Michael Arbeiter
Staff editor Michael Arbeiter’s natural state of being can best be described as “mild panic attack.” His earliest memories of growing up in Queens, New York, involve nighttime conversations with a voice from his bedroom wall (the jury’s still out on what that was all about) and a love for classic television that spawned from the very first time he was allowed to watch “The Munsters.” Attending college at SUNY Binghamton, a 20-year-old Michael learned two things: that he could center his future on this love for TV and movies, and that dragons never actually existed — he was kind of late in the game on that one.
  • 'Person of Interest' Recap: Witness
    By: Michael Arbeiter November 03, 2011 10:01pm EST
    S1E7: Over the course of the past six weeks, I have been asked many times what I think of Person of Interest so far. Like many who decided to get into the show, I was a zealous LOST-aholic. And, like most people who exist in the Western world, I am an admirer of all things Nolan. So, a show created by the The Dark Knight and Memento writer, produced by J.J. Abrams, and starring Michael Emerson seemed like a pretty good habit in which to get invested. Still, every time the question was posed to me over the last month and change, I’d humbly answer something in the vein of, “It’s been just okay so far,” always adding, for the sake of my own optimism and that of my partner in the discussion, “but I think it’s building to something.” Well, whether I truly believed it or was just saying it to keep spirits upbeat, it finally happened. This week’s Person of Interest episode, “Witness,” is the very thing to which the show has been carefully, charismatically building. And honestly, I am pretty freakin’ thrilled. “If I testify, I never get to come back here. I’ve worked too hard. This is my home.” – Charlie A shooting at a bodega stirs gang-related controversy. Detectives Carter and Fusco, and a lieutenant played by Mike McGlone (the “Could switching to GEICO…?” guy) deliver the story: Brighton Beach, although a territory ruled by the Russian crime syndicate, has an Italian uprising in the form of a man named Elias and his cronies. Elias is the figure that Carter has been investigating over the course of the past few episodes. His name first came up during Reese’s undercover bank robbery, and pervaded into last week’s episode, in which Carter and Dan Hedaya took on a case. The problem is: nobody knows who Elias is or what he looks like. The man shot in the bodega is one of Elias’ men; the shooter is a representative of the Russian mob, avenging his murdered family member. So where do Reese and Finch come in? There is a witness at the bodega: a schoolteacher named Charlie (Enrico Colantoni) who saw the face of the shooter. The machine shoots out his number, and Reese rushes to his aide—just in time to drag him from the clutches of gun-toting Russians (fun cameo for Community fans: one of the Russian thugs is Luka, the Slavic warmonger with whom Britta became temporarily enamored). In hiding out with Charlie, Reese develops a liking and respect for him. Not to mention he busts his phone and cannot communicate with Finch, so he probably feels a little more compelled to make small-talk out of boredom (that inability to communicate is inconvenient for some other pretty obvious reasons too). Charlie refuses to testify out of fear of the Russian mob. He can’t get himself killed, primarily because his students need him. Reese develops a fondness for Charlie beyond even that which he seemed to foster for Zoe last week. Thus, he goes to every length imaginable to see him safe. “Elias started a war that can’t be won. Now a lot of innocent people are going to die. Do you want that?” – Det. Carter “If that’s what it takes.” – Mrs. D’Agostino Unable to communicate with Reese, Finch is forced to finally interact with Det. Fusco. In cahoots (and sometimes behind each other’s backs, but still working toward the same goal), they investigate a parked car and a mysterious police officer who is believed to be Elias. Meanwhile Carter tries to reason with the widow of the dead bodega criminal, who only wishes for the downfall of the Russian mob at the hands of Elias. She also insists that when he does rise—wanting to take over far more than just Brighton Beach—the entire police department will answer to him. It’s spooky. It’s exciting. Out of options and on the run, Reese and Charlie head into forbidden territory: the apartment complex run by the Bulgarian drug force. The Russians brave these wild-lands (earning the Bulgarians’ approval as they wish harm unto Reese for beating up two of their men