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HBO Sets “True Blood” Second Season Premiere

March 31st, 2009 | Posted by Melanie McFarland in Commentary | TV News - (Comments Off)
"True Blood" cast, from left: Kristin Bauer, Alexander Skarsgard, Patrick Gallagher

"True Blood" cast, from left: Kristin Bauer, Alexander Skarsgard, Patrick Gallagher. Credit: HBO/Jaimie Trueblood

Waiting for a favorite show to return whets the appetite, especially when you throw a cliffhanger into the mix.  “True Blood” fans must be elated, then, to learn that HBO has confirmed the second season’s premiere date: June 14.  Notice that’s confirming, not announcing, because said date has been posted on various sites – included – for some time before this announcement. (Warning: Those who have not seen the first season of “True Blood” should stop reading now, lest ye be spoiled.)

The premium cable channel also was kind enough to release a few second season photos, which can be found here. The one in this post happens to be a favorite because, well, check out the track suits. Vamps in track suits. Bela Lugosi really is dead.  Between their stances and their threads, this photo makes it look like somebody is either about to get served (as in dinner) or get served (as in a poppin’-n-lockin’ battle straight out of “Breakin’.”).

But I digress…the photos and season premiere confirmation are nice treats, but they give no clues about the first season finale’s big mystery: Is Lafayette done for? His alter ego Nelsan Ellis and series creator Alan Ball have teased fans for months, refusing to deliver a definitive answer.  (Who can blame them? It’s been a while since an HBO season finale inspired such anxiety among viewers.) In Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, the character dies.  Then again, from what we understand, the Lafayette on the page was not the larger-than-life figure that Ellis created for the show. “True Blood’s” fans adored Lafayette. Even casual viewers couldn’t help liking the guy.

Ball may end up being loyal to the source material, but this is television. The man can twist the plot in whichever ways he desires, as he proved to us time and again throughout the run of “Six Feet Under.”

Not enough comfort for you? Fans in the Los Angeles area on April 13 might be able to pry some answers out of Ball when he and the cast chat about “True Blood” as part of Paley Fest ’09.  Notice that Ellis is included on the list of castmembers currently scheduled to appear. Granted, that could mean nothing if the aim of the discussion is dissecting the show’s first season, but other actors whose characters have gone beyond the veil (including Lois Smith, Michael Raymond-James, and Stephen Root) aren’t on the current roster.  Make of that what you will…

Barack Obama in a pre-election "Tonight Show" appearance. The President is scheduled to appear on Thursday's episode.

Barack Obama in a pre-election "Tonight Show" appearance. The President is scheduled to appear on Thursday's episode.

NBC announced that Barack Obama will make history this week, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to appear on a late night talk show.

The president is scheduled to visit “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on Thursday. According to the network’s press release, his agenda includes a discussion of his economic plan.

Naturally other topics that aren’t part of the vetted, pre-game talking points are bound to pop up. For example oh, I don’t know, a few blush-inducing jokes about AIG’s multimillion dollar executive bonus payout?

NewsDesk partner points out in its article:

“Even while campaigning, Obama has gained popularity as a celebrity as much as a politician. Thus, the appearance on the show will bridge the ends between news and entertainment where audience is not limited to political-oriented people. On being placed between the two, Brookings Institution expert Darrell M.West commented, ‘That’s the group he needs to convince that he’s doing a good job and his budget makes sense.’ “

In separate article from NewsDesk partner, writer Anna Dimond reported, “When asked if Obama would be funny, an official promised he’d be ‘[a]s funny as the times allow.’”

But reaction hasn’t been universally rosy. An article in Obama’s hometown newspaper the Chicago Tribune called this development “every bit as calculated as a Hollywood studio’s campaign for a new blockbuster.”

The full episode will be available for viewing on the IMDb’s video page  Friday morning.

Eliza Dushku stars in Fox's "Dollhouse," Fridays at 9 ET/PT.

Eliza Dushku stars in Fox's "Dollhouse," Fridays at 9 ET/PT.

We want it to work. We drooled over the buzz…and yet, so many fans seem disappointed in Fox’s “Dollhouse.”  True, it has served up a weak brew in its initial episodes, and ratings aren’t what they should be (although last Friday’s numbers were up — a good sign). Even so, it’s a Joss Whedon series, and knowing that is enough to keep the faithful hanging on.  The man hasn’t broken our hearts yet, which is more than you can say of many TV auteurs.

