Whedon to direct ‘Glee’

October 19, 2009

joss whedonAlthough my last post was also about Glee, I just couldn’t resist the chance to comment on the latest Glee news. Last week I mentioned my wishlist for future guest stars now that the series has been given a full season pick-up, but I never thought to consider the behind-the-scenes talent. EW columnist Ausiello reported today that Buffy creator Joss Whedon has agreed to direct one of the ‘back nine’ (as the 9 episodes that constitute a full season pick-up are called) episodes of Glee.

Whedon wrote and directed a musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer titled “Once More With Feeling” in 2001. The episode ranked fourteenth on TV Guide’s list of  “TV’s Top 100 Episodes of All Time” and was nominated for a Hugo award, which recognizes excellence in science fiction and fantasy. During the writers’ strike of 2008, Whedon created an Internet musical called Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which has gone on to win a People’s Choice Award for “Favourite Online Sensation”, the 2009 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, and an Emmy Award in the Short-format Live-Action category.

Glee Creator Ryan Murphy called Whedon, “a great, if unexpected, fit.” adding that he was “thrilled he’ll be loaning us his fantastic groundbreaking talent.” Glee and Whedon’s current project Dollhouse are both aired on FOX. Although the news might have caused Dollhouse fans some concern, particularly after the lackluster ratings the series has received thus far, Ausiello reassured readers that the job wouldn’t affect Dollhouse and would likely take place after the show completed its thirteen episode order.

FOX had previously announced that they would air all thirteen episodes of Dollhouse’s second season, stating, “We’re not saying we’re happy with those numbers, or accept them, but we don’t have to overreact. During [November] sweeps we might have to jack up the numbers a little [with other programming], but we plan on completing the order for this show.” This was due in part to the impressive DVR numbers the premiere of Dollhouse posted.

Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman also referenced the Whedon’s passionate fanbase, saying that the show’s fate was something of a no-win situation: “If you cancel it, you’re an asshole; if you renew it and then don’t put it back on, you’re an asshole. I’m still paying for ‘Terminator.’ ‘Dollhouse’ has a small rabid fan base that in the world of social media seems bigger than it is. We gave them another season knowing full well we were going to burn in hell if we pulled it.”

Whedon just posted his (humourous as usual) thoughts on directing an episode here. Concluding with, “I’m going to do my best, and more importantly, I’m going to do my best not to gush like a fanboy for eight straight days on set.”

Personally, I can’t think of a better fit for the snarky musical comedy than Joss Whedon. Unfortunately, he isn’t writing the episode as well, but hopefully if his episode goes well it could happen in a second season. Although none of my wishlist of guest stars have been announced yet, those hoping that Glee star Lea Michele (Rachel Barry) would soon have a male singer able to match her considerable vocal abilities are in luck. Her “Spring Awakening” co-star Jonathan Groff has signed on to appear in five or six episodes of the show as the male lead singer of competiting Glee club Vocal Adrenaline. He will also serve as a potential love interest for Michele’s character.

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Thoughts on Epitaph One

September 25, 2009

dollhouseWith Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse returning to television tonight, it seems like an appropriate time to discuss the unaired thirteenth episode “Epitaph One”. Staring Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling), Dollhouse is about a secret company that possesses the technology to temporarily imprint human “volunteers” with new skills, memories, and personalities. These imprinted humans, known as “actives” or “dolls”, are hired by the rich for engagements ranging from hostage negotiator to dominatrix. After each engagement the actives are wiped of all memories and remain in a state of innocence until their next assignment. Dushku plays Echo, a doll who begins to become self-aware, while Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica) plays Paul Ballard, a former federal agent who becomes obsessed with finding the company’s base of operations, known as the “dollhouse”, and Echo.

For those who don’t know the story behind “Epitaph One”, Whedon wrote a pilot episode titled “Echo” for the new series but pushed it back to become the second episode due to “a few clarity issues for some viewers” and “also some slight issues with tone”.  Although it is included as a special feature on the DVD set, it never aired and was “cannibalized for parts”.  Whedon used “Ghost”, the second episode written and shot, as the series premiere instead.

Fox television’s original deal had been for thirteen episodes of the show, but they included the unaired pilot while production company 20th Century Fox needed a thirteenth episode for international DVD releases.  The result was “Epitaph One”, a low budget standalone episode set ten years in the future starring entirely new characters.  Although the episode never aired on North American television, it premiered at San Diego Comic-Con, has been released on the first season DVD set of Dollhouse, and can be purchased individually on itunes.  The episode, nicknamed the “lost episode” of Dollhouse has received a great deal of press and is credited with being part of the reason behind the second-season pick up because it demonstrated what Whedon could do with a reduced budget.

I was not impressed enough by Dollhouse to buy the first season on DVD, but I did download the episode to my iPod last month as entertainment for a nine hour car ride. When Dollhouse was mentioned on vacation my mom said, referring to both Whedon and the show, “I know you love the man but it was bad”. I am a huge fan of Joss Whedon’s projects and when the news first broke that Whedon was developing another television series I was all ready to shower it with praise, but when Dollhouse premiered I found it to be completely mediocre. In all honesty, if the show had been helmed by any other man I probably wouldn’t have watched the entire season.

However, I disagree with my mom.  I don’t think the show was bad; I enjoyed Alan Tudyk as Alpha in the season finale, and was shocked, but not displeased, when Dollhouse was picked up for a second season. Yet I feel no great urge to re-watch episodes, like I do most of Whedon’s works, and it was more than a month after its release before I finally sat down and watched “Epitaph One”

The fact that I watched the episode more than once during my vacation, and enjoyed it, says a great deal. It’s easily the best episode of the show and there are a lot of great elements to it.  Despite positive critical reviews of the second season premiere “Vows”, which airs tonight at 9:00 PM EST, I’m not so sure that the series will continue at this level.  Personally, I believe that there is one glaring problem at the core of the show that can’t be resolved, but “Epitaph One” is a large step in the right direction and here’s why.  Huge spoilers for the episode are below so stop reading now if you plan on watching “Epitaph One” in the future.

The Plot

whiskey“Epitaph One” opens in 2019  where the technology behind imprinting actives has gone wireless and, in the words of one character, “punk-kicked the ass of mankind”.  Body stealing is rampant and the technology has resulted in the destruction of civilization.  In the midst of the chaos a small band of survivors that have not been imprinted, calling themselves “actuals”, stumble across the abandoned Los Angeles dollhouse.  Glimpses of the events that occurred to shape this future are revealed through flashbacks.

