Game of Thrones (HBO – Sunday, 9:00 p.m.)

Game of Thrones is an American medieval fantasy television series created for HBO by David Benioff and Dan Weiss. The series is based on author George R. R. Martin’s best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire series of seven fantasy novels; HBO’s overall series’ title is derived from the first novel.  The premium cable television series closely follows the multiple story lines of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and author Martin has stated that the show’s pilot script was very faithful to his work.  Set in the seven Kingdoms of Westeros, where “summers span decades and winters can last a lifetime,” Game of Thrones chronicles the violent dynastic struggles among the kingdom’s seven noble families for control of the Iron Throne. – Wikipedia

Seven noble families fight for control of the mythical land of Westeros. Political and sexual intrigue abound. The primary families are the Stark, Lannister, and Baratheon families. Robert Baratheon, King of Westeros, asks his old friend Eddard Stark to serve as his chief advisor. Eddard, suspecting that his predecessor had been murdered, accepts so that he can investigate further. It turns out more than one family is plotting to take the throne. The Queen’s family, the Lannisters, may be hatching a plot to take control. Across the sea, the last surviving members of the previously deposed ruling family, the Targaryens, are also plotting a return to power. The conflict between these families and others, including the Greyjoys, the Tullys, the Arryns, and the Tyrells, leads to war. Meanwhile, in the north, an ancient evil awakens. Amidst war and the political confusion, a brotherhood of misfits, The Night’s Watch, is all that stands between the realms of men and the horrors beyond. – iMDB

8 out of 10

First of all, we apologize for the double description but you’d be amazed at how difficult it is to actually find a decent show description at the usual suspects like Metacritic… or HBO’s homepage for the show.  We suspect the reason for this is that no one but the most devoted fanboy knows enough to be able to sum up coherently what the show is about. On our end, we’re in the same boat.  After watching the first episode, we can say that we reasonably understand what’s going on, but we would have no idea how to explain it. There’s a lot going on in this show with the different subplots and characters and it really plays out an awful lot like a soap opera (not a complaint, just an observation), and its serial nature and what looks like will be a weekly cliffhanger will have us coming back week after week, even though this genre has never really been our cup of tea.  Don’t get us wrong, we like this stuff but we’ve always been more interested in traditional science fiction (particularly of the space based variety) than we ever have been of medieval fantasy.

That being said, Game of Thrones is the most amazingly produced series we’ve ever seen (so far… Terra Nova may be even better… if it ever airs).  With a reported $5 to $10 million spent on the pilot and an estimated budget for the first season between $50 and $60 million, it’s easy to understand why.  The show feels much more like a big-budget summer blockbuster film than it does a TV series and as you watch it, you really don’t want to get up to even use the bathroom because the absolute aesthetic beauty of the photography is just spell-binding.  The cinematography, lighting, filters used on the lenses, and even the CGI is absolutely perfect.  The Northern Ireland and Malta filming locations are absolutely stunning and authentic as are the costumes.  Have we mentioned the music?  Well, the score, which is composed by Ramin Djawadi, is modern and absolutely beautiful.  It reminds us of the work of Sean Callery and Bear McCreary.

As far as the plot is concerned, as noted it is quite compelling but, we have to say that so far, the characters leave a lot to be desired in the likability/relatability department.  Most of them, even the heroes, are pretty nasty human beings who are pretty self-centered with ZERO regard for human life and yes, we understand that the story is being told from a medieval perspective, however, it is a story for a contemporary audience (Hell, the novels were written in 1996) and the general amorality of the characters is a bit off-putting and uncomfortable.  The male characters also display very misogynistic tendencies and they are quite vulgar in their misogyny as well and it really does make us a tad uncomfortable especially when watching it with Mrs. Tastic:

“I would let his whole tribe f**k you – all 40,000 men, and their horses, too, if that’s what it took.” – Viserys Targaryen… to his sister, Daenerys

Yikes!  Yeah, thanks for that visual.  Noooo… that wasn’t awkward at all. We suspect that the characters will become more sympathetic as the series progresses simply because we will become more attached to the storyline, but of course that will take time and as an audience, we’ll need to suspend our modern preconceptions of morality and decency for this to happen (and we’re pretty sure that despite the number of times they dropped it, the F-bomb didn’t exist during medieval times).  Seriously, the characters are like a bunch of hedonistic Klingons and this dovetails into the only real issue we have with the show.

As we noted in our Being Human review, HBO has a tendency to overdo the gratuitous sex, graphic violence, nudity and profanity and it’s not necessary.  It often becomes a distraction and usually it’s used for shock-value exclusively when the well has run dry in the writing department.  After watching the Game of Thrones pilot, we are starting to think that they are just getting so used to using that particular crutch that they can’t help themselves anymore. There were three completely unnecessary nude scenes in the pilot, a sex scene that could have just as easily been implied, ditto on the fellatio scene with the dwarf, the aforementioned ridiculous and historically out of context use of the F-bomb, two graphic beheadings and an orgy/slash gang rape scene (at a wedding, no less) that was topped off by a disembowelment.  Now, THAT’S our type of party.

The premium cable television series closely follows the multiple story lines of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and author Martin has stated that the show’s pilot script was very faithful to his work.

As much as we appreciate adapted works remaining true the source material, and we’re assuming that this over-the-top content is in the novels as well, we’re kind of wishing that it wasn’t as true to the original and that the producers would tone it down just a tad.  Now, we aren’t offended by any of those scenes, but as noted it just becomes distracting and it doesn’t seem really that necessary to advance the plot of what is a very good show that stands on its own merits without the need for gratuitous gimmickry.

Again, this was a bit of a minor issue and without a question, this is one of the best shows on TV and thanks to the fanboys, 48 hours after the pilot was aired on Sunday, the series was renewed for a second season.  It also didn’t hurt that last weekend was HBO’s Free Preview Weekend and we’re curious if it wasn’t so much the ratings that got the show renewed, but the massive increase of subscribers to HBO post-premiere that did the trick.  Boy, are we ever curious as to those Monday new subscription numbers.

