Thursday, September 11, 2014

For TV Fans, Fall Is The Best Time Of The Year


Fall means the end of summer for most people, but it is the time of year that most TV fans look forward to.  It’s the time when most shows come back from their long summer break and return to the airwaves with new episodes.   This year is no different.  While some shows will wait until October to make their return, most shows are returning this month.  It’s also the time of the year when most new shows will make their debut. 

There are a few shows that I’m looking forward to seeing based on what I know about them so far.  One of them is CBS ‘Scorpion.’  The series is loosely based on IT genius Walter O’Brien, who recruits other geniuses to help solve the complex problems of the world.  It stars Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick, Katherine McPhee, and former Game of Thrones actor, Elyes Gabel.  It premieres September 22nd at 9, on CBS. 

Another show I’m looking forward to is FOX’s limited series ‘Gracepoint.’  It stars Breaking Bad star Anna Gunn, former Doctor Who actor David Tennant, and Nick Nolte.  This series is a remake of the UK drama ‘Broadchurch,’ in which Tennant also starred, but in a different role.  The show follows the investigation into the murder of young boy in a small California seaside town.  The media frenzy that ensues throws the entire town and the lives of its residents into turmoil.  ‘Gracepoint’ will last for 10 episodes and premieres Thursday, October 2nd at 9 on FOX.

FOX’s ‘Gotham’ is a show that is generating a lot of buzz.  When the show was originally conceived, it was to follow the early career of Batman’s Commissioner Gordon on the Gotham City Police Force.  However, the show evolved and will now tell the origin stories of the characters of Bruce Wayne, and several Batman villains such as Penguin, The Riddler, Catwoman, The Joker, and Harvey Dent, among others.  Southland’s Ben McKenzie is playing the legendary police commissioner.  The series will premiere September 22nd at 8 on FOX. 

One more show that seems intriguing is FOX’s ‘Red Band Society.’  This show centers on a group of teenagers living together in a hospital’s pediatric ward, and the staff members who often serve as their teachers, mentors and surrogate parents in addition to overseeing their medical care.   The show comes from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin television production company, and it stars Oscar winner Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable. FOX has already put the premiere On Demand if you don’t want to wait to watch it.  ‘Red Band Society’ premieres on September 17th at 9 on FOX. 

Then, of course, we have the returning shows.  There a quite a few notable returns that will happen in September and October.  A couple of them are entering their last seasons.   HBO’s Boardwalk Empire will premiere its final season on Sunday, September 7th and the final season of Sons of Anarchy will hit the airwaves with a 90 minute season premiere on Sunday September 9th on FX. 

Here are some other new and returning shows of note:

·         Dancing With The Stars – ABC, September 15th at 8. 
·         The Good Wife – CBS, September 21st at 9.
·         The Blacklist – NBC, September 22nd at 10.
·         The Big Bang Theory – CBS, September 22nd at 8.
·         The Voice – NBC, September 22nd at 8.
·         Survivor – CBS, September 24th at 8.
·         Modern Family – ABC, September 24th at 9.
·         Scandal – ABC, September 25th at 9. 
·         Homeland – Showtime, October 5th at 9.
·         The Walking Dead – AMC, October 12th at 9.


Bill's TV Mailbag


From time to time my column will feature questions asked by readers regarding the world of TV.  Feel free to email me with any questions you may have about TV at BillsTVTalk@gmail.com, and I’ll do my best to answer you and may feature your question in a future column.  Here’s what we got!

Bill, My favorite show is The Blacklist.  Can you tell me anything about the upcoming season, are we going to find out what happened to Tom, and when will it be back? -  Marion from Methuen, MA.

Marion, I can tell you that the producers have confirmed that we will learn of the fate of Tom before the season is over, and they also confirmed that we haven’t see the last of the character of Berlin.  The show will return to NBC on September 22 at 10.  However, enjoy it while you can.  It will run until November 10, and then it will be taking a ten week break.  It will return on Super Bowl Sunday and then move to its new night and time, Thursdays at 10.  In casting news, Mary Louise Parker is joining the cast in a recurring role. 

