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If you haven’t seen the Amazon Original series “Transparent” yet, ask yourself why you’re allowing the best things in life to pass you by.  Then, take comfort in knowing that on Saturday, you can watch the entire series for free on Amazon.com, even if you’re not a Prime subscriber. The free sampling window will be available on Saturday between 12:01am ET and 11:59pm PT by using the Amazon Instant Video app for TVs, connected devices and mobile devices, or online at Amazon.com/Transparent.

Last week “Transparent” became a two-time Golden Globe award winner, scoring hardware for Best Comedy series and a Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Globe for its star Jeffrey Tambor.

In addition to this sampling opportunity, Amazon Prime memberships will fall to $72 on Saturday, in celebration of the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards.

Created by Jill Soloway, a producer on “Six Feet Under” and “United States of Tara”, “Transparent” is a thought-provoking glimpse at sex and identity as filtered through the prism of a family dramedy, and also stars Gaby Hoffmann, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker. Tambor plays the family’s patriarch Mort, a man whose decision to make a gender transition leads to each of his children examining their own lives.

Review: Fox’s “Backstrom”

January 21st, 2015 | Posted by Melanie McFarland in Fox - (1 Comments)

The Husband and I have an affectionate nickname for the crime procedurals we watch: pudding.  These are not shows that innovate the procedural genre in any way, but represent the lighter, character-driven side of things. They go down smooth and easy, thanks to charismatic leads that make them distinguishable from, say, the bleak “Law & Orders” and “CSIs” of the world.  Depending on the day or the mood, “Let’s watch some pudding” could refer to “Castle” or “The Mentalist” — more often,  it’s “Castle.”

Fox’s “Backstrom,” premiering Thursday at 9pm, could have been pudding. But “Backstrom” gets something wrong in the mix, and unfortunately that something wrong happens to be its lead character, Everett Backstrom (Rainn Wilson).  Backstrom, the leader of Portland’s Special Crimes Unit, is an unkempt curmudgeon who sees not just the worst in everybody but, as he says at one point, the everybody in everybody. That means he’s not blinded by the weeping damsel in distress or villains posing in heroes uniforms. He sees the perp behind the pretty which, of course, makes him very good at his job. Of course!

Among the qualities that come standard with this model of television character is very little consideration for his health and well-being, and zero cares about offending everyone around him. Backstrom is even fond spewing out racist insults if he knows he can get a rise out someone. (Which is a wonderful trait to show in a cop at this moment in time, what with all the protests about police brutality…am I right?)

The argument for “Backstrom’s” existence and in favor of its possible appeal is that he’s just like Gregory House. There’s something to be said for that; “House” ran for eight seasons before it tendered its resignation, so clearly there was something viewers loved about that frustrating, thoroughly unlikable doc. Wilson does miracles with the dialogue he’s given, although the hammy exposition in the opening episode could make the more discerning viewer cringe. There’s also the device of Everett verbalizing his way through the process of profiling someone, which gets old pretty fast.

That said, the show’s style of humor, dark though it can be, is the kind of thing executive producer Hart Hanson  sells quite effectively on “Bones.”  A few of the punchlines here have an odder landing, especially when they’re served to lighten up a bleak moment, but if “Bones” is your bag, you’ll probably enjoy “Backstrom.”

The show prospects aren’t entirely dim, thanks to its supporting cast. Backstrom’s team members, played by  Kristoffer Polaha, Genevieve Angelson, and Beatrice Rosen, complement of Wilson’s character perfectly, making the detective look at lot more palatable than he should be, and Page Kennedy as Moto, the team’s dimwitted beat cop muscle, creates some really funny moments. The character most worth tuning in for, however, is Dennis Haysbert‘s Det. Sgt. John Almond…not because of anything he says or does, but because of his profile: Almond is a formidable cop who also happens to be a pastor, and Haysbert is the guy so many still love as “24 ‘s” President Palmer. In my opinion, those are the perfect ingredients for some tasty procedural pudding.


