'Pilot', 'The Cage': The first 48 hours of a fascinating new series from AMC
Oh, the perils of blogging about a show episode by episode. AMC’s superb and exciting new long-form police procedural “The Killing” stretches out one Pacific Northwest murder investigation over thirteen episodes set on thirteen different days, so each hour will be presenting a variety of clues, suspects, red herrings and ominous fake-outs on the way to finding Rosie Larsen’s killer. Although it is fun to follow along, it also makes any week-to-week speculation seem premature at best, wildly wrong-headed at worst. Luckily, there is plenty to generally discuss about the various elements of the characters and world of the show, and save the crime-solving theories for the bullet points.
The cops: As the reluctant lead investigator Sarah Linden, Mireille Enos is the stoic, still center of an increasingly lurid and grisly crime. She obviously possesses an almost preternatural ability to suss out important details on a crime scene (noting that the bloody sweater found in the park had been dry cleaned, ruling out any local crack-heads) and her cool professional attitude is contrasted sharply with her new partner/replacement Stephen Holder (played by Dutch actor Joel Kinnaman). Sarah has instant tact and empathy with the people they are interviewing, while Stephen’s history as an undercover narcotics officer causes him to hostilely grill everyone that crosses his path like a potential suspect. However, this background serves him well in the second episode, after he plays the seductive creep with two of Rosie’s classmates and gets to the actual scene of the crime in the dank basement of the high school. Sarah and Stephen’s relationship is sure to be rocky but so far, their contrasting styles are being played for intriguing drama rather than easy clichés.
The politicians: Since the body was found in a stolen car that was part of the campaign of mayoral candidate Darren Richmond (the agelessly handsome Billy Campbell), he and his staff are inexorably drawn into the investigation. Of course, they have secrets of their own, including a romantic relationship between Richmond and his campaign manager Gwen Eaton (Kristin Lehman). Currently, there seems to be zero connection between Rosie and the mayor’s race, but time will tell. Although, the governmental machinations are interesting, they pale a bit in comparison to the primal drama of the murder, and Richmond’s search for the source of a dangerous leak inside his inner circle seems more distracting than intriguing.
The victim’s family and friends: Here, the series is on much stronger ground. The fear, shock and grief resulting from a child’s death are universal emotions, and the powerful performances by Brent Sexton and Michelle Forbes as Stan and Mitch Larsen simply rip your heart out. Sitting on a windswept beach, telling their two young sons that their older sister was “in heaven” was an incredibly moving scene. Orbiting around the family unit are worried best friend Sterling (Kacey Rohl) and despicable rich kid boyfriend Jasper (Richard Harmon), who should probably be thrown in jail just for the crime of being an annoying grade-A jackass. Get on that, Holder.
- “The Killing” looks so much like British crime mini-series like “Wire in the Blood” and “Luther” that I keep expecting Helen Mirren to pop up as Deputy Chief Inspector Jane Tennison.
- The running plot of Sarah Linden’s imminent departure for her new home in Somona threatens to become an unintentionally amusing running gag. It gets a bit more ridiculous every time she explains to her fiancé that she skipped another flight to keep working on the case. Here’s hoping they put that detail to bed soon.
- OK, I get that Holder is trying to get information out of the two flirty soccer players, but is he allowed to actually give weed to teenagers? Will that decision come back to bite him later?
- The great state of Washington, home to so many of our favorite psychopaths.
- Suspect line-up: Richmond (seems squeaky-clean, probably related to the crime in some other way); Jasper (much too obvious, but most certainly lying about his involvement in the Halloween “after-party”); someone that works for Stan; idealistic young African-American school teacher with the Dreadlocks of Sensitivity; Betty Draper’s whiny little brother
"The Killing" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.
‘Fight Club’ meets ‘Ransom’ in the side-splitting ‘El Secuestro’
It’s turning out to be the season of character back-stories: Lana and her environmental terrorist lover, Woodhouse and his WWI fighter pilot lover, Cyril and his…father. So, this week we found out a little bit about Cheryl (which I guess they have decided is her name now). As well as being absolutely, no-holds-barred, awesomely insane, she is also the recently orphaned heiress to the Tunt railroad fortune. This fun information comes out after a group of brutal kidnappers mistake Pam for their intended target, and the ISIS gang has to head out to rescue their beloved HR rep from certain death. Except Pam is apparently the female equivalent of Tyler Durden and can more than hold her own with the abductors.
Everyone in the ensemble got a chance to shine, from the smallest throwaway lines (Sterling giggling “He got shot again!” as human target Ben lies bleeding out on the office floor) to ridiculous out-of-character moments (Sterling’s giddy off-camera excitement about Cheryl’s ocelot) to extended comic set-pieces (Cyril’s counter-kidnapping of Cheryl in order to get back the $3,700 she owes him and his subsequent humiliating phone-sex lies). And equal praise for the sound editing; several times, Malory was asked point-blank about saving Pam’s life, and her pauses before answering got longer and longer with increasingly hilarious results. In the end, we were spared the image of Pam “whupping $5,000 worth of her ass”. But would we really want to see that? As Lana would say, nope.
