NBC

Hannibal Face Eating

At the PGA-sponsored Produced By Conference, Hannibal show runner Bryan Fuller offered some straightforward advice to aspiring filmmakers: make what you’d want to see. That’s something a lot of filmmakers say, and for good reason. At a panel focused on genre television, Fuller discussed how Hannibal, Pushing Daisies and his more unconventional shows aren’t the most mainstream pieces of entertainment. What’s hip and cool and now at any given moment is never what should dictate the creative process, and Fuller won’t let it. If what’s trending puts him to work, though, there’s nothing wrong with that. “Nobody wanted to do horror,” Fuller told a packed theater on the Warner Bros. lot. “I had been trying to do a horror show for the last ten years. Everyone says it doesn’t work on television, because people do not want to be exposed to that for a prolonged period of time.” That all changed when The Walking Dead came along. When AMC’s comic book adaptation became a hit, that’s when NBC and a lot of other networks came calling for horror.

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A to Z on NBC

Yes, Constantine has fancy CG fire effects, a perfect lookalike of the comic book hero and a granny who is not satisfied with her dark chocolate pudding so she sprays it from every orifice (gross!). But did you know NBC has other shows coming to the network this fall? A bevy of new televised series, which range from “might be funny” to “will certainly not be funny,” with varying degrees of whether that’s intentional or not. Conveniently, the network dropped a whole bunch of other trailers alongside its scruffy UK demon hunter, so we can peruse them all in quick succession and decide just what’s worth watching and what should be scoured from the earth and never spoken of again. New NBC shows, ahoy! Let’s start alphabetically, with the surprisingly-apt-title-for-this-situation, A to Z.

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Constantine Trailer

ABC has already gotten into the Marvel serialization game in a big way by bringing us their story of Agent Coulson magically coming back from the dead and manning his secret organization once again, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and now by picking up the 1940’s noir throwback starring the most badass lady spy on the planet to ever steal a supersoldier’s heart, Agent Carter. Fox will soon be joining the DC family with Gotham Babies Gotham, the prequel Batman series that chronicles Commissioner Gordon’s time working in the plagued city before gaining power and influence and a mustache. So it’s about damn time that NBC, that network that’s not doing too well right now, hops on the comic book train and starts adapting like, pronto. They recently announced that they’ve chosen to go DC (ride or die), and take on the story of one John Constantine (from the comic Hellblazer) with the new series Constantine, coming to the network this Fall. A very thorough, three-minute trailer lays it all out for us; Superman and Wonder Woman this ain’t.

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Andy Bernard The Office

In addition to its American counterpart, Ricky Gervais’s The Office has been remade in at least a half dozen different countries, including Chile (La Ofis) and Israel (HaMisrad). It’s often reductive to declare any cultural phenomenon universal or ubiquitous, but, more so than any other television series concocted during the twenty-first century, The Office approaches omnipresence. There’s something about the show’s droll depiction of quotidian cubicle drama that resonates across borders, languages, and cultures. It’s a profound statement about globalization that so many different countries recognize such a similar work environment to the point that such similar comic situations can be structured around it. For every fluorescent-lit cathedral of number-crunchers and quota-seekers, there seems to be an inevitable David Brent or Michael Scott. Since Steve Carell’s departure from the US Office, the show nose-dived into forced and contrived relationship drama. Despite its acts of trading in its trademark (and incredibly effective) cringe-humor for uninspired quirk, I’ve stuck with the show. Every now and then, The Office still delivers an inspired set-piece that reminds me of why I used to wait anxiously for a new episode each Thursday. And every now and again, characters connect genuinely and develop that way that pays off when you’ve been sticking with a sitcom through its ups and down for nine straight seasons. But The Office has made a remarkably different transition late in its last season, where the show’s focus has switched from depicting the droll absurdity of everyday middle class labor to something […]

