Thursday, January 31, 2013

THE FOLLOWING – AWAITING BAFFLEMENT


After two episodes of Fox’s new drama, THE FOLLOWING, let’s take a look at the show’s potential and where it could go…


When I first heard about THE FOLLOWING, I was intrigued by the idea of someone creating a cult of followers to go on a killing spree. I imagined that it would be a psychological thriller, and that genre sounds exciting without knowing what the show is about. Two episodes in, the show has managed to thrill me and make me want to know more. What makes it more exciting is the fact that the bad guy is behind bars. The pilot started off with a bang—one shouldn’t have expected any less. The writers grabbed our attention immediately. The reason for the FBI to call in former agent Ryan Hardy is more than justified. And then they throw in a scene like the one in which that woman stabs herself in the eye. What follows is a discovery of who is part of Joe Carroll’s ‘following’, as it becomes increasingly uncertain as to who’s involved and who isn’t. The carrying out of Carroll’s first mission to complete what he had started before being caught initially made a compelling pilot plot, to set the tone for what he had been preparing for over the last eight years in prison.

Hearing Carroll talk about how he plans to write the ‘sequel of his previous work’ is sick, obviously, and it’s disturbing to imagine how he managed to brainwash so many people into helping him carry out his mission, to say the least. However, what I would like to see over the next few episodes is how he brainwashed them into committing gruesome acts. As a teacher and a writer, he was charismatic and charming, to an extent that he could ‘cast a spell’ on some people, but to really be engaged in the show and not rely on my suspension of disbelief, I would want to know more about the psychological mind-games that he played with these people to convert them into pawns for his big game. Of course, there should be more of an indication as to what his end-game is. But then, I suppose we’ll have to wait for the show to progress as we discover that. It’s one of those shows that need some time to unfold in order for the audience to really get the whole picture.

In the mean time, the idea of not being able to trust anyone is a good means to keep the interest going. When a potential target is alone with a cop, I’m at the edge of my seat, not sure that there isn’t going to be blood or stabbing. At the same time, I do wonder why the swarming FBI agents and cops would even let two people be alone, during times of potential danger, since no one can be sure of what might happen. That does make it seem a little gimmicky, but it still makes for an effective way to thrill the audience or startle us every once in a while. Another storytelling tool that is widely used is flashbacks, which EP Kevin Williamson relies on a lot. It’s sometimes distracting from the present, when we’re taken away from the main action into an exploration of back story, but then, when there’s such a big question as to how things led up to being the way there are, flashbacks are understandable. I still think that there might be a better way to intersperse the flashbacks with the current action. And speaking of back story, what makes it really personal for both Carroll and Hardy is the fact that Hardy has been involved with Carroll’s ex-wife. Claire’s character adds an interesting element to the series, as we discover the story of how she moved on from being married to a psychotic serial killer. What would add even more value to that angle is if we got an insight into their marriage, and how she discovered his secrets that eventually made him the villain in her life.

Among the performances, Kevin Bacon does a decent job, as a man who’s seen it all and has been pulled back into a world he’d left behind. The depth of Hardy’s frustration is seen only in bits and pieces. Bacon does the cynic act well, as he doesn’t show much of a reaction to the discoveries that they make, as Hardy knows that they should expect the unexpected. James Purefoy is subtle as Joe Carroll. His sinister calm and resolve, as he teases everyone, is eerie, which makes it a good performance. I would’ve expected more from Natalie Zea, as a woman who’s dealing with the horror of her past showing up as a terrible nightmare. Claire’s deep involvement in the story and the events that we see don’t seem as deep as they are, through Zea’s portrayal.

All in all, the show is intriguing and it has potential, but I’m still waiting to be completely engaged. I’m open to discovering more, as we see the first season progress. But I do hope that by the end of the first season, we have a better idea of Carroll’s long-term plan, to make it more consequential for the audience. 


What have you thought of THE FOLLOWING so far? Has it lived up to high expectations?

