Television

Here in Texas, where Film School Rejects calls home, there are a lot of pop culture nerds. But not so many that it could be called a cultural landmark, at least not across the state (or outside of Austin, for that matter). There is however, a prevailing cultural entity that does exist in every corner of the state: football. It’s not so much a game or a pastime in Texas as it is a way of life. It’s everywhere around us, which is why we’re particularly curious about the Esquire Network show Friday Night Tykes. Friday Night Tykes season 2 continues to take a hard look at youth sports, the coaching, and the extreme lengths that some parents are willing to endure in order to make their child a champion. Brutal hits, ferocious coaches, rabid fans. The show takes an inside look at the Texas Youth Football Association, the most competitive youth football league in America. A place where old-school virtues of victory and competition haven’t died and there are no trophies for second place. For the parents and coaches, losing is not an option – ever. But are these kids being pushed too hard, too fast?

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Gotham Welcome Back Jim Gordon

Did anyone else get a massive hit of deja vu from last night’s Gotham? I couldn’t shake that black cat in the Matrix feeling through the entirety of “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon.” And upon closer examination, there’s a very basic reason why: “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon” may appear to be a shiny new Gotham, but it’s really just a Frankenstein’s monster of used Gotham plotlines, stapled together around the new (well, semi-new,  he popped up briefly last week) inclusion of Det. Arnold Flass (Dash Mihok). Here’s what Gotham gave us last night, and why it was so deja vu-like.

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Girls Female Author

Normally Kate and Rob would be discussing the finer points of this blunt episode of Girls, but since they’re at Sundance, I have the privilege, and because I don’t want to ruin the format of their feature, I’m going to have a conversation about the episode despite being only one person. Hopefully it gets confusing. Fortunately, “Female Author” was ridiculously straightforward. Jessa and Adam bonded over the coffee machine at AA, Marnie and Desi struggle with creative success and romantic failure, Hannah becomes the truth-teller of her writing workshop and Shoshana goes through a completely unnecessary job interview. Overall, it felt like a filler episode, catching up with everyone in transition without showing any great action — granted, the show has dealt fairly casually even with the aftermath of large dramatic swings, too, but this episode felt especially like it was coasting. That’s not automatically a bad thing, especially for a show that doesn’t often catch its own breath, but let’s get to the conversation.

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Netflix

If you’ve been missing the NBC comedies 30 Rock and The Office, Netflix has what you’re looking for, and they’ll even let you watch it on Thursday nights, too. Tina Fey, who created and starred in the former show has a new TV series with 30 Rock showrunner Robert Carlock called Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and instead of returning to the Peacock network (where it was initially set to debut this Spring), it’s dropping on the online distributor’s streaming service on March 6th — all 13 episodes of the first season at once. And less than two months ahead, they’ve dropped a trailer for the show, which you can watch below. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stars Ellie Kemper, one of the ensemble players from The Office, as a former member of an doomsday cult who is now trying to lead a normal life in the big city. She’s lived in an underground bunker before hitting New York, so she’s a little naive and ignorant about a lot of society and technology and such. She becomes roomies with a big gay man (Tituss Burgess), who works as a costumed character — Iron Man, it seems — in Times Square, and she gets a job as a nanny for a rich woman played by 30 Rock‘s Jane Krakowski.

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Orange is the New Black - Crazy Eyes

The battle of the online distributors of original streaming content continues this week, with Netflix not to be outdone by news of Amazon’s plans for exclusive movie production and Overstock.com’s unbelievable announcement to get into this market overall. From the National Association of Television Program Executives this week comes word, via Variety, that Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos is now aiming for 20 scripted shows a year. Part of that goal is to offer more diversity, meaning maybe not everything will be as favorable to those of us enjoying hits like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Maybe there’ll be some broader sitcoms in there, possibly some bland procedurals, things like that. After all, the most popular programs on network TV are hardly the most critically acclaimed and award-worthy. Surely Big Bang Theory junkies have Netflix subscriptions, too. And they might be into the weird comedy of Wet Hot American Summer. But while this was hardly an official announcement of any kind, I’d like it to be a springboard for making a case for Netflix to also get the ball rolling on quality unscripted shows. This is a company responsible for many Americans discovering they actually do enjoy documentaries. Their streaming service has hundreds of essential nonfiction film titles at any given time (as ranked by me at Nonfics) and they’ve done a spectacular job of producing and acquiring doc titles, proven by their second Oscar nomination picked up last week for Virunga.