I’m so excited that Netflix has decided to bring back The Killing for one final season.  What can you tell me about the new season? – Julie from Tewksbury, MA.

By the time you read this Julie, the show will be back.  It premieres August 6th on Netflix.  As far as what we can expect in this final season?  Remember the character of Bullet from Season 3.  Well she may be gone, but she is certainly not forgotten.   Series creator Veena Sud said that the teen’s Season 3 death will continue to haunt Holder. “That was a game-changer in terms of Holder’s life,” she explains. “Up until that point, he was a homicide detective who had not lost anything in the course of his work.”  Sud promises that there will be “a final moment” that will honor the Bullet-Holder relationship.  This season’s case will revolve around a student at an all boys military academy whose family was murdered and Academy Award nominee Joan Allen will be joining the cast.

Please give me some info on the final season of Sons of Anarchy.  I need to know what’s going to happen.  – Mike from Amesbury, MA

Well Mike, prepare yourself for one hell of a ride.  According to Theo Rossi, who plays Juice, this season is going to be a bloodbath.  He says, “People are dropping like flies, literally, every two seconds you're like, 'Oh, that person's gone.  There's always a big clap-off it feels, every scene, every episode, somebody's leaving."  Yikes!  I can also tell you that the premiere is 1 hour and 45 minutes long, and picks up 10 days after the events of the 6th season finale.   Sons of Anarchy’s final season premieres September 9th at 10 on FX.

I absolutely loved Fargo.  I heard it was one season and done though.  Is it coming back or not? – Sandy from Manchester, NH

I have some good news and some bad news for you Sandy.  The good news is that Fargo is absolutely coming back for a 2nd season.  The bad news is that none of the cast from the first season will be returning.  Season 2 will take place in 1979 and will center on the Sioux Falls case that Molly’s dad Lou was describing in an episode at the end of the season.  Producer Noah Hawley said that while the original cast will not return for season 2, he didn’t rule out some of them returning for a possible season 3.  Fargo is slated to return in the fall of 2015. 

I was a huge Breaking Bad fan, and I’m really looking forward to the spinoff Better Call Saul.  Can you tell me anything about it? – Jimmy from Westford, MA

Better Call Saul is a prequel that follows Saul in the days before his dealings with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman -- though creators have said the show's timeline could move back and forth over several decades, including the years during and after Breaking Bad which means there's the potential for Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and others to make cameos. There is no set date for Better Call Saul to premiere but it’s expected to hit the airwaves sometime in the last half of 2015.  

Friday, August 1, 2014

My Emmy Wish List

This column was originally published in The Valley Patriot, July 8th, 2014.
    
      The Primetime Emmy nominations will be announced on July 10th and every year I like to review the past year in TV and give my Emmy Wish List.  This is my list of performances and shows that I really hope get recognized by the Television academy.  The nominations are almost certain to include members of the cast of Fargo, Breaking Bad, True Detective, Veep, and House Of Cards just to name a few.  However, there is always that one performance you really want to be recognized.  So I may not cover every category, just the ones where I really feel the chances of someone being overlooked exists. So here we go.

Melissa McBride, The Walking Dead, AMC - In my opinion, no one gave a more heart-wrenching, compassionate, powerhouse performance this year than Melissa McBride.  In particular, in the episode “The Grove.”  When her character, Carol, has to commit an unspeakable, tragic, but necessary act, you couldn’t help but be riveted to your TV screen.  In this show, full of amazing actors, McBride’s work stood above the rest this year and deserves a nomination.

Matthew Rhys, The Americans, FX – The most improved show on TV this season was FX’s cold war spy drama The Americans.  Season 1 was good.  Season 2 was phenomenal.  No bigger reason for the shows improvement than the performance of its lead actors Matthew Rhys, and Keri Russell.   Rhys is mesmerizing in his role as Philip Jennings, torn between his actions as a spy and his life as a father to his two children.  Bryan Cranston and Matthew McConaughey are the favorites in this category, but at the very least Rhys should be recognized with a nomination. 

