Tuesday, April 30, 2013

From LA Examiner: 'Arrow' Season Finale Spoilers; 'The Following' Season Finale Post-Mortem & Season Two Teases; 'Dallas' Renewed...

In the middle of The CW's first season of Arrow, the show delivered a show with such explosive action, big character reveals, and overall intense stakes (especially for being so early in the show's run), that it prompted a "Holy sh*tballs!" Tweet-fest between the cast as they received their copies of the episode script. If that could happen in the middle of the season's run, then Colin Donnell promised us that "Holy sh*tballs isn't going to cover it" when it comes to the season finale... [MORE]

Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) on FOX's The Following wasn't just trying to reunite his family or get under Ryan Hardy's (Kevin Bacon) skin; he was also trying to achieve a level of success with his work that he just never seemed to manage as a writer. That manifested itself on the season finale episode, and Carroll's "Final Chapter" of his new book with bringing his wife Claire (Natalie Zea) to a lighthouse and waiting for Hardy to happen upon them so the three could have it out over their history... [MORE]

"The Following EPs talk plans for season two and The Gothic Sea"

With the first season of FOX's The Following literally just coming to an end, many fans may need a breather or at least a week of happy, light-hearted programming to decompress before diving into the potential for season two. But not LA TV Insider Examiner! The season finale hadn't even aired yet when we caught up with series EPs Kevin Williamson and Marcos Siega in Los Angeles, and already we had some burning questions. Of course they couldn't answer everything just yet, but here's what we do know... [MORE]

"Kevin Bacon offers thoughts on The Following season two"

FOX's The Following creator Kevin Williamson didn't want to say much about where he would take his story in season two, but one thing was certain: if anyone had job security on that show, it was Kevin Bacon. As the FBI agent responsible for bringing in Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) almost a decade earlier, Hardy was the key to catching him yet again in present day. The complicated history between the two men, as well as the hard past Ryan had on his own, from a much younger age, offered Williamson a unique take on a character we've seen time and again. And because of that, Williamson was happy to repeat that he has "a lot more story" for Bacon's Hardy-- both in his past and his present, noting that we "need to see the aftermath of this and the effects of this [finale]"... [MORE]

"TNT renews Dallas for season three"

After a season that dealt with the untimely death of J.R. Ewing (and portrayer Larry Hagman) in a way that paid tribute to the original series, the extended Ewing family and feuds, and the actor himself, TNT has officially renewed Dallas for a third season. Fifteen brand new episodes will premiere in 2014... [MORE]

The Most Important Lesson I Learned in Life Came from 'Judge Judy'...

Recently I did something I never thought I'd do: I read my book, cover to cover-- cringing, of course, at the typos my brain apparently corrected during my initial proofread and therefore allowed me to send to the publisher with them still there but without realizing it. I did this because I was looking to see if I had a follow-up, a sequel of sorts, in me. That book was born out of blog entries too long to post in full here, but admittedly it has been a while since this space was anything more than a portfolio to house my other, professional links and stories.

But that book was also born out of where I was in my life at the time and what obsessive thoughts were clogging my brain. Writing has always been an outlet for me to work through things, a way to "therapize" myself. When all of my friends were pairing off and coupling up, I took a cold, hard look around at my life to see why it was I didn't want that, too. If I'm being really honest, I don't even find myself comparing the guys I've dated since the book was published to those on TV anymore. Even though in one case, he actually was a guy on TV.

(Calm down, he isn't a household name or even a face you're bound to recognize. He's the kind of famous my friends call "Danielle Famous" because I recognize everyone-- even the guy who did a stint as Cop #2 on Days of our Lives for a week in the summer of 2000.)

It's not that I've magically matured or "healed" or whatever. I think a part of why I stopped comparing was because it felt less organic and more like I was trying to force something for the material. Maybe in another ten years, I'll look back with distance and wisdom and draw a parallel I'm just too close to see right now. Or maybe not. Maybe that part of my life really is over. But clearly where one door closes, another bangs open because recently I have had a pop culture revelation in another area of my life: My work ethic has been entirely derived from watching Judge Judy.

For as long as I can remember, Judge Judy Sheindlin has had a court show on CBS that I would watch every day either after school or because it was a holiday or I was home sick-- or later because I was unemployed. Since she was the star, the center, the only constant (other than Byrd, of course), it seemed clear that the audience was supposed to identify with her. So when she sneered at the parasitic litigants before her, who time after time would answer "What do you do?" with "Nothing" or "I'm on disability," I would find myself rolling my eyes right along side her. Truth bomb: Sheindlin perfected the eye-roll way before Liz Lemon.

Side note: I don't want to imply that I don't think there are some people in the world who are legitimately too disabled to work. I just think that the majority who paraded through her courtroom did not fit that description and merely took advantage of the system because they could. They were taking advantage of the system, in many ways, simply for being so litigious and trying to win money in frivolous lawsuits. Again, not everyone. But a good majority. 

The thing is, my mother had an amazing work ethic. She busted her ass at what seemed to me to be a pretty boring and menial job. But she didn't complain; she voluntarily went in before the sun rose to get a head start on her work day; she stayed with the job even when her stress levels caused her to develop colitis; she put up with the downsizing that meant even more work would be dumped on her plate for no more money and the company moves that treated her like a demoted employee, sticking her back in the cubicle farm after years in an office with a window, despite being at the upper management level. Could she have applied for disability and lived off the government? Probably. But she didn't. Still, you'll notice I didn't credit her with my work ethic; I created Judge Judy. Because the thing is, actively relying on a crutch or a cushion she was not, but being someone else's crutch or cushion she was. 

