MSN TV Blog - TV Buzz

A sharper focus on supporting characters brings more depth to ‘Lights Out’

By Miss Sarah Jo Jan 26, 2011 11:20PM

Pablo Schreiber Lights OutWhat viable options are out there for retired fighters? So far, ‘Lights Out’ has exposed us to the sought-after (possible commentating gigs on ESPN), the demeaning (selling autographed souvenirs on HSN) and the dangerous (hired thug for local loan shark). In this episode, there was a new option: respectable.  It’s clear that Patrick recognizes Omar’s talent, and he is able to communicate the stark realities of his title shot more articulately than his father or brother can.  Being a trainer, a teacher, a mentor – these things are options for Patrick. But of course, they can’t keep him or his family living in the style to which they have become accustomed. Nor will it allow him to do what he really loves: hitting people.


The highlights of the episode belonged to Pablo Schreiber as Johnny Leary. He brings new meaning to the word “hustler” - BS’ing his way around Omar and his friends, seducing the receptionist into favoring him with information, promising Barry Word everything but his first-born child to secure Omar’s place in the fight. And he may be a liar but he’s no hypocrite, as shown by his hilariously direct “It’s not blow, it’s meth” in response to Patrick’s outrage regarding Omar’s drug use.


It’s not clear what Johnny had to officially promise him in order to get Omar the title shot, but Barry Word is clearly operating on a level far above everyone else. Super smooth and charismatic, he’s thinking about moves beyond the next moves. Anybody that uses “Fred Sanford” as his hotel alias is fine with me. More Reg E. Cathey please.


And then there’s Omar. Callow, obnoxious, showboating Omar the Armenian Avenger (I can’t really get used to these ridiculous boxing nicknames). His destiny was clearly to get cocky and to get knocked out, and it will be intriguing to see where he goes from here.  Will the loss break him (at least for a while) or make him more determined to become an unstoppable champ?  Can Lights get through to him with more hard-earned wisdom? Or will the former champ be too occupied with his mounting money troubles to help him?  Good stuff for the future.


The new 'Vampire Diaries' billboards are very punny indeed

By Sona Charaipotra Jan 25, 2011 1:34PM
Photo courtesy CW TVTaking a page from that other show that sucks -- "True Blood" -- "The Vampire Diaries" is going all edgy with it's new ad campaign.

First up (check out Entertainment Weekly for photos) are plain black billboards on Sunset Strip in L.A. and in New York's Times Square with the words "Catch" and a blood red "VD" smack in the center. Clever and cryptic, sure. But also very funny. 

The show, which has been steadily picking up in the ratings and the general online fan rabidness as it plows through its second season, has frequently shown a tongue-in-cheek sensibility despite the melodrama. Case in point: badass bloodsucker Damon, played by the very swoon-worthy Ian Somerhalder, who's shown an ever-growing sense of humor along with his more sadistic tendencies.

The campaign is reminiscent of a similar quirky line-up "True Blood" unveiled in 2008, with ads that asked consumers to "Suck On This" (a faux-beer commercial-esque print ad for "Tru Blood" the drink), and a even funnier follow-up campaign earlier this year that featured ads like this:
Photo courtesy HBOBut it also smacks of signature CW, since the network has used equally racy taglines to promote shows like "Gossip Girls" (with "OMFG") and "Melrose Place" (which used the silly "Menage a Tues"). Sure to rile up those parental watch groups that have been all worked up about MTV's "Skins" lately. Or maybe "VD" simply pales in comparison?

In any case, the CW's running with it. A spokesperson for the network told Entertainment Weekly: "VD simply stands for 'Vampire Diaries.' Anyone who thinks otherwise should probably get themselves checked out."

What do you think? Funny or offensive? 
Tags: dramanews

Spielberg-produced musical about a musical headed to small screen this fall

By Sona Charaipotra Jan 24, 2011 12:32PM
Photo courtesy FOX
With the rip-roaring success of "Glee," it's no wonder that the other networks have been trying to beat FOX by ordering up their own musicals. Last season, there was BBC's reality version, "The Choir," and earlier this year, we saw the second season of the NBC reality hit "The Sing-Off."

Now, NBC's ordered up a scripted series to compete with the hit show -- and none other than Steven Spielberg is behind it.

On Friday, news broke that NBC had green lit "Smash," a one-hour musical about "the mounting of a Broadway musical," according to Deadline. The show centers on the travails of a group of people coming together to put on a Broadway production, and Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the producers of the film versions of "Hairspray" and "Chicago," are also on board to produce with DreamWorks. The script will be penned by TV writer/playwright Theresa Rebeck ("Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and "NYPD Blue"), with original songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman ("Hairspray").