Freddie Highmore, Bates Motel, A&E – Last year I felt that Bates Motel’s best performance came from Vera Farmiga as Norman’s mother Norma.  That still might be true, but this year it got a heck of a lot closer.  Hightower’s work this year as future Psycho Norman Bates was really something to behold.  Watching Norman’s slow but certain descent into madness was riveting, and while a nomination here is a long shot due to the competition, it is most certainly deserved. 

Uzo Aduba, Orange Is The New Black, Netflix – People who are not Netflix subscribers are really missing out on some great TV.  Along with House of Cards, Orange is the New Black is among the best shows on TV right now.  TV’s best ensemble cast delivers episode after episode, and this season Uzo Aduba’s turn as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren was touching, funny, and you couldn’t take your eyes of the screen when she was on it. 

Keri Russell, The Americans, FX – Much like her co-star Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell absolutely should be nominated for her outstanding work on FX’s The Americans.  Russell perfectly portrayed Elizabeth Jennings, a ruthless cold war spy, who balances her job with the roles of mother and wife, and struggles with her feelings of loyalty to her country, and her loyalty to her family.

Ray Romano, Parenthood, NBC - It’s always great as a TV fan when you see a performance that surprises you.  For me, this year, that performance came from Ray Romano and his turn as a dramatic actor on NBC’s Parenthood.  Romano’s work as Hank Rizzoli tugged at the heartstrings.  Hank’s realization, as he learns more about Max's Asperger's diagnosis, and comparing it to his own personality traits delivered some exceptional scenes.  It really says something when an actor who is known for his comedy stands out among such a great cast. 

James Spader, The Blacklist, NBC – NBC’s The Blacklist was the best drama on broadcast TV this year.  The role of Raymond Reddington joined the list of great TV Villains, and was played incredibly by James Spader.   I will make this guarantee.  James Spader WILL win an Emmy for this role.  It may not be this year, but it will happen.  He is that good.  It’s an extremely tough and crowded category, but Spader deserves to be mentioned among the best dramatic actors on TV. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Summer is No Longer a TV Wasteland

Not too long ago, the summer season was a vast wasteland for TV lovers.  As recently as the 90’s you would be hard pressed to find any new programming at all between June and September.    Sure, you had a few new shows that premiered over the years during the summer.  Seinfeld is one of the more celebrated shows to premiere over the summer.  It premiered on July 5th, 1989 as “The Seinfeld Chronicles.”  It was far from a hit.  NBC had no plans on picking the show up and even shopped it to FOX, who declined.  NBC found money in the budget to film four more episodes and the rest was television history. 

As Cable TV became more widely available, the idea of summer reruns steadily faded.  Cable networks realized that summer was a good time to put on their original shows. The broadcast networks saw their audiences go to cable in the summer and, in many cases, ­ never come back.

Luckily, things began to change when the calendar flipped to the year 2000.  That summer, a little show called “Survivor” premiered on May 31 and quickly became a ratings and cultural phenomenon.   Its premise was simple.  Strand a group of strangers on an island forcing them to live together, each week casting off a member of their “tribe.”  The castaways would compete in challenges for rewards and immunity from being voted off the island.  The last person standing would be awarded $1 million dollars.  No actors, no scripts.  The shows finale, on August 23, 2000, drew 51.7 million viewers.  Nielsen determined that 125 million Americans watched at least part of the finale.  It would become the 2nd highest rated television program of the decade, second only to the series finale of “Friends.”   The TV industry took notice.  Summer could be the place for new programming, and no longer a place for reruns.

In the years following Survivor’s massive ratings, other programs continued to have success in the summer months.  The genre of Reality Competition programming has benefited the most.  Shows such as “American Idol,”  “Dancing With The Stars,” and “Big Brother” were all summer shows that were ratings juggernauts for their respective networks. 

In recent years, scripted programming has begun to have summer success as well.  Last year, “Under The Dome” premiered on CBS on June 24 and became a hit.  The show will return on June 30th for its second season.  ABC’s “Rookie Blue” will return on June 19th for its 5th season, every one of them being broadcast during the summer.