My father never worked more than a consecutive few days in the entire time I have been alive. In the beginning it was because he stayed at home to raise me while my mother worked to support the whole family. That's fine; stay-at-home parents have a hard job, and I do not mean to imply it is not a real job. But when the child you're staying at home goes back to school (half-day at age three and full day at age five for me, personally), you can't hide behind the "raising the kid" angle. You have to contribute somewhere, somehow else. Housework, chores, errands, cooking while the kid's at school and then helping the kid with homework when he or she returns from school. Remembering to the pick the kid up from school-- and on time. You have to do something to pull your own weight and to earn what has been given to you.

I just don't understand why that is such a novel concept to some. Why some can be so okay with, nay so willing to sit back and do nothing but reap benefits and rewards from others'. In the case of my family, my mother was in on the agreement, too. Whether or not she thought it had an end date on it, I'll never know, so the situation isn't as universal as those who, say, rely on government assistance like the aforementioned disability or even welfare-- things that are there for those who really need them and as last ditch efforts, not for throwing up hands and going "Oooh, free money, let me get in on that!" I literally don't understand the mentality of someone who isn't kept up at night when living this way. I'd like someone to study and compare our brains (after we die of natural causes, of course) to see if we're literally wired differently or if one of us has a tumor or other mass pressing on the "pride" or "shame" parts of our brains.

I lost the two main sources of my income in the last half a year. It has been demoralizing, in addition to draining my bank account. I have leaned much more on my own crutch, my own cushion, than I am personally comfortable with, and that just makes the whole thing feel so much worse. When my mother passed away, I inherited half of her hard-earned savings. I put it in a special account, and it was supposed to be for buying a home and for eventually being able to retire (retire from what? It often feels like I spend more time looking for work than actually working). But I have had to dip into it just to pay my monthly bills a lot lately. As a freelancer, I'm not eligible for unemployment, and though I've been applying for jobs-- from ones in my industry to regular old office/temp jobs-- I'm just not seeing any results. It's a bad time out there. 

Could I convince a psychiatrist to sign off on my application for disability? I'm pretty confident I have the capability to do so, but that doesn't mean I should, or that I want to, or that I will. It can be comfortable life if you can get it, but I honestly can't understand how people can be comfortable choosing that for their lives. I feel the same way about kids who live off trust funds or other kinds of family money. It's exploitational. I don't consider myself particularly prideful-- I am more than willing to take a menial job right now just to have money coming in (though no one seems to want to give me one of those, either)-- but maybe it's a different kind of pride.

An hour (four, sometimes five cases) of Judge Judy a day instilled a desire in me to be more than a leech. I felt shame for the people on Judge Judy who so clearly didn't have their lives together and who were content-- actually, some where downright proud-- to settle and scam. I knew there was something inherently not okay with living solely off of someone else (and by the way, if we have a term for women who do it, why not one for men who do?), but I had no one else validating my beliefs until I found Judge Judy.

So if you haven't already checked out my book, maybe just please do that. The residuals from the sales will definitely help towards continuing to be able to eat.

Monday, April 29, 2013

'The Following' Thoughts & Theories: "The Final Chapter" Review...

I miss you already, FOX's The Following and you haven't even been gone more than a few hours.

I went into The Following's first season finale wanted only a few things: I wanted Agent Parker (Annie Parisse) to die; I wanted Emma (Valorie Curry) to live; I wanted one more epic face-to-face between Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and Carroll (James Purefoy) to top all of the little ones we got previously; and I, of course, wanted them to still be in each others' lives at the end of the episode. And while I didn't get everything I wanted in the physical sense, I think I cleaned up pretty nicely on this score card.

Now, before you all start sending hate mail for my comments about Parker and Emma, let me offer my reasons. After Parker was buried alive in the penultimate episode, sealed and stuffed underground, running out of air and with no idea where she was, it seemed pretty clear she'd be just another casualty of this little war of men. I pretty much wrote her off as dead and buried (heh), and if we had never seen her again in the finale, I would have been okay with it. Hardy's the Red Mask of Death after all, right? So everyone around him must die. Besides, she would have been a loose end-- someone who now Hardy might wonder if she was in on things with Carroll all along, someone who would cause him to question and doubt himself just when he was finally back on top and had found his strength again. That kind of dismantling of the psyche is always fascinating for characters. But I admit that what Kevin Williamson and the show delivered instead was better. Hardy having to confront the fact that he couldn't save everyone-- that yet there was more blood, a higher body count on his hands this time didn't strip him down or dissolve him into the mess of a man we met in the pilot. Instead, he used it as the adrenaline he needed to really complete his plan. And Carroll, or anyone who get in his way, other FBI agents included, be damned.

Additionally, the amazing performance from Parisse as Parker knew her minutes were coming to an end, and she was selfless enough to want to use her remaining time to those around her certainly helped with everything. While Hardy went full force forward now, the "it's not your fault" she tried to infuse into his brain will have to be ringing in his ears in the future. Couple that with what he's ultimately going to learn about her family and background, as well as the final, near-fatal attack from crazy Molly (Jennifer Ferrin), and he won't be paranoid to second guess everything and everyone: he'll be smart to.

