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Showing posts from February, 2011

Game of Thrones: The Maester's Path

I have traveled to Pentos and the Inn at the Crossroads. Thanks to HBO (and Campfire)'s new immersive experience The Maester's Path, I've accrued the first link in my maester's chain. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then you haven't read George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones," the first in the author's multi-volume novel series which is about to hit the airwaves next month as HBO's Game of Thrones . Last week, I tweeted that I had received an ornate wooden box from HBO containing scrolls, vials of various scents (from incense and pear brandy to wood beams and salt harbor). Following the instructions (lovingly embodied in a series of hand-tied scrolls), I was directed to mix the scents to create two blends, each one embodying two locations within the world of Game of Thrones . Pear brandy, wooden beams, and crusty bread combined to form the heady perfume of the Inn at the Crossroads, while salt harbor, incense, and spice market

Uninvited Guests: Til Death Do Us Part on Big Love

"We're on separate paths." - Adaleen While the Henricksons have overcome many huge obstacles over the last five seasons, it seems as though the thing that's tearing them apart might be themselves. Through thick and thin, through betrayal and compromise, Bill and his wives have always seen past the here and now to the eternal, to the celestial kingdom where their family would spend forever walking hand in hand. But that eternal happiness is now being called into question, as is their felicity among the quotidian existence of life on earth. This week's episode of Big Love ("Til Death Do Us Part"), written by Aaron Allen and directed by David Petrarca, found the Henricksons besieged on all sides: from Albert Grant's vengeful vendetta against Bill, to the LDS Church, and among themselves, as the paper wedding of Bill and Nicki fast approached. We've been told that their marriage is a legal formality, a means to an end as it would allow the two to le

Academy of Motion Picture Tedium: Was This the Worst Oscars Ever?

Just a few quick words about last night's experiment in tedium that was the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. Over the years, the Oscars have gotten the (rightful earned) reputation for being a bloated, boring telecast of an awards show. Overblown and hyperbolic, the Academy Awards have often represented a largely three-hour-plus snoozefest, apart from Billy Crystal's memorable opening monologue/montages and some occasional upsets. But this year's Oscars broadcast, hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway, might just go down in the history books as the Worst Oscars broadcast ever. Painfully awkward, unfunny, and sluggish, last night's awards ceremony dragged on for three and a half hours with barely a laugh thrown in. As The King's Speech rather predictably swept through the awards categories (and I say that as someone who was a devotee of the film), the entire affair seemed to be a deflated mess of a show, a bizarre mix of history lesson, stage elements, auto-tuned musi

Going Home: An Advance Review of Tonight's Episode of Fringe ("Subject 13")

Home is forever the place we're running to or running from. Or, sometimes, it's both. On tonight's heartbreaking episode of Fringe ("Subject 13"), the writers have once again peeled away the veil of time to offer the audience another look into the past, a sequel to last season's "Peter," set six months after the events of that episode. While that episode, set in the heart of the 1980s, depicted the good intentions of Walter Bishop (the always sensational John Noble) in saving the life of another world's Peter after the death of his own son, tonight's episode shows the poignant consequences of his actions, focusing not on the global aftermath of his actions (those damaging soft spots in the universe's structure) but on the emotional toll that his decision makes on both sides of the dimensional divide. Six months after kidnapping Peter and nursing him back to health, things are anything but stable in the Bishop household. Walter is rarely

Southern Gothic: The Chicken Oyster of Doom on Top Chef

Well, the next time a student gets caught cheating off of someone else's paper, they should just say that they were "inspired" by their peer. Or at least that's the defense that Top Chef 's Mike Isabella would apparently give, as displayed by his behavior on this week's episode of Top Chef: All-Stars ("For the Gulf"), in which he was "inspired" by a dish that Richard Blais had concocted in his notepad so much that he executed the exact dish later that day in the Quickfire Challenge. The other chefs, upon learning of Mike's perfidy, seemed to be in agreement with yours truly: it was an act of culinary plagiarism, a serious breaking of "chef law" given that the incident in question happened on camera before our eyes. Let's rewind for a second. Richard Blais, that culinary mad scientist and food visionary, keeps a notebook that's stocked with ideas, should inspiration seize hold of him, even during the stress of

The Daily Beast: "Why You Must Watch Parenthood"

So, wait, you're not watching Parenthood ? NBC’s Parenthood is not the most glamorous show on television. Its focus, charting the lives of a sprawling Berkeley, California family, might pale in comparison to, say, Desperate Housewives ’ antics on Wisteria Lane. There are no murders, no swapped babies, and no satirical, over the top look at domesticity here. Which is to say: enough is enough. This is a show that you should be watching, regardless of whether you're a parent yourself or a teenager. (Or, even if you're well past your teen years.) Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, "Why You Must Watch Parenthood ," which discusses the reasons why you have to watch NBC’s criminally underrated drama Parenthood , which captures the highs and lows of family life. On tonight's episode of Parenthood ("Do Not Sleep With Your Autistic Nephew's Therapist"), Crosby deals with backlash from his mistake; Alex's constant visits irk Ada