As an aside, though, the fanboy factor in the success of this series cannot be overstated and inevitably will stir up the decade-old discussion of the viability of genre and Sci-Fi on premium cable.  Until now, there haven’t been any successful examples to use as a point of reference.  Who knows?  Maybe Game of Thrones has opened the door for the possibility of the next Star Trek or Stargate series to air on premium cable (don’t forget, Stargate: SG-1 was on Showtime for five seasons before it was on SciFi) or even perhaps the rebirth of great shows that left us too early such as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles or even Firefly.  *Sigh* Yes, we know; now our true fanboy colors are showing and we’re losing ourselves in fantasy.

The Confession (Hulu)

Created by and starring Kiefer Sutherland, The Confession is a story of unique redemption and an exploration of good and evil featuring a hit man (Kiefer Sutherland), and a priest (John Hurt). The story begins on Christmas Eve, when the hit-man enters a church to confess his sins to the priest. Through a series of gripping flashbacks, the Confessor’s journey is revealed – laying out what has brought him to this moment and leading the audience to the dramatic ending where the man’s chances at ultimate redemption hang in the balance. While at first the Confessor seems to be an evil, cold-blooded killing machine and the Priest the ultimate arbiter of good, as the series develops it becomes clear that both characters are much more complicated than either could have suspected. – Hulu

9 out of 10

NOTE: As an added bonus, all links to shows and films in this review link to the actual shows and films on YouTube or Netflix.  Enjoy!

Last month we told you about the new, ten-part web series called The Confession starring Golden Globe and Emmy Award Winning Kiefer Sutherland (24, The Sentinel) and two-time Academy Award nominee, John Hurt (The Elephant Man, Midnight Express) in which a hitman (Sutherland) in a confessional has a metaphysical (it’s defnitely more metaphysical than theological, despite the show description) debate with a priest (Hurt) about right and wrong, good and evil, faith and doubt and the existence of God.  We had high hopes for this because it looked just so damned juicy and of course, simply look at the players involved.  How can one not be excited?

An Evil Jack Bauer? Fascinating...

The Confession has completely exceeded our expectations as far as suspense, intrigue and production values are concerned.  “The Hitman” (that’s the actual name of Sutherland’s character as Hurt’s is “The Priest.”) is literally the Jack Bauer from the alternate universe form the original Star Trek episode, Mirror, Mirror.  It’s as if Jack Bauer had two choices in life: go work for the government and use his particular brand of emotionless professionalism to protect his country and kill bad guys or become a dispassionate sociopath who works in organized crimes and kills random people for a living.  This Jack Bauer chose the latter.  I really can’t emphasize enough just how similar the two characters are so if you ever wondered how Bauer would be as a villain, here he is.

But, holy crap does this work.  The Hitman is cold, calculating and half of the adventure is just trying to figure out what his ulterior motive is, because we know he has one.  He wants to understand faith, but that’s not all, and we learn about his life through a series of flashbacks, each more contradictory than the last.  Hurt is brilliant in playing the role of the parish priest who starts out this conversation out of fear for his life and the lives of his parishioners but eventually it’s clear that The Priest is as fascinated with how this man became who he is and if he can help in find redemption.  It also becomes quite clear that The Priest is no more what he seems to be on the surface than The Hitman is. This Yin and Yang back and forth is beyond compelling.  Simply imagine if Jesus and Lucifer sat down in a coffee shop and had a conversation and Jesus is trying to convince Lucifer to come home.  It is simply amazing how good this series is at captivating its audience for eight minutes at a time, once per week.

And this is the only thing we hate about this show and we took a point off because of it.  We want more.   Playing out more like a full length feature film shown in segments, this eight minutes at a time business is just not cutting it and then after the eight minutes is up, we have to wait another week?  The upside is that we waited for the first seven episodes to air before we watched it so we got to see them back-to-back.  The downside is that we still have three more episodes to go and we may pull our hair out in between episodes.  We hope when this is released on Blu-Ray that they’ll combine the ten parts into one episode.

With Emmy Award winning Sean Callery (24) providing the soundtrack to put the cherry on top, The Confession is one show that you can’t miss and we believe it’s going to revolutionize the concept of episodic dramatic television.  We just hope that the next series like this on the Interwebs gets some major financing and actually gives us full 45 minute episodes.  Note to the networks: if it’s as good as this we will watch the flippin’ commercials!

Watch full length episodes of The Confession, here, but be warned; you’ll wish you had waited until all of the episodes had aired so you could watch them in sequence with no gaps.

Bob’s Burgers Renewed For A Second Season? House & Bones May Be Leaving FOX? Where’s Terra Nova? What’s Going On Over There? (Part Two)

FOX: Where We Dont Suck As Much As We Used To

Hi, folks. Thanks for coming back for part two of this very special feature on FOX where Blossom ponders losing her virginity, yet again. No, no, no, obviously we’re going to talk about FOX’s recent surprising schedule moves and what we think is going on over there. Yesterday, of course, we reported on the renewal of Bob’s Burgers for a second season and left our readers with a cliffhanger as to the significance of this renewal for the network as a whole and why we are actually pleased about the renewal despite that we don’t like the show.  So now it’s time to explain why and we’ll bring you back to when we fist heard about FOX moving Fringe to Friday nights.

It Took Five Years For "The Show About Nothing" to Become a Hit.

As noted by our two pieces on Fringe‘s move to Friday (here and here) we’ve been very critical of FOX’s history of jumping ship on shows (especially new shows) that have had a run of, not even horrible, but average to mediocre ratings.  Seriously, c’mon, FOX… Seinfeld wasn’t immediately a hit.  It wasn’t even in the top 30 for its first three seasons and in its fourth season it was #25.

Fringe... Cooler Than You and Back in Fall 2011 For Season 4.

Anyway, in these pieces, we also expressed our skepticism with FOX’s stated commitment in the past to fan-favorite shows and of course this directly related to their campaign in January expressing the same commitment to Fringe.  But, then, a few weeks ago, Virginia found out that there is indeed a Santa Claus and the announcement was made that Fringe not only had been renewed for a fourth season, but it was given a full season order… in March. We speculated as to why this occurred as EVERYONE, including us, assumed that after the ratings decline, the move to Friday and of course, FOX’s history, this show was destined for Cancellationville.

