MSN TV Blog - TV Buzz

‘Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ tries to walk the line between fact and fantasy

By Miss Sarah Jo Feb 4, 2011 12:22AM

Community NBC D&DJust how incredibly irritating, off-putting and downright mean can you make the people in a sitcom?  “Friends” pushed Ross’s pomposity and Monica’s obsessiveness to extremes over ten seasons, but to portray one of the main characters as a world-class jerk early on is taking a great risk. For the most part, the darkness of Pierce’s cruelty weighed down on the playfulness of this episode too heavily.

 

There was still plenty of enjoyable nonsense going on. From the hysterical names given to all of the players (“Marrrrrrr”, “Bing Bong the Archer”) to the plummy-voiced British over-narrating of all of the action (“And as they described themselves walking, so did Abed confirm they walked.”), the set-up was detailed and very funny.  There was room for a couple of priceless set pieces, including Annie and Abed’s silent but shocking explicit sexy role-playing and Britta’s emotional good-bye to the dying “gnome-waiter” (“My name was…Kyle”.) As usual, the cast totally committed to the escalating absurdity of the events; they know their characters inside and out and it shows.

 

Chevy Chase seems to slip into the skin of “Pierce the Insensitive” (or “Pierce the Dickish” or “Grandpa Flatulent”) almost too well; there was no winking at the audience during any of his scenes. He set out to crush poor Neil and win the D&D game, full stop. Only when Neil called him out for what he is – sad, pathetic and lonely – did Pierce sabotage himself and lose the game.  All credit to the writers for following it through; even though Neil (out of pity) offered to play with him again, it seems that Pierce has been abandoned by the study group.  Will this thread play out over the next few episodes? Stay tuned.

  • “It was Annie, the Day Planner, herself a recovering head case, that recognized the signs of coming doom.”
  • “I’m an elf, not a nerd.”
  • “Shouldn’t there be a board, or some pieces, or something to Jenga?”
  • “Dial it back, Lavernica”
  • “I attack them using my….additional notes.”
  • “You’re the AT&T of people!”
  • “If that’s sarcasm, I can’t tell, because everything in this game is silly.”
  • “One, don’t screw with me. Two, invite me to your crap.”
  • “If you had a tail, people could always tell when you were happy.”
 

The series goes on a break with the breezy, cute ‘Cry to Me’

By Miss Sarah Jo Feb 3, 2011 8:51PM

Cougar Town ABCPossibly one of the tiresome comedy tropes has got to be “What is up with women wanting to talk about their feelings all time?” (or as this one show said it last season “Bitches be loco!”).  Combining it with a Valentine’s Day theme seems like a no-win situation. But by narrowing it down to how Jules seems to need Grayson to “open up” more than anyone (ever ever EVER), “Cougar Town” sidestepped the most irritating aspects of their A-plot.  It did not manage to avoid making some of her actions fairly disturbing (the final shot of her watching him cry while shoving popcorn in her mouth), but her specific brand of crazy kept the storyline fairly lightweight.


The B-plot of Andy and Ellie, as silly and over-the-top as it was, actually resonated more deeply. It is good to see a couple that truly understands each other’s needs, even if that “need” is to sit in the street and watch a giant flaming pile of Christmas decorations.  And in the designated throwaway plot, Travis indulges Kirsten’s request for a “sexy” Valentine’s Day picture, with predictably cringe-inducing results, and Laurie as a sexy pose mentor/coach.  Even Barb’s contractually obligated cameo was risibly funny – mostly because of the horrified reactions of the passers-by.  Although I’m giving “Mr. Sunshine” a try, I am really going to miss the Purple Tooth Crew.