Casting Couch: Kiefer Sutherland Grabs Touch, Minnie Driver Lands Hail Mary, Jason Isaacs Gets REM

A trio of leading actors are heading back to television this pilot season. Former 24 star Kiefer Sutherland has been cast in FOX drama pilot Touch , from creator/executive producer Tim Kring ( Heroes ) and 20th Century Fox Television. The project revolves around Sutherland's character, a father "who discovers that his autistic, mute son can predict events before they happen," according to Deadline 's Nellie Andreeva. Production is slated to begin in late May or early June, due to Sutherland's Broadway commitments. (He's currently on stage in a revival of That Championship Season .) Touch will be directed by Charles McDougall, who has become quite the go-to pilot director in recent years, having directed pilots for such series as The Good Wife, The Chicago Code, Desperate Housewives, The Tudors , and many others. Elsewhere, Minnie Driver ( The Riches is also heading back to television , this time to star in CBS drama pilot Hail Mary , where she will play &qu

Community: The Problem with Pierce

Viewers of Community have embraced the NBC comedy's ability to explore the boundaries of the single-camera broadcast comedy format, gleefully embarking on adventures involving zombies, outer space, chicken finger-hoarding mobsters, pen-stealing monkeys, and much more. But what some viewers have had a hard time doing is offering a hug to the show's most dastardly character, Pierce Hawthorne, played by veteran Chevy Chase. In the first season of Community , Pierce often acted as a personification of the study group's id, a childlike man who frequently expressed the things that each of us progressive, modern people have sworn never to think, let alone say out loud. The problem with Pierce in many ways is that it's become difficult at times to separate Pierce Hawthorne from Chevy Chase. Both men appear to be loud, loutish, and disruptive, prone to being an attention-stealer who often engages in pratfalls in order to grab the spotlight away from one of his costars. (If you&

How the Cookie Crumbles: Knee-Socks and Tablecloths on Top Chef

Um, yeah. While in the past I've supported some wacky challenges on Bravo's addictive culinary competition Top Chef because they tested the contestants in terms of adaptability, I have to say that I was scratching my head last night while watching the latest episode ("Lock Down"), which had the chefs scrambling in a Target store to find equipment and tables (!) in order to assemble a station before cooking a meal for 100 people. In the middle of the night. I get that this is Top Chef: All-Stars . And I also understand that these chefs are going to be put through their paces by the producers. But there was something extremely off-putting about this latest challenge, which seemed to put an equal--if not more--weight on running around Target with multiple shopping carts and grabbing items left and right (which seemed, to me anyway, to be a half-hour ad for Target in many ways) than in actual cooking. It's hard to, you know, cook for 100 people when you don&

Ex-Friday Night Lights Star Adrianne Palicki to Play Wonder Woman

Tyra Collette, here's your lasso of truth. Former Friday Night Lights mainstay Adrianne Palicki, who starred in FOX's short-lived drama Lone Star earlier this season, has been selected to play Diana in David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman pilot for NBC. The project, written by Kelley, will be directed by Jeff Reiner, who previously worked with Palicki on Friday Night Lights . Putting aside my thoughts on the project itself for a second, I think that Palicki should be a much bigger star than she is. Her performance as Tyra Collette, which she briefly reprised on Season Five of Friday Night Lights was electrifying: a tough-as-nails teen who fell into an unexpected romance on the show with a most unexpected partner (keeping the FNL plot points to a minimum here). And while I wasn't a fan of FOX's Lone Star , Palicki's performance was a standout and it was fantastic to see her in a more mature, adult role. But Palicki should know what she's gotten herself into:

Docu Drama: An Advance Review of Community's "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking"

Question: What do LeVar Burton, Firefly , and twisted mind games have in common? Answer: They're all together in one place on this week's sensationally satirical episode of Community ("Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking"), written by Megan Ganz and directed by Joe Russo, which I watched earlier this week. (That was, as you'll learn soon enough, an "explanabrag.") NBC's Community has already tackled zombie invasions, paintball wars, outer space, and stolen pens with vigor and gonzo spirit intact, so it was only a matter of time before Dan Harmon and his merry band of mischief makers in the writers room would attempt to transform the actual physical format and style of the series for an episode. In this case, "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" does just that, satirizing the mockumentary style of such fellow NBC series as The Office and Parks and Recreation , as Danny Pudi's Abed attempts to make a documentary which shows the study

