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Showing posts from April, 2011

Striving to Be Better: Expectations and Deviations on Friday Night Lights

I'm just going to say it upfront: I'm hating Julie's storyline. I always like to give Friday Night Lights the benefit of the doubt when it comes to storytelling (except, maybe, for the murder conspiracy storyline in Season Two ), but the weakness of the current college plot for Julie Taylor (Aimee Teegarden) was all the more apparent this week when it was juxtaposed with the strength and grace of the storyline for Vince (Michael B. Jordan). This week's episode of Friday Night Lights ("The Right Hand of the Father"), written by Patrick Massett and John Zinman and directed by David Boyd, attempted to balance the two plots, as well as a third about striving to be a better person in light of last week's disastrous party and the drunken behavior of Maura (Denise Williamson) but it didn't quite all come together for me in the end, due to the lackluster nature of that Julie subplot. Which is a bit of a disappointment, as Jordan's Vince delivered some

A Bird Without Feathers: Life and Death on Game of Thrones

"You may not have my name, but you have my blood." Matters of life and death hung over this week's episode of Game of Thrones ("The Kingsroad"), written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and directed by Tim Van Patten, in which Bran Stark--nearly killed from his fall--hovered uneasily after nearly shuffling off his mortal coil, thanks to the Lannisters. While Jaime and Cersei--so careful to protect their secret--didn't hesitate to silence young Bran, their treachery is now doubly dangerous as the fall didn't kill the little climber of Winterfell. But as Bran lies motionless in his room, change is taking place all around him: Ned leaves for King's Landing, where he will serve as the Hand of the King, and takes his daughters Arya and Sansa with him; Jon Snow heads north for the Wall, where he will take the black and become one of the sworn brothers of the Night's Watch; Robb steps forward and assumes the lordship of Winterfell in his father's

Super 8: Flock of Butterflies on The Killing

"The girl who made that wasn't the pink-bedroom type." - Sarah Linden How well do we know anyone? Can we ever truly know our spouses, our children? The Rosie Larsen that we seen illuminated in her bedroom--the pink walls, that butterfly motif--is dramatically at odds with the Rosie who shot the Super 8 video that Bennet Ahmed shares with Linden and Holder: it's a much darker Rosie, a truer Rosie. This isn't a little girl capturing the easiness of carefree youth. She sees the skull beneath the skin, even as we see a flock of butterflies connect with Rosie as one of their own. In this week's episode of The Killing ("Super 8"), written by Jeremy Doner and directed by Phil Abraham, we begin to see that Rosie may not have been as innocent and wholesome as her parents believe her to be. While her teacher Bennet maintains that their relationship wasn't sexual, that the letters were an "intellectual discourse," the possibility that Rosie ma

Outsiders: Cynicism and Optimism on Friday Night Lights

"State." Throughout the four-plus season run of Friday Night Lights , we've gotten quite a few inspirational speeches from Coach Taylor, spirit-rallying calls to action, soul-stirring St. Crispin's Day speeches intended to join men into a single unit, to merge them together into a single entity before they leap once more into the fray. Sometimes, however, all it takes is a single word scrawled on a dry-erase board. On this week's episode of Friday Night Lights ("On the Outside Looking In"), written by Kerry Ehrin and directed by Michael Waxman, a number of stories about isolation and unity tumbled together in an appealingly loose fashion. There was the nicely rendered parallel stories of Tami and Julie, each adrift in their own way, desperately seeking to fit into an environment that has them ill at ease. Despite the distance between mother and daughter, they're linked here by a taut thematic thread. For Tami, it's an effort to fit into her

Cowboys and Aliens: An Advance Review of Season Six of Doctor Who

"I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool." Let's be upfront about one thing, shall we? While Doctor Who is often thought of as children's entertainment, the long-running and formidable science fiction program is anything but child-like. Yes, the show airs in a decidedly pre-watershed hour in the United Kingdom and, yes, the current Doctor, Matt Smith, has his face emblazoned on everything from sheets to trading cards, but under the aegis of head writer/executive producer Steven Moffat, Season Six of Doctor Who feels quite adult in the best possible sense. If there's a word to describe the first two episodes of Season Six, which kicks off with an astonishing and taut two-parter ("The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon"), it's dark. If there was another, it would be trippy. This is Doctor Who at its mind-bending best, a mix of alien invasion intrigue, self-examination, and bizarro twists that unfurl themselves with insidious men