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Game of Thrones season 4 finale

It’s time to fire up the Blog of Thrones for another exciting year of talking about all things Westeros. Here in the real world, winter has come and that can only mean one thing: we’re getting dangerously close to Game of Thrones starting up again. In recent weeks, HBO has announced a number of exciting events that will serve as an appetizer for the upcoming season five extravaganza. The first is the Game of Thrones IMAX Experience, which hits IMAX theaters starting January 30. This is a showing of the final two episodes of season four (“The Watchers on the Wall” and “The Children”) in full IMAX glory along with the debut of the official season five trailer. The second big preview event was announced today: Day In The Life, an unprecedented look behind the scenes of the most massive television production on the planet. It airs Sunday, February 8 at 7:30p EST and HBO has just today released a juicy preview.

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What the Little Bird Told Him Gotham

“What the Little Bird Told Him” has absolutely no time to waste. Within seconds, it’s cranking up the Johnny Cash (“God’s Gonna Cut You Down”) and sending the Electrocutioner (Christopher Heyerdahl) and his hulking, mind-control manservant Aaron (Kevin McCormick) on one of many murderous errands. The two are dressed in full rubber (rubber trenchcoats, too, to keep these fellows looking sharp and not like sex gimps). They zap a man to death via doorknob. He continues to stand upright, even though he’s very much dead. Presumably, his boots have melted, and he’s glued to the floor. And all this within the first minute of the hour. Because that’s the kind of hour “What the Little Bird” is — one with so much to do, so much to say and so much style oozing out its ears that of course it’ll start with a Johnny Cash shoe melting kill-fest. (Although the Electrocutioner’s melting technique isn’t perfect. The body’s flat on the floor by the time Gordon and Bullock are on the scene. We’ll call that a B+.)

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Girls

Well, she did it. Hannah (Lena Dunham) actually made it to Iowa (whether or not she actually makes it at Iowa remains to be seen, but things are already not looking good). That we didn’t get to see Hannah and her well-meaning parents actually road trip from Brooklyn to Iowa City (approximate distance = 1,000 miles) is a minor quibble about a mostly good, exceedingly crisply directed episode (Dunham directed this one, in addition to co-writing it with right-hand gal Jenni Konner). Things have changed for Hannah in the, uh, well probably like 15 hours since she left Brooklyn. She’s got a new apartment (a nicely appointed and shockingly large Victorian spread, procured for $800 a month from an understandably flabbergasted realtor), a brain-expanding graduate student life to embark on (approximate number of times Hannah reminded people she was a graduate student in this episode = 429), a bike that’s just about to be stolen, and tons of brand new friends. Wait, did we say “friends”? Oh, we meant “people in her program who already think she’s a total moron.” Hannah’s first impression on the rest of the writers in her workshop isn’t a good one — partially because they all seem to be varying shades of stuck up, but mostly because Hannah’s ability to accept criticism and present herself as an actual human adult is at its bare minimum during this episode — and after being in Iowa for mere hours, she’s already vaguely threatening suicide. Never change, Hannah! (Wait, never mind, […]

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Woody Allen

Apparently flying high on its very first pair of Golden Globe wins, thanks to original series Transparent, emerging television force Amazon has announced that it has hired on a sizable name to helm yet another new series: Woody Allen. The new project will mark the writer and director’s first journey to small-screen creation – though, in his early years, Allen did write for shows like Stanley and Candid Camera – and although the news that Allen is set to work in a new medium is interesting, it comes with a caveat. Namely, that Woody Allen has no idea what the hell his new show is going to be about.

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Girls Iowa

The fourth season of HBO’s occasionally beloved and often controversial Girls has arrived, and with it comes the promise that maybe this go-round will actually feature those damn eponymous girls growing into actual women. The season picks up soon after the conclusion of last year’s run, with Hannah (Lena Dunham) bound for the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) recovering from attempting to off her employer (hey, she asked for it), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) dealing with the fallout of maybekindasorta not graduating college and Marnie (Allison Williams) attempting to break into the apparently blossoming jazz brunch scene. These girls are certainly moving forward, but that doesn’t mean that the decisions that are pushing them are the best ones they could make — if that’s not the way of Girls, we don’t know what is. As ever, Rob Hunter and myself are here to recap the show for you, complete with well-meaning arguments, heady banter and a deep concern for, well, just about everyone. This is your fourth season of Girls, and it’s going to Iowa, whether you like it or not.

