News, scoops, reviews and more from TV land.
Here's, briefly, who I am: I've been with Newsday since 1989, and have written about virtually every show, personality, development, controversy, and network over those years. Most of this has been sheer joy. Some of it has been sheer torture. And all of it, for better or worse, adds up to one thing: I know a lot more about the wonderful business of television entertainment than even I care to admit.
"The Family Guy/Simpsons" crossover episode this Sunday -- which has very nearly been overlooked by the vast republic of viewers out there more intent on checking out the new "NCIS: New Orleans" -- was handed a gift Wednesday by the AP's respected TV writer, David Bauder. He reported there is growing controversy over a line embedded in the sizzle reel released at Comic-Con:
Stewie makes a prank call to Moe's tavern to one-up his new hero, Bart Simpson. The full transcript of that call: "Your sister is being raped." Click.
It is of course an awful, horrific line -- utterly characteristic of Stewie -- and is meant to underscore Stewie's pathetic attempt at matching Bart's attempt at humor. In other words, it is meant to be awful.
But on it's own, it looks like another vile -- in this instance misogynistic -- "Family Guy" joke, which could underscore something else: There's real risk for "The Simpsons" by agreeing to this melding of sensibility and humor.
Who knows how many other bombs are in this thing, which threaten to blow up in "The Simpsons'" fans' faces?
I have, I think, an answer to that question right here and now: This is it, no more. (Fox declined to give this out for review -- but happily gave us "Red Band Society." Thanks, Fox.)
Show bosses Al Jean (and Matt Groening) have said repeatedly they have no beef with the show, no issues to speak of, although Jean did say at the recent press tour this: "We said, 'Can you cut one rape joke?' And they said, 'No.' And we said, 'OK.'"
(There was another line that was problematic and apparently the "Family Guy" guys agreed to making that adjustment.)
"The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" have an interesting and fraught history -- which I discuss in a column Friday (briefly). Everyone who knows both shows knows the history intimately -- embedded little missiles that fly back and forth between both series that castigates the target's relevance or Neanderthal sensibilities. "South Park" -- it seems to me -- has been a far more effective critic of "Family Guy" and its formula, but that's just one opinion.
Here's the brief outtake from my Friday piece which (briefly) discusses the old rivalry. In a 2007 episode:
"Guy's" Glenn Quagmire shot and killed every member of the Simpsons after having sex with Marge; Fox refused to air the bit, and it was cut (but was reinserted on the DVD set). The rivalry can seem a bit vicious -- "The Simpsons" have poked at "Guy's" habit of borrowing from it -- although both insist it's all been in good fun: "If anything, we have the same kind of competition that Pugsley Addams and Eddie Munster had in the old days," Groening once said.
Again, none of this is news to fans, but does beg the old question: Why are these two in bed together?
Another outtake from my Friday column:
In television, the answer to "why" is always "to make money," but there may be elements of homage here, too. "Guy" would simply not exist without "The Simpsons," and this is certainly a form of payback. Now, back to the money bit: As a Fox corporate asset, “The Simpsons” has skyrocketed in importance, as the foundation for FXX, while a vast new website, Simpsons World, is expected to bow in October. In a deal valued at $700 million-plus, FXX has full digital rights to 552-plus episodes of “The Simpsons.” With that kind of money on the barrel, the more exposure (and promotion), the better.
So there you have it, friends. Television is about money and cross-promotion is about making money. If it takes a bad joke by Stewie to underscore this point, so be it. The republic of television will continue.
The wait is over, for the casting announcement anyway: Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn are the leads in the second season of HBO's "True Detective," the network confirmed Tuesday.
HBO further said Justin Lin ("Fast & Furious") will direct the first two episodes.
Here's everything I know and which you now know, from HBO:
"Eight episode hour-long drama is set to begin production later this fall in California. Logline: Three police officers and a career criminal must navigate a web of conspiracy in the aftermath of a murder. The series is created and written by Nic Pizzolatto. Justin Lin will direct the first two episodes. Cast: Colin Farrell as Ray Velcoro, a compromised detective whose allegiances are torn between his masters in a corrupt police department and the mobster who owns him. Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon, a career criminal in danger of losing his empire when his move into legitimate enterprise is upended by the murder of a business partner. Additional casting will be announced as it is confirmed."
Yes, the second season is much anticipated considering how much love was heaped on the first by fans and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (which did not in the end bestow any major awards.) Today's announcements will likely whet anticipation: Lin is one of Hollywood's top action directors, while Farrell's a major talent who has deployed his gifts in interesting places ("Saving Mr. Banks")... Elisabeth Moss of "Mad Men" has also been rumored - but not word on her yet.
HBO did not offer an airdate but is another January launch possible? ("TD" 1 launched mid-January of this year.) Maybe but later in the year would seem more likely.
It appears that despite dire predictions, sad tales of decline, and predictions that the sky is falling (because of time-shifting)... people are still watching TV. The start of the 2014 season on Monday night was a boffo one, especially for "The Big Bang Theory," seen by nearly 18 million viewers.
In addtiion, Fox newcomer "Gotham" had an excellent start too, with eight million total viewers, and a 3.2 rating among young adults. That may well have even exceeded Fox's own internal predictions.
As expected, "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Voice" took hits opposite "BBT" at eight, but nothing to be hugely concerned about at their respective networks: "DWTS," which began the season soft anyway, was seen by 12 million viewers -- way off from last season. "The Voice" was seen by 12.7 million, but had a very good 3.9 rating among young adults. (So yes, "DWTS" was officially in fourth place among younger viewers, but then "younger viewers" don't really watch this all that much anyway.) Meanwhile, CBS newcomer "Scorpion" opened strong (14 million) thanks to the lead-in, while "Sleepy Hollow" had a reasonable start. (5.5 million.)