But while this show sets up a sense of inherent distrust initially, it works its butt off to prove it knows its characters and has since introducing them. Parker's plea that Mike (Shawn Ashmore) not lose his goodness is not a silent nod to the fact that he could be a secret follower but instead a seed that everything he recently experienced may soon prove to be too much for him. It's one thing to lash out and beat a follower who buried an agent alive; it's another to treat future cases in a similar fashion. At the end of season one, Mike seemed about on par with where Hardy was after his initial encounters with Carroll, but without the lightness of a new love to at least cushion his blow to rock bottom.

When it came to Emma, I just flat out find her so complex and interesting as a character, I wanted to see as much of her as possible. She has been the one I've found most consistent, and yet she's in this rare position going into the second season because she truly dedicated her life to this man and his plan, and now she's alone and without a purpose. Or is she? Will she decide to pick up where Carroll left off, looking for revenge against Hardy?

Because the thing of it is, Emma has been quite lost since Carroll brought Claire (Natalie Zea) back into his life, but now that she has learned he is dead* it is a whole other ballgame. She dedicated her entire adult life to "serving" his mission. She has a face and a name that has been plastered all over the news. Where can she possibly go from here but down?

* And I want to put this on the record now: there can be a lot of arguments made for why Carroll could have faked his death. That guy he stabbed in front of Clare could have been a follower who helped him rig an escape hatch. He could have followers high enough in the ranks of law enforcement that they "fixed" dental records to positively ID the body. He could have even left a tape recorder of his moans of agony to hit play in the burning barn (you'll notice that those sounds were ADRed, put into the post-production process after the fact and any close-up on Carroll's face behind the flames was a much more neutral position to leave you wondering). Believe me, I'd love to make my case for this just because I don't want to think he's dead. But the show doesn't deal in cheap red herrings like that. It never misled the audience about characters or events; the questioning the audience had was always projection, but the text was always clear. In fact, I feel like purposefully putting in the sentence about the FBI confirming Carroll's dental records was a way for the show to be like 'No, really, stop playing conspiracy theorist, he's dead.' And in this case, to simply fake Carroll's death would be to remove all of the stakes completely. He is only human, but "undoing" a death would change the rules and provide for a repetitive story arc in season two when this show is really allow about testing boundaries but delivering something new.

So what I find fascinating is what Hardy and Carroll's final moments, centered on Claire, mean for Hardy in the future, just like what Parker's final words to him will prove to mean. A lot was said as Carroll was threatening to kill Clare in front of Hardy and then forcing Hardy to talk about how he first fell in love with Claire. Watching those two in a scene together is so powerful, and yet I wish they had flashed back, not to cut the tension in the scene, but to offer more insight. There was an implication that Claire came to understand what her husband was up to before he was captured, but she was so quiet during the confrontation scene, it was hard to prove whether or not that was just one man's projection. Certainly such a secret could have a big impact on Hardy and not only how he looks at the woman he loves but also how he considers everything he has done thus far because of the woman he loves. I can't imagine they wanted to hold any cards back for season two, but I wonder just how much Hardy's recollection-- or justification-- of events match up to the other versions. There is just so much history there, and since Claire was stabbed, too, and I feel like probably fatally, which will spin Hardy back down to where we first met him in the pilot, even if we get flashbacks of the three in season two, they will absolutely be one-sided. Will that mean that Hardy's own darkness and madness will be the real thing to worry about-- more dangerous than any psycho killer amassing an army? Will he be able to function at all, without the yin to his yang?

Killing Carroll before the final act implied that his chapter was over, and what was to come was the much more chaotic outbursts of those who were promised something from him (again, hopefully like Emma). Molly was the tip of that iceberg, the one closest to Hardy and a dangling thread the show had to pay off before the end of the season. But what of Carroll's other followers-- some of whom we have yet to meet, some who escaped the compound earlier this season-- who are still out there, some more lost than others, some probably clearly calling Carroll's plan a failure and wanting to right those wrongs, to help his legacy get left behind as one of triumph? Will they continue to attack and kill as a way to prove just how far his reach-- his fame-- goes? These story seeds have been planted, ready to sprout soon, as well. 

Mid-way through this season the show introduced the idea of the deprivation bunker training as some kind of potential, larger scale terrorist threat. That's the equivalent of introducing a gun in the first act of the play; it has to go off by the end. But it didn't go off, so was it just a red herring or something to fill the time, a way for the FBI to kick around a theory that they didn't have time to properly explore? I personally feel like the biggest takeaway from Carroll and this season is that (as crude as this analogy may be) he was equivalent to Bin Laden as the head of a movement. Just because he's taken out of commission doesn't mean everyone under him isn't still working with the same violent, guiding principles. They're just doing so quieter, invisibly, without a "face" of their "campaign." In fact, they're probably even angrier now to have lost their leader, so when the next attack comes, it will be that much worse, even if less coordinated or thought-out. The Following truly is a ticking time bomb. And I can't wait for it to be fall to see what story it explodes next!

From LA Examiner: Jonathan Groff Talks Mark-Paul Gosselaar on 'Happy Endings'; 'On Directing' with Megyn Price; 'The Following' Season Finale Photos; Gabriel Basso Talks About 'The Big C'; 'Once Upon A Time' Magic Vs Science Talk...

