Tube Watch: 11 Great TV Series You Should Be Watching Right Now

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Dave, aka ackackattack, here. Last year I wrote about two tremendous, international TV series, Broadchurch and The Returned (Les Revenants). Ruth kindly asked that I write a guest post about what I’ve been watching lately.

TVWatchingRemoteIn America it’s said we’re living in a ‘golden age’ of television here starting with The Soprano’s and The Wire going on all the way up to Breaking Bad and True Detective. Well frankly across the pond they’ve been having their own renaissance with their own original TV programming too. Especially of note is what is coming out of Britain, Sweden and Denmark. For those of you willing to brave thick accents, subtitled dialogue, different cultures and original programming you will be greatly rewarded. If you haven’t noticed, we Americans seem to be stealing remaking foreign programs more and more lately… and not doing it nearly as well. Case in point FOX’s Gracepoint (Broadchurch), FX’s The Bridge (Bron/Broen), AMC’s The Killing (Forbrydelsen) and ABC’s Resurrection (Les Revenants).

In my 40+ years of consuming entertainment it’s getting harder and harder find original, challenging programming with well-drawn characters and compelling storylines. Especially in a world of sequels, franchises and remakes where the bottom line ultimately rules the day. But rather than be frustrated it just means is that I sometimes have to look outside the box to find what moves me. It just so happens that a lot of great content comes from TV these days… and not just here in America.

Some of these shows mentioned can be a challenge to find so I listed where they might be found at the end of each synopsis.

1. Rita

RitaRita stars the fabulous Mille Dinesen who plays a rebellious, flawed Danish schoolteacher trying to “save the children from their parents”. As a single mother of three older children she juggles everything to raise them the best that she knows how. Supposedly they remade it as a pilot for Bravo with Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) that didn’t get picked up. It’s hard to imagine the US remake touching this lighthearted dramedy with its mature themes that Europeans are so comfortable with that we Americans are so afraid of confronting. Curiously enough Dinesen is a dead ringer for Linda Hamilton. I swear you’ll say that to yourself, in your head, at least once an episode. Seriously.(US/Denmark/Sweden Netflix.)

2. Happy Valley

HappyValleyIt’s the story of a kidnapping gone wrong not unlike Fargo but without the all the “you betcha’s”. Actually the tone of Happy Valley is actually more reminiscent of Broadchurch. Sarah Lancashire stars as Catherine Cawood, the police sergeant of a small English valley, who gets caught up in this twisted case. Ratcheting up the tension more is someone from her past who turns up, complicating matters all the more for Catherine. It’s a standout performance from Lancashire that is well worth your time. (US Netflix)

3. Black Mirror

BlackMirrorIt’s like a very dark, twisted version of The Twilight Zone crossed with Tales of the Unexpected. If you’re a fan of those shows you will love this. Being an anthology series there’s a different cast, setting and even reality for each show which makes it palatable in small doses. It should came as no surprise that Robert Downey’s production company has optioned one of the episodes to be made into a feature film. The first of six episodes in this series, entitled The National Anthem, is one for the ages. It will certainly test your mettle. All I can say is you have to see it for yourself. (UK Netflix)

4. The Bridge (Bron/Broen)

TheBridge_OriginalYou might know this series which was remade by FX with Oscar nominees Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) and Damon Bichir (A Better Life). This is the original Swedish/Danish co-production titled Bron/Broen starring the wonderful Kim Bodina (Nicholas Winding Refn’s Pusher). The body of a Swedish politician is found, cut in half and deliberately placed in the middle of a bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark. Falling under the jurisdictions of both countries, two detectives must work together to solve this mysterious murder. Later it is found out that the corpse is from two separate bodies. Chaos ensues. (Denmark/Sweden/UK Netflix)

5. The Killing (Forbrydelsen)

TheKilling_DanishThe Danish strike again with The Killing (Forbrydelsen). In what would be remade by Showtime, whose US creator drastically changes some of the story (and not for the better), this where it all began. Detective Sarah Lund is looking forward to her last day in Copenhagen before she moves to Sweden when a high profile rape and murder case comes up. Over the next 20 days, with implications reaching high up into government, she decides to stay and delve into the case of a particularly dangerous and intelligent murderer. (Denmark/UK Netflix)

6. Borgen

Borgen_DanishBorgen, which is Danish for ‘The Castle’, is from the producers of The Killing (Forbrydelsen). It’s the story of a charismatic, female Danish prime minister faced with suddenly coming into power. It’s been favorably compared to the best seasons of The West Wing. Stephen King named it his favorite piece of pop culture of 2012. I know this is hard to believe but HBO is in the works to develop this series. (Available through Link TV on satellite via Dish Network or DirecTV)

7. Southcliffe

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Sean Durkin follows up his impressive debut film, Martha Marcy May Marlene (Elisabeth Olsen, John Hawkes), with this British series Southcliffe. It tells the nonlinear story of a series of deadly shootings in a fictional, rural English town. Starring Shirley Henderson (Trainspotting, Intermission), the truly underrated Eddie Marsan (The World’s End, Happy Go Lucky) and Sean Harris (Prometheus, Showtime’s The Borgias) who won a BAFTA for his chilling portrayal of the shooter Stephen Morton. (US/UK Netflix)

8. Hit & Miss

HitAndMissIt’s a British drama, set in Yorkshire, about an Irish, transgender contract killer. The story begins when he comes to England after finding out he’s been named guardian of a son that he didn’t know he fathered. Despite its implausible sounding premise the show is remarkably quite compelling. It’s anchored by Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry) who does the best work of her career here. Guys out there, be forewarned, it’s quite conflicting watching the