There was a time when if a pilot failed to get a slot on the fall schedule that was the end of its chances.  Now there’s hope.  Many pilots that fail to get that coveted fall premiere now will get a chance to fill the many slots of summer programming.  The networks are always looking for that diamond in the rough to give a second chance, and hopefully find the next big hit.   

One thing is for certain.  With all of the choices for TV viewers these days, there is never a shortage of new programming for the TV lover during the summer months.  Between Broadcast, Cable, and services like Netflix, and Amazon, there will be hundreds of hours of shows to keep viewers satisfied as the temperatures begin to rise.  

The Return of Jack Bauer and 24


Monday May 5th marked the highly-anticipated return of an iconic TV show and character to the airwaves.  24: Live Another Day premiered on FOX and brought Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer back to TV. 

24’s real time concept, an entire season of 24 one hour episodes, spanning one day in the storyline was unique and innovative when it premiered.  The pulse pounding storylines about a US Counter Terrorist Unit in post 9/11 America made audiences stand up and take notice and 24 became the talk of TV.

The show aired on FOX from 2001-2010 for 8 seasons and 192 episodes, plus a 2 hour movie in between seasons 6 and 7.  Sutherland won an Emmy,  a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Jack Bauer over the course of the series run. 

In May of 2013, after several failed attempts to bring 24 to the big screen, Fox announced that the show would be returning in a “limited run event series” called 24: Live Another Day.  Fox CEO Kevin Reilly said that the series would essentially represent the twelve "most important" hours of a typical 24 season.  As with the rest of Fox's push into event programming, the production will have "a big scope and top talent and top marketing budgets."

In a press release, Producer Howard Gordon said:  “Jack Bauer has always been an exciting, thrilling character, and I confess that I've missed him. I think the audience has too. The character has evolved through the years, and this new and exciting event series format is perfect to tell the next chapter of his story and continue to reflect how the world is changing. Fans can rest assured that the Jack they know and love will be back.” 

The story will take place 4 years after the events of the show’s final season. Once again, world peace hangs in the balance as the U.S. is about to sign an important treaty with Great Britain. U.S. President James Heller,  played by William Devane, is in London to sign the pact, but the CIA uncovers a threat to assassinate the president.  Jack Bauer, will be forced to come out of hiding in an attempt to thwart the plot.  

All the familiar elements are in place including the digital clock signaling the ends and beginnings of segments to remind us that it's all happening in real time.  But while the 12-part series will still portray the events of a single day in real time, there will be jumps forward between certain episodes.

Whether 24 : Live Another Day will lead to more 24 is yet to be seen.  Producers and actors have all said they would be open to more but the ratings will need to be there.    "I think the show could go on indefinitely," Sutherland said, then added with a tone of doubt in his voice: "I'm not sure how long Jack Bauer could go on."   Sutherland still hopes a 24 feature film will be made one day, but for now is just happy to be back playing Jack again.  “He’s this long-lost friend,” he says. “It was great to see each other again!”
24: Live Another Day airs Monday nights at 9 on FOX. 

Bill’s TV Talk Mailbag


From time to time my column will feature questions asked by readers regarding the world of TV.  Feel free to email me with any questions you may have about TV at BillsTVTalk@gmail.com, and I’ll do my best to answer you and may feature your question in a future column.  Here’s what we got!

Hey Bill, I’m a huge fan of American Horror Story, can you give me any scoop on Season 4? – Sandy from Amesbury, MA

I can tell you a few things about season 4, Sandy.  For starters, it will be called, American Horror Story: Freak Show and will center around a carnival and the people involved, and it will be set in the 1950’s in Florida.  The entire season 3 cast is set to return, and a new big name has been announced as a cast member for season 4.  Who is that big name?  It’s none other than Michael Chiklis, who will be joining the cast as the ex-husband and father of characters played, respectively, by Kathy Bates and Evan Peters.

I really enjoyed Orange Is The New Black‘s first season.  Any idea when we can expect Season 2? – Christina from Lowell, MA

Season 2 will premiere on Netflix on June 6th, and from what I’m hearing you can expect the show to focus a little bit less on Piper and a little bit more on everyone else this season.   Also, contrary to other rumors out there, Laura Prepon’s character of Alex will be appearing in most of this season’s episodes.