Winter is Coming (Back): HBO Renews Game of Thrones for Second Season

It doesn't take the greensight to know that HBO was going to issue a second season pickup for its fantasy series Game of Thrones , based on the "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels by George R.R. Martin, after the premium cable network touted an impressive 4.2 cumulative viewers for the Sunday broadcasts of the first installment. The announcement about the renewal was issued by Michael Lombardo, president of HBO Programming. “We are delighted by the way David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have brought George R.R. Martin’s amazing book series to the screen, and thrilled by the support of the media and our viewers,” he said in a prepared statement. “This is the continuation of an exciting creative partnership.” No word on when we can expect to see the arrival of Season Two of Game of Thrones or how many episodes the sophomore season will contain, though I'm hoping to see something closer to thirteen episodes as Benioff and Weiss begin to adapt "A Clash of Kings," the

Direwolves in the Woods: Thoughts on the Series Premiere of HBO's Game of Thrones

Winter is coming, as we're told several times throughout the first episode of HBO's lavish and gripping new series, Game of Thrones , based on the George R.R. Martin novel series "A Song of Ice and Fire." It's a belief that the halcyon days of summer will soon be behind us, that the icy grip of winter--true winter--will soon wrap its fingers around our throats. Those happy days are behind us. In the series premiere of Game of Thrones ("Winter is Coming"), written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and directed by Tim Van Patten, the signs and omens are gathering around us. A direwolf has been slain by a stag, in turn killed by the great wolf itself, her children spilling from her bellies as orphans. In a world that moving forward away from superstitions, it's a tableau that should give even the deepest cynics of Westeros pause for thought. Change is coming to Winterfell and, by the time the closing credits of this first episode roll, the Starks have b

End of the Line: A Soundless Echo on The Killing

"You said she didn't suffer." Rule Number One among homicide detectives: don't make promises you can't keep. Sarah Linden knows this, which is why she doesn't offer the Larsens the false hope that they'll catch whoever slayed their beloved teenage daughter Rosie. (In fact, it's Holder who makes that promise.) But Linden's seemingly innocuous white lie--telling Mitch and Stan that Rosie didn't suffer--was itself intended to assuage the consciences of the grieving parents. When they come face to face with proof to the opposite, it's as much a shock to the system, a jolt of brutal realization, as the news that their daughter was dead. In this week's episode of The Killing ("A Soundless Echo"), written by Soo Hugh and directed by Jennifer Getzinger, Mitch and Stan grapple with funeral arrangements for Rosie--the minutiae of grief and loss--as the investigators make some shocking new discoveries about Rosie's secret life an

Of Lions and Lambs: Thoughts on the Season Premiere of Friday Night Lights

"I'm going to miss this." - Eric Taylor Those words, spoken by Kyle Chandler's Eric Taylor in the season premiere of Friday Night Lights ("Expectations"), written by David Hudgins and directed by Michael Waxman, are said as he looks over at the minor squabble developing between wife Tami (Connie Britton) and daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden). But that simple sentence, offered in a sweet and rather sad tone, might as well encapsulate the overall feeling of the audience: we're going to miss this too. Even though the "this" in question might be yet flare-up of adolescence angst from Julie Taylor. But it's the fact that the Taylors are together, engaged in the regular rigors of daily life, that the entire declarative statement takes on bigger meaning. Change is coming for the Taylors, with Julie heading off the school. Their family is once again being split up and those breakfasts, those arguments, those stolen moments are soon to be a thing

Fairy Tale Beginnings: Considering Couples and Consequences on Parks and Recreation

Kudos to the writers of Parks and Recreation for pulling off what will go down as one of the all-time best episodes of the NBC comedy series, one that threw off the audience's preconceptions of comedy narratives and shattered our expectations about how romantic comedy couples are meant to be handled. In this week's hilarious and emotionally resonant episode ("Fancy Party"), written by Katie Dippold and directed by Michael Trim, newly dating couple April and Andy got married. It wasn't a Very Special Episode. It wasn't preceded by NBC hitting us over the head with promos for a wedding site for April and Andy or forcing us to watch them shop for rings or make wedding plans, the writing team instead pulled the rug out from underneath the audience, transforming an episode about the unlikely couple hosting a dinner party into an impromptu wedding episode. It was unexpected and magical, not least because the wool was pulled over the characters' eyes as well a

Tune-in Reminder: Game of Thrones Starts on Sunday!