How did ABC's "Forever" fare? Not bad either (8.3 million) despite a more-than-solid open for "The Blacklist" (12.3 million, meaning it held on to virtually its entire "Voice" lead-in.)
All in all, a very good night for network TV.
“NCIS: New Orleans,” the second spinoff of the CBS monster hit, arrives Tuesday night, with two particularly fine and seasoned actors — Scott Bakula and CCH Pounder. I’ve been a fan of their work for years — as probably you have as well — but I want to use Tuesday's launch as an occasion to throw a spotlight on Pounder.
Wrapping a run on “Sons of Anarchy,” Pounder — the CCH stands for Carol Christine Hilaria, but you may call her CC — is one of the most accomplished television actors of her generation; she is 61. She created memorable roles on “The Shield,” “Warehouse 13,” “Justice League,” “Brothers,” and “ER” -- and a few dozen movies in between. Her career was essentially launched by “All That Jazz.” There have been a few Emmy nods, still no wins. (Another egregious Emmy oversight.)
She’ll play Dr. Loretta Wade, a coroner in the New Orlean’s medical examiner's office, and I think we can all agree that unless audiences are officially sated by “NCIS,” this is one of those gigs that can last a career. (David McCallum, another TV classic, has a 258-episodes-and-counting run on the mother show.)
Pounder’s a remarkable lady. As an artist, she has an installation piece at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles for a show that opens later this month. She is also an AIDS activist, humanitarian, a mother, and — oh yes, almost forgot — allied with one of the most successful films in movie history: “Avatar.” She played Mo’at, and yes, she will reprise the role for the sequel, she told me.
We had a quick chat Monday.
What happens to your “Sons of Anarchy” arc (she plays cop Tyne Patterson)?
“They came to me, after ‘NCIS’ and it was suddenly, oh my God ... the difficulty was probably season six. I came in to finish the job [in 7] but probably at that time they didn't know there was a season seven. That may have been how it went. I was going like gangbusters to get this young man [Jax] and suddenly they had another season. But I’ve already moved on [to NCIS.]”
“NCIS’ is pretty much a job for life — how did that come about?
“It was pretty scary. I just felt that where my career was going ... had been a fairly edgy person from cable, I’d been in cable almost 18 years and, especially on those two shows, ‘The Shield’ and ‘Warehouse 13.’ had been racking up tough and edgy people. How do you take that type of person into a network show and make it different enough for network TV and not frighten people away? I thought it was a good challenge.
And how will that be translated into the coroner's gig — the same one McCallum has on “NCIS?"
“I’m a younger version than McCallum, and if we’re in a town that allows people to give them the illusion that you are allowed to do whatever the hell you want, how would that translate with someone who works with dead bodies all the time? What’s the [emotional] outlet? [After seeing what she called a “joie de vivre” among workers at the LA County coroner’s morgue] I thought this makes no sense to me at all and then I realized that if you are working with that kind of reality then the rest of your life would be enhanced by knowing what the alternative is — a sort of 'I’m going for the brass ring with gusto' sets in. I wanted to do that with Loretta.
There’s another seasoned pro you are working alongside -- Scott Bakula. Have you worked together before?
“Yes, ‘Quantum Leap.' [In an episode — mega TV trivia alert! -- “Black on White on Fire” on Aug. 11, 1965” which aired in 1990.] He still remembered. I still remembered. I have known his work, and loved what he did with Ray Romano and Andre Braugher [“Men of a Certain Age.”] and really loved the Liberace movie ['Beneath the Candelabara.'] I think he’s been as buried as I have been in some ways and not made himself into a specific [screen] personality [but] I finally understood what leading men really meant in a TV series and I thought, 'OK, [Bakula], that’s what they are.’ ”
I think of acting for you as a means to an end — the end being mostly charitable work. True?
“That is spot on. I think that has to do with the beginning of my career, when I looked at the situation and I realized that the actor I thought I was in my head was another actor altogether. Just the constraints of American life, of how we see each other, skin, looks, height, hair, all those things, and the amazing actress that was in my head was not the person in reality. So the person in reality got work and I used that to funnel all the other things I wanted to do. I wanted to help correct, help enhance educational opportunities for young people.”
You were raised in British Guyana on a sugar plantation?
“My father was the first black to run a sugar plantation in British Guyana. It was on the Demerara River [in eastern Guyana] of what was then known as British Guyana, which is known more for Jim Jones. ... I grew up in England ... came here when I was 20. I was in college in England then I decided I wanted to be an American actor while looking at British television and realizing there wasn’t room for me [there.] My father [her parents are Betsy Enid James Arnella and Ronald Urlington Pounder] went to Cornell [and CC went to neighboring Ithaca College] where they just happened to have” a theater program.
Is your Artists for a New South Africa (an AIDS support group) still going?
“We’re almost at the tail end of it [but I am] now working with the African Millenium Foundation which takes care of orphans. It’s a much much smaller charity, but a little more hands on, and I’ve turned my focus to children, and taken care of AIDS orphans. There are 7,000 orphans in Mozambique, and I took on eight in one family. I’ve taken care of the family for six years [and] help others form artificial families [there]. I’m told that in Africa, that between AIDS [and wars] the population of orphans is the fastest growing community. In Mozambique, this one little area, 7,000, [and] they live on dung heaps
What’s your outlook on life in general?
“That I’m incredibly privileged and lucky to be married to an extraordinary man [Senegalese anthropologist Boubacar Kone] and when I finish work and go to such a different environment, that’s what helps me feel very level about my needs ... I get on a coach flight to Africa, get off the plane and don’t have to drive ten feet to appreciate the fact that it’s a very different world I live in. That’s probably the best way to describe me -- that my feet are fully planted on the ground.”