Big fan of Mad Men, so I’m feeling a little bittersweet.  I’m excited for the show to return, but feeling bad that this will be the final season.  What can you tell me about the upcoming final episodes? – Mike from Methuen, MA

Don’t worry Mike.  Even though this is Mad Men’s final season, the season is being split into 2 parts.  The first 7 will air beginning April 13th, and the rest will air about a year later in the Spring of 2015.  So you will still have the show around for a bit.   I can tell you that you will see  a West Coast branch of Sterling Cooper opening in season 7, and creator Matthew Weiner said that something that happened in the past is likely to "cast a shadow" over the final season.  Wiener said "... as writers we don't just throw stuff away once it's happened. There is a shadow being cast over this whole season that started not just last season, but the first time we met Don Draper."

Please give me some scoop on Parenthood.  I love that show! – Karen from Andover, MA

It appears as though the show isn’t done with the Amber and Ryan story just yet.  Expect to see Ryan return for the season’s final 2 episodes.   Executive Producer Jason Katims said that when Ryan sees Amber again “it’s over very, very dramatic circumstances and incorporates some of our other characters in a rich story… I’m not going to say anything more than that, other than get your Kleenex ready.”

Whatever scoop you can give me about my favorite show Ray Donovan would be appreciated.  Thanks. – Richard from Salem, NH.

The show will have 2 new additions when it returns.  Hank Azaria will be joining the cast as James Cochran, head of the LA division of the FBI, and Hollywood legend Ann Margaret will be coming onboard as June Wilson, who is described as “a major star back in her day who has a history with Ray’s boss Ezra.”  Ray Donovan returns to Showtime on July 13th at 9 pm.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

CBS “Intelligence”: Been There Done That

CBS new series ‘Intelligence’, starring LOST’s Josh Holloway and CSI’s Marg Helgenberger, premiered on January 7th to decent ratings.  It boasted a good cast, and an interesting premise.    The drama centers on a high tech intelligence operative named Gabriel, played by Holloway, who has a super computer microchip implanted into his brain, and the director of the cyber security agency named Lillian Strand that he works for, played by Helgenberger. 

The show is pretty much your standard procedural.  Show the crime, solve the crime, and catch the bad guys.  The problem is that this premise has been done before, and better.  NBC had a series called Chuck, which ran from 2007-2012.  It was the story of a computer geek who accidentally downloads critical government secrets into his brain, essentially making his mind a super computer.  Sound familiar?  The difference was that Chuck was a nerd and this thing in his brain made him a spy, and that made it interesting.  Gabriel is already a competent spy, much less interesting.

Granted ‘Intelligence’ takes a more serious approach, while ‘Chuck’ was much more light hearted.  But Chuck was much better acted and written.  ‘Chuck’ built a cult like following over its 5 years on the air and stood out from other shows.   ‘Intelligence,’ however, is loaded with your standard clichés and lazy writing, and does nothing to separate itself from other shows of its kind.  There’s just nothing special to it. 

In the pilot, Strand decides that Gabriel needs a bodyguard, so she hires an attractive young brunette from the Secret Service to watch over him.  Let the sexual tension begin.   Cliché #1.    Midway through the episode we find that Gabriel’s co-worker and friend is actually working for the other side.  The Mole.   Cliché #2.  Throw in a fight with a guy twice his size, an unlikely hero saving the day, and mysterious issues surrounding his missing wife and her possibly being a traitor and you have 3 more clichés that Gabriel has to deal with in the first hour. 

It was really good to see Holloway on TV again, but he is wasted in this series.  I’ve never been a big fan of Helgenberger and watching her in this series reminded me why.  I just never find her believable in her roles.  She’s very wooden and dull in this role although, let’s face it, she doesn’t have much to work with.

There are some good action sequences that will attract fans, Holloway is very likable in his role, and the show may get better as it goes along. Ratings have plummeted since the pilot episode, however, this is the type of series that CBS normally turns into a hit, so we will have to see where it goes in the coming weeks.    If you like “Intelligence,” get your fill of it while you can.  My guess is that it will be unlikely to see a 2nd season. 