Monday, January 28, 2013

AWARD SEASON REVIEW PART II – POST SAGs


There weren’t many surprises at the 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, except for maybe the big categories. One thing is for certain—the SAGs sure have upped the award season excitement quotient, reinforcing that in a fiercely competitive season, nothing is for certain…


Well, nothing is for certain, except for Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway winning Oscars for Lincoln and Les Misérables, respectively, that is! Yes, other than that, one can’t be sure of who will win big at the Academy Awards next month. Let’s take a look back at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last night. It wasn’t a surprise that Day-Lewis and Hathaway won. The surprising winners were Jennifer Lawrence and Argo. Lawrence certainly deserved her Actor for Silver Linings Playbook, because her performance had more dimensions than award season frontrunner, Jessica Chastain’s did in Zero Dark Thirty or even Naomi Watts’ in The Impossible. That’s not to say that the latter two weren’t excellent. They were, but their roles weren’t as demanding, I feel (while Watts’ role was a little more demanding than Chastain’s). So I was happy when Lawrence’s name was announced, and it was good that she showed up, despite being ill. It sure proved to be a good decision. 

As for Argo, I agree that there were really good performances in the film, especially by Ben Affleck, John Goodman and Alan Arkin, but I have to be blatant and say that those performances were nowhere close to the performances in Les Misérables. Les Misérables might not win the Oscar for best picture, but when it was a matter of awarding the performances of the ensemble, I think the Guild really cheated them of the Actor. (I haven’t watched Lincoln yet, so I’m not commenting on how much it probably deserved it.)

Now, in television, I was the happiest when DOWNTON ABBEY won big. I wouldn’t have been disappointed if HOMELAND had won, but something about season 2 of HOMELAND made me feel like it just wasn’t as great as season 1 was. In comparison, DOWNTON has been consistent throughout. Now judging the performances, HOMELAND’s Damian Lewis and Claire Danes deliver excellently, and Mandy Patinkin and the others are also very good, but the variety and the vastness of the performances in DOWNTON ABBEY definitely put it a notch higher. Those actors are so good that when I saw them together on stage at the SAGs, I thought, ‘How is Mrs Hughes making the speech? The servants should’ve been standing behind, while the Crawleys accepted the award up-front!’ But jokes aside, it was good to see them up there. They deserved it. Claire Danes’ win was no surprise. Her wins have made TV award shows a little less exciting now. Even she can predict that she’s going to win, given her expressions when her name is announced! Bryan Cranston deserved to win for BREAKING BAD, even though his subtlety as Walter White in the latest season pales in comparison to his performance in the earlier seasons. Still, if you consider it as a collective acknowledgement of his work on the show, it was well deserved.

In comedy, there was no surprise with Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey winning their millionth Actors for 30 ROCK. But then again, if the Guild had to choose between awarding them and giving 30 ROCK the Actor for ensemble in a comedy, I think they made the right choice. After being irritated with the Guild for giving Baldwin the award every year, I finally made my peace with it. Maybe it’s good that they let him have a record of winning every year throughout the show’s seven-year run. Of course, performances like Eric Stonetreet’s, Ty Burrell’s and Sofia Vergara’s (in MODERN FAMILY) might have gone un-rewarded in the individual categories, but the Guild more than made up for that by giving them Actors for ensemble in a comedy for a third consecutive time, despite the fact that both, 30 ROCK and THE OFFICE are ending this year.

While the wins in miniseries or TV movie weren’t surprises either, I thought it was a good show. The presentations were good, especially Neil Patrick Harris and Amy Poehler’s. Their dramatic announcement of words was hilarious, especially when ‘mustard’ and ‘sandwich’ were among the mix. I also found Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway's presentation of Les Misérables, as a film nominated for outstanding ensemble, very funny, when they made references to Wolverine, Catwoman and Gladiator. In the acceptance speeches, I personally liked Daniel Day-Lewis’, especially because of his point about actors bringing Lincoln back to life. Ben Affleck did justice to everyone he wanted to thank in his speech, while Phyllis Logan’s speech, on behalf of the cast of DOWNTON ABBEY was endearing. With only one more big award show (the BAFTAs) left before the award season finale, predicting the results of the Academy Awards this year has become tougher. But I will be attempting that soon, later, next month, so watch this space.


