Corey Stoll is growing on me but I am still missing the gritty darkness of NYC. I also liked last night’s case more than the previous week’s. It seemed more relevant overall and not so 'unique;y LA (which translated to annoying for me).

It was Terrence Howard’s turn last night as ADA and I’m still not impressed with either him or Alfred Molina nor Peter Coyote as the DA. Right now, they all seem pretty interchangeable, I need to start seeing more personality because the Law side is definitely lagging behind the Order. All three actors are great and I know they can breathe some life into these very standard characters.

However, NBC has ordered a full season, so they’ll have some time to work out the kinks and create something that is uniquely their own.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Did You Know? I Didn't Either!

Idris Elba, who came to prominence for American audiences with his portrayal of drug king pin Stringer Bell, in HBO's The Wire. Since then, he's worked steadily in a variety of roles. He was a leading man in Obsessed with Beyonce. He appeared in several episodes of The Office as Charles Miner, one of Michael Scott's (Steve Carell) bosses. He did the horror thing in 28 Days Later. And, off screen, he deejays at clubs in The States and back home in Great Britian.
So, imagine my surprise when I came across a little article about a BBC America series called Luther. Idris stars as a morally conflicted detective in this six part series. It just started, so it's not too late to check it out. Click here for the schedule.

Monday, October 18, 2010

NBC Pick-Ups

Fans of The Event can breathe a sigh of relief, the show, along with Outsourced and Law and Order: Los Angeles (LOLA) have been picked up for the entire season. None of the three have become break-out hits but The Event and LOLA have attracted more viewers over the past few weeks. Outsourced is doing well with the coveted young adult viewers.

What's Wrong with LOLA?

I've been a die-hard Law & Order fan from the beginning. Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and even the short-lived Law & Order: Trial By Jury - I've watched them all. In fact, my weekend ritual involves laying in bed and watching an episode or two of L&O (or whatever variation) before getting out of bed. You can almost always find an episode of L&O on some channel, just about all of the time.

I guess because I do see so much L&O that I find the latest version, Law & Order: Los Angeles, so disconcerting. I have been watching it, but to be honest, I'm not really connecting with it. As I thought about it, there are several reasons.

Los Angeles ain't New York. NYC has a character all its own. In fact, the city was a character in L&O, CI and SVU. It provided more than a location. It created its own ambiance, its own mood. Los Angeles just doesn't have the same kind of character. To me, it feels off.

It could be that LOLA, and Los Angeles in general, are just too damn bright. I have to squint just watching it! Maybe part of the New York appeal is that the city itself is just darker, literally and figuratively, and it lends itself effortlessly to a crime drama. Los Angeles is just too sunny!

Then there are the actors. Skeet Ulrich falls in line as an L&O detective, but his partner? Played by actor Corey Stoll, he's got the Kojack head and the Magnum P.I. stache. His whole persona is distracting to me. I know it takes a while for a partnership to gel (and I'm giving this one time) but I miss the legendary banter of Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Greene (Jesse L. Martin), or even Bernard (Anthony Anderson) and Lupo (Jermey Sisto) which had hit its stride when the flagship series was yanked last year.

And no one on the Law side: Regina Hall, Alfred Molina or Terrence Howard is really working for me either. None have the world-weariness of a Jack McCoy (Sam Waterson) or the tenacity of a Michael Cutter (Linus Roache).

The stories they have chosen to tell while still 'ripped from the headlines' from the Manson-inspired cult killing to the ring of thieves ripping of a bunch of celebutantes just haven't resonated with me. I think they are trying too hard to be Hollywood stories when they need to just be good crime stories.

Lastly, the hallmarks of a Law & Order opening are gone. There is no voiceover telling me that "In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories." Or something similar in the cases of CI, SVU and Trial by Jury. There is no theme song. There is no 'dum-dum' between acts. It seems as if LOLA is a Law & Order show that doesn't want to be a Law & Order show and for me that is not a good thing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Outlaw Is Just Plain Out!

Last week it was placed on ‘hiatus’. This week, it’s canceled. The show about a Supreme Court Justice who quits the bench to be a trail lawyer was found guilty – guilty of not finding an audience. So what’s a network to do? In NBC’s case, add another hour of Dateline.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Let Me In

Most of the time, I go to the movies alone. I like it that way. However, when I go with friends, I often end up seeing something I would not have normally seen, usually ‘horror’. Last time around the boyfriend picked The Last Exorcism. We both hated it (but it bought me rights to pick all of our movies through the end of the year). This time around, one of my girlfriends and I saw Let Me In. I was pleasantly surprised.

Let Me In is a variation of the classic tale – Boy meets girl. Boy lose girl. Boy gets girl back. This time around, it’s boy meets girl, then boy finds out girl is a violent blood-sucking vampire and finally boy deals with the consequences. The boy in question is 12-year old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee). He’s introverted and painfully shy. His parents are divorcing and he’s also the victim of a pack of merciless bullies at school. He could really use a friend.

When Abby (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz), another 12-year old and her ‘father’ (Richard Jenkins) move into to Owen’s depressing apartment complex, he finds a friend, despite her insistence when they first meet that they can’t be friends. Yet, their friendship and even love blossoms. When the truth of who Abby really is is revealed, Owen has to do more thinking than most boys his age, thinking about the nature of evil and of love.

