FOX: Bones Renewed For Eighth Season

Via Press Release:

BRENNAN AND BOOTH HAVE ANOTHER REASON TO CELEBRATE

AS FOX DELIVERS AN EIGHTH SEASON OF “Bones”

 It’s a Girl! Bones Returns with a New Arrival on the First of Seven All-New Episodes Monday, April 2, on FOX

FOX has renewed the hit series Bones for its upcoming eighth season, it was announced today by Kevin Reilly, President of Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company.

“Over the past seven seasons, Hart Hanson, Stephen Nathan and the incredible Bones cast and crew have redefined the traditional crime procedural with an irreverent and adventurous sensibility and I’m really happy to have this distinctive, fan-favorite on our schedule for another season,” Reilly said. 

Bones returns with seven in a row, all-new episodes on a new night and at a new time beginning Monday, April 2 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). In the first of these episodes, “The Prisoner in the Pipe,” the remains of an escaped convict are found in a residential sewer, but an examination of the sewer pipes indicates that the murder occurred within prison walls. When Brennan (Emily Deschanel) insists on solving the crime – despite Booth’s (David Boreanaz) pleas for her not to overexert herself – the expectant couple experience a very untraditional arrival of their baby daughter.

During the upcoming eighth season, Bones will celebrate its 150th milestone episode. 

Bones is a darkly amusing procedural centered on a highly skilled forensic anthropologist who can read clues left behind in victims’ Bones and an FBI agent. These unlikely partners take on homicide cases involving human remains that most forensic specialists can’t handle. The series stars Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, TJ Thyne, Michaela Conlin, Tamara Taylor and John Francis Daley.

TNT Summer Schedule: Falling Skies, Leverage, etc., The Closer Finale…. Four New Series (Dallas Is Back!)

Via Press Release:

TNT Announces 2012 Summer Premiere Dates

Lineup Includes Five Returning Hits, Four New Series
And a Fond Farewell to One of Cable’s Biggest Hits of All Time

The drama is back in full force this summer as TNT unveils the premiere dates for its slate of outstanding original series. Rizzoli & IslesFalling SkiesLeverage and Franklin & Bash are among the hit series set to return this summer. They will be joined by four brand new series: DallasPerceptionMajor Crimes and the unscripted competition show The Great Escape. Certain to be one of the summer’s biggest programming events, fans will also bid a fond farewell to The Closer as the blockbuster drama series wraps up its extraordinary seven-season run with six final episodes.

“Each show in TNT’s summer lineup entertains in its own unique voice, but together these drama series are designed to appeal to viewers who want to be taken on a great ride,” said Michael Wright, executive vice president, head of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies (TCM). “Whether it’s a clever procedural, an action-adventure drama, or a sweeping family saga, the dramas on TNT all have that popcorn sensibility. They’re meant for viewers who crave smart storytelling and engaging characters, and who above all else simply want to pull up a seat and have a good time.”

The following is TNT’s summer schedule, including series premiere dates. Hi-res photos are available for download from TNT’s online pressroom at http://on.tnt.tv/3KTSdW.

Rizzoli & Isles
• Season Premiere: Tuesday, June 5, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT)
• Season 3: 10 summer episodes
For the past two summers, Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander have proven that two heads are better than one in this drama series based on the crime novels by best-selling author Tess Gerritsen. As Boston detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles, the pair share a quirky chemistry and put away some of Boston’s most notorious criminals.

Franklin & Bash
• Season Premiere: Tuesday, June 5, at 10 p.m. (ET/PT)
• Season 2: 10 episodes
Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer star in this light-hearted legal drama as two fly-by-the seat-of-their-pants lawyers working for a button-down law firm. Malcolm McDowell plays The Firm’s wonderfully eccentric patriarch. Also starring are Garcelle Beauvais, Dana Davis, Kumail Nanjiani and Reed Diamond.

Dallas
• New Series, Two-Hour Series Premiere: Wednesday, June 13, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT)
• Season 1: 10 episodes
This summer, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray reprise their famous characters as J.R., Bobby and Sue Ellen Ewing return to Southfork with secrets, schemes and betrayals. This time, they’re joined by the next generation of Ewings, played by Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe, who take ambition and deception to a new level. Dallasalso stars Jordana Brewster, Julie Gonzalo and Brenda Strong. Shot on location in the title city, Dallas comes to TNT from Warner Horizon Television, with premiere episode writer Cynthia Cidre and director Michael M. Robin serving as executive producers. It was developed by Cidre and created by David Jacobs.

Falling Skies
• Two-Hour Season Premiere: Sunday, June 17, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT)
• Season 2: 10 episodes
The wait is nearly over as basic cable’s #1 new series of 2011 returns to continue its extraordinary story about life and survival in the wake of a catastrophic alien invasion. Noah Wyle stars as a college professor who becomes an unlikely resistance leader in this gripping series from DreamWorks Television and executive producer Steven Spielberg. Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Maxim Knight and Connor Jessup also star.

The Great Escape
• New Series Premiere: Sunday, June 24, at 10 p.m. (ET/PT)
• Season 1: 10 episodes
This fast-paced, nail-biting competition series drops ordinary people into the middle of their own epic action/adventure movie. Each week, Rich Eisen (NFL Total Access) hosts as teams of competitors try to find their way out of seemingly impossible situations for a chance to take home a cash prize. The series, from Fox Television Studios, is executive-produced by the Oscar®-winning team of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, as well as the Emmy-winning producers of The Amazing Race, Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri. The series is created and executive produced by Justin W. Hochberg (The Apprentice) and Charlie Ebersol (The Wanted).

The Closer
• Premiere: Monday, July 9, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT)
• Season 7: Six final episodes
TNT’s record-breaking series returns one last time to bring its extraordinary seven-year run to an end. Emmy® winner Kyra Sedgwick stars as Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, whose impeccable investigative and interrogation skills have resulted in countless confessions and convictions. Mary McDonnell, who will continue her role as Captain Sharon Raydor in TNT’s upcoming series Major Crimes, also stars.

Perception
• New Series Premiere: Monday, July 9, at 10 p.m. (ET/PT)
• Season 1: 10 episodes
Drama fans are about to meet one of the most unique crime solvers on television when TNT premieres this fascinating new series about an eccentric neuroscience professor who is recruited by the FBI to help solve complex cases. Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Award winner Eric McCormack stars as Dr. Daniel Pierce, who possesses an intimate knowledge of human behavior and a masterful understanding of the way the mind works. Although Pierce’s mind may be brilliant, it’s also damaged as he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Perception also stars Rachael Leigh Cook, Arjay Smith and Kelly Rowan. Produced by ABC Studios, the series was created by executive producer Ken Biller and co-executive producer Mike Sussman, with McCormack serving as producer.

Leverage
• Season Premiere: Sunday, July 15, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)
• Season 5: 10 summer episodes
Television’s coolest gang of thieves, grifters and con artists are back in the fifth season of this fast-paced, light-hearted caper series from blockbuster executive producer Dean Devlin and Electric Entertainment. Academy Award® winner Timothy Hutton stars, along with Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf and Aldis Hodge.

