From 'SNL' star Norm McDonald to indie darling Zooey Deschanel, fall TV aims to hit a casting comfort zone
‘The Moonshine War’ kicks off the second season in excellent form
“Normally I would have just shot you myself the second you pulled. But I am doing my level best to avoid the paperwork and self-recrimination that comes with it.” – Raylan Givens
Casting a charismatic actor as the lead of a television series seems like a no-brainer; I mean, why else would anyone tune in week after week? Yet it is surprising how many shows end up with vaguely handsome, blandly likeable charm vacuums at their center. Maybe it’s a matter of sanding down the edges of all the creative elements to appeal to the greatest number of viewers. Or maybe it’s because there are only a few actors like Timothy Olyphant hanging around in Hollywood.
It didn’t seem possible that Olyphant could top his soulful, mesmerizing performance as Sheriff Seth Bullock in the late and much-lamented “Deadwood”, but Raylan Givens is an even better showcase for his talents. Playing a laconic Southern-born U.S. Marshal with a troubled family history and a quick trigger finger, he brings a peculiar intensity mixed with a sly sense of humor to every scene. Raylan knows when it is best to be an aw-shucks country boy in his backcountry hometown of Harlan and when he has to employ the steely-eyed glare of the law. And the quirky dialogue of Elmore Leonard (and the show's writers) rolls off his tongue as smooth as good Kentucky bourbon.
It helps that he is surrounded by ringers throughout the whole cast. Walton Goggins justifiably got most of the attention and praise last season, and he is thankfully still around to keep us guessing as to whether Boyd Crowder is saint or sinner (or both). Raylan’s ex-wife Winona (played by the flinty Natalie Zea) is back in his life and his bed. And the always reliable Margo Martindale is amazing as new villain Mags Bennett, whose sweetness-and-light demeanor masks an incredible multi-tasker: grocery store owner, moonshiner, pot grower and cold-blooded murderer. Like the song said, we can see those long, hard times ahead. But we will probably have a lot of fun along the way as well.
- Glad to see you back #1: Tim, who gets one funny scene involving Raylan giving up his gun after the Bulletville debacle. ("Add in some premium alcohol and what could possibly go wrong?")
- Glad to see you back #2: Rachel, cool and efficient as usual. I hope they partner her with Raylan a lot in the future.
- Timothy Olyphant is also good at the deadpan line reading. “Yeah. Shit. You caught me. I’m stealing gas.”
- Doyle. Dickie. Coovey. Did Mags consult “The Southern Red-Neck Baby Name Book”?
- “Did you really call me here to talk to me about work?” “Not unless it’s exhilarating.”
- Hey, the shots from inside the car look so much better! Thanks for keeping promises made on the DVD extras, Graham Yost.
Matthew Perry returns to the small screen with a whole bunch of new friends
When will Mr. Schuester learn? Love songs ensure teenage, angsty drama
When will Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) learn? Just when the glee club is finally getting along, Schue goes ahead and assigns his kids a love song project, virtually ensuring angsty, teenage drama. Puck (Mark Salling), as unlikely as it seems, has fallen for one Lauren Zizes (Ashley Fink), wrestling champion extraordinaire. But his usual bad-boy attitude isn't enough to lure this tough cookie -- Lauren insists that she be "wooed."
Fresh off the football championship, Finn (Cory Monteith) discovers his social stock is through the roof and he now has he choice of Valentines. But because we always want what we can't have, he has eyes only for his taken ex-flame, Quinn (Dianna Agron). Over at Dalton Academy, Blaine (Darren Criss) admits that he has feelings for someone, but accidentally breaks Kurt's (Chris Colfer) heart when he reveals that the paramour isn't him, but a hoodie-wearing hottie from The Gap.
"Fat Bottomed Girls," Queen
Still not quite getting that Lauren isn't your average girl-next-door, Puck decides to win her affections through song. His unfortunate choice is Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls," which succeeds only in reminding Lauren that she's far more, shall we say curvaceous, than the other girls. A few seats away, a neglected Santana (Naya Rivera) seethes with rage and plots her revenge.
"P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)," Michael Jackson
Proving once again that they are the best boyfriends of the bunch, Artie (Kevin McHale) and Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.) serenade their sweethearts with Michael Jackson's classic (if somewhat age-inappropriate) "P.Y.T." The rendition is so adorable that Brittany (Heather Morris) can barely wait until the last verse to leap into Artie's lap. Maybe Puck should take a lesson on song choice.