Now Whedon wants to assure us that our patience will soon be rewarded. In a recent note to critics, he promised that this week’s episode, “Man on the Street,”  will increase the intensity. If that tease isn’t tasty enough for you, how about this — has pictures from the set of the actor rumored to be playing Echo’s mysterious nemesis Alpha. For that matter, he’s already listed in the credits for an upcoming episode on IMDb. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t click here, or here, or here.  Consider yourself warned.

Check out previous episodes on IMDb whenever you want, and discuss the series with other users on our message boards.

syfylogoOdds and ends from around the T’Verse:

–As of July 7, Sci Fi Channel will be known as Syfy, and its new slogan will be “Imagine Greater.” Please make a note of it. (Additionally, Sci Fi Channel’s parent company NBC Universal also purchased the name of popular site, forcing some rebranding on that end as well.)

Granted, Syfy will still sound just like Sci Fi when people ask which cable channel airs “Eureka.”  But according to an NBC U press release:

“By changing the name to Syfy…the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider and more diverse range of imagination-based entertainment including fantasy, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure, as well as science fiction.”

In other words, Syfy shall remain the go-to destination for viewers seeking such wonderstuff as Mansquito and the upcoming Knights of Bloodsteel, which features Christopher Lloyd wearing elf ears. Great Scott, indeed.

– According to The Live Feed, relatively positive critical reception did not help  NBC’s midseason premiere of “Kings” conquer the ratings. Raking in a mere 6 million viewers according to the overnight ratings,  the only title it won was lowest-rated program between 8 and 11 p.m. on a major broadcast network. Ouch. (Watch the first episode here.)

David Chase is developing a miniseries for HBO titled “A Ribbon of Dreams,” which takes its name from Orson Welles‘ quote, “A film is a ribbon of dreams.”  He will write and executive produce the miniseries as well as direct the initial episodes. From the press release:

“The miniseries will follow the two main characters as they begin as employees of D.W. Griffith, and then cross career paths with John Ford, John Wayne, Raoul Walsh, Bette Davis, Billy Wilder and others who gave shape to Hollywood as it grew from the age of rough-hewn silent Westerns, to the golden era of talkies and the studio system, to the auteur movement, to television, and finally to the present day.”

In other words, you might want to keep that HBO subscription for a little while longer.

Henry Rollins guests on “Sons of Anarchy”

March 16th, 2009 | Posted by Melanie McFarland in Casting alert - (Comments Off)
Henry Rollins guest stars on "Sons of Anarchy."

Henry Rollins guest stars on "Sons of Anarchy."

Punk rock pioneer. Spoken word artist. Talk show host. And now, biker baddie? Heck, why not — the role’s not exactly out of line with Henry Rollins‘ image.

The word from FX: Rollins (and the tattooed pythons he calls his arms) will guest star in six episodes of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” when it returns in the fall for its second season. According to a press release Rollins, best known as the frontman of the seminal punk band Black Flag, will play an antagonist “who poses a deadly threat to the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club. ” Can’t wait to see him play off of Ron Perlman and Charlie Hunnam.

His last regular TV gig was hosting IFC’s “The Henry Rollins Show.”

While FX is likely to air the first season’s episodes prior to the second season premiere, you can find video recaps and other clips from past episodes on by clicking here.

Jillian Harris is the new "Bachelorette." Copyright ABC; used with permission.

Jillian Harris is the new "Bachelorette." Copyright ABC; used with permission.

It’s never too early to plan those season finale viewing parties.

ABC has announced season end dates for its most popular series as well as recent premieres. The network also set a return date for “Ugly Betty,” which steps aside after this Thursday’s episode to make way for the midseason premiere of “In the Motherhood” and the return of “Samantha Who?

A date also has been set for the premiere of the next edition of “The Bachelorette” starring Jillian Harris.  Harris was one of the contenders for Jason Mesnick‘s heart who remains sanguine about her search for love.

Jillian will begin her romantic quest on May 18. “Betty” returns May 7.

As for the other programs users care most about, “Lost” will air its two hour season finale on Wednesday, May 13. “Grey’s Anatomy” checks out for the season on Thursday, May 14, and “Desperate Housewives” has its two-hour summertime sign-off on Sunday, May 17. “Dancing with the Stars” crowns its victor on Tuesday, May 19, and “Ugly Betty” airs its season finale on Thursday, May 21.

Read on for ABC’s entire list of finale dates;  premieres and returns are in bold.


It’s the Colbert Nation Versus…The Browncoats?

