Hot Off The Press: The Latest TV News and Information
AVS Forum/"HOTP" Notes
By dad1153, AVSForum.com - Mar. 29, 2015
Hello and welcome. This is the "Hot Off The Press" thread in AVS Forum's HDTV Programming Forum. Established in 2004 by long-time AVS contributor Fredfa, "HOTP" is your daily one-stop destination for the latest in TV news, industry trends, new technological breakthroughs, Nielsen ratings (overnights and C+3/C+7), personality profiles, professional reviews and miscellaneous items related to the industry from all over the internet. Fredfa's mission statement for "HOTP" was (and still is) to keep the content as professional and guided by journalistic principles as possible while having a sense of community fostered among its many contributors.
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE? WANT TO CONTRIBUTE TO "HOTP"?
Whether you're new to "HOTP" or a long time reader, if you like what you see feel free to contribute either your comments and/or any TV/media news stories to our humble little thread. The more diverse voices "HOTP" features the better. We just ask you to follow these simple steps before posting stories:
--Read a few stories/pages back to see if the story you're about to post has already been featured. Two stories about the same subject (like, for example, a review of a particular TV show) are welcomed as long as they feature different and/or complementary content that doesn't overlap.
--Ask yourself: Does this story interest anybody else besides me? We're not opposed to celebrity gossip or sensational content, but ask yourself whether anyone else besides you would like to know X person's personal life or whether Y celebrity's latest scandal impacts the TV show he/she is on.
--Always attribute the news item you post in "HOTP" to its original reporter/news organization/website. It's not only courteous, but the proper thing to do to give the news sources providing the information their due recognition. [NOTE: Per Fredfa's instructions, Associated Press/AP articles cannot be posted on "HOTP" for legal reasons. If AP is the source of any or all the content of an article, please DO NOT POST in "HOTP"]
--No political comments, please! Be respectful of others' opinions. Self-explanatory.
* * * *
With over 125,000 posts and 11,000,000+ views in its combined three incarnations, "HOTP" is the longest-running, most read and most frequently updated thread in AVS Forum history. Here are links to the previous two incarnations of "HOTP," 11 years worth of news stories, listings, comments and miscellaneous content archived for posterity:
•"HOTP I": August 27, 2004 - April 23, 2007. (25,503 posts, 2,231,621 page views).
•"HOTP II": April 22, 2007 - March 28, 2015. (100,744 posts, 8,957,851 page views).
On behalf of myself and the behind-the-scenes people running the AVS Forum empire, thanks again for being a part of "HOTP." Whether it's been 11 years or 11 days, your readership means the world to us and we'd like to help us live up to our potential. Feel free to fire a private message to either my profile or the profiles of the moderators of the HDTV Programming thread (Dr. Don, etc.) with your comments, suggestions, criticisms and/or complaints.
On The Air Tonight
SUNDAY Network Primetime Options
(All shows are in HD unless noted; start times are ET)
7PM - America's Funniest Home Videos (R - Nov. 16, 2014)
8PM - Once Upon A Time
9PM - Secrets and Lies
10PM - Revenge
7PM - 60 Minutes
8PM - Madam Secretary
9PM - The Good Wife
10PM - Battlecreek
7PM - The Voice (R - Mar. 24)
8PM - iHeartRadio Music Awards (3 hrs., LIVE)
7PM - The Simpsons (R - Oct. 12)
7:30PM - Bob's Burgers (R - May 5, 2013)
8PM - The Simpsons (R - Nov. 23)
8:30PM - Family Guy (R - Jan. 11)
9PM - Last Man on Earth (60 min.)
PBS: (check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Call the Midwife (Season Premiere)
9PM - Masterpiece Classic - Mr. Selfridge, Season 3: Episode 1 (Season Premiere, 120 min.)
7PM - Aquí y Ahora
8PM - Nuestra Belleza Latina (120 min.)
10PM - Sal y Pimienta
6PM - Siempre Selena (Special, 120 min.)
8PM - La Voz: Kids (124 min.)
10:04PM - Suelta La Sopa Extra
11PM - Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (R - Feb. 15)
There's much in store for Jeremy Piven, returning as U.K. retail pioneer
By David Hinckley, New York Daily News
The end of World War I doesn’t end the battles for Harry Selfridge, and this visually glorious PBS drama gets ever-more comfortable as it follows them.
Jeremy Piven also gets more comfortable as Mr. Selfridge, the gregarious American who defied all conventional wisdom by opening an upscale department store in early 20th-century London.
The store can be a story in itself, but most often it serves as a beautifully appointed backdrop to the dozen or so human dramas the show routinely juggles.
The season starts on a note somber even for the upbeat Harry. He is burying his beloved wife, which disorients him in ways that are evident to others before they become evident to him.
The serious tension begins when his daughter Rosalie (Kara Tointon) marries Serge De Bolotoff (Leon Ockendon) and everyone’s favorite character Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus) marries Henri LeClair (Gregory Fitoussi).
While Harry sees these developments as seeding perpetual bliss, he has unfortunately once again missed what he does not care to see.
The writers skillfully interweave a visit from famed French designer Jeanne Lanvin with plots against Harry, postwar workplace gender tension, family betrayal and the aftereffects of shellshock to create, by the end of the season’s first episode, the looming shadow of catastrophe.
While Harry can be annoying, Piven has found a good balance in playing him, and he’s still mostly the good guy in this impending explosion.
And like everyone in the show, he’s always really well dressed.
Network/Air Date: Sunday at 9 p.m., PBS
Rating: ★★★★ (out of five)
‘The Dovekeepers,’ a long four hours
Miniseries about the Holy Land of old covers a lot of ground
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine - Mar. 27, 2015
Religious families who loved Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s History Channel miniseries “The Bible” will probably be thrilled to hear that the couple has produced “The Dovekeepers,” a miniseries set in ancient times in the Holy Land and airing just before Easter.
Those families should be warned that the movie isn’t suitable for screenings in Sunday school. They’re advised to wait for Downey and Burnett’s “A.D.,” which starts airing a few days later on NBC.
Fans of dovekeeping, meanwhile, should be warned that very little actual keeping of doves is shown.
The miniseries, based on Alice Hoffman’s 2011 novel of the same name, is a mix of romance, feminist revisionist historical fiction, and swords-and-sandals action.
Unfortunately, none of those constituent parts is good enough to justify the four hours. The handsome production and attractive performers could keep the eyes engaged, but the mind will wander.
Airing on CBS next Tuesday, March 31, and Wednesday, April 1, at 9 p.m., “The Dovekeepers” retells the story of the defense and fall of Masada, a desert stronghold occupied by Jews rebelling against the Romans in the late first century, a little too late to be included in the New Testament.
In a framing device, two female survivors of the Roman attack, Shirah (Cote de Pablo) and Yael (Rachel Brosnahan), tell the story to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (Sam Neill).
Shirah provides most of the feminist revisionism. She says that her mother was a “holy woman” who was “outlawed by the temple.” Josephus says that some people call such women “whores.”
“They feared the power of women like my mother,” Shirah says.
Many recent works of fiction have taken old stories from religion, legend or history and given them female main characters whose earth-mother knowledge is considered evil by the obtuse male establishment of their time. Perhaps because it’s trying to do so much else, “The Dovekeepers” doesn’t beat us over the head with this theme.
After her mother’s death, Shirah takes her herbs and talismans and moves to Jerusalem to help a relative, Josef (Manuel Cauchi), raise his two children, Yael and Amran (Diego Boneta). Shirah takes Yael under her wing and passes on her mother’s lore.
Oddly, all of the romances in “The Dovekeepers” are pre- or extramarital. Shirah gets pregnant by Eleazar (Mido Hamada), the married leader of the anti-Roman rebels. For this, she’s exiled from Jerusalem.
Shortly after, the Roman commander of Jerusalem, Flavius Silva (Sam Hazeldine), wounded by the rebels, decides to exterminate all of the people of Judea. Josef and Yael set out for Masada. Along the way, Yael commits adultery with their protector, the rebel Ben Simon (Luke Roberts), barely trying to hide it from his sweet-natured wife, Sia (Marama Cortlett).
“I was a woman of the desert, wild,” Yael tells Josephus, “but he was the lion I always knew would take me.”
Meanwhile, Shirah has had a daughter, Aziza (Kathryn Prescott), whom she dresses as a boy. After too many complications to mention, she also heads for Masada, where Eleazar is now the commander. Unfortunately, his wife is still in the picture.
Shirah and Yael get jobs in the fortress’s dovecote. This setup allows for some pretty shots of them with birds flying around them, but we never learn why Masada needed doves.
Although the Romans start to lay siege to the fortress, Aziza, who has stopped cross-dressing, and Yael find time for romance. Aziza actually dumps one warrior for another for no reason at all.
The dumped one reacts in a way that nothing in the story has led us to expect.
Most of the male love interests are one-dimensional hunks–the beards make them hard to distinguish and probably make it harder for them to express emotions.
The script, by Ann Peacock, forces the female leads to fill in too many emotional gaps. What’s more, whenever their narration tries to explain their actions or their feelings, we know the show will cut to Josephus saying something cynical and supercilious.