Ethics in the Dollhouse

Despite the occasionally more noble motives for hiring an active, the dollhouse has very often been used as a way for millionaires to play out their romantic or sexual fantasies.  Yet throughout the first season, those running the dollhouse continue to insist that their work helps people, and that they are giving clients what they need.  The actives volunteered for this after all, or so we’re told, and at the end of their five-year contracts their original personalities will be restored.  There are only two characters who are uncomfortable with the idea of imprinting people, Agent Paul Ballard of the F.B.I., whose search for the Dollhouse, and for Echo’s original personality Caroline, becomes an obsession, and Echo’s handler Boyd Langton.

The immorality of using technology to wipe human personalities, and the use of imprinted bodies for sexual encounters, has always been present in the background of Dollhouse, and has certainly been visible to the viewer, but in “Epitaph One” it is in the foreground.

Pitching the dollhouse to a potential client, Adelle DeWitt says, “You are a man who can have everything he wants.  This isn’t just about what you want, this is about what you need.  An active doesn’t judge, doesn’t pretend.  This will be the purest, most genuine human encounter of your life, and hers.”  She is comfortable with renting out actives, but draws a line when Mr. Ambrose announces that the dollhouse will begin offering “anatomy upgrades”, effectively selling the bodies of its actives for a large sum.  At this point it is no longer an experience that is being sold but a person, and even DeWitt, who had defended what the dollhouse had to offer, says “This is wrong.  You can’t do that.” Her decision to disobey indicates for the first time that the dollhouse staff  have a moral line that they will not cross.  Similarly Topher, whose genius made wireless wiping possible, realizes what he has done and suffers a mental breakdown.  In other flashbacks it is revealed that he no longer goes into the imprinting room. For the first time Topher, who previously called the actives “a little bit bison” and shrugs off responsibility by justifying that they volunteered for this, sees them as people.

The sexual use of actives is also mentioned, with Zone, one of the actuals in 2019, unable to believe that the technology which destroyed civilization was “designed to create more believable hookers”.  For much of the first season the ethics of the dollhouse were like the elephant in the room.  Everyone is aware of and uncomfortable with the idea of wiping people’s personalities and renting them out for sex, but it hadn’t been discussed and brought to the forefront yet.  “Epitaph One” has this discussion, and Caroline sums it up best when, at the end of the episode, she tells the surviving actuals that the creators of the dollhouse were “playing with matches and they burned the house down.”

Making Mankind Better

The actives strive to be their best, sometimes asking their handler “Was I my best?”  Whedon plays with the theme of using technology or other means to alter mankind.  Although those in charge may have good intentions, this does not mean that the technology will be used as intended.  Topher’s improvements to the imprinting process were not meant to result in body stealing but his technology creates a war with two sides.

Topher: It was just one phone call, one robo call to a city, that’s all it takes.  An entire army in a single instant, in the hands of any government.  And boom. We went boom.  Millions programmed to kill anyone who’s not programmed to kill anyone.  And then the war has two sides.  Those who answered the phone, and those who didn’t.

Topher and Echo in Dollhouse.

Topher and Echo in Dollhouse.

It’s a theme Whedon has used before.  In Serenity it’s revealed that the reason cannibalistic Reavers exist is due to the Alliance administering a chemical substance designed to suppress aggression and create a planet without violence.  This attempt to make mankind better instead results in a populace who stop eating, working, and caring about anything until they waste away, while the remaining ten percent of the population have the opposite reaction to the drug and become extremely aggressive.

The theme of making mankind better is often used in science-fiction, whether it is through technology or genetics, and the increasing speed of technological innovation makes the fears played upon in genre films and shows very real. “Epitaph One” makes the viewer think about the issues technology raises. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should.

In “Epitaph One” we see the result of attempts to better mankind.  Mr. Ambrose sees “anatomy upgrades” as a way to live on and create an impact on history, saying, “Imagine what one man can achieve if he has no fear, and will live forever.”  Indicating the difference between intent and reality, Adelle tells him “This is not what we set out to do,” but the damage is done.

Raising the Stakes

One of the problems with Dollhouse is that there were no stakes involved, and I don’t mean the sharp and pointy kind. It too often fell into the “case of the week” format where Echo would receive an engagement and Paul Ballard would continue searching for the dollhouse. It’s an easy trap to fall into and many dramas have begun following this format and then successfully branched out to incorporate a larger mythology. “Epitaph One” has given Dollhouse meaning, showing that all that occurs in the present has far-reaching consequences. Now the viewer is aware not only of what the imprinting technology will do, but also of Echo’s importance. Her ability to retain memories after being wiped is critical to the survival of civilization, and that purpose makes her worth watching.

Creating Sympathy

Another early problem with Dollhouse was a lack of empathy.  The actives are all blank slates, and therefore the audience can’t really connect with them on an emotional level.  In the first few episodes the closest I got to sympathising with a character was reluctant handler Boyd Langton.  Topher, who refers to the actives as “a little bit bison” and is the man behind the technology is not immediately likable, nor is Dollhouse defender Adelle DeWitt.  As the show continued the viewers had moments where they sympathised with characters, seeing the real personalities of Sierra, November, Echo, and Victor shine through for an episode, and watching the lonely Topher imprint Sierra as a friend for his birthday.  Still these characters were not thieves with hearts of gold like Mal, or even affably evil like Spike in the early seasons of Buffy.

Felicia Day in "Epitaph One".

Felicia Day in "Epitaph One".

“Epitaph One” remedies some of this, particularly in the 2019 parts of the episode where the audience is clearly supposed to identify with Felicia Day’s Mag.  Mag keeps the rougher Zone in line, feels the loss of a friend when a member of her party is printed, and even cries.  Yet “Epitaph One” takes steps towards making us feel more for the other characters as well.  As Adelle takes a stand against selling the bodies of her actives she demonstrates her humanity.  Similarly, Topher has a mental breakdown, likely when he realises what his technological innovations have done, which makes him a sympathetic character.  Dr. Claire Saunders, who was revealed to be aware of her status as the active “Whiskey” in the previous episode, is also a sympathic character.  As Dr. Saunders she bids Boyd a teary goodbye; As Whiskey she mutters in reply to Mag’s statement that there is no Safe Haven, “Not for everyone”.

With Echo beginning to remember who she is after being wiped, and the promise that Felicia Day’s character will appear again, hopefully the show is on track to having characters the viewer can identify and empathise with.

Emphasis on the Whole Cast

One of the best things about “Epitaph One” is that it not only brings in a new set of characters but also manages to fit in nearly every recurring character from the series.  The surviving band in 2019 include Lynn, Griff, Mag, Zone, and Iris, but flashbacks make use of the whole cast including Mr. Dominic, Victor, Sierra, Paul, Caroline/Echo, and Dr. Saunders/Whiskey.  Mellie/November and Alpha are mentioned but not seen.