 

TV Editor’s Note: This blog entry contains analysis and a recap of  Justified‘s” season premiere, titled “Fate’s Right Hand.” If you have an aversion to spoilers, please stop reading now.

More intoxicating than high-class bourbon, more thrilling than a silent stand-off between gunfighters, Raylan Givens’s unshakable self-confidence (honed to perfection by Timothy Olyphant‘s performance) is the special ingredient that makes “Justified” worth watching, even following a deeply flawed fifth season. It pains me to write that, but it’s true — season five was not just a disappointment, but almost entirely skippable*.  I only say this because if you’re coming in to the series completely fresh, with the intent of binging previous seasons to catch up with the rest of us, save yourself the time. The “Previously On…” pre-season six recap does a fine job of skimming the details; besides, that season only postpones the inevitable showdown between Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Raylan, which season six is building toward.

(Editor’s note: I changed my verdict to “skippable” after using a term that, upon second thought, was probably too harsh. We are hardest on the ones we love, after all. )

“Justified’s” sixth season premiere, “Fate’s Right Hand,” is a riveting prologue to the face-off Raylan knows is coming — and, based on what we see during this hour, Boyd clearly suspects is on the horizon. Before getting into IMDb user DeanSpeir‘s excellent recap, a few additional thoughts…

  • We’ll say it many more times before the final season ends, but one thing I’ll certainly miss about “Justified” is the excellent writing. Although the late, great Elmore Leonard, who created the character of Raylan Givens for his short story “Fire in the Hole,” is no longer with us, series executive producer Graham Yost and his writing team still make sure the soul of Leonard’s prose embroiders every scene. It’s clearly there in the portentous exchange between Raylan and Ava (Joelle Carter) on the bridge, and it’s there as he visits a recovering Art (Nick Searcy) to share some bourbon and news. Art and Raylan’s exchange was a simple one, but infused with such quiet emotion, as Art asks Raylan to consider the possibility of one Boyd’s bullets finding him instead of the other way around. If there were ever a time for Raylan’s luck to run out, it’s during the last season of this show.
  • Speaking of the tendency to clean house during a drama’s final season, while we enjoyed watching the idiotic exploits of the character who departs in this episode, it was time for that person to go.
  • Huge credit goes to Goggins for making Boyd such a multifaceted, sympathetic murderous thug. He’s the reason we really hope that Boyd, in spite of everything, somehow avoids the fate he so obviously deserves. But his love for Ava is true, and the ways he shows it in this episode are touching. Yet the final frame of “Fate’s Right Hand” makes me wonder how deeply Boyd’s descent will go as the season rolls along.

Keep reading for  DeanSpeir‘s full blow-by-blow recap of the season premiere.

****

Wynona (Natalie Zea) talks to her and Raylan’s baby daughter Willa, wondering when he’s going to make his long-overdue appearance with them in Florida.

Rylan is down in Nuevo Laredo in a bar looking for a Federale named Aguilar (Rolando Molina) who comes on real hard-arse when the visiting U.S. Deputy Marshal, assuring the man that he’s not looking to cause anyone any trouble, wants some information about men who might have walked away from a truck smuggling heroin in the Mexican desert. When the man is especially insulting to Raylan and his Marshal’s badge, Raylan takes a hint and, conversationally telling Aguilar that he’ll see him later, saunters out of the bar.

That “later” is at closing time when an inebriated Aguilar staggers to his official car, and as he is leaving the parking lot, is slammed into by Raylan’s vehicle. He comes to later that day in Raylan’s trunk at a deserted desert location on American soil. It’s rarely to anyone’s benefit to play hard-arse with Raylan Givens!

Boyd Crowder wakes up in the middle of the night, cleans himself up and heads out. Picking up confederate Earl (Ryan Dorsey) later, he heads into town and visits a bank where he rents a safety deposit box from Bank Manager Joyce Kipling (Pamela Bowen). After she escorts Boyd into the safety deposit box vault and helps him access his new rental, she is distracted by Earl as Boyd takes a spray can and “paints” a section of boxes with some sort of clear substance.