The sex scenes are safely PG-13, but the message they convey– chiefly that adultery is fine if the participants are really into each other–is probably something most parents won’t want their preteen children to hear.
Many people know how the siege of Masada ended. Parents who don’t are advised that the actual historical facts convey another message that might not be appropriate for children.
In the end, “The Dovekeepers” has too many mixed messages but not enough of a point.
Edward Kennedy, John Boehner, Ted Cruz: Sunday
By Hal Boedeker, Orlando Sentinel - Mar. 27, 2015
The dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate will be a topic on the Sunday morning programs.
Kennedy's widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, will be featured on NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week" and "Fox News Sunday."
CBS' "Face the Nation" turns to four of the late senator's colleagues: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and former Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.
The institute will be dedicated Monday in Boston. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of John Kerry will make remarks. So will McCain.
The Sunday morning lineup:
"Face the Nation" starts at 10:30 a.m. on WKMG-Channel 6. Other guests are Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark.; and Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, CBS' aviation specialist. A political panel features Dan Balz of The Washington Post, Scott Conroy of The Huffington Post, Nancy Cordes of CBS and Manu Raju of Politico.
Former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, D-R.I., son of Edward Kennedy, is another guest on "Meet the Press" at 9 a.m. on WESH-Channel 2. The program also features Greg Feith, former National Transportation Safety Board investigator and aviation expert. The panel will be Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress and Sam Stein of The Huffington Post.
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (ret.) are guests on "Fox News Sunday" at 10 a.m. on WOFL-Channel 35. The panel will be George Will, Carol Lee of The Wall Street Journal, Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks and former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.
Former Gov. Martin O'Malley, D-Md., talks to "This Week" at 11 a.m. on WFTV-Channel 9. He could challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. The panel will be ABC's Matthew Dowd, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, CNN's Fareed Zakaria and former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are guests on CNN's "State of the Union" at 9 a.m. and noon. Dana Bash is the guest anchor.
Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, talks to "Sunday Morning Futures" at 10 a.m. on Fox News Channel. Other guests are Philip Jennings, general secretary of the UNI Global Union, and Zach Simms, CEO of Codeacademy. The panel will be Republican strategist Ed Rollins, journalist Judith Miller and Fred Lane, vice chairman of investment banking at Raymond James.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali of Harvard University talks to "Fareed Zakaria GPS" at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on CNN. She is the author of "Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now." Zakaria talks about his book "In Defense of a Liberal Education" with CNN's Anderson Cooper. Other guests are Dean Ornish, MD, clinician and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute; Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund; and Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Richard Behar of Forbes talks about Scientology in the media on "Reliable Sources" at 11 a.m. on CNN. Other guests are Miles O’Brien, CNN aviation analyst; Gail Saltz, psychiatrist and author; and Thomas Erdbrink, Tehran bureau chief of The New York Times. Frank Sesno is the guest anchor.
Juan Williams and Kathleen Parker are guests on "MediaBuzz" at 11 a.m. on Fox News Channel. The show also features Joe Concha of Mediaite, Susan Ferrechio of The Washington Examiner, radio host Richard Fowler, Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily and Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine.
HBO's 'Going Clear' a remarkable glimpse into Scientology
By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times - Mar. 28, 2015
Although it is not the case in most places on Earth, it is hard to live in Los Angeles, especially in Hollywood, and not be aware of the Church of Scientology. It has stamped its name, hugely, on some of the city's most visible classic buildings, including the former Christie Hotel, the former Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, the former Chateau Elysee and the former Hollywood Guaranty Building.
There was a time you'd see members of the church out on Hollywood Boulevard, offering free personality tests to passersby; television ads were frequent. If Scientologists are in some ways more visible now, they are in other ways less. In "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief," premiering Sunday on HBO, the roots and progress of the organization — its deterioration, some older adherents say in the film — are the stuff of the documentary by Alex Gibney.
The HBO work does not contain much that isn't already in Lawrence Wright's similarly titled book on which the documentary is based. What is new is the medium on which the information is delivered.
To rebut the Gibney film, which first played at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Scientology created a website, http://www.freedommag.org/hbo. The church characterizes the documentary as "one-sided, bigoted propaganda built on falsehoods."
Apart from some blurry dramatic re-creation and a few fanciful images to illustrate the church's less advertised beliefs — its science fiction-style creation myth involving a galactic tyrant, a 75-million-year-old-world resembling 1950s America, overpopulation, tax audits, volcanoes, hydrogen bombs and the attachment of disembodied aliens to w human newborns — Gibney's presentation is, given his hot topic, sensibly low-key.
There is order and selection, of course — to say that this is storytelling is not to impugn its parts — but much of what he has to show you is remarkable in or out of this context. Gibney lays out the more earthly origins of the church and its creator, L. Ron Hubbard — "LRH" to his followers — which are in their way as curious as any of Hubbard's inventions. (Discoveries, the faithful would say.)
Much of what might be called the practical business of Scientology was carried over from Dianetics, whose tenets Hubbard laid out in what became a huge bestseller. The practice was to face bad memories (or "engrams") to be rid of them, similar enough to other forms of self-help programs and, indeed, to psychiatry (Hubbard's objections to the contrary).
At its conclusion, Hubbard says here, "an individual has erased his reactive mind, his unconscious mind is gone and he is totally alert and totally capable."
Scientology, which Hubbard created after Dianetics had run its course, added a many-step program that would bring a seeker to the state called "clear" — and, in the bargain, reveal to her or him the church's intergalactic back story.
It's well-known that Hubbard started out as a writer of pulp fiction, including science fiction; but, notwithstanding his oft-repeated assertion that (as given here in the words of his unacknowledged second wife Sara Northrup) "the only way to make any real money was to have a religion, a religion where he could have an income and the government wouldn't take it away from him in the form of taxes," he seems to have truly believed that he had discovered a force for world-changing good.
Some of what Gibney has to show — most notably films of Scientology meetings led by the church's leader, David Miscavige, horribly kitschy and aesthetically pompous — can just seem, to an outsider, ridiculously hilarious, but not particularly unsettling. (Tom Cruise, ladies and gentlemen.) Indeed, from the outside, the rites and rituals of the church can seem a little absurd, including the "e-meter" that supposedly measures "the mass of thoughts"; the "billion-year" contract signed by members of the inner-circle Sea Organization; the unquestioning reverence for Hubbard as the sole source of these revelations.
More troubling, and the bulk of his case, is the testimony of former Scientologists, some of them high-ranked, some of them claiming inside knowledge. Defenders of the faith will say that they are lying now when they say they were lying then, but they seem quite credible and composed to me — amazed at the people they'd been, astonished by what they couldn't see, ashamed at their actions or inaction.
'Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief'
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
'Mad Men' creator Matthew Weiner: 'I feel a sense of accomplishment'
Looking back on the beginning, and end, of the landmark drama
By Alan Sepinwall, HitFix.com - Mar. 27, 2015
Matthew Weiner has always been more comfortable talking about the past of “Mad Men” rather than letting anyone know anything about the future — even when that future is only seven episodes long, starting Sunday, April 5 at 10 p.m. [on AMC] Having spent enough time over the years asking Weiner questions that he responded to with a very guarded, “Well, you’ve got to watch,” I knew enough to focus as much on the past as possible when we recently sat down for an hour-long interview to discuss the end of his Emmy-winning baby. We talked about the last days of production, looked back all the way to the show’s origins when Weiner was a staff writer on “Becker” looking for a different kind of career in television, the show’s long acting Emmy drought, and more.
And I made it almost to the end without a single “You’ve got to watch.” I’d like to think that response was simply because he wanted to leave open the possibility that what I was asking about could maybe, theoretically, potentially happen in these last seven. But maybe I accidentally spoiled the end of the whole damn thing. To find out, well… you’ve got to watch.
(Also, I asked several fairly open-ended questions that received very thorough answers. I’m presenting most of them in their entirety, but trying my best to break them up into separate paragraphs for separate thoughts so it’s readable.)
When exactly did you wrap production?
Matthew Weiner: July 3. That’s when the actors were done. That’s when the camera stopped rolling. Then there’s like a month and a half of getting rid of everything, and I edited and mixed the sound until October. So then I moved out of my office in December which was really the –after going from like 600 people down to me and Heather, my assistant — that was the emotional part of it.
So let’s talk about that day first. Then we can talk about production.
Matthew Weiner: We can go in order. I had been warned about this: there’s a lot of goodbyes. So like first the art department is almost wrapped and then the writers. The scripts have to be done and the writers are the first ones completely done. And they came and visited the set and everything like that. And there was somebody helping me produce the last two episodes. Once I was directing, everything had to be done in advance. So the writer’s office shutting down was the first thing. But I knew they’d be around. Then you go through the actors, and everybody who was part of the circus goes. And that was really hard and very emotional. You have a last production meeting. You have a last table read. You have a last scout. You have a last tech scout. You have a last casting session. And people just start peeling away as you’re getting done with it.