And of course, there is American Dad, a show that FOX execs have not historically supported and have been trying to replace for years and it got renewed for a seventh season… in February, again with a full season order of 22 episodes, no less.

Yes, Indeed... NBC May Be Very Happy, Very Soon.

When we heard the announcement about Fringe, we speculated as to the many reasons it may have been spared cancellation but came to the conclusion that we really didn’t care, we were just happy that the show was saved.  But now, we’re hearing that FOX is on the verge of losing House, as well.

The network remains in last-minute negotiations with Universal Media Studios, which owns the series, in hopes of signing a new deal for an eighth season. The two sides are far apart in determining the percentage each will pay for the show’s costs.

UMS, owned by NBCUniversal, has given Fox an extension on the window of negotiation exclusivity. That ends Friday. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, UMS will offer the show to competing networks including, of course, the Peacock, which would likely be more than happy to take the series away from Fox.

So thanks to all of these developments, we’ve been dragged into the speculation game and we’re guessing that there are several issues at play here:

This Never Happened

First, FOX has some serious issues with original scripted program scheduling coming this Fall and this is just based on what we know.  Four new shows from 2010 – 2011 have already been canceled (Running WildeThe Good GuysSons of Tuscon and Lone Starand Traffic Light is certain to be canceled by May 16th.  So, that’s five down right there (and chances for The Chicago Code being renewed for a second season seem to be getting slimmer by the day) and Human Target and Lie To Me are more likely to be cancelled than not.  Add to that the fact that as of this posting  FOX hasn’t been able to come to a deal to keep the perennial hits Bones and (as earlier noted) House (the deadline for a deal for House was last Friday), the network faces potentially being down nine scripted programs from 2010 – 2011 (Even though we are still trying to forget about Sons of Tuscon as if it never existed, and of course we aren’t counting 24 which was at the end of its run).

"Holy sh*t! How the f**k are we still on the air???"

And here’s the thing about House: Universal may not come to a deal intentionally and may just turn House over to NBC who is desperate for a strong scripted drama, or strong scripted anything at this point.  Whereas FOX axed four of their new shows (with a fifth coming for sure), NBC has axed five of their new shows with at least a sixth certain to be on the way out the door (Sorry, but as much as The Event has improved by following what we suggested it needed to do, it was too little, too late…so, adiós!). Let’s also not forget Chuck, which is on its way out the door as well.  It’s so bad at NBC that less-than-positive performers such as Law & Order: Los Angeles and Harry’s Law are almost guaranteed to be renewed because, well, frankly, theyz gots nothin’ else and they certainly don’t have American Idol or Simon Cowell’s new series, The X-Factorthat is destined to be a ratings juggernaut, so at the end of the day, NBC is in way worse shape than FOX. So, here’s our bold prediction: House will be on NBC come Fall 2011 and a deal with Bones (in desperation) will be made and it will return to FOX.

"Oh look. We're still on FOX."

But the effects of losing House on FOX will be devastating and even if they keep Bones, that show has seen a sharp decline in ratings over the past two season which means there will be only one truly strong live-action veteran scripted show and that would be Glee. Can FOX really be comfortable going into the new Fall season with the The Animation Domination Block, GleeThe X-Factor and American Idol being the only programming that is guaranteed to be stable?  We don’t think they possibly could be satisfied with that situation.

So taking this a step further, based on what we know for sure about the Fall schedule and the three shows that were renewed – not only unexpectedly but early, as well – (Fringe, American Dad and now Bob’s Burgers), here’s what we think is going on and it crossed our minds when we first heard about Fringe‘s renewal:  FOX is not just uncomfortable with the new scripted programing they have ordered for Fall 2011, they’re downright nervous and they expected to have had more success with their new shows from 2010 – 2011.  They also certainly didn’t expect the possibility of looking at Fall 2011 with no House and to a lesser extent no Bones.

Terra Nova: Allegedly to debut in Fall 2011... Hmmmm.

This brings us to the Stephen Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment produced, epic Sci-Fi series, Terra Nova, which as we noted when we reported Fringe‘s renewal, has been delayed yet again and is set to debut in Fall 2011.  There are some serious issues with Terra Nova that we think FOX is starting to get as concerned about as we are. First, the delays are insane and we are not confident at all that it will debut in the Fall as promised.  Second, Terra Nova may be the most expensive show in history with the first two episodes alone costing $16 million and whereas the average episode of scripted drama costs $2.5 million, Terra Nova per episode cost will come in at $4 million and the show is rife with rumors of cost overruns although the producers deny this.

Terra Nova: This Is NOT a Sci-Fi Show And That Is Not A Time Portal!

Third, this is the biggest risk that FOX has ever taken on any series, nevertheless a Sci-Fi series, in an era where epic Sci-Fi is DEAD on network television. And we’re sure that it doesn’t help when veteran television Sci-Fi  writer and producer Brannon Braga (Star Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise) who is exec. producing/writing Terra Nova is doing the “pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain” Great and Powerful Oz routine denying the fact that it is indeed a Sci-Fi series when you’d have to be blind not to see it:

Terra Nova, according to Brannon Braga.

But it’s not a sci-fi show.

“It’s really about this frontier family trying to survive,”

From iMDB:

Centers on the Shannons, an ordinary family from 2149 when the planet is dying who are transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization.

Still Not a Sci-Fi Show.

No, there’s absolutely nothing Sci-Fi about that premise at all.  It’s just like Little House on the Prairie… but with time travel… and dinosaurs… and automatic weapons… with lasers.

So, if we go with the premise that FOX isn’t really sure whether or not Terra Nova is going to actually debut on the Fall 2011 schedule as planned and it finally occurred to them that this kind of Sci-Fi is highly questionable for network television and of course there’s the issue of the costs involved, we can come to only one conclusion: FOX is worried that they aren’t going to have much going on this Fall, Monday through Friday, other than Glee and The X-Factor and they’ve decided that keeping some of these shows that have established, stabilized audiences even though they’ve seen ratings drops, may be their only option.  For goodness’ sake, and we cannot stress this enough, they saved three shows that everyone expected to be canceled, and again, this is FOX we’re talking about.