Looking for all of our coverage of HBO's Game of Thrones in one place? Look no further. At The Daily Beast's Newsmaker page for Game of Thrones , you find all of our collected coverage of Game of Thrones , including: Game of Thrones for Dummies, my in-depth glossary and character gallery for the uninitiated; George R.R. Martin's two Curator features, in which he picks Top 10 Fantasy Films and Top 10 Science Fiction Films; my initial preview feature; my behind the scenes feature, 10 Secrets From HBO's Game of Thrones , and much more. Finally, my advance review of the first six episodes of Game of Thrones can be found here . Game of Thrones begins Sunday at 9 pm ET/PT on HBO.

The Last Waltz: An Advance Review of Season Five of Friday Night Lights

Well, this is it: the beginning of the end. After four seasons of emotionally resonant drama, a nuanced exploration of life in small town Texas, and one of the most realistic portrayals of marriage ever, television masterpiece Friday Night Lights is heading towards the its final days, beginning with this week's thrilling and evocative season premiere ("Expectations"), written by David Hudgins and directed by Michael Waxman. It's not surprising that "Expectations" had me getting choked up no less than four times over the course of 40-odd minutes, as characters made their farewells and prepared to leave Dillon behind. While their goodbyes might be temporary, it was a canny way of signaling to the audience that the final parting is still to come, that with just a dozen or so episodes left, there would be no going back to Dillon. The first two episodes of the fifth and final season--"Expectations" and next week's installment ("On the Outsi

The Daily Beast: "Game of Thrones for Dummies"

Attention, Game of Thrones uninitiated: you've come to the right place. HBO's new fantasy series Game of Thrones creates a massive world with its own jargon and a ton of characters. Over at The Daily Beast, check out my latest feature, " Game of Thrones for Dummies," (I didn't pick the hed!) in which I break down the objects, people, places, and curiosities of Westeros and beyond in a Game of Thrones glossary for those who don't know who the hell the Kingslayer is, what in God's name a wilding is, or why they keep saying "Winter is coming." Plus, there's also an embedded character gallery accessible here , which breaks down 20 of the major characters of Game of Thrones into easily digestible profiles, with character descriptions, likes/dislikes, weapons, family relations and more... including quotes from Emilia Clarke (Daenerys), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), and Kit Harington (Jon Snow). And don't worry, those of you

The Daily Beast: "William & Kate on Lifetime: 8 Crazy Scenes"

Lifetime’s rush-job TV movie, William & Kate , depicts the romance between Prince William and Kate Middleton with unintentional hilarity. Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, " William & Kate on Lifetime: 8 Crazy Scenes," in which I pick out the 8 craziest/cheesiest scenes in a made-for-TV movie overstuffed with them. William & Kate airs Monday evening on Lifetime.

The Daily Beast: "Game of Thrones Author George R.R. Martin's Top 10 Fantasy Films"

Game of Thrones , HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's first book in his bestselling series A Song of Ice and Fire , premieres April 17th on HBO. In anticipation, Martin curates his 10 favorite fantasy films of all time , from Ladyhawke and Raiders of the Lost Arc to the Lord of the Rings trilogy at The Daily Beast. For Martin's previous Curator feature of his favorite science-fiction films, read this . For my interview with Martin; the show's creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss; and Sue Naegle, the entertainment president of HBO, read this feature . Fans of the books should also read "10 Secrets of HBO's Game of Thrones," to find out about casting direwolves, forging the Iron Throne, creating the Dothraki language, and many other behind-the-scenes details. And you can read my review of the first six episodes of Game of Thrones here . (Minor spoilers, only.) Did your favorite make the list? What's your take on GRRM's favorite scienc

The Daily Beast: "The Downfall of Law & Order"

Law & Order: LA is undergoing a massive retooling (beginning with tonight's two-hour reboot), Criminal Intent is about to end on USA, and SVU ’s leads’ contracts are set to expire. Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, entitled "The Downfall of Law & Order ," in which I report on the once-mighty franchise. Law & Order: Los Angeles returns tonight, after a 19-week hiatus, at 9 pm ET/PT on NBC.