Bat Girl: Kalinda Takes a Swing, Alicia Strikes Out on The Good Wife

Batter up... I knew that last night's episode of The Good Wife ("Net Worth"), written by creators Robert and Michelle King, would have a doozy of a twist embedded in its episodic plot, because the episode was being kept under firm wraps by the folks at CBS... and even Archie Panjabi was coy about what was going to happen when I interviewed her a few weeks ago. (For that interview and more information about what's coming up between her and Blake, you can click here .) But I also didn't quite expect the breathless hotel room showdown between Panjabi's Kalinda and Scott Porter's Blake that followed so closely on the heels of an encounter between Kalinda and Jill Flint's steely FBI agent Lana, an extended sequence that had both Blake and Lana seemingly aiming for Kalinda's, er, heart. Despite Lana's job offer to Kalinda, she seemed more interested in her body in those moments than in her mind and the aura of conquest hovered over the entire sequen

The Daily Beast: "The Good Wife's Scene-Stealer" (Archie Panjabi)

Archie Panjabi plays The Good Wife ’s law firm snoop, Kalinda, and viewers are obsessed. “I don’t think there’s ever been a no-nonsense, bisexual investigator of Indian origin,” she says. When Archie Panjabi won the Emmy Award for outstanding supporting actress last year, many said, “WHO?” But to the millions who watch The Good Wife , and are obsessed with Panjabi’s mysterious, ass-kicking investigator character on the CBS legal drama, she was the Academy’s logical choice. Over at The Daily Beast, I sit down with Archie Panjabi (in a private cabana at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, no less) to discuss playing the hard-edged Kalinda Sharma, the character's bisexuality, tonight's pivotal episode of The Good Wife , and why Panjabi will forever be a "breakout" star in my latest feature, entitled " The Good Wife 's Scene-Stealer." I'm curious though: why do you think viewers are so entranced by Panjabi's Kalinda? I discussed this issue with Panjab

The Amazing Andy: Michael Emerson Steals the Show on Tonight's Parenthood

While tonight's episode of Parenthood makes mention of the "Amazing Andy," it's the amazing Michael Emerson ( Lost ) who should be singled out for praise here. It's been far too long since Emerson--who brought depth and grit to his portrayal of the Machiavellian Benjamin Linus on Lost --has been on my television set, so I was overjoyed to learn that he would be appearing in an episode of NBC's woefully underrated Parenthood as the Amazing Andy. Emerson is the sort of actor that comes around but once in a lifetime, the gifted artisan who manages to walk off with every scene in his pocket so effortlessly. Tonight's superb episode of Parenthood ("Amazing Andy and His Wonderful World of Bugs") gives Emerson the chance to play a very different sort of character than Benjamin Linus or, indeed, like any other that we've seen Emerson play in his vast career. While the episode deftly balances several plotlines--including Drew bonding with his erran

There's Always Music in the Air: This Weekend's Twin Peaks Event

Just a few words about what was an amazing and surreal experience this weekend. There is a place in downtown Los Angeles that's a bit of a local institution: Clifton's, a nearly 100-year old cafeteria where nearly the entire three-story interior is decorated like a forest. Trees sprout up from inside the main dining hall, the walls are painted to resemble a forest, and there are nooks and crannies designed to look like mountains. In other words, it's the perfect place for a Twin Peaks gathering. Saturday saw the launch of the Twin Peaks at 20 exhibition and reception, which featured artwork (paintings, photography, sculpture, metalwork, and much more) based on Twin Peaks and its characters as part of the 20-year celebration of the show's launch . Photography by Richard Beymer (Ben Horne!) sat alongside haunting boxes made by Grace Zabriskie (Sarah Palmer!) and works by co-creator David Lynch. Cherry pie and doughnuts were served, along some of Lynch's damn fine

The Stone Bench: The Special Relationship on Big Love

It's fitting in a way that the resolution to Barb and Bill's current problems--or, at least specifically, the question of Cara Lynn's protection--should occur at the spot where their relationship truly began: at the stone bench where Bill proposed to Barb all of those years ago. On this week's episode of Big Love ("The Special Relationship"), written by Patricia Breen and directed by David Petrarca, we witnessed what might just be the end of Bill and Barb's marriage, or at least the legal, paper version of it. While Bill reassures Barb that they would still be sealed for eternity, the sting of his suggestion is evident: in order to safeguard Cara Lynn's future, Bill would have to marry Nicki. Which means legally divorcing Barb. Let's be honest: Bill has always had a special relationship with his first wife and rightly so. Of all of his wives, Barb was the one with whom he has spent not only the most time, but also spent as man and (single) wife. T