Although the connection between Paul and Caroline is to be expected, and Victor and Sierra have been paired before, the episode also very quickly made us feel for the new romantic pairing of Boyd and Dr. Saunders, who I hope we see more of despite Amy Acker being limited to three episodes this season. If the show focuses more on the cast as a whole and less on Echo and Ballard I believe it will be more effective.

The Eliza Problem

elizaI enjoyed “Epitaph One” but one of the reasons I did so was because of the lack of Eliza Dushku.  I watched and enjoyed Tru Calling, and I love the Faith episodes of Buffy, but she doesn’t have a different level.  Although it could be argued that her inability to change characters when she is given different imprints is Caroline coming through, I can’t help but see Faith.

This is not just a matter of reusing actors. I completely believe Amy Acker as Whiskey/Claire, and I loved watching Alan Tudyk as Stephen Kepler/Alpha. In my opinion Eliza just doesn’t have the necessary acting chops to pull off this role and it brings down the show.  This is emphasized by the remainder of the cast, who are all excellent.  Adelle (Olivia Wilde) can be a cold-hearted bitch, but she can also be affectionate and even funny, and watching Topher (Fran Kranz) in “Epitaph One” is heartbreaking.  The true standouts for me are fellow actives Victor (Enver Gjokaj) and Sierra (Dichen Lachman).  Enver and Dichen have the range to play a variety of roles, from fangirl to bounty hunter, and from mobster informant to horse breeder.

Eliza’s Caroline isn’t my only problem with Dollhouse though.  To be honest, I find Paul Ballard dull at best.  As a possible couple they fall into Lost territory where, like Jack and Kate, the romantic leads are the two least interesting characters on the show.  I would much rather see more of Victor and Sierra, or for that matter Boyd and Claire, than Paul and Echo.

Season Two

Jamie Bamber and Eliza Dushku in "Vows".

Jamie Bamber and Eliza Dushku in "Vows".

Despite all the elements I loved about “Epitaph One”, I’m just not convinced that season two will continue in this vein. I’m certainly hoping Dollhouse will prove me wrong though. Tonight’s premiere, titled “Vows” guest stars Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica) and sees Amy Acker’s Dr. Saunders struggling with being an Active.

Dollhouse airs tonight at 9:00 PM EST on Fox.


Follow Friday: TV and Twitter

September 18, 2009

twitterI admit it, I tweet. For the uninitiated, “tweet” is the term for the 140 character updates Twitter allows you to post, broadcasting your interests, boredom, or messages to fellow members. Although it has been compared to another social networking site, Facebook, that uses status updates in much the same way, the thing about Twitter is that it isn’t quite so personal. I have a Facebook page and use the site regularly, but I do so to keep in contact with friends and close associates.  I use Twitter to “follow”, the term used for receiving another user’s tweets, television stars, entertainment news blogs, and writers who I am not personally acquainted with.

Television and Twitter

There are a number of people involved in the television industry on Twitter now, and people have begun to take notice of Twitter as a marketing tool and a way to gauge popularity.  The social networking site uses trending topics, meaning that the more a topic is mentioned in an individual’s tweets, the higher profile it receives.  The most used subjects are pushed into the top ten trending topics.  Often this includes recent news items, such as Kanye West’s outburst at the MTV Video Music awards, or the death of a celebrity, but during Primetime hours the Trending Topics often include television shows.

When Fox aired the premiere for its new comedy Glee in May, after the ratings juggernaut American Idol, executives were less concerned with its ratings and more interested in regarding the sneek peek as a marketing initiative. Although they certainly took note of the fact that the pilot was watched by 9.6 million viewers, staffers also monitored iTunes, blogs, and Twitter in order to measure reactions to the show.  The debut was largely a success, and one Fox e-mail read “It was the No.1 topic all night on Twitter”.  Since then the show has continued to be among the top ten topics on Twitter each Wednesday night it airs.

Television fans have discovered the importance of Twitter as well, with some organizing awareness campaigns using the popular site.  Although NBC’s Chuck was picked up for a third season, it was a close call for Chuck fans, who decided to use the hiatus to generate publicity for the show.  The ‘Chuck Me Mondays’ campaign aimed to draw new viewers to the show by re-watching episodes of Chuck on Monday, its regular night.  Additionally they used twitter, tweeting #chuckmemondays in an attempt to make the trending topics list and generate interest in the show.  With the third season of the show not airing until early 2010, the fans are continuing their campaign, watching the second season from the beginning.  This week they tweeted We Heart Chuck in order to honour the campaign of the same name to raise funds for the American Heart Association, which has currently raised close to $20,000.

This TV enthusiast recalls being spoiled for Torchwood: Children of Earth when ‘Ianto’ appeared as a trending topic on the same night that “Day Four” was scheduled to air in the UK. Surely the trending of a character’s name couldn’t be good news.  There’s an argument to be made that I shouldn’t have clicked on the topic, but I was more of less sure that Ianto was dead as soon as I saw his name, the click only confirmed it.

Collins on Supernatural.

Collins on Supernatural.

Perhaps the most interesting occurrence of television on Twitter happened more than a week ago when fans of the CW drama Supernatural garnered attention by banding together to push the hashtags #Supernatural and #luciferiscoming into Twitter’s trending topics. In the season finale, brothers and demon hunters Sam and Dean Winchester began the apocalypse by inadvertently releasing Lucifer from Hell, so for Supernatural fans #Luciferiscoming referred to the fifth season, premiering that night, in which Lucifer was a character. Unfortunately the message was misinterpreted by some, including P. Diddy, who tweeted the following:

I’m calling GODS ARMY TO ATTENTION!! #GODISHERE #GODISHERE #GODISHERE let the devil know the fight he’s in for! Retweet all day! Make GOD #1

Soon there was a battle for the top spot, with Supernatural fans continuing to tweet #luciferiscoming while Diddy’s followers re-tweeted #godishere, even though Diddy had been informed by many that the hashtag referred to the fictional show and not to Devil worshippers.  The Twitter war caused confusion among the uninformed, “leading many users to question whether today held some religious significance or if the tags were in response to the anniversary of the 09/11 attacks upon the Twin Towers in New York back in 2001 – one user mused that perhaps the two trends were the result of sick, twisted humour in that regard.”  Twitter took action, removing both hashtags from the trending topics entirely, but Supernatural fans continued to Tweet, encouraged by actor Misha Collins, who plays the angel Castiel on the series.  However, new rallying cries, the more innocent #pdiddyisscaredofhistv and #twitterisafraidofmishasminions have also been blocked by Twitter, causing some to wonder about censorship.