Major Crimes
• New Series Premiere: Monday, Aug. 13, at 10 p.m. (ET/PT), following The Closer finale
• Regular Timeslot: Mondays at 9 p.m. (ET/PT)
• Season 1: 10 episodes
This all-new drama series is ready to take television’s favorite squad of detectives into bold new territory. Two-time Oscar® nominee Mary McDonnell will continue her role from The Closer as Los Angeles Police Captain Sharon Raydor. Major Crimes will focus on how the American justice system approaches the art of the deal as law-enforcement officers and prosecutors work together to score a conviction. Joining McDonnell are fellow Closerveterans G.W. Bailey, Tony Denison, Michael Paul Chan, Raymond Cruz and Phillip P. Keene, with guest appearances by Jon Tenney and Robert Gossett. New cast members include Graham Patrick Martin as a homeless juvenile and Kearran Giovanni as an ambitious undercover detective. Major Crimes is produced by The Shephard/Robin Company, in association with Warner Bros. Television, with The Closer‘s James Duff, Greer Shephard and Michael M. Robin serving as executive producers.

About TNT
TNT, one of cable’s top-rated networks, is television’s destination for drama. Seen in 99 million households, the network is home to such original series as The Closer, starring Emmy® winner Kyra Sedgwick; Rizzoli & Isles, starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander; Falling Skies, starring Noah Wyle; Franklin & Bash, with Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer; Leverage, starring Timothy Hutton; and Southland, from Emmy-winning producer John Wells, as well as the upcoming series Major CrimesDallasPerception and The Great Escape. TNT also is the cable home to powerful dramas like The MentalistBonesSupernaturalLas VegasLaw & OrderCSI: NY,Cold Case and, starting this year, Castle; primetime specials, such as the Screen Actors Guild Awards®; blockbuster movies; and championship sports coverage, including NASCAR, the NBA and the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. TNT is available in high-definition.

SyFy: Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome Going Forward As Digital Series. We’re Thrilled! Teaser Trailer HERE!

We’ve been following the development of the prequel series, Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome for going on two years, now, and we haven’t had much news to report for some time as SyFy has been very quiet about their plans for it.  Although the pilot finished filming in February of 2011, post-production wrapped up in September 2011 and there really hasn’t been anything released aside from rumors that SyFy was considering possibly releasing it as a web series.  There was no confirmation on this and in fact, we received conflicting reports from sources that SyFy was internally going back and forth on their plans for the epic series.  Well, SyFy has officially commented on it and it looks as if they have indeed decided to go forward with B & C as a web series, airing the 90-minute pilot at a future date on television.

We’ll comment on these developments in a moment, but first we wanted to give our readers a chance to check out the incredible teaser trailer that was shown recently at Wondercon and has been yanked every time it’s been posted on YouTube, since, and in fact, no matter were we’ve tried to post it (YouTube, DailyMotion, Facebook, Photobucket) it’s gotten immediately yanked.  So, we decided to get creative and do a little editing so that it didn’t raise any red flags.  In the beginning and at the end of the video we included a slide show of concept art from B & C and this apparently has allowed us to fly under the radar… at least for now.  So, enjoy until someone gets wise to the fact that we put the trailer up.

EDIT:  08/03/2012   Our video was blocked but we were able to find someone’s who’s wasn’t because he changed the audio completely.  Don’t know how long this will stay up either but his has been under the radar for a while.

Now, as we noted, SyFy has announced that they intend to go forward with this project as a digital series instead of a traditional network series and believe it or not, we’re actually O.K. with that.

From a statement issued by SyFy’s president of original programming, Mark Stern:

“Though the vision for Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome has evolved over the course of the past year, our enthusiasm for this ambitious project has not waned.  We are actively pursuing it as was originally intended: a groundbreaking digital series that will launch to audiences beyond the scope of a television screen. The 90-minute pilot movie will air on Syfy in its entirety at a future date.”

Now of course, the fanboys are all up in arms about the fact that it’s going to be a digital series as opposed to a network television series but we’re going to set the record straight for you as to why this is a good thing as it stands right now.

One of the biggest problems we’ve noticed over the past couple of years with many of the respected sources for television news and commentary is the absolute inability of these outlets to see beyond the standard Nielsen-centric model of the television industry.  As we’ve made the point time and time again, it’s not just about network programming and 18 – 49 demographics.

From TV By The Numbers:

“Despite the “limited scope” of the television screen, TV is still where the big advertising dollars are and I can’t really see how the economics will work out, unless someone like Netflix steps in, so this sounds like the sort of  inevitable “being shopped to other networks” talk when TV shows are canceled. As a BSG fan, I hope I’m wrong…at least until I’ve seen the pilot!”

From io9:

“Last we heard, this pilot was going to be demoted to a webseries, instead of being aired as a TV movie. But this trailer is too amazing to be relegated to the internet — put this pilot on TV now, Syfy!”

*Sigh*

MAKE! IT! STOP!

Typical Staff of io9

Once again, what we have here is a typical moment where we have to repeatedly punch ourselves in the face.  Now, for the record, we can’t stand io9 because their articles are written from the perspective of a twelve year-old kid in a Batman costume and have ZERO insight into the reality of the film/television industry. io9 is simply a reposter and commenter and most of those comments are similar to the fanboy comments above.  TV By The Numbers, on the other hand, is a source that we have greatly respected over the years and a source where we regularly go to for information.  Generally speaking, they understand how the industry works as far as analysis of Nielsen numbers are concerned and have had a history of being right more often than not.  Lately, though, and in particular over the last two years, TVBTN has been showing their age and unwillingness to look outside the box as far as the direction of the television industry is going and they are making a lot of bold statements about the fate of television shows based solely on the old media model.

Recently, we called them out in the comments section of their article about the Deadline piece (that was also confirmed by THR) that reported that Netflix was in preliminary talks with 20th Century Television about the possibility of bringing the recently canceled FOX series, Terra Nova to Netflix streaming service for a second season.  TVBTN not only dismissed the report as foolishness and wishful-thinking, but they openly mocked the piece and Deadline, who, for the record is an elite source of entertainment information has been correct far more often than TVBTN has been.

As we noted then, the Deadline piece was very careful to note that these were only preliminary talks and that it was far too early for fans to get their hopes up, however they noted that considering Terra Nova‘s bubble-show status, it’s huge Live+7 DVR gains and the fact that picking it up would be perfectly in line with Netflix business model expansion, it was certainly possible that it could happen.  Besides the fact that their mocking of Deadline was childish, it represented a cognitive dissonance about the evolving landscape of the television industry that the old-guard simply either doesn’t want to accept or doesn’t understand. We’re not going to post the entire contents of our response to them (which, by the way, went unanswered whereas they responded to every other critcism of their piece and defended themselves) but if you want to understand more of what TVBTN doesn’t, read our piece, here, on the Deadline and THR  Netflix/Terra Nova story.