in order to earn some coke to nurse Charlie’s gunshot wound…just go with it) and a game of manhunt ensues. Reese and Charlie get the break that one of the latter’s students allows them to hide out in his apartment. Here, Reese and the audience get to see Charlie really connect with the young man. We see just what kind of a role model he is—one that has clearly touched his students, and one that really deserves saving. This angelic good guy image really should tip us off to what’s coming, but it’s done pretty subtly and artfully, so it doesn’t (at least, it dupes me). “Teaching can be a dangerous profession.” – Reese “I am sure espionage is much safer, Mr. Reese.” – Finch Reese manages to apprehend the Community cameo, and brings him aboard a boat docked at the pier, tying him up. While Reese promises further to protect Charlie, the Russian thug begins monologuing—gotta love it—and informs Reese, and us, that Charlie is not who he seems. Yep. Charlie is Elias. Charlielias confirms this by pointing a gun to Reese’s head and tying him up. He does let him live out of gratitude and respect, but goes on to collect his soldiers and vow to take back the neighborhood that once belonged to his lineage. The ending of the episode is terrific for several reasons. One: it’s a killer twist. Two: it promises a large, exciting story to come—one that will hopefully carry over a good part of the season. Three, and most importantly: it makes Reese question the machine (and himself). The machine brought him to save the life of an evil man. How can he trust it blindly any further? How can he ever know who is worth saving? What is the point of saving lives at the cost of others? Is he even leading a noble life? The questions are endless. Luckily, we’ve got a Nolan behind it all. And an Abrams, too. And after six weeks of hopeful waiting, we finally see just what the two of them are up to. And let me say: it’s turning out to be some damn good TV.
  • Casting Roundup: Elisabeth Moss May Get a BBC Show, an Old Friend Returns to Conan
    By: Michael Arbeiter November 03, 2011 2:05pm EST
    The curse of being an actor on a hit television series is often that people identify you only as your character. Elisabeth Moss is bst known for playing Peggy Olson on AMC's Mad Men, but she might soon expand her notoriety with a new series on the BBC. Moss is in the late stages of a deal with the British network to star in Top of the Lake, a crime-drama miniseries about the investigation of a missing pregnant girl, whose father is a notorious drug kingpin. If the deal goes through, Moss will play Robin Griffin, the detective on the case. Also attached is writer/director Jane Campion (The Piano). -Deadline Technically, Conan O'Brien isn't really allowed to use a good deal of his bits and characters that he created for the NBC network now that he is hosting his talk show, Conan, on TBS. However, that hasn't stopped the irreverent Conan from making a few call-backs to his former days hosting Late Night. And he's not done yet. Conan will be reunited his, arguably, most iconic character: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. According to Conan's twitter, Triumph will be making an appearance on his show tonight, to add to the glory of his week shooting in New York City. The week has already been packed full of Conan's best comedy in quite some time; this is no disappointment. Conan airs weeknights at 11 p.m. ET/PT on TBS. -Twitter When 30 Rock returns to NBC a mid-season replacement, it will be bringing with it some guest stars of note. When we last left Jack Donaghy, he was still sullied over the kidnapping of his wife, Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks). However, Donaghy won't be entirely alone: Avery's mother is coming to the show, and she'll be played by Mary Steenburgen. Steenburgen's character will be Charlotte, an "uber-WASP" who doesn't quite get along with her son-in-law. The Corrections, the 2001 novel by Jonathan Franzen, has been officially picked up for adaptation as a series by HBO. Starring in the series are Chris Cooper and Dianne Wiest as a couple from the American Midwest who muster their estranged children to enjoy "one last Christmas" together as the twentieth century comes to a close. -Vulture
  • Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston and Find Meaning in the 'Wanderlust' Trailer
    By: Michael Arbeiter November 03, 2011 12:38pm EST