Follow Friday

Twitter has its own set of popular hashtags for days of the week, including “Music Mondays” and “Follow Fridays”.  It would be impossible to rhyme off all users of Twitter who are involved with television, but for Follow Friday here are some of those worth following for fellow TV enthusiasts.

Nathan Fillion in Castle

Nathan Fillion in Castle

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Joss Whedon and his works.  Although the man himself is not on Twitter, many “Whedonverse” talents are, including Castle star Nathan Fillion, his Doctor Horrible co-star Felicia Day, who also stars in her own popular web series The Guild, and writer Maurissa Tancharoen.  Dollhouse stars Eliza Dushku (Echo), Dichen Lachman (Sierra), and Miracle Laurie (November) are also on Twitter.  Canadian Jewel Staite, who played Kaylee in Firefly, has an account, as do Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast members Anthony Stewart Head (Giles), Amber Benson (Tara), Tom Lenk (Andrew), and Alyson Hannigan (Willow).  To keep up to date on all Whedon related news, follow Whedonesque.

A number of other Television actors and actresses tweet.  Among them is the aforementioned Misha Collins, who has gained a lengion of “minions” with his humourous tweets.  Julie Benz (Dexter) has an account, as does Pushing Daisies star Kristin Chenoweth, and Burn Notice‘s Jeffrey Donovan.  It’s only fair that Aldis Hodge, who plays a hacker on TNT’s Leverage with the motto “Age of the Geek” has an account, but so do his co-stars Tim Hutton (Nate), Beth Riesgraf (Parker), and Angel alum Christian Kane (Eliot).

Jeremy Piven, voted “least deserving of their 2009 Emmy” by TWoP readers, is on Twitter, along with Corbin Bleu of the new show The Beautiful Life, which premiered with a dismal 1.5 million viewers.  If you’re missing Dirty Sexy Money you can follow two of its stars, Lucy Liu and Blair Underwood through the Social Networking site, or for someone completely different there’s John Lithgow, who plays the Trinity Killer in the fourth season of Dexter. Christopher Gorham, of the summer show Harper’s Island, has an account and for some Canadian content there’s Degrassi actors Adamo Ruggiero and Lauren Collins.  Fans of CW drama Gossip Girl are no doubt already following stars Leighton Meester and Blake Lively.  While for any Trekkies out there, Brent Spiner and Levar Burton are worth following.

Unless you have an iPhone you probably won’t find Heroes star Greg Grunberg all that interesting.  He tweets mainly to promote his money saving application Yowza!, but co-stars Zachary Quinto (Sylar), James Kyson Lee (Ando) and former Heroes actresses Kristin Bell (Elle), and Brea Grant (Daphne) might be more interesting.

Actors aren’t the only ones using Twitter.  Just as interesting are some of the writers and other individuals who work behind the scenes in television, including James Clark, the On Set Prop Master for Heroes, and Doris Egan, a writer and co-executive producer on House m.d. Former Buffy and Battlestar Galactica scribe Jane Espenson, who is currently working on Caprica, has an account as well.  Also on Twitter are Whedon brother Zack Whedon, who worked on the Emmy winning Doctor Horrible’s Sing-along Blog and Hart Hanson, the creator of Bones.  For the TV enthusiast who isn’t spoiler shy, following writers, and actors, on Twitter can mean getting tidbits about upcoming episodes.

Cory Monteith of Glee

Cory Monteith of Glee

With the network’s use of Twitter both to promote Glee and to air reruns with commentary that comes from Twitter comments made live by its cast, it comes as no surprise that most of the young cast have their own accounts, such as Lea Michele (Rachel Berry)  Cory Monteith, who plays Finn, even uses the nickname given to his character in the last episode, “Frankenteen”, as his account name.  The rest of the Glee cast is comprised of Chris Colfer (Kurt), Diana Agron (Quinn), Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina), Kevin McHale (Artie), Mark Salling (Puck), and Amber Riley (Mercedes).

Another show with a strong presence on Twitter is So You Think You Can Dance.  It’s always interesting to read what the choreographers thought of the performances and the judges are quite good at interacting their their followers.  Nigel Lythgoe, Tabitha and Napoleon, and Lil C all actively tweet.  Less active are Mia Michaels and Tyce Diorio.  For fans of the Canadian version of the show there’s judge Blake McGrath, and back on the original series sometimes judge Debbie Allen. Of course no list would be complete without the new third judge on the show, Adam Shankman!  Former contestants on Twitter include Travis Wall, whose amazing piece of choreography should be nominated for an Emmy next year, contemporary dancer Courtney Galiano and, one of my favourite contestants, Mark Kanemura.

Naturally there are also too many American Idol contestants to name, including Adam Lambert, winner Kris Allen, and David Cook.  Other Idol personalities with accounts are Randy Jackson, new judge Ellen DeGeneres, and Ryan Seacrest.

Just as interesting to me as the television stars and writers are updates from entertainment blogs and journalists.  An article takes time to write up while Twitter is an instant way to communicate any breaking news to interested parties.  What better way to stay up to date with your favourite TV shows than to follow one or more TV journalists?  Personally, I’m fond of The Nick C Blog, James Hibberd of The Live Feed, and Hercules the Strong of Ain’t It Cool News, but other choices include Robert Seidman and, for spoilers more than anything else, Michael Ausiello.

spongeFinally there’s Happy Squared, a Twitter account that provides “Daily affirmations from everyone’s favourite sea sponge” with tweets like “When spying on a neighbor late at night, be careful not to be lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of his clarinet.” and “If you’re going to skip town and live under a new name, try to come up with something that’ll really fool ’em: like “BobPants SpongeSquare.”

Clearly in the Twitter Universe, there is something, or somesponge, for everyone.


Is too much Glee a bad thing?

September 9, 2009

GleeI’m a huge fan of musical theatre, so when I first heard about Glee I thought ‘sounds wonderful but it probably won’t last long’.  Imagine my surprise when Fox, the network behind the notoriously poor treatment and subsequent cancellation of such shows as Dark Angel, Wonderfalls, Keen Eddie, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and of course Firefly, actually started to promote Glee!  Likely hoping to cash in on the success of High School Musical, Fox has promoted the Hell out of this show, premiering the pilot during May sweeps after American Idol (where it was watched by an audience of almost ten million), and re-airing the pilot last Friday while its stars tweeted commentary.