"When I Get You Alone," Robin Thicke
After working hard to convince the rarely-seen-in-public Warblers to help him declare his love in The Gap, Blaine does everything but dance with the mannequins. Though their harmonies are as sharp as ever, Blaine is embarrassed to discover that his affections are unrequited. To his credit, lovesick Kurt does everything in his power to help Blaine, despite the fact that it hurts.
"My Funny Valentine," from Babes in Arms
Oh, Tina (Jenna Ushkovitz)… One week you're so angry at Mike that you need Asian couples counseling and the next you're so in love you can't get through a Valentine's song without collapsing into a slobbering, weeping heap on the Linoleum floor.
"Firework," Katy Perry
Like a dog defending the last Milk-Bone in the box, Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) just won't give up on her man. Refusing to believe that she and Finn are through, she believes that one kiss at Finn's dubiously charitable "kissing booth" will miraculously heal all old wounds between them. When it doesn't and she finally realizes that Finn's heart belongs to Quinn, she decides to take back Valentine's Day -- for herself. Far be it from Rachel to pass up an opportunity to talk about how wonderful and talented she is.
"Silly Love Songs," Wings
When no one's Valentine's plans work out quite the way they'd hoped, Kurt rescues the holiday by staging a last-minute Warblers performance at everyone's favorite restaurant, Breadstix. With the help of his Dalton classmates, Kurt shows his friends that the world is always full of love, even if it's not part of a grand romance.
'The Comeback' marks a turning point for Lights
"It’s my turn to give something up" – Theresa Leary
"Why? What not let me have something back?" – Patrick “Lights” Leary
It is not easy to lie to yourself, and only slightly easier to lie to the ones you love. Keeping up the façade that Lights Leary is getting back in the ring only because of the awful financial straits his family is in lasted about half the episode. Fighting is what he is best at, it is what he needs to do to support his loved ones, and – most important – it’s what he loves to do.
But finally acknowledging that truth doesn’t come without consequences. Theresa manages to make her peace with her husband fighting a “tomato can”, meaning someone who has stature and skills, but presents no real threat of physical harm. Pops Leary is ready and willing to train him up. Lights even manages to set a match up with Joe-Joe Reid, an almost comically sweet and decent boxer that has been cut loose by the all-powerful Barry Word. So far, so good.
Things get ugly fast: unknown assailants smash in Joe-Joe’s hands to put him out of commission for the fight, causing Lights to turn over some tables at “21” and end up agreeing to fight a vicious felon nicknamed “El Diablo” (definitely not any type of canned vegetables). He had an awful fight with Daniella. He fires his brother for selling him out to Barry. And Theresa kicks him out, despite a touching heart-to-heart with Lights’ father. Worst of all, in the final scene, Barry and Brennan reveal themselves as the ultimate puppet-masters, manipulating everyone’s futures for their own profit (granted, this wasn’t explicitly spelled out, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist).
For such a depressing outcome, this was the best episode “Lights Out” has produced, with great vulnerable moments for unexpected people – from Stacy Keach’s voice breaking on “I don’t want to see him hurt” to the naked fear in Holt McCallany’s eyes as he questions whether he really can beat the bloodthirsty Morales. And it seems that the pieces are in place for Lights Leary to finally take control of his destiny – for better or worse.
Fast-paced, well-acted and gorgeously shot, the new series generally lives up to the hype
“You know, I’m just a lowly homicide detective; I can’t fix the city’s plumbing and neither can you.” – Jarek Wysocki
“Just one toilet at a time, Detective.” – Teresa Colvin
There is only so far outside the boundaries you can go with a cop drama on network television. Taking into account viewer expectations, content limitations and budget logistics, usually the best you can hope for is that the showrunner brings a modicum of skill, intelligence and style to the standard story-telling constructs. In “The Chicago Code”, Shawn Ryan, the creator of “The Shield” (one of the best cop dramas ever) brings all that and more, both in more ambitious large story-arcs and subtle tweaks to the stock characters and situations.
For instance: voice-over narration, which is one of the easiest shortcuts for a writer trying to cram a ton of exposition into a limited time period. For the pilot of any series, let alone one with as many characters, secrets and machinations as “The Chicago Code” it’s probably an acceptable (if clichéd) tool. The pilot takes the somewhat original tack by scattering the first-person accounts throughout the hour and putting crucial information about some people into the stories told by others. In the last few minutes, we hear young Antonio – the driver for new police superintendent Teresa Colvin - recount how she pulled him off of the streets, got him interested in school and the police academy…and he is abruptly cut off mid-sentence, by a fatal bullet to his chest. It is a powerful moment that succinctly conveys the real stakes in this world.