How does this all relate to the future of B & C?  Well, to put it simply, the television landscape is not exclusively dependent on Nielsen ratings and television advertising any more.  The fact is that the networks and studios are looking for more and more avenues to expand their brands and profit from their programming beyond the traditional outlets of live television and home video sales.  It’s taken them a while, but the industry has come to the realization that Video on Demand Services, the Internet and digital platforms offer as much if not more than traditional live viewings and the advertising associated with it.  So, here are a few points to consider as to why Syfy has announced this direction for the series and the BSG franchise and why it is actually a positive and what viewers can possibly expect.

It’s dead, JIm… get used to it.

1.) Space-Based SciFi is Dead on Television.     This is the elephant in the room that no one wants to believe no matter how many times we explain it and no matter how many times the evidence to this presents itself.  The fact is, though, that on network television it’s been dead since the late 1990’s and on cable it’s been dead for about five years.  The Star Trek television franchise officially died in 1998 despite the fact that it continued with Enterprise until 2005. Farscape struggled to find an audience and was unceremoniously ended after four seasons with a cliffhanger that had to be resolved with a miniseries… and don’t even get us started with Firefly.  The simultaneous collapse of the Stargate and Battlestar Galactica  franchises around 2007 marked the official beginning of the end of the genre on cable television.  SyFy saw it coming which exactly why they changed their name in 2009 from SciFi to the current moniker.  SyFy president, David Howe said this back then:

“If you ask people their default perceptions of Sci Fi, they list space, aliens and the future. That didn’t capture the full landscape of fantasy entertainment: the paranormal, the supernatural, action and adventure, superheroes.”

The writing was on the wall for space-based SciFi and they knew it as well as we did because they saw the same numbers that we did.  Despite the criticism from the pundits in the blogosphere over the name change (CNet’s “Digital City” blogger and television flat-earther Dan Ackerman called it “…perhaps the most ill-advised branding move since New Coke” which was just stupid on its face because New Coke was a completely different formula and not merely a name change), SyFy has seen record ratings and revenues on their original programming (both scripted and unscripted, and it has nothing to do with one hour of wrestling per week)… that is of course with the exception of the two attempts since the name change at space-based SciFi, which were, Stargate: Universe and the BSG prequel series, Caprica.  Both of those shows, which SyFy gambled on and invested an enormous amount of money in development and promotion, were miserable failures not because they weren’t any good, but because general viewing audiences just DO NOT have any interest in the genre any more.

We have no doubt that SyFy still has an interest in the BSG franchise, because, after all, it’s their most successful property of all-time and the fact is that they didn’t spend all that money on that kick-ass pilot two months after the cancellation of Caprica to have it sit on a shelf and not make money, but SyFy and NBC-Universal view it in a much larger context than the dopey fanbase and bloggers do.  At this point, they aren’t going to make the same mistakes they made on SGU and Caprica by putting it on television for an audience that simply has very little interest in it and thereby destroying the franchise the same way that Paramount did with Star Trek.  SyFy is thinking global distribution with this to maximize profits and that’s the absolute best approach for this series.

Uhhhhh… no.

2.)  The Definition of a “Digital Series.”     How simplistic viewers and bloggers are when the phrase “digital series” is uttered as they sit around lamenting six minute mini-episodes for free that are used to promote shows like The Office on NBC.  We hate to burst the bubble of the Negative Nancys but when SyFy refers to this as a “digital series,” that’s not what they have in mind and simply because they offered webisodes to supplement Battlestar Galactica when it was in first-run, you have to understand that using webisodes to supplement and promote the primary product is not the same thing as having the primary product distributed digitally.  This is the typically short-sighted understanding of the television industry in this new global market that permeates the Internet and it really couldn’t be more ignorant of the facts.

The Internet’s impact on television has grown exponentially over the past five years and this is partly the result of a defensive posture by the networks and studios to combat piracy and partly because they realize that if they take advantage of the Internet it broadens their audiences and their customer base (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em).  The old model of television really was less about programming and more about advertising. Unlike feature films where consumers actually purchase the entertainment product directly, television and television programming has traditionally been a means simply to expose viewers to advertising.  It’s been an intricate dance of providing programming that enough people watch to make it inticing for advertisers to spend money on advertising. This is why fan campaigns don’t work.  Despite quality of programming, if the numbers aren’t there, a show will not survive.  io9 and similar fan outlets as well as the fans themselves do not understand that the show itself has not traditionally been the product and can’t seem to get it through their heads that a demographically insignificant amount of fan signatures does nothing to keep a show alive if it doesn’t have an appeal to a larger consumer audience that will actually see the advertising.

But this is changing.  Studios and networks, though still tied to traditional methods of revenue, are now beginning to look at their shows themselves as the product. International distribution deals as well as non-exclusive distribution contracts with companies such as Apple, Amazon, Netlfix and Hulu are making advertising less of a concern  than they have been traditionally.  This is exactly why at least the notion of shows such as  Terra Nova and The River going to Netflix, a service that depends on subscribers, not advertisers, makes so much sense in the new economy (however, advertising may still be part of the picture for B & C even, digitally).

Again, just consider what we’re talking about, here.  We’re talking about BSG and we’re talking about SyFy, not just some random series on a generic network.  This is an incredibly valuable and profitable property for SyFy and SyFy has made it very clear that they are actively pursuing innovative ways to deliver entertainment that is not only profitable, but takes advantage of existing and developing popular technology.  Although the rest of the experts in the blogosphere may have not been giving this much attention, SyFy’s upcoming new series/MMO crossover, Defiance is the prime example of the network’s dedication to using innovative digital methods to change the landscape of television and delivering original content to consumers.  The Defiance project alone should be enough of an indication to fans and critics alike that SyFy has something far bigger planned for B & C than a handful of crappy 10-minute webisodes.

Naga… naga… nagunna happen.

Even though it’s nice see that TVBTN  is begrudgingly at least sort-of understanding that Netflix is a viable option for original programming and and keeping alive shows that have been canceled by networks, this news is not a harbinger of SyFy shopping the series to Netflix (or another television network, for that matter), in fact don’t expect this series to be on Netflix for years.  The concern that these Internet outlets have is that they think that the 90-minute pilot movie will be cut down into 10-minute webisodes and once all of the episodes have been released, that will be the end of B & C.  Though it’s possible that it could be cut down into individual webisodes, we don’t think this is very likely, and we certainly don’t think that once the pilot movie is shown its entirety, it will be the end of the project.

First, unlike the BSG webisodes that supplemented the television series and were available for free, the pilot film wasn’t designed to be a story spliced up into a web anthology and furthermore the webisodes were incredibly inexpensive to produce and not produced as direct revenue generators.  The B & C  pilot movie was produced with the intention of telling a stand-alone story in the form of a film while leaving setting it up as a launching point for a series.  That format simply won’t work with a 10-minute webisode experience with the end of each ten minutes being a cliffhanger for the next webisode.  That’s simply not how the pilot was produced or written.  SyFy knows this which is exactly why they are airing the pilot movie in its entirety on the network.

