Carell's early departure should leave room for plenty of "Office" drama in the final four episodes of season seven
Boxing drama gives strength to a familiar story
There is nothing new or surprising about F/X’s new drama ‘Lights Out’. Patrick ‘Lights’ Leary is a now retired champion boxer, with a palatial house in New Jersey, three lovely daughters, and a beautiful wife who is finishing up her medical degree. He has the usual bohunk father that he has set up in a boxing gym, and a vaguely shady younger brother who is "managing" his investments. And it is all collapsing in the most predictable way possible.
But the actors commit to the material like gangbusters, and the writers find ways to nudge the clichés just enough to seem natural rather than conventional. As Lights, Holt McCallany manages to be both menacing and warm (sometimes within moments of each other); his stillness and brevity as he questions his doctor about a diagnosis of “pugilistic dementia” was extremely touching. Catherine McCormack doesn’t let her uneven American accent stand in the way of a good performance, and Stacy Keach as the Leary patriarch lumbers in and out of scenes, like a tracksuit-clad Marlon Brando. And Pablo Schreiber as the slippery Johnny finds unexpected layers of self-delusion and dissembling to play. Alternately tempting his brother with a lucrative new job as the ‘muscle’ for a local loan shark, and then backing away with an increasingly weak “You don’t have to do this, champ”, his self-loathing and sweaty desperation are never far from the surface.
There were definitely clunky moments – most obviously when Lights is confronted in a bar by some Guys Who Inexplicably Provoke Former Heavyweight Champions In Bars – but I am ready to find out if Lights continues working for Brenan, if there are any consequences for the bloodbath at the bar, and what happens with the possible rematch with the winner of his last fight.
Did anyone else watch? What did you think?
MSN TV chats with the actor about his new comedy and life in Hollywood
MSN TV sat down with Slater, who was markedly more relaxed than he had been at past TCA press tours. The actor not only talked about "Breaking in," but also addressed topics like Charlie Sheen's addiction, Taylor Lautner's abs and finding himself an industry vet after 33 years in the biz.
MSN TV: What's the story on your new character Oz?
Christian Slater: His last name's Osbourn. "Oz" is a charming throwback to the man behind the curtain, "The Wizard of Oz." This is a guy who's pulling a lot of the strings and has his fingers in a lot of pots. He's quirky, eccentric, definitely a guy who knows what the outcome's going to be from the starts. I think Oz has a five year plan. This security company is fun for Oz, but it feels like this is his game and there's a bigger mission. Knowing there's a character out there like that makes me feel more comfortable. Like "House" -- even if that guy isn't real and it's an actor with an English accent, I feel better at the end of an episode.
As the man behind the proverbial curtain, you're not in every scene. How is that for you?
I'm loving it. With this type of character, less is more. I don't want to give too much away. I've done two shows where I put a lot of myself out there. I've felt, "This is all on me," and that's how it would be presented. A couple years ago, I was on every bus in LA. It was nuts! With this, we felt it would be nice to throw me into the pot as an ingredient, as opposed to putting it all on my shoulders. I enjoyed doing the pilot. It felt like the pressure was off, which I respond to well. This is a great group of people, Alphonso [McAuley], Odette [Yustman], Bret (Harrison), Doug [Robinson, Exec Producer], Adam [F. Goldberg, Creator]. It's certainly a warmer atmosphere.
Are you happy to be back in the comedy game?
I started out doing black comedies. I have always gravitated toward the weird and offbeat, because life is weird and offbeat. This show is right up there.
Oz is clearly looking to find a new protege in Bret Harrison's character, Cameron. What is it like to be working with all these "kids"?
I did "The Name of the Rose" with Sean Connery. He was like my idol. I'm not putting myself in that category, but with these guys, all I can do is be an example, hopefully. I show up and I'm prepared and professional. I've been doing this for 33 years. It's a shocker to me, too! I've certainly gone down a lot of paths and had a lot of experiences. If that can help someone, great. I'm also hoping to incorporate that into the show.
What advice have you doled out so far?
Taylor Lautner was my son on "My Own Worst Enemy". He's the sweetest kid ever. The advice I game him was, "Don't take it all so seriously." Again, all I could be was an example. He has all the right instincts, a talented kid and you know, fantastic abs.
Best advice you've ever gotten?
This too will pass.
You are so much more relaxed and open than at past TCA press tours. You even made jokes about your troubled past during the panel: What's different now?
It's you. I feel very tingly. [Laughs] It's of a combination of so many things -- living, having some balance, having some gratitude and appreciation, traveling, doing things with my kids. It takes a lot time for people to form. It's a journey.
Is that journey harder for actors?