We alluded to this theory yesterday, in part one, our commentary on the Bob’s Burgers renewal:

We think FOX is starting to realize that it may be better for them to deal with the devil that they know as opposed to the one they don’t…

FOXs Money Printing Presses That May Keep Your Favorite Shows On The Air

So, that’s where we think all of this is going and in our opinion, this is nothing but a positive turn of events.  FOX has lived very well over the past decade with their scripted programming, reality program and sports.  If new show, “A” didn’t work out as well or as quickly as they had hoped, they’d just dump it and replace it with new show “B” and if that didn’t work out they’d replace it with  show “C” and so on and they’d usually find gold eventually.  But let’s be honest about this; the crop of decent scripted shows out there over the past couple of years on ALL of the networks has been thin to say the least. So considering the lack of quality, sustainable shows, all the losses in shows that they’ve had in the past year,  the possible losses of their perennial hits to other networks, and a questionable Fall 2011 lineup, it appears that FOX execs have been forced to put on the big boy pants and change their strategy so that they have something that’s at least slightly stable in their lineup, and will actually work to build up those shows by subsidizing them with their juggernauts, particularly American Idol and The X-Factor.

If Only It Had Debuted In Fall 2009!

Now, although FOX may not be particularly happy about taking this approach (because of course, everyone likes the quick and easy buck), all of these developments and this new approach is nothing but positive for viewers and fans of the many quality scripted programs that FOX does have to offer, but probably wouldn’t have been given an opportunity like this if this was, oh, say, two or three years ago.   Heck, we suspect that if Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles were in its second season in 2011 instead of in 2009, it already would have been renewed for a third season by now.

This...

And this is EXACTLY why we are so happy about Bob’s Burgers being picked up for a second season (as much as we dislike it) because it’s show number four that was not only renewed by FOX but picked up early when no one expected it to be. This in turn gives up hope for the remaining three likely to be canceled shows, Lie to Me, Human Target and The Chicago Code.  We can almost guarantee that FOX will not cancel all three of these shows, in fact, they may only cancel one of them but we are going to go with the premise, based on everything we’ve laid out over the past two days that they will keep at least one of them and we think it will be a toss-up between Lie to Me and Human Target.

... Or This?

Don’t get us wrong, we love The Chicago Code and we don’t particularly like the clichéd and predictable Lie to Me but we have to be objective about this.  If FOX or any other network is going to pick up an underperforming show to keep for another season, they are going to pick one that has an established audience for at least a couple of seasons over a mid-season replacement that hasn’t been able to find any stability with their audience.  The fact that The Chicago Code is a serial doesn’t help its chances of gaining a stable audience a season later, either.  Now, obviously, Bob’s Burgers doesn’t have a multiple-season established audience BUT it did have the highest ratings of any new show premiere of the season and its audience numbers, though not great, have stabilized and it does have very strong lead-ins and lead-outs with The Simpsons and Family Guy, respectively, whereas The Chicago Code dos not.

So there you have it.  Our wild speculation on why the big change in strategy at FOX.  You can take it for what it’s worth, and call us crazy but do the research for yourself and see if you come to any other conclusions because we’d love to hear your take.   Remember folks, May 16th is the big day for FOX.  That’s when we find out who’s going and who’s staying.

Bob’s Burgers Renewed For A Second Season? House & Bones May Be Leaving FOX? Where’s Terra Nova? What’s Going On Over There? (Part One)

In news that came as an absolute shock to us, the poorly-received (we gave it a 3 out of 10 and that was generous) and lackluster-rated Bob’s Burgers has been picked up for a second season by FOX as announced on April 7th.

Via Press Release:

FOX ORDERS UP A SECOND SERVING OF “BOB’S BURGERS”

Animated Series Renewed for a Second Season

All-New Episode Airs Sunday, April 10, on FOX

Animation Domination newcomer BOB’S BURGERS has been renewed for a second season, it was announced today by Kevin Reilly, President of Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company.

“BOB’S BURGERS has proved to be a perfect neighbor to our slate of fan-favorite animated families this year,” said Reilly. “The series has found its own really unique, irreverent voice and is doing consistent business for us on Sundays, so we’re excited to serve up another season to the fans.”

The premiere of BOB’S BURGERS this year was the highest-rated new series debut on any network so far this season. The series currently ranks among the Top 10 programs this season among young men.

In the all-new “Burger War” episode, airing Sunday, April 10 (8:30-9:00 PM ET/PT), BOB’s (H. Jon Benjamin) eccentric landlord, MR. FISCHOEDER (guest voice Kevin Kline), pays the family a visit to deliver some bad news. Bob’s rival across the street, JIMMY PESTO (guest voice Jay Johnston) of Jimmy Pesto’s Pizzeria, wants to take over Bob’s lease so that he can expand his gift shop. With little time and not enough money, the Belcher family must cook up some business or luck to save the restaurant.

BOB’S BURGERS follows a third-generation restaurateur as he runs his own burger joint with the help of his wife and their three kids. Bob has big ideas about burgers, condiments and sides, but only a few thoughts on customer service and business management. Despite his greasy counters, lousy location and occasionally spotty service, Bob is convinced his burgers speak for themselves. The animated series features the voice talents of H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal.

BOB’S BURGERS is a 20th Century Fox Television production. The series was created by Loren Bouchard. Bouchard and Jim Dauterive serve as executive producers and writers. Become a fan of the series on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bobsburgers and follow the series on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bobsburgersfox.

Now, you’re probably figuring that our response to this news would be outrage due to the fact of how much we dislike the show but surprisingly, it’s not.  We not only aren’t bothered but we’re actually a little relieved because of all of the other news surrounding FOX programming over the last few weeks, particularly the renewals of American Dad and Fringe, both early and both with full season orders.

Seriously???