We suspect that B & C will most likely wind up on Hulu after the pilot airs on SyFy and available ad-free/limited ad-supported for Hulu Plus subscribers (and video game consoles, TV’s and other devices that  have the SyFy App) simply because of the fact that NBC-Universal has a stake in that company.  We think they will probably use the broadcast of the pilot movie to promote subscriptions to Hulu Plus which will be the exclusive content provider for B & C.  We don’t currently subscribe to Hulu Plus because we have no need for it and we suspect a lot of consumers feel the same way.  Our cable package includes an HD DVR, every channel that Cox Communications offers as well as all of the premiums.  If we want to watch a show that we have missed or isn’t on the DVR, we go to Cox’s VOD service.  If we want to see older shows, we simply go to Netflix.  That being said, if Hulu Plus carried B & C we’d subscribe tomorrow and there is no question in our mind that if SyFy does bring full series treatment of B & C to Hulu Plus, they would immediately gain one to two million new subscribers.

And this would not be Hulu’s first venture into high-profile web content.  Last year we reported on and reviewed the groundbreaking web series, The Confession, starring Kiefer Sutherland and John Hurt. The web series, consisting of 11 six to eight-minute episodes, was an incredible success for Hulu and its producers that was deficit-funded and began producing a profit by the second episode.  The company that produced it, Digital Broadcasting Group, noted that each episode had a 95% viewership rate (in other words, viewers watched each episode, including ads right up to the credits) and that the only complaint was how short each episode was, which was exactly why didn’t give it a perfect score when we reviewed it.

What The Confession proved is that original digital content can be profitable provided that it has strong production values and a strong cast.  Add these features to the popular nature of the BSG franchise and you’re looking at the future of entertainment and B & C seems ideally suited for it as it’s also destination viewing in that it targets specifically the audience that wants to watch this show without trying to profit from it by airing it to an audience that has little interest in it (the old throw enough sh*t at the wall and see what sticks method that’s been used for 70-years).

3.)  Smoke and Mirrors?  Possibly.     There is another possibility that makes as much sense as any other and that is that though SyFy continues to plan to move forward with this as a digital series, depending on which way the wind blows, the series itself may wind up being aired on the network after all.

The truth is that no matter what SyFy says right now, nothing will really become clear until after they announce their 2012 – 2013 schedule.  Unlike the major networks, who announce their schedules at the upfront advertising events in May, SyFy has a history of announcing theirs in April.  In April, if an airdate for B & C is announced for the summer, that will be very important because it kind of means all bets are off as far as what SyFy is actually going to do.

If they air it in the summer, it could very well wind up being given full-series network treatment depending on how well it does in the ratings.  What they have in the can right now is not just a pilot film but they may be consider it to be a backdoor pilot if it can garner high enough ratings to support a network series.  What that means is that it was written produced as a stand-alone film with the opportunity to expand on the story if there is enough interest in it for a series.  This is a common practice within the television industry and we’ve discussed this concept before in regards to B & C.  It’s called hedging your bets and considering the hype and anticipation they’ve already built around this recently with the Wondercon release of the teaser trailer and almost Gestapo-like patroling of the Internet to curb its avaialbility, it almost seems like this is a viral campaign to spike interest in it and create hysteria.

Right now, as we write this, there are hundreds of fan campaigns actively harassing SyFy to bring this series to the network and we have a funny feeling that this is exactly what SyFy wants.  Just like the name change controversy, SyFy may be intentionally trying to piss everyone off by making what appear to be very definitive statements about their programming in an effort to spike brand awareness.  Remember, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Now, we could be dead wrong with this theory and we’ll only have an indication of whether or not this is the case when SyFy releases their schedule, but again, this section is dedicated to idle speculation, only, not hard facts.  The key is a summer release date.  If it’s announced for an early 2013  release and not announced for Summer 2012 or at the latest Fall 2012, then we think it’s safe to say that this isn’t a viral campaign and SyFy will definitely be moving forward with their digital plans.

But again, that’s not a bad thing and fans should embrace SyFy’s leap forward in digital distribution.  It will have a dramatic effect on the rest of the industry if B & C finds success in this format and will usher in a new era of innovation and creativity in television.  It will prove once and for all that the old business model is irrelevant and that good shows that couldn’t survive through traditional broadcast mediums can indeed find life digitally and furthermore it will give programming that may have never seen the light of day a chance to find an audience.

REVIEW: Smash (NBC – Monday, 10:00 p.m.)

“Smash” is a musical drama that celebrates the beauty and heartbreak of the Broadway theater as it follows a cross section of dreamers and schemers who all have one common desire – to be a “Smash.” The series centers on a desire to create a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe – written by the successful songwriting duo of Tom (Tony Award nominee Christian Borle, “Legally Blonde: The Musical”) and Julia (Emmy Award winner Debra Messing, “Will & Grace”). Julia recently began the process of adopting a child with her husband Frank (Tony Award nominee Brian d’Arcy James, “Shrek the Musical”) of many years, but her focus is torn when she has the opportunity to write another Broadway hit. A rivalry soon forms for the lead role between a youthful, inexperienced Midwestern beauty Karen (Katharine McPhee, “American Idol”) – who is trying to find fame in the big city against all odds – and stage veteran Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty, “9 to 5: The Musical”), who’s determined to leave the chorus line and finally get her big break. A tenacious producer Eileen (Oscar winner, Anjelica Huston, “Prizzi’s Honor”) discovers the “Marilyn” project and jumps on board with a brilliant director, Derek (Jack Davenport, “Pirates of the Caribbean” films) – whose talent is matched by his cunning and egocentric amorality. Jaime Cepero (“Porgy and Bess”) stars as Ellis, and Raza Jaffrey (“Sex and the City 2,” “MI-5”) stars as Dev. – ABC

65 out of 100

For several years, NBC has been trying to make its programming stand out in an increasingly competitive market and for the most part they’ve been failing miserably. Generally speaking, their scripted television has been beyond uninspired, clinging to old franchises such as the tired Law & Order offerings and introducing lame, cookie-cutter procedurals and comedies that we’ve all seen before and frankly have no interest in.  The mantra at NBC has been apparently to milk a concept to death and hope for the best.  At one point a couple of years ago, you’ll recall they even went so far as to abandon scripted programming altogether at 10:00 p.m. and replace it with five nights of Jay Leno, who, as proven, was far more suited for late-night than prime-time.  This disastrous decision not only hurt the status of the The Tonight Show, but it further damaged the status of the struggling network as a whole.