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Hannibal TV Show

Admittedly, the prospect of a TV show following Hannibal Lecter is a bit cringeworthy. It reeks of the kind of corporate thinking that co-opted Sherlock Holmes for television after a successful movie franchise (and another successful television program) proved that the character had some life in him with modern audiences. It also, of course, taps into the same ease of movie remakes and has the same kind of name-recognition packaging that proves short cuts are always easier to take but don’t always bring you to where you want to go. Then again, hiring the man who cried blood in Casino Royale and owned every minute of Valhalla Rising to play one of the most famous fictional serial killers of all time is a hell of a good start. We’ll get to see how it fares in April when Hannibal comes to NBC, but the first teaser trailer for the show is enticingly dark and promises frantic performances from Hugh Dancy as Special Agent Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen as the greatest foe fava beans have ever known. Check it out for yourself:

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jjabramsstartrek2

While answering questions about something very few people care about (NBC’s Revolution) writer/director/mystery boxer/producer J.J. Abrams went on the defensive about his secrecy concerning projects. The filmmaker, who has his hands in many, many different pies, has long been known to keep relatively mum about his projects, whether they’re television shows like Lost or the upcoming sequel to Star Trek. Abrams said that it was no fun always having to keep mum on his projects, but ultimately it’s worth it. On the subject, he said “all the work we’re doing is about making this a special experience for the viewer; let’s preserve that as long as we can.” He went on to say that, as a movie fan himself, he doesn’t understand why people are always clamoring for information. While Abrams and I may disagree on the subject of lens flares, on this one we are 100% in agreement.

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Channel Guide - Large

NBC’s Parenthood is a drama deserving of the kind of veneration normally reserved for Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and other cable TV darlings. Based very loosely on the 1989 Ron Howard-directed comedy of the same name and developed by Friday Night Lights writer Jason Katims, the series is a deft mix of humor and gut-wrenching poignancy that can, rather amazingly, turn its audience into bunch of sobbing fools without having to resort to emotional manipulation. Parenthood revolves around the Bravermans: Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia); their four adult children, Adam (Peter Krause), Sarah (Lauren Graham), Julia (Erika Christensen), and Crosby (Dax Shepard); and the significant others and kids of the four siblings. They’re a family so close-knit and mutually supportive that they’d seemingly rather die than not do everything together—they attend little league games and school plays as a 16-member unit. They are the kind of “fight hard but love harder” crew that should be nauseating to watch. Yet, these characters are written and portrayed with so much honesty and as a result Parenthood is never repellently schmaltzy.

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About a Boy gets a TV series

Hugh Grant is in need of a comeback. But this is not a story about that hypothetical comeback. (Although Grant fans should most definitely check out his crazy, cruel and fantastic performances in the upcoming Cloud Atlas.) Instead, news has broke that one of Grant’s finer films, his last great one with him in a leading role, is getting adapted into a television series. About a Boy featured Grant as a cynical, well-off bachelor incapable of forming real human connections, but when a teenager (Nicholas Hoult) facing his own social obstacles form an unlikely friendship with him they both learn that growing up doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Chris and Paul Weitz adapted the Nick Hornby novel for the big screen in 2002, and the story (in both mediums) is a wonderfully warm, often acerbic look at relationships and loving the people who matter most.

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Channel Guide - Large

The dialogue in NBC’s less than revolutionary new adventure series Revolution is filled with pointless obfuscations. “It’s all going to turn off,” warns Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee), a frazzled family man who knows…something. “It’s going to turn off and it will never, ever turn back on.” Technology is the “it” being discussed in this vague statement that simultaneously establishes the show’s gratuitously theatrical tone and sets up the central conflict—lights, computers, cars, planes, iPhones (!), and all of the other essential, electronic thingamajigs that we take for granted, abruptly, stop functioning. The premise is provocative enough (albeit in an ordinary “What If?” game sort of way) but Revolution’s series opener is tepid—made up of recycled bits and pieces from other overblown post-apocalyptic dramas—and, at times, unintentionally hilarious. Created by Supernatural’s Eric Kripke, Revolution is supposed to be this year’s epic—the event show that sucks everyone in with its mythology and intrigue. Post-Lost, we’ve been given at least one of these Abrams-esque dramas every season. Sometimes, like this one, J.J. Abrams is actually involved with the production (Abrams and Jon Favreau are executive producing), which only fuels the hype. Revolution has all of the standard features of this class of show—the large ensemble, the misdirection, the sci-fi. The most lamentable flaw, then, is that it never rises above its role as the requisite Abrams show.

