PREMIERE WEEK ALL-STARS: EMPIRE and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER

IMG_2987 MV5BMTUzMTgxNDM3NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTI1MjM4NjE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_

This past week a number of new and returning series premiered on the broadcast networks.  Two of those series EMPIRE and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER returned for their highly anticipated second seasons. Each show stayed true to form and made the most out of their sophomore debuts.

EMPIRE came roaring back, picking up a few months after last year’s finale which left family patriarch Lucious Lyon behind bars after being charged with the murder of a longtime friend. His sons Andre and Hakeem along with their mother Cookie were planning a hostile takeover of the family business after Lucious named middle son Jamal as the heir to the Empire. A lot happened in the premiere at a quick pace, tying up some storylines, presenting the core characters with new challenges and introducing Marissa Tomei in what could turn out to be an Emmy-winning guest starring performance.  I won’t spoil any plot points for those of you who still need to catch up but it was a satisfying hour.  There will be 18 episodes this season up from the 12 produced for season one.  With the increased episode order, I hope the writers will flesh out stories a bit more and not rush to pack so many story points into each episode. That aside, the season two premiere of EMPIRE was compelling, fun and full of energy and emotion. It looks like there’s a lot in store for the Lyon family this season. EMPIRE airs on FOX Mondays at 9pm EST.

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER also used its season two premiere to wrap of its season one cliffhanger, which was a smart storytelling move.  It’s good that the writers chose not to prolong the reveal of Rebecca’s murderer, allowing the show to introduce a more compelling season-long mystery by the end of the hour. It looks as though HTGAWM will keep the fast forward/flashback storytelling structure this season.  It worked well in season one, although it was sometimes difficult to keep track of where they were in story. Because we are now used to this storytelling device it should be easier to follow the story.  Again, I won’t spoil any of the episode’s big reveals, but the show certainly delivered a fast-paced and well performed premiere. If there was any doubt that Viola Davis deserved her recent and historic Best Actress Emmy win, this episode serves as a great example of the strong, nuanced performance Davis delivers as Annalise Keating. HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER airs on ABC Thursdays at 10pm EST.

Check back as the season progresses for more of my thoughts on the second seasons of EMPIRE and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER.

2015 PRIMETIME EMMY PREDICTIONS

images

It’s time for the 67th Annual Emmy Awards. This year the categories are filled with a lot of diversity and history could be made if either Viola Davis or Taraji P. Henson become the first African American woman to win the Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama Series. Click here for a printable Emmy ballot.

Below are my picks for the major categories:

BEST ACTOR, DRAMA

JON HAMM, MAD MEN
KEVIN SPACEY, HOUSE OF CARDS
LIEV SCHREIBER, RAY DONOVAN
JEFF DANIELS, THE NEWSROOM
KYLE CHANDLER, BLOODLINE
BOB ODENKIRK, BETTER CALL SAUL
I’m going with the sentimental vote in this category. It’s shameful that Jon Hamm hasn’t won an Emmy for MAD MEN. His  heartbreaking performance in the series finale should finally right that wrong.
BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA
VIOLA DAVIS, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
ROBIN WRIGHT, HOUSE OF CARDS
CLAIRE DANES, HOMELAND
TARAJI P. HENSON, EMPIRE
TATIANA MASLANY, ORPHAN BLACK
ELISABETH MOSS, MAD MEN
This is by far the toughest category. My gut tells me that voters will want to take the opportunity to award the first Emmy in this category to an African American actress, both of whom are well deserving. My fear is that Davis and Henson will split the vote. I think with all the buzz surrounding Henson’s performance as Cookie on Empire, it’s her award to lose. If Henson and Davis do split the vote, Tatiana Maslany could take home the gold for playing multiple roles on ORPHAN BLACK.
BEST ACTOR, COMEDY
ANTHONY ANDERSON, BLACK-ISH
WILL FORTE, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
MATT LEBLANC, EPISODES
JEFFREY TAMBOR, TRANSPARENT
WILLIAM H. MACY, SHAMELESS
LOUIS C.K., LOUIE
DON CHEADLE, HOUSE OF LIES
This is another strong category, but I think Jeffrey Tambor has the edge.  With Louis C.K. winning the Emmy for Best Writing in a Comedy Series at the Creative Arts ceremony this past weekend, he could be the spoiler in the category.
BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY
JULIA-LOUIS DREYFUS, VEEP
LISA KUDROW, THE COMEBACK
AMY POEHLER, PARKS AND RECREATION
AMY SCHUMER, INSIDE AMY SCHUMER
EDIE FALCO, NURSE JACKIE
LILY TOMLIN, GRACE & FRANKIE
Everyone loves a comeback and Lisa Kudrow certainly had the comeback of the year. Kudrow earned her second Best Actress nomination for her role in THE COMEBACK ten years after she was nominated for the first season of the show.  Lisa Kudrow gave such an honest and vulnerable performance making her quite deserving of the award. Julia-Louis Dreyfus could of course win, again, for VEEP. Or, if Academy members are feeling edgy and daring Amy Schumer could be take the gold.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA
PETER DINKLAGE, GAME OF THRONES
JIM CARTER, DOWNTON ABBEY
JONATHAN BANKS, BETTER CALL SAUL
ALAN CUMMING, THE GOOD WIFE
MICHAEL KELLY, HOUSE OF CARDS
BEN MENDELSOHN, BLOODLINE
The two front-runners in this category are Jonathan Banks, for the BREAKING BAD prequel BETTER CALL SAUL and Ben Mendelssohn for BLOODLINE.  Both actors give strong performances, often stealing focus from their respective series leads.  I give the edge to Mendelssohn whose performance as the tortured younger brother in a family full of dark secrets, gave energy to every scene in which he appeared.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA
JOANNE FROGGATT, DOWNTON ABBEY
CHRISTINA HENDRICKS, MAD MEN
EMILIA CLARKE, GAME OF THRONES
LENA HEADEY, GAME OF THRONES
UZO ADUBA, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
CHRISTINE BARANSKI, THE GOOD WIFE
I think this category goes to Lena Headey for her role as Cersei Lannister on GAME OF THRONES. Her naked walk of shame in the season finale stands as one of the most iconic moments of the series. Uzo Aduba could be the upset. Last year she won the Emmy for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in ORANGE IS THE BLACK. With the new rule changes, the show is now in the drama category and Aduba had great dramatic material during season two. If Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss are overlooked in the Lead Actor and Actress categories, the Academy might honor Christina Hendricks, giving the show its only acting win during its seven season run.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY
TY BURRELL, MODERN FAMILY
KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY, KEY & PEELE
ADAM DRIVER, GIRLS
ANDRE BRAUGHER, BROOKLYN NINE-NINE
TONY HALE, VEEP
TITUS BURGESS, UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT
Titus Burgess stole the show with his star-making turn as Titus Andromedon in THE UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT. A win in this category gives voters a chance to acknowledge the Netflix comedy. Pino Noir!
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY
NIECY NASH, GETTING ON
GABBY HOFFMANN, TRANSPARENT
ALLISON JANEY, MOM
JULIE BOWEN, MODERN FAMILY
MAYIM BIALIK, THE BIG BANG THEORY
KATE MCKINNON, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
JANE KRAKOWSKI, UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT
ANNA CHLUMSKY, VEEP
I think Anna Chlumsky takes this one for her amazing monologue where she gives President Salina Meyers a dressing down that was years in the making. Chlumsky can play confident and neurotic at the same time and is never over-shadowed by the amazing Julia-Louis Dreyfus.
BEST COMEDY SERIES
LOUIE, FX
MODERN FAMILY, ABC
PARKS AND RECREATION, NBC
SILICON VALLEY, HBO
TRANSPARENT, AMAZON
UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT
VEEP, HBO
It’s time for MODERN FAMILY to be dethroned and LOUIE is just the show to do the honor.  The edgy drama from FX won the Best Writing for a Comedy Series award this past weekend and the unorthodox comedy deserves the win.
BEST DRAMA SERIES
BETTER CALL SAUL, AMC
DOWNTON ABBEY, PBS
GAME OF THRONES, HBO
HOMELAND, SHOWTIME
HOUSE OF CARDS, NETFLIX
MAD MEN, AMC
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, NETFLIX
This category is a battle between MAD MEN and GAME OF THRONES.  I’m going with MAD MEN. In its final moments it delivered a water-cooler moment when it was revealed or alluded to that series lead Don Draper would go on to create the iconic “I want to buy the world a Coke” ad. GAME OF THRONES had an action packed finale and the scope of its production is award worthy, as demonstrated by its multiple wins at the Creative Arts ceremony.  But, my final vote goes to MAD MEN.
FULL DISCLOSURE:  I am a voting member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The Emmy’s air on Saturday, September 20th at 8pm EST on FOX.
Who are you picks to take home the gold? Let me know in the comments below.
images