Another strategy that they’ve tried is to attempt to recreate the success of other networks’ offerings by bringing their own version of a genre show to their network.  The first go at this was last season’s miserable failure, The Event, which was described as a combination of  Lost and 24.  The problem with this approach, besides the fact that the show was ridiculously convoluted and was a pure SciFi show in an era where SciFi is dead, is that NBC was making the mistake of trying to recapture the success of two shows that had been canceled and the reason that they had been canceled is because audiences had evolved and the popularity had waned.  As much as we loved Lost and 24, in our first post ever, right in the first paragraph, we noted that the end of these two iconic series marked an end of an era in television.  So, the lesson here for NBC is that if you’re going to emulate successful programming on other networks, emulate programming that is currently successful.

Well, it seems that they finally figured that out with Smash.  Smash is NBC’s Glee… period.  That’s what they wanted and that’s what they got; a musical with a rich cast of characters that’s highlighted by fantastic musical numbers during every episode. Now, that’s about where the similarities end as far as plot is concerned but as different as the two musical shows are, there are a lot of things going on in Smash that made us stop watching Glee to begin with.

Don’t get us wrong, we do like Smash, but as unique as it tries to be, it regularly falls into the same trappings that most scripted shows on television do, and as good as it is, it’s not nearly as good as the critics have claimed it is.

First, the biggest problem we have is that the show seems to take a while to go anywhere.  It’s kind of like 50 minutes of a whole-lot-of-nothing and then the last 10 minutes there are some developments in the episode and of course a big musical number that makes you excited enough that you forget about the first 50 minutes and can’t wait for the next episode.  We like a lot of complexities all the way through our serial dramas and Smash just doesn’t deliver that.

Another issue we have is that we don’t know what’s more melodramatic, the fictional musical Marilyn that the show is based on, or the show itself.  From what we’ve understood, the point of this show was to try to paint a realistic portrayal of the process that goes into the production of a Broadway musical and as good as the performances are by the all-star cast, the characters are written so over-the-top as to not be believable.  This combined with the fact that the premise of the show is very niche to begin with (on its face, how many typical viewers would really have any interest in the inside-baseball of Broadway to begin with?), makes the show come off as very pretentious, at times.

You too can write in Hollywood.

At the same time, the show often can’t help but to fall back on the Mad Libs-style of writing that we’ve been so critical of in the past.  Over the first seven weeks, we’ve had Ivy (Megan Hilty) the female lead of the musical sleeping with the director (Jack Davenport) to get a part, Michael Swift (Will Chase), the male lead sleeping with the married co-writer of the show (Debra Messing) and both the director and the co-writer want to fire the actor that they are nailing because of their own personal feelings.  The deciding vote, of course goes to the other co-writer, who we forgot to mention is the stereotypical token gay character that any television show surrounding musical theater must include (apparently there is a law).

To top it off, the ultimate insult was the appearance last week of Bernadette Peters, as Lee Conroy, the Tony award-winning actor (because we can’t call women actresses anymore) who happens to be the mother of our lead, Ivy, and of course stops by for the entire episode for the sole purpose of stealing the spotlight from her daughter and praising everyone else in the production but her.  We finally threw up in our mouth at the end of the episode when Ivy confronts her mother about her treatment towards her and mom’s response is the typical, “I’ve only been hard on you your whole life because I never wanted you to go through the same pain that I did.”  Then of course years of family dysfunction is resolved as the daughter finally understands.

Ugh…

Honestly, if they’re using this type of crap this early in a series it does not bode well as a harbinger for future seasons.  That’s the kind of tripe that writers spit out when the well has dried up.  That being, said, audiences will no doubt ignore things like that and focus on the fluff that they like about the show and for the most part, the series is mildly compelling and that should be enough to keep it going for a while.  Smash is currently NBC’s highest rated scripted show and as we noted in our piece the other day, has already been picked up for a second season.

So, the final verdict here is that Smash is a good show and will probably be very successful for a few years on NBC but viewers shouldn’t go into this expecting more substance than style because it simply doesn’t offer that.

Watch complete episodes of Smash, here.

NBC: ‘Smash’ Renewed For Second Season

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In news that comes as a surprise to no one who hasn’t been living in a cave, NBC has renewed their broadway musical themed hit series, Smash, for a second season. Smash is NBC’s highest rated scripted show so this really is a no-brainer.

In news that will come as no surprise to our readers, this entire article was written and published from the toilet using an iPhone.

Via Press Release:

NBC RENEWS CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED DRAMA ‘Smash’ FOR SECOND SEASON
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – March 22, 2012 – NBC has renewed its critically acclaimed musical drama “Smash” (Mondays, 10-11 p.m. ET) for a second season, it was announced today by Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment.

“Smash” is NBC’s #1 drama in adults 18-49 and total viewers. “Smash” is up 160 percent in 18-49 versus NBC’s season average in the time period prior to “Smash” (with a 2.6 rating vs. a 1.0, “live plus same day”) and in total viewers, “Smash” has improved the time period by 100 percent (7.7 million vs. 3.9 million).

Among the many positive notices the series has received, USA Today wrote, “‘Smash’ pulls out all of the entertainment stops and succeeds… just the kind of gloriously entertaining, wildly ambitious network series you hope for each season…” The Los Angeles Times wrote, “…‘Smash’ is a triumph.” And EW.com referred to “Smash” as “…one damn lively show with a lot of promise.”

NBC’s “Smash” – which debuted February 6 — celebrates the beauty and heartbreak of the Broadway theater as it follows a cross-section of dreamers and schemers who all have one common desire – to be a “Smash.” Evolving from an idea of executive producer and multiple Emmy and Oscar winner Steven Spielberg (“ER,” “Schindler’s List”), the series unites the hit-making Broadway writing team of Julia Houston (Debra Messing, Emmy winner, “Will & Grace”) and Tom Levitt (Christian Borle, “Legally Blonde: The Musical”) with producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston, Oscar winner, “Prizzi’s Honor”) to create a new musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, and seasoned chorus girl Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty, “9 to 5: The Musical”) vies with newcomer Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee, “American Idol”) for the role of a lifetime.

The cast also features Jack Davenport (“Pirates of the Caribbean” films), Raza Jaffrey (“MI-5,” “Sex and the City 2”), Brian d’Arcy James (“Shrek the Musical”) and Jaime Cepero (“Porgy & Bess”). In addition to Spielberg, the executive producers include Theresa Rebeck (“Mauritius”), David Marshall Grant (“Brothers & Sisters”), Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“Chicago,” “Hairspray”), Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey (“United States Of Tara,” “The Borgias”) and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Hairspray,” “Catch Me If You Can”). The first three episodes were directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer.

“Smash” is a production of Universal Television in association with DreamWorks Television and Madwoman in the Attic.

Netflix Is At It Again: In Talks To Pick Up The Soon-To-Be-Canceled Series, The River

As we recently reported, Netflix has been in discussions for picking up the recently canceled Terra Nova and according to Deadline, they are looking at possibly picking up the serial thriller, The River.  Like Terra NovaThe River has done very well (though not as good as Terra Nova) in Live+7 DVR viewing, averaging an increase in viewing of 36%.  Unlike Terra Nova, its same day ratings numbers have been generally miserable with the most recent example of garnering only a 1.4 in the 18 – 49 demographic for its season finale on Tuesday.  So, considering that The River is not even close to being a bubble-show like Terra Nova was, why do Netflix and ABC Studios have an interest in keeping this going? Well, apparently talks about this are being included in discussions regarding an overall distribution deal of ABC programming and both parties recognize the potential that the show has with a VOD service like Netflix because of the time-shifted DVR numbers.