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Manimal

Let’s see a show of hands…how many of you remember the NBC series Manimal? Yeah, not too many. And with good reason. Manimal was a ridiculous show about a college professor who had the ability to turn himself into animals. What would you imagine a stuffy, academic type would do once he gained such phenomenal abilities? Why, he fights crime alongside a sexy police lady and one of his old ‘Nam buddies, of course. Manimal debuted in 1983 to abysmal ratings and even worse reviews, and only aired 8 episodes before the plug was pulled. It being something from the ’80s that someone somewhere might remember, however, still makes it a prime candidate to get a big screen adaptation, so THR is reporting that Sony Pictures Animation has won what was most likely an intense bidding war to acquire the rights to the property.

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Channel Guide - Large

Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), Portland’s trendiest detective (he sports designer jeans and chic leather jackets, no drab suits for him), has a gift. No, it isn’t his pretty eyes, though those baby blues do have something to do with it. Nick is a Grimm and can see fairytale monsters. More accurately, he sees “Wesen,” creatures with two physiological states—human and beast—who are the “real-life” basis for all of the animal characters and magical antagonists described in folklore and legends. Though Wesen appear to be ordinary people, Nick has the ability to detect the beast within and then shoot that beast in the throat with a crossbow if it pisses him off. Grimm, NBC’s gritty, supernatural crime procedural, was one of last year’s most addictive new series and an unexpected hit for the network. In the first season, Nick learned about Wesen with a lot of help from his new wine-swilling Blutbad bestie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) while hiding his Grimminess (Grimmdom?) from his girlfriend Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) and partner Hank (Russel Hornsby). The season was fun and spooky, perfectly capturing the darkness of the original Grimm’s fairytales without regurgitating those stories. But the show, which had seemed so original and fresh, is four episodes into its second season and has taken a regrettable turn. One of the sorriest TV clichés has just found its way into the drama: Amnesia.

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Channel Guide - Large

In his new NBC series Go On, Matthew Perry plays Ryan King, a recently widowed sports talk radio host, eager to return to work after a leave of absence. Surely, when it comes to his career, something similar is going on with the erstwhile Friends actor who’s had a few notable guest starring roles since that earlier gig ended in 2004—most recently on CBS’ The Good Wife—but who hasn’t been a regular fixture on our TV screens for some time now. The preview premiere of Go On’s pilot, which aired Wednesday night after NBC’s Olympics coverage, begins with a wink to the audience that suggests as much—Ryan pounds on the glass of his studio, informing his boss and co-workers that he’s “back and better than ever.” This is former Friends writer and Go On creator Scott Silveri’s adorable, if a bit heavy-handed, way of marking Perry’s return and perhaps implying that after a string of unsuccessful projects wherein the former ensemble player took on lead actor duties (2006’s Aaron Sorkin drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and 2011’s Mr. Sunshine), this will be the one that sticks. So, is Perry better than ever here? Well, there’s really no topping “Ms. Chanandler Bong” but this show certainly has the potential to be the first in Perry’s post-Friends career to get a second season order.

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Culture Warrior

Two nights ago, Aaron Sorkin’s heavily-anticipated and rather polarizing new show The Newsroom aired its debut on HBO. With the pilot’s central focus on the BP oilrig explosion, the premium cable network has established itself (alongside with their recent TV movies) as the primary venue for dramatizing recent political history. However, other contemporary television shows have addressed political issues well beyond the headlines of the past few years. In this election year, it seems that TV comedies and dramas from several networks have a surprising amount to say about the political process in a way that resonates with this uncertain, often frustrating moment. Here’s how The Newsroom stacks up against a triumvirate of other TV shows with overtly political themes…

