NBC Universal Media
Television upfronts are upon us. Even though the fall TV season has just barely come to a close, with many shows not returning next year (poor Community), the networks have a new crop of shows ready to premiere later this year. NBC has recently announced its fall lineup, including an interesting mix of comedies and dramas. Here's a preview of NBC's upcoming primetime lineup
A to ZWhat It Is: Single-camera sitcom.What It's About: Andrew (Ben Feldman), a romantic at heart, tries to win the girl of his dreams, Zoey (Cristin Milioti).Who's in It: Ben Feldman, Cristin Milioti. What It Sounds Like: Exactly like How I Met Your Mother. It's so similar it's almost a little shameless. Check this: The male lead is a doe-eyed romantic; the female lead wants nothing to do with relationships; an unseen narrator who is also voiced by an actor best known from a '90s sitcom (Katey Sagal), is recounting the whole story; incredible romantic coincidences aplenty involving particularly colored items. It's madness. But at least they don't share a cast member... oh, wait...How Good It Will Be: It honestly looks like a tepid version of the CBS series, but without any of that show’s subversive charm or quirks.How Long It Will Last: It looks pleasant enough to last through the season, but who wants to watch another eight years of Ted and Robin doing will-they-won’t they.Premiere: Thursdays at 9:30 this fall.
Bad JudgeWhat It Is: Single-camera sitcom.What It's About: Rebecca Wright (Kate Walsh) is a wild party girl who also happens to be L.A.'s toughest criminal judge.Who's In It: Kate Walsh, John Ducey, Tone Bell, Theodore Barnes.What's It Sound Like: A reality show titled Judge Judy: Off the Bench.How Good It Will Be: Judging by the trailer, it seems like the main character’s antics will grow stale after a while. “She’s a high ranking official, yet she’s wildly inappropriate” can only be barely amusing for so long.How Long It Will Last: This looks dead on arrival.Premiere: Thurdays at 9:00 this fall.
The Mysteries of LauraWhat It Is: Cop dramedy. What It's About: Laura Diamond (Debra Messing) is a gifted detective who must balance the excitement of police work with managing her twin boys and a flippant ex-husband.Who's In It: Debra Messing, Josh Lucas.What's It Sound Like: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but with more family drama.How Good Will It Be: It’s hard to tell. The trailer is charming enough and is actually littered with a couple chuckles. How Long Will It Last: We can see this one going the distance.Premiere: Wednesdays at 8:00 this fall.
ConstantineWhat It Is: Supernatural drama.What It's About: Based on DC Comics’ classic series Hellblazer, demon hunter John Constantine travels the country to fight off the forces of hell while looking cool in a trench coat. Who's In It: Matt Ryan, Lucy Griffiths, Harrold Perrineau. What's It Sounds Like: Like Supernatural, with more Brits. How Good Will It Be: The trailer has some genuine creepy moments and looks like a far cry from the Keanu Reeves-centered, sun-drenched L.A. interperatation of the character from 2005’s Constantine. Matt Ryan is a dead ringer for the comic book version, down to the blond hair and british-accented quips. How Long Will It Last: This one has good chances. Even though it’s scheduled for Friday nights, which is usually the death nell for television, NBC’s other supernatural action series, Grimm has improbably managed to survive on the same night. Also, It’s connection to comics will certainly bring in viewers.Premiere: Fridays at 10:00 this fall.
State of AffairsWhat It Is: Drama. What It's About: CIA analyst Charleston Tucker (Katherine Heigl) must decide which international crises need to be brought to the attention of the president. She’s also on a mission to find the people responsible for the murder of her fiancé, who was the president’s son.Who's In It: Katherine Heigl, Alfre Woodard, Adam Kaufman. What's It Sound Like: Like Scandal meets Homeland. How Good It Will Be: It looks like a soapy, glossy network version of Homeland, which could be fun, but could also be terrible. How Long It Will Last: NBC found a surprise hit with The Blacklist, and this show looks pretty similar in story. If it can pick up on that show’s audience it will definitely make it through the season.Premiere: November 17 at 10:00.
Marry MeWhat Is It: Single-camera sitcom. What It's About: After six perfect years together, Annie and Jake are ready to get married, but the universe seems to have other plans for them. Who's In It: Ken Marino, Casey Wilson, Sarah Wright, John Gemberling. What's It Sound Like: It’s basically looks like Happy Endings, which makes sense since it’s also from that show’s creator, David Caspe. How Good Will It Be: The cast has some great comedy chops, and the trailer has some goofy laughs here and there. If this show is even half as good as Happy Endings in it’s prime, we’ll be satisfied.How Long Will It Last: NBC is in dire need of some new comedies so we’re betting this one sticks around for a while. Premiere: Tuesday at 9:00 this fall.