"Mark-Paul Gosselaar could become Happy Endings' version of "Slap Bet"

Loyal fans of Happy Endings will recall that series executive producer Jonathan Groff told LA TV Insider Examiner the show planned to bring season three guest star Mark-Paul Gosselaar back before the end of the season in order for him to "make good" on this threat of ruining Max's (Adam Pally) life. However, Gosselaar returned in the end of the season episode "Un-sabotagable" tonight, only to get sidetracked before coming through and to leave his second episode much like his first. So in case you didn't have enough reasons to hope ABC renews the comedy series for year four, Groff and Gosselaar are giving you another one... [MORE]

"Megyn Price previews her Rules of Engagement directorial debut"

For years you have known Megyn Price as a sitcom queen from the acting side of the business, but for years, she has fought to allow her voice and vision to be heard behind the camera, as well. And finally, after proving to her bosses at Rules of Engagement just how serious she was about the craft, Price was given the chance to slip into the director's chair herself with the poignant and pivotal "Timmy Quits" episode... [MORE]

"First Look: Hardy has a big success on The Following's season finale"

FOX's The Following has kind of swapped its two protagonists in the story in only fifteen episodes. With the season finale, "The Final Chapter," upon us, for whom will this sequel, dual author tale have a happy ending... [MORE]

"Gabriel Basso talks growing up on The Big C, previews the series' end"

Gabriel Basso's first credited role as a professional actor is "Kid with Cancer" in a film from half a decade ago, but he has matured as an actor playing a kid of cancer on Showtime's The Big C. As Adam Jamison, the sometimes petulant teenage son of Laura Linney's Cathy, Basso rode the emotional roller coaster of typical angst straight off its rails in the first season of the series when he snooped in his mother's storage unit and found just how much she was keeping from him. From there it was the five stages of grief, all mixed up and in no particular order-- at times even overlapping-- until Adam emerged stronger and more capable. Just as Adam's maturation into a man was heightened by his mother's diagnosis, so was Basso's own growth as an actor, being surrounded by those he called "the best in the business... [MORE]

"Once Upon a Time EPs on science vs magic debate & what they'd go back and change"

ABC's Once Upon A Time has always been a show based around magic, yet season two has introduced quite a few instances of science and technology (first with Frankenstein, then with the bracelet Hook tricked Regina into putting on)and will continue to be so, especially in the penultimate episode of this second season as Greg and Tamara try to get information out of Regina. So when we had the chance to catch up with the show's executive producers in Los Angeles earlier today, we checked in on just how much letting science, technology, and magic live side-by-side on Once Upon A Time might be a theme for the final few episodes of season two into a potential season three... [MORE]

Saying Good-Bye to 'The Big C' (An Advance Review of 'Hereafter')...

Darlene Hunt and Jenny Bicks gave us The Big C at a time that cancer was one of the most talked about epidemics among Hollywood—but only when it came time for celebrities to stand behind causes. Their messages were somber, delivered during PSAs or at telethons, and even those who drew from personal experiences told their stories extremely seriously. The message was always that cancer was scary; it was deadly; and it had to be stopped. And it still does. But life doesn’t have to stop with a cancer diagnosis, and Hunt and Bicks exemplified that with The Big C by creating a character in Cathy Jamison (the incomparable Laura Linney) who takes the uncertainty of tomorrow as something freeing and starts to really live for the first time in a long, long time. Hunt and Bicks weren’t shy about infusing comedy into cancer, but equally, they weren’t shy about the ugly truths of how such a diagnosis can change a whole family, and at times a more extended community, than “just” the person with the disease. And what is so much more admirable above all of their noteworthy feats is how Hunt and Bicks used Cathy’s POV over the years to alter the audience’s response to and perception of Cathy’s cancer.

Cathy’s resolve in the beginning was inspiring to the point that you didn’t want the journey to end, not only because you didn’t want this remarkable woman to die, but also because you didn’t want to lose your example of how to live to the fullest. Even in these final moments, she inspires those around her to do and be better. But as time went on, and she wasn’t getting better but actually worse as tumors spread and trials were hard to get into and didn’t quite “take” the way everyone hoped, you were forced to stop living in the moment, appreciating the days you did have with her, and look ahead to the cold, hard future. And for every cancer patient, that future includes chemo or constant other treatments to kill the cancer cells but which end up killing a whole lot more of a person’s “self.” The reward is that after months of debilitating treatments that often cause demoralizing side effects you might be deemed cancer-free and can work toward rebuilding your life to what it was before the treatments—or hopefully better. But the risk is that even after all that, the treatments still aren’t successful, and prolonged your life but stripped away a good chunk of who you were in the process, only to still succumb to the disease.

The Big C: hereafter wordlessly comments on this debate so quickly and effortlessly, it is not just a jumping off-point, plot-wise, for the final, special season but also a way to prove just how herself Cathy is in these trying moments. She’s no longer scrambling to cram in everything fun and exciting she can think of, nor is she scrambling to try to buy more time. She’s at peace, but she's still staying true to herself, like by dedicating time to learn a song on her keyboard before she "kicks it" (her affectionate words). And she’s still calling the shots as much as she can to keep some sense of control and stability—from setting up a dating profile for her husband, to asking her surrogate daughter Andrea (Gabourey Sidibe) to make the dress in which she will be buried, to finally letting her son open all of his future presents in the storage unit.