    The below trailer for Wanderlust tells the story of a married couple (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) who escape their high-stress New York City lives for a fresh start in Georgia...and then escape their even higher-stress Georgia lives for a fresher start at a hippie commune somewhere in the South Eastern part of the U.S. So I ask you: what is there not to like about Wanderlust? It's got Rudd as a harried straight-man yearning for a more liberating life. It's got Ken Marino as an oblivious jackass. It's got Joe Lo Truglio as a wide-eyed weirdo. It's got Alan Alda, Kathryn Hahn, Malin Akerman, and Kerri Kenney as a bunch of nutjobs. So yes, all business as usual. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And Aniston hopped up on hallucinogens, trying to fly out of a tree? There's something we haven't seen before. Source: Yahoo
  • Emma Stone in Talks to Join Will Ferrell's 'He's F*ckin' Perfect'
    By: Michael Arbeiter November 03, 2011 11:41am EST
    If I had a time-machine...correction, when I have a time-machine, one of my first orders of business would be traveling ahead to 2029 and seeing just how much of Hollywood is consumed by Emma Stone. Omnipresent superstars are not as prevalent today as they were in the classic era of film. You had your Hepburns, your Bergmans, your Taylors, your, Hollywood is so densely populated with such a wide variety of actors, you'd be hard-pressed to pinpoint a single name to embody the idea of fame. But in eighteen years (rough estimate), we'll see a crown of glamor placed upon the head of Emma Stone. Her latest potential project: a script by first-timer Lauryn Kahn, to be produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (he wrote and directed both Anchorman and Step Brothers) called He's F*ckin' Perfect. The lead will be a cynical girl whose role in her close (or assumedly so) group of female friends is to utilize her investigative prowess to find out the dark secrets about all of the guys her friends begin dating. To clarify: when one of this young lady's friends meets a new guy, she (the role intended for Stone, presumably) dives right into the social media world to discover any undesirable piece of information that the Internet has to offer on aforesaid man. Here's the twist: one of her friends meets a guy that she deems absolutely perfect...for herself. Thus, she deters her friend from dating him, and, through the same techniques she uses to oust guys from her group's life, figures out the constituents of his ideal woman, then feigns them. It has the potential of good comedy, and Stone's charm could make such a harsh character seem worthy of our affections. So, perhaps we'll see this merging of Ferrell's/McKay's trademark style and Stone's unsoluble grace in the form of He's F*ckin' Perfect. One thing's for sure: we should expect a title change. Source: Indiewire
  • J.J. Abrams and Spielberg Discuss the Passion for Film in 'Super 8' Blu-ray Trailer
    By: Michael Arbeiter November 03, 2011 10:09am EST
    A lot of people considered Super 8 to be J.J. Abrams' tribute to youthful, spirited adventure and sci-fi films of generations past—it's likely that whichever of these movies you loved as a child was the one you felt most channeled by Super 8 (for me, it was The Goonies; for the friend I saw Super 8 with, it was E.T....the options are numerous). So, it's fitting, and a lot of fun, to see Abrams and the film's producer Steven Spielberg talk about their own youthful plights in filmmaking. The below featurette, and preview for the upcoming Super 8 Blu-ray pack, offers the points of view of Abrams, Spielberg and Super 8 castmembers Jade Griffiths and Gabriel Basso, on the movie and being a child fascinated by the making of and working with film. Super 8 comes out on Blu-ray, with dozens of additional special features, on Nov. 22. Source: Yahoo
  • Fox Lures Andy Serkis Back for 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Sequel
    By: Michael Arbeiter November 03, 2011 10:08am EST
    Why money Serkis? Actually, it's no question why 20th Century Fox has closed a (reportedly) seven-figure deal with Rise of the Planet of the Apes star Andy Serkis to return for a sequel: everyone loved him in the first one. Rise was a surprisingly fascinating and fun movie to many of us, and this is due in large to Serkis' motion capture performance as Caesar, the ape who instigates that planetary rise you might have noticed towards the end. There's no certainty that we'd be seeing a return of characters like James Franco's Will Rodman or Freida Pinto's Caroline Aranha. But the news of Serkis' return is an exciting one. The end of Rise was left intentionally open-ended in the interests of developing additional movies in the series. Sure, that may be considered a cheap trick at roping in audiences for countless movies...but call me a sap, then, because I'm totally on board for every adventure on an ape-run Earth that Hollywood is willing to give me. In other Serkis-related news, the idea of a campaign for an Academy Award nomination for Serkis is being tossed around, which would make him the first capture performance actor to receive this accolade. After years of being a less-than-duly-appreciated part of major films, the fantastic actor is finally finding his place in Hollywood. Serkis... is... home. Source: Deadline