Do share your views on the SAG Awards below…

Saturday, January 26, 2013

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS – PREDICTIONS


Here I predict the results of the 19th annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards…


While the Actor winners in the lead and supporting categories can be consistent with the winners in equivalent categories at the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, the ensemble categories can obviously turn out to be quite different at the SAGs. Last year, while The Help didn’t win any of the Best Picture awards at the Globes or Oscars, it was the big winner at the SAGs because it clearly had stronger performances collectively than The Descendents or The Artist. This year, however, I think Les Misérables is one of the stronger contenders for Best Ensemble at the SAGs (it won Best Picture – Comedy/Musical at the Globes), even though I doubt it will win Best Picture at the Oscars. That’s because it has a stronger collection of performances than Argo has (Argo won Best Picture – Drama at the Globes). If not Les Misérables, the SAG for Best Ensemble will go to Lincoln. In the lead and supporting categories, I think the winners will be Daniel Day-Lewis, Naomi Watts, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Anne Hathaway.

That brings me to television…


Ensemble In A Drama Series
I think that DOWNTON ABBEY stands a strong chance in this category, because two actresses from the show have been included in the Actress – TV Drama category, even though there is very little space in the individual acting categories in TV (considering that they don’t have supporting categories). However, ultimately the Guild will go with the current award season favorite, HOMELAND.



 
Ensemble In A Comedy Series
If MODERN FAMILY wins, it would be their third consecutive win, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the direction in which the Guild goes, because they don’t shy away from repetitions in results. However, I think this year, they’ll give it to 30 ROCK or THE OFFICE, seeing as it’s the last time these two past SAG winners will be in the running.


 

Male Actor In A Drama Series
Steve Buscemi (BORADWALK EMPIRE) could win a third consecutive time, for the same reason stated above. However, the odds are in the favor of first-time-nominated performances by Damian Lewis (HOMELAND) or Jeff Daniels (THE NEWSROOM). I think it’ll be Lewis.



 

Female Actor In A Drama Series
Jessica Lange (AMERICAN HORROR STORY) could win again, but I think they’ll acknowledge Claire Danes for HOMELAND this year. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they go with a supporting performance this year and give it to Maggie Smith (DOWNTON ABBEY), because she’s that good.


 
Male Actor In A Comedy Series
This is an easy one. They’ve given it to Alec Baldwin for 30 ROCK five years in a row and I don’t see what’s stopping them to repeat that this year as well, considering that 30 ROCK is ending. I do hope they surprise us though, by giving it to Jim Parsons (THE BIG BANG THEORY) or Eric Stonestreet (MODERN FAMILY), both of whom have deserved it more than Baldwin has in recent years.


 

Female Actor In A Comedy Series
Betty White (HOT IN CLEVELAND) won the last two years, and Tina Fey (30 ROCK) won for three consecutive years before that. This year, the Guild will repeat either one, I think. But again, it’ll probably be Fey, since 30 ROCK is ending. And I’ll say it again, I hope they surprise us by giving it to someone else.



 

Male and Female Actors In A Television Movie Or Miniseries
I haven’t watched any of the nominated TV movies or miniseries, however, going by the trend, as seen at the Primetime Emmys and Golden Globes, I’m quite sure these will be won by Ed Harris (GAME CHANGE) or Kevin Costner (HATFIELDS & McCOYS) and Julianne Moore (GAME CHANGE).




Who do you think will win? Share your predictions below...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

“PRIVATE PRACTICE” by DR VIOLET TURNER


That’s how PRIVATE PRACTICE ended. It was a bittersweet moment for me, as it always is when a show ends. These are my thoughts on the last few episodes of the show.