People hung out, and one of the great things is by the time we were on the last day of shooting, everybody — whether they wrapped or not — was there. And we got into this impromptu ceremony of telling everybody when somebody’s last scene was going to be, if it was on location or something like that. And no matter where we were, people would just show up. The cast would show up. The actors would show up in street clothes and they would sort of crowd behind the monitor for the last take. And there would be some emotion and the actor would give a speech, nd then I would give a speech of some kind, usually something about the journey or about their audition. It was a lot of really cool stuff said. Kiernan (Shipka)’s was incredible. Just standing behind her and seeing her parents there and standing behind this woman. And she’s so eloquent.
Jon was last fittingly and by the time Jon’s last shot went, I’d say there were close to 300 people on the stage. It was a lot of hugging and kissing. He gave a good speech, but I tried to hold it together because I was directing and we had to keep moving and had to pay attention to make sure that every scene wasn’t played like it was the last scene on the show. Because a lot of them weren’t, you know, they just happened to be the last thing on the schedule. You just try and be in the moment. I was reminding people the whole time, “Let’s savor this.”
I didn’t go around a lot when they were taking the rigging down and the lights and the stages were being returned to their original state and things were being boxed up. I wasn’t around. I just went to editing and focused on finishing the show. You have your last mix and your last color timing and your last editing session. Saying goodbye to the editors one at a time because they go on rotation. And then finally, you turn everything in and you’re like, “Time to get out of the office.” And L.A. Center Studios, where we shot for all that time – they offered that I could stay there indefinitely. And I don’t mean with a lease. I mean, they were like, “Stay in the building. You might have another show.” Because we occupied a huge amount of it. We were one of the longest term tenants I think they ever had there. It’s not that old a studio. And I was just like, “I think I should go. I can’t live in the ‘Mad Men’ museum. I’m going to pack everything up and take it home and put stuff in storage and throw stuff away and start over somewhere.”
No one told me, but that was really emotionally difficult. Part of it’s like you save all this stuff. It’s like Miss Havisham. You save all this stuff because you think you’re going to look at it one day, and that’s the day that you’re going to look at it. Because you’re not just gonna pick it up and move it, you’re gonna throw half of it out. And as we’re putting DVDs and stuff into storage, I’m thinking, “Should I put a player in with these, because I don’t think this format will be working when I open this thing again.” You start thinking about your whole life. I’m an itinerant writer. I’ve had, like, one banker’s box that my entire office has been in for the last five jobs before this. And that stuff was there.
When “Sopranos” was ending, I was talking to Terry Winter about who was taking home which props. And he said there was a big fight over who was going to get Bacala’s train set. What did you take home from this?
Matthew Weiner: You know, I have nothing from “The Sopranos.” I have like two or three props from my key episode. When you’re a writer/producer on an episode, you might get doubles of something or whatever. I have a couple of things that I loved. On this show, I could take whatever I wanted, as long as I paid for it. Everything’s an asset of the show. You can’t just go down and steal stuff. And people were really good about it. I’d heard about “Seinfeld,” that the place was stripped before they shot the final episode. Like taking the brush out of the kitchen and the cereal boxes and stuff. But I took Roger’s bar. I took too much stuff. I’m not gonna lie to you. I took a lot of stuff that nobody else would notice. I have Peggy’s tape dispenser. I have something from Joan’s bar. I’d taken stuff all along the way, and a lot of it was mine. I brought a lot of stuff to the set so those things are all in my office at home. But Roger’s bar and the ice bucket that was on it – those were my big trophies. I probably would have taken Don’s bar, but it had another destination in mind so I’m very happy about that. That’s going to the Smithsonian. That’s better than my house. But I just thought Roger’s bar was the happiest, most fun bar. And I actually already had Roger’s old bar from the Sterling Cooper office in my office. People may not realize this, but on the old set, Bert Cooper’s office and Roger Sterling’s office were the same space. They would just reconfigure the doorway and everything and change the furniture. So for a while Roger’s bar, whenever they weren’t putting it on set, they would just put it in my office anyway. And then when we changed to the new office, they just gave it to me. So I have that.
How does it feel to be done with it? Obviously the episodes still have to air, but there’s no more work.
Matthew Weiner: I can’t gauge what the feeling’s going to be like when it really goes off the air. I can’t. That is really the end of it. That will be different. It sort of feels like you’re kind of back down alone with your computer the way I was when I wrote it. So part of it feels very honest. As someone who is on some level, like all writers – no offense – basically a lazy person who really needs a deadline for everything, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I really do. There’s 92 hours of it, and I got to work with great people and got to do things. I feel very lucky that we got to end it when we wanted to and the way we wanted to. And I realize some of the essential perks of the job that were deep, deep in my life. Mostly my creative life, certainly. When you’re a writer, a screenwriter you’re writing scripts, you’re begging people to read them to try to get them going. And your ratio of what gets shot to what you write is heartbreaking. And here I was in this environment where everything I wrote was read within 24 hours by the smartest people in the world, who never held back in criticizing and trying to make it better. And then everything I wrote was shot. At that cycle, that’s something that I’m really gonna miss. I’m going to be chasing that again, believe me.
And the other part is I feel a little bit clean. My oldest son went off to college right around the time that we finished editing, and that was a life moment also. And there’s something that feels very much like a break in some sort of whatever the seven stages of man are, if you believe that. I believe that. I wrote the pilot when I was 35. It got shot when I was 42, and now it’ll be going off the air and I’m 49. I feel that. So you should have asked me over Christmas, I would have told you, “Miserable.” I was in a really bad mood and feeling like I’d lost everything. Which is not something to say to your family, just so you know. Because my integration into civilian life was not easy. It was very gradual, but I definitely was so busy that the amount of what I was doing in a week is what I used to do in a morning. And you feel like you’re sick, you’re wearing your robe. And then all of a sudden I was like, “Wait a minute, I can watch movies. This is part of my job. I’m gonna watch movies I want to see. I’m gonna take care of that dentist appointment.” I went to Berlin and I was a juror on the film festival there, which was so nourishing to see all those movies, the new movies and travel and stuff I don’t get to do. And I’ve become very close to my family. Not like I wasn’t before, but it’s different to not have that pressure of, “Okay, I’m off for this amount of time. Let’s get some great time together.” As opposed to just, your kid’s coming home from school and you’re there. You don’t have to interrogate them and you don’t have to say, “Let’s go build a fort.” You can just sit there and listen to them practice the piano and stuff that I wouldn’t do because I didn’t have time.
You talked before about being alone with your computer writing the pilot when you were 35. Let’s go back to that. You were on staff at “Becker” at the time. What was the impetus to do this?
Matthew Weiner: Let’s see if I can say it in the most positive form. I had been very successful in half-hour TV, and right when I got to that show I wasn’t a particularly high-ranking writer. I liked most of the people that I worked with, but I realized like it’s not what I wanted to do. And I always had other things slightly in my mind, and I had just worked on a show right before that with Diane English and Tom Palmer called “Living in Captivity,” which broke my heart. Because we did this great show. I don’t know if it holds up. I don’t know if it’s available anywhere, but I was super proud of this show and laughing every day and felt like I was in the midst of amazing people, and it got cancelled after three episodes. And I went on to “Becker.” It was a great job to get, and it was a hard job to get. It was a move in success, but my heart wasn’t in it. I once said to Tom Palmer, “I don’t know what it is. I’m not enjoying this. It feels like a job. It doesn’t feel like writing.” And he’s like, “If you can write, you can write your way out of anything. You can change your life.” And there were famous stories about writers even in positions of great success. I don’t know if it’s true or not but supposedly Peter Casey and David Lee were running “The Jeffersons” when they wrote a “Cheers” spec. Like they were running the number two show on TV. Maybe number one. And wrote a spec of another comedy because they wanted to get a job there. Tom Palmer had written a spec “Cheers” that had gotten him into the business that was pretty famous. And I was like, “Okay, I’m just gonna write, because I want to feel like a writer again. I don’t want to feel like I’m in this machine.” It wasn’t touching my life, what I was writing.
I was always interested in the period. I grew up in Los Angeles in the ‘80s. I don’t think people understand our relationship with the late ‘50s in Los Angeles. In that period, in the Reagan era it was very much – we dressed that way. If you look at “My Aim Is True,” at the Elvis Costello album, you can’t wonder why I was interested in this period. Forgetting about the fact that two of the most successful TV shows when I was growing up – not that I was allowed to watch TV – were “M*A*S*H” and “Happy Days,” both of which were period pieces set in the ‘50s. I incredible that there were two period TV shows that were that big.
There are very long hours on a sitcom, but I just started doing it as a hobby. Like, “This is my mistress.” I’m going to work on this advertising project and taking notes and doing research before there was a viable Internet in many ways. I hired someone to go on Prodigy for me, because I couldn’t figure it out. I hired someone to go to the library and research all the tobacco stuff. I bought VHS tapes of movies that were very obscure — and quite expensive, if you ask my wife. But it was always me keeping my eye on things. And it was interesting because the first of the DVRs had come out and I had one called the Replay machine. And you could actually set it on the meta data for the year. And so I would have 1958, 1959 and 60 on there as – and it would just record movies off TCM or whatever – anything, any rerun anywhere that was playing. And I started getting inundated with this vibe that was proving a theory that I had that life was not that different. I did that for a couple of years. I didn’t pull the trigger until a couple of years after I was working there.
