Television

Catfish

MTV’s Catfish doesn’t always save the big catches for its season finales – the first season finale centered on a tale so classic that it seemed as if it should be served with a side of fries and some coleslaw, a genuine romance marred by one half of the couple sending pictures of someone else and lying about her life (they eventually worked it out, at least for a bit), while the second season ended with a somewhat similar storyline (though this one was elevated by the revelation that the Catfisher had already run this same game on the Catfishee before) – so while we’ve come to expect blockbuster season finales from most other shows, the reality program seems disinterested in delivering that kind of television. Unless, of course, there’s a supermodel available to assist hosts Nev Schulman and Max Joseph as they go about their searching (read: stalking, Googling, making that Spokeo money). For last night’s third season finale, Schulman and Joseph were joined on the road (and in their investigation) by supermodel Selita Ebanks, who apparently tagged along because she’s a big fan. No, really. Catfish, a show that has never really tried to deliver a truly shocking season finale, appeared to randomly do just that – but not because of the actual story at the show’s heart, but because an (obviously very nice) supermodel wanted to come to North Carolina and Iowa and watch two people be humiliated on camera. Let’s never do this again, okay?

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Sharp Objects

By the time 2014 closes out, fans of Gillian Flynn‘s uniquely thrilling (and, typically, totally dark) novels will be doubly treated to a pair of new films based on her works. For an author who has so far only penned three books, that’s pretty handy work, but for awhile there, Flynn was going to be three for three in the feature adaptation department. Last summer, all of Flynn’s novels were in various states of cinematic production, with David Fincher‘s Gone Girl enjoying the bulk of the hype (it’s certainly the most star-studded production of the trio), Gilles Paquet-Brenner‘s Dark Places secure in a very respectable second place position and Sharp Objects just sort of hanging out in vague pre-production land. Gone Girl will now hit theaters on October 3 (though the possibility that it will bow at TIFF in September seems like a safe enough bet), just a month after Dark Places releases (with a September 1 release date, it sure would be nice to see a trailer or something soon, cough cough), but what about that Sharp Objects movie? Turns out, there’s not going to be one — because it’s going to be a Sharp Objects television show. This is fantastic news.

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Game of Thrones

Editor’s Note: The following guest blog comes from Patrick Sponaugle, who blogs extensively about Game of Thrones on his own site, PatrickSponaugle.com. As we’re a big fan of his work, we asked him to share some thoughts about the recently concluded fourth season. Beware that this article includes spoilers for all of season four, but is also safe for those who have not read the books. Season Four of HBO’s Game of Thrones just ended, more or less wrapping up the adaptation of the first three books in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga. I’ve been waiting a long time for this season to be presented because there were things that I really wanted to talk about. Not being able to do so was killing me.

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Community

  Granting the wishes of millions of fans who still believed in the power of the “six seasons and a movie” mantra, Community is indeed getting a sixth season (the movie is still, of course, a dream), though not in the way most viewers were probably expecting. When NBC canceled the series in May, outraged fans demanded answers, which came in increasingly more positive waves, thanks to the news that a number of on-demand services (from Hulu to Netflix) could pick up the series. And although neither of those names (or even Amazon and Crackle, which were also suggested) took the tantalizing TV bait, someone else did. According to an official press release and the gleeful howls of Human Beings everywhere, Yahoo! Screen will now revive the beloved television series (which, based on this news, is still a former television series, it’s all online now, baby!), news that probably requires the question: wait, what’s Yahoo! Screen?

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The Leftovers

There shouldn’t be any question that HBO’s latest much-watch series, the Damon Lindelof- and Tom Perrotta-created The Leftovers, is a feel-good affair, but let’s clarify things, just for good measure: this is not a feel-good affair. Based on Perrotta’s novel of the same name, the series (which premiered last night on the cable channel) picks up three years after two percent of the world’s population went – poof – up in totally metaphorical smoke. Two percent of the world, just gone, vanished, vamoosed, missing, possibly raptured (though the first episode of the series does, quite memorably, include a talking head news program that features a host that refuses to acknowledge the possibility that this was “the Rapture” or in any way a religious act), leaving behind the vast majority of the human population, all damaged in their own way. No, really damaged. The whole thing is black as night – The Leftovers isn’t witty like Election or biting like Little Children, Perrotta’s best known big screen adaptions – but it’s moving and unnerving in its own way. The show is mostly without levity or humor, and is often so self-serious as to feel a smidge too heavy-handed (mainly thanks to an overwrought and occasionally awkward score and a series of smash cuts that grate), but it’s still entertaining and very watchable – though binge watching seems particularly ill-advised. In fact, The Leftovers is a show that’s designed to not appeal to the binging masses, if only because it’s too damn […]

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Doctor Who Series 8

We knew Doctor Who Series 8 was fast approaching, but until now we hadn’t been officially briefed on just when it would land. Was it intentional for BBC to hold that confirmation until we were an appropriate number of weeks away? It seems too perfect. According to a new teaser via BBC America, the show will premiere with the first full episode to star Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor on August 23rd at 8pm ET. Titled “Deep Breath,” the episode will be written by Steven Moffat and directed by Ben Wheatley, best known for the films Kill List and Sightseers. The only other things we know are Jenna Coleman is back as companion Clara Oswald and Samuel Anderson is joining the show as another teacher at the school where she works. You won’t even get that much from the 15-second teaser, though. Have a watch after the jump.