When PRIVATE PRACTICE began, I was skeptical. I had to watch it, obviously, because it was by Shonda Rhimes, and the lead was going to be Addison Montgomery, one of my then favorite characters in GREY’S ANATOMY. But I was skeptical because it was a spinoff, and it didn’t have a gripping premise. Maybe that wasn’t a big requirement for TV shows six years ago, as it is now, but still. As the show progressed, it grew on me. It had the same storytelling that GREY’S ANATOMY has and that worked very well. While several storylines may have reduced the characters to immature people making hasty and bad decisions, it was, on the whole, a pretty decent show. They’ve had some very strong storylines that have remained with me over the last six years. Violet’s baby being cut out of her and stolen, Charlotte’s rape, Amelia’s addiction, Dell’s death... And these are stories that will stay with me for a long time. Yet, it probably was the best time to end it.

As it drew to a close, I realized that I liked what they had done in order to give each character their final sendoff. Having an episode each dedicated to all the characters was a good way to give their stories some kind of resolution, with dedicated screen time, while also exploring the journeys they’d had through the show. I especially liked to see Sheldon’s episode. He was on the sidelines throughout the show, even when Brian Benben became a series regular. Other characters like Amelia, Charlotte and Cooper got to look back on their stories from the past, which reflected their evolution in quite a nice way. With time-frames established by showing the stage of Charlotte’s pregnancy, or the girl going missing, it was clear that all their stories were progressing simultaneously, and it could’ve been just as easy to go through with it like regular episodes, but clubbing each storyline together into single episodes turned out to be an effective storytelling tool.

After all the characters’ episodes ended, the last two episodes seemed like they would have gone well together as a two-part series finale. But seeing as I was doing a marathon, it came across that way for me anyway. Charlotte having the babies, Amelia’s epiphany about wanting babies, the touching story of how Addison adopted Henry with Jake’s help, Violet accepting life as a ‘work in progress’, etc made a good lead-in for the finale. In the finale, I was happy to see Naomi back. She had to come back as Addison’s maid-of-honor. The weddings were both beautifully done, especially Addison and Jake’s—the venue, the dress, everything was perfect. Towards the end it did kind of seem like it was all about who ended up with whom. In that, I thought Amelia and James’ story was very rushed, even though I thought they made a very hot couple. Sheldon and Miranda’s story was moving, but theirs was also quite rushed. Sam and Naomi came out of nowhere, but I was happy. Somehow, I always thought that they should get back together, especially when they hooked up once, a few seasons ago. But then he and Addison got together, and that became serious. Eventually, Addison didn’t end up with Sam, because their relationship was always tense and stressed, and she made way more sense with Jake. And even though I thought that Sam and Naomi back together might be awkward after he was with Addison, but the writers managed it very well, using Addison’s wedding as a catalyst.

I particularly liked how they used weddings to start and end the finale, with all the resolutions transpiring between the weddings. Violet’s sense of resolution and spirit of moving on was reflected well in the story of that patient (played by the lovely Sarah Ramos), and the book she was writing. And finally, it’s the book that ends it. The premise of the book seemed a little lame, but it was clear that they simply wanted to give us the message that all would be fine from there on, and that they were all out of the depths of depression that they’d all seen in the last six seasons. 

And while I say goodbye to PRIVATE PRACTICE, here's a medley of the Charlotte-Cooper dancing sequences in one of the last few episodes. It was hilarious and they were both so good. I'm sure some of you would like to watch it all together as well. 



What did you think of the series finale? Share your views below... And don't forget to vote for your TV favorites in the TV TALK Best of 2012 polls on the right! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

THE TV TALK BEST OF 2012 – NOMINEES


In the midst of Award Season 2012-13, I’m putting my favorites in television for the year 2012 out here. Do vote for your favorites in the polls alongside. The results will be declared here in the first half of February 2013.