March 13th, 2009 | Posted by Melanie McFarland in Commentary - (Comments Off)
Stephen Colbert points to his next target.

Stephen Colbert points at his next target. (Click on this image to see a video clip.)

Comedy Central’s King of Fake News Jon Stewart sent the hype machine into overdrive this week because of the media manufactured “war” between him and CNBC news personality and “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer — who, as you probably already know,  is his Thursday night guest.

Not to be outdone, Stephen Colbert has mounted a publicity stunt of his own: he has rallied his faithful in the hopes of getting his name on NASA’s International Space Station Node 3.  You see, NASA kindly asked the public to suggest a name for the node on its website. Colbert’s folks caught wind of the request, and as the kids would say, it was on.

“The Colbert Report” host has never met a write-in naming campaign that he couldn’t get his fans to vote-bomb. Among the things the Nation has gotten named in his honor (and at Colbert’s request) were a hockey mascot and a Hungarian bridge. The former remains; as for the latter, it turns out Colbert didn’t meet the qualifications to make it official. For one thing, he’s still alive.

Colbert’s DNA was sent into the black quite some time ago, but it’s not like anyone will be able to see it and know that it’s his. Writing his name on NASA hardware orbiting the planet, on the other hand,  makes it quite clear to every literate English-speaking Earthling (particularly those with incredibly powerful telescopes) that he rules us.

Anyway, Colbert launched his campaign last week, and mere hours after waking the beast that is the Colbert Nation, he beat Xenu for the top write-in slot.  “Colbert” has been topping the suggested names list ever since. So it would seem the man has this contest zipped up…except for one small detail.

Check out NASA’s in-house suggestions. Serenity is far and away the leader. “Come on! Serenity?” Colbert huffed on Wednesday night’s “Colbert Report” on Comedy Central. “That’s not a space module, that’s a Glade plug-in.”

That may be. But it’s also the name of a spaceship much adored by fans of Joss Whedon’s cult sci-fi series “Firefly.” Those folks, by the way, are known as Browncoats, and a full six years after the series left the air, they’re still very organized.  This post we found today shows that they may have been voting since the end of February — several days before Colbert put out his call.  Mr. Colbert, if you really want this one, you would do well to appeal to your adversaries…especially because many of them are probably fans of yours as well.  See what the fuss is about on our message boards for “Firefly” and “The Colbert Report.”

UPDATE: The Associated Press reports that by mid-day Tuesday, Colbert’s name had 115,000 votes while “Serenity” was running in second with about 98,000 votes.  Not that we’re taking a side or anything but…step it up, Browncoats!

Tonight’s “ER”: It’s a Reunion!

March 12th, 2009 | Posted by Melanie McFarland in Commentary - (Comments Off)
George Clooney as Dr. Doug Ross

George Clooney as Dr. Doug Ross

Let’s be honest — a lot of people who watched “ER” in its heyday checked out of County General a long time ago. There are only so many hostage situations, helicopter crashes, rogue tanks and hunk departures that a person can take from one show. And for a while there the docs at Seattle Grace were a heckuva lot sexier.

With that in mind, NBC has been working overtime to reinvigorate interest in its veteran medical drama for its 15th and final season. Tonight’s episode promises a parade of returning cast, a guest star turn from Susan Sarandon and, it has been widely reported, a visit from Dr. Doug Ross — none other than George Clooney.

The question of whether Clooney would return to the show has been on people’s minds ever since NBC announced that this would be “ER’s” last season,  and the actor has been mum about it for all these months. Why not? He’s a respected A-lister whose career isn’t exactly slowing down.

Then again, Clooney has a reputation for being a gracious guy,  so one would imagine that if John Wells asked him to return to say goodbye to the fans, the actor wouldn’t deny his request. Especially considering that Clooney  would not be where he is today without “ER” and Dr. Ross.

NBC managed to stay mum on the subject until recently, when rumors of his alleged return started to hum. Then late yesterday and early today several sites announced that according to “show sources,” Clooney would be returning tonight.  Keep in mind, NBC has not officially confirmed anything, and producers could be pulling one over on us here…but with only four episodes left and viewer interest not exactly spiking the ratings, yanking the rug out from under the audience would not be the wisest move.

If he does indeed show up, Clooney will join Noah Wyle, who returned as Dr. John Carter on the Feb. 19 episode, as well as Eriq LaSalle’s Dr. Peter Benton and, naturally, Julianna Margulies. Because we couldn’t fully enjoy the return of Doug Ross without seeing him canoodle with the woman he married, Nurse Carol Hathaway.