  • 'Downton Abbey' Will Get a Third Season
    By: Michael Arbeiter November 03, 2011 9:59am EST
    The first season of the British period drama Downton Abbey was a critical sensation in America, earning six awards on top of five additional nominations at the 2011 Emmys. The United States have yet to join the Crawley family in its second season as audiences in the United Kingdom have, but early 2012 will reunite fans with this twentieth century aristocratic dynasty. There's been that creator Julian Fellowes was seriously considering developing another season of Downton Abbey, hoping to explore further decades with his characters. The deal is finally official, and British and American audiences will be enjoying a third season of Downton Abbey. Many were pleased with Fellowes' announcement that he was interested in expanding his series through a third season, so the completion of this deal must come as a great source of joy. Fellowes has a reputation as a writer and producer for harboring a great appreciation and respect for his characters, so we don't have to worry about a decline in quality come the later years of Downton Abbey. He expressed a particular fascination with exploring the era of the 1920s, which will be the time period of the third season. Downton Abbey's second season premieres on American television on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS. Source: AOLTV
  • Fox Halts Production on J.J. Abrams' 'Alcatraz' to Reshoot Episodes
    By: Michael Arbeiter November 03, 2011 6:58am EST
    Considering the major world religion that has been spawned from LOST fandom, and the so-far-so-good Person of Interest, any television show headed by J.J. Abrams comes with a lot of clout. So it's worth it to make sure that the shows are operating at maximum quality. We've heard a lot about Abrams' next TV endeavor, Alcatraz, the mystery-thriller centering on supernatural goings-on in the infamous island prison (you can read our pilot review here). Alcatraz has been in production for some time, having shot seven episodes to date. Fox has decided to halt production on additional episodes of Alcatraz for a one- or two-week period in order to perform reshoots for the ones already completed. The reshoots are likely to be approached with a "fine-tuning" sensibility—perhaps the directors and producers have developed a new aesthetic perspective for the show. Or perhaps they have come up with new elements for the story that they'd like to root in the series earliest episodes. Once the reshoots are complete, the production on the remaining six episodes of the first season will be undergone immedately. Alcatraz stars Sarah Jones as SFPD Det. Rebecca Madsen, who investigates the mysteries of the prison. Also starring are LOST alum Jorge Garcia as Dr. Diego Soto, an academic expert on the prison, as well as an avid comic book junkie, and Sam Neill as an enigmatic government agent. Alcatraz is still set to premiere sometime in early 2012. Source: AOLTV
  • Jimmy Fallon Channels Justin Bieber to Sing "(It's Not My) Baby": Late Last Night
    By: Michael Arbeiter November 03, 2011 5:52am EST
    Last night, Jimmy Fallon reminded us of his glory days as a talented SNL performer with a great musical/celebrity impression sketch. As you've probably heard, Justin Bieber was recently slapped with a paternity lawsuit by a twenty year-old woman, claiming that Bieber is the father of her three month-old son. Jimmy channeled his inner Bieber (and spoke on the Bieb's behalf) by performing "(It's Not My) Baby" in character as the pop star. Taylor Lautner visited The Tonight Show to discuss his thrill-seeking near-death experiences, and his black-light minigolfing adventure. When Ellen DeGeneres paid a visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the result was a battle of epic proportions: a Nice Off. Ellen and Jimmy lunged into a competition to determine who is the nicer talk show host. There were no survivors. Finally, back on The Tonight Show, Martha Stewart talked about being a savior for trick-or-treating children in a Halloweenless town, and she made a pass at both Taylor Lautner and Jay.