Ava awakens to find Boyd performing maintenance on their front porch. He talks to her in general terms about their future, while she tells him she’s returned to her old job at the local beauty parlor. After chiding Boyd for drinking so early in day, she surreptitiously takes a long pull of vodka straight from the bottle while retrieving Boyd’s requested beer.

At the U.S. Marshal’s headquarters, acting Chief Deputy Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Vasquez (Rick Gomez) explain that Dewey Crowe is about to be set free and that Raylan’s not allowed to harrass him or come within 1,000 feet of him, the result of Dewey’s successful civil case (“Justified: A Murder of Crowes (#5.1)“).

Dewey leaves prison and is met by Raylan who runs a bluff on Dewey about him being extradited to Mexico for killing Johnny Crowder (“Justified: Raw Deal (#5.7)“). Dewey hangs tough and sets off on the prison bus to start the rest of his life.

Returning to his favorite bar/brothel, he finds it shut down, seized by the U.S. Government. Out back, he is overjoyed to spot one of his “prized possessions,” his ceramic turtle dog, in a refuse pile. Reclaiming it, he heads to a local diner where he is waited on by “Mina,” a former employee of Audry’s who’s resumed her given name, Abigail (Aubrey Wood).

Raylan visits Ava at work and takes her outside to remind her that her freedom is dependent of the information she provides about Boyd’s activities. The chain-smoking Ava is worried, and talkssome, but doesn’t come clean about Boyd’s grand escape plan for leaving Harlan and making a new life for them in some place like Mexico or Costa Rica.

Boyd goes to the late Johnny Crowder’s bar and asks Carl (Justin Welborn) where Earl and “The Pig” are. He tells Boyd that Dewey is in the back. Boyd has Carl frisk Dewey then interrogates him about how he isn’t in prison, Dewey explains the circumstances, and tells Boyd that he “just wants back in,” and desperately wants Boyd to trust him again. Boyd has Carl throw him out the back door.

Raylan checks in with Deputy U.S. Marshal Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) at Arlo’s house where the marshals have set up a command post while tracking Boyd’s activities. Tim has recent photos of Boyd and a known drug dealer. Just then they notice an unknown civilain in a pricy foreign sedan in the driveway. Raylan, flanked by Tim, goes out and gives the visitor (Garret Dillahunt) a hard time for trespassing, but the man has a plausible story about seeing the “For Sale” sign and wanting to purchase the property, for cash, on the spot. Raylan is not only unimpressed at the man’s briefcase full of cash “Forgive me if I ain’t the run-of-the-mill tater tot whose eyes go all pinwheel at a stack of stolen money” but makes it clear that he wouldn’t sell to him in any case. The man leaves, telling Raylan that if he changes his mind, he won’t be hard to get in touch with. Raylan tells him, “You have no idea!”

Tim and Raylan go off “to pay a call on Cyrus,” and use Crackpot (Cascy Beddow), a local addict, to gain access to the heroin dealer’s (Bill Tangradi) premises where, after an aborted escape attempt they press him for information.

Back at the bar, Carl reports to Boyd that while Earl has returned, Cyrus has gone missing. A frustrated Boyd hears Dewey out in the bar shooting pool. He strides purposefully into the bar and tells Dewey, “You want back in? I got a job that needs doing.” “Anything you say, Boyd,” the mildly surprised Dewey says, “Anything. Hell, yeah!”

Raylan and Tim surveil Boyd, Carl, Dewey and the rest of Boyd’s crew, and watch as Dewey drives away in Boyd’s yellow wrecker with a banged up car on its hook. Tossing a mental coin, Tim elects to follow Dewey who, after a time, comes upon a Kentucky State Police roadblock which he decides to bluff his way through. Refusing KSP Officer LaPlante’s (Chet Grissom) direction to get out of the truck, Dewey announces himself and his belief that he’s an untouchable due to his successful civil suit. He runs the roadblock, has a tire shot out, and with the Deputy Marshals in pursuit, leads them on a brief chase until he loses control and crashes. While Raylan roughly gets Dewey under control, Tim finds a large duffle bag in the trunk of the car on tow. They force Dewey to open it just as the KSP vehicles arrive.