Picked by critics as one of the top new shows to watch, Glee focuses on a high school Glee club in Ohio run by Will (Matthew Morrison), a Spanish teacher hoping to recapture his glory days.  The Glee club members include Diva Mercedes, wheelchair-bound Artie, Goth girl Tina, gay teen Kurt, and Rachel Barry, a Tracy Flick character played by Spring Awakening star Lea Michele, as the lead dreaming of stardom.  In the pilot Will blackmailed star football player Finn (played by Canadian Cory Monteith) into joining the Glee kids, and faced rivalry from Jane Lynch’s scene-stealing Coach Sylvester, who is not about to let the Glee club steal the spotlight from her cheerleaders.

Don’t let the high school setting, popular vs. unpopular theme, and the likely blossoming attraction between Finn and Rachel fool you though, this is not High School Musical.  For one thing the stars can actually sing, and Morrison and Michele are former Broadway stars.  The musical numbers range from standard musical theatre songs, like Barry’s audition piece “On My Own” from Les Miserables, to classic songs, such as the Glee club’s first group performance to Journey’s “Don’t stop believin’”, and Top 40 Hits.  “Rehab” and “Don’t Stop Believin’”, both performed in the pilot episode, were released on itunes and placed on the iTunes Top Songs chart.  A soundtrack will be available November third and the track listing has already been released, revealing other songs to be performed this season on the show.  These include Kanye West hit “Gold Digger”, “Sweet Caroline”, Rihanna track “Take a Bow”, and show stopper “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.

Glee has lined up the guest stars, including Tony award winner Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies), Josh Groban, and Broadway alum Victor Garber (Eli Stone), as Will’s dad, but most importantly, the show is funny.  I admit that I’ve never seen anything of creator Ryan Murphy’s, so I can’t compare the humour in Glee to say Popular, but it has been described by critics as “cynical”, “biting”, and “snarky”, all good signs in my book.

glee2Understandably, for a show about underdogs, Glee also has a lot of heart.  The Glee club remain, at their core, a group of outsiders who want to be a part of something fun and the performance of “Don’t Stop Believin’”, where Will sees what his club can do and everything comes together is a great television moment, but is too much Glee a bad thing?

Although the hype surrounding the show is a great sign, and hopefully it will keep audiences interested and attract more than the niche audience I expected to tune in, is it possible that too much buzz is a bad thing?  Buzz doesn’t always translate into viewers and, blame my inner pessimist for this comment, sometimes high expectations are a bad thing.

After the unjust cancellation of Dead Like Me I was thrilled when I heard that Bryan Fuller was working on something new featuring a man who could bring people back to life with a touch of his finger.  This was, of course, Pushing Daisies. As a huge fan of anything A) quirky and B) done by Bryan Fuller I expected by have borderline obsessive love for Pushing Daisies.  Oddly enough I didn’t, and some of that was due to the huge hype surrounding it.  Yes the show was different from anything currently airing and its stars were great, but while I enjoyed Daisies it was never must see TV for me and given the ability to renew one show, I would have picked Kings over Pushing Daisies in a heartbeat.

Or how about Dollhouse?  I don’t mean the pilot, which tended to be reviewed by critics as ‘meh but with potential’, but the sixth episode we kept hearing about.  “Man on the Street” was supposed to be a huge game changer, the episode where the show turned around and we saw Joss in all his glory… except that we didn’t.  “Man on the Street” marked an improvement in the show yes, but after all that discussion and disappointed fans waiting for the magical number six, it just didn’t live up to expectations, much like Dollhouse itself.

Another example from the world of cable is Mad Men.  I’ve never watched Mad Men but the sheer volume of critical hype, including its nomination for four of the five writing in a drama category Emmys, has actually resulted in this TV enthusiast never wanting to hear another word about the show, rather than an intense desire to tune in.

Sometimes hype is a great thing that can boost a show from something you don’t have any interest in to something you’ll consider watching, and that’s fantastic, but when it reaches fever pitch, sometimes it creates unrealistic expectations or, worse, becomes an item of pop culture you never want to hear about again.  I enjoyed the pilot of Glee immensely, I’m thrilled that Fox is promoting it at all, and I’m certainly hoping that Glee will succeed.  I just hope that too much Glee isn’t a turn-off.

glee3

Glee airs tonight at 9:00 EST on Fox.


Summer Casting

August 15, 2009
Evan Rachel Wood as Queen Sophie-Ann in True Blood.

Evan Rachel Wood as Queen Sophie-Ann in True Blood.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, then you already know that I’m one of many fans eagerly awaiting HBO’s Game of Thrones. Although it hasn’t yet been given a full season order or, for that matter, filmed the pilot episode, I’ve been following the development of this series from the beginning, and each new casting announcement renews my excitement. However, HBO doesn’t share this enthusiasm for casting announcements, mostly because they are being leaked by an inside source and not officially announced by the network. They are currently hunting for the leak(s) and have threatened to fire and muddy this person’s reputation in the industry. As a result, the leaks seem to have stopped, despite the casting of at least six more roles for the pilot.

What hasn’t dried up is George R.R. Martin’s desire to tease. He can’t announce the casting directly until HBO gives their go ahead, but what he can do is provide clues for fans. Cue the riddles and, in turn, the wacky casting theories. We do know that Jaime and Theon have been cast, and that three of the other roles are female, two of them children (most likely Arya and Sansa), but this is where the riddles come in:

Martin: One player has something in common with Ned. One has something in common with Harry Potter. One is not a boney pop singer. Shows can get cancelled and so can characters, but two of them have been seen on American tv recently.

In a second post Martin clarified that the two child roles have been filled by unknown actresses who are not on IMDB, but added:

That still leaves four adults you can try to figure out, though. And among the hundreds of theories and guesses, I’ve seen a couple of you getting it right… or coming close, riding the right theory to the wrong conclusion. So keep at it.

In the absence of an announcement, I’ll give you a few more clues. One cast member was played by a puppet. Another has been seen wandering a castle exclaiming about roses. A third is too good to be true. The fourth is the fifth. Esquire thinks one of them is hot.

Other possible clues come from the title of his posts “Dutch Treats and Casting Calls”, prompting some fans to wonder if one of the actors or actresses is Dutch, and his music selections “Too Good to be True” and “Alright, Still”.  Naturally the riddles without resolution, and the fact that we have no idea of when HBO will announce its casting decisions, is enough to drive a TV enthusiast/huge ASOIAF fan mad.  So taking a break from reading through the various fan theories, here is a collection of this summer’s other casting choices.  Don’t worry – there are no riddles to be found here, but there may be minor spoilers so if you really don’t want to know anything and even stay away from the TV guide descriptions of new episodes, turn back now.