And that latter scene really is a gem. It calls back the flood of emotions at the end of season one when Adam (Gabriel Basso), for the first time, realizes just how serious things are. Once again here, it is a moment to symbolize that but to show how far they both have come. Cathy squirreled away those presents at first, not wanting him to worry; he found the keys by accident and snooped—and later rejected some of the gifts because they symbolize losing his mother. But here, they are not only experiencing the emotions together as he unwraps and she explains why she chose the items she did, but she brings him into her decision regarding the diagnosis in a way she never has with anyone. It is one of the most powerful moments we have ever witnessed in this show because of all it stands for.

Cathy asks her still-teenage son if it would be okay with him if she stops treatments for her cancer. He answers, tearfully, affirmatively, and that it is all said on the matter. There’s no need to explicitly explain why she wants to do it or why she’s asking for his permission, just as there’s no need for him to explain why he answers so quickly and positively. There’s no need to discuss why it shouldn’t be seen as a woman “giving up”—there’s no indication at all that anyone should think that. Because the truth is, if you’ve been watching, you already know. You already have all of these answers.

We followed Cathy’s journey from free-spirited, fun loving, cart-wheeling, if still flawed, wife, mother, and teacher through her initial diagnosis and all of the emotional moments that come with it. We have watched her treatments strip her of that big personality, and just as there would be no desire to watch that long-term, until she’s a shell of her former self, Cathy doesn’t want to experience that, to become that. She, and this show itself, wants to go out with dignity. And thankfully, Showtime, Hunt, and Bicks have not only allowed that to happen but mastered the concept.

Without the treatments, Cathy declines and her spirit is still threatened, but the experience actually opens her up. To shield her family from the worst of it, she voluntarily checks herself into a hospice. She’s still not giving up; she manages to infuse some of her trademark life and learning in the place before wondering if maybe she jumped the gun and entered too soon. But that’s the unpredictable truth behind cancer, too: the minute you think you may have more time, it all may come crashing down. Hunt delivers the truth in this situation in every turn, especially in her turn guest starring as a hospice worker delivering the news that Cathy's insurance is refusing to pay for a long-term hospice stay because she's already been there awhile and clearly not at death's door. It's a subtle but sobering reminder that cancer isn't even the real killer in this country: bureaucracy is. Yet, it's insanely indicative of this show at its best. First of all, can you honestly imagine anyone else but Cathy checking out of hospice? But more importantly, it gives her what she needs that she was fighting (where better for Cathy to be, truly, than at home, surrounded by everything and everyone she loves?) and organically introduces the one final thing Cathy can do to control the chaos of cancer but actually forces her to consider letting go of having everything her way for a change instead.

It shouldn’t need to be said that Linney deserves every award possible for her incredibly sympathetic and gritty portrayal of the Cathy Jamison’s strength. Whether she’s finally sitting with her son as he opens all of the gifts in the storage unit or fighting her hospice roommate who is intent on smothering her because she claims death is coming for her anyway, Linney is full of grace and is as head-on fearless in tackling the ugly stuff as Cathy is in facing it. In a way this only makes Cathy’s plight that much more tragic, but beautiful, too; the show simply would not work without someone so gifted and natural in the role. Without Linney’s ability to share so much through her eyes, especially in the final hour when Cathy has limited mobility otherwise, the show would have been required to provide more exposition. Instead, we are allowed to live with Cathy and her decisions as anyone would with a family member or other loved one in such a situation: invested but helpless, understanding but still struggling to find exactly what to say to ease the inevitable.

Basso has been an unsung hero of this show, though, with arguably the second toughest yet most rewarding role as Cathy’s still-teenage son Adam. In a time when most kids feel invincible, Adam has been slapped in the face with a mature truth, and after all his flailing, he has settled into an unbelievably compassionate character, thanks in no small part to Basso’s own maturation as an actor. He has mastered Adam’s internal ups and downs and provides a pillar of strength we perhaps never would have expected from the character in the past. With all of the terrible things this family has faced, it’s refreshing to be able to believe he will be okay, coming through this with an unparalleled send of purpose. He is more like his mother than this father, after all, and if nothing else, there is a happy ending in that.

Each episode of The Big C: hereafter comes with with an increasingly emotional gut-punch, making this limited series event something you should watch unfold as intended, a little at a time each week, rather than four hours, back-to-back. The latter plan might ruin you for the rest of the week, at least. 

The Big C: hereafter manages to hit you hard and in new ways each time, even though the path to the final episode—of this four part season and the series as a whole—is clearly laid out. It shouldn’t matter if you think you know exactly how it will all wrap up in the end, though: what happens is the smallest fraction of importance in a story as character rich as The Big C has been for all its years on air. Instead, it is how everything unfolds and what that means for the characters that pass and the ones that get left behind, including the audience, that matters the most. Shows like The Big C, that tell insanely intimate stories that both feel universal and written specifically for you, don’t come along often. Similarly, we will probably never get another character like Cathy ever again. It is impossible not to mourn the loss of both long after the credits roll.

Good-bye, The Big C, and thank you. You're not a loser.

'We Have Thoughts' Checks Back in with 'The Following'...