Much to everyone’s surprise, including Dewey’s, it’s full of nothing but clothing. The Deputy Marshals realize that following Boyd and his crew would have been much more productive for at that same moment, they are taking down the bank Boyd had visited earlier.

With hooded ski masks and shotguns, Boyd and his crew barge into the bank, fire some buckshot into the ceiling, put everyone on the floor and use their winch-equipped pick-up truck to rip out the bank of safety deposit boxes which Boyd identifies with an ultraviolet light from the substance he had sprayed on previously.

After the robbery crew makes a successful escape, Raylan and Tim join the responding police to inspect the scene, and ruefully second guess Tim’s decision to trail Dewey rather than Boyd and his crew.

That evening Raylan reaches out to Ava and they meet on the bridge. He leans on her for not holding up her end and not providing information about Boyd’s banking activities. She’s having a crisis of confidence, so Raylan gives her a pep talk about her already proven abilities, citing the “acting job” she’d done just before killing her first husband Bowman. She leaves the bridge with renewed confidence.

In the rear of the Crowder bar, Boyd, The Pig (Shawn Parsons), Earl and Carl inspect their take from the broken open safety deposit boxes. There doesn’t seem to be any money. Boyd, however, thinks the ledger they have retrieved was worth the effort but doesn’t explain.

Raylan pays a call on Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen (Nick Searcy), recuperating at home from his near fatal gunshot wound (“Justified: The Toll (#5.11)“). The problem child has brought Art a fine bottle of aged bourbon, but the man cannot partake. The wise old Chief knows this isn’t really a social call about Raylan’s daughter being baptized a Catholic, and with no prodding, in general terms Raylan explains his dilemma. Art reaches for the bottle, pours a short glass and refines the problem, pointing out that if Raylan kills Boyd in a confrontation, while that would take care of the Boyd problem, Raylan would lose both his badge and his liberty, and would only see Willa through the glass of a prison visiting room window. He also notes that the “other thing” could happen in a showdown, that the bullet could find him.

A distressed Dewey barges into Boyd’s back room and complains that Boyd set him up. Crowder responds forcefully that Dewey was hired only to do a job, and that he did it. Dewey is despondent, and complains, “I’m tired! I want to go back.” He lets loose with a plaintive reminiscence about how he way things used to be, a happier, simpler time when they were a bunch of white supremacists living together is Boyd’s church, drinking ‘shine, listening to rock ‘n’ roll and raising hell, having fun.

Boyd sends Carl for a couple drinks for him and Dewey, then confides in the man that he’s tired as well. He points to an ancient photograph on the wall of a bunch of grimy-faced miners from the early days of a prosperous Harlan County, and the promise of the future in their eyes. He encourages Dewey to take a closer look. The dit-witted Crowe, never suspecting he’s moments away from the eternal slurry nap, leans in and is shot in the head by Boyd.

An alarmed Carl rushes in and aghast, asks Boyd the WTF? question. Boyd simply says, “I could no longer trust him,” then directs Carl to wait 20 minutes, then wrap Dewey’s body in a carpet and dispose of it where it will never be found.

Later, Ava lies sleeping while a troubled Boyd sits beside their bed, pondering their situation.


 

FX Network’s CEO John Landgraf knows the way to a critic’s heart: pie charts. Or, certain kinds of pie charts. Great shows are the true key to our happiness, and news that the wait for “Louie‘s” return would be over on Thursday, April 9, when it premieres at 10:30pm on FX, with Billy Crystal and Josh Gad‘s new series “The Comedians” making its debut at 10pm, delighted a number of us in the room.