But first, there are two things about the renewal of Bob’s Burgers that need to be noted: Number one on the list is the fact FOX ordered two more animated shows last year for the 2011 – 2012 schedule; an animated version of Napoleon Dynamite (no, we’re not kidding) and a show by Jonah Hill called Allen Gregory, “which will have Hill voicing the title role of a freakishly smart, internationally acclaimed 7-year-old kid who’s about to take on the task of attending elementary school with kids his own age.” On the upside, at least it’s animated so we won’t have to see Hill’s absolute grotesqueness on the beautiful 65″ HDTV. But waitaminute… since they’ve ordered these two shows, how will there be room for the recently renewed American Dad and Bob’s Burgers on the Sunday night schedule?

That of course brings us to the second item of note: unlike American Dad, there has been absolutely no indication that FOX ordered a full season of 22 episodes for Bob’s Burgers whereas they made a point to brag about it in the press release announcing American Dad’s renewal.  So, even though FOX renewed Bob’s Burgers, the show’s status would appear to be more precarious than this renewal would seem to indicate and FOX is hedging its bets by keeping Napoleon Dynamite and Allen Gregory in the hopper for 2011, despite the fact that there is ZERO room on the Sunday night schedule for them.

Now, this being said, does anyone in their right mind think that a cartoon based on an overrated film that came out seven years ago and a series with an absolutely uninteresting premise has as snowball’s chance in hell of surviving past the six and seven episodes, respectively, that were ordered?  We don’t and we think that after a year of sitting on these projects and taking an inventory of the state of the network as far as scripted programming is concerned come Fall 2011, FOX execs are reconsidering their commitment to these two new shows and leaning toward full support of Bob’s Burgers, should, as we expect, Napoleon Dynamite and Allen Gregory fail quickly.  We think FOX is starting to realize that it may be better for them to deal with the devil that they know as opposed to the one they don’t, but because they are still FOX, after all, they’re taking a “wait and see” approach with Bob’s Burgers.

And what exactly is the state of FOX come Fall 2011?  And why aren’t we bothered by the renewal of Bob’s Burger’s, a show we really don’t like?  What’s this about House and Bones possibly not being on FOX and Terra Nova that you dopes alluded to in the headline yet never mentioned in this piece? Tune in to the ‘Tastic tomorrow and we’ll give you some insights based on what we know for sure, and what we think all of this information means based on us piecing it all together and wildly speculating… including the news about HouseBones and Terra Nova.

Breaking In (FOX – Wednesday, 9:30 p.m.)

BREAKING IN is an offbeat half-hour workplace comedy about a high-tech security firm that takes extreme – and often questionable – measures to sell their protection services. Created by Adam F. Goldberg and Seth Gordon, the series centers on a team of uniquely skilled oddball geniuses hand-picked to work for a manipulative mastermind.

Contra Security, corporate America’s answer to “The A-Team,” gives clients a sense of security by first ripping it away. The firm is led by OZ (Christian Slater), a larger-than-life head honcho who is a man of mystery and master of manipulation. The members of the odd squad include alluring bad girl MELANIE (Odette Annable), who is in charge of lock-picking, safe-cracking and heart-breaking; and CASH (Alphonso McAuley), a fanboy who specializes in strategy, logistics and office pranks.

Oz’s newest recruit, plucked right out of college, is lovable and charming computer hacker CAMERON PRICE (Bret Harrison). Unfortunately for Cameron, cracking into state-of-the-art security systems is a lot easier than dealing with his co-workers. Between Melanie’s sex appeal and Cash’s hazing, Cameron has more than a few obstacles to overcome if he wants to cement his status as part of the team and become Oz’s go-to guy.

BREAKING IN is produced by Happy Madison Productions, Adam F. Goldberg Productions and Sethsquatch, Inc. in association with Sony Pictures Television. Goldberg, Gordon and Doug Robinson (“Rules of Engagement”) serve as executive producers, while Goldberg serves as writer. The pilot was directed by Gordon. – FOX

8 out of 10

OK… let’s start out by addressing the elephant in the room:  Christian Slater needs work and he needs it badly.  What we mean by this is that he needs a steady job because this is a bunch of absolute crap that since 2008 the shows he’s the lead on keep getting cancelled. Yes, NBC’s My Own Worst Enemy was horrible and we had to stop watching because the characters were so damned unlikable (and we don’t care that the overall Metacritic score was a 61, it was still horrible) but he didn’t make it horrible and The Forgotten was actually a pretty damned good show that unfortunately nobody watched.  That being said, we like Slater and we always have going back to Heathers (full film on YouTube, here… how cool is that?), Pump Up the Volume, True Romance (perhaps his best work), Hell… we even liked the skateboard flick, Gleaming the Cube (again… another complete film on YouTube!). He’s a good actor and he’s very charming and charismatic and is perfect for lead roles in television.

This all having been said, we sincerely hope that FOX didn’t jump the gun by premiering Breaking In in April instead of in their Fall 2011 lineup because we (surprisingly) really like it a lot and the professional critics at Metacritic can once again, be damned, for the 54 overall rating this time.  Now, we do have to admit that the relatively low “Mixed Overall” score was only based on 18 reviews and it’s usually about double that on Metacritic, so that number is kind of skewed and obviously (at least in our opinion) unreliable, but at least we can say that the Metacritic users got it right, averaging an 8 out of 10, which is exactly where we have it.

And why do we like it so much?  Simple: it made us laugh throughout the entire episode and it’s unique.  That’s all we ask for from our 22 minutes of situation comedy and that is what we rarely ever get.  Here’s our opinion of sitcoms in general as posted in our Fall 2010 Preview of Monday’s Programming focusing on the crapfest that is Mike & Molly.

As a rule, I’m skeptical of sitcoms to begin with because for the most part they are unoriginal and they all recycle the same stupid jokes decade after decade…  Seriously who does this simple-minded crap appeal to?

Bur we can’t help ourselves with Breaking In… we kind of like everything about this show.  The characters are unique and well-developed and the actors playing them do not fall into the stereotypical typecast of what you would expect.  Honestly, every character in the ensemble could have been cast for one of the other parts and it would have made complete sense on paper so it’s very refreshing that the producers chose to mix it up and not go the easy route casting the actors in the roles you would expect them to play.