  • The “Circle of Love”/ “Circle of Anger” is a perfect encapsulation of why I love this show.
  • “I don’t even think I have tear ducts.”
  • “Like Ryan Reynolds riding a horse or something?”
  • “Let me guess – you guys finally kissed and only one of you loved it.”
  • Of course Neighbor Tom would still have his Christmas decorations up.
  • Favorite Tom moment #147 – righteously Hoovering up the sticky buns.
  • “Captain Emo’s been following me around, yapping about romance and vomiting I love you-s all over me.”
  • “I made a joke!”  “Laugh!”
  • “It didn’t mean I wanted to be alone while you acted like you just got a rose on the gay, hillbilly version of The Bachelor!”

 

 

Kevin Williamson to take on new show based on another series by 'Vampire Diaries' author

By Sona Charaipotra Feb 3, 2011 4:09PM
Photo courtesy Alloy EntertainmentFor fans of the "Vampire Diaries" -- which airs its second new midseason episode tonight at 8 p.m. on the CW, with more werewolves, witches and vamps -- there's good news and bad news this week, according to Deadline.com. The site had reported in November that "VD" exec producer Kevin Williamson was working on a spin-off show, focusing a group of paranormal investigators. That potential pilot has been canned, sadly.

But today, the site reported that Williamson instead is on board as showrunner of another CW series in development, "The Secret Circle," which, like "VD," is based on a series of books by teen author L.J. Smith.

Fans of "VD" are in for a treat with the new show. The Smith trilogy, first published in the early 1990s and co-produced, like many CW shows, by Alloy Entertainment, follows the travails of 16-year-old Cassie, a California girl who finds herself as the new kid in spooky New Salem, Mass., a shore town that hides some sinister secrets of its own. The sure-to-be-smoking teens she encounters are witches -- and eventually she finds out that she happens to be one of them, her half-witch lineage buried by her mother, who fled when her dad died years ago.

With Greek goddess roots, a conflicted heroine and careful crafting, Smith's "Secret Circle" should lend itself well to the CW treatment, although it will be interesting to watch how far Williamson and potential producing partner Julie Plec ("Vampire Diaries") stray from the original storylines. Their reworking of "Diaries" has made the material far stronger than the original series (though some fans of the books may disagree), and Williamson always has that magic touch with teen-oriented material.

Are witches the new vampires? Will you be watching "Secret Circle?"


 

Some secrets are revealed on the way to the inevitable rematch

By Miss Sarah Jo Feb 1, 2011 11:21PM

It’s always difficult to determine how long to keep your characters in the dark about information that the audience already knows.  Keep it hidden just long enough and it creates wonderful suspense; but drag it out too long, and viewers start to get strangely irritated with the people who are uninformed.  Because it is easy to identify with Lights and all the burdens he is carrying for his extended family, Catherine can start to seem (to the audience) like a greedy unsupportive shrew. Of course, by making a pledge to support her parish priest in his rehabilitation of a Haitian medical clinic, she has no idea she is promising money that she does not have, and it is Lights who is in the wrong by not telling her about the disastrous state of their finances.  So it is an immense relief when he finally comes clean.

 

Or does he really? Lights sometimes seems almost willfully obtuse about the severity of his situation.  He certainly has a huge blind spot when it comes to Johnny, who in addition to being a terrible business manager is apparently also a degenerate gambler and ex-drug addict.  In order to get Johnny out of trouble yet again (if only temporarily), Lights fights a bloody and brutal “cage match” against a former MMA fighter-turned-bookie-muscle, and gets in even deeper with Brennan.  Once again, Johnny mutters his mantra – “You don’t have to do this, Champ.”  But we know, as long as Johnny is still around, the Champ will be called upon to do increasingly dangerous things to help the people that he loves.

 

Some other thoughts:

  • I am most definitely a lapsed Catholic, but do parishioners really stand up and pledge money publically after a little good-natured guilt tripping from a priest?
  • It is nice to see Papa Leary is basically a decent and kind man – loving to his grandkids and affectionate with his sons.  Which made it all the more poignant when he told Lights to talk to Johnny about a loan (“He handles my savings.”) Funny and sad at the same time.
  • Lights really would make a good trainer, as he is the only one who knows how to handle Omar and his immature mood swings.
  • "Guilt rings"? Uh-oh – the only context I have for that is Kobe Bryant.
 