But back to the pie charts. We don’t love them all, or most of them really, but we do love it when they stroke our egos. The industry’s most avuncular executive preceded his Sunday morning question and answer session at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour with a barrage of stats about FX’s strategy and strengths, then displayed slides breaking down the representation of series on critics’ end of 2014 Top 10 lists by network. Explaining that the popular perception remains that HBO represents the highest quality programming on television, Landgraf had his staff crunch the numbers not by ratings, but acclaim. They found that FX far and away comes in second place to HBO among professional TV viewers, with AMC’s programs scoring a more distant third place.

“We’re not trying to be the highest rated channel on television,” Landgraf said to critics. “We’re trying as hard as we possibly can to be the best channel in television, whatever that means.”

To that end, the basic cable network is attracting talent such as Crystal, and others like Denis Leary are choosing to return to work for FX again. Leary’s “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” which stars John Corbett (who previously worked with FX on “Lucky“) is premiering this summer, and a comedy pilot from Donald Glover, “Atlanta,” is set to film this spring.

Joining the roster of pilots in production is “Better Things,” created by and starring Pamela Adlon, and directed by Louis C.K. The story follows Adlon’s character Sam, a working actor and single mom who, according to the press release, is “trying to earn a living, navigate her daughters’ lives, have fun with a friend or two, and also – just maybe – squeeze in some sex once in a while. ”

FX has also acquired the television rights to air C.K.’s next standup special, “Louis C.K. Live From the Comedy Store.” Before it airs on FX, C.K. will make the special available on his website, LouisCK.net, after his run of shows at Madison Square Garden.

“Better Things” is part of a deal FX has Louis C.K. and his production company, Pig Newton, to create series for the FX family of networks.


Summer or winter, on any given day during a Television Critics Association’s Press Tour we get a mixed bag of news. Such was the case during Fox’s Saturday morning session, when top execs announced very early second season pick-ups for “Empire” and “Gotham,” as well as a third season renewal for “Brooklyn Nine Nine.” All fine and good. Then came the not-so-great news when a journalist inquired about the fate of “Sleepy Hollow.” Fox co-Chairman and CEO Dana Walden, who appeared before critics beside fellow top exec Gary Newman, said in the nicest way possible that it’s future is still not certain.

Naturally they remain optimistic about a third season for “Sleepy Hollow” — network executives tend to be optimistic about a struggling show’s future when they’re facing a room filled with television reporters –although they’re not positive enough to greenlight season three prior to May upfronts. Walden insisted, however, that the show’s fate is not sealed.

“As part of our diagnostic process that we do on any show, we looked at what was working and not working,” Walden told critics in attendance. She went on to praise “Sleepy Hollow” for attempting to balance its high level of storytelling difficulty, explaining that “it’s a relationship show, it’s a period drama, you have iconic characters, you’re trying to solve mysteries. And the show got a little overly serialized this season.”

Walden reiterated that the network only wants to return the fun to the series, and is proposing that the writers strive for more closed-ended stories versus leaning too heavily on serialized elements. That’s certainly fair, and fans would probably agree that a few ingredients in the “Sleepy Hollow” mix need to either be changed or, perhaps, recede to the background. (Like, say, Katrina?)

However, whenever a network executive starts talking about formula-tinkering, fans are correct to be concerned, especially when the conversation centers upon reducing the serialized elements of a show whose central idea is fueled by serialized storytelling. (This is the kind of conversation that led to a largely pointless third season of “Veronica Mars.“) “Sleepy Hollow” is a show about fending off the Apocalypse and stopping the Four Horsemen. We’ve already spent time with two of them. How much more contained do the execs want its episodes to be?

Returning to the morning’s good news, “Empire’s” renewal makes perfect sense, even though it has only aired two episodes. The drama’s initial whopping ratings success, in which it surpassed “American Idol” in the network’s target 18-49 demographic, and the fact that it increased its ratings in the demo by 5 percent in week two, is enough of an indicator that Fox has hit on something with “Empire.” It also has the benefit of potential revenue from album sales; Timbaland’s production influence is all over each episode, and the featured tracks the show has debuted so far are impressive.