Yeah, we can pretty much guarantee that this isnt the only time Slater has worn a Starfleet uniform.

The only character that couldn’t be recast would be Slater’s Oz because it’s honestly like this role was written for him.  He’s hyper and eccentric and Slater plays that very well. Not to mention what a huge Star Trek fan that Slater is (he even lobbied his own mother, Mary Jo Slater, who was the casting director for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country to get him a cameo role in that film) and there were numerous Star Trek references in the pilot. Slater even actually had them put his own personal Enterprise Captain’s chair into Oz’s office and they worked it into the dialogue.

As far as the premise of the series is concerned, this is very unique as well and of course, a goldmine for potential slapstick comedy.  The one ting that isn’t unique is the style.  It’s similar in style to Rasing Hope, Community, The Middle, and Scrubs.  Now, even though we only like two of those shows (Rasing Hope and Community), we certainly appreciate that style of quick cut-scenes and rapid fire jokes.  We took two points off for the actual plot of the pilot episode itself being a little clichéd but overall this is a very good show.

As far as FOX’s decision to air in it April, we are going to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one considering how pleased we’ve been with them lately and the fact that even though it premiered in April, it is the lead-out for American Idol, which is exactly what we have suggested that FOX should do to help new shows build audiences.

Watch full episodes of Breaking In, here.

Drexfiles: Fantastic Behind The Scenes Star Trek Video Of The U.S.S. Reliant Filming Model & The Voyager Bridge Set

Doug Drexler: Old School on Star Trek: The Next Generation

Doug Drexler, one of the best visual effects guys in the business (all four modern Star Trek series, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, and the forthcoming Battlestar Galactica:  Blood & Chrome), has released a great episode of his D-Files show on his own WordPress blog, drexfiles, and we felt compelled to share it.

It features home video footage taken by his friend and collaborator on Star Trek and the BSG series, Gary Hutzel, of the U.S.S. Reliant filming miniature and video that Doug himself took of the Voyager bridge set moments before it was torn down for good post-series finale in 2001.

Gary Hutzel

Doug gives great insight into the world of Sci-Fi visual effects and what it was like working on Star Trek and BSG.  Even if you’re not a fan of Star Trek or BSG, we highly recommend his blog as it’s very entertaining.

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DAYTIME ALERT! ABC Cancels All My Children & One Life To Live After 42 And 44 Years Respectively

On Thursday, April 14th, ABC announced that they would be canceling their mid-afternoon, long-running soap opera mainstays in favor of two “lifestyle” shows ending a run that has lasted for a combined 86 years of programming.  Now normally, this isn’t really our cup of tea to discuss but this a momentous occasion in television history to say the least, considering just how long these shows have been on and how popular they have been over the last four, going into five, decades. Of course, there’s also the nostalgia factor of these being Mom’s favorites going all the way back to when we were toddlers and we can remember her looking forward to them at 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m, respectively.  Don’t bug Mommy… her “stories” are on.

"Hi, everyone! I just wanted to let you know that we think youre all doing a bang-up job. Just a heads up though: were announcing that you are all fu*king fired in twenty minutes. Take care... oh, and if you happen to have any studio property, please leave it in the designated box at the security desk when you leave today. Thanks and again: Awesome job, everyone!"

EW is reporting that the actors were told of the decision less than 20 minutes before the press release was issued, with the cast of All My Children being informed in person in Los Angeles, while the cast of One Life to Live was told via remote video conferencing… like in that George Clooney movie, Up in the Air.  Well, we guess the glass-is-half-full approach would be to say that it could have been worse… they could have found out 20 minutes  after the press release was issued.   All My Children will air its final episode in September 2011 and One Life to Live will air its final episode in January 2012.

These schedule changes will not affect General Hospital, the second most popular daytime drama on television.

On the upside, at least Susan Lucci  and her fans will (hopefully) finally stop griping about winning only one Daytime Emmy award in the last 42 years.

Via the Longest Press Release in Television History:

ABC EVOLVES THE FACE OF DAYTIME TELEVISION WITH THE LAUNCH OF TWO NEW SHOWS, “THE CHEW” AND “THE REVOLUTION”

Iconic Shows “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” Will Broadcast

Their Final Episodes in September 2011 and January 2012, Respectively;

Series Will Sunset in a Manner That Honors Viewers and the Shows’ Creative Legacies

Guided by extensive research into what today’s daytime viewers want and the changing viewing patterns of the audience, ABC is evolving the face of daytime television with the launch of two new shows, “The Chew,” which will premiere in September 2011, and “The Revolution” (working title), which will premiere in January 2012. These new shows expand ABC Daytime’s focus to include more programming that is informative and authentic and centers on transformation, food and lifestyle — cornerstones of programming that resonates with daytime viewers as evidenced by the success of “The View.”

As food has become the center of everyone’s life, “The Chew” will focus on food from EVERY angle — as a source of joy, health, family ritual, friendship, breaking news, dating, fitness, weight loss, travel adventures and life’s moments. Produced by Gordon Elliot, the Emmy Award-winning executive producer of “Paula Deen’s Home Cooking” and “Down Home with the Neelys,” this new one-hour series combines entertaining takeaway with memorable personalities to create a live show where viewers get the dish on anything and everything related to the world of food and beyond. Whether it’s new trends like food trucks and urban gardens or how pesticides in our food may affect our health, we can’t stop talking about it. The hosts who will guide the hour include Mario Batali (Restaurateur, Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and author); entertaining expert Clinton Kelly (TLC’s “What Not to Wear”); Carla Hall (Bravo’s “Top Chef”); Michael Symon (Restaurateur and Food Network’s “Iron Chef America”), and nutrition expert Daphne Oz, who simplifies often confusing information about food.

From Executive Producer JD Roth and 3 Ball Productions, producers of “The Biggest Loser,” “Masterchef” and ABC’s upcoming “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition,” comes “The Revolution,” a Daily Show about health and lifestyle transformations. The show is hosted by a team of experts and rotating guest contributors who help viewers transform all areas of their lives, from relationships to family, food, style, home design, finance and more. This dream team, led by fashion expert Tim Gunn, also includes celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak and American Idol alum Kimberley Locke. The show features a unique concept: each week one woman’s five-month weight loss journey will unfold in just five days, with daily results and a final transformational reveal on Friday. “The Revolution” is a one-stop shop for better living.