- “Mopeds are fun, but you don’t want your buddies to see you riding one.”
- “I only had ten beers.” “Fortys?” “No! Yes.”
- “She said she had to walk to work because there was a midget on the train.”
- “Yes, just keep shouting your own name!”
- “Thanks Pam! Way to drag out a kidnapping. Now I’m late again.”
- “Like a huge, sweatery, Lindbergh baby.”
- “The train dwarf was real and he looked at me with his dwarfy eyeballs!”
- “That’s the Roosevelt mansion!” “Total shitbox. They’re weird.”
- “Not you, Mr. Bloodmobile.”
- “Guess how many pygmies died cutting it down. Hint: six.”
- “Unless you include the funeral expenses for those pygmies. And I bet that sneaky little chief just dumped them all into one medium-sized hole.”
- “There’s half a billion dollars worth of Tunt sitting in that vault!”
- “Hope you kidnap the shit out of her.”
- “We look totally gay!” “I am gay.” “Well, I’m not!” “Then why are you wearing that turtleneck?”
- “Unless you want to chop off my fingertips and slice out my retinas. Aw, don’t be dicks.”
- “3,700 dollars.” “Wait a minute, how much?” “A million dollars. 50 million dollars.”
- “Does internet porn know you’re cheating on it?”
- “They’re not going to shoot you, Pam; their programming won’t allow it.” “What?” “Don’t ask.”
New romantic comedies not faring well on TV
By Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to MSN TV
Anxiety is expected when a new show launches.
Producers, writers and cast members worry how critics will respond and if viewers will tune in.
But the concern seemed to double for the stars of “Happy Endings” Thursday evening in Culver City, Calif., when nearly all of the reporters who were supposed to attend the night’s junket at the Sony lot canceled at the last minute.
At one point, some publicists were emailing those who didn’t cancel and pleading with them to not back out. Others were asking members of the media if there was another event people had decided to attend.
One theory was that the weather was so nice – Los Angeles experienced record high temps reaching 92 degrees downtown and in the valley communities – many reporters decided to head to the beach instead.
Of course, that’s not what David Caspe, the creator and one of the show’s executive producers, theorized.
When he wasn’t bemoaning the taste of the mac ‘n’ cheese bites – cast members Adam Pally and Zachary Knighton quite enjoyed the crispy snacks – he was reading one of the sitcom’s early reviews on his iPhone.
And as you might’ve guessed, the review, from The Salt Lake Tribune’s Scott D. Pierce, wasn’t flattering.
“Pally pissed him off,” Caspe could be heard muttering. “That’s why he hates us. Thanks a lot Pally.”
Pally, whose comedic pedigree includes the celebrated New York improv group the Upright Citizens Brigade, is a bit of a ham.
He plays Max on “Happy Endings” the group’s “chubby’ and gay friend.
“Max is like the gay Joey, but he’s funny,” says Pally, comparing “Happy Endings” to that other once really successful show about a group of chums.
The comparison between the two shows isn’t that far off.
Like “Friends,” the ABC sitcom starts with a breakup. Instead of Rachel leaving her fiancé at the altar, we see Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) leave Dave (Knighton, best known for his role on “FlashForward”) on their wedding day.
After a lot of crying on Dave’s part, some outrageous high jinks and a lot hand wringing from their friends, Dave and Alex figure out a way to move on so everyone can stay friends.
"Seinfeld” it’s not but “Happy Endings” does have a lot of genuinely funny moments. A reference to “Point Break” and Lori Petty is one of the funniest.
Unfortunately, romantic comedies aren’t faring too well on TV these days and almost all of the ones that have rolled out recently – Fox’s “Traffic Light,” CBS’ “Mad Love” and “Perfect Couples” on NBC – will in all likelihood be canceled due to low ratings.
Then you have “Happy Endings.”
When it debuts 9:30 p.m. April 14, it will serve as little more than a place holder for “Cougar Town.”
But with a little luck and a real following, it could be so much more.
Cuthbert, who will always be known as Kim from “24,” says she was intimidated because all of her costars are funny and have comedic backgrounds. Rounding out the cast is Damon Wayans Jr., (“The Other Guys”), Casey Wilson (“Saturday Night Live”) and Eliza Coupe (“Scrubs”).
But Cuthbert holds her own. Like Courteney Cox did when “Friends” began, she has the most recognizable name but she also wants to prove she can be funny too. And she does.
For the sake of her and the others, hopefully the party was just a fluke and viewers will come around even if most critics don’t.
"Happy Endings" premieres Thursday, April 14, at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
The new Starz series impresses with an intense two-hour premiere
Here's the scoop on how an already star-studded TV season just got even bigger
‘The Spoil’ brings together many plot threads and sharply amps up the action.