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Togetherness

HBO’s Sunday night programming block, steadily fashioned over the years to serve as the home to Lena Dunham‘s divisive Girls, is now making room for some grown-ups. Mark and Jay Duplass‘ Togetherness (the brothers’ first foray together into scripted television programming) makes its debut this weekend, sandwiched between Dunham’s twentysomething ladies on the loose dramedy and Michael Lanham‘s other-coastal and male-centric alternative Looking, providing yet another look at the inherent disappointments of adult life. It’s a wily addition to the cable giant’s lineup, but it charms emerge in some unexpected ways — mainly, through the charms of a certain co-star. The series follows four (seemingly) different adults — Mark Duplass and Melanie Lynskey as married couple Brett and Michelle, parents to two cute kids and a host of raging sexual issues, with Steve Zissis (who co-created the series alongside the Duplass bros) on board as Brett’s loserish best pal Alex and Amanda Peet similarly starring as Michelle’s unsatisfied sister Tina. The series premiere opens with Alex, a struggling actor, being evicted from his home and Tina, visiting Brett and Michelle’s adopted hometown of LA, getting brutally dumped by a guy she thought she was dating (Ken Marino, who is gloriously awful and douchey as Craig). The awkward foursome soon inhabit the same house and the show’s premise — what happens when four mostly unhappy adults live together? — is off to a charming, if oddly heartbreaking start.

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Game of Thrones

In an inspired bit of cinematic cross-promotion, HBO’s own Game of Thrones is about to become the very first television series to get the IMAX treatment. The hit series will make its way to the big, big screen at the end of the month, when two episodes of the series (sadly, not new ones, but still the final two episodes of season four, “The Watchers on the Wall” and “The Children,” which were awesome) and a brand new trailer for the series’ fifth season will be available in various IMAX theaters around the country. Per HBO, this is the first time that a television series will appear on IMAX screens and, as the episodes are being remastered specifically for the format and the exclusive new trailer was reportedly created precisely for the big screen, it seems they’re really doing this thing up right. But why should Game of Thrones have all the fun? And, if this is the start of a new trend, what other (currently airing) shows should make their way to the IMAX screen? We’ve got some ideas.

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12 monkeys

A lot of TV series based on movies are weak versions of their source material, and thankfully many of them disappear quickly and have no damaging effects. Once in a blue moon something like M*A*S*H or the second iteration of Parenthood comes along and is a good enough piece of pop culture in its own right. I’ve been expecting Syfy’s 12 Monkeys show to be the former, but after checking out the first nine minutes ahead of next week’s debut, I’m thinking it could at least be worth watching if not also another classic. Let it be known that I’m a humongous 12 Monkeys fan. It’s one of only a couple movies I ever went back and re-watched on the big screen immediately (as in very next showing, didn’t even leave my seat) following my first viewing. It works perfectly in the 127-minute time frame. But so does the 28-minute La Jetee, Chris Marker’s film that inspired Terry Gilliam’s feature. Maybe a continual series is merely the next step and can work just as well if done right. So far I’m chalking up the show’s worth to star Aaron Stanford, who takes over the Bruce Willis role of time traveler James Cole. He’s always been great, and I hope this utilizes his talents better than the X-Men movies franchise has (I haven’t seen him in his previous TV series based on a movie, Nikita). And Amanda Schull, in the part of Dr. Cassandra Reilly (played by Madeleine Stowe on the big screen), seems […]

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HBO

Get your tissues ready, folks, because 2015 is offering up a bountiful feast of delicious television offerings…that are ending. 2015 will see the end of series like Parks and Recreation, Mad Men, Justified and Parenthood, and it should come as little surprise that some of those exact series are topping our most-hyped list. Will they end with a bang? A whimper? Both, with a bang-y ending and everyone whimpering on their respective couches? We don’t yet, people, but we’re going to find out soon. Although we’re super-excited for the new television our smaller screens have to offer this year (and, yes, we even made an entire list to prove it), there are plenty of returning shows to get us just as riled up, even the precious few that are sticking around for many more years to come. Take a look.

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FOX

It’s been quite a while since our last Gotham. Forty-two days, to be precise, but even with that lengthy Gotham gap, “Rogues’ Gallery” isn’t particularly interested in re-stating what happened last year. The episode’s own “Where are they now?” gives the same two-second answer for every character: “sitting in the dark, looking morose.” Instead, the first Gotham of 2015 is ready to jump into the new. Specifically Jim Gordon’s job working Arkham Aslyum security. A la The Wire, Gordon (or his Baltimore counterpart, McNulty) was demoted for being too real (and ruffling the feathers of a few important higher-ups) and is now donning his old policeman’s uniform on a dirty, menial and wholly unpleasant beat. Also, his boss is played by Isiah Whitlock, Jr, who’s best known for his turn as The Wire‘s Clay Davis. That casting cannot be a coincidence. Admittedly, Wire similarities end there. “Rogues’ Gallery” hurriedly introduces us to what will likely be the Arkham standard: ridiculous, violent camp. All the time. Non-stop. Forever. Our first glimpse inside the Arkham walls finds a group of disturbed inmates in full costume, jittering their way through Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” One of them clearly has knives on his fingers (you’d think the Arkham staff would nix that particular costume choice). Alas, an audience member isn’t satisfied with the Arkham version of Ariel, and rushes out of the audience to savagely beat the performer in question. That’s about the norm going forward. Someone, you see, is frying the inmates’ brains with a crude […]