With so many choices on TV these days, shows really have to do something to stand out, and ‘Intelligence’ fails to do so.  In fact, it is so unoriginal and boring, that is just blends in with today’s TV landscape and gets lost in the shuffle.  Hopefully Josh Holloway gets a better vehicle to come back to TV in, once this show is put out of its misery. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

My 10 Best TV Shows of 2013


My list of the best that TV had to offer in 2013 was so hard to compile.  There were so many quality programs to choose from this year, so narrowing this list down was a tough task.    You will notice that there are no sitcoms on this list, but unfortunately the crop of comedies on the air right now just didn’t make the cut.  Here are my choices for the best TV shows of 2013. 

10. (tie) Homeland  (SHO) – When I started compiling this list, this show wasn’t on it.  But the final 6 episodes of the season were top notch and propelled Homeland back onto the list.  Claire Danes and Damian Lewis were excellent as always, but this season belonged to Mandy Patinkin and his portrayal of CIA Director Saul Berenson.   The truly gut wrenching finale was one of the year’s best episodes.

10 (tie) Mad Men (AMC) – Mad Men didn’t have its best season, but still better than most series on the air.  Jon Hamm’s Don Draper continues to be one of TV’s greatest characters.  With just 2 short seasons left of this amazing show, I’ll be savoring every episode.

9. The Blacklist (NBC) – The only network series on my list, The Blacklist stars James Spader as one of Americas Most Wanted who now aids the FBI in catching the most dangerous criminals in existence.   Spader is superb in the lead role.

8. Ray Donovan (Showtime) – Liev Schreiber stars in the title role of this exciting series.  Ray Donovan is a Boston raised tough guy, now living in Los Angeles and making his living as a “fixer” for a powerful law firm.  Jon Voight, as Ray’s ex-con father, gives one of the best performances of his career.

7. Masters Of Sex (Showtime) – This freshman series about Masters & Johnson, the the pioneers of the science of human sexuality whose research touched off the sexual revolution, boasts some of the year’s best acting.  Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan, and Beau Bridges are excellent.

6. Boardwalk Empire (HBO) – Even though this show is lower on my list than it was last year, that speaks more to the quality of programming on TV today than any decrease in the quality of this series.  On the contrary, Boardwalk Empire had one of its strongest seasons to date. 

5. Southland (TNT) – TV’s best police show, Southland, ended its 5 year run in April with its finest season yet.  Top notch writing and acting, especially by Michael Cudlitz, who gave one of the year’s best performances. 

4. House of Cards (Netflix) – Kevin Spacey’s top notch performance highlighted this political drama.  The series centers on Senator Frank Underwood who, after getting passed over as Secretary of State, decides to exact revenge on his political enemies. 

3. The Walking Dead (AMC) -  Now in its 4th season, AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama continued to evolve by adding something to this year’s episodes that it was previously lacking, a great villain. David Morrissey’s performance as The Governor stood out in a great ensemble cast. 

2. Orange Is The New Black (Netflix) – Weeds creator Jenji Kohan created this dramedy that centers on Piper Chapman, played excellently by Taylor Schilling, a woman in her thirties who is sentenced to 15 months in prison.  This engrossing series that mixes dark humor and dramatic storylines, top notch acting and writing was TV best new series of the year. 

My pick for the best show of 2013 is…..

1. Breaking Bad (AMC) – There is just way too much to say about this series in this small space.  Perhaps the finest TV drama ever created, Breaking Bad, came to its immensely satisfying conclusion this year after 5 seasons and 62 episodes.  Vince Gilligan’s epic story of Walter White’s evolution from mild mannered chemistry teacher to hardened gangster intensified its brilliance this year.  Bryan Cranston continued his mesmerizing role as Walter White.  “Ozymandias” was one of the best TV episodes of this or any other series. 


Honorable Mentions:  Modern Family, Bates Motel, The Big Bang Theory, The Americans, Veep

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Give the Gift of Classic TV Comedy for Christmas


Christmas is upon us again.  If you’re having trouble deciding what to buy that TV fan on your list, then maybe some Classic TV Comedies will do the trick.  Here is a little guide as to what’s available this holiday season.  All of these sets are available in stores and through Amazon.com.