It was a year of great television for me. I started watching several new shows, among which were breakthroughs in drama, like HOMELAND and THE NEWSROOM. I caught up on shows like THE GOOD WIFE, MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD and WEB THERAPY. I gave a few new comedies a shot, like GO ON and THE NEW NORMAL. And here is the best of TV in 2012 for me.
§  To accommodate some noteworthy performances, I have included guest acting categories this year.

§  For all acting categories, I have included the characters’ names, in case any of you are unfamiliar with the actors and actress’ names.
§  Somehow, I just couldn’t do justice to all the good shows by sticking to five or six nominees, especially in Series – Drama. 


Series – Drama
BREAKING BAD
DAMAGES
DEXTER
DOWNTON ABBEY
THE GOOD WIFE
GREY’S ANATOMY
HOMELAND
HOUSE MD
MAD MEN
THE NEWSROOM

Series – Comedy/Musical
THE BIG BANG THEORY
GLEE
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
MODERN FAMILY
WEB THERAPY

Performance by an Actress in A Leading Role – Drama
Marcia Cross as Bree Van De Kamp in DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES
Glenn Close as Patty Hewes in DAMAGES
Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons in DAMAGES
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick in THE GOOD WIFE
Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey in GREY’S ANATOMY
Claire Danes as Carrie Matthison in HOMELAND

Performance by an Actor in A Leading Role – Drama
Bryan Cranston as Walter White in BREAKING BAD
Michael C Hall as Dexter Morgan in DEXTER
Johnny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in ELEMENTARY
Damian Lewis as Nicolas Brody in HOMELAND
Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy in THE NEWSROOM
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in SHERLOCK

Performance by an Actress in A Leading Role – Comedy/Musical
Beth Behrs as Caroline Channing in 2 BROKE GIRLS
Kaley Cuoco as Penny in THE BIG BANG THEORY
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer in VEEP
Lisa Kudrow as Fiona Wallace in Web THERAPY

Performance by an Actor in A Leading Role – Comedy/Musical
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper in THE BIG BANG THEORY
Johnny Galecki as Leonard Hofstadter in THE BIG BANG THEORY
Breckin Meyer as Jared Franklin in FRANKLIN & BASH
Matthew Perry as Ryan King in GO ON
Michael Urie as Louis in PARTNERS

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Drama
Anna Gunn as Skyler White in BREAKING BAD
Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan in DEXTER
Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley in DOWNTON ABBEY
Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma in THE GOOD WIFE
Jessica Capshaw as Arizona Robins in GREY’S ANATOMY
Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris in MAD MEN

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Drama
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in BREAKING BAD
Larry Hagman as JR Ewing in DALLAS
Rob James Collier as Thomas Barrow in DOWNTON ABBEY
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in GAME OF THRONES
John Slattery as Roger Sterling in MAD MEN
Ian Somerhalder as Damon Salvatore in THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Comedy/Musical
Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler in THE BIG BANG THEORY
Melissa Rauch as Bernadette Rostenkowski in THE BIG BANG THEORY
Cobie Smulders as Robin Sherbatsky in HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy in MODERN FAMILY
Sofia Vergara as Gloria Pritchett in MODERN FAMILY
Ellen Barkin as Jane Forrest in THE NEW NORMAL

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Comedy/Musical
Kunal Nayar as Raj Koothrappalli in THE BIG BANG THEORY
Simon Helberg as Howard Walowitz in THE BIG BANG THEORY
Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson in HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker in MODERN FAMILY
Nolan Gould as Luke Dunphy in MODERN FAMILY
Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy in MODERN FAMILY

Performance by a Guest Actress in a TV Series – Drama
Martha Plimpton as Patti Nyholm in THE GOOD WIFE
Zuleikha Robinson as Roya Hammad in HOMELAND
Jane Fonda as Leona Lansing in THE NEWSROOM
Alfre Woodard as Dee Bennett in PRIVATE PRACTICE
Kate Burton as Sally Langston in SCANDAL