And how close, when you finally got it all together, was that script to the one that you would shoot seven, eight years later?
Matthew Weiner: The script that I finished in that room in the Lasky building at Paramount with Robin Veith as my writer’s assistant (was) almost identical. I’d say the only thing that changed is I added a couple of things. I added two things that were the notes from Christina (Wayne) and Rob (Sorcher) at AMC. The two notes were because I told them this whole story. I don’t know if you know this, that there was a movie script that I worked on before I started that.
I didn’t know that.
Matthew Weiner: Well, it was unconscious on some level, but I had worked on a movie script before I got my first TV job that I crapped out on around page 80, called “The Horseshoe.” And it was a story of the Twentieth Century, about one of these guys who was one of these giants of the century, starting with his childhood in rural poverty. And it was very “(World According to) Garp”-like. It was very much of a picaresque story and, I abandoned that when I got a job on a sitcom, and then five years later wrote “Mad Men.” And then “Mad Men” got me my job on “The Sopranos” two years after I finished it. And then a few years after that, I met the people at AMC, and they were very interested in it, Christina and Rob, and said, “What do you see happening over the course of the season?” So I went against my better judgment, which was to just riff right there and see if I could sound interesting, and actually said, “This really matters to me. Can I have a couple of months?” Because everything’s in a rush. I knew I couldn’t go anywhere because of “The Sopranos,” anyway and I wasn’t leaving no matter what. I told them, “I’m not leaving ‘The Sopranos’ to go do another TV show – even my own. Can you wait?” I wasn’t defiant; I was just like, “Wouldn’t it be better for everybody if I was done with ‘The Sopranos’?” Because I really wanted to see the end of “The Sopranos.” I wanted to finish it out.
So I went home to look at my notes on the “Mad Men” pilot to see – I thought I had lots of story ideas and everything, and I had nothing. I couldn’t find anything. But I found this script that I remembered writing but hadn’t read for a long time. And the last scene on page 80 is this guy, Dick Whitman, dropping off another man’s body, his brother running after the train. And then it dissolved to him getting off the train and it says “Ossining, 1960.” And I was like, “This is the same character. This is the same story.” And I must have known that on some level, because I’ve been interested in advertising for a long time and into ad men. I remember having a joke in the show “Party Girl,” that I worked on with John Cameron Mitchell and Christine Taylor. It was my first job. (The episode) never went on the air, but it was a Halloween episode where John Cameron Mitchell came in all battered and bruised because he had been dressed as a martini for Halloween and two ad execs had accosted him. He was a giant martini. So this was always on my mind.
So I went back to AMC and I said, “This is the story.” And I told them the backstory of Don Draper and that he had changed his identities. All that was already there. I had that story and it must have been on my mind because the character in the pilot was very similar. And they’re like, “Well, you have to put some of that in the pilot.” So I put in the purple heart. They loved the idea that they were gonna be working on the Nixon campaign, which is something I pitched to them because I wanted to do our 2000 election as 1960. And then I added the thing about the fly in the light fixture. That was not in the original. I think it works that way too, but that was a very specific message to the audience, to let them know that it was not abstract. Because those light fixtures still exist, and I knew there’d be a moment where you see the fly in the light fixture and you’re like “Oh, they could have just shot that right in my office. If I lay on the floor in my office that’s what I’m gonna see.” And when we did the visual effects on it, the visual effects artist had the fly struggling and dying. He goes, “I see him as trapped in there just like Don.” And I was like, “No, he’s just a fly. Just have him walk in there and see if you can do it.” So those are the three things that changed.
No one has a development story like that. They were so hands off. They were so respectful of the fact that I’d been in TV a long time, that I had a passion for the story, and that they liked what I did. Christina Wayne was very clear that the glory would be standing behind me, not in front of me in some weird way. There was no layers of notes. There was no layers of anything. We went and had a meeting at the Pump Room when I turned in the pilot. Like I don’t think any network has ever gotten a pilot to view the first time this finished. I had a lot of access to help and I had score written. I did Foley. I did ADR. These are things you do after it’s done, usually. I had titles. Because of the Avid, we could have all the effects in it. It was mixed. We color timed it. And I said, “This is it when it goes on the air.” Because I didn’t want them to have any excuse to not imagine what it would be like. And I remember getting the call after they watched it. I was one of the parents on a field trip with my son. And I went and took the call and almost missed the bus back, actually. But Rob Sorcher said, “We all had our pens and pencils out to take notes and everybody stopped writing like five minutes into it. It’s great. I can’t wait to see it on the air… Come to New York. We’re gonna have a meeting at The Four Seasons. We’ll have a meeting somewhere and Christine has some specific notes.” And she did and they were really like so respectful. I saved the piece of paper. It was so like, “Hey, there’s a parking cone in the shot. Did you know that?” Not like, “Get rid of cone in shot.” And I was like, “I don’t know how (editor) Malcom Jamieson and I never saw that cone.” But it was fine. “I could see Peggy’s fake underwear in the gynecologist scene,” stuff like that. So that was my development process.
The first of the many awards the show would win was at the Golden Globes, and that was the weird one because of the writer’s strike. There was no televised ceremony, and you were just on the rooftop at the Chateau Marmont.
Matthew Weiner: Best awards ceremony I’ve ever been to.
Several people have told me this story about the speech you gave after the show won, but none of them will ever go into detail, and they always say, “You should ask Matt what he said.”
Matthew Weiner: I don’t remember. I swear to you I don’t remember. I remember what I said at the wrap party. I just remember thinking there was nothing negative about it not being on TV. They had made such a great party for us and we were at the Chateau Marmont. I think I did say, “Look down there. That’s Sunset Boulevard. We are part of the historic part of Hollywood and I am so glad we got to do it.” That’s pretty much what I remember saying.
So what did you say at the wrap party, then?
Matthew Weiner: One of the things I said at the wrap party which I feel comfortable repeating was, “When I was on ‘The Sopranos, someone said to me, ‘You better enjoy it. It doesn’t’ get any better than this.’ And look what happened? We’ve had this amazing experience together, but don’t ever for a second stop dreaming that this is as good as it gets, because you have no idea what can happen to you. This may really be as good as it gets for me, but none of you should think that way.”
Now speaking of awards, somehow — and this could always change with the last Emmys — no actor on this show has ever won an Emmy for acting on this show.
Matthew Weiner: I hope it does change.
Do you have any theories as to why? You see the work they’re doing.
Matthew Weiner: I don’t know. I don’t know. There’s always a story every year, is all I can say. There’s always a story why someone else should get it or what it is. I don’t understand awards handicapping, but I do not vote in the actors’ categories. I’ll tell you one thing. No one treats them like they haven’t won. They are revered, and I see the way other actors respond to their work. It’s the way you want. It’s like part reverence, part jealousy. They’re competitive. They are at the top of that pyramid in whatever way you want. And being nominated means that, and having the work means that.
But I have one personal theory, which is that the acting style is different on the show. That it’s very naturalistic and that is not a showy — you know, I don’t write Emmy scenes for them, either. Maybe that’s it. Elisabeth Moss always jokes that whenever she works somewhere else people are always like, “Cry your eyes out.” And I’m almost like, “Don’t cry. Do everything you can not to cry,” because I feel like that produces more emotion in the audience. But maybe it’s too much of an ensemble? I don’t know.
I just remember watching “The Suitcase” and saying, “If Hamm can’t win for this, then something’s not right.”
Matthew Weiner: I don’t know what it is. I’m never gonna say never. I think they could still win. Last year, I was at the Creative Arts Emmys watching Bob Newhart win his first Emmy after fifty-plus years in show business. Five shows, 50 specials, you know, come on. So luckily, it isn’t a measure of anything. And I think the show getting an award was obviously an award for them. But I am always puzzled. Obviously, a lot of years, I think it’s been between Bryan (Cranston) and (Jon Hamm). Bryan’s part is much showier. The whole concept of giving awards out and acting, it’s the most subjective thing in the world. But they always submit what they think is the best episode. I have no say in it. They might ask for my advice, but I do not know how that thing works. I used to read The Gold Derby and look at the predictions based on things that haven’t even aired yet. And I’m like, “So there’s some kind of mystical math going on in this or is this a gambling hobby? What is it?” I don’t know. It’s a very subjective form and I know that our fans are not vocal Internet compulsives. They’re ecclesiastic. They’re evangelical about the show but if you say you don’t like the show, no one’s gonna punch you in the face. No one’s gonna flame out on you if you say you don’t like “Mad Men.” “Mad Men” fans won’t do that and I think that that maybe has kept some of the conversation more like, “You don’t want to recognize us? We’ll be dignified about it.”
The show won a bunch of awards. That’s not why we do it. I said at some point that I was irritated that they hadn’t been rewarded and everyone (reacted) — it’s like you can’t even use the word “irritated.” “Puzzled” is the word that I would use. But I would cast any of them another day and they got a lot out of it. Asking me if I think they need awards? No, they don’t need awards. But every one of them deserves an award.