CASTING IDEAS FOR NBC’S REBOOT OF “HART TO HART” with GAY LEADS!

hart_to_hart_title

NBC announced this week that the Peacock network is developing a remake of the ABC series HART TO HART featuring a gay couple.  According to Deadline Hollywood the new Hart To Hart is described as a modern and sexy retelling of the classic series that focuses on “by the book” attorney Jonathan Hart and free-spirited investigator Dan Hartman, who must balance the two sides of their life: action-packed crime-solving in the midst of newly found domesticity. Click here for the full story.

While I’m not generally a fan of reboots, I can get behind this version of HART TO HART.  Here are a few of my casting ideas:

BLAIR UNDERWOOD & JONATHAN GROFF

MV5BMTkzMTM0ODAxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzk3MzQzNA@@._V1_UY317_CR10,0,214,317_AL_images-1

Blair Underwood has the demeanor to play “by the book” lawyer Jonathan Hart, but is also believable as having an adventurous side.  Jonathan Groff’s current run in Broadway’s HAMILTON showcases his ability to be fun and lighthearted, making him a perfect fit for investigator Dan Hartman.

MATT BOMER & ADAM RODRIGUEZ

images-2images-3

Reuniting MAGIC MIKE’S Matt Bomer and Adam Rodriguez would make for one sexy crime solving duo. In this scenario, Rodriguez would play straight-laced lawyer Jonathan Hart, while Bomer would take on the role of free spirited Dan Hartman.

PATRICK DEMPSEY & RUSSELL TOVEY

MV5BMTM4NzExNTAxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzA4MTU5MQ@@._V1_UX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_images

Patrick Dempsey, who set hearts aflutter as McDreamy on GREY’S ANATOMY, and British heartthrob Russell Tovey would make a dashing and quite debonair pairing. In this case, the younger Tovey would play by the book attorney Jonathan Hart, with Dempsey taking on the role of carefree investigator Dan Hartman.

For the role of “Max,” the Hart’s dependable gal Friday, here are three ideas:

JASMINE GUY

MV5BMzI1NzY2NjU4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDU0ODE3OQ@@._V1_UX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_

Jasmine Guy would be great as the couple’s no-nonsense assistant without whom their lives would be in total disarray. This version of Max would try to keep the Harts out of trouble, but would end up getting involved against her better judgement.

DOT MARIE JONES

MV5BMTgwODU0NjE4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDA3NzEyNjE@._V1_UX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_

Dot Marie Jones, free off of GLEE, would be a more imposing version of Max.  When the Hart’s need back-up, it would be hard for the bad guys to get past Max.

LAUREN WEEDMAN

MV5BMTU1MDE5MjkxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTI1ODQ5NA@@._V1_UY317_CR8,0,214,317_AL_

Lauren Weedman gave a stellar performance as the Doris on the now-cancelled HBO series LOOKING.  Doris was the resident smart-ass and as Max, Weedman would give a quirky comical spin to the role.

UPDATE! Why the “COACH” Revival Didn’t Go Forward at NBC!

image
NBC announced that it would not go forward with its planned revival of the late-ABC series COACH.

While the show had ran for eight seasons and earned titular star Craig T. Nelson and Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series in 1992 I don’t think a reboot of the show was necessary. It’s not a show that many people reference and I can’t even remember how it ended. I can’t even remember the last time I saw the show air on a basic cable network and there are so many networks hungry for content, you’d think it would be airing somewhere. I’m sure it got its obligatory run on TV Land or Nick at Night at some point.

My guess is COACH falls way down in the list of shows viewers would like to see revived.

TVInsider talked to series creator Barry Kemp about the show’s abrupt end at NBC.  Click here for the story.

Just How Crazy is it behind the scenes of “EMPIRE?”