Performance by a Guest Actor in a TV Series – Drama
Andrew Leeds as Christopher Pelant in BONES
Jason Beghe as Det Voight in CHICAGO FIRE
Michael J Fox as Louis Canning in THE GOOD WIFE
Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn in HOMELAND
Jason Ritter as Mark Cyr in PARENTHOOD
Ray Romano as Hank Rizzoli in PARENTHOOD

Performance by a Guest Actress in a TV Series – Comedy/Musical
Sarah Jessica Parker as Isabelle Wright in GLEE
Kate Hudson as Cassandra July in GLEE
Meryl Streep as Camilla Bowner in WEB THERAPY
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Shevaun Haig in WEB THERAPY

Performance by a Guest Actor in a TV Series – Comedy/Musical
Iqbal Theba as Principal Figgins in GLEE
Matthew Broderick as Dave in MODERN FAMILY
Reid Ewing as Dylan in MODERN FAMILY
Alan Cumming as Austen Clarke in WEB THERAPY
David Schwimmer as Newell L Miller in WEB THERAPY

Writing
DAMAGES
DEXTER
DOWNTON ABBEY
THE GOOD WIFE
HOMELAND
MODERN FAMILY

Character Development
DAMAGES
DEXTER
GREY’S ANATOMY
HOMELAND
PARENTHOOD

Art Direction
BREAKING BAD
CHICAGO FIRE
DOWNTON ABBEY
GAME OF THRONES
GREY’S ANATOMY
MAD MEN

Costume Design
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES
DOWNTON ABBEY
GAME OF THRONES
GOSSIP GIRL
MAD MEN

Make-Up & Hair – Prosthetic/Non-Prosthetic
DEXTER
DOWNTON ABBEY
MAD MEN
GREY’S ANATOMY
GAME OF THRONES
HOUSE MD

Music – Background Score
CHICAGO FIRE
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES
DEXTER
DOWNTON ABBEY
THE GOOD WIFE
HOMELAND

Music – Compilation
THE GOOD WIFE
GOSSIP GIRL
GREY’S ANATOMY
PRIVATE PRACTICE
THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

Titles – Opening & Closing Credits
DOWNTON ABBEY
DEXTER
ELEMENTARY
GAME OF THRONES
THE NEWSROOM
PARENTHOOD


Fine Print
▪ The eligible series are those that I follow (2 BROKE GIRLS, 90210, AMERICAN IDOL, THE BIG BANG THEORY, BLUE BLOODS, BODY OF PROOF, BONES, BREAKING BAD, CASTLE, CHICAGO FIRE, DALLAS, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, DAMAGES, DEXTER, DOWNTON ABBEY, ELEMENTARY, FRANKLIN & BASH, GAME OF THRONES, GLEE, GO ON, THE GOOD WIFE, GOSSIP GIRL, GREY'S ANATOMY, HOMELAND, HOUSE MD, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, MAD MEN, MODERN FAMILY, THE NEW NORMAL, THE NEWSROOM, PARENTHOOD, PARTNERS, PRIVATE PRACTICE, REVENGE, SCANDAL, SHERLOCK, SUITS, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, VEEP, WEB THERAPY, WHITE COLLAR) ▪ The episodes being judged are those that have aired in the year 2012 ▪ The maximum number of nominees for Best Series (Drama and Comedy/Musical) is 10 ▪ The minimum number of nominees for Best Series (Drama and Comedy/Musical) is 5 ▪ The maximum number of nominees for all other categories is 6 ▪ The minimum number for all other categories is 4 ▪ The ‘Readers’ Choice’ is based on the polls alongside ▪ The other ‘Best of…’ are according to my judgment ▪ The ‘TV TALK Best Of 2012’ is only an expression of what I considered as excellence in television in the year 2012 ▪

While you should vote for your favorites in the polls, do share your views on the list here in the comments section below.