We are literally right up against the season finale of FOX's The Following and because of that, We Have Thoughts thought it was the perfect time to check back in with the show and see if we love it now just as much as we did when we reviewed the pilot.

I have to present the video to you without comment because I think it's just more fun that way. But know this: I'm still unashamed about being Team Carroll, and yes, I did call him an "underdog" at this point in the story.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Celebuzz 'Revenge' Recap: "Identity"...

So much time has elapsed since ABC's Revenge was last on-air with a new season two episode that when discussion around Padma (Dilshad Vadsaria) resumed in tonight's "Identity," I was like, "Her!?" I was hoping we had heard the last about her, when Nolan (Gabriel Mann) was so distraught she had "joined her father" and was then taken in for questioning regarding her case. But no. Just like how one head of The Initiative was lobbed off only for it to grow another, this is a story that just wouldn't die (excuse the poor choice of words, please), either. So Emily (Emily VanCamp), Aiden (Barry Sloane), and Nolan set out to track down the Falcon's true identity and get to the bottom of both of those things. 

Emily-- and Revenge-- may have gotten off-track but the success or failure of the mission within "Identity" would prove to be the marker for her mission in the future.

Note: Spoilers ahead if you have yet to watch Sunday night's "Identity."

Friday, April 26, 2013

From LA Examiner: Stephen Amell Previews 'Arrow's' Penultimate Episode; 'Supernatural' Photos; NBC and CW Announce Renewals...

With the Undertaking days away on The CW's Arrow, Malcolm (guest star John Barrowman) dons his black hood to conclude business with seismologist Dr. Brion Markov (guest star Eric Floyd) and his team in "Darkness on the Edge of Town," while Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Moira (Susanna Thompson) entertain a number of surprise– and mostly unwelcome– visitors. But "Darkness on the Edge of Town" is not the show's season finale. It is episode 22, but Arrow's freshman season was granted 23 total episodes, making this one only the penultimate episode... [MORE]

We've seen The CW's Supernatural dive into the Winchesters' pasts before-- more often than not as manipulations on the part of djinns or demons or Leviathans or in one very special case, a trial to determine guilt. Usually, their mother is a fair target, but in "Clip Show," a couple of unexpected subjects come up... [MORE]

"NBC renews Parenthood; Sam Jaeger discusses potential for season five"

It has finally happened: NBC has renewed Parenthood for the 2013-2014 television season**! And it's a full 22 episode season, to boot! ... [MORE]

"The CW orders The Originals, renews Hart of Dixie & Beauty & the Beast"

The CW has announced today renewals for two of its dramatic series, as well as an early series order for one of its new pilots in contention... [MORE]


Thursday, April 25, 2013

From LA Examiner: 'Men At Work' Exclusive Clip; MTV Orders 'Scream' Series...

TBS' Men at Work has a great slew of guest stars lined up for its sophomore season-- from Sarah Wright, Seth Green, and J.K. Simmons, to Peri Gilpin, Jason Lee, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. But LA TV Insider Examiner's personal favorite might just have to be this dog that steals Gibbs' (James Lesure) heart... [MORE]

"MTV takes on serial killers with Scream"

Serial killers really are all the rage these days, as even MTV is getting into the game, greenlighting a new scripted drama based on Kevin Williamson's Scream franchise... [MORE]

'On Writing' with Jim Rash for 'Community's' Big Break-Up and Body-Swapping Episode...

Oscar Winner Jim Rash (he doesn't make us write his name that way; we just like to!) obviously has won a lot of awards and acclaim for his high-brow screenplays, but many people look at him and see Dean Pelton from Community, not fully aware of his writing talent. For the first time, Rash combined his talents and proved himself a true double threat by penning a very special episode of Community.

"Basic Human Anatomy" is another high-concept episode of the show that has loved to deliver homages of spaghetti westerns and mafia flicks, fake clip shows, musicals, and genre-bending multiple timeline stories. In this one, Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) switch bodies after holding onto a Freaky Friday and saying "I wish I had your life for just one day" at the same time.

"My favorite episodes of Community are the ones that really do balance the absurd with the heart and humor. It’s Community’s version of what can happen, and Dan created a world where these things can happen-- where we can have paintball episodes and we can go to quote-unquote space in our own real context, but yet there was always a way of moving the characters forward. There was always a nugget, at least, that gave us some insight or pushed the emotional journey for them forward," Rash said on a recent conference call.

"For me, this device of Freaky Friday allowed an opportunity to explore a friendship even further because I think one of the many great relationships that has been created over the four years is Troy and Abed."

Troy and Abed do not switch bodies just for high concept's sake, though. Troy finds himself at a crossroads, struggling with an important decision in his relationship with Britta (Gillian Jacobs), and taking a break from being himself is a copying mechanism of sorts. Meanwhile, for Abed, it is a chance to see just how far this good friend will go to help his buddy out-- learning more about relationships by stepping into someone else's for a day than he has on his own, from watching others' relationships on TV.

"When I went into the writers room, the main thing they wanted to do was break up Troy and Britta, and so the Freaky Friday offered this opportunity to show some growth in Troy, to as Jeff says ‘become a man’ in this moment," Rash said.