I remember a few TCAs back you were joking with me and (Tim) Goodman about how you missed your underdog status.
Matthew Weiner: I think I have it again.
But there was a time when “Mad Men” was essentially the only show of its type. "The Sopranos" had just ended. And now suddenly there’s this huge explosion, in part inspired by the work you did on this show and the work you did on the other show.
Matthew Weiner: That’s flattering. I still think it’s the only show of its type. And that’s for good or bad – the idea that we are the oldest show, that there are 92 episodes, that there is seven years of it stretched out over eight years. You’ve got to just sit back and be what you are, which is glad to be here, glad to be on peoples’ minds and happy that you didn’t mess it up. As competitive as we are, I don’t feel that way in reference to other shows. I don’t like shows that I see that I don’t think are that great that get astounding welcomings and huge fanfare and amazing reviews. And then I watch it and I’m like, “I don’t agree.” I’ve never liked that.
On the other hand, comparing “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” – when the script came into AMC, and I read it early on, I was like, “What are these two things doing together? And Christina’s like, “Well, we’re gonna do quality. We’re gonna do shows we want to see.” And Bryan got recognized right away, but that show was ignored. And then it had this huge attention, this cultural moment when it finished. The show wasn’t any better than it ever was. It was always good. And I always said it was good and I always said I watched it. But is it anything like our show? It’s not. You guys, no offense. You can write as many pieces as you want about the age of the antihero or anything like that. Walter White and Don Draper, the only thing they have in common is they’re on AMC. Neither Vince (Gilligan) nor I would ever in a million years think that the behavior of these two people are related. Their character, their relationship with their family, anything.
So for me, it’s (that) the awards really put our show in front of people’s eyes and made them go see it. And the Emmys are a promotional thing, but I was just happy that there is recognition for quality that’s unrelated to audience size. That that’s still there. That’s really happy. But comparing these things to each other. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. We were talking about the Oscars, about “Boyhood” and “Birdman” and I’m like, “It’s insane that you’re going to measure quality of one of those two things with each other. They’re not even mildly related to each other.”
You’ve always told me that this show is not about history. It’s about these characters going through history and the historical events are incidental, other than maybe the 1968 season.
Matthew Weiner: It was incidental, but I did use it to tell Don’s story.
I’m just curious. Given the structure, whether time jumps in between seasons, or the fact that every episode is set about a month apart from the one before...
Matthew Weiner: Sometimes. I just found out that “Twin Peaks” was all supposed to take place in two weeks and the writers were doing somersaults – “Oh, we can’t have that happen because there’s no school on Saturday.” — and I’m like, “I watched that show and I watched it again. I never knew that those were consecutive days.” Our rules are quite flexible, is all I’m gonna say.
Were there certain events, whether historical or just events in the lives of the characters, that you would have liked to have depicted if not for the fact that larger decisions necessitated you skipping over them?
Matthew Weiner: No, because I could have always gone back. We had a bunch of story ideas for the blackout, which I guess was in 65. “Where were you when the lights went out?” I never solicit stories from people, but sometimes they are compelled to tell you. And one of the things that people are always compelled to tell me about was about the blackout. And then the writers sort of started riffing on it. We had a bunch of ideas for that. I don’t really know. I have run headlong into almost everything I’ve been afraid of, whether it was the JFK assassination, the moon landing, 1968. Do you think anybody wants to deal with that, and how you’re gonna get it across, and you can’t really skip it. And sometimes the glancing nature of the way we treat these things was representative of the period.
The Richard Speck murders and the Texas tower sniper happened within weeks of each other. And they both got national attention and the substance of the media from that moment on was distant happenings that would bring local fear. Whether it’s random shooting, which is unfortunately a thrice-yearly event in American culture, or this prurient interest in serial killers and all the details that go with it. And that changed that summer with all of the rioting that was going on. I felt like the cumulative effect of the whole summer and social unrest and police brutality and corruption, that that would all be a continuing storyline as we did the 60s. I do think that with the 1968 thing, part of it is that is a philosophy that was pretty consistent in the show, which is that most events are used for thematic resonance in the story. Some events you cannot escape. They are going to affect your life. Everyone actually will be talking about them. We’re not talking about the fact that our country’s been at war longer than ever right now, you know. If you go back and look at The New York Times, you’re gonna see something in there every day about what’s going on in Iraq, and we don’t talk about it that much. But in 1968, the rapid succession of catastrophic events of things looking hopeful and then looking terrible – you just see it resonate for a good two years after that and it’s still resonating now.
That’s what the cliché of the “turbulence” is about at the Democratic convention. That was the capper. How important the war was. I don’t know if the audience is even interested in it. I just don’t want to get it wrong, but it is literally impossible to find a conversation about anything from late 1967 until like 1971 that does not see it in terms of the war, at the divisions the war’s created, and the government’s role in the war and “you young people.” Even “The Graduate” –you’re looking at “The Graduate,” which could seem escapist compared to what’s going on politically. But there are people grinding their critical heels against that movie saying, “Where’s the war? How can he do this without mentioning the war?” Guess what? Life was going on. People are coming of age. That’s the story, you know.
Sometimes, when characters leave the agency or leave Don’s life, they leave the show. We’ve never seen Sal again. We saw Paul once. But Betty has remained a part of the show. Megan, even though she was living on the other side of the country, was a part of the show at least up until the most recent episode. So how do you decide like which characters you want to keep following and which you have used up?
Matthew Weiner: I think the answer is right there. I mean there’s a difference between his wife and the mother of his children and a guy in the office that he fired. I mean Sal’s important to the audience. I think there have to be stakes to that office. That’s why when someone gets fired, they are whacked. They could come back like Paul Kinsey did. There might be a use for them in another story, but I really felt like Don Draper has done so much to both screw up his relationship with his wife and his kids, but that he would never lose those people from his life. And I felt that there was a great opportunity. During season 4, I realized – and I remember talking to you about this — that doing a story about a man who’s divorced is very, very unusual. I could not find examples. I found “The Odd Couple,” “Kramer vs. Kramer,” the dad in “Say Anything” and the novel “The Sportswriter,” by Richard Ford. Those were the only things we could find, and we were really looking. And I kept thinking, “This is probably a terrible story to tell or something. Why haven’t people done it?” But once we realized that that was probably because men get remarried right away, I just thought, “He’s gonna get remarried right away. He’s not gonna be able to deal with being on his own.” And the dynamic of him and Megan – it’s about Don. This is a way to tell Don’s story. And for Don’s issues with attachment and women in particular, be it mother or lover, that’s how that ended up in the show.
In the office, there has to be a mortality to that in terms of people being in the show. You want to be worried when they’re – there’s a thing in TV writing called “schmuck bait.” You ever heard of it?
Matthew Weiner: You don’t want it to be that when Peggy leaves the agency, people say, “They’re never gonna get rid of that character. They are never gonna get rid of Elisabeth. She is the show.” When Joan left the agency, they’re like “They’re never gonna get rid of her.” But that’s why you get a little bit of a fist pump when you see her walking in at the end of “Shut the Door, Have a Seat.” That’s why when (the two agencies) merge, you’re like, “Oh, wait a minute. This is not how I wanted it to go. But I guess she’s still in the show.” That’s what it’s about. Just like getting rid of the sets, divorcing those people, so much of how we think about the show is not saying, “Let’s take that idea and turn it on its head.” What we’re saying is what usually happens in a TV show versus what happens in life. And, you know, you can go too far. I came in with the first episode after their divorce, and I had this idea that Don and Betty and all the kids were gonna have a Thanksgiving together. And one of my advertising consultants, Bob Levenson, who worked at BBDO, said, “That is very modern. No one had their ex-wife or the ex-husband at their Thanksgiving. That is 1975 earliest. Do not do that. It’s baloney. You wish it was like that.” And so all of a sudden I was like, “Oh, wait a minute. Thanksgiving – Don can’t go anywhere. It’s gonna be horrible for him.” So you let the story dictate it, because you’re trying to make it feel like real life. I wanted his kids in the show and I felt Betty Draper would be in the show and she would be more conflict. Same thing with Megan.
The audience has things that they want. They go nuts any time, for instance, there’s a Peggy and Joan scene together. How do you balance trying to give them what they want versus just servicing what the story actually needs?
Matthew Weiner: It’s only about the story. I didn’t know, you know. The writers in the writers room, we like the same stuff the audience does. Maybe some things we like that are a little bit different. We’re not there to frustrate the audience. We love the Peggy and Joan scenes. I’m just not gonna do it every week, you know what I mean? You want it to work its way up to checking in on it. I like to keep track of that relationship in a real way. I feel like there are times when they need each other and they love each other, and there are times when they could not be more different. Joan giving Peggy advice when she thought Abe was gonna propose. That could have been season one: “Oh, let me tell you what’s gonna happen. Men propose to me all the time.” But to me I don’t like to revisit those things. I don’t want to wear them out, but it’s sad to say and I’m sure it’ll be considered like egotistical or self-aggrandizing in some way, but we love those scenes and we try to work our way up to having them just like everything else. We just want to earn it.