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BBC America

The concern with Orphan Black – as with any series built on an ongoing mystery-based narrative — has always been that it’s a television show operating on the hope of continued renewal. They’re in no hurry to actually answer the mystery because the creators and network want the show to continue. Think Lost, Flash Forward or Prison Break. Unlike series like The X-Files or Fringe there’s no episodic structure to fall back on throughout the season as every episode has to deal with that main mystery in some direct fashion. Each step closer to the solution is paired with another two steps back worth of new questions, characters and story turns. That fear came to fruition with last night’s rushed, poorly written and frequently ridiculous season two finale.

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Better Call Saul

You might feel some apprehension about the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul, but you know you’re going to watch it. When it finally arrives, that is. The show, which is to star Bob Odenkirk reprising his role as lawyer Saul Goodman, was supposed to debut on AMC this November. The bad news is that it’s been pushed back until early next year. The good news, though, is that the cable network is excited about what they’ve seen so far and have already renewed the series for a second season. The first will be 10 episodes, and the second, arriving early 2016, will add another 13. Vince Gilligan is directing the pilot and will share showrunning duties with Peter Gould, who created Goodman as a Breaking Bad writer in season 2 (the character’s debut episode was also called “Better Caul Saul”). Michael McKean, who was so great recently on HBO’s canceled Family Tree is also in the cast as another lawyer, and Jonathan Banks is reprising his role as Mike Ehrmantraut. Yes, it’s a prequel series.

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Chelsea Handler

Looks like Chelsea Handler is getting out of the late night talk show game — well, sort of. The current host of E!’s Chelsea Lately hasn’t made it any secret that she’s unhappy at the network she just so happens to be leaving soon or that she’s looking for another steady gig in the late night realm, but the comedienne has now signed up for a new show that, by its very design, is not a late night talk show. In reality, it’s an anytime talk show, because Handler is now moving over to Netflix for the next stage of her career.The streaming service (and DVD rental giant, but who ever thinks about that anymore) announced the pairing today via a press release, the kind peppered with fawning language and lots of Handler’s trademark humor (which, cough cough, doesn’t work for everyone).

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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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Fargo Series Finale

There were few surprises in tonight’s series finale of Fargo. Maybe the biggest one was how Agent Budge (Keegan-Michael Key) repeated the riddle of the previous episode’s title, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage,” rather than moving on to address the meaning behind “Morton’s Fork,” as this installment was called. But maybe that served its own purpose. Morton’s Fork is a matter of choice in a situation where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. For instance, if the show had Budge go over the meaning of the episode’s title, I probably would have criticized its consistency, yet with the discrepancy I question the reason. On a larger scale, the fork applies to a number of outcomes that a show might have where fans will be disappointed. Most television series these days have to deal with the dilemma when finishing up. Audiences are so hard to please at the end of a long-term investment, and at 10 episodes Fargo might have been just long-term enough to face that kind of scrutiny. Plot-wise, what might have satisfied the majority of viewers? Deaths of certain characters? Answers to questions about a particular character’s mortality? Do we ever have expectations for heroic outcomes anymore? The conclusion of this series is more interested in resolving the arcs of its good guys, and those resolutions are only satisfying on paper.

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Game of Thrones season 4 finale

How are you feeling, fellow book readers? It’s entirely possible that, like many of those who have read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series to-date, you are feeling left out in the cold a bit. You might find that your hands are cold. Your blood may be turning black. Your Belwas might not be so strong. Your honeypot could have run dry. Your heart, full of stone. If you’re caught in that ever-frustrating book reader loop that involves focusing on what the show didn’t give you rather than enjoying what it has given you, this season four finale of Game of Thrones might spell trouble. But enough of this advanced recapping cryptology. Let’s get into these Game of Thrones spoilers.

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Game of Thrones: Episode 410

When Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said this past week that their season four finale was their finest yet, it was easy to disregard at the time. Of course they thought it was their best, as any creator might. Little did we know at the time that they were absolutely correct. Season four’s final frame wasn’t just the end of a long, bloody and brilliant season of television. It also serves as an unexpectedly hopeful and wondrous start to the next chapter. When does season five start, again?

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BBC America

The penultimate episode of Orphan Black‘s second season takes the somewhat unusual tactic — for this show anyway — of actually wrapping up story-lines instead of inundating viewers with dozens more. The biggies are still left dangling of course, but two of the clones have their immediate threats dealt with in some fairly conclusive (and highly entertaining) ways. The remaining three — Sarah, Cosima and Rachel — see their story threads intertwined even tighter as the race to use the medical miracle that is Kira leads to her abduction. It’s an understandably dramatic moment, but some sloppy writing mutes some of its effect. Still, we’re set for one hell of a final episode next week as a mother’s wrath kicks into overdrive.