In a certain respect, because a lot of people are watching the journey and seeing it unfold. When you look closely at somebody's journey, it's not always going to be pretty. Nobody gets through it unscathed.
What are your thoughts on Charlie Sheen's continuing meltdown?
It's not like I don't identify. I get it. It's a disease. It's alcoholism and it's a killer. We've seen it in entertainers we love and family members we love who have gone down that path. At the end of the day, you want these people to recover, see the light and get their life back on track.
Do you think that is, again, harder for a celebrity?
One of the issues you can come across is enablers and money. You can rationalize a lot crazy behavior. I feel lucky I've got a good team of people around me. I almost pay people to tell me to fuck off.
With awards season in full swing, is there a film you're rooting for?
I saw "True Grit". That was great. And then, of course, Winona Ryder [up for "Black Swan" and TV movie "When Love Is Not Enough"]. I've always rooted for her.
Have you ever tried to lure her into your projects for a guest spot?
I've had producers come up to me on other shows I've done and asked what I thought. If she were to join something along the lines of this show, it would be more appropriate. She'd be fun. Let's make that happen!
Michelle Williams said she'd be on board -- what about the rest of the cast?
As season two of the MTV hit premieres, its cast members are already tabloid staples
Heather Morris and 'Glee' pals get down and dirty in their new Funny Or Die viral
Flaming C, the superhero alter ego of the late night host, made his TV debut last night
On a recent episode of his TBS talk show, Conan O'Brien joined Bruce Timm of DC Comics to create a new superhero, one based on the pompadoured-likeness of the late night host, complete with red beard, Blackberry-holder on his belt and loafers. But when Timm gave the sketch to Conan, he never imagined what might come next: His actual cartoon debut.
O'Brien showed a clip last night from "Young Justice," a Cartoon Network series about teenage superheroes, that also featured -- wait for it -- The Flaming C, Conan's self-styled superhero. See the clip:
"Conan" airs Monday through Thursday at 11 p.m. ET/PT on TBS.
What to look forward to in January and February
It is finally time for the network mid-season replacements and new cable dramas to debut, and for some old favorites to come back. Here is a list of what I am looking forward to watching and (hopefully) covering on the blog.
‘Lights Out’ (F/X, Tuesdays at 10 PM starting January 11): There was a ton of good buzz coming from critics over the last few weeks, and show runner Warren Leight was behind one of the strongest seasons of HBO’s ‘In Treatment’. F/X has a history of doing right by stories set in these kind of hyper-masculine and violence-drenched worlds. Of course, F/X does a LOT of hyper-masculine and violent shows, which raises the specter of burnout for some fans. Bonus points for co-starring Pablo Schreiber, who broke my heart in season two of ‘The Wire’.
‘Community’ (NBC, Thursdays at 8 PM starting January 20): As I wrote in the TV Top Ten of 2010, this show has built up tremendous goodwill with me for simply surprising me week-to-week. For a while, it seemed that the writers had gone to the well of pop-culture movie parodies once too often, but they redeemed themselves with some deep and heartfelt quiet character studies for the extremely talented cast. They also managed the best use of Betty White in this past year.
‘Parks and Recreation’ (NBC, Thursdays at 9:30 PM starting January 20): Wait, you already knew that. Is everyone all caught up? Are you as fond of the adorable April Ludgate (“I like people, places, and….thiiiinnnggs.”) and Ron F’ing Swanson (“I like saying no. It lowers their enthusiasm.”) as I am? Bonus points for casting Adam Scott and making me a bit less sad that ‘Party Down’ isn’t on the air anymore.
‘Archer’ (F/X, Thursdays at 10 PM starting January 27). Full disclosure: I have not yet watched any of the episodes from last year’s season. But after hearing a brief audio clip on this essential podcast, it is completely obvious this animated spy-move spoof is screamingly funny and aimed at my sense of humor. Archer, where have you been all my life? I plan to do my best to catch up and share thoughts about season two.
‘The Chicago Code’ (Fox, Mondays at 9 PM starting February 7). Another one that has had amazingly good word-of-mouth from critics, and show runner Shawn Ryan has my undying loyalty for ‘The Shield’ and the late and much beloved ‘Terriers’. Apparently, there have some changes to the pilot since it first screened, but this is one that no TV fan can really miss.
‘Justified’ (F/X, Wednesdays at 10 PM starting February 9) was one of the most purely entertaining shows of 2010, with an embarrassment of talented actors playing a rogue’s gallery of Southerners with a capital S. It spun riffs on Elmore Leonard’s tasty dialogue and found unexpected depth in two parallel father/son relationships. All this, and Timothy Olyphant in a cowboy hat. You really can’t ask for much more.
So, what are you looking forward to watching this winter?