Robert Knepper

Robert Knepper

Earlier this summer, Heroes announced a number of new additions for its fourth season.  Heroes is once again beginning the season with our heroes trying to live normal lives.  Somehow I doubt that will work out for them.  The season will introduce a group of carnies with abilities who have chosen to hide in plain sight by encorporating their talents into a carnival show, and if you’re getting images of HBO’s fantastical Carnivale right now, then you are not alone.

Among the new carnival folk are Ray Park, best known for playing Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode One, who will play knife-wielding Edgar, Dawn Olivieri, who has been cast as tattooed empath Lydia, and Robert Knepper, who played the always creepy T-bag on Prison Break, as Samuel, the show’s ringleader.

Outside the carnival, Deanne Bray (Sue Thomas F B Eye) has been cast as Peter’s deaf co-worker Emma and Ernie Hudson (Oz) has a recurring role as a Baltimore cop.  Tessa Thompson, who played Jackie on Veronica Mars,  has been cast as Becky, a fellow student who will clash with Claire, and Madeline Zima (Californication) will play Claire’s college roommate Gretchen who she – wait for it – ends up kissing!  I have a really bad feeling about this one.

Meanwhile, another Star Wars villain will be guest staring in House m.d. this season.  Darth Vader himself James Earl Jones is set to appear in the fourth episode as an African dictator who becomes a patient at Princeton Plainsboro.  House’s roommate in the institution will be played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote and starred in the Tony award winning musical In the Heights.  I’ve linked his rapped acceptance speech for best original score at the Tony Awards below.

Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse returns for its unexpected second season with guest star Jamie Bamber, who was in Battlestar Galactica with series star Tahmoh Penikett.  Fellow Battlestar alum Katee Sackhoff will join the cast of 24 this year as Dana Walsh, a CTU analyst. Her character will be in a relationship with new cast member Freddy Prinze Jr., also known as Mr. Sarah Michelle Gellar, and in keeping with 24’s tendency to cast Canadian actors, Callum Keith Rennie will play a Russian mobster.

Canadian actress Sarah Carter

Canadian actress Sarah Carter

Another Canadian is the newest series regular on CSI: New York. Actress Sarah Carter (Shark), who grew up in Winnipeg, will play a tech who aspires to work in the crime lab and who is hiding a secret.  Speaking of keeping secrets, there’s John Lithgow, cast as a serial killer who kills in threes in the fourth season of Dexter.

The Mentalist will make progress on the Red John case by bringing in Oz’s Terry Kinney as a CBI agent who heads up the division overseeing the Red John murders.  He also happens to be Lisbon’s ex, and the one person immune to the considerable charms of Patrick Jane.

With stars Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay signing new contracts to remain on Law and Order:SVU, the series has been continuing its usual parade of name guest stars.  In the season premiere, Prison Break star Wentworth Miller will appear as a cop who helps a rape victim, while Eric McCormack, whose show Trust Me was recently axed, has been cast as a sugar daddy in the second episode.  McCormack has also handed a recurring gig on The New Adventures of Old Christine as a potential love interest for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character.  Back on SVU, Christine Lahti will play the new ADA in the first four episodes before Stephanie March reprises her role as Alexandra Cabot.

Tyra Banks will appear on Gossip Girl.

Tyra Banks will appear on Gossip Girl.

Gossip Girl has also cast some high profile names, with Hilary Duff added in a recurring role this season.  Duff will play Olivia, a movie star who enrols at NYU in order to have the traditional college experience.  Tyra Banks will also guest star, playing an actress who co-stars with Duff’s character in a film.  Finally, Privileged star Joanna Garcia will play Nate’s new girlfriend Bree, who is from a conservative Southern family. Ugly Betty is re-casting the role of Wilhelmina’s willful daughter, which was previously played by Jowharch Jones. America’s Next Top Model runner-up Yaya Dacosta will be stepping into the part.

Smallville has cast British actor Callum Blue (Dead Like Me) as the villainous General Zod in its ninth season, while Mark Pellegrino, who played Rita’s abusive ex-husband Paul on Dexter and was more recently seen as the mysterious Jacob in Lost, is set to play Lucifer himself in CW series Supernatural.  He will appear in the fifth season premiere on September 10th.

Chris Vance will guest star on Burn Notice.

Chris Vance will guest star on Burn Notice.

I admit that I’ve never watched USA spy series Burn Notice, even though it looks like a lot of fun.  The news that Chris Vance (Mental) will guest-star in four episodes as a former MI-6 agent overseeing black ops is enough to make me give it a try though.   I also don’t watch The Daily Show, but I hear that Lewis Black is a great choice for a guest starring role on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Black will play a Professor of entomology (which any good CSI: Las Vegas fan knows means the study of bugs), whose life is in ruins.

In the fourth and final season of The Tudors, Henry VIII marries his sixth wife.  Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) has been cast in the role of Catherine Parr, who outlived the English King.

Most of these guest stars won’t appear until September or October, but Evan Rachel Wood will make her debut on True Blood at the end of August.  She will be playing Queen Sophie-Ann, the Vampire Queen of Louisiana, and will recur next year, since True Blood was officially renewed for a third season.

There’s some exciting casting news for fellow TV enthusiasts but I’m still waiting for HBO’s official announcement on Game of Thrones. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long.


Quotes from Comic-Con

July 27, 2009
Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco in The Big Bang Theory

Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco in The Big Bang Theory

As I’ve said before, San Diego Comic-Con is on my list of things to do before I die. Hopefully in a few years I’ll get the chance to experience all the madness and the joys of being there firsthand, but until then, this TV enthusiast is making do by reading everyone else’s tweets and blogs, and by enjoying the youtube videos of panels that inevitably emerge. For anyone else who didn’t get a chance to attend the event, or for those who don’t spend quite so much time gathering information and quotations from various television resources, here’s a look at some of the great quotes of Comic-Con this year.

One of the best comedies on television has to be The Big Bang Theory, so it comes as little surprise that their cast offered a number of memorable quotes.  Although this year the show will be moving towards Leonard and Penny in a relationship, a portion of the Internet community prefers the idea of Sheldon and Penny as a couple.  Personally I agree with the writers’ stance that Sheldon’s mistress is science and I can’t picture him in a romantic relationship, but one fan who felt differently asked if he would ever get a girlfriend.  Jim Parsons (Sheldon) replied, “Do you want me to sit here and prognosticate? Because you’ve got the writers.”  After co-stars Kaley Cuoco (Penny) and Johnny Galecki (Leonard) commented on his great word choice, Jim said, “Thank you.  I said I’m not dumb, I just don’t get the science.”