M*A*S*H  - The Complete Series
This sitcom, set during The Korean War, successfully balanced between comedy and drama, hilarity and tragedy, filled with one liners and gags and also intense set pieces which set the program apart as one of TV’s all time greats.   The series premiered in 1972 and ran for 11 seasons and 256 episodes.  The series finale, which aired February 28, 1983, was watched by more than 125 Million viewers and still remains the most watched episode of a TV series ever.  It was nominated for a staggering 109 Emmy Awards of its run.  Starring Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Harry Morgan, and Loretta Swit.  The set also includes the 1970 film that the series was based on.

Barney Miller – The Complete Series
Set in a New York City police station, this comedy series ran from 1975 to 1982 for 168 episodes, and featured the stories of the detectives of the 12th Precinct and the day to day life in the squad room.  Over its 8 seasons, it was nominated for an Emmy award for Outstanding Comedy Series 7 times, finally winning in its final season.   Widely cited by police officers as the most realistic police series ever.  Starring Hal Linden, Max Gail, Jack Soo, Ron Glass, Abe Vigoda, and Steve Landesberg. 

Seinfeld – The Complete Series
Named by TV Guide as the greatest television series of all time. Created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, this series about nothing, followed the exploits of Jerry Seinfeld (as a fictional version of himself) and his 3 friends, Kramer, George, and Elaine.   It ran from 1989 to 1998, for 180 episodes.  Through the years of its original run and now in syndication, the show has become a cultural phenomenon.  Spawning catch phrases, merchandise, and many references to the series in popular culture.  Starring Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Everybody Loves Raymond – The Complete Series
Based on the stand up comedy of Ray Romano, this series ran from 1996 to 2005 for 210 episodes.  The show followed the life of sportswriter Ray Barone, and his family life with his wife and 3 kids, while living across the street from his parents.   It was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series for 7 times over its run.  Starring Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, Brad Garrett, Peter Boyle, and Doris Roberts.

Cheers – The Complete Series
This classic sitcom followed the goings on at a popular Boston bar named Cheers.  It ran from 1982-1993 for 270 episodes.  It garnered a record 111 Emmy nominations during it’s time on the air, and won the Outstanding Comedy Series 4 times.  The show struggled in the ratings at first, but by the 3rd season, it found its footing and remained in the top 10 from season 4, until it went off the air.  Starring Ted Danson, Shelly Long, Rhea Perlman, Woody Harrelson,  John Ratzenberger, George Wendt, Kelsey Grammer, and Kirstie Alley.

Friends – The Complete Series
This series revolved around a circle of friends living in New York City, and ran from 1994 to 2004 for 236 episodes.  It quickly became a critical favorite and commercial success, remaining in the Top 10 of the Nielsen ratings for its entire run.  Starring Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Courtney Cox, and David Schwimmer. 

Hope I gave you some good ideas for that TV lover on your Christmas list. 

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Survivor - Still The King Of Reality TV

Survivor premiered on May 31, 2000 on CBS, and quickly became a TV phenomenon.  It was the first show of its kind.  A competition between 16 Americans, stranded on a deserted island off the coast of Borneo. Together they would learn to live in a self made society, build shelter, ration food, all the while competing for a $1 Million dollar prize.
 
The rules were simple.  The groups were split into two “tribes,” each living in their own camp.  Each week the two tribes would compete against each other in challenges for either rewards or immunity.  Rewards would consist of things like fishing gear, flint to make fire, food, etc.  The immunity challenges determined which tribe would be safe for the week.  The losing tribe would need to visit tribal council and one member of their tribe would be voted out.   After 39 days, a winner would be crowned and awarded the million dollars.

The buzz for the show grew throughout the summer and ratings were surging.  51 million people tuned into the finale to see Richard Hatch crowned the Sole Survivor.  It is still the highest rated episode for any show of its kind. 

One of the keys to the shows continued success is that, over the years, the show has tweaked its format here and there, sometimes having 18 or 20 players, some of them returning players from past seasons. Redemption Island was added.  This was a place that players who were voted out could go and compete for a chance to return to the game after a period of time. 