The central characters and relationships also subvert expectations. Jarek seems to have the standard shrewish ex-wife, until we learn they are still sleeping together (behind the back of his 27-year-old fiancée, no less). Teresa seems to be the epitome of the no-nonsense, aggressively tough, hard-nosed police officer, but there is real vulnerability underneath her bravado. And Gibbons (as played by the incomparable Delroy Lindo) seems to be the ultimate power-mad bad guy, but there are hints he really may do some good for the city. And who’s to say what our intrepid heroes may stir up by tossing aside the older cops that are on the take (or “oxygen thieves” as Teresa sneeringly calls one flagrant example)? When your ostensible hero gets an unholy gleam in his eye when describing his new “assignment” (“I ride all around the city listening to the radio and I hijack any case I want from the primary.”), you can bet there will be trouble.
It’s probably a bit hackneyed that Jareck’s father tried to go after Gibbons twenty years earlier, or that he serves as a father figure for his orphaned niece (also a cop naturally). But these are relatively minor complaints. Over the next few months, I will trust Shawn Ryan to take us to the darker and more complicated parts of Chicago, and still manage to enjoy the ride-along.
The Chicago native talks police ride-alongs, playing the top cop -- and why you can go home again
On the new FOX drama "The Chicago Code" – which premieres tonight at 9 p.m. -- Jennifer Beals stars as police superintendent Teresa Colvin, a woman who finds herself in the top spot, trying to navigate the minefield of a male-dominated force. What brought Beals back to TV? Perhaps it was a little bit of hometown glory. We chatted with the actress – whom you’ll remember from "Flashdance," but more recently from "Lie To Me" and "The L Word" – about playing the top cop, working with Delroy Lindo – and why you can go home again.
On Coming Back To TV: "I found it so interesting to play somebody who was walking into uncharted territory, in a way. She’s really creating the template for this job, being the first female superintendent. I just thought it would be very interesting to take that walk into what kind of a leader does she become in that position, and how do you balance your personal life with the demands of that kind of job. I thought the relationship to Jarek (Jason Clarke) was also interesting. It’s a very interesting line that we walk between intimacy and respect and being able to tell the truth to one another and goading one another and making each other laugh. I just thought that could potentially be interesting. Of course, for me, working with Shawn Ryan (‘The Shield’) was a real lure because I really admire his writing and I admire the way that he works with his team of writers as well."
On Working With Delroy Lindo: "I love working with Delroy Lindo. I get schooled every single day when I work with Delroy Lindo. It’s so much fun. He is so specific in his work and so dedicated to his work. He just made me laugh. He was a great advisory, because he’s also really smart about the way he went about playing the character. Because as much wickedness as his character is purveying, he also is doing good things as well. His evil is not perfectly delineated and clear. It’s murky, which is often the way that it is. So it was terrific to work with Delroy. I cried our last day of shooting together. Like a little kid, I cried, because I wished we had more scenes together, but maybe next season if we get picked up."
On Her Character Teresa’s Duality: "There is an episode where it deals with her family, and so you do see her personal life in that episode. You do get little glimpses of it every now and again, but really, this is a person who has dedicated everything to their job for better or for worse. Towards the end of the season, you start to see the toll that that takes on her personally. At times, it gets grueling. There are times I just wish they had a scene with me drunk and at a bar—that would be great—or karaoke or something. It gets grueling, and it made me realize that for her it’s got to be grueling. The notion again of having to devote everything to this job, having to live that within the part. I think that she does have a great deal of respect among her fellow officers, but you would be naïve to think that to be able to ascend to that kind of level isn’t without a cost. I think it’s cost her her personal life. Everything is about this job, and you’ll see how problematic that is."
On Playing the Woman In Charge: "I think testing my own strength of having to suppress what are stereotypically more feminine kinds of values, or female values, like nurturing and inclusion and all these things. Because I think really early on in her leadership, as much as she’d like to be inclusive, as much as she’d like to share information, she doesn’t, because it would be perceived as weak and could perhaps put her in a position of weakness, because that is not the nature of the system that she is now a part of. That was trying sometimes, to maintain some kind of balance between more masculine values and feminine values. I did talk to other women. Obviously, it’s a very interesting position to be a woman who’s in charge of a department or several bureaus who are primarily men. I don’t think anybody intended for her to initially have this position. I really believe that she was probably the token candidate and then is believed to be potentially a puppet for some of the aldermen. They are surprised by the fact that she’s not a puppet, or not the kind of puppet that they would want certainly. Having said that, her ascension comes through expertise. She’s been in I think lots of different of departments within the Chicago Police Department. She’s started out as an officer, as a beat cop, was in tactical, was in homicide. She knows a lot of different departments, which is a feasible idea."