"If you’re going to offer Abed this opportunity to be in a body-switching movie, he’s going to commit to it 100%, so he’s not breaking character, and trying to figure out what it exactly is that Troy needed from him at this moment. It becomes a nice ballet for the two. Your writing becomes sort of a puzzle [though]; it’s how much can you say, and how much would Abed know to say since he’s not a person who understands relationships all that well?"

There may have been a little extra pressure on Rash not to "Britta" such a pivotal character moment as a breakup: "I’ve been a fan of Dan’s vision, of our writers from beginning to end—jealous of our writers from beginning to end—in how their brains work and how they’ve taken Dan’s vision and how the show’s evolved from year to year. All of those things, it was a sort of a scary challenge, really, to be able to have the opportunity but also to not want to let the show down by any means," Rash said.

But he noted that Community really does live up to its title, and the pressure wasn't solely on him. He was able to trust in those he was working with, all of whom deeply understand the characters, their quirks, and the show's ultimate message, to make something as "out there" as body-swapping believable.

"Because of the style of this particular episode, it’s more Troy getting in Abed’s brain and then having the conundrum for the actors to figure out who was in whose body," Rash said.

The extra layer to writing Troy-for-Danny and Abed-for-Donald was just a way to be creative and do something different. Just when you thought Community had done it all, Rash found a way to still be unique!

"I think what Community has done well is show that while they love each other, they’re each trying to figure out what their next chapter is, so I think for Troy specifically, to have this moment of acknowledging that he’s probably not ready for this, but he loves her so much and all of them so much, it’s a great way to do something insane and weird and a choice he makes, yet understand why he made that choice and get to write the understanding," Rash said.

While Glover and Pudi have to do the bulk of the heavy emotional work in "Basic Human Anatomy," Rash still wrote in juicy bits for others like Joel McHale, Alison Brie, and even himself.

"It was a dream come true to get to write for me, write for my voice," Rash said.

Admittedly, though Dean Pelton isn't exactly on par with Rash's own personality, and in this episode he takes it even farther away when he decides he wants to get in on the body-swapping fun and grabs the DVD while Jeff (McHale) is holding it in order to get to live like the object of his admiration for a day. The Dean's newly-odd behavior garners some attention from one special lady, while Jeff...doesn't change at all. Even after all of this time, he still doesn't believe in Greendale magic!

But such a character actually proved to be a grounding force for Rash as the writer because "he’s a character who just shuts everyone down, so he’s a great character to write for the pace of scenes because he’s sort of the person who’s moving it along."

At the end of the day, Rash is still in a set up to have one of the most special and memorable episodes of the season, though. He has been a part of the show for four years, working alongside these actors, witnessing of what they're capable. He knows how to write material that will bring out the best in his co-stars. He also knows how to respect the vision of the show set up at the time of conception, while still understanding the importance of moving the characters along.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

'Supernatural' Recap: "Pac-Man Fever"...

Leave it to The CW's Supernatural to start an episode seemingly about time-travel only to flip it around and have it be a combination of genre-bending goodies. And that's all well and good, but really, I just want to use this time to appeal to the show's writers and producer to keep Charlie (Felicia Day) around for season nine. I wouldn't be so presumptuous to ask that she be made a regular (Day is pretty busy!), but she needs to flit in and out more often, just another hunter/helper the boys call upon or call upon the boys from time to time. From her excitement at going out in the field, to her sharp shooting, to her embracing the art of deception (and the movie montage that came with it), she more than proved herself an asset; she even got Dean (Jensen Ackles) to open up about Sam (Jared Padalecki), Cass, and the trials!

Now, when the boys met up with Charlie again in "Pac-Man Fever," it was mid-week, and she "just happened" to be in Kansas on what she claimed was a comic book convention, trolling for collectibles. Dean didn't question her, seemingly just happy to have his wing-woman back for a short time, but Sam was a bit more skeptical. Admittedly as was I. Kansas, huh? As in the birthplace of the Winchesters and where they lost their mother? Already knowing from the episode promos that Charlie had been spending her time away from the boys researching monsters and the boys (inadvertently through the Carver Edlund novels), my antennae were up, assuming she was trying to know as much about them and their life as possible, to get as close to them as possible. Charlie thus far has been a hit with the fans because of her relatability and general bad-assery, but for the first time the show seemed to be putting her directly into the fans' shoes. The fans, too, want to know as much about the boys and their life as possible, to get as close to them as possible. But the last time the show dabbled in portraying fans, albeit it much more overtly, it didn't end so well. I would have been worried for this episode, too, if I hadn't talked to Day before it aired to be assured the story was "beautiful" and something of which she was proud to be a part.

Anyway, Sam wasn't doing so well after completing the second trial. He slept for over a day straight; his hair was a mess; he couldn't catch a beer bottle or hit a stationary target; he could barely stand up. He was down for the count. Well, he should have been, but it's Sam, and he didn't want to miss out on the fun. Luckily Dean didn't lose his sense of humor about things, despite undoubtedly worrying to death about his baby bro on the inside, because he had Charlie back, and she brought along a case.