AllegianceWhat It Is: Spy drama. What It's About: Alex O’Connor is a young idealistic CIA analyst, but his life comes crashing down when he learns that his parents are deactivated KGB agents who have just been re-enlisted by the Kremlin to commit a terrorist attack against the U.S. Who's In It: Gavin Stenhouse, Scott Cohen, Hope Davis.What's It Sound Like: The Americans, but with fewer wigs and less '80s music. How Good It Will Be: It’ll be hard for this show to compete quality-wise with The Americans, which is probably the most underrated drama on television, since it is mining such similar territory. How Long It Will Last: You only have to look as far as NBC’s Hostages to see that dramas like this don’t tend to do well on the network. If the show is a critical success it good skate on its prestige like Hannibal, but we don’t see this as being terribly successful.Premiere: N/A
AquariusWhat It Is: Period police drama.What It's About: In 1967, L.A. police sergeant Sam Hodiak investigates a cult leader luring young women to his cause. Little does he know that that the guy he’s hunting turns out to be Charles Manson.Who's In It: David Duchovny. What's It Sound Like: Bates Motel, but replace Norman Bates with Charles Manson. How Good Will It Be: It looks like NBC is trying to mine the success (critical success at least) of Hannibal. If this show is even a tenth as good as that, it will be a home run.How Long Will It Last?: Knowing NBC and it’s audience, If this show does make it to the end of the season, it will be one of those shows that’s permanently on the bubble come renewal time.Premiere: N/A
Emerald CityWhat It Is: Fantasy drama.What It's About: A woman investigating the identity of her biological mother gets swept up into a tornado and transported to a twisted vision of magical world of Oz Who's In It: N/A What's It Sound Like: A dark and gritty version of The Wizard of Oz. How Good Will It Be: Judging from recent “Dark” versions of fairy tales (Hanzel and Gretal: Witch Hunters, Snow White and the Huntsman), we don’t have high hopes. How Long Will It Last: NBC’s recet genre offerings haven’t fared to well, but ABC’s Once Upon a Time shows that there’s certainly an audience for fantasy on network TV.Premiere: N/A
Mission ControlWhat Is It: Single-camera sitcom.What's It About: Dr. Mary Kendricks is a brilliant Aerospace engineer that must survive the boys club of Astronauts in the 1960s. Who's In It: Krysten Ritter, Tommy Dewey, Malcolm Barrett, Johnathan Slavin, Julie Meyer.What's It Sound Like: Mad Men meets Anchorman with some Better Off Ted sprinkled in. How Good Will It Be: Mad Men has found a great amount of drama exploring the old-timey misogyny of the 1960s. A series that can explore the same themes from a comedic lens could be really great.How Long Will It Last: It’s hard to tell. This sounds pretty ambitious from NBC. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that people will immediately click with, so Mission Control might not last.Premiere: N/A
Mr. RobinsonWhat It Is: Single-camera sitcom.What's It About: Down on his luck musician Craig Robinson (Craig Robinson... hey, wait a minute...) teaches music to pay the bills, but works harder to inspire his students once he finds out that they’re only taking his class for the easy A.Who's In It: Craig Robinson, Jean Smart.What's It Sound Like: An updated version of Welcome Back Kotter.How Good Will It Be: Craig Robinson is a huge talent, and we’ve been waiting for him to get the chance to carry his own show. Fingers crossed, everybody. How Long Will It Last: Hopefully, old fans of The Office can rally behind this show and help it secure at least a couple of seasons.Premiere: N/A
OdysseyWhat It Is: Multi-camera sitcom. What It's About: A soldier, a corporate lawyer, and a political activist uncover a military-industrial conspiracy involving al Qaeda, the U.S. military, and a U.S. corporation funding the terrorist cell.Who's In It: Anna Friel, Peter Facinelli, Jake Robinson, Jim True-Frost. What's It Sound Like: Traffic with a heaping teaspoon of Homeland.How Good Will It Be: It sounds like an ambitious, international undertaking from NBC. It sounds good, but then again it’s from a director of Grey’s Anatomy. We guess we’ll have to see.How Long Will It Last: Not too long. This doesn’t look like NBC’s usual offerings so it’s hard to think it will last.Premiere: N/A
One Big Happy What Is It: Single-camera sitcom.What's It About: Best friends, Lizzy and Luke decide to start an unorthodox family, but things get crowded when Luke meets and marries the woman of his dreams, Prudence, a british expat scheduled to leave the country. Who's In It: Nick Zano, Elisha Cuthbert, Kelly Brook.What's It Sound Like: A zanier version of Modern Family. How Good Will It Be: It sounds like fun, and Elisha Cuthbert was fantastic in Happy Endings.Premiere: N/A
Unbreakable Kimmy SchmidtWhat Is It: Single camera sitcom What’s It About: After 15 years of living in a cult, a woman decides to reinvent her life by moving to New York and taking on the city that never sleeps.Who's In It: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess.What’s It Sound Like: Ugly Betty meets The Office.How Good Will It Be: Ellie Kemper is perpetually delightful, and the idea of a woman readjusting to modern life after living in a cult could lead to some absurd situations. How Long Will It Last: Like Mr. Robinson, fans of the office might give this show a boost at least initially. Were thinking this one will at least finish out it’s season.Premiere: N/A
FX/Michele K. Short
Well, like Stevie Nicks’ song “Landside,” it seems like American Horror Story is afraid of changing. And you can see the reflection of last season in a snow-covered hill ... of cow plops. You want a storyline to reach a nice crescendo and provide some closure. However, the folks at AHS like to establish plotlines like a nosy super Christian neighbor rather than developing some of its most prevalent characters. Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) seems to be the season’s villain, and yet, we know nothing about her.