Keeley Hawes and Phillip Glenister in "Ashes to Ashes," from BBC America.

Keeley Hawes and Phillip Glenister in "Ashes to Ashes," from BBC America.

Though anyone who saw the original British version of “Life on Mars” likely saw the demise of Americanized version as inevitable, loyal viewers of the Wednesday night program must have been upset. Interestingly, the ABC drama’s ratings increased by around 24 percent shortly after the network announced it was putting it down. Lots of people must have tuned in to see if they were going to miss it when it was gone.

Fortunately BBC America has a balm for “Life on Mars’” fans: The cable channel premiered the original’s spinoff, “Ashes to Ashes,” on Saturday. “Ashes” conceit is virtually the same as that of “Mars,” and that familiarity also proves to be its weakness. In “Mars,”  DCI Sam Tyler’s quest was to figure out the mystery of why his accident thrust him back to the early ’70s. As such the sci-fi drama was a journey of self-discovery, an examination of identity and, as others have pointed out,  an existential exploration.

But as “Ashes” begins DI Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) is well aware of what happened to Tyler because she read his psychiatric file (stamped, we should add, with an indicator that he committed suicide).  During a call Drake has an unfortunate meeting with a perp’s bullet, and wakes up in 1981, working for Tyler’s  boss DCI Gene Hunt (Phillip Glenister). In essence, “Ashes” is a vehicle for the always excellent Glenister to take Hunt out for a strut a few more times and for fans to revel in his return – and cringe at the horrific fashion from the era.

There isn’t much in the way of reinvention with “Ashes,” but it’s pretty good fun on a Saturday night if you’d rather watch a TV show than a movie edited for television.  Click here for a video clip.

Here’s one final “L Word” for you: Lousy!

March 10th, 2009 | Posted by Melanie McFarland in Commentary - (Comments Off)
L-Word to fans: Smell ya later!

L-Word to fans: Smell ya later!

Universally pleasing series finales are among the rarest things known to humankind.

But it takes a special kind of series to complete botch it with an ending so flimsy that  it leaves the die-hard fans who saw nothing wrong with the worst of season howling foul. Ladies and gents, we give you “The L Word’s” final bow, which ran over its usual hour by five minutes and still achieved very little in the way of wrapping things up.

**Spoilers ahoy.**

Now, this is not to say that any series is obligated to put a bow on every little aspect of its storytelling. Far from it. Some of the best shows have ended with little more than shuttering the window to their worlds, leaving us with the satisfaction or acceptable frustration that their fictional lives would continue even as our invitation to bear witness had expired.

“The L Word,” on the other hand, dangled the carrot of a murder mystery at the beginning of the season — not just any murder either, but the murder of one of TV’s most irritating characters,  Jenny Schecter. Jenny was responsible for many drinks and pies being thrown at TV screens over “The L Word’s” six season run. She was fabulously awful, the personification of acrylic nails dragging across a chalkboard. She needed to go. Here’s a wonderful clip that really shows Jenny at her most annoying (and Alice Pieszecki at her best).

And glory be, the show (allegedly) was going to give us our wish. “Who killed Jenny?” Showtime’s promo department cooed as the season began. Yes! Jenny Schecter was going to take one in the bobo! Of course we had to watch.

But when the moment of truth arrived at the end of the series finale, “Last Word,” — no answers! Not a one! Not even a hint! It just ended with the ladies walking in slo-mo toward us, making love to the camera with their whitened smiles and fabulous couture as a noir-ish version of the World’s Worst Theme Song vamped behind them. Twelve year olds orchestrating the Silent Treatment have nothing on “The L Word” when it comes to cruel withholding.

Mind you, executive producer Ilene Chaiken might have held this information back to give fans a reason to tune in to the spinoff starring Leisha Hailey which, according to a top Showtime executive, opens with Alice in prison. (That doesn’t mean she did the deed. Heck, that detail might not even be true.) Nevertheless, this is cold comfort to fans a day after the fact. News Desk partner addressed fan reaction here. summed up this viewer’s feelings fairly well in its headline: “‘Last Word’ of ‘The L Word: Lame, Lacking, Legacy-Tarnishing,” but perhaps not as well as user imdbfreakk, who answered the message board question “OK, What’d Ya Think of the Finale” with, “UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.”  Right there with you, friend. Right there with you.

What did you think? Was it Luscious, or Ludicrous? Discuss it with other users on the message boards for “The L Word.”