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The Last Man on Earth trailer

A new year and a new list! But while I suspect we’re all more than a bit tapped out on lists of lists on top of lists rehashing the glories and failures of 2014, this list is a bit different, because it’s forward-thinking, driving us to right into the glory of a year so fresh that it’s still wearing its official New Year’s Baby Cloth Diaper ©. This is a list about things to come, a list chronicling the unseen, a list of possibilities. In short, this is a list of dreams. It’s also — mainly, mostly — a list about entertainment to come, specifically of the small screen variety and particularly the kind that we will seen sooner rather than later. The traditional seasonal system has been shoved aside over the past few years, no longer dictating that autumn is the only time to see a bevy of new television offerings (though I still have many fond memories of flipping through TV Guide‘s Fall Preview issue and turning down the corners on shows I couldn’t wait to watch — ah, youth! and also print!), ensuring that even the dead of winter has plenty of new picks for everyone to enjoy. Consider this your new wave Fall Preview, even if you can’t turn down any pages.

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Serial

If you’re planning on spending any portion of the holiday season with the older generation of your family (or your significant other’s family, or a friend’s family, or whoever, you get it), you’ve probably already considered some of the current goings-on in pop culture you may have to explain and/or contextualize to a less plugged-in legion of relatives that are eager to be in the know. “What is this Sony business?” they might ask. “Is Seth Rogen really in league with the government?” someone might inquire. “What is a Nicki Minaj?” a person might pipe in. “Did you like that Angelina Jolie movie?” might come up, too. “And what is a podcast?”

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The Newsroom

On paper, the idea was a good one: Aaron Sorkin would use his trademark fast-talking television style to tackle current events with his The Newsroom, an HBO series that boasted a stellar cast and an insider’s peek at, yes, an actual newsroom. Now in its third (and, thankfully, last) season, The Newsroom’s forward-thinking premise has proven to be staggeringly backwards, literally turning a show about the power and the immediacy of breaking news into a graveyard for old stories. The very nature of The Newsroom places it in the unenviable position of being salacious and exploitative without offering anything new to the conversation – simply because the conversations the show is so desperate to participate in are already over by the time new episodes air. Because of the nature of episodic television – especially cable television – “current” events that frame up the plot of any given episode are automatically dated, because the episodes just don’t air until many months later. No matter how searing and searching a Newsroom episode may be (and, yes, it’s been quite some time since the series was either thing), it will never be part of the cultural conversation. It’s too late, which is why you shouldn’t watch The Newsroom. At least, well, not right now.

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Peter Pan

As a young child, I loved a strange range of movies, from Pretty Woman to Dirty Dancing, Fern Gully to The Little Mermaid, The Thornbirds to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. My wide, mixed up taste was bred from relatively lax familial observations of my watching habits (most of my consumption happened in front of our living room television, a room placed squarely in the middle of our long house, with occasional trips to the single screen theater in our small Vermont town, so I wasn’t really hiding anything). My parents didn’t seem to care too much about what I watched – although I do have a strong memory of going to see Summer of Sam with my parents as a teen, which included my aghast mother asking me at least ten times if I wanted to leave – and I didn’t really abuse the freedom. I just liked things. It’s probably why I still love rom-coms and musicals and overwrought dramas and, yes, Last Crusade (the best Indy, at least in my mind). It’s also why I love Peter Pan. More specifically, it’s why I love the Mary Martin-starring stage version of Peter Pan (incidentally, one that aired on NBC in 1960), and probably why I’ve consistently rejected other versions of the story (Hook may hold a nostalgic place in the hearts of the rest of my generation, but I never took to it). As a kid, I had a VHS copy of the Martin Peter Pan (essentially […]

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Fox Television

Our recap of last week’s Gotham was absorbed into last week’s Thanksgiving break. But we were a group of (as was implied) Winnie the Poohs snuggled into our beds for a holiday hibernation, so chances are you wouldn’t have even wanted to read what I had to say last week. Mostly, it would have been sleepy half-thoughts and typos where too much hunny was gunked into the keyboard. Since last week, we’ve pulled a switcheroo. Here at FSR, we’re wide-eyed and ready to go, but Gordon and Penguin and Sal Maroni just settled into their periwinkle nightgowns for a winter’s rest. Last week was the Gotham mid-season finale, and that means no new episodes until an undisclosed date in early 2015. So let’s make the best of what we’ve got. While the show’s napping, we’ll take a look at how Gotham has progressed; what’s changed, what hasn’t changed (and probably should), and what we’d like to see when Gotham wakes from its slumber for another half-season of Batman-tinged cop drama.

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published: 01.28.2015
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published: 01.28.2015
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published: 01.27.2015
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