As we noted in the recent piece regarding Terra Nova and Netflix, these are still just preliminary talks but our main assertion that Nielsen ratings are no longer the sole factor in considering whether a show’s production is continued and DVR numbers have become a very important factor.  Read that full piece, here, for more details on why it makes sense for Netflix to pick up other networks’ cast-offs.

Terra Nova Canceled, But Waitaminute… Netflix Expresses Interest In Picking It Up?

On March 5th, FOX announced that they would not be renewing the science fiction epic, Terra Nova for a second season, which honestly, as disappointing as that is, was really a surprise to no one, especially us. As we pointed out multiple times, this series was an incredibly big risk for FOX because epic sci-fi is dead on television, especially network television and to top it off, Terra Nova is reported as being the most expensive show in the history of television to produce at an average of $4 million per episode, whereas the average scripted series costs $2.5 million.

Well, no sooner did FOX announce that the series would not be renewed that 20th Century Television announced it would be shopping the show to other networks.  48 hours later, Deadline and THR confirmed that Netflix has contacted 20th Century and is interested in possibly bringing the series over to their streaming service. Although, the discussions are only preliminary and we want to warn fans not to get their hopes up, this move makes a ton of sense for Netflix and of course, there are several outlets that have openly mocked this possibility because they simply do not understand the changing landscape of the television industry and the impact that evolving technologies have on it.

Despite what people may think, Terra Nova did not have horrible ratings (7.5 million viewers/2.6 million viewers 18 – 49).  As Kevin Reilly, head of programming for FOX, noted before a decision was reached, even if they weren’t going to renew it, the show was successful and made money and that he had no regrets. The issue is apparently that it didn’t make as much money as they wanted it to considering the cost to produce it and air it in the coveted Monday, 8:00 p.m. timeslot.

“I do feel fortunate that we have some high-class problems,” he said at the time. “[Terra Nova] was an exciting bet to take and it’s proven that it was worthwhile.”

Terra Nova was a bubble-show all season long but more importantly is the fact that it was a huge gainer (44%) in DVR Live+7 ratings. What that means is Terra Nova increased its viewership by 44% within seven days by people who watched it within seven days of each episode’s original broadcast on their DVRs. Now, as far as advertisers are concerned these numbers don’t really mean anything, however, they do indicate that the show had a strong audience and furthermore, it must be noted that Terra Nova maintained 97% of their key demographic audience over the course of the season. These type of numbers bode very well for its potential on Netflix. DVR viewing is, in effect, Video On Demand viewing, is it not? Well, for our money, it would make sense that a bubble-show that has a strong core audience whose numbers were dramatically increased using a VOD service such as DVR time-shifting would be a perfect fit for a national VOD service such as Netflix.

The fact is that Netflix now has more subscribers than Comcast Cable, the largest cable provider in the country and 60% of their library is comprised of television series.  In our house alone, we have eight devices, not including our computers, that are capable of  streaming Netflix VOD services, and four of them are mobile devices.  It should also be noted that picking up Terra Nova and other bubble shows is perfectly in line with Netflix stated goal of expanding their original programming lineup and “looking more and more like cable network.”  With the recent success of their original series Lillyhammer and the addition of their forthcoming production House of Cards and forthcoming resurrection of the long-dead Arrested Development, not to mention the fact that Netflix is engaging in active discussions with cable providers to include Netflix streaming as part of their VOD services (as Dish Network has done with Blockbuster), the addition of Terra Nova or any other semi-successful television series with a built-in audience is a no-brainer for them and a cash cow for the studios that produce them.

One of the main reasons that 20th Century is actively shopping Terra Nova is that the show and the leads, Stephen Lang and Jason O’Mara, are very popular in international markets and this cannot be dismissed in this evolving television landscape.  Remember, just last year, Blue Bloods was renewed by CBS when it was expected to be canceled due in large part to how well the show did in overseas markets.  In this age of instant access, growing global markets and new technologies, studios and networks are looking for more and more ways to capitalize on their products.  All one has to do is look at the huge non-exclusive distribution deals Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Hulu have made with the studios and networks to understand how the business model in the industry has changed.  Although Nielsen ratings are still important for the networks, they aren’t the only factor to consider any more for whether or not a bubble-show can continue to be produced if there are other ways to make the show profitable that isn’t dependent on advertising viewing.

Now, the big elephant in the room with Terra Nova is the cost of production that we noted earlier but how big of a deal is that, really?  We don’t think it’s nearly as big of a deal as the naysayers would have us believe.  The $4 million per episode is a bit misleading because factored into that number is the $16 million pricetag for the two-part pilot which was spent primarily on sets and show development.  Those are sunk costs, folks, i.e., capital investments that won’t be a factor during the second season because the same sets are still going to be used, so that money won’t be spent again.  It’s similar for when a an upstart company buys a building.  Well, they don’t have to buy a new building every year so they don’t have to factor that cost in again.  Also, if Terra Nova were to go to Netflix, or any other network for that matter, it would likely be cut down from 13 episodes to 10 episodes, thus further reducing production costs.

While we certainly believe that it’s far too early to predict that Terra Nova will wind up on Netflix, we caution our readers to take with a grain of salt any media outlet that outright dismisses the possibility of this becoming a reality.  It’s backwards, flat-earth thinking for Terra Nova or any other bubble-show and it completely ignores where the television industry is and where it’s going in the future.

News On SyFy’s Groundbreaking Science Fiction Epic MMO/Television Series, Defiance. Cast Announcements, More…

Last year we reported on the groundbreaking new SyFy series, Defiance, which will be the first of its kind in that it will combine a MMO video game and live-action television series in which the events from each coincide.  In our piece from last year, here’s how we described it:

The best way we can think of to explain this is like this:  consider that a new Star Trek series debuted at the same time Star Trek Online debuted and that everything that happens in the storyline of the game is part of the storyline in the series as well and the characters crossover between both the game and the series.  This is a real-time, interactive universe and each medium is dependent on the other.  From The Hollywood Reporter:

Set on a future Earth, Defiance introduces players and Syfy viewers to a world ravaged by decades of conflict, where humans and aliens live together in a world the likes of which no one has seen. The game combines the frenetic action of a top-tier console shooter with the persistence, scale, and customization of an MMO, while its TV counterpart exudes the scope, story, and drama of a classic sci-fi epic. The game’s story will take place in the San Francisco bay area, while the TV series will be set just outside of St. Louis, MO. Because they exist in a single universe, the show and the game will influence and evolve each other over time, with actions in both mediums driving the overall story of Defiance.