People were turning up dead in town, their middle sections bloated and exploding. The coroner's office was run by the thing killing them, so they burned the bodies quickly-- too quickly for the boys to take a look at them, causing them to resort to John's journal and some other books on lore. I love the throwback to simpler times and all by mentioning their father, but I find it really hard to believe he could have anything in his journal that they haven't already covered and therefore know like the backs of their hands or the inside of the Impala. Yet, despite Charlie being the Queen of Technology, second even to Sam, this time John's trusty journal won out, and it turned out that it was a djinn causing trouble in town. Yes, the boys had faced and fought a djinn before, but this wasn't straight ole repetition but a new and improved version-- one where they impersonate their victims and leave their insides like jelly. I wish the show took the time to comment on the possibility that supernatural beings were evolving in order to avoid being killed off, but unfortunately that wasn't actually the point of this episode.

These djinn led their victims into a false reality, too, but since it was Charlie who got "touched" by the seemingly too by-the-book morgue director, the world was one of out of a video game.

But let me back up for a second because as fun and games as the video game portion of things was (Dean in a uniform will do it for me every time), the true takeaway was Charlie's backstory. A combination of her mysterious disappearance (when the djinn got her) and her generally squirrelly behavior before led Sam and Dean to dig a little more, and they found some secret aliases, as well as her mother-- who had been hit by a drunk driver when Charlie was just a kid and being kept alive by machines in the hospital ever since. Charlie's hacking skills were put to good use, finding ways to pay for her mother's care and even sneaking in to see her occasionally, but that's no way to live. Charlie was lonely, hence the obsession with the boys. She wasn't in Kansas researching them at all; that just happened to be where her mother's hospital was. She had more in common with the Winchesters than we could have realized because she technically lost her mother young, too-- only she was holding on so tight to the fact that her mother wasn't technically dead, the djinn (and any other supernatural creature that wanted to come after her, really) could use it against her.

So when the djinn made her the next victim, she should have been just as willing to stay in that false world as Dean had been way back in "What is and What Never Should Be" (Seriously, that is one of my favorite episodes of this series ever, and I relish any opportunity to reference it). But this djinn didn't send people to happy places but instead nightmares, so computer-crazed Charlie ended up in a videogame she reprogrammed and released and got arrested for...when she was twelve. Her desire to get out of there at all costs, despite her ass-kicking get-up, should have once again provided a chance for an altered narrative, rather than just a repetition. But in addition to killing vampires and saving patients, she had to face her mother in the game as one very special patient, and she wasn't truly ready to let go or accept that her mother was gone.

It's a fascinating character study-- whether about Charlie or anyone, really-- to see that most who are excessively interested in pop culture, media, games, or any kind of escapist fantasy world are that way because of a troubled childhood. Hence the desire for escapism, really. But in throwing one's self into something so specific, the focus is shifted from internal healing and maturing, and the person oftens ends up in a state of arrested development. We've seen this with the Winchesters, and now it explained Charlie's behavior (even down to the way she speaks), too. You want, more than anyone, for those kinds of characters to be okay, but they are often the ones that are most destined to live on the outskirts, as loners, because it's so rare to find someone so like-minded. Charlie has found the Winchesters now, and all I wanted was for Dean or Sam or both of them to tell her to stay-- especially after they realized all she had been through. But apparently I'm destined to live on the outskirts, too, because I didn't get my way.

Calling on yet another new fave, Dean had to drink dream root to go into Charlie's subconscious to try to wake her from the djinn, leaving Sam to deal with the second djinn he didn't even know was a thing. And when he did, he found Sam as another patient within the game, combining their nightmares and creating an extra stumbling block. Charlie and Dean's greatest fears were losing the only loved one they had left, and the djinn was feeding off of that. But Dean walked into this voluntarily and with a sense of objectivity. He knew everything in the world was fake, and better still, he had survived a djinn attack like this before. His advice to Charlie to just "stop playing" and "let go of the fear" was really what Charlie needed in the real world. The game was just a flashy cover designed to have a dozen distractions to keep the mind occupied from where the real fear lay so the djinn had time to "turn the insides to mush." Watching Dean force Charlie to come to terms with losing her mother was poignant and emotional but a bit rushed, especially because the editing of the episode had Sam stab the second djinn before he even started talking to her about facing her real fear. So the djinn was already dying and/or dead, and they were about to wake up at any minute, they just didn't know it-- but the writers did and had to speed through the "message." I wish there could have been a bit more justice done because Day's performance was strong, and her character's guilt so greatly parallelled Dean's it took their relationship from surface level awesome to something much stronger and deeper.

Sometimes it's the little moments that mean the most in this show, though, like all the nerdy references that just automatically come with Charlie-- from novelty shirts to relating to teenage boys over a game and their newfound "childhood trauma." But in this case, what really hit me was how the djinn told Charlie it fed on fear and then seemed to be so energized watching Sam cower against a fence as she was coming for him. Sam has been a lot of things because of the trial-- unsteady on his feet, bleeding, exhausted, all things I've discussed before-- but afraid wasn't one I thought I'd ever see. It worries me for the future of the trials. It's not that I think he won't be able to complete them, but I worry what what will happen to him when he does. At first I thought he'd be physically weaker and possibly unable to hunt, benching him more permanently to work from a home base while Dean went out solo, but you can rehab weak bones and muscles; can you do the same for courage? Most people would be sent screaming to the loony bin after seeing what Sam and Dean do on a daily basis, but Sam and Dean have always been ridiculously strong in handling it. Charlie said that if anyone could get through the trials it was Sam, but who's to say anyone can get through them? Physically surviving is one thing, but being stripped of what made you you is something else entirely.