Let Me In is set in northern New Mexico in 1983. So Owen and Abby don’t live in a world of desensitized video violence or in the Twilight/Harry Potter era of romanticized vampires and dark arts. This doesn’t mean that Owen isn’t familiar with vampire lore. Of course he is but it would have been a different film had it had a modern setting.

As it is, Let Me In manages to be both sweet and unsettling and at times downright scary. Abby gives Owen the friend he desperately needs and the strength to stand up for himself. He gives her the safety and acceptance to be exactly who she is, in all of its gory excess. But even stories of young love work best when there is a triangle. Richard Jenkins is the man that loves Abby and takes on the grim task of getting her the blood she needs. It’s a horrific job but one he’s gladly done for her over the years. He rightly sees Owen as a threat. A tender scene between Abby and Jenkin’s character hint at the nature of their relationship and it did sort of creep me out.

However, Let Me In is a tale of love and acceptance interspersed with moments of true horror and violence. As it ended, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness at what was inevitably to come.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On the Bubble?

Earlier I did a post about this being a lackluster year for movies (Inception and The Social Network being the exceptions). I’m having that same feeling about this year’s crop of television shows. My favorite newbie, Lone Star, was the first to leave the party. ABC’s My Generation quickly followed. So the big question is which show will be next?

If ratings are any indication, new shows that joined Lone Star and My Generation in the bottom of the ratings pool included: Running Wilde (FOX), The Whole Truth (ABC), and Outlaw (NBC). FOX gave The Good Guys a second shot on Fridays but it still hasn’t made much of an impression. As far as other returning shows, The Apprentice is down there too, along with NBC shows Community and Parenthood. Surprisingly, Fringe rounded out the bottom 10.

Having seen both Running Wilde and The Whole Truth, I can’t say I’m surprised. Running Wilde was painfully unfunny and the fact that it came after the much funnier Raising Hope made it that much worse. The Whole Truth was just average even though I liked the premise. I didn’t even bother to watch Outlaw because it just didn’t seem that interesting. I guess most of the viewing audience felt the same way.

If I had to encourage anyone to watch any of these shows, I would have enthusiastically have thrown my support behind Lone Star. Alas, it was canceled, so I’ll make a few other less passionate pleas.

The Good Guys: I like this show. Let me be more specific. I like Bradley Whitford as 80’s throwback detective Dan Stark. He, and he alone, make this show not just watchable but enjoyable.

The Apprentice: I like the fact that we don’t have a bunch of has-been celebrities in the board room every week. These are real people – real unemployed people. They aren’t just hungry, they are starved. To me, it makes for some real, reality TV (well, as real as reality TV gets anyway).

Parenthood: This is a good show. It is. Well-written, well-acted, well-done and well worth your time.

Fringe: This show should not be in the bottom at all … ever. If you are scared that you can’t pick up the twisty alternating universe plots, check out Entertainment Weekly’s primer that should catch you up to the beginning of this season. Then visit the FOX site and get caught up on the first few episodes of the season.

My Picks for Cancellation (in order): Running Wilde, The Whole Truth and then Outlaw.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Social Network

I am one of the 500 million who have a page on Facebook – along with my dad, former bosses, countless co-workers and just about everyone I ever went to school with. Yet, I wasn’t eager to see The Social Network. I envisioned sitting there watching people stare at computer screens and talk endlessly about computer stuff and to me that didn’t sound interesting. Director David Fincher (Se7en and Fight Club) and writer Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) took the action away from the PC and focused on the people and that made all the difference.

The film follows Facebook founder (or rather co-founder) Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) as he came up with (or stole) the idea for Facebook. After getting dumped by his girlfriend, he goes home, blogs about it and hacks into a bunch of Harvard computers to create “FaceMash” where people get to vote on which Harvard girls are hottest.

This attracts the attention of twin rowing crew members Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (Armie Hamer Jr. and Josh Pence). They have an idea for a social networking site for Harvard undergrads and they want Mark to create it; but, Mark has other ideas. He and his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) start Facebook. Mark has the mind and Eduardo has the money … that is until the site really starts taking off and draws the attention of former Napster co-founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).

The movie volleys back and forth between flashbacks and two lawsuits that Zuckerberg is fighting, one from the Winklevoss boys and the other from his former best friend, Eduardo.

I wonder how the real Mark Zuckerberg feels about his portrayal by Jesse Eisenberg. He comes off like a condescending, insecure jerk most of the time, someone who had no problem screwing over a friend. However, the film does a good job of chronicling how quickly the site grew and how the principals really weren’t prepared for it.

This movie relies heavily on dialogue and what elevates it is that the dialogue is crisp and it works. It’s at times funny and even sad but it is always revealing, especially when it comes to Zuckerberg. His hurt, his rejection, his resentment come through often in a throw-away line. He doesn’t mean to be giving so much away and even if he isn’t aware of it, those around him (particularly his ex and Saverin) are.

Timberlake’s Sean Parker appears to be the personification of excess and temptation who played a critical role in breaking up the initial Zuckerberg/Saverin partnership. By painting a flawed and insecure Zuckerberg and focusing on his relationships and how they run their course, Fincher has created a compelling film.

Do I think it’s “the best film of the year”? No, but if you are one of the Facebook family, it might be worth checking out.