I never know what’s gonna frustrate the audience. I have no idea. I don’t know. When Don proposed to Megan, I thought they were going to see it as the best twist ever, and they were so hard on that episode which is, to me, a really, really solid and meaningful episode to me. And I didn’t realize until years later that they just didn’t want Don to get engaged again. They wanted him to go back to Betty. I don’t think it had anything to do with the episode. It had to do with what happened.
Was there any point in the life of the series where you ever considered, even briefly, the idea of Don and Peggy actually coupling off?
Matthew Weiner: Oh, I’m not gonna – you still have to watch, first of all. I’m not gonna say never about anything. I really won’t. I mean, it’s there. It’s there in the air. In the first or second season, one of the writers came in and had a storyline that was about that. And someone quickly said, “That’s season 4 if you get there. Don and Peggy can’t sleep together until season 4.” And I always thought that in the back of my mind. There are some entertainment rules about how this thing works, or whatever. You have to watch, but I can say that I love their relationship, because it is not chaste, but it is not romantic, but they are in love with each other in so many ways. And it shifts from like brother to father to husband. Sometimes Don’s the child, she’s the mother. All of that to me is like the richness of the show. One of the things that’s been very successful about my relationship with that writer’s room is that we have always kept the storyline, as I said, within fairly normal human experience, and no one has ever thought outside of it and said, “Let’s spice this thing up. How do we amp it up? How do we beat last year?” I always have been encouraged, and it’s my natural instinct to move laterally and to say, “Well, here’s a whole other story.” And as long as you don’t have to keep amping up the stakes to beat the season before, you don’t need to throw something like that in just for spice. I mean in my heart, they have a lot of chemistry, and there are times when I would think about it, and it would be the creepiest, most disgusting thing in the entire world. And there are times when I think, “Wow, you’ve been right in front of me the whole time. “
But you’ve got to watch.
Faith in Bill O'Reilly's 'Killing Jesus'
Prophet’s humanity, political struggles told in TV movie
By Mark A. Perigard, Boston Herald
‘Killing Jesus” isn’t so much interested in the Holy Spirit as it is in humanity, that of Jesus of Nazareth as he struggles in his role as prophet, and the forces that conspire to destroy him.
Based on Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s best-selling book of the same name and with O’Reilly as executive producer, the three-hour film is choppy, particularly in the first half, yet ultimately is an effective, compelling retelling of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.
It opens with King Herod (Kelsey Grammer, “Frasier”) haunted by a prophecy that a messiah will rise to destroy him. He orders the deaths of all male Jewish children. That’s just the first of the film’s harrowing sequences. The telefilm doesn’t sugarcoat the violence, but nor, for the most part, does it exploit it. Blink, and Jesus (Haaz Sleiman, “Covert Affairs”) is a man, a humble carpenter who balks at his destiny as the messiah.
“How could you know me?” he asks John the Baptist (Abhin Galeya).
“How could I not?” John replies.
Jesus comes to preach a new message, one of compassion for the downtrodden and the sick. As his popularity grows, he gains powerful enemies.
High priests Caiaphas (Rufus Sewell, “The Pillars of the Earth” ) and Annas (John Rhys-Davies, “The Lord of the Rings”) become increasingly threatened by Jesus’ attacks on their temple for its money-lending practices. They also fear this “false prophet” will encourage Roman authorities to retaliate against Jews, and seek to silence him. Other clerics fight for Jesus’ right to preach to the growing multitudes, but their efforts are in vain.
Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Stephen Moyer, “True Blood”) initially wants no part of the persecution of the prophet who speaks of one, invisible, all-seeing God and preaches that the meek shall inherit the earth. To him, it might as well be a fairy tale for children. But the priests and Herod’s son Antipas (Eoin Macken, “The Night Shift”) maneuver him into ordering Jesus’ destruction.
There are a number of bad wigs and beards on display here, but much of the cast surmounts the costuming problems. The pace and the depth of the story might have been helped by extending this film into a two-night event. The supporting cast, including Klara Issova as Mary Magdalene, Joe Doyle as Judas and Alexis Rodney as Simon/Peter, make their marks in familiar arcs.
Grammer just might have one of the hammiest onscreen deaths this year, but the actor atones for it in a beautiful voice-over coda to the film.
We’re entering a high season of Bible-based scripted TV, with CBS’ “The Dovekeepers” and NBC’s “A.D.” airing in the coming days. “Killing Jesus” gets the Easter season off to a thoughtful start.
Sunday at 8 p.m. on National Geographic Channel
As Multicultural TV Shows Succeed, Some Wonder if Diversity has Gone Too Far
By Jeff Yang, Wall Street Journal - Mar. 27, 2015
The thing about disruptive change is that sometimes those at its epicenter don’t fully grasp what’s going on until they look up and see the sky where the ceiling used to be. It comes that quickly, it hits that hard and when it happens, you can either grab your go-bag and adapt fast to the new way the world works — or you can freeze in place and scream.
On Tuesday, we saw the equivalent of Old Hollywood freezing in place and screaming, when Deadline, a go-to blog for real-time entertainment industry news, published a piece by their TV editor Nellie Andreeva titled “The Year Of Ethnic Castings: About Time Or Too Much Of Good Thing?”
In it, she noted that last year, studios had made a concerted effort to make a “shift toward minority.” What happened next was shocking — at least to Andreeva’s many anonymous sources: As the networks rolled out their most diverse array of shows in history, they scored hit after hit after hit. ABC’s thriller “How To Get Away With Murder” and family sitcom “Black-ish” broke out of the gates hot.
The CW’s telenovela “Jane the Virgin” drew critical plaudits and won a Golden Globe for its lead, Gina Rodriguez. At midseason, ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” (usual disclosure, my son stars in the show) shattered expectations, and Fox’s “Empire” shattered records, premiering to the season’s highest ratings and rising from there faster than any broadcast series has in the past decade.
But the success of these “ethnic” shows wasn’t the disruptive change; merely its prelude. The real seismic shock came last month when the carnival known as TV pilot season began, and it became clear that studios were intent on building on 2014, by greenlighting more shows with multicultural leads, and seeking to cast roles that historically would have gone to white actors with black, Hispanic and Asian performers.
“The default has always been white, but this season, that default has shifted,” says Dr. Darnell Hunt, executive director of UCLA’s Bunche Center and lead author of the center’s annual report on Hollywood diversity and profitability. “This year, they’ve been casting a wider net and actively looking for diverse talent.”
For some masters of the Old Hollywood universe, that shift represented a threat. “The pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction,” wrote Andreeva. “Instead of opening the field…in a color-blind manner, there have been a significant number of parts designated as ethnic this year, making them off-limits for Caucasian actors.”
Social media — including movers and shakers like “How to Get Away With Murder” creator Shonda Rhimes and “Selma” director Ava DuVernay — exploded with incredulous reaction to the notion that a single season in which nonwhite actors were asked for by name represented an “overcorrection” to half a century of exclusion. But observers like Hunt point out that establishment recoil should’ve been expected.
“We’ve seen the same backlash against the reforms of the civil rights movement,” he notes. “You hear terms like ‘reverse discrimination.’ The ugly word ‘quota’ is trotted out, along with the implication that minorities have gotten their fair share.
And Hunt warns that like prior TV flirtations with diversity, this progress could be temporary. Yet the numbers — the only things that matter in Hollywood — show that this time, something different may be happening. Out of the scripted shows with all-white leads introduced this past season, just one — a reboot of “The Odd Couple” — seems guaranteed a renewal. Meanwhile, nearly every series centered on diverse characters looks like a solid return, for two reasons.
The first is that they’re expanding network audiences in ways that reflect the new demographic reality. Analyses provided by Nielsen show that the three most-watched non-event shows among 18-49 year old Asian Americans as of February were “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Fresh Off the Boat” — and it’s not even close, with Asian Americans being twice as likely to watch FOTB as any other scripted program. A full third of all 18-49 year old African Americans watch “Empire” each week, making it more popular than the Super Bowl in that demographic. And 17 of the top 25 shows among 18-49 year old Hispanics are on Univision — the Spanish-language network that regularly draws bigger audiences than Fox and NBC.
The second is that it’s these shows aren’t just catering to their communities. Asian Americans make up as much as 20% of FOTB’s audience — but the other 80% is non-Asian, and they’re what is keeping the series competitive against juggernauts like “The Voice” and “NCIS.”
Ultimately, points out UCLA’s Hunt, “we live in a diverse society, and people want to see stories that reflect that. We’re curious about other groups’ experiences. It shouldn’t come as a shock that white households don’t only want to see shows with just white people.”
[CLICK LINK BELOW TO SEE NIELSEN CHARTS]
DVR Gains Raise Renewal Prospects For Sunday Newbies ‘Secrets & Lies’ & ‘Last Man On Earth’, Justify ‘Royals’ Pickup
By Nellie Andreeva, Deadline.com - Mar. 28, 2015
TV network executives have long said that they don’t rely on Live+Same day ratings when making renewal decisions. And for good reason. Three new Sunday midseason series have performed so-so to OK in Live+Same Day but have posted solid ratings gains after 3 days of DVR viewing. That includes ABC mystery drama Secrets & Lies and Fox comedy Last Man on Earth, which look pretty hopeful for a second season pickup, and E! soapy dramedy The Royals, which had been picked up for a second season before the premiere.