We’ve been waiting for nearly a year for more news on this but we finally have some to report including some casting announcements.  What’s particularly notable is the casting of Dexter alums, Jamie Kelly and Julie Benz.  The casting of Kelly indicates to us that it is highly unlikely that she will be reprising her fan-favorite role of H.G. Wells on the popular SyFy series, Warehouse 13 which will begin its fourth season this summer.  Julie Benz has appeared as a cast regular for the entire first season of the struggling CBS series, A Gifted Man.  The fact that CBS did not announce that this show has been renewed for a second season when they announced the 18 shows that they had renewed and that Benz was seeking and committed to another series is a pretty clear indication that A Gifted Man will not be renewed.  Read the full press release below.

Via Press Release:

JULIE BENZ, STEPHANIE LEONIDAS, TONY CURRAN AND JAIME MURRAY JOIN THE CAST OF SYFY’S GROUNDBREAKING SERIES DEFIANCE

Benz (Mayor Amanda Rosewater), Leonidas (Irisa), Curran (Datak Tarr) and Murray (Stahma Tarr) Join Previously-Announced Actor Grant Bowler

NEW YORK, NY – March 14, 2012 – Syfy has announced additional casting for its upcoming epic science fiction drama Defiance, inking Julie Benz, Stephanie Leonidas, Tony Curran and Jaime Murray to co-star in the first-ever series to unite television and MMO gaming.  The pilot, slated to commence production this April in Toronto, is directed by Scott Stewart (Legion, Priest), and written/executive produced by Rockne O’Bannon (Farscape), Kevin Murphy (Desperate Housewives, Caprica; Hellcats) & Michael Taylor (Battlestar Galactica).  Kevin Murphy serves as showrunner.

Defiance is a visionary enterprise in collaboration with Trion Worlds, with the Syfy series and Trion’s multi-platform shooter MMO poised to debut simultaneously.   Set in the near future, Defiance introduces a completely transformed planet Earth, inhabited by the survivors of a universal war.  Forced to co-habitate, the disparate group struggles to build a new society among the devastation. The dramatic tapestry of the series and the intense action of the game will exist in a single universe where their respective narratives will inform one another and evolve together into one overall story.  Defiance is produced by Universal Cable Productions.

Benz portrays Amanda Rosewater, the idealistic mayor of a bustling mining boomtown, one of the world’s few oases of civility and inclusion.  As the newly appointed mayor, she is determined to maintain peace in the community, an ambitious task in this deadly new world.

Leonidas plays Irisa, an exotically beautiful warrior who is part of an alien race called the Irathients.  After Nolan (Bowler) killed her criminal father, he adopted the girl and raised her as his clever – and lethal – right-hand.

Curran will portray Datak Tarr, part of an elite alien race known as the Castithans.  Datak grew up in the slums of his home planet, but despite being part of the under-privileged class, he schemed his way onto one of the alien arks, saving himself before his home planet was destroyed.

Murray potrays Datak’s beautiful and proper wife, Stahma, a high-ranking Castithan before her home planet ceased to exist.  Clever, imaginative and darkly opportunistic, Stahma is perhaps more dangerous than her husband.

The four join New Zealand born actor Grant Bowler, who is well-known for the recurring role on Ugly Betty (2008) as Wilhelmina Slater’s love interest, Connor Owens, and for the role of Cooter, the leader of the werewolf biker gang in the HBO series True Blood (2010) and Captain Gault in ABC’s Lost (2008).  Bowler plays Nolan, the new law keeper in the boomtown and former Marine who fought in the alien conflict.  After losing his wife and child in the war, he becomes a wanderer in the dangerous new world, eventually joined by Irisa, a young Irathient he raises as his own and as his lone companion in the lawless badlands.

The versatile and dynamic Benz is known for her wide variety of film and television roles, in 2006 winning a Golden Satellite Award for Best Supporting TV Actress for her role as beloved ‘Rita Bennett’ on Showtime’s award-winning series Dexter.  Last fall, Benz recurred on the CBS medical drama A Gifted Man, opposite Patrick Wilson and last spring starred in the ABC series No Ordinary Family, opposite Michael Chiklis. In 2010, she starred on ABC’sSmash hit Desperate Housewives for a multi-episode arc as “Robin,” a stripper with a heart of gold and a master’s degree in education.  Throughout her career, Benz has won the hearts of many devoted fans starring in an array of genre classics including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Roswell, as well as the Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries for Syfy (then SCI FI Channel), Taken. In addition, she has guest starred on many hit TV shows, among them Royal Pains, Supernatural, CSI and Law And Order.  On the big screen, Benz starred in the Roadside Attractions film Answers to Nothing, opposite Dane Cook, which was released in December 2011.  Benz also had a great turn with Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets and starred with Rose McGowan, Pam Grier, Judy Greer and Rebecca Gayheart in Jawbreaker, the first of many cult-hits that would soon follow.

British actress Leonidas is known for her many television appearances, most recently in Whitechapel, Eternal Law, and the BBC’s Dracula, as well as the award winning ITV film for television Wall of Silence. Stephanie made her film debut in Sally Potter’s Yes, followed by Ate de Jongh’s Fogbound. Other film credits include the lead role of Helena in David McKean’s Mirrormask, Luis Llosa’s feature film Feast of the Goat, Ben Sombogaart’s Crusade in Jeans: A March through Time, Luna and most recently Andrew Douglas’ U Want Me To Kill Him. Stephanie has also appeared on stage in the lead role of Dani in Marianne Elliott’s The Sugar Syndrome at the Royal Court, receiving rave reviews, and most recently portrayed Adela in Gadi Roll’s House of Bernarda Alba. She is repped by Thruline and ARG in the UK.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Curran rose to fame in the BBC series This Life.  Since then, the actor has appeared in a number of major film and television roles including The Invisible Man, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemenand Guillermo de Toro’s Blade II.   Curran is a graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Murray is an English-born actress best known for playing Stacie Monroe in the BBC series Hustle and Lila Tournay in season two of the Showtime series, Dexter. She has also had recurring roles as H.G. Wells in Syfy’s Warehouse 13, Gaia in the Starz series Spartacus: Gods In The Arena and Olivia Charles in The CW series Ringer.

TVLine: NBC Renews Grimm For A Second Season

In news that is no surprise to anyone, NBC has renewed their Friday hit supernatural/police procedural, Grimm for a second season according to TVLine.  We love Grimm and it’s been one of the few bright spots this season for the struggling network so we’re definitely looking forward to season two.