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Culture Warrior

Last week, Thomas Catan and Amy Schatz of The Wall Street Journal published an article about the Justice Department’s antitrust investigation into whether or not cable companies are manipulating consumers’ access to streaming competitors of television content in order to reduce competition. The investigation’s central question is this: are cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner setting data caps to limit download time, speed, and amount of content in order to stave consumers off from using alternatives like Hulu and Netflix? Furthermore, the DOJ is investigating whether or not selective data limits applied to certain streaming outlets (like the fact that Comcast’s data limits can apply to streaming Hulu, but not Comcast’s own Xfinity services) violates Comcast’s legally-binding oath to not “unreasonably discriminate” against competitors. According to the WSJ, “Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday suggested he had sympathy for those who want to ‘cut the cord’ rather than paying for cable channels they don’t watch. At a Senate hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) said cable bills are ‘out of control’ and consumers want to watch TV and movies online. Mr. Holder responded, ‘I would be one of those consumers.’” What’s most important about this story for TV consumers is not so much the specific outcomes of this investigation (though that will no doubt have wide-ranging but uncertain implications), but the fact that lawmakers, regulators, and the industry will continue to be forced to recognize new distinctions being made between cable companies, networks, and individual shows as citizens increasingly […]

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Hannibal Lecter

According to Vulture, Martha Marcy May Marlene writer/director Sean Durkin is preparing to pitch a ten-episode television series concept of The Exorcist. It’s a promising idea from a strong, disturbing storyteller, so hopefully a solid network picks it up. The potential for trenchant drama aside, what’s fascinating is that this project paired with two possible Silence of the Lambs television shows marks a mini-trend in TV that sees the conversion of movies into the format. Of course, both franchises were born as books (from William Peter Blatty and Thomas Harris respectively), but they were made even more famous (if not downright iconic) by the films – especially because of performances from Max Von Sydow, Linda Blair, and Anthony Hopkins. So that’s two (count ‘em, two) shows based on Hannibal Lecter: Clarice over at Lifetime and Hannibal over at NBC. The first, clearly, focuses on Clarice Starling, and the second uses Will Graham as its FBI agent of choice. These are all in various stages of development, but it seems clear that some showrunners and channels are looking to horror movies for inspiration and content. The natural question? What horror movie icons would work best on TV?

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Channel Guide - Large

With most of the sitcoms that debuted in the fall (and managed to escape cancellation) winding down this week, I think it’s time to crown a winner. Which one of these brand new sitcoms most deserves to stick around?  Which was the most memorable? Which came out on top? Zooey Deschanel’s New Girl has already been renewed, Whitney was a thing that happened, but the show that worked the best for me was NBC’s Up All Night. Executive produced by Lorne Michaels and created by former Saturday Night Live writer Emily Spivey, Up All Night is a funny and relatable look at the life of a married couple, played by Christina Applegate and Will Arnett, trying to adapt to life with a new baby. Arnett is Chris, a former lawyer who has decided to stay home with their daughter while Appelgate’s Regan returns to work where she struggles to balance motherhood with the demands of her larger than life boss Ava—an Oprah-like talk show host played by Maya Rudolph. The show was this season’s best new sitcom and here are four reasons why.

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There is little additional commentary that one writer can add to such a headline. It’s simple: that show you and everyone you know loves so dearly, NBC’s redheaded stepchild from the twisted, unendingly nerdy mind of Executive Producer Dan Harmon, is coming back to finish its current season and march toward its goal of six seasons and a movie. Except for that last part. At least that’s the news thus far. The story stands, however, that Community is coming back. The news was broken this afternoon via a Dan Harmon tweet, confirming that the show will return to NBC on March 15, in the 8 p.m. ET time slot that it had once inhabited before being forced into an untimely break, one that brought the wrath of the internet to the email inboxes of many a NBC exec. HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall later got more specific, outlining the details of the show’s return. Parks and Recreation will take a five-week break, leaving room for the Greendale clan to come in and finish its season. Nothing has been said about the prospect of a fourth season for Community, though there’s obviously still a fighting chance. Which means that you’re going to have to tune in. Especially those of you who live in a Nielsen household. If not, perhaps you should kidnap a Nielsen household, but on Thursday nights.