The episode begins with Marie and Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) having a sleepover. Their rivalry was never explained so this sudden flip-flop isn’t sudden or unexpected, it’s just random. Fiona offers to spell her asleep and Marie reveals the secret to her 300-year-old youth. Sadly, it isn’t chicken beaks, Oil of Olay, or sounding ratchet ... it’s killing babies. Apparently, she sold her soul to Ryan Murphy Papa Legba (Lance Reddick), who bears a strange resemblance to the WWE star The Undertaker. So she must go to a hospital and kidnap a baby. The sad part is this isn’t the craziest the episode gets. Although, luckily Stevie Nicks will appear at some point to salvage the plot, right?
Watching the news like best lady friends, Fiona, Marie, and Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) find out that Hank was responsible for killing all the hairstylists/witches. Besides wasting valuable time reiterating what we already know, the scene finds Fiona giving Cordelia an epic smack and then a verbal lashing to match. However, Fiona has no problem with Marie paying Hank to kill the witches.
Then in a mere flash Fiona brings Misty Day (Lily Rabe) into the sitting room to find Stevie Nicks there. What? No explanation? Apparently, it’s good to be The Supreme. Misty faints to some comic relief and then Stevie plays a very low energy version of “Rhiannon.” She may be tired because someone tried to explain to her how this show is meant to make any sense. Plus, is Nicks a witch? Was she kidnapped using Fiona's mind control powers? Are they old friends? Why is freakin' Stevie Nicks on this show?
The remaining girls speculate on the identity of the new Supreme. Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) is still convinced it might be her. Nan (Jamie Brewer) reveals her powers are growing and she can control minds as well as read them. Could she be the Supreme? So far, Misty can resurrect, which is one of the seven wonders, Nan can control minds and Madison has telekinesis and pyrokinesis all of whch are powers Fiona has. Or ... will Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) return as the Supreme?
Fiona casts a weird magic foreclosure spell on the witch hunters and they are suddenly investigated by the FCC. That’s when Marie reveals the secret to her eternal life/youth. Sadly, it’s not the potion from Death Becomes Her which is starting to look significantly more well written than this season. Oh Meryl Streep ... could you have saved this season? Where is all of this going?
Madison and Misty go for a walk following a funeral with kebabs. They literally follow a funeral procession. Madison decides to reveal that she can also resurrect people and then coldcocks Misty and buries her alive. Is this the end of Misty as the Supreme? This is the best scene in the episode and yet it’s so short. However, Misty did mention she had plans for her ressurection should something happen.
Nan and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) decide to go visit everyone’s least favorite storyline abusive mother Joan Ramsey (Patti Lupone) to try and find Luke’s body to try and resurrect him. This show is starting to rely a little much on resurrection. Nan shows off her new powers by forcing the murderous mom to drink bleach. Why was this woman ressurected if she was going to get killed off? This is a lot like last season with the premature exit of Rabe’s possessed nun. Why were Luke and his mother relevant at all? Why bother to waste valuable screentime on them if they rob the series of the chance to develop their characters. Is Marie more than an immortal voodoo queen with a really ratchet Jafakin’ accent. 300 years and she sounds like Halle Berry as Storm in X-Men. Remember Berry’s weak attempt at an African accent?
Fiona summons Papa Legba to try and get rid of her crow’s feet cancer using cocaine. She comes to learn she has no soul. Is it because her soul is the singular soul of the Supreme? Does the soul cycle through each Supreme? Did she lose it with her ghostly sexing with the Axeman (Danny Houston)? Or did she sell her soul for the survival of this series despite their lack of adequate plot development?
The series’ least powerful witches Cordelia and Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) have a powwow in the greenhouse. Myrtle loves playing the theremin and Cordelia loves to cry and be helpless. What are their powers anyway? Should we be asking this in the tenth episode of the season? Luckily, Myrtle has the power of witty dialogue and taunts Cordelia.
Rather than allowing Marie to sacrifice a baby, Marie and Fiona decide to kill Nan by drowning her. Then Nicks pops back for another somber song. Because hey, why not.
The Doctor Who Christmas special is an institution. The holiday isn't quite complete until you snap your family out of their food comas and drag them in front of the television to visit with the guy who really knows if you've been naughty or nice this year. This year's episode will be a rough one, as we'll say goodbye to Matt Smith, but we're sure he'll have a worthy send-off. How do the other modern Who specials stand against each other? We've ranked them for you.
8. "The Next Doctor" (2008)
Yes, Walking Dead fans, that is the Governor. It's really too bad he was stuck in this ho-hum Tenth Doctor adventure which we almost always skip during the Christmas Day marathon.