The renewal of “Gotham” was pretty much a foregone conclusion among many industry insiders, given the sustained power of the Batman franchise. The Monday night drama still has work to do on its storytelling and pacing; the writers go through massive contortions at times in order to connect Bruce Wayne, James Gordon and the rest of these familiar characters. But strong performances by its stars Ben McKenzie, Jada Pinkett Smith, Donal Logue and particularly Robin Lord Taylor’s breakout portrayal of The Penguin, are enough to earn “Gotham” more time to find its footing.

Walden also praised “Brooklyn Nine Nine” for its ability to fit into the network’s mostly animated Sunday night line-up, an accomplishment that has eluded many live-action comedies Fox has previously tried out on Sundays.

In addition to these announcements, Fox announced that Lea MicheleJoe Manganiello, Keke Palmer and Abigail Breslin  have joined “Scream Queens,” the next project from Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, and Brad Falchuk that currently has Emma Roberts attached. Ariana Grande will also recur as a guest star. Execs also revealed that Julianne Hough is set to play Sandy in the network’s previously announced “Grease: Live” event telecast, with Vanessa Hudgens cast as Rizzo.  “Grease: Live” is set to debut Sunday, January 31, 2016.

Fox suits also teased that there have been discussions about doing another limited-event series version of “24” without Jack Bauer — think about that for a moment — and confirmed that they have been chatting with Chris Carter about possibly rebooting “The X-Files” for a new generation of viewers. Carter recently created another supernatural-themed series, “The After,” for Amazon; it was picked up to series, but Amazon declined to move forward with the project.*

Correction Note: The title of “The After” was incorrect in a previously published version of this article.

 

“There is no need for unnecessary suffering. Human emotions are a gift from our animal ancestors. Cruelty is a gift humanity has given itself.”

From your lips to NBC’s ears, Dr. Lecter. On Friday morning, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt dealt a blow to rabid Fannibals, revealing that the third season of “Hannibal” will not premiere until summertime. At least viewers who have patiently wondering when a premiere date announcement would be made now have a ballpark estimate for its return.

On the other hand, this is January. That’s a long wait.  But remove the passion from this news, and look at the show’s business sheet. Highly respected as “Hannibal” may be among critics and loyal viewers, it is never going to gain a huge audience. That Gaumont International Television produces the drama means it’s less of a financial burden for NBC; Gaumont also markets the series globally, which makes up for its ratings shortcomings in the U.S.  And there is a bright side: summertime is not the burn-off season that it once was.  CBS has scheduled high-profile originals such as “Extant” and “Under the Dome” for the summer, for example, and cable has always premiered some of the best-loved shows on television during the year’s warmest months. “Hannibal” will likely be a stand-out on the schedule.

“Hannibal’s” scheduling, such as it is, was revealed during the executive session on NBC’s day at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour, currently underway in Pasadena, following a number of casting and production announcements.

Remember “Heroes Reborn“? The still-happening event series now has Zachary Levi joining Jack Coleman in the cast, although NBC has yet to set a premiere date for that, either. And while Greenblatt did not have specific news about NBC’s plans for this year’s live musical, he did say the network has secured the rights to “The Wiz,” which means that musical has joined the running for consideration alongside “The Music Man.” As a reminder, ABC broadcast a movie version of the musical in 2003 that starred Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth, although that didn’t exactly become an indelible classic.

The network also has ordered 13 episodes of a single camera comedy titled “Telenovela,” produced by and starring Eva Longoria. (Longoria, who appeared during an earlier Press Tour session to talk about a documentary she’s executive producing for ESPN, hinted then that an announcement about her return to being in front of the camera was forthcoming.) The sitcom looks at the escàndalos that occur behind-the-scenes of a very popular Latin American series.

NBC also is creating an eight-episode miniseries called “Freedom Run,” based on Pulitzer Prize finalist Betty DeRamus’s book “Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad,” to be executive produced by Stevie Wonder. Greenblatt added that NBC is developing a series of two-hour TV movies to be based on the songs, stories and life of Dolly Parton.