The idea of Sheldon and Penny as a couple did get an enthusiastic response from some of the attendees at Comic-Con, leading to this exchange:

Writers: Ten minutes and she’d shoot him.  She’s from Nebraska, they have guns.
Jim Parsons: I don’t know that Sheldon’s man enough for Penny.
Kaley Cuoco: She would eat you alive.
Jim Parsons: Uh huh.

Yet the most memorable moment came when one fan asked Jim Parsons, referring to the show’s Christmas episode “The Bath Gift Item Hypothesis”,  if he would use a napkin so that he could “grow his own Jim” for his little sister.  Kaley wiped Jim’s brow before handing the napkin back to the fan.

Although I don’t watch the show, I’ve heard a great deal of praise for Battlestar Galactica, which was recently snubbed at the Emmy nomination ceremony.  Executive producer Ron Moore had this to say on the subject, using the BG substitute expletive ‘frak’ while shouting to enthusiastic applause:

“It was a fraking crime that the entire cast of ‘Battlestar’ was never recognized for the performances they gave week in and week out.”

Tru Blood the drink will be available soon.

Tru Blood the drink will be available soon.

At the True Blood panel, series creator Alan Ball announced that the popular synthetic blood drink from the show would now be a reality.  The beverage will be available on HBO’s website as of September 10th, just in time for the second season finale.  But just what will the drink consist of?

Ball: We put together a nice little mixture of a kind of delightful Chateau, cabernet, with some actual blood of hemophiliac European royalty, a little vodka, a little vicodin, a little viagra, and ecstasy. Unfortunately it’s completely illegal.”

The label is an exact replica of those used on the show and the drink will actually be a blood orange soda.  The panel also announced that Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels that the show is based on, has signed a deal to write three more books.

Other big announcements at Comic-Con included the fact that Supernatural might get a sixth season.  Creator Eric Kripke has had what so many writers inexplicably don’t – a plan.  His five year plan for the show would have made this year the last hurrah for the Winchester brothers, but Kripke says that he is open to doing another year of the show and that stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are signed for a possible sixth season.

Finally, Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse panel offered some insight on which Whedonverse stars would be appearing in the Dollhouse this season.  ‘If the stars aligned’ Summer Glau, of the recently cancelled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, would guest star.  Felicia Day, who appeared in the unaired episode thirteen, titled “Epitaph One”, will also be appearing in the first episode of season two, while Alexis Denisof, known to Angel fans as Wesley, will put in an appearance this season as well.

Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon and star Eliza Dushku.

Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon and star Eliza Dushku.

Between offering hints of what’s to come, Whedon found time to quip, getting in some great quotes as follows:

When asked how he knew that Alan Tudyk was the right one to play Alpha:
“I met him.”

On what’s next for Dollhouse:
“We talked about a lot of ideas for going forward after we accidentally forgot to get cancelled.”

On his obsession with big corporations:
“Have you been in America?”

And finally, getting in a dig at Heroes:
“As long as we don’t send anyone back to feudal Japan we’re pretty much okay.”

With Lost entering its sixth and final season, the actors speculated on how they would like to see things turn out for the island’s characters.  Nestor Carbonell (Richard), Michael Emerson (Ben), and Jorge Garcia (Hurley) commented on the Sawyer/Kate/Jack love triangle in an interview with Michael Ausiello:

Michael: I think that Kate should find another man altogether.  I really do, there’s just so much baggage now.  It’s not a healthy triangle I don’t think.  It would be better if someone had the nerve to bust out.  It’s a large role, there are a lot of nice people out there.”
Jorge: Have Kate go ruin someone else’s life.
Nestor: I’d be happy if Kate ruined Richard’s life.

Josh Holloway, who plays Sawyer, had his own theory about season six:
“Me and Hurley will hook up and live happily ever after.”

Only executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse hold the answers and they presented a locked box at the beginning of the panel which they said contained the last page of the final episode’s script. They claimed that they would open the page on Jimmy Kimmel after the series finale aired. However, near the end of the panel Josh Holloway took to the stage with a taser and forced Cuse to open the box so the final scene would be revealed to Comic-Con.

Paul Wesley from the new CW series The Vampire Diaries commented on being compared to heartthrob Robert Pattinson of Twilight, “It makes me so uncomfortable.  9  of 10 girls in this room would throw me under a bus to get to Edward Cullen.”

While Freddy Prinze Jr., who is joining the cast of 24 this year, recieved a response for mentioning watching television with his wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar who starred in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  As the audience screamed, he snorted, “I forgot she’s big here.”

John Barrowman and David Tennant in Doctor Who

John Barrowman and David Tennant in Doctor Who

Some of the most eagerly anticipated panels were those for Torchwood and Doctor Who.  Introducing the Easter special Planet of the Dead to American audiences, star David Tennant said “Tonight you’re going to see the American premiere – the legal American premiere of Planet of the Dead.”

He also joked about American pronunciations telling the audience “I love America, you say premieres and awesome.  I’m taking awesome back to London with me.”

But the highlight for some was John Barrowman, there to introduce the screening of Torchwood: Children of Earth, reacting to David Tennant kissing him.  After Tennant planted one on him, he pretended to faint and let out a fangirl scream.  Recovering, he said “I’ve slightly gone all flustered, I really have.  I’ve been waiting for that for years, thanks David.”

At the Fringe panel, actor Joshua Jackson (who plays Peter in the series), talked about the revelation that his character was from an alternate universe, saying, “As an actor, you never want to read the line ‘And he looks at Peter’s grave’.”

Alexander Skarsgård of True Blood

Alexander Skarsgård of True Blood

True Blood‘s thousand year-old vampire Eric Northman, played by Alexander Skarsgård, received cheers at the HBO panel, and in an interview afterwards Skarsgård and co-star Deborah Ann Woll, who plays fledgling vampire Jessica, talked about what they would like to see for their characters.  Deborah hoped her character would get a little loving in the future, prompting the interviewer to ask if she was saying that she wanted Skarsgård to play her love interest.  Deborah replied, “Who wouldn’t?”

Fan favourite Johnny Depp even made a Comic-Con cameo, appearing to support Tim Burton at the Disney 3D panel, where he was previewing his live action ‘Alice in Wonderland’ adaptation.  Depp reportedly walked onstage to cheers, said “Hey. Happy to be here.” into the mic, and departed.  Burton quipped, “He was in the neighbourhood visiting Sea World.”

Dexter stars Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, and Jennifer Carpenter were joined by guest star John Lithgow, who will play a murderer known as the “Trinity Killer” on the show, on the Showtime panel.  Referring to his popular 3rd Rock from the Sun character, Lithgow said, “On ‘Dexter’ I play a serial killer and his first victim is High Commander Dick Soloman.”