  
We’ve heard all the rumors surrounding the personal life of EMPIRE star Terrence Howard but what else is happening behind the scenes of the hot FOX soap? In an interview with THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER show creators Lee Daniel and Danny Strong spill the tea on just how wild the writers room gets and how they’re handling the pressure of delivering a stellar second season.   Click here to read the full story.  

“GAME OF THRONES” Leads in Creative Arts Emmy Wins


The HBO drama GAME OF THRONES walked away with 8 Emmys at the Creative Arts ceremony held on this past Saturday. When nominations were announced GAME OF THRONES lead all series with 24 nominations.

Among the acting categories, Joan Cusack finally won for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role of Shiela in the Showtime series SHAMELESS.

Cusack had been previously nominated for the same role as Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series before SHAMELESS moved into the comedy category.

Go to TVLINE for the complete list of winners.

FOX will air the 67th Annual Emmy Awards this Sunday, September 20th at 8p EST/5p PST.
Check back later this week for my Emmy picks in the major categories.

5 Things I Hope to See During the 2015 TV Season

images

With the fall season quickly approaching, I’m anticipating the return of some show and curious about some of the new entries.  Here are 5 things I hope to see during the new television season.

  1. HOMELAND maintains its creative momentum from last season. Let’s face it, HOMELAND had been a mess creatively for a couple of seasons, but when the show returned for its fourth season, it was refocused and regained its critical credibility. HOMELAND even earned an Emmy nod for Best Drama Series.  I hope the series is able to continue with its creative resurgence in season five.  Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin are incredible in their roles and deserve strong material. But please, no more Brody fantasies!
  2. UNDATEABLE thrives on Friday nights. As you may have read in a previous post, I’m quite fond of the NBC comedy UNDATEABLE. When the series aired a one hour live episode this past season, I was 100% sold on the series about a group of misfit friends who hang out at a bar sharing their usually unsuccessful romantic adventures. Fridays are a tough night for any show, and the only comedy to survive on the night in recent years is ABC’s woefully unfunny LAST MAN STANDING.  That’s how low the bar has been set.  This season UNDATEABLE will be live every week and hopefully viewers will tune in for all the hijinks.
  3. HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER doesn’t flame out in season 2. Given the disaster that former ABC mystery soap REVENGE became in its second season, I hope the same fate doesn’t await HTGAWM. They show is a high adrenaline murder mystery, with a number of B, C and D stories.  I hope the storytelling doesn’t become too complicated with all the flashbacks, flash-forwards, and current day settings. Rhonda Rhimes is a master at multi-arc storytelling so that gives me comfort.
  4. SUPERGIRL soars. CBS is not the first network that comes to mind when I think of reimagining a comic book superhero, but the Tiffany network will debut SUPERGIRL on Monday nights this fall up against Batman prequel GOTHAM on FOX. I quickly fell out of love with GOTHAM last season, so my I’ve tempered my excitement for SUPERGIRL. The show does have two things going for it. One, she’s a female superhero which could broaden the appeal of the show from just comic book purists. Second, former ALLY MCBEAL star Calista Flockhart as publishing mogul and Kara’s (aka Supergirl) boss/confidante.
  5. EMPIRE continues to break new ground. EMPIRE had a record-breaking first season this past winter telling compelling and contemporary stories that often go untold on with African American characters on tv. While we’ve seen many coming out stories, Jamal’s felt fresh and bold. Having oldest son Andre struggle with bipolar disorder was a great way of educating the audience about mental health while still delivering a great soapy story.  I hope EMPIRE continues to weave topical social issues into its sometimes over the top storytelling boldly distinguishing itself from all other dramas on television.

320-1.64x31

UNDATEABLE -- "A Live Show Walks Into A Bar" Episode 209B -- Pictured: (l-r) Ron Funches as Shelly, Rick Glassman as Burski, Chris D'Elia as Danny, David Fynn as Brett, Brent Morin as Justin -- (Photo by: Darren Michaels/NBC/Warner Bros.)

MV5BMTg5MDI3OTI3M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzk0MDI1NjE@._V1_SX214_AL_MV5BMjE0NTc2MzM1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDk2NjA2NjE@._V1_SY317_CR9,0,214,317_AL_