The Devil's Due: A Hole in the Wall on The Killing

"Assumptions are your enemy, detective." - Sarah Linden What were Rosie Larsen's final minutes on earth like? As the trunk of the car filled with water and the darkness closed in around her, Rosie fought for life, attempting to claw her way out of her watery grave. Her mother Mitch (Michelle Forbes, whose performance just becomes more and more emotionally wrenching each week) attempts to experience those final moments, slipping underneath the surface of the water in her bathtub, her eyes open, her heart pounding. It's a moment of attempted rapport between mother and dead child, a heartbreaking effort to know, to understand, to vicariously put herself into Rosie's end in those murky waters. Continuing last week's strong start for The Killing , this week's episode ("El Diablo"), written by Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin and directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton, found Linden and Holder attempting to unravel the mystery of The Cage, the Larsens gra

The Daily Beast: "Upstairs Downstairs Returns to PBS’ Masterpiece"

After 36 years, beloved period drama Upstairs Downstairs returns to American television on Sunday with new characters and the original co-creators checking into 165 Eaton Place. Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, entitled " Upstairs Downstairs Returns to PBS’ Masterpiece ," in which I speak to Upstairs Downstairs ' Dame Eileen Atkins, Jean Marsh, Keeley Hawes, and Ed Stoppard about the new series, set in 1936 and launching on Sunday evening. Among the topics under discussion: how the period drama relates to today's viewing audience, the character of Lady Maud (complete with monkey Solomon) played by Dame Eileen Atkins, the rivalry with ITV's Downton Abbey , and the broad-sweeping political and social themes of the three-episode season. Upstairs Downstairs launches Sunday evening at 9 pm ET/PT on PBS' Masterpiece . Check your local listings for details.

Coming Home Again: An Advance Review of Upstairs Downstairs on PBS' Masterpiece

"Home is not where you live, but where they understand you." - Christian Morganstern My, how time flies: It's been more than three decades since Rose Buck (Jean Marsh) walked out of the front door of 165 Eaton Place and into the future. For those of us who grew up on Upstairs, Downstairs (created by Marsh and Dame Eileen Atkins) watching the repeats on PBS or on DVD later, the show--which depicted the lives of the wealthy Bellamy clan and their servants below stairs--defined the period drama, transforming the stuffy recreations of aristos into a soap opera teeming with the hopes and dreams (and failures and foibles) of both the masters and the servants of a great London house. While there have been countless adaptations of period-set literature over the years (Austen and Dickens remain always in style), recently viewers have seen a resurgence in open-ended, serialized period dramas. Lark Rise to Candleford may have perhaps started the trend in earnest, but it was th

Heart of Gold/Heart of Glass: An Advance Review of Season Four of Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Over the course of the last three seasons, we've gotten to know the, uh, intimate secrets and details of the double life of Hannah/Belle (Billie Piper), the working girl attempting to life her life and figure out just what she wants out of it. Tonight marks the launch of the fourth and final season of the frothy and fun Secret Diary of a Call Girl and we see Belle standing at the edge of a precipice: Will she allow herself the chance to be happy with Ben (Iddo Goldberg)? Can she ever be happy or hope to settle down, given her line of work? Will she choose between personal fulfillment, professional success, or something that blends the two? As Season Four--which launches tonight on Showtime--begins, Belle finds herself grappling with a series of transformative changes in her life. She's back in London after a luxurious gig that took her far away from her life and from Ben, of whom she's still sure of what the future holds. Returning to the city, she's now a proud home