7. "The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe" (2011)
The Eleventh Doctor plays Father Christmas to a war widow who's trying to give her children one last happy holiday before she tells them their father is dead. "Because what's the point in them being happy now if they're going to be sad later. The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later." Merry Christmas, everybody!
6. "The Runaway Bride" (2006)
We get a preview of the fabulous fourth season when the Tenth Doctor meets certified queen Donna Noble on the day of her wedding. He saves her from marrying a slave to a giant alien spider; she sasses him at every opportunity.
5. "A Christmas Carol" (2010)
Eleven helps mean old scrooge Michael Gambon access his feelings — and accidentally gets engaged to Marilyn Monroe — while Rory and Amy are relegated to a subplot on a crashing ship. Some Time Lords have all the fun.
4. "Voyage of the Damned" (2007)
This is what a Doctor Who Christmas should be. Goofy, over-the-top, melodramatic, and packed with weird looking aliens, the ghost of Kylie Minogue, and finally — a guy named Alonso. And for bonus points, David Tennant wearing the hell out of a tux.
3. "The End of Time" (2009)
If you like a little angst with your eggnog, then we've got just the episode for you. It's the Tenth Doctor's farewell tour. And while it's not easy to watch, it's a tour-de-force in all aspects, especially his scenes with Wilf (Bernard Cribbins). Goodbye, Ten. We don't want you to go either.
2. "The Snowmen" (2012)
There's a TARDIS in the clouds, you guys. It's magical.
1. "The Christmas Invasion" (2005)
The 2013 special promises to be slicker than ever, but there's something so charming and comforting about "The Christmas Invasion" and its arts-and-crafts effects. (Remember the spinning tree?) And in his first full episode, Tennant endears himself instantly to a slew of skeptical fans who were assured that yes, this was still their Doctor.
When we heard Billie Piper and David Tennant were returning to Doctor Who for the 50th anniversary special, we were excited — some might say uncontrollably ecstatic — but after watching “The Day of the Doctor,” we were a little disappointed. Although everyone assumed Piper would play her iconic character, Rose Tyler she didn’t; Piper played the consciousness of the world-ending device the Doctor planned to use to end the Time War. Although the device’s consciousness recognizes it is the face of Rose Tyler, it’s not actually Rose Tyler. We don’t know about anyone else, but we feel a little cheated.
Half of our excitement for “The Day of the Doctor” was based on getting to see Rose Tyler meet the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) or finding out what happened to Rose after she went off with TenToo, the non-Time Lord clone of Tennant’s Doctor. But we didn’t get any of that! Piper only interacted with John Hurt’s War Doctor, and then it wasn’t even as the Rose we fell in love with.
On the bright side, some might say the lack of Rose was a good thing since some fans were wary of how Doctor Who showrunner and writer Stephen Moffat would treat our favorite companion. Since he’s called her a “needy girlfriend,” maybe it’s for the best that he decided not to touch the actual perfection that is Rose Tyler.
However, all of that being said, we still expected to see Rose and when we didn’t get Rose, we were sad. Our only chance to see Rose again was snatched away. (Maybe we’re getting a little carried away.) We’ll have to take comfort in the fact that at least we got to see the Tenth Doctor again.
It's been almost four years since he last donned the Tenth Doctor's tight pinstripes, but David Tennant didn't miss a beat when he returned to Doctor Who in the 50th Anniversary special. Every actor who's played the face-changing Time Lord has left a legacy on the series, but there's no denying that Tennant is a fan favorite. From classic catchphrases to bro-ing out with Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor, here are our favorite David moments from "Day of the Doctor."
1. So much for the "Virgin Queen."
And we finally know why Elizabeth I is so upset with the Doctor in their subsequent run-ins. He married her, told her he'd "be right back," and then took off in the TARDIS. We love you, Ten, but we've got to side with the Queen on this one.
2. Experimenting with new fashions.
David Tennant puts on fez; entire fandom collectively breathes into paper bag.
3. Charming Clara
Ten obviously approves of Eleven's taste in companions, and he can't resist laying on a little game.
4. Breaking our hearts all over again
Because it wouldn't be Doctor Who without a little pain and suffering, the script had Tennant repeating his famous final line. Also, an honorable mention for his gut-wrenching reaction when he heard the words "bad wolf."
5. Being adorable with Matt Smith
The entire 50th could have been just Ten and Eleven making fun of each other and we would have been more than okay with it.
In celebration of Superman's 75th anniversary, and the release June 14 of the Son of Krypton's latest big-screen adventure Man of Steel, writer Larry Tye, author of Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero, Now Out In Paperback, contributes this essay exclusively to Hollywood.com on the unique qualities some of the actors who've played Superman — Kirk Alyn, George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, and Henry Cavill — have brought to the role.
Nobody is more All-American than Superman in his red cape, blue tights and bright yellow "S." So how is it that a Brit – a native of the Channel Islands and a product of a Buckinghamshire boarding school, with an English brogue no less – is donning the leotards and cape in the new Man of Steel movie?