On Researching Her Role: "We were able to do ride-alongs with a homicide detective. So you could go all out all night in a car in a Kevlar vest. You sign a piece of paper, and you’re able to see all kinds of things. You get to see what they deal with day in and day out, how to set up a crime scene. Well I saw lots of things. On the more comic side was a woman who refused to put her shirt on in a fried chicken restaurant. She just kept taking her shirt off. She clearly had not been taking her meds, and she thought I was Obama's sister and that I should somehow save her. On the more tragic side was being the first to respond to a man who had been shot, who was about to bleed to unconsciousness on somebody’s front stoop. The police were the first to arrive, but the ambulances didn’t get there for, gosh, I don’t know, like 20 minutes or something. Had this person been relying simply on the ambulances, they probably would’ve died, but the fire department came and helped him medically. At that time, I was able to see how the police department sets up a crime scene, being able to follow the trail of blood to figure out where he would’ve been shot, where the shooter would’ve been, and looking for the evidence of shell casings, which I helped the detectives find."
On the Real Chicago Shocker: "It’s funny, the first ride along was much more shocking. Then as time goes by and you spend time playing the part and you spend more time getting information, it’s not so shocking. I grew up on the south side of Chicago. It was not the first time that I’ve seen bullet holes in cars. It’s not the first time that I’ve seen shell casings, and it’s, frankly, not the first time I’ve seen anybody shot. What was shocking really was that there was a group gathered around this man before he got taken away in the ambulance who were all very upset that he had been shot. It was really clear that there were people there who knew who shot him and that it was a gang related incident, but that nobody would come forward with any information. That was shocking. What’s shocking is to see six-year-old children jump roping in the street at 2:00 a.m. — that’s shocking — a block away from drug dealers. Just to see that the gap in the circle is education, in my mind, primarily for young women, because it’s the young women that are raising the kids and that’s where the circle, I think, perpetuates itself. To me, that’s more shocking than seeing somebody shot."
On Stunts – Or Not: "I'm mostly just smashing people in the face with my elbow, but no kicking in doors. I’m not on the street that often. But we got to go to the shooting range. I was able to talk to some people who had more administrative positions to try to understand what that part of my job would be like. There are lots of things on the Internet. The Superintendent of Chicago has a blog that he has for everybody; that’s accessible to everybody. I don't know if anybody should be scared of me. [But] I started boxing … to get more into the physicality of it, the sort of aggressive kind of yang thing that can go on."
On Going From Playing Bette To Playing Cop: "Playing Bette Porter, somebody who was so driven and single minded sometimes and very strong and righteous at times, certainly helped prepare me for this role. Definitely, Teresa is much more physically confident than Bette is, and, as far as I can tell so far, is deeply heterosexual. But being part of 'The L Word' made me realize how much more television can be that what I had experienced in my lifetime in terms of being able to be of service to people. I had so many fans come up to me who were really deeply appreciative of the show and what it had meant for them and their own sense of identity and their own sense of inclusion in our society and in our culture."
On Her Chi-Town Roots: "I said to my manager when pilot season came up last year, I said, 'You basically have two cities; you have Vancouver and Chicago,' because those are the places that I can imagine spending long periods of time with my family. So when this series came up, I was very excited. I was very excited because of Shawn and the part and because I got to go back to my hometown, because I love the city. I think it’s so beautiful, and the people are so great. I don’t know how much I introduced people to the city, but what I did do is when everybody first arrived, as far as the cast goes, I gave them all a copy of the 'Chicago' poem, the Sandburg poem, because I really do think that poem 'Chicago' paints a pretty accurate portrait of the city. There’s so many things that we've added now in terms of the beauty of the skyscrapers and downtown, but there’s this aspect to the city that really is like a brazen fighter. Unafraid."