Secrets & Lies, which, like Last Man on Earth, faces the biggest show on television, The Walking Dead, has been very consistent, which not always is the case with heavily serialized dramas. After matching its premiere L+SD delivery on Sunday, posting a 1.5, 1.4, 1.4, 1.5 in adults 18-49 for its first four airings, the crime drama logged a solid +47% in Live+3 for its last episode, rising to a new L+3 series high of 2.2 in Week 4 (2.1, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2). Secrets & Lies will resolve the current murder mystery this season, and ABC has said the plan would be for Juliette Lewis’ Detective Andrew Cornell to tackle a new case with a new cast of characters each season.
Fox’s Last Man on Earth‘s ratings trajectory has been more consistent with a serialized series. After a very strong launch, logging a 2.4 L+SD in 18-49 for the hourlong opener, the comedy starring Will Forte showed off its DVR muscle, rising to a 3.3 in L+3. It has slipped since, 3.0, 2.6 and 2.7/2.4 for last week’s back-to-back episodes. Those are still solid enough numbers, Last Man regularly builds onto its Family Guy lead-in, and I hear the network is happy with its creative direction. So, unless there is a major ratings collapse, Last Man would make it to Season 2.
Over at E!, the network’s first scripted series, The Royals, showed a rare Week 2 growth. The second episode of the show drew 1.1 million adults 18-49 in L3, a solid +46% over its Live+same say delivery and +6% from the L3 number for its premiere. The Royals still holds on about half of its lead-in, Keeping Up with the Kardashians (2.1 million in L3 for its last episode, +57% from L+SD). But, just like the maiden original scripted series for sibling Bravo, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, The Royals was well received and is showing growth. That secured Guide a second season pickup. If The Royals stays on that path, that will more than justify E!’s decision to go ahead with a second season before the premiere.
The one midseason Sunday series whose future is pretty cloudy is CBS drama Battle Creek, which is doing poorly in Live+ Same Day and not getting much of a boost from DVR. It started with a strong percentage rise for the premiere, which went from a 1.0 in 18-49 in L+SD to 1.6 (+60%), but it’s L3 delivery has been middling (1.6, 1.2, 1.3, 1.0). The most recent episode of the show was hurt by a late start, 10:35 PM, because of NCAA basketball, but it only grew by +25% in the first 3 days of DVR viewing (0.8 to 1)
Overall, it’s been a pretty solid midseason launch season compared to recent ones, led of course by Fox mega hit drama Empire, already picked up for next season, with ABC comedy Fresh Off the Boat and CBS drama CSI: Cyber also in strong renewal contention. The jury is still out on American Crime, which has been logging solid percentage DVR increases but off a small base, most recently growing +50% from a 1.2 18-49 rating in L+SD to a 1.6 in L3.
NBC is the only network without a promising new midseason performer so far as drama Allegiance was short lived and comedy One Big Happy has been slow off the gate. But it still has new drama American Odyssey, which is getting a potentially strong launching pad with The Bible sequel A.D. as a lead-in on Sunday.
New thread :)
My, aren't you a pretty young thing. And slim, too.
I just want to get a post in on the first page. So, um, here it is. Nothing to see here. Move along.
W00T! May the new HOTP be just as lively as the last :).
dad, I'm so glad you didn't name this thread "Fear the HOTP". :D
May this new thread outlast the last two! :D
So we fill up the first page with mostly useless posts? Count me in. :)
SATURDAY's fast affiliate overnight prime-time ratings -and what they mean- have been posted on Analyst Marc Berman's Media Insights' Blog.
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Mar. 29, 2015
2015 MEN'S NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
CBS, 2:00 p.m. ET
Yesterday, in the first half of the Elite 8, both No.1 teams in their respective brackets advanced to the Final Four: Wisconsin from the West and the tournament’s overall favorite, Kentucky, from the Midwest. But Kentucky almost lost to Notre Dame Saturday night, winning on a pair of clutch free throws in the final seconds of a thrilling game – and even after that, Notre Dame had a shot at the win with a three-pointer that missed the mark. What a game. Meanwhile, today’s first game will not feature a No. 1 seed as the winner, because in the East, the three top seeds already have been eliminated. That leaves No. 4 Louisville, the highest-ranked East team still standing, facing No. 7 Michigan State, which toppled No. 3 Oklahoma on Friday. That game starts around 2:20 p.m. ET on CBS, followed at about 5 p.m. ET, on the same network, by the South’s No. 1 seed, Duke, facing No. 2 seed Gonzaga.
CALL THE MIDWIFE
PBS, 8:00 p.m.
SEASON PREMIERE: This underrated PBS import begins Season 4 – and even if you’re unfamiliar with the show’s characters and premise, you can get up to speed quickly as these nurse midwives in downtrodden East London try to help expectant mothers in the decades after WWII. Check local listings.
GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF
HBO, 8:00 p.m. ET
This documentary, written and directed by Alex Gibney, may not be the boldest and bravest TV offering ever to probe, recount and question the basic tenets of Scientology (that distinction, believe it or not, still goes to an episode of South Park), but it’s close. In this potent two-hour study, Gibney’s strongest and most memorable segments involve one of two factors: new interviews with former Scientologists, including Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis, and vintage interviews, unearthed by Gibney, with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard himself. Tom Cruise is shown in vintage interviews and footage, but does not participate in this new documentary, which is thought-provoking and, at times, disturbing.
THE GOOD WIFE
CBS, 9:00 p.m. ET
Last week’s episode fooled me, I freely admit. As the hour unfolded, I expected the election to go one way – and then (surprise!) it went another. So now what? Well, now there’s a little room for political realignment. And political payback.
THE WALKING DEAD
AMC, 9:00 p.m. ET
SEASON FINALE: Any episode of The Walking Dead is fraught with drama and danger – but an extended season finale episode? And one which begins with our hero Rick being subdued and knocked unconscious by another of our heroes, Michonne? And with the whole question of whether the residents of the walled-in city are friends or foes up in the air? How can you not watch?
Wow. All these rich guys are cranking out TV movies, TV miniseries, and theatrical films on the first century of the Christian movement, and not one of them shows much respect for the New Testament.
BBC Chief Receives Death Threat over Jeremy Clarkson Sacking
By Lep Barraclough, Variety.com - Mar. 29, 2015
LONDON — BBC chief Tony Hall is receiving around-the-clock protection after he received a death threat linked to his sacking of “Top Gear” presenter Jeremy Clarkson, according to reports.
Hall, the broadcaster’s director general, received an email containing the threat on Wednesday. London’s police service, which is investigating the threat, said the email appeared to have been sent from outside the U.K.
According to the Mail on Sunday, the BBC sought to hire an eight-man security team on Wednesday. A vehicle from a security company, London Protection Services, was stationed overnight at Hall’s home in Oxfordshire. The company’s bodyguards are all former members of the military or police.
Hall decided on Wednesday not to renew Clarkson’s contract, after the “Top Gear” host allegedly attacked the show’s producer Oisin Tymon while they were on location in Yorkshire, Northern England. According to Hall, Tymon had to be treated at a local hospital “after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature.”
Hall said Wednesday: “For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.”
Since the alleged attack, the show has been off air, and Hall has asked BBC exec Kim Shillinglaw to look into how the broadcaster can “renew” the program.
Tymon has been the subject of violent threats on social media since Clarkson’s dismissal.
“Top Gear” has an audience estimated at more than 350 million in 214 territories worldwide.
Masi Oka Returning for NBC’s ‘Heroes Reborn’
By Joe Otterson, TheWrap.com - Mar. 27, 2015
Masi Oka, who played Hiro Nakamura on “Heroes,” will reprise the role in the upcoming NBC limited series “Heroes Reborn.”
Oka was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe for his portrayal of the time- and space-beinding Nakamura. He will appear in a guest-starring arc.
“I’m excited to return to my ‘Heroes’ roots,” said Oka. “Hiro Nakamura was such an inspirational role to play, and I’m hoping the fans will enjoy seeing him back on TV.”
Oka can currently be seen in the role of the eccentric Coroner on the hit series “Hawaii Five-0.” He has also recurred on NBC’s “Scrubs” and Fox’s “Luis” and guest-starred on “Without a Trace,” “Joey,” “Reba,” “Still Standing,” “Will & Grace,” “Yes, Dear” and “The Gilmore Girls.”
He joins returning castmate Jack Coleman, who played the horn-rimmed glasses-wearing Noah Bennett in the original show.
“We are thrilled to have Masi back in the ‘Heroes’ family,” said creator and executive producer Tim Kring. “The character of Hiro Nakamura was such a huge part of the first series’ success, and a gigantic fan favorite. We felt the fans would really love seeing him back in action again.”
Produced by Imperative Entertainment, in association with Universal Television, “Heroes Reborn” will air in fall 2015 on NBC. NBC’s digital platforms, as well as Hulu and video-on-demand, will debut an online prequel to the series prior to the show’s premiere. Joining Kring are executive producers James Middleton and Peter Elkoff.