Warner Bros' selection of Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill as our newest Superman seems ill-conceived if not profane, the more so coming just as America is celebrating its hero's milestone 75th birthday. But Cavill, a British heartthrob who played the First Duke of Suffolk on the Showtime series The Tudors, wouldn't be the first on-screen Man of Steel to defy convention and, in so doing, to soar higher than even his studio handlers dared dream.
Kirk Alyn, the original live-action Superman, was more a song-and-dance man than an actor, having studied ballet and performed in vaudeville and on Broadway in the 1930s and early forties. That's where he decided to trade in the name he was born with, John Feggo, Jr., for Kirk Alyn, which he felt was better suited to the stage. He appeared in chorus lines and in blackface, modeled for muscle magazines, and performed in TV murder mysteries in the days when only bars had TVs and only dead-end actors performed for the small screen. But he had experience in movie serials, if not in superheroes, so when he got a call from Columbia Pictures in 1948 asking if he was interested in trying out for Superman he jumped into his car and headed to the studio. Told to take off his shirt so the assembled executives could check out his build, the burly performer complied. Then producer-director Sam Katzman instructed him to take off his pants. "I said, 'Wait a minute.' They said, 'We want to see if your legs are any good,'" he recalled forty years later. They were good enough, and fifteen minutes after he arrived, Alyn was hired as the first actor to play a Superman whom fans could see as well as hear.
Alyn and his directors were smart enough not to try and reinvent the character that Bud Collyer had introduced so convincingly to the radio airwaves. “I visualized the guy I heard on the radio. That was a guy nothing could stop,” Alyn said. "That's why I stood like this, with my chest out, and a look on my face saying, 'Shoot me.'" His demeanor said "tough guy" but his wide eyes signaled approachability and mischievousness, just the way creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had imagined their Superman a decade before. Alyn understood, the same way Collyer had, that kids could spot a phony in an instant. If they didn't think Alyn was having fun – and that he believed in Superman – they wouldn't pay to see his movies. His young audience, after all, didn't just admire the Man of Steel. They loved him. Superman was not merely who they dreamed of becoming but who they were already, if only we could see. The good news for them was that Alyn was having fun, and he did believe in his character in a way that these pre-teens and teens appreciated even if movie reviewers wouldn't.
In the 1950s, when Superman was gearing up for television, producer Robert Maxwell and director Tommy Carr screened nearly two hundred candidates who were sure they were him. Most made their living as actors, although some were full-time musclemen. Nearly all, Carr said, "appeared to have a serious deficiency in their chromosome count." So thorough – and perhaps so frustrating – was their search that the executives stopped by the Mr. America contest in Los Angeles. One choice they never seriously considered, despite his later claims, was Kirk Alyn, who had done well enough for the serials but had neither the acting skills nor the looks around which to build a Superman TV series. The search ended the day a barrel-chested B-movie actor named George Reeves showed up on the studio lot.
Maxwell's co-producer had recognized Reeves in a Los Angeles restaurant, seeming "rather forlorn," and suggested he come in for a tryout. He did, the next morning, and "from that moment on he was my first choice," said Carr. "He looked like Superman with that jaw of his. Kirk had the long neck and fine features, but although I like Kirk very much, he never looked the Superman Reeves did." His tough-guy demeanor was no put-on. Standing six-foot-two and carrying 195 pounds, Reeves had been a light-heavyweight boxing champ in college and could have gone further if he hadn't broken his nose seven times and his mother hadn't made him step out of the ring.
The Superman TV show, like other incarnations of his story, turned around the hero himself. Collyer, the first flesh-and-blood Man of Steel, had set the standard. He lowered and raised the timbre of his voice as he switched between Superman and Clark, making the changeover convincing. Maxwell's wife Jessica, the TV dialogue director, would follow Reeves around the set urging him to do the same – but he just couldn't master the switch. The result: a Superman who sounded just like his alter ego. They both swallowed their words. They looked and acted alike. There was no attempt here to make Clark Kent into the klutz he was in the comics. No slouching; no shyness. Reeves portrayed the newsman the way he knew, and that Jessica's husband told him to: hard-boiled and rough-edged, Superman in a business suit. The only differences were that Reeves would shed his rubber muscles and add thick tortoise-shell glasses with no lenses – that was the sum total of his switch to Clark Kent.
But it worked. It worked because fans wanted to be fooled, and because of the way Reeves turned to the camera and made it clear he knew they knew his secret, even if Lois, Jimmy, and Perry didn't. This Superman had a dignity and self-assurance that projected even better on an intimate TV screen than it had in the movies. Reeves just had it somehow. He called himself Honest George, The People's Friend – the same kind of homespun language Jerry and Joe used for their creation – and he suspended his own doubts the way he wanted viewers to. He looked not just like a guy who could make gangsters cringe, but who believed in the righteousness of his hero's cause. His smile could melt an iceberg. His cold stare and puffed-out chest could bring a mob to its knees. Sure, his acting was workmanlike, but it won him generations of fans. Today, when those now grown-up fans call to mind their carefree youth, they think of his TV Adventures of Superman, and when they envision Superman himself, it is George Reeves they see.