Sue Sylvester says this ‘very special episode’ is sure to be a ‘Thriller’
We all love Jane Lynch as super-feisty Sue Sylvester on ‘Glee.’ And this week’s Super Bowl special, airing Sunday, Feb. 6 at around 10:30 p.m. on Fox (after the Super Bowl), is titled “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle.” So can we expect some song and dance from Lynch? “I don’t know,” she said in a conference call with press yesterday. “It’s nothing like the 1985 Bears. It probably has something to do with the routine that I’m choreographing that has Brittany shot of a human cannon.”
If it sounds like things are about to get a little crazy on “Glee,” well, Lynch ensures they are. We caught up with the Emmy-winning actress to chat about Sue’s more salacious antics, joining the Glee Club and her new book, ‘Happy Endings.’
On The Show’s Success – And Surprises: “Every single script I read, I think, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ And that’s why I’m glad I’m not writing the show. It always goes too far. It’s always ridiculous. Some of the things that I do – how mean I get and how everyone lets me get away with it – it’s all ridiculous and I love it. But having a sister with Down’s syndrome took me completely by surprise. Carol Burnett coming on as my Nazi hunter mother took me by surprise and I was also very surprised that when I said my mother was a Nazi hunter, it turned out to be true.”
On Sue’s Super Bowl Shenanigans: “This is ‘Glee’ on steroids. It’s large. Sue Sylvester is a little bored with her routine, even though she has kids riding around on BMX bikes and jumping through fire and one routine with Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls.’ She wants to top herself, so she finds out there’s a human cannon in town. She buys it and now she wants to shoot Brittany out of it. Figgins, the principal, doesn’t allow it because it’s a liability issue. So Sue has two hissy fits where she just rips two rooms apart. This is Sue Sylvester on the warpath.”
On Sue Joining the Glee Club: “Sue suffers a devastating loss after the Super Bowl episode and she becomes very, very depressed, kind of dangerously depressed where she’s more violent than usual. They get her to join the glee club to lift her spirits. And they find that through raising her voice in song it kind of lifts her and she gets out of her depression. So I’m actually in the glee club for a while.”
On Sue’s Split Personality: “She certainly has two sides to her. I can tie them all together. She’s a human being with all different colors to her, but as long as I keep it rooted in some truth, anything can work. I have to keep it as truthful as possible in any given moment whether I’m ranting or helping somebody out. I like Sue Sylvester to be firing on all cylinders. I don’t like to stick to just one thing too long and the writers make sure of that, which is great.”
On Sue’s Schuester Agenda: “She wants a formidable enemy. She’s looking for the next fight and sometimes it’s that fight to get these people to stand up for themselves instead of being so weak and other times it’s to destroy them because they threaten her spotlight in Cheerios that she worked so hard for. She’s always looking for a formidable enemy and I think she also has a fondness for Will and for who he is and how he’s just a good person. In moments she hates him for it and in other moments she has great admiration for him.”
On ‘Glee’ Guests: “Gwyneth Paltrow is back. She’s going to do a couple of episodes I think, and she’s just the best. She’s great, and she’s here because she wants to dance and sing and put a good message out to the kids.”
On Sue Sylvester’s Secret Shame: “She definitely wants to stay the big fish in the small pond. In the last episode of the first season, Olivia Newton-John and Josh Groban are judges with me and they say ‘We’re flying back to LA tonight first-class. Where are you going?’ the thing is that Sue will never be flying first-class and she’ll never be going to LA. I think that she has grand ambitions but I think she knows that she’ll never be anything bigger than a Lima, Ohio coach and a terror at this high school.”
On Her Upcoming Book ‘Happy Accidents’: “Having finally reached a happy place – a ‘happy accidents’ place – I want to share my story with others, to let them know things aren’t as bad as they fear. I started writing things down and I told a friend of mine-a writer-about it and she said, ‘There’s a book in there.’ I learned it was a little more interesting than I thought it was. I also learned how I made things much harder on myself than I needed to. If I could go back in time and have a conversation with my 18-year-old self, the thing I’d say is, ‘Relax. Really. Just relax. Don’t sweat it. For a long time, I was just anxious and fearful that the parade would pass me by, and someone or something outside myself had all the answers. I feel that basically everything was handed to me. Not my career. I worked for that, but I had a really good family. I was brought up with a lot of love but still, I chose time after time after time to suffer over so much and that mental component of suffering is the thing in looking back on my life I’ve learned is a choice. To this day I still will choose to make angst over something I really don’t have to. It’s true what I’ve come up with that you just really need to trust that you’re on your own path and as long as you’re true to it and show up—and showing up is 90% of it.”