Right from the beginning, “Justified” has toyed with the ideas of good guys and bad guys, of heroes and villains, of the people that the audience will cheer on or root against. Granted, Raylan has always been essentially the White Hat, and he has been the moral compass of most of the action. But even he has a temper, and a self-destructive streak that gets him into various scrapes (usually while he’s drunk). And our antagonists – Boyd Crowder, Arlo Givens, those crazy Bennetts – sometimes seem to stumble almost blindly into doing the right thing, if usually for the wrong reasons.
“The Spoil” took a group of vivid characters with divided loyalties and ambiguous motives through a series of encounters with escalating tension and violence, climaxing in that electrifying town hall scene that was more of a church revival at certain points. Carol Johnson and Black Pike Coal are indeed bringing jobs and an influx of money to a poor community, while setting up that same community to be environmentally destroyed by the insidious practice of mountaintop removal. Mags talks a good game about protecting the special hillbilly Kentucky lifestyle, but in reality, she is acting on unknown but obviously sinister motives, and she and her sons have no compunction about using violent intimidation to get their way. Boyd is going about his “duty” as a Black Pike employee, gently soliciting Harlan folks to sell their land to the coal company, and praising them for giving him a much vaunted “second chance” but his heart and mind are more focused on ferreting out what the Bennetts are up to. And Raylan is ready and willing to protect Carol from her unhinged sniper stalker, but still can’t help opening his “coal miner loving mouth” and cooling pointing out the hypocrisy of Black Pike’s actual working conditions. It all makes for a volatile mix of conflicting agendas, which may come to a bit of a head next week at the “whoop-dee-do”. Make sure to wear something pretty.
- Essential viewing to explain the background of all this chat about coal companies and their “gun thugs”: Barbara Kopple’s classic “Harlan County USA”
- This is a really gorgeous looking show, particularly the lighting in the opening batting cage scene.
- OK, so Art knows. Winona doesn’t seem too bothered, but it was touching to see Raylan feel so guilty.
- “The only thing we’re on the same side of is, like, this car.”
- “It’s not easy being a strong woman. Take it from me.”
- Coover keeps skating up to the edge of “Lenny and the rabbits” territory.
- “It’s nice to see the work you’ve done on your boys’ self-esteem has paid off.”
- I know that backwoods Kentucky medical care twenty-five years ago wasn’t the greatest, but would a grown man still have such a pronounced limp?
- Somehow Rebecca Creskoff makes Carol’s straightforwardness bold and sexy rather than totally off-putting. (“My heart’s still pounding. Wanna feel?”) And please note Raylan’s response to her point-blank invitation to bed: “Yes……I appreciate the offer, but…” Hmmm.
- That was a damn exciting shoot-out at the Givens house.
- “I lied.”
With the 'Born This Way' episode, our favorite TV musical comedy goes bigger, better, longer
'Sucker Punch' takes a final swing at the Leary family with the return of Mom.
Nothing happens behind my back – Barry Word
Putting together a serialized television series is tricky. How do you keep each episode fresh while not losing focus on the main storyline? Is it better to stick with the established group of characters and let them deepen over a period of time, or do you bring in new folks to show the hidden or less exposed sides of your protagonist? After the not wholly unexpected news that “Lights Out” will not be coming back for a second season, it made it seem more even more tiresome that we had to spend an extended period of time with Mae, the long-lost Leary matriarch. But it did allow the viewers to get a deeper understanding of the family dynamic, and provided some interesting color, particularly for Margaret.
As the only girl in a family of boxers, Margaret Leary has developed her own pugnacious and tough personality, and her initial reaction to the arrival of her soul-sucking, alcoholic, manipulative mother was both the coldest and (as it turned out) the most sensible. All of the performances were great; Pops fell immediately back into crush mode, Johnny passively-aggressively medicates with whiskey and Patrick – naturally and poignantly – takes on the forgiving caregiver mode. But Margaret stands firm: Mae is “dead to me”, she “robbed me of my life.” The acting by Elizabeth Marvel in the scene at the hospital was wonderful; angry, vulnerable but with an inner strength that shows how she might be the strongest fighter of them all.
In the final build-up to the fight, Hal Brennan is emerging as a possibly greater villain than Barry Word. The timing of the drive-by at the diner (and the expectant expression on Bill Irwin’s face) all seem to point to Johnny’s tossed-off theory that it was Brennan that set up the shooting. It would be a logical part of his plan to set Lights up as a huge long shot, and then collect on those winnings to topple Barry as the kingpin of the boxing world. So Brennan has been working his own agenda all along, and Barry is just starting to realize it perhaps? I don’t see him going down without a fight, that’s for sure.
- OK sports/boxing fans; is that seriously a typical sports talk show set-up? It seemed so ridiculous, but that is probably my ESPN ignorance showing. In spite of that, the most enjoyable part of the episode was the sleazy machinations of Johnny and the reporter.
- Valerie Perrine sounds exactly the same as she did when she was a hot young thing in “Lenny”.
- Only in TV Land: the scheming villain has a highly sensitive and secret phone conversation in the family bedroom.
- “Not a musician; a drummer. It was a lateral move.”