While the project is the first to make it to pilot, it isn't the first the networks have developed to compete with "Glee." ABC ordered up a script from "Samantha Who?" creator Bob Kushell for Tony-winning Broadway diva Idina Menzel -- hot off her "Glee" guest turn -- to star in: a comedy about a former Broadway diva-turned single mom who waits tables and performs at weddings and bar mitzvahs  to make ends meet. 

Also at ABC is a project by Robert Horn, the man responsible for Disney movie spin-offs like "High School Musical: Sharpay Fabulous," and "The Suite Life: the Movie." Not much detail yet on the project, which has been described as a half-hour female-driven comedy, but "Beastly" producers Lindy Ascher and Susan Cartsonis are on board as well.

Do you think the success of "Glee" stands alone -- or are you up for more musical comedy on TV? 

‘Parks and Recreation’ jumps right back into sweet and hilarious world of Pawnee

By Miss Sarah Jo Jan 21, 2011 11:56PM

This whole date plus two other people thingIt was a great temptation to just throw the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness in this space and call it a day.  ‘Parks & Recreation’ is so enjoyable, the cast is so in tune with each other and their various relationships are so warm and engaging that it is hard to write anything other than “I laughed so much!” and “It was hilarious!” But it would be a pleasure to try to elaborate a bit on the highlights.


Leslie ‘getting the team back together’: The opening was great shorthand for new viewers, a neat showcase for Amy Poehler (“Break’s over, mofos!”) and worth it just for Leslie’s throwing poor Jerry’s painting in the water.


Humanizing Chris and letting Ann be funny: With every ‘outstanding!’, ‘phenomenal!’ and ‘Ann Perkins!’,  Rob Lowe gets more endearing. It was incredibly smart of the writers to make Ann the audience surrogate: understandably wary at first about Chris’ ‘intensity’ and then gradually melting when he explains the touching reason behind his relentless positivity.


Basketball: Ron Swanson channeling Bobby Knight vs. Andy Dwyer letting his slacker flag fly was the most purely comedic segment.  It was also an opportunity to see Tom as referee in his Lady Foot Locker uniform, randomly calling fouls when he sees Ron cuddling with his (Tom’s) ex-wife (“It was a technical difficulty so that means Andy’s team throws the ball from the stripey thing.”).  Hopefully, there will be more for Natalie Morales to do in future episodes.


Budding relationship between Leslie and Ben: Adam Scott is great at showing the dawning respect and affection Ben is feeling for Leslie. His ‘dancing’ at the Bulge, all of the side-eye he gives Chris, his off-hand ‘yeah, okay’ after Leslie’s huge pitch to bring back the Harvest Festival – all pretty great.


Andy and April: “April. Hey! It’s me Andy. Dwyer. This is like the 200th message I’ve left you without a response, so if you’re trying to tell me something, I do not know what it is because you won’t call me back.”


Swanson Pyramid of Greatness: Enough said.


‘Community’ expands the study group in more ways than one.

By Miss Sarah Jo Jan 21, 2011 8:53PM

Slow clapper in trainingFull disclosure: My favorite ‘Community’ episodes are not the high-concept, pop-culture heavy ones, clever and creative as they can be.  Just throwing all of these people together and letting their individual wackitude escalate is my sitcom Kryptonite.  Knowing that Dan Harmon might have spent a large percentage of the budget on zombies and astronauts is a good thing if it produces episodes as hilarious as this one.

First, we get the pay-off to Shirley and Chang’s night together on Halloween; she’s pregnant, but it isn’t clear if the father is the slow-clapper with possible brain damage, or Cosby’s son (her ex-husband).  Either way, there were some nice emotional moments from Yvette Nicole Brown. Jeff and Annie still seem up in the air, although perhaps Rich simply stating that she is too young to date will put that to bed once and for all. Finally, we get to look forward to more fun with the scarily perfect Rich – doctor, seeing-eye dog trainer, master of the kettle corn.  As an impossibly perfect foil for the charming but shallow Jeff Winger, he’s sure to be an asset.  It wasn’t particularly clear whether Jeff was having one of his sincere fits when he said that it scared him “how good you make me wish I was”, or if he really did want to learn how to “fake being good in order to get away with doing bad things”.  The show’s tag probably means the latter.

And, in addition to at least one diorama, let's hope there will be lots more Troy.  Donald Glover has always been one the more underused cast members, particularly considering how hysterically weird he has been in even the smallest bits.  “I wish my mouth was farther away from my brain.” – I mean, haven’t we all wished that.

  • Black Michael Chiklis and White George Foreman are the same guy!
  • “Not from an actuarial standpoint.” Never change, John Oliver.
  • No landline for me, but I do use the word “album”.
  • All in the delivery department: Troy – “The children have removed their outfits”.
  • All in the delivery department, part two: Shirley “I don’t know!”
  • “I wish I could give you an answer that makes sense, but relationships are complicated, and we’re in the men’s room”

After seven seasons, Patricia Arquette's crime-fighting psychic calls it a day

By Sona Charaipotra Jan 21, 2011 6:39PM
Photo courtesy CBS
After seven seasons of hunting down rapists, murders and myriad bad guys, Patricia Arquette is calling it a day as the TV version of real-life psychic crime-fighter Allison Dubois. 