‘Going Clear,’ ‘Killing Jesus’ and the enduring mysteries of faith
By Hank Stuever, Washington Post - Mar. 27, 2015
Lead us not into temptation, but at least allow me the devilish pleasure of scrutinizing HBO’s documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” alongside National Geographic Channel’s dramatic passion play “Killing Jesus.”
Both are airing Sunday night, and both are based on just-the-facts bestsellers that nevertheless aroused concerns and challenges. They are, of course, entirely different programs about entirely different subjects, but “Going Clear” and “Killing Jesus” cannot help but raise compatibly fair questions about the nature of religious belief. Who would ever believe a Jewish carpenter in Roman-controlled ancient Israel could start a faith-based movement by hanging out with prostitutes and tax collectors? Likewise, who would ever believe a writer of pulp science-fiction stories, who exaggerated his war credentials and lived in mortal fear of the Internal Revenue Service, could start a faith-based movement based on self-empowerment techniques taught to him by space aliens?
Jesus, as you might imagine, comes with a much cleaner narrative than L. Ron Hubbard, mostly because there’s so much less to go on and his image has been buffed by a couple millennia of adoration. Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report learned ages ago that you can put an image of Christ on the cover and significantly boost newsstand sales; similarly, Fox News star Bill O’Reilly and history writer Martin Dugard took on the subject of Jesus’s arrest and crucifixion for the third installment in their popular series of books about the deaths of well-known historical figures.
With an efficient and alternately clumsy and eloquent screenplay by Walon Green, “Killing Jesus” does not vary much from the Via Dolorosa. As a result, the lavish NatGeo treatment works a lot better than it did on the channel’s adaptations of O’Reilly’s earlier books, “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Kennedy.” This story tends to tell itself.
The movie opens with an entertaining, if disturbing, cameo from Kelsey Grammer as a power-paranoid King Herod. Insider info from the three wise men compels Herod to order the mass execution of baby boys in Nazareth (the toddler Jesus escapes with his parents to Egypt) and from there, “Killing Jesus” spends considerable narrative energy explaining the link between the beheading of John the Baptist (because why leave out the dance of Salome?) and the crucifixion of his messiah cousin.
If you can sing all four sides to the “Jesus Christ Superstar” LP by heart, then not only should we become best friends, but you’ll already be hip to the complicated and suggestively flawed Christ that “Killing Jesus” puts forward, as well as the factors that contributed to his demise.
There’s no getting around the shanda-for-the-Jews aspect of this story, either, as the high priests of Jerusalem are scandalized and threatened by Jesus’s words and popularity. As Rome’s designated ruler in Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate (“True Blood’s” Stephen Moyer) is an almost evenhandedly ambivalent player, reluctant to execute Jesus simply because his message is an affront to the leaders of the predominant religion.
Like any movie about the life of Jesus, everything depends on the magnetism of the guy playing him — always a difficult role. In text, Jesus can be a fairly two-dimensional and illogical protagonist, as he willingly walks into the trap laid for him. Before that happens, he lectures those who already follow him and throws a temper tantrum at the temple.
But here I bring good news in the form of a sincere and textured performance from Lebanese actor Haaz Sleiman. If you’ve been puzzled all your life by the fair-haired, blue-eyed Jesuses of Western culture, then Sleiman’s broad-shouldered, Mediterranean messiah is a step in the right direction. He’s a convincing, mysterious and manly Christ, which is a miracle given that he’s working with a spirit-gum beard and one of “The Good Wife’s” missing Alicia Florrick wigs.
He dies (spoiler alert!), but does he rise again? Any movie about Jesus that doesn’t include a flashy resurrection scene tends to irk fervent Christians; the resurrection is key to the faith. But, as with O’Reilly and Dugard’s book, “Killing Jesus” is somewhat ambiguously and beautifully subtle on this point, choosing to end with a scene that metaphorically suggests the beginning of something larger.
Killing Jesus premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on National Geographic Channel.
* * * *
Director Alex Gibney’s hauntingly effective “Going Clear,” meanwhile, suggests only trouble ahead for the frequently criticized and always strange Church of Scientology, which, the film asserts, now has fewer than 50,000 members but has amassed a billion-dollar treasure chest to fend off its enemies — which it does aggressively.
“Going Clear” arrives amid a clatter of claims and counter-claims. The church says Gibney and HBO failed to allow it a fair say in the film and that basing the documentary on New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book is a journalistic malfeasance on par with Rolling Stone’s recent debacle with a sensational story about an alleged gang-rape at the University of Virginia. The filmmaker and HBO naturally stand by their work, listing at the end of the film all the people they attempted to contact, from celebrity members on up to Scientology’s leader, David Miscavige.
Both the book and film are aided greatly by the exodus, several years ago, of a number of longtime Scientologists (among them Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis), some of whom held top positions in the church. They found the courage to leave it and speak out to media (notably the Tampa Bay Times) about Scientology’s darker operations, which include allegations of abuse, spying and prison-like conditions for believers whose perceived crises of faith threatened the church’s fixation on secrecy and loyalty.
“Going Clear’s” only small problem is how much of Wright’s book it tries to cram into two hours. A digression into actor Tom Cruise’s ascendance as the church’s ideal celebrity Christ-figure, second (well, third) only to Miscavige and late Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, could have been its own fascinating documentary.
A long primer on Hubbard (who died in 1986 without officially designating a successor) and the early days of his pop-psychology “Dianetics” success is a necessary foundation to understanding how the church grew and evolved. Hubbard’s ex-wife was the first to doubt his appeal: “I felt that he was stealing from people and hoodwinking them,” she wrote. “He began to believe . . . that he really was this God figure.” There’s also a fascinating side trip into Scientology’s decades-long battle with the IRS, the only government agency that has the power to decide, for tax purposes, whether or not a shared belief system qualifies as an actual religion. (The IRS granted Scientology tax-exempt status in 1993, according to the film, locking in Miscavige’s power and vastly expanding the fortune of the church, which stood to owe a billion or so in back taxes.)
Former members frankly discuss the moments they began to doubt what they were being told. Those who reach “OTIII” status are allowed to read Hubbard’s handwritten secrets locked away in a briefcase, a moment in which they discover that the key to it all is an intergalactic overlord named Xenu and that Earth was once an exile planet and is now rife with escaped “thetan” spirits dwelling within modern humans. Haggis recalls wondering whether this moment was itself a sort of insanity test: “Maybe if you believe it, they kick you out. . . . I’m down for the self-help stuff [and] okay, maybe I can be ‘clear’ and get rid of the negative emotions, but [WTF] is this!?”
It’s here that many viewers without a dog in this hunt might be inclined to side with Scientology. People believe all sorts of unbelievable things, such as (for just some examples that I grew up with) the parting of the Red Sea, virgin birth, walking on water, transubstantiation and resurrection. What’s the harm in letting Scientologists search for inner thetans when the religion offers a salve to our modern-day culture of rejection and self-doubt, particularly in Hollywood? Given that Scientology is a relatively young church (despite its trillion-year prequel story), is its current PR crisis comparable to Christianity’s early history in the lion’s den?
That’s where “Going Clear” begins to make its strongest case, that Scientology is a religion founded on fear, make-believe and tax evasion, spending too much time and effort intimidating its dissenters and critics, often ending in family estrangement and other forms of abuse.
The film also effectively harnesses the weirdness of its findings. Old clips of Commodore Hubbard on his yacht with his seafaring followers are enhanced with kooky synthesizers and theremin solos; more recent clips of Miscavige’s showy and pompous rallies for believers seem to adhere to the aesthetics of fascism. All the while, a viewer will keep asking himself: What do these folks really believe in?
“If you go to a Jew or Christian or a Muslim and ask them what do you believe, they can basically describe the most important part of their religion in a minute or two,” says journalist Tony Ortega, whose work has involved deep dives into the church’s finances. “Well, what does a Scientologist believe? You need to be in Scientology for seven or eight years and in for a couple hundred thousand dollars before you finally learn the back story of Xenu. . . . If you were told that on day one, how many people would join? If they were upfront about it, I’d have more respect for them.”
Going Clear premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on HBO.
‘Saturday Night Live’ With Host Dwayne Johnson Slips To Season Low
By Nellie Andreeva, Deadline.com - Mar. 28, 2015
This is somewhat of a surprise. With one of its most popular hosts, Dwayne Johnson, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, dipped in the ratings to hit a season low in households. The show, hosted by Johnson with musical guest George Ezra, averaged a 3.7 household rating in Nielsen’s metered markets and a 1.9 in adults 18-49 in the markets with Local People Meters. That was down from SNL‘s most recent original (4.0 household rating, 2.0 in 18-49) on March 7 hosted by Chris Hemsworth with musical guest Zac Brown Band. It also was SNL‘s lowest result this season in households and second lowest in 18-49, behind the Bill Hader/Hozier show on October 11.
Multiple factors likely played a role in the ratings dip, including the weaker NBC primetime last night anchored by coverage of the World Figure Skating Championships, the overall viewership depression as spring gets into gear and the 3-week break between the last 2 SNL originals.
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