REVIEW: Game Change (Film – HBO Films)

Game Change is a 2012 American HBO political drama film based on events of the 2008 United States presidential election campaign, starring Julianne Moore, Ed Harris and Woody Harrelson. Written by Danny Strong and directed by Jay Roach, the film was adapted from the 2010 book of the same name documenting the campaign, written by the political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. The film focuses on the chapters about the selection and performance of Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin (Moore) as running mate to Senator John McCain (Harris) in the Republican presidential campaign. The plot features a 2010 interview of the campaign’s senior strategist Steve Schmidt (Harrelson), using flashbacks to portray McCain and Palin during their ultimately unsuccessful campaign. – Wikipedia

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR:  I’ve made no bones in the past about my personal political views when posting on this blog but I’ve always strived to be objective with my reviews, judging television and film from an entertainment standpoint and not a political standpoint.  As I’ve mentioned several times, I have no tolerance for political soapboxes being used in dramatic scripted television, regardless of the political persuasion, because it always serves to alienate at least 50% of an audience who turn on their normal prime time fare as an escape and not to be lectured to.  Being apolitical is a rather difficult task to accomplish with Game Change because the film by its very nature is a biographical political piece, from a specific perspective.  This isn’t a David E. Kelley show with a fictional attorney grandstanding in court about a contemporary social issue, it’s a docudrama involving characters who are real people and actual historical events.

Therefore, while at the same time I recognize that the subject matter of the film gives it a free pass for its political nature that I normally wouldn’t give to other television fare, at the same time it’s only fair that I honestly assess all aspects of the film including the details that are clearly fantasy that detract from the entertainment value. So, this time, I will say that this review represents my opinion exclusively and is not necessarily the opinion of staff at TV-Tastic.  That being said, I have encouraged my staff to submit their own reviews of this film which I will gladly publish to allow our readers to make their own judgments based on different perspectives.

70 out of 100

I have to say, as an objective conservative who closely monitors the political landscape and is well-versed in current events and history, I went into Game Change with a sense of enthusiasm and trepidation for a number of reasons.  My enthusiasm came from the fact that HBO Films has always maintained a high standard with their productions so I knew that I could expect a well-produced film if nothing else.  The casting of Ed Harris, Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore also gave the film credibility like no other HBO film has ever had.

My trepidation came from the fact that the book of the same title that the film is based on, written by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, has been roundly criticized by both sides for not citing sources for its assertions and furthermore, the filmmakers, instead of choosing to adapt the book as it was written, which was in three parts covering both political primary races and then the general election, chose to cover only the third part of the book and more specifically only the McCain campaign as it pertains to Sarah Palin.  So, you have to know where this is going and the fact that the top stars and producers of the film have donated $200,000 to Democrat/Liberal causes and ZERO to Republican/Conservative causes is also a tad bit disconcerting if you’re expecting objectivity.

And objective this film certainly isn’t, however there is just enough of a positive portrayal of Ms. Palin to present the illusion that the filmmakers were not only fair in their representation of her, but that the unattributed and unconfirmed rumors that are rampant in this film (as well as the portrayal of Republicans at McCain events) are actually factual. And that is where the film falls off the rails and fails because it paints a very disjointed picture that lacks rational cohesion.

I’m sorry, but as a rational adult,  I simply cannot buy that Ms. Palin was as stupid in regards to foreign policy/history as she is portrayed in this film. Are they seriously trying to make us believe that she didn’t understand why there are two Koreas? She really had to have it explained to her who the belligerents were in the two World Wars? She really thought that we were in Iraq because Saddam Hussein attacked us on 9/11? Now, the issue with the Fed and Behr/Stearns, I get because I’m still trying to figure that mess out four years later but the rest of this is just as silly now as it was when the book was published.  Again, the main criticism of the book is that it cited no sources for these claims and if the filmmakers could see beyond their own political ideology and actually maintain a level of professional objectivity and integrity, they would never have included these outlandish and unproven claims.  This approach turned what was an excellent insight into the behind the scenes events of an historical presidential campaign into a tawdry, tabloidish hit-piece.  Seriously, how could she have been elected dog catcher nevertheless governor of Alaska if these assertions were true?  Unless, of course, the producers just think that the people of the State of Alaska are just as stupid, which they probably do.

The other problem that the inclusion of these, to put it politely, “questionable” claims has is that they serve to make the Palin character very inconsistent and honestly, the inconsistency gives you pause as to the believability of the material.  Julianne Moore’s portrayal is excellent, albeit at times a little over-the-top, but the way in which they had to include all of these claims makes it as if there are multiple Sarah Pailins in this film. There’s the bright, confident and strong renaissance woman and then there’s the complete f*cking idiot. In the next scene she’s portrayed as an excellent public speaker who has a unique ability to connect to the people and then she’s portrayed as an uncompromising lunatic who won’t listen to the advice that the smart people are giving her. No one can have a personality that divergent and have no one notice it that long while attaining the success that she already had achieved at that point. It’s just not possible.

I think the only truly honest moments in her portrayal were when she was shown at her most vulnerable, when she was stressed and depressed about the process, wasn’t eating well and probably more importantly than anything, missed her family.  Hell, I don’t like being away for my kids for more than a couple of hours so I can relate to that.  When the film focused on that aspect of her emotional state, the film exceled because those genuine scenes served to highlight Ms. Palin’s biggest issue of all which was that she was in way over her head and not ready to be a candidate for national office, and perhaps never will be.  But the problem is that they had to cheapen these moments by suggesting that her anxiety level was a sign that she was mentally unstable.  That’s not only offensive to Ms. Palin, but it’s offensive to the tens of millions of people who have suffered with anxiety issues and of course her anxiety was perfectly understandable considering the stress she was under.

Now, generally speaking I have no doubt that the many behind the scenes events that are portrayed in the film actually happened (and this has been confirmed by Steve Schmidt, the Republican strategist who was instrumental in Palin’s selection and portrayed by Woody Harrelson in the film) because a lot of these events, without the details, were public knowledge at the time.  Quite often, Ms. Palin was her own worst enemy when it came to her image and that is accurately represented in the film, however, the film intentionally dismisses the personal beatings that she took by the media against her and her family under the guise of, “well she was warned that this would happen before she accepted the nomination.”  That’s a really lazy and intellectually dishonest position to take especially considering the vile things that were said and continue to be said about her to this day.

Remember the blogger who suggested that her newborn son Trig, was not her own and was actually the child of her 17 year-old daughter, Bristol, and how some members of the media ran with it?  Well, they do address that, but they gloss over it and don’t treat it with nearly the amount of outrage that they do over the random attendee at a McCain rally  who would spout vile things.  Again, the film has a huge credibility gap because of the blatant bias that turns what could have been a great film into only a good film.  But hey, why shoot for excellence when you can get good enough and placate the folks who think like you?

At the end of the day, though, overall, Game Change is still very enjoyable, but if you have any sense of objectivity and intellectual honesty then you have to filter out the blatant nonsense and bias that just oozes from the film.

Also, there may be unintended consequences of the film that the filmmakers probably didn’t take into consideration when they made it because they assumed that everyone who would watch it thinks the way they do.  Y’see, the main themes in the film are the dangers of not vetting a candidate and how disastrous a lack of experience can be as well as  how style is no substitute for substance.  Interposing those themes with excerpts of Obama  populist speeches may actually have the effect of making your audience think twice about voting for a candidate who has all of those same qualities again this November.