Christopher Reeve was an even less likely choice when producers set out to find the right Superman for their 1970s motion picture extravaganza. It wasn't just his honey brown hair and 180 pounds that did not come close to filling out his six-foot-four frame. He had asthma and he sweated so profusely that a crew member would have to blow dry his armpits between takes. He was prep school and Ivy League, with a background in serious theater that made him more comfortable in England's Old Vic than its Pinewood movie lot. He was picked, as he acknowledged, 90% because he looked "like the guy in the comic book . . . the other 10% is acting talent." He also was a brilliant choice. He brought to the part irony and comic timing that harked back to the best of screwball comedy. He had dramatic good looks and an instinct for melding humanism with heroism. "When he walked into a room you could see this wasn't a conventional leading man, there was so much depth he had almost an old movie star feeling," says casting director Lynn Stalmaster. The bean counters loved his price: $250,000, or less than a tenth of what Marlon Brando would get for the modest role as Superman's dad. Director Richard Donner asked Reeve to try on his horned-rimmed glasses. Squinting back at him was Clark Kent. Even his name fit: Christopher Reeve assuming the part made famous by George Reeves. "I didn't find him," Donner would say throughout the production. "God sent him to me."
Superman changed with every artist who filled in his features, writer who scripted his adventures, and even the marketers and accountants who managed his finances and grew his audience. Each could claim partial ownership. Actors like Christopher Reeve did more molding and framing than anyone and could have claimed more proprietorship. With each scene shot it was clearer that he was giving the hero a different face as well as a unique personality. Reeve's Superman would be funnier and more human – if less powerful or intimidating – than any who had proceeded him. He was more of a Big Blue Boy Scout now, in contrast to Kirk Alyn's Action Ace and George Reeves's Man of Steel. In the hands of this conservatory-trained actor, Supes was getting increasingly comfortable baring his soul.
Picking up the role and the mythos now will be English actor Henry Cavill, whose first appearance on the big screen was as Albert Mondego in The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). Can Cavill make us believe the way Reeve, Reeves, and Alyn did, and make us embrace a British-accented Man of Metropolis?
History suggests he can – provided he and Warner Bros. remember the formula that has served their hero so brilliantly for 75 years and counting. It starts with the intrinsic simplicity of his story. Little Orphan Annie and Oliver Twist reminded us how compelling a foundling's tale can be, and Superman, the sole survivor of a doomed planet, is a super-foundling. The love triangle connecting Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Superman has a side for everyone, whether you are the boy who can't get the girl, the girl pursued by the wrong boy, or the conflicted hero. His secret identity might have been annoying if we hadn't been let in on the joke and we didn't have a hero hidden within each of us. He was not just any hero, but one with the very powers we would have: the strength to lift boulders and planets, the speed to outrun a locomotive or a bullet, and, coolest on anyone's fantasy list, the gift of flight.
Superpowers, however, are just half the equation. More essential is knowing what to do with them, and nobody has a more instinctual sense than Superman of right and wrong. He is an archetype of mankind at its pinnacle. Like John Wayne, he sweeps in to solve our problems. No "thank you" needed. Like Jesus Christ, he descended from the heavens to help us discover our humanity. He is neither cynical like Batman nor fraught like Spider-Man. For the religious, he can reinforce whatever faith they profess; for nonbelievers he is a secular messiah. The more jaded the era, the more we have been suckered back to his clunky familiarity. So what if the upshot of his adventures is as predictable as with Sherlock Holmes: the good guy never loses. That is reassuring.
There is no getting around the fact that the comic book and its leading man could only have taken root in America. What could be more U.S.A. than an orphaned outsider who arrives in this land of immigrants, reinvents himself, and reminds us that we can reach for the sky? Yet this flying Uncle Sam also has always been global in his reach, having written himself into the national folklore from Beirut to Buenos Aires. If Cavill acknowledges both sides of that legacy, the all-American and the all-world, then he should be able to reel back aging devotees and draw in new ones.
Larry Tye was an award-winning journalist at The Boston Globe and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. A lifelong Superman fan, Tye now runs a Boston-based training program for medical journalists. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Satchel, as well as The Father of Spin, Home Lands, and Rising from the Rails, and co-author, with Kitty Dukakis, of Shock. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, and is currently writing a biography of Robert F. Kennedy.