NBC execs reaffirmed the network’s straight-to-series commitment for “Shades of Blue,” the cop drama starring Jennifer Lopez , about a single mother and a detective recruited to work undercover for an FBI anti-corruption task force. Greenblatt teased that Lopez’s role would be reminiscent of the character she played in the film that made her a movie star, 1998′s Out of Sight.

Before that arrives, we’ll see David Duchovny‘s vehicle “Aquarius,” which casts the “Californication” star as a ’60s-era cop tracking the notorious Charles Manson.

 

 

Press Tour wouldn’t be Press Tour without a few stunningly thoughtless questions posed to panels of actors and producers.

Most of the terrible questions that get asked as part of the Television Critics Association’s press conferences don’t turn up in articles. We keep them as Press Tour war stories to be hauled out for our own entertainment later on. Plus, we’re all just trying to do our jobs here. Nobody’s perfect. Cover this beat long enough, and attend enough TCA events, and a person is bound to bungle a few questions. Besides, to the millions of folks who aren’t here, a minor gaffe at an industry event simply isn’t interesting.

But every now and again, someone sputters out a verbal air biscuit that leaves the room reeling while also speaking to a larger conversation about a show. This is precisely what happened Wednesday morning during the panel for “Fresh Off the Boat,” ABC’s midseason sitcom based on the bestselling memoir by celebrity chef Eddie Huang.  Starring Randall Park and Constance Wu, “Fresh Off the Boat” is the only sitcom on television that stars Asian actors and captures one view of what it’s like to grow up Asian in America.

And what, some may ask, makes that experience unique among minorities? For the “Fresh Off the Boat” cast and producers, nearly all of whom were born in the U.S., it means getting a question like this in a forum where people really should know better: “I love the Asian culture. And I was just talking about the chopsticks, and I just love all that. Will I get to see that, or will it be more Americanized?”*

Yes. That happened.

This may be the most ignorant question spoken in this room in a long time,  but it also demonstrates why television desperately needs “Fresh Off the Boat” and more shows like it. Comedies and dramas that deftly employ universal themes and humor that resonate with the wider audience, featuring minority-led casts that don’t ignore said cast’s ethnicity, are still uncommon.  In fact, ABC is the home to more series featuring non-white leads than any other broadcast network. Think “black-ish,” “Scandal,” “Cristela,” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”  Amazingly, in 2015, ABC’s insistence on diversity is met with a sense of awe, and an implication that what the Alphabet network is doing is a bold experiment.

In the case of “Fresh Off the Boat,” maybe it is. Networks have a long history of waxing and waning on the diversity front, though the occasional industry-wide pushes for diversity every few seasons tends to benefit African American and, to a far lesser extent, Latino actors. “Cristela” and “black-ish” may not be monster hits, but they still have mass appeal, and are not required to divorce the culture of their characters from the story. Credit the success of Norman Lear‘s comedies in the ’70s, “The Jeffersons,” “Sanford and Son”, and just as significantly, “The Cosby Show” in the ’80s, for that.

Can you remember the last time a series gave us a view of life from an Asian American perspective? There was 1994′s “All-American Girl,” the short-lived and quickly whitewashed sitcom vehicle for Margaret Cho that nearly killed her. (It also aired on ABC.)  The show only focused on Cho’s character and her family briefly before revamping into a weak “Friends” clone, then disappearing altogether. For years after its demise, shows cast an Asian friend now and again, but it took until 2005 before audiences got a deeply complex, powerful Asian character in “Grey’s Anatomy‘s” Cristina Yang. So yes — there have been strides.

Then again, see: “2 Broke Girls.” As long as characters like Han Lee are still on TV, well, one can understand why somebody would think that it’s perfectly reasonable to ask a cast of Asian actors if their eating utensils will play a prominent role in a comedy about so much more than their cultural experience.

“The thing is it’s important to have, for me, [is] a qualified support for the show, to make sure the show stays authentic, the show stays responsible to the book and the Asian community and people of color in America in general,” Huang explained to the TV reporters in the room. “I believe the show is doing that, and I believe the show is very strategic and smart in how it’s opening things up.”

