All Along The Watchtower

films . videos . television

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Doctor Who wins a Hugo!

Series one (season 27)'s two part story "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dance" took home the Hugo for best dramatic presentation, short form at this year's Hugos. The two part story was in the running with "Dalek" and "Father's Day" also from series one as well as a couple of episodes of Battlestar Galactica.

This is a great win for the new Doctor Who and shows why if you're not watching this show, you should be.

Also, when Doctor Who and BSG start airing together in October, you'll have the last two Hugo winners for the short form dramatic presentation airing on the same night.

In other good news, Serenity won as best dramatic presentation, long form. As well it should have...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

SG1 cancelled

Three days after celebrating a record-setting 200th episode, Stargate SG1 was given the axe by the SciFi channel.

The 10th season will be the last for the franchise, which will end its run with 215 episodes.

Stargate SG1 stated on Showtime before jumping ship to SciFi before its sixth season. The show was a ratings winner out of the gate and may have lead to the cancellation of the far superior in every way Farscape. However, over the past several seasons, ratings have eroded and the show hasn't pulled in the critical and fan buzz that Battlestar Galactica has.

On a good news side, Stargate: Atlantis was renewed for a fourth sesaon. And the cancellation of SG1 makes room for the proposed Battlestar Galactica spin-off Caprica as well as more seasons of Doctor Who as they become available.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Falll season begins tonight

FOX kicks off the fall season this evening with the return of Prison Break and the premiere of a new serialized thriller, Vanished.

Last year, Prison Break benefited from jumping out of the gate early and hooking viewers on the unique premise--brother who designed a prison gets thrown in there to help his wrongly-convicted brother escape before the brother is given the death penalty. To add to the complexity, there was a conspiracy plotline related to Michael Shoefield's brother going to prison that was slowly unravelling and might just prove his innocence. Last season ended with a small group breaking out of prison, some dramatic revelations in the conspiracy storyline and the fate of several characters left up in the air.

This year, we pick up right where last year left off and the show quickly morphs from a break out of prison drama into The Fugitive with a lot more people running about. This year's quest seems to be to get our heroes to Utah, where Schoefield has enough money hidden for he and his brother to disappear to Mexico.

Prison Break is a show along the lines of 24 in that if you think too much, you're going to ruin it. But at least 24 is happening within the context of one day so you can dismiss some of the things going on and just go with the flow. Also, 24 is just a better show. This year, we're asked to believe that Scoefield planned out every step not only to escape from the prison but beyond and tatooed all of these memory markers on his body. This comes in handy when a new adversary played by William Fincher comes on-screen and begins his pursuit of Scoefield. The good news is that Fincher's character may be a better adversary for Scoefield in the cat and mouse game that will be played out this season with our heroes on the lam.

The bad news--the conspiracy plotline inolving the now president of the United States is still as laughable and annoying as ever. Also, the plot of Michael and company nearly getting caught every week could get old fast and the show could become little more than rehash of The Fugitive or The Incredible Hulk if it's not careful.

As for the fates of characters left on the brink of death--that will be addressed in this episode. Also, there is one major death in tonight's opener. I won't spoil it here but all you have to do is read the opening credits and you'll figure out who will be leaving....

FOX is pairing Prison Break with its new serialized drama, Vanished. (One of two shows this year about someone being kidnapped, the other being NBC's appropriately named Kidnapped).

When Sara Collins, the wife of Georgia senator Jeffrey Collins vanishes from a charity dinner, the FBI sends in a crack team to find her. The first episode follows the first twenty-four hours of the investigation in which we learn a whole lot about everyone involved. One of the two FBI agents is haunted by a case gone badly six months earlier (a child died he was trying to get back) and the senator's family has more secrets than Carter has pills. In the first hour, we learn that his daughter is dating a guy who may or may not be connected to the conspiracy to take the wife, that the senator's ex-wife has been meeting with his current wife and somoene inside the senator's house is pregnant. (I'm going to call it now and say it's the daughter since the wife's parents establish early on that Sara can't have children).

Meanwhile, a driven reporter has arrived on the scene, determined to make her career with this story. And in standard driven female reporter fashion, she puts the kabosh on sex in order to get out and pursue the story. In fact, she becomes aware of the story while in bed with her younger camera man.

Before hour's end, we've got a lot of suspects and potential leads. But not content to stop there, Vanished throws in a far-reaching mystical conspriacy element with a mysterious religious group that happens to drop a calling card and some weird symbols for our heroes to follow.

You have to give Vanished credit--its putting all its cards on the table early. We already get a scene where Collins confronts haunted FBI agent, giving him permission to circumvent FBI procedures if it means saving his wife (last time with the child kidnapping, the agent sent a memo but it was ignored and he followed orders against his better instinct, leading to tragedy). Also, it seems as if everyone who is in contact with the senator's family is in on it, from the daughter's boyfriend to his ex-wife to his son. The show tries to deliver a few shocking twists as the hour draws to a close to hook you into next week and, hopefully, the entire season-long mystery. For the most part, it's successful, though how long I'll stay with once there's other choices on Monday night I'm not sure. I'm intrigued to see why the wife was kidnapped (there are strong hints that it could be about the senator voting for a Supreme Court justice and following "party lines.") and how far the conspiracy goes. And there's a whole lot of interesting family drama to this one (though at first glance, it's very cliched) that might make it worth an investment.