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Ready...Or Not: It appears Tim, Ben, and Ernesto, who have been searching for their soulmates on NBC's new dating reality show Ready for Love, have to cut their hunt short. NBC has pulled the low-rated show, produced by Eva Longoria, after two episodes. Beginning April 30, the network's sci-fi Friday hit, Grimm, will move into Ready for Love's Tuesdays at 10 PM time slot, following The Voice. [Deadline]
Too Scary for TV: Former Spice Girl Melanie Brown has been banned from her new gig as judge on the Australian version of America's Got Talent, and it's all thanks to her old job as Australian X Factor judge. Her old network, Seven, sued to keep her off rival airwaves because she had an exclusive deal with them, and they planned to use her in a small role on the next season of X Factor. An Australian court has ruled that she cannot appear on any other TV network in the country until Jan. 31, 2014. [TV Guide]
Ratings Rise: It's not all bad news for NBC. Two back-to-back episodes of Parks and Recreation were up in the ratings, and Community even ticked up a tenth of a point. However, freshman drama Hannibal dipped three tenths of a point. Although American Idol's ratings have been down for Season 12, the reality hit still won the night. [The Hollywood Reporter]
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42, the inspiring true life story of baseball icon Jackie Robinson knocked it out of the park this weekend with a much better than expected $27.25 million. A 25% uptick on Saturday reflected great word-of-mouth for the film which was projected to earn in the high teen millions. Starring Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodger's exec Branch Rickey and the relatively unknown Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, the film is a riveting and hugely entertaining account of Robinson's personal and professional battles with peers, colleagues and the general public who were unwilling to accept an African-American ballplayer in the Major Leagues in 1940's America. Boseman is a revelation as Robinson and Ford chews up the scenery as Rickey along with Christopher Meloni (Law and Order: SVU, Oz) who is a standout as Dodger manager Leo Durocher and a great supporting cast including Alan Tudyk and John C. McGinley. Brian Helgeland (screenwriter of L.A. Confidential, Mystic River & Man on Fire) directs from his own script. The film obviously had major crossover appeal beyond male sports-enthusiasts due to its civil rights and family-oriented themes along with a strong love story between Robinson and his wife. As such, the Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures release should continue to be a solid performer in the coming weeks.
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The Weinstein Co.'s Dimension genre label released the fifth installment of the Scary Movie franchise and managed a franchise low debut of just $15.1 million. On the plus side is that with over $800 million in worldwide box office, the franchise has been a profit center for the distributor since its first installment was released in year 2000. Opening weekend's have ranged from a high of $48.1 million for 2003's Scary Movie 3 to a low of $20.5 million for the second installment, so this one is at the bottom end.
Holdovers rounded out the Top 5 as Fox's animated family hit The Croods in its fourth weekend is still performing well with a third place finish of $13.2 million and $142.5 million to date. In fouth place, Paramount/MGM's G.I. Joe: Retaliation grabbed another $10.8 million this weekend with $102.4 million to date and Sony/Tri-Star's horror hit and last weekend's number one movie Evil Dead came in fifth with $9.5 million against a 63% drop (typical for the horror genre) and $41.5 million to date.The incredible 3-D re-release of 1993's Jurassic Park which performed well last weekend and set records for IMAX chewed off another $8.8 million for sixth place and an impressive $31.9 million after ten days in theaters.Notably, Focus Features Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper drama The Place Beyond the Pines had a strong first expansion adding 484 theaters for a total of 514 and a tenth place finish with $4.079 million (a 480% boost over last weekend) an impressive per-theater average of $7,937 and $5.45 million thus far.The Summer Movie season looms large on the not-too-distant horizon with the debut of Disney/Marvel's Iron Man 3 on May 3 and it comes not a moment too soon with YTD revenues running 11.22% behind 2012 at this point.
It had to happen sometime! The first trip to an alien world is a Doctor Who companion rite of passage — for them, and for the audience still adjusting to the massive life change that is the introduction of a new companion. Now, I think it's almost universal that we all already love Clara, so it's not her fault that the world of Akhaten — though visually stunning — was not quite as exciting as The End of the World, the Ood, or the worst traffic jam that ever was.
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I'm not saying that "Rings of Akhaten" didn't have its great points — again, the world they created was as cool as a bow tie, the script just didn't have a whole lot going for it. I loved the creative, Star Wars-esque creatures Clara and the Doctor encountered on Akhaten, especially the creepy "Vigil" dudes whose masks reminded me of "The Empty Child" meets Darth Vader. (With the breathing and all.) I just never was particularly afraid of the silly looking mummy in the glass cage, nor the giant star that served as God-slash-parasite for the lovely folks of the Seven Rings.
I didn't find the sacrifice of the Giver-esque mini-songstress to be that emotionally riveting either, so combine a "meh" villain and a plot that doesn't emotionally resonate, and you're left with just a beautiful and fun, if empty, adventure. To be fair, Matt Smith had some epic monologues to work with this episode, and he sold each one to provide the few moments of of bone-chilling emotional resonance in the episode. When the Doctor actually goes into the horrifically lonely details of his life, you remember just how sad Doctor Who can really be. It was all very Tenth Doctor, if we're being frank. Kudos to Smith for pulling it off so well.
Now, on to some good: the Up-like sequence in the beginning of the episode, that showed the meeting between Clara's parents, was beautiful. Ladies, WHERE are our Mr. Oswalds, emIright? If a guy comes to your house carrying "the most important leaf in human history" — AKA, the leaf that smacked him in the face and almost got him killed before you got in the way of the speeding car, thus bringing the two of you together — you hold that man tight and never let him go. Clara's beautiful mother Ellie did just that, before she passed away of an unknown cause, leaving Clara and her father alone and rightly ruined.