“While we are excited about our new shows and the shift in our business, I can’t help but recognize how bittersweet the change is,” said Brian Frons, President, Daytime, Disney ABC/Television Group. “We are taking this bold step to expand our business because viewers are looking for different types of programming these days. They are telling us there is room for informative, authentic and fun shows that are relatable, offer a wide variety of opinions and focus on ‘real life’ takeaways. A perfect example of this is ‘The View,’ and that factored into our decision. ‘The Chew’ and ‘The Revolution’ are in the same vein and will be great additions to the lineup, with ‘The View’ serving as an ideal foundation from which to launch these programs. They will also provide enormous opportunity for the creation of ancillary businesses and growth.”

“General Hospital,” the second-most popular show in daytime, is not impacted by this announcement and will remain on the air.

To honor the core, passionate audience and their rich history with our soaps, “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” will conclude each series in a manner that respects their legacies and the longstanding hopes of many of their viewers.

“‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life To Live’ are iconic pieces of television that have made an indelible mark on our culture’s history,” reflected Frons. “Each of the shows has touched millions and millions of viewers and informed the social consciousness. It has been a privilege to work with the extraordinary teams who brought the residents of Pine Valley and Llanview to life each day, and we thank the cast, crew, producers and most especially the fans for their commitment to the shows through their history.”

None of this could have been possible without the extraordinary Agnes Nixon. “More than 40 years ago, Agnes Nixon created both the worlds of ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life To Live,’ worlds that the rest of us have been privileged to live in,” said Frons. “Her shows led the way forward, breaking a lot of rules along the way to defy expectations about what soaps can do and the issues they can cover.

I am honored to have worked with her.”

“All My Children” has revolved around the lives of the residents of fictional Pine Valley, a town which closely resembles the Philadelphia Main Line. “All My Children” took home the 1998 Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, the third time the show received this top honor, having also garnered the award in 1994 and 1992. “All My Children” has received more than 30 Emmy Awards and consistently distinguishes itself in the field of daytime drama. The show has historically been committed to and is often the first to tackle social issues, focusing on such topics as AIDS, abortion, cochlear implants, teenage alcoholism, racial bias, acquaintance rape, spousal abuse, homosexuality, Reyes syndrome, Vietnam MIAs, drug abuse, the risks of motherhood over 40, safe sex, pet therapy and organ donations, among others. The show made television history airing daytime television’s first same-sex kiss between two lesbian characters, as well as daytime television’s first same sex wedding between two women. It was the first to chronicle the coming-out story of a transgender woman and to cast a real life Iraq War veteran whose story reflected his real life experiences and injuries incurred in combat.

“All My Children” premiered on the ABC Television Network on January 5, 1970, as a half-hour show; seven years later it expanded to an hour. Julie Hanan Carruthers is executive producer.

Also created by Agnes Nixon, Emmy Award-winning “One Live to Live” is set in the fictional town of Llanview, which is modeled on a Philadelphia suburb. “One Life To Live” debuted on The ABC Television Network July 15, 1968 as a half-hour show. Ten years later, it grew to a full hour in 1978.

“One Life To Live” has been lauded for its groundbreaking exploration of social issues, diverse canvas, award-winning performances and innovative storylines. Along with the history-making week of live shows in May 2002, “One Life To Live” is responsible for many “firsts” in Daytime television, including stories of interracial romance, illiteracy, medical misdiagnosis, racial prejudice, gang violence and teen pregnancy. The show received mass critical acclaim for its 1992 homophobia storyline, which captured national headlines when it introduced the character of a gay teen (played by then unknown Ryan Phillippe) and culminated with the emotional display of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. “One Life To Live” was honored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) with the Outstanding Daytime Drama Award in 1993, and again in 2005 and 2010.

In 2002 the show won its first-ever Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series, and was nominated again in 2007 and 2008. Created by Agnes Nixon, “One Life To Live” debuted on July 15, 1968 and marked its 10,000th episode on August 17, 2007. Frank Valentini executive-produces.


PROGRAMMING NOTE: Will Ferrell Temps On The Office For Four Episodes Starting Tonight, Five (Well, Four) Other Big Guest Stars To Follow

As you’ve probably already heard by now, Steve Carell is leaving Dunder Mifflin this season (in three episodes to be exact) to focus on his film career.  While we’ll certainly miss the world’s best boss, we’ve felt for some time now that as much as we’ll always have a special place in our heart for The Office, it’s not the same show it was just a few seasons ago when it was appointment television and it really could use a breath of fresh air.  That’s why it delights us to no end that Will Ferrell will be temping at the Scranton branch from the home office beginning tonight for four episodes.

D’Angelo Vickers (Ferrell) Will be Dry-Humped by Michael Scott (Carell) at Least Once Over the Next Three Weeks, but He Will Not Be Permanently Replacing Him.

Now, folks, please don’t be confused and don’t believe the rumors.  Ferrell is not replacing Carell on The Office (he was just kidding when he claimed that he was two weeks ago, EW), he is merely guest starring for four episodes and will be the interim branch manager when Carell departs for good on the third episode of the stint.  So basically, you get one episode of a solo Will Ferrell (whose character’s name is D’Angelo Vickers… and no, we’re not making that up, but that is so Will Ferrell) and three episodes with him and Carell (not a bad deal at all).  This is nothing more than a concerted effort to bring some excitement to the show and eyeballs on it in the home stretch, but yes, we do recognize the magnitude of awesomeness that we would have if Ferrell was going to be a permanent cast member.

Catherine Tate: Somebody We’ve Never Heard Of.