The former Veronica Mars star signs on for a new Showtime pilot

By Sona Charaipotra Feb 1, 2011 3:27PM
Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Television
For those of you who have been mourning the loss of the teen detective drama "Veronica Mars" since the show when off the air in 2007, there's some consolation. 

Your favorite blonde TV starlet, Kristen Bell, may just be returning to the small screen next year after a sojourn that included film fare like "You Again," "Burlesque" and the upcoming "Scream 4."

TVLine.com reports today that Bell has signed on to star in the upcoming Showtime dark comedy "House Of Lies," which already locked Oscar-nominee Don Cheadle ("Hotel Rwanda"). 

The show centers on a pair of dueling corporate management firms, and Bell is et to play Jeannie, a cut-throat Brown University grad who falls for co-worked Marty (Cheadle). The show, an adaptation of Martin Kihn's best-selling tell-all "Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Tell You the Time," will be helmed by "Dirt" creator Matthew Carnahan. 

Of course, this isn't Bell's first foray back to TV since the demise of "Mars" four years ago. She had a short stint on "Heroes" as Elle Bishop shortly after the show wrapped, and she's voiced the unnamed cellular stalker on the CW hit "Gossip Girl" since that soap's start in 2007. Most recently, she did a two episode stint on the Starz sleeper "Party Down." 

With talent like Bell and Cheadle on tap for "Lies," Showtime's not messing around, especially given the strength of current programming like the recent "Shameless," and hits like "Dexter" and "Californication." Do you think the cable net can finally hold its own against edgy TV champ HBO? 
 

TV's newest superhero talks nemeses, taking action and rolling the Dice

By Sona Charaipotra Jan 31, 2011 1:56PM

Photo courtesy NBCAs Vince Faraday, a family man-turned-fugitive who gains superpowers via “The Cape,” David Lyons strikes a fine balance -- emotionally wrecked father and husband versus adrenaline-rushed rookie hero.


Intense for sure. But on tonight’s episode of the new NBC action hit, things are about to get even crazier, with Mena Suvari guesting as Tracey Jerrod, AKA Dice, a young savant who's inspired a device that may bring down all of Palm City. But that's not the worst of it. An emotional wreck herself, the woman is out for vengeance, and her target is Vince’s mortal enemy Chess, aka evil Ark Corporation billionaire Peter Fleming (James Frain, “True Blood”). So it's up to Lyon’s caped-crusader to save the day, but in doing so, he must save the very same man who banished him to a life of darkness.


“It's a very jagged pill for him to swallow. The same man that has relegated him to living his life underground is the same man that he has to save from this woman who dies,” Lyons told press during a conference call this morning. “Through the help of [Summer Glau’s character] Orwell, Dice allows him to understand the importance of keeping the one man that can prove he's innocent alive, and it kind of stems from there. Place in the middle of that is Vince Faraday, who's constantly trying to keep her at bay from the one man he despises so much.”

 

Unstable at best, Dice brought out tensions yet unseen on the show – and Lyons promises some trippy moments. “Dice has the ability to essentially predict the future by reading the environment,” Lyons explained. “Her perception and intelligence is so vast that she can sense things before they happen.”

 

Working with actress Mena Suvari, whom you’ll remember from “American Beauty” and “Six Feet Under,” was refreshing for Lyons. “She adds so much. The way she plays it is so subtle and nuanced,” he said. “And suddenly her relationship with [bad guy] Peter Fleming blossoms into a pseudo-sexual kind of relationship between two very aggressive individuals who are after the same thing.”

 

Well, that brings a whole new level of tension to the show, doesn’t it? But Lyons ensured us that audiences will still see plenty of that, uh, other kind of action. “It's been incredibly physically demanding, more so than any other role [I’ve done],” said Lyons, who’s most memorable gig to date was playing that naked guy opposite Julia Roberts in “Eat Pray Love.” Yeah, you know the one. “Prior to starting the pilot, I started working with a choreography crew. Every moment I had, I was down there working on the bags. Now, in addition to just running around and sort of fighting, there is quite a process that I'm still quite entrenched in. I’m still learning my limitations, in addition to Vince Faraday's.”

 

If the show keeps amping up the adrenaline, we’d say he’s in for a wild ride.

 

Catch "The Cape," starring David Lyons, tonight at 9 p.m. NBC.

 

 

After a brief hiatus, the CW hit is back with vamps, witches, werewolves and other sexy, creepy creatures

By Sona Charaipotra Jan 28, 2011 5:35PM
Image courtesy CW TVMissed last night's "Vampire Diaries" because you've got "Idol" on the brain? (And if you haven't caught "American Idol" fever this season -- and given the wimpiness of judging panelists Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson, we won't fault you if you're not tuning in.) The CW's got the fix for that. Yesterday's howling new episode (sorry, couldn't resist) repeats tonight at 8 p.m.

And the back nine are picking up right where we left off -- with an invasion of beastly, bloodsucker-biting wolves taking on the brothers Salvatore and their pals. But in the episode that repeats tonight, we also get to see some new developments -- namely, Damon's very human angst. Yup, Damon's vamp-with-benefits pal Rose is suffering from a wolf bite, and as much as he tries to find the cure, she's dust. So tune in tonight and see the badass bloodsucker shed a tear (just one, of course) for all that he's lost. Luckily, as the image above suggests, he's found in Elena a shoulder to cry on.

The new episode sets up some interesting tension for the rest of the season: more Damon/Elena/Stefan triangle, but also an interesting Matt/Caroline/Tyler triangle. And there's only one human in each of those triangles, which is what makes it so fun.

Have you caught "VD"? Or are you holding out for more "True Blood"?

 

The animated spy spoof returns firing on all cylinders.

By Miss Sarah Jo Jan 28, 2011 1:39AM

There are plenty of shows that like to brag about their unsentimental attitude, how they “push the envelope” and take no prisoners with their anti-hero protagonists. But there isn’t another one like "Archer". Every person at the spy agency ISIS is either stunningly self-centered, greedy, perverted, dishonest, egotistical, or all of the above. And at the center of it is the world’s most messed-up mother/son relationship since “The Manchurian Candidate.”  Of course, it helps to be animated; the breathtakingly R-rated shenanigans and wild action sequences could hardly be enacted by real actors. Still, “Archer” wears its tiny, cold, black heart right on its sleeve.

 

Tonight’s episode seemed to find Sterling Malory Archer’s moral limit – not having sex with sixteen-year-old Anka (“Hooray”). She and Archer even bonded over their neglected childhoods. Of course, he still ended up feeling up her naked chest, but well, baby steps, I guess. Meanwhile, in her never-ending quest for “contracts” for ISIS, Malory is seduced into a threesome with Pam from Human Resources and Anka’s father. Lana and Ray are sadly regulated to the sidelines, while Carol/Cheryl/Cristal and Cyril are only in the opening scene. Honestly, having a voice cast this deep means that someone is always going to be sidelined. They can’t always be in the “Danger Zone”.

 

  • “Come back in, Short Eyes.”
  • “Thanks a lot, Bitch and Sundance.”
  • “I’m from Germany, where the age of consent is fourteen.”  “What is it? The Alabama of Europe?”
  • “That Bay Rum really burns on the…argh! Hello, razor; welcome to the party.”
  • “Was that before or after you got caught fondling a teenager?”  “Well, obviously before; after was all gendarmes and dick stitches.”
  • “No, I can’t be alone. That’s when she strikes. Like a slutty little ninja.”
  • “That guy? Who’s never been on fire?”
  • “Immigrants, cramming their low-riders full of free health care and…snow.”