It was nice of the Doctor to go back and observe Clara's past — and it gave us the leaf's history so we'd fully understand how much it meant for Clara to give it up — but man, the Doctor needs to curb his creepy, staring at children in parks habit. If it were anyone else, that sequence would have been disturbing. And it wasn't really helpful for the Doctor, who still concluded that Clara was "not possible."
But possible or not, there she was — waiting patiently for the Doctor, ready to go with her book and her backpack, the morning after the Wi-Fi debacle. The Doctor asked her what she wanted to see, and, understandably, she had no idea. When you have all of time and space to choose from, Doctor, it might be nice to present the lady with some options. Like, when awkward first dates ask me the number one place on this Earth that I want to visit, I stumble and say like, ten things. Argentina? Scotland? Dollyville? It's tough, so I understand fully why Clara said "something awesome."
It's totally understandable why he chose Akhaten. Apart from its visual beauty, its kind people and the interesting fact that their currency is items of sentimental value should have made this a nifty field trip for Clara. Instead, they happened to get there on a day that only comes every 1000-years or so — the day the Queen of Years sings a song in front of the whole planet to keep the Old God to sleep, lest he wake up and eat all of their memories/moments of emotional value. If she could sing him this lullabye that would keep him to sleep, they'd all be safe — and that's not an unreasonable amount of pressure for a child, no way. (Aside: The Doctor compared the importance of this day to our "Pancake Day" which was hilarious, and also oh-so-right.)
But hey, guess what? He woke up. And, the legend was all a lie. If the creepy Vigil guys chasing the Queen of Words (who had in her little brain ALL of Akhaten's moments of sentimental value) before she sang her song didn't alert you to the fact that this girl was a sacrifice, then... shame on you. Watch more TV. She was pulled to the pyramid housing this unfortunate looking mummy thing, and he arose — as a sort of "alarm clock" that would soon awaken the Old God, which was really just Akhaten's sun.
When the Old God awoke the big (again, gorgeous) sun took on a sort of skull face, as it was ready to feed on some memories. The Doctor offered up his to save the Queen of Years, but I guess his time wasn't sentimental enough. (After this happened I re-watched the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler's goodbye on the beach, and guess what? I DISAGREE, Old God.) Here's the Doctor's plea in full, because it was too gorgeous to paraphrase:
"I walked away from the last great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment until nothing remained. No time. No space. Just me. I've walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a madman. I’ve watched universes freeze and creations burn. I've seen things you wouldn’t believe. I have lost things you’ll never understand. And I know things. Secrets that must never be told. Knowledge that must never be spoken. Knowledge that will make parasite gods blaze."
God, it's good to remember sometimes just how sad and lonely his existence is. But still, again, it wasn't enough. What WAS enough, however, was Clara's leaf. As she explained it, not only did that leaf contain things that were, it contained "a future that never was... days that never came." So damn sad. The fact that Clara was willing to give this up on her second go-round puts me even further in her corner, and all of the infinite wasted possibilities contained in the leaf were too much for the Old God, so he imploded.
Okay, now maybe I'm missing something here, but isn't the sun the thing that gives these people life? We didn't see what happened to Akhaten after implosion, and I know the Doctor would never let a planet full of wonderful people die, but come on — plot hole? Whatever, moving on. In the TARDIS the Doctor was still mulling over Clara's past, and she stated firmly that she would not compete with a ghost. FYI, Clara — the dude is not going to drop this one anytime soon.
So, that was about it. I've seen next week's episode and can verify that it's fantastic, so I hope that gives you solace if you were also slightly disappoined by Akhaten. Oh, and one more note: when Clara asked if the legend the Akhaten folks believed — that all life came from that one sun — and the Doctor responded, "It's what they believe. It's a nice story," did you also think they were commenting on our own stubborn reliance on religious doctrine? Do tell, and see you next week!
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: BBC Worldwide]
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The Paddy's Pub gang is getting a new location. Don't worry, the demented It's Always Sunny crew isn't moving out of Philadelphia, they're just heading to a new network. Well, sort of. FX announced at their New York City upfronts on Thursday that they are expanding on their brand by launching FXX. (It's not what you're thinking, so get your head out of the gutter, Dennises of the world!)
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FXX will be a comedy-based spin-off network (just one of the FX off-shoots, that also includes FXM and FXNOW, in case you aren't sufficiently confused) aimed at younger audiences. Cult darlings like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League — both renewed for their tenth season and sixth season, respectively — will lead the charge. (Sunny and The League will have Season 9 and Season 5, respectively, on FX until the new network launches).
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Additionally, Legit —which debuted last year — will get a Season 2 on FXX and the pop culture topic series Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell will also be making the move to the new network and expand to a 5-nights-a-week format.
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The sister FXX network — which will also air comedy movies in addition to their original television programming and will eventually introduce dramas to their line-up — will launch on September 2 to an estimated 74 million households.
[Photo credit: Patrick McElhenney/FX]
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