At the very least, it's got Rebecca Gayheart as the driven female journalist. That alone may make it worth watching...well, at least until Monday Night Football starts up.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

First look: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

When your network is in fourth place in a lot of crucial demographics, you have to do whatever it takes to build a buzz for your new fall slate. NBC is taking full advantage of the word of mouth advertising this summer by offering fans previews of some of their more anticipated shows this fall.

Earlier this week, Netflix users could rent a special DVD that contained two of the fall drama pilots.

One of those pilots is the highly anticipated Aaron Sorkin project Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

The show itself is a thinly veiled look at the inner workings of an SNL-like show. Interestingly enough, this is one of two shows on NBC that will poke fun at or look at the inner workings of a live, sketch comedy series. The other is 30 Rock, featuring former SNL player Tina Fey. (It is, alas, not yet available for preview, though give the Internet a few weeks and I bet screeners find their way on-line).

Now, let me preface this by saying that while I admire Aaron Sorkin as a writer, I never quite jumped on The West Wing band wagon. I jumped on and off a few times over the years, but never really saw what everyone else thought was so special about the show.

Sports Night, that was a whole other matter. I loved that show--something I re-discovered on the magic of DVD this summer.

In a lot of ways, Studio 6o reminds me a lot of Sports Night and it's not just becuase both take place on a fictional television series. In both cases, the shows revolve around a television show fighting for respect and ratings. With Sports Night, the show was trying to come out of the shadow of its big rivals while with Studio 60, its a show that is past its prime, trying to recapture the glory days and be relevant again.

All the typical Sorkin trademarks are here--witty dialogue, long speeches and conversations that take place while characters are moving. There's overlapping dialogue that almost demands repeat viewing and the words the characters say here are exactly what we mere mortals wish we could say-that is if we had a team of writers following us around to give us bits of dialogue.

The pilot episode sets a lot of things in motion that I hope and assume will play out over the course of the series. After current producer, Wes (Judd Hirsch), has a melt-down on the air (he's upset they cut a sketch), a new hot shot network exec, Jordan, (Amanda Peet) tries to get back the writing duo that put Studio 60 on the map--Matt (Bradley Whitford) and Danny (Matthew Perry). The creative duo left the show several years before and are working on a movie career that is stalling out for reasons I won't reveal so as to not give too much away. The cast of the show is introduced and Danny has a romantic connection to one of them--they recently broke up and try as everyone might, no one can pin Danny down to the real reason the two broke-up. There's also a network exec, Jack (Stephen Weber), who is lurking in the wings, not impressed by Jordan and waiting for her to make her first mistake--he thinks bringing back the duo of Matt and Danny will be her downfall.

The pilot sets a lot of things in motion that I assume will pay off over the course of the series. The biggest frustration about seeing this pilot so soon is that I now have to wait a few weeks to see the next installment. And that's a good sign--the fact that I want to go back to the Studio 60 universe shows that the pilot has done its job and got me hooked on the show. I'm not sure it will make it into the must see list, but I'm willing to give it a few episodes to grow and develop.

I will admit as I went into this, I had a few biases--the biggest being that I couldn't past the fact that Matthew Perry was Chandler from the popular sitcom Friends. Every movie or other project I've seen Perry in, he basically plays a different variation of Chandler, so I feared he wouldn't have the chops to carry off the drama that is required. After seeing the pilot, those fears are allayed. Perry is a revelation as Danny, showing he's far more than Chandler Bing. He's got the chops and he shows them here. Within five minutes of Perry's first appearance on screen, I'd completely forgot about Chandler and was, instead, seeing his new character come to life.

Not that the rest of the cast is any slouches either. They're all good and as I said, the show has potential.

That said, the similiarities between this and Sports Night are abundent. I hope Sorkin has a plan to distinguish this show. A lot of the themes could be the same but it will take time to see if Studio 60 can come out of the huge shadow cast by the success of West Wing and the greatness that was Sports Night.

So far, it's off to a good start. I recommend the pilot. If you're a NetFlix user who can't wait, put it in your queue and enjoy. If not, it's definitely worth giving a try when it premieres on NBC in late September.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Heroes pilot to be available on iTunes

At this point, you have to wonder if NBC will have any original episodes left for premiere week?

The pilot to their new show Heroes will be available as a free download starting September 1st on ITunes.

I have to admit I'm intrigued by Heroes and it's on my list of shows to try in the fall. That said, I'm wary because NBC doesn't have the best track record with giving serialized genre shows the time to establish and develop an audience.

At least NBC president Kevin Reilly seems to be acknowledging this and is willing to give the show a chance to develop if it's not a huge hit out of the gate.

But I do have to wonder--the first week numbers are critical. Will the distrubuting of the episode free on-line help or hurt the show? The helpful--it builds buzz. The hurtful--people who are anxious to see it will watch it and may not tune in for the first episode...

Just a thought....

Studio 60 Pilot on-line

The pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip will be available for rent to Netflix subscribers starting Saturday.

But if you just can't wait to see it, the pilot has turned up on YouTube.

Well, at least it has for now. I bet NBC gets wind of this and it's soon taken down....

CW Crossover

Michael Ausiello is reporting that there will be a crossover between Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls this year.
Brace yourselves — the Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars universes are about to collide! I just got a smokin' hot tip that Gilmore guy Matt Czuchry will cross over to Veronica Mars on Oct. 24 — but not as Logan Huntzberger. It's better: He's playing Charlie Stone, half brother to none other than Logan Echolls! Can you believe it? Logan is playing Logan's brother! I love it!
Yes, this is no way sounds like a bad idea....(That last part was sarcasm)