In its first episode, “Fresh Off the Boat” dives into the absurdity that can be found when one moves from a large, multi-ethnic city (Washington D.C.) to a homogenous Florida neighborhood; the universal appeal of hip-hop to outsiders and its caché within the dominant culture; and the odd, clique-ish behavior that exists within suburbia. The same episode also shows what happens when its young central character,  Eddie Huang (played by Hudson Yang), gets slapped by a racial slur.

Through it all, the rap music-obssessed Eddie has the same concerns as any kid his age would have. He’s trying to fit in at his new school but he doesn’t eat the right food, or wear the right shoes. He just out there trying to survive. No wonder he idolizes Nas and Biggie Smalls — their music extols the virtues of hustling to get rich and getting over, ideals that many consider to be the at the heart of the American dream.

“In America, I’m a foreigner because of my Korean heritage,” Cho once said. “In Asia, because I was born in America, I’m a foreigner. I’m always a foreigner.”  Nowadays Cho is a personality known for her comedy and for her outspoken support of gender equality and LGBT rights. She’s currently a co-host of a TLC’s weekly series “All About Sex,” where she serves as the show’s expert on alternative sexuality.  With time, and more television series that expose viewers to artists like Cho and stories like the ones told in “Fresh Off the Boat” — American stories with a different flavor — the day will come when Asian culture is fully recognized as an aspect of American culture. On that day, nobody’s going to care about the chopsticks.

(*I want to make it clear that this question was not posed by an official TCA member; the networks are free to credential anyone they like. In most cases, it works out fine and in fact, a number of the non-TCA folks in the room ask very intelligent questions on a regular basis. But sometimes, we get moments like this. )

Amazon Sets “Bosch” Premiere

January 14th, 2015 | Posted by Melanie McFarland in Amazon Studios | Prime Instant Video - (Comments Off)


Hot off of “Transparent’s” two Golden Globe wins,  Amazon Studios announced the premiere date for its cop drama “Bosch,” starring Titus Welliver. All 10 episodes of “Bosch” will be available for streaming on Prime Instant Video beginning Friday, February 13. The series will be available to viewers in the US, the UK, and in Germany.

Based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling books, “Bosch” stars Titus Welliver as Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective Harry Bosch, who is on trial for the fatal shooting of a suspected serial killer as the series begins. Bosch can’t bring himself to stop working, and during the course of what should be a shift, he stumbles upon a cold case involving the murder of a 13-year-old boy.

‘Bosch” co-stars  Jamie Hector as Harry’s partner Jerry Edgar, Amy Aquino as Lt. Grace Billets, Lance Reddick as Deputy Chief Irvin Irving, and Annie Wersching  as Julia Brasher. Sarah Clarke and Jason Gedrick also star, along with guest star appearances by Scott Wilson as Dr. Guyot and Troy Evans. The series was developed for television by Eric Overmyer, who serves as an executive producer along with Connelly and Henrik Bastin.

The first season combines plot details from Connelly’s books City of Bones (2002), The Concrete Blonde (1994) and Echo Park (2006).

“Bosch’s” pilot episode is available now on Amazon.

Confirmed: Kyle MacLachlan will once again be entering the town of Twin Peaks, five miles south of the Canadian border, twelve miles west of the state line. The actor appeared onstage at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour, officially reclaiming the role of Special Agent Dale Cooper when Showtime’s resurrected version of “Twin Peaks” premieres. Sadly, that case won’t open until 2016, but as far as press announcements go? That is a damn fine cup of coffee.

The premium channel also announced a 10-episode pick-up for “Happyish,”starring Kathryn Hahn and Steve Coogan. The new comedy premieres at 9:30pm Sunday, April 26, leading into the highly-anticipated second season premiere of “Penny Dreadful.” Two weeks before that, the channel kicks off the final season of “Nurse Jackie” at 9pm Sunday, April 12.