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Channel Guide - Large

Karen Cartwright imagines herself in a shimmering white dress, center stage, belting out that ultimate dreamer’s song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She stretches her hands above her head, ever so dramatically, because she’s really into this performance – she isn’t just singing these words, she’s feeling them. She closes her eyes. Oh, yeah. She’s all up inside this song and we immediately understand the subtext here: these lyrics have been etched into her heart since she was a small girl, head already full of big city hopes and dreams about makin’ it. A cell phone rings, jolting Karen back to reality. She’s in a small room – far from the spotlight- auditioning for some jaded folks who somehow can’t see that she’s from Iowa and that she has aspirations! How wide-eyed does a girl have to be before someone gives her a leading role in a Broadway musical, yo? American Idol is all about regular people with unexpected talent, yearning for stardom. (Well, it used to be. Now, according to the most recent promos, it’s all about kids falling off of stages.) Katherine McPhee is an American Idol runner-up, so I guess she’s suited for this Karen part on Smash, NBC’s much-hyped drama about the creation of a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. McPhee’s Karen has a fresh-faced charm about her, the kind of girl you’d maybe instinctively root for, and the character’s Midwestern origins are, I believe, supposed to make her that much more appealing. The […]

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

Ah, the television midseason. By now, the public has decided which new shows they’ll stick with (Revenge, 2 Broke Girls, New Girl), which they’re unsure about (Pan Am, Prime Suspect, Once Upon a Time) and which aren’t even worth thinking about (The Playboy Club, Free Agents). There’s little chance that if something hasn’t become appointment viewing by now, it’s worth cancelling the DVR season pass. So while we’re all finally getting over the tragedy that was Charlie’s Angels, the network bigwigs are using their highly-representative sample (comprised, one can only imagine, of elderly people, religious zealots, and the entirety of the state of West Virginia) to determine just what they’ll throw at us next. Sure, some of the best shows have been birthed out of a midseason replacement (ahem, Happy Endings, ahem), but the pickings are often more than slim – shows the networks don’t often find strong enough to debut with their fellow newbies in the fall. So what will we have to look forward to (or to run away from) in our TV Guide in the coming weeks? Sure, PBS will kick off the second season of critical and ratings darling Downton Abbey January 8th, while NBC’s 30 Rock is back January 12th. Cee-Lo Green will once again be gracing our television screens with The Voice’s post-Superbowl premiere, and Timothy Olyphant will be emanating his rugged swagger on Justified once more, as the lawman drama kicks off its third season January 17th. But what of the newly minted […]

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

When NBC revealed its mid-season line-up last week, the Internet reacted almost instantly, with a violent fervor befitting of Arrested Development’s cancellation. Not because the travesty that is Whitney was able to score a full-season and not because Maria Bello’s stateside adaptation of Prime Suspect got temporarily shelved. Nope, the hums and haws exuded from the Internet glitterati were in objection of another shuffle – the benching of Dan Harmon’s ensemble cult comedy Community. The show, which follows a group of misfit community college students (a jilted-then-reunited housewife, a not-so-lovable curmudgeon, a handsome lawyer forced to make good, a wannabe activist with uncertain intentions, a former footballer, a meta filmmaker, and an anal-retentive honor student with anxiety issues) began on somewhat unsteady footing. Reeking potential, the jokes were a bit hit-or-miss at first, making Community a slow burn, a la its NBC cohort Parks and Recreation. Yet over time, Community found its stride – at its absolute best when able to cultivate its own brand of cultdom. With the paintball episode, the study group formed its own meta clique; a way to weave pop culture references so strong that Abed wasn’t the only one drinking the Kool-Aid. Very few episodes have the cast (or creative moxie) to pull off a holiday Claymation episode that reeked of charm, let alone that was actually funny. Don’t get me started on the Pulp Fiction-meets-My Dinner with Andre homage last season – a lesson in television nerdery that not only paid respect to one […]

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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