Since its premiere, other reality competition shows have come and gone, often imitating Survivor’s formula.  Getting a number of contestants together and competing for a cash prize, eliminating one player per week.  But Survivor has endured. 

Another of the keys to the show’s success has been its ability to cast very popular and interesting players.  Rob Mariano, known as Boston Rob to Survivor Fans, has become one of the most popular Survivor players of all time.  He met his wife Amber Brkich on the show, she was a competing player.  They teamed up and she won the $1 million dollar prize on the shows “All Star” edition.  Mariano returned in a later edition to win as well.

A big reason for the show's popularity is its host, Jeff Probst.  Probst is more than just a host, he is part of Survivor.  He has won multiple Emmy’s for his hosting duties.  He is incredibly popular with the fan base.  So much so, that fans could never imagine the show being hosted by someone else.    

It's 27th edition, Blood vs. Water, has just completed and in this edition the show has once again reinvented itself adding yet another twist to its formula.  This time, pitting a tribe of returning players against a tribe consisting of their loved ones.   The show has proven that it can continue to evolve and make changes to keep fans intrigued and interested. 

Survivor shows no signs of slowing down.  It has been renewed for 2 more seasons.  It is a staple of CBS programming and still draws consistent ratings.  Still drawing 10 million viewers per week to a very strong and loyal fan base.  My guess is that the show will continue as long as creator Mark Burnett wants it to.  It is the undisputed King of Reality Competition TV. 


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Breaking Bad - An Appreciation


When Breaking Bad premiered in January, 2008 on AMC, there was very little fanfare.  The reviews were good, even excellent to be sure, but the show barely made a blip in the ratings.  The show’s main character of Walter White was played by Bryan Cranston, who previous claim to fame was starring the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle.  The rest of the cast was even lesser known than Cranston.  Aaron Paul, playing Jesse Pinkman, was the show’s other main character. 
The show centered on Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  Fearing that he would die and leave his family with nothing, he hooks up with an old student of his, Jesse Pinkman to produce and sell methamphetamine.  He uses his chemistry knowledge to create a remarkably potent and soon to be, highly sought after, product. 
            The show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, described the show as “Transforming Mr. Chips into Scarface.”   Walt’s fascination with his “talent” and the need to be the best at it, cause him to become a power hungry, ego-driven, criminal mastermind.
            As the show progressed, the buzz grew, and viewers began to take notice.  Binge watching the show on services like Netflix proved a big boom to the show.  Cranston would win 3 Emmy’s (so far) for his role, and Aaron Paul would win 2.  The series has also won a Best Drama Series Emmy award at this year’s ceremony.
            I’m not going to give up too many details here, for those of you who are in the middle of watching it or who plan to watch the series.  Suffice to say, that as the show drew to a close on September 29, 2013, it had become a cultural phenomenon. 
            Ratings for the 5th and final season of the show have skyrocketed.  For example, the 4th season finale drew 1.9 million viewers.  The final episode drew 10.3 million viewers, an astounding 442 % increase.
            Walter White, or more precisely, Cranston’s portrayal of him, became an iconic television character.  A character everyone rooted for at first.  Rooted for him to make a future for his family, and to beat his deadly cancer.  As time went on, and Walt began to get darker, and more evil, fan’s feeling changed.  You weren’t sure whether you hated Walt for what he had become, or still loved him for what he was, and the reason he did it in the first place.   
            Unlike many other series, the show left nothing open to interpretation in its closing moments.  The episode gave closure, not only to the characters, but to the fans as well.  It was an epic, satisfying, conclusion to what many consider to be the greatest drama series of all time.  Maybe the most important show of all time as well.  The show has set the bar for the next generation of television creators, showing them what’s possible and daring them to do even better. 
            There will certainly be good shows in the future, but none as good, as well written, or as well acted as Breaking Bad, and the future of television will be better because of its existence. 
            Thank you to Breaking Bad for giving us 62 hours of the most riveting television drama ever created, I’m so glad I went along for the ride.   If you haven’t already, buckle up and take the ride too.