But it was Comic-Con favourite Robert Downey Jr., there to promote Iron Man 2 who arguably had the best quote of the event as he said had this to say about co-star Mickey Rourke, “And I thought I was eccentric.”


Kings Ends its Reign – What Went Wrong?

July 25, 2009

kings dvdTonight creator Michael Green’s Kings airs its series finale. Based on the biblical story of David, Kings takes place in the fictional kingdom of Gilboa, which resembles the United States but is ruled by an absolute monarchy. The cast, led by Ian McShane (“Deadwood”) as King Silas Benjamin, includes Sebastian Stan (“Gossip Girl”) as the closeted Crown Prince Jack, and Australian actor Christopher Egan (“Eragon”) as soldier David Shepherd, who defeats an enemy tank, called a Goliath, to become a national hero.

Originally airing Sunday nights as a lead-in for NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, Kings premiered in fourth place with 6.47 million viewers and a 1.6/4 share in the desired 18-49 demographic. This figure continued to drop, prompting NBC to move the show to Saturday night but after just one Saturday airing, Kings was banished to the summer. Despite receiving generally positive reviews and being considered by some to be the most original drama of the season, Kings was officially cancelled in May at the network upfronts. When it returned to burn-off remaining episodes, it was without promotion and without many viewers. Last week Kings drew a dismal 1.57 million viewers and received a 0.4 demographic rating.

Which begs the question what went wrong?  The show was not a critical darling, like Pushing Daisies, but reviewers generally felt it had strong aspects, a great deal of potential, and was one of the most original series they had seen come along in awhile.  Then again, American audiences aren’t always known for catching on to unique or high-concept shows.

What is clear is that Kings was an ambitious show with a larger mythology. It was the sort of show you expect to see on a cable network like HBO or Showtime with the likes of Carnivale or Rome, certainly not on the fourth place network, who recently announced that Jay Leno would be filling its 10pm primetime slots instead of original programming. One look at the Emmy nominees for Best Drama says it all. The only network shows nominated are House and Lost, both shows that have been on the air long enough to pass the 100 episode mark.

kings groupIt’s a formula known only too well. A intelligent original show = cancellation. In a world where the originality of ABC’s Pushing Daisies or Eli Stone are overlooked in favour of a less engaging Grey’s Anatomy spin-off or an umpteenth edition of The Bachelor, what chance did Kings ever have? Perhaps this is why so many of the 2009-10 pilots contain the same tried and tested formulas, including the ever popular medical drama, and more police procedurals.

Kings was a different sort of show and NBC never knew what to do with it.  I’ve read an article that opposes the suggestion that Kings failed due to NBC’s poor treatment of it.  The point of the article seems to be that people weren’t very interested in Kings and it would have failed anyway.  The writer might be right, it might have failed, but I don’t agree that NBC did all they could for the show.  The sad fact is that, as creator Michael Green said, “They were very confused with how to market our show and I think, ultimately, I think it’s one of the reasons they lost the desire to make a success out of it. It’s very easy to say, ‘we have a nice cop show we executed really well for you.’ It’s harder to say, ‘we have a character-based soap that’s got some bizarre elements to it.'”

This is why, as a fan of Kings, I’m finding it hard to let go.  Unlike Pushing Daisies, a show that received an unlikely second season in order to build an audience, not to mention critical attention and network promotion but ultimately could not pull in viewers, Kings was incorrectly promoted and we can only speculate about what might have been.  What if it had been paired with a more compatible show than Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice? What if Kings had a better time slot?  What if NBC had a plan regarding how to market the show?

Green said that while the network was extremely supportive of how Kings approached the story of King David, there was discomfort with advertising it.  “I talked extensively with them about this,” he said. “It was a very bizarre divide. I found that in the development of the show, on the creative level of what the episodes and their content would be, I got nothing but support and interest in the religious or magical or somehow belief-inspired storytelling.

The Royal Family and David Shepherd

The Royal Family and David Shepherd

“When the time came for the marketing, there was a very deliberate, outspoken, loud desire articulated by them that, ‘We are not going to say King David.’ They were scared to say King David. They just felt that that would be detrimental to the show,” Green explained. “I thought it was the clearest way to express what the show was about, and I thought it might actually generate interest. But there was a fear of either backlash or marginalizing or pigeonholing. There were a lot of reasons they had. They wouldn’t go near it in the marketing, but they never had a problem with it on the creative level, which is why I was so baffled.”

Unfortunately, some also feel that Kings was a late starter, much like fellow new show Dollhouse, and that only the last few episodes of the show have realized its full potential.  Fans of Joss Whedon will recall tuning into the highly anticipated Dollhouse pilot and finding it largely mediocre.  They may also recall the numerous television critics, as well as Whedon himself, telling viewers to stay tuned as the sixth episode was a “game changer” and that Whedon had more creative freedom to tell the stories he wanted to tell from that point onwards.  The series did indeed pick up towards the end, aided by Alan Tudyk’s scene stealing performance as “Alpha”, although I’m still not sold on its brilliance.

Ian McShane and Chris Egan star in Kings.

Ian McShane and Chris Egan star in Kings.

I don’t necessarily agree that Kings was a late starter though, as I was hooked from the brilliant two-hour pilot, but as the series has built towards its finale it has gone from being great storytelling to true must-see TV.   Certainly ratings are a part of the television industry and without the ad revenue generated by ratings, a network will not profit.  Still, there are so many examples of shows that have been on the bubble of cancellation only to grow their audience after surviving the first season.  This is especially true of a show like Kings, which has a seasonal arc and is not a procedural where all ends are neatly wrapped up within an episode.

There have been a lot of great shows this season that were cancelled.  Although I found it a little too sugary sweet for my tastes at times, I do understand mourning the loss of Pushing Daisies.  With the news that NBC has cancelled it, I wonder if Canadian series The Listener will not get a second season on CTV.  Fox’s summer show Mental is likely cancelled as well, and, as I wrote in a previous entry, I will certainly miss the quirky and touching Eli Stone.  More than any of these cancellations though, I will miss Kings.  Now that it has become available to pre-order on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com, I will be purchasing the DVD set and I will be suggesting it to friends who missed the series.  With any luck it will become the kind of cult hit shows like Wonderfalls have become after their cancellations.

As for tonight, I’ll be sitting down to watch the series finale hoping for closure and enjoying the last new episode of the show.  I hope I’m not alone.

The series finale of Kings, titled “The New King part 2” airs tonight at eight on NBC.

Kings: The Complete Series will be released on DVD on September 29th.