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Game of Thrones Spoilers: The Watchers on The Wall

What’s going to happen in the season finale? Who else has to die to satisfy the bloodlust of gods old and new? Plenty of questions will be answered in the next week by Game of Thrones, but so many more will likely be posed as the show finishes its massively entertaining fourth season. In this week’s spoiler discussion, I’m opening it up to all of you to discuss your theories about how GoT will finish season four. With not a lot of spoilery talk to be had about episode 9 — it was a big battle with a few logistical changes, but overall it was in line with the tone of what happened in the book — perhaps it’s best to look forward. But first, the spoiler warning…

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The Magic School Bus

“Magic School Bus, the old version, is remarkably popular on Netflix. It teaches science in a way that transcends generations.” Very true, Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix. Magic School Bus does transcend generations — it taught my generation all about human innards, ecosystems and the benefits of dangerous, unplanned field trips. It’s why the show continues to be re-run on TV for today’s youth, and why those same re-runs are also extremely popular Netflix streamables. And it’s for these same reasons that Magic School Bus will be rebooted. To better appeal to…today’s youth. Doesn’t make much sense, but it might if Ms. Frizzle explained it to us.

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Keith Carradine and Billy Bob Thornton in Fargo

This week, for the penultimate episode of Fargo, I’d like to start with the title. I normally leave that for the end of the recap, but for once I found there to be a very clear meaning as it relates to the plot of the show. The name of tonight’s installment, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage,” is one variation of a classic riddle that most of us probably heard in elementary school. I don’t have to state the idea behind it, because for the second episode in a row we got to hear Agent Budge (Keegan Michael Key) lay the title’s origin out directly. The main thing is it’s about trying to keep predators away from prey (or more simply, keeping one thing from another thing that the first thing would eat) while transporting them all together. Similarly, the premise of this episode involved multiple situations where characters kept nearly coming into alignment where one of them would have been killed. That caused this to be the most suspenseful episode yet. Especially after some new characters were eliminated rather quickly (so much for my excitement with Stephen Root‘s joining the cast, though he was good while he lasted) and this being so close to the end of the show, it just seemed more deaths could come at any moment. I took it as though showrunner Noah Hawley and director (and former child actor) Matt Shakman were dealing with their own variation of the riddle, where they had to maneuver the characters around in ways to […]

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Allison Tolman

If you’ve been holding off on watching Fargo, the television spin-off of Joel and Ethan Coen‘s cinematic classic of the same name, now is a pretty good time to get going on the FX series, not just because the limited series is approaching its end, and not just because it’s getting to be seriously good, but because it features one of the most exciting and zippy leading ladies to hit the small screen in quite some time. Basically, you’re going to want to get on board with superstar-in-the-making Allison Tolman right now, at least before the accolades and other roles start pouring in. (Some spoilers follow.) Fargo is best described as a spiritual twin to the film (though later episodes do quite directly link up the series and the movie), so it should come as little surprise that the show’s most cheer-worthy and compellingly human character is a female police officer (in this case, a deputy), just like in the 1996 black comedy, which found its heart and head in Frances McDormand‘s police chief Marge Gunderson. Tolman’s Molly Solverson is similarly the soul of the series, and even when the series gets oofta-sized rough, she remains unfailingly interesting and damn charming to watch.

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True Detective

True Detective is in a slightly difficult position right now. The first season of HBO’s detective story was a fantastic eight hours of television. The central mystery itself was fairly routine, but that’s not what the first season was about: it was about seeing Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle’s (Matthew McConaughey) wildly different world views conflict and come together. Each second with Marty and Rust is a treat. Their limited exposure (in an age of 9-season TV franchises) is part of what makes the experience special. Those episodes said everything we needed to know about their relationship. Since they’re not the focus of season 2, show creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto has to create a new dynamic that will be inescapably compared to the star-gazers. Considering how people responded to Marty and Rust, that won’t be easy. Right now all we know about season 2 is it’s set in California and focuses on two men and one woman. One of the show’s executive producers, Scott Stephens, participated in a panel at the Los Angeles’ Produced By Conference over the weekend. While he couldn’t discuss any specifics, Stephens did explain how much more challenging the production will be on season 2.

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Game of Thrones: 409

This review of Game of Thrones is intended for those who are show watchers and not book readers. Please refrain from putting spoilers in the comments. There will be a separate article marked Spoilers Discussion for that in the coming days. And you thought after last week that Game of Thrones wouldn’t have any big moments for episode nine… Believe in one thing when it comes to season four: there are plenty of moments to go around. It’s a testament to just how great the third book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire was in comparison to the others. It needed two full seasons and it has been gripping down the stretch. This episode nine, thanks in large part to some operatic directorial work from the series’ hired gun of epic battles Neil Marshall, feels like the well-earned big finish this season was working toward. As a bonus, there’s still one more episode to go.

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