  • 'Modern Family' Recap: Treehouse
    By: Michael Arbeiter November 02, 2011 9:29pm EST
    S3E7:In general, this week’s Modern Family is stacked with high highs and low lows, and balances out to a slight step up from the series’ recent output. It offers a better-than-average Jay/Gloria story and a worse-than-average Claire/Haley story. As always, Phil and Luke are gold. But the thing that resonates most in “Treehouse” is the show’s insistence on using Cam’s homosexuality as a punchline. “If you let me keep that hang glider, those geese would have followed me to the wetlands.” – Phil “You would have died.” – Claire “A hero.” – Phil Claire starts out the episode in her normal state of frustration with her family. Phil is up to very Philish hijinks: building a treehouse as a (very) thinly veiled attempt to recapture his lost youth. But the main problem: Haley is having trouble with her college essay (a running theme in the series). Haley’s dilemma stems from a lack of hardship in her life. Instead of employing introspection or anything else that Haley has probably never heard of, she complains about how easy her life has been and blames this lack of real experience on her mother. Claire responds by tricking Haley into taking a car ride with her somewhere outside of the neighborhood and then leaving her without a phone or money to get home on her own (the perfect fodder for her essay). The problem with this storyline is: we don’t actually see Haley getting home. In between her abandonment and her frazzled storming through the front door, we see or hear nothing from Haley or Claire. This could have been a comic goldmine, and possibly some interesting character development (okay, maybe just a comic goldmine). But instead, the episode opts for some catty remarks between the Dunphy women that make the whole plot seem useless. “I could totally be a womanizer.” – Cam “Or you could be someone who just stepped out of a machine called The Womanizer.” – Mitchell The plot complexity is at least a step above the Lucy-Ricky squabbles that Cam and Mitchell were having for a few weeks: Cam wants to prove himself capable of “passing for straight,” so he hits on a woman at a bar (Leslie Mann), but worries that he has taken it too far when she wants to see him again. My issues with this storyline are detailed in my introduction. Throughout the episode, as you might imagine, there are a ton of jokes about Cam’s sexuality, many of which structured around what his being a gay man “must” indicate about him. Now, I’m not certain whether or not I’m being too sensitive here. Cam’s homosexuality is not being treated with malice—this is something of which the show is never guilty. But when Mitchell, a character we’re supposed to consider intelligent and likeable, attributes Cam’s supposed fragility to his being gay, it seems harmful. Especially since, as a gay man himself, Mitchell acts as sort of an authority on what it is “okay” to think about gay men. Of course, no one individual can be an authority on what it is okay to say about any group of people, whether he belongs to said group or not, but television characters do assume these roles in the eyes of their viewers. Thus, I think it a little irresponsible to have Mitchell tossing around stereotypes in such a generalizing fashion. I won’t say a few of the more clever jokes didn’t work, primarily thanks to Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s delivery. But this is something with which the show needs to be careful. “Honey! The dude in the tree is cool!” – Andre The Jay/Gloria storyline is both benign and forgettable, so I’ll gloss over it for the most part: Gloria thinks Jay is boring and passionless because he won’t take her out salsa dancing like returning character Shorty (Chazz Palminteri) does with his ladyfriend Darlene (Jennifer Tilly, who is as Jennifer Tilly as ever in this role). The truth is: Jay can’t dance, and is self-conscious about this. First, he asks Manny to teach him, but this amounts to naught. So, he takes a “drug” offered to him by Mitchell to loosen up—success. Of course, the drug is a placebo (Baby Aspirin), but anyone who knows Mitchell should guess this right away. Moving right along to what is, unsurprisingly, my favorite part of the episode: the Phil/Luke story. The magic duo has both minimal screen time and a lack of particularly memorable lines, but their characters are so much more rich than anything else on the show. Phil forces a vacant Luke into the exploit of building a treehouse. In truth, Phil is feeling like he has lost his youth and no longer has the sort of friendships he did when he was a child who could just call to the other neighborhood kids to run out and play. It’s actually legitimately sad when Phil begins to reveal his true intentions. Eventually, Luke bails on Phil out of frustration—and a sense of doom surrounding the project—leaving his dad stuck up in the tree. But Phil catches the eye of a neighbor, Andre (Kevin Hart), who, despite having lived right over the fence for eight years, has never met Phil. It’s a somewhat touching moment when Phil realizes he is not actually the man-without-a-country he assumed himself to be. Andre is in the same boat: he immediately jumps onboard with the treehouse project, channeling the same sensibilities Phil had when he pioneered it. The episode closes with a promise of Phil/Andre storylines to come, which seems like good material for comedy. Two adult Phils is even more destructive than one, and this might free Luke up to spread some of his glory to another pairing. Manny perhaps? I’ve always appreciated the two of them working together. I am still a bit torn on the Cam/Mitchell issue. Am I missing the point of all these gay jokes? Are they simply there to illustrate affable characters with human flaws, living a funny but normal lifestyle? I’m not unwilling to accept that I might be simply not getting it, but it seems to be that the show is just taking the easy route to comedy, at the expense of a value it claims to embrace.