And Ferrell’s not the only big name who will be making the rounds at D.M. Over the rest of the season expect to see an appearance by perpetual atheist Ricky Gervais, who, of course co-created the British predecessor of The Office and stars as the Michael Scott character (David Brent) on the U.K. version.  Also appearing will be the perpetually unemployed Will Arnett (Running Wilde, Arrested Development), the perpetually whining and nasally funny-man Ray Romano (Men of a Certain Age, Everybody Loves Raymond, which is still my grandmother’s favorite show), the perpetually chicken-necked James Spader (Boston Legal… crap… what else has he done in the last two decades?  Oh, that’s right: Stargate.  Yeah, that’ll work), and the perpetually unrecognized, Catherine Tate (Dr. Who).  OK, we have to be honest on this one: other than her role as Donna for one season plus one episode on the incredibly awesome BBC hit, Doctor Who, we have no idea why she’s considered a guest “star.”  Sheesh… for Pete’s sake her iMDB listing doesn’t even have a photo of her, we had to look this one up! Quite frankly, though, and let this serve as a public service announcement for anyone outside the U.S. who wants to be famous here, if you’re only mildly famous in the U.K. then we really won’t be considering you a star on this side of the pond, as it were, until you make a sex tape and it gets “stolen” and “released without your permission.”  This is America, and that’s how we roll with our celebrities.  Sorry about that, and yes, as a society, we are that stupid.  But as an aside (and perhaps referring back to the previous comment about the tape?), we must say, this British gal certainly has a balcony you can perform Shakespeare off of, so that’s got to be worth tuning in for, right? Yes, we know we’re reaching… and we know that we’re being piggish.

From the Left: Ray Romano, James Spader, Will Arnett and Ricky Gervais. Let the Hilarity Ensue, Just Don’t Get Slapped in the Face by Spader’s Chicken Neck!

Anywho, despite our parodying of the guest stars, we really think that Carell leaving and these guests coming in at the end of this season is probably the best thing that could have happened for the show, because frankly we could have cared less if it had been canceled or not at the end of the season.  The show needed a shakeup and not having Michael Scott as the central character will change the entire atmosphere of it entirely.  Fortunately, these stars will be there to soften the blow and ease us through the transition of what was The Office to what will be The Office.  Now, we’re actually excited about the rest of this season and what’s to come for next season.  It’s a whole new office.

Mark Your Calendars… Dates For Network Announcements Re: Show Renewal/Cancellations

So you want to know if your favorite shows have been renewed for another season or not? Below are the dates for all of the Up-Front Advertising Events for the Major Networks.  If the announcement for a particular show hasn’t been made before these dates, it will be made according to the chart below.  Cable Networks have these events as well but do not normally announce renewal/cancellations during them.

Date Network City Time
May 16, 2011 NBC New York Morning
May 16, 2011 FOX New York Afternoon
May 17, 2011 ABC New York Afternoon
May 18, 2011 CBS New York Afternoon
May 19, 2011 The CW New York Morning

Commentary: Lights Out Down For The Count… Or Is It?

On March 24th, F/X announced that they would not be renewing their critically acclaimed drama, Lights Out, for a second season as we originally reported here.  In our original review, we stated that Lights Out was the best new show of the Spring and we gave it a coveted 10 out of 10 rating (an honor that has only been bestowed upon one other show since we started the blog, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) after only seeing two episodes and we firmly stand by that assessment, but we get why it didn’t catch on with audiences.

As terrific as Lights Out was, the boxing backdrop in and of itself simply was too niche to appeal to any kind of general audience.  First, boxing has never been that popular of a sport in the U.S., but in the last two decades the sport has seen a serious decline in interest by the public.  As we noted, boxing really was incidental to the show.  The show was really about an ordinary man who, in his prime, had fame and money due to his particular talent, was losing everything and at this point would do ANYTHING to protect his family, even if that meant risking his own personal health, violating his own ethics and morals and even breaking the law.

The problem was that F/X sold this show as a boxing show when there were only two fights during the whole season.  It was very gritty and compelling but unfortunately due to F/X’s decision to emphasize the boxing element before the show ever aired, audiences never really wanted to find out. Now, we aren’t necessarily slamming F/X for the marketing decision, though, as it’s kind of difficult for us to envision a way to market this show downplaying the boxing aspect and making it more attractive to a broader audience at the same time.  Maybe “Lights Out” wasn’t the best title for the show, perhaps?

C’est la vie, though.  TV shows come and go and it’s really difficult for us to get too attached to a show considering how fickle audiences are and how quickly even the best shows seem to leave us.  The upside is that Season One of Lights Out played out like a 13 episode miniseries, even in the finale, leaving unanswered questions that frankly didn’t need a second season to be expanded on (even though it would have been nice).  They could simply be left to the viewer’s imagination to figure it out for themselves, and that, folks, is a mark of great storytelling.

Possibly Up at the 9 Count For One More Round?

As Spock said, “There are always… possibilities.”  No sooner did F/X make the announcement of the cancellation of Lights Out did DirecTV issue feelers to its followers on Twitter regarding interest in possibly picking it up:

FX cancels “Lights Out,” what’s your reaction?

And they aren’t the only ones.  In an interview he did for The Hollywood Reporter, Executive Producer Warren Leight explains that although he’s not optimistic about the chances of the show being picked up by another network, they have been pitching it and Showtime’s name in particular had come up.

People express “maybe” kind of interest. I would love to believe it when it happens. My sense is it’s unlikely Showtime would pick up a show that had been on basic cable.

Not so fast there, Mr. Leight.  We think everyone who watched this show probably agrees that it was better suited for premium cable than basic cable to begin with (again, we noted this as well in our original review) and there’s also the fact that Showtime has a history of broadcasting programming that was rejected by non-premium television (see: The Reagans in 2003).

However, If this does become a reality, our money is on DirecTV Channel 101 if for only the reason that they recently picked up the highly acclaimed Damages from F/X in January with Season 4 set to air in July.  As much as DirecTV claims that they are out of the “Save Our Show” business, wanting to instead focus on original programming for their Channel 101, we believe that if they can find success with Season Four of Damages, their attitude about a show like Lights Out will change rather quickly.  So, at this point, it’s a waiting game.

As an aside, we highly recommend reading the full interview with THR that we linked to earlier. Leight gives many insights into the show and the state of television today and confirms a lot of our original contentions about the show that we restated above.