But unlike some shows which end on an abrupt note, "Medium" will offer "complete closure," creator Glenn Gordon Caron told Entertainment Weekly last month. Tonight's series finale "takes place in the present, it takes place seven years after that, and then it takes place 40 years after that."

And Caron promises that you'll need some Kleenex handly, too. "I know for certain some people will tear up," he said, given that in the finale, "we have to be intelligent and we have to startle."

Fans of the show have known it was ending since November, but the show's tumultuous history might have indicated a death knell much sooner. It was nearly killed by original network NBC before CBS revived it, and it's Friday night slot isn't known for making magic numbers-wise. But it's always represented strong family fare with an accessible twist, a relative rarity on TV. And thus, it will be missed. 

Will you be tuning in to tonight's finale -- or at least DVRing it? Here's a sneak peek:

Catch the "Medium" series finale tonight at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Under pressure from parents groups, Taco Bell pulls ads

By Sona Charaipotra Jan 20, 2011 5:24PM

Photo courtesy MTV

When the Parents Television Council gets on your case, you know you're in trouble.

And two days ago, the watchdog group called for a boycott of Taco Bell, which advertised during the premiere of MTV's racy new scripted drama "Skins," which the PTC labeled "the most dangerous program that has ever been foisted on your children."

So today, the fast food chain announced it was pulling ads from the show's roster. "We advertise on a variety of MTV programs that reach our core demographic of 18 to 34 year olds, which included the premiere episode of 'Skins,'" the company said in a statement. "Upon further review, we’ve decided that the show is not a fit for our brand and have moved our advertising to other MTV programming."

The announcement comes hot on the heels of news that the PTC is calling for an investigation of whether the MTV show, based on a Brit hit by the same title, constitutes child pornography. 

Not buying it? Apparently, the yet-to-air third episode has a 17-year-old talking about erectile dysfunction before running naked through a street with his bum exposed. The PTC threat and internal concerns apparently even had MTV execs considering pulling -- or at least toning down -- the program's salacious content, according to a recent New York Times report. The nudity wouldn't be such a major issue (especially given content on subscriber channels like HBO and Showtime) except for the fact that the actors cast on the show are all actual teenagers themselves, ages 15 to 19. Then there's the fact that MTV already toned down their American version considerably in comparison to it's UK counterpart, which took advantage of Brit TV culture's more flexible TV standards. 

And of course, not everyone is bashing the show. In a review last week, a Newsweek critic called it perhaps "the most realistic show on television," given its portrayal of teenage drug use, sexuality, eating disorders, depression and, of course, angst. MTV credits this dose of "reality" to 30 teenaged consultants its hired to sound of in the writers' room. Still, this version of teen life earned the show a TV MA rating -- clearly not enough to satisfy the Parents Television Council. 

Do you think MTV show tone down "Skins"? Or do American TV audiences need to loosen up?  


Examining degrees of loyalty on another winning ‘Cougar Town’

By Miss Sarah Jo Jan 20, 2011 12:55AM

The real love storyHow do you balance devotion with honesty when it comes to your friendships, your parents, or even your local bar? Can you love someone and still be up-front about the things that drive you crazy? ‘Cougar Town’ keeps slipping more astute observations about these types of questions into its usual rapid-fire silliness. And it does it while giving the delightful Busy Phillips more lovely human moments to play. 


Laurie “Whap-Bam!” Keller is an over-the-top caricature of the blowsy, ditsy, dizzy blonde – necklaces that double as belt buckles, talking about a skirt that shows off her ‘drumsticks’, “Can I borrow this thong?”. But then she turns truly vulnerable. The moment where she admits to Jules that she made up a reason for them to spend more time together and then quietly added “I’m really sorry it sucked so bad for you” was simple, straightforward and completely touching.


Meanwhile, the plot about Travis needing advice and hurting his father’s feeling by going to Grayson first was pretty weak, even if it did have some choice Bobby moments (“I’m this close to a great idea, but the sound of my breath’s getting in my head, so I’m just gonna hold it for a while.”)  And testing Ellie’s loyalty to the group by a tempting new wine bar run by a guy almost as bitchy as she is was only intermittently enjoyable, mostly in her random insults to people walking by off-screen.   Still, it resulted in a great group photo!

  • Sadly, I might also drop a friend if she named her daughter “Chesapeake”.
  • “Bye bye nice moment.”
  • “My nachos are great! I use three kinds of cheeses!”
  • Thrilling to me: Courtney Cox’s dark blue tank top. Not thrilling to me: Dan Byrd’s center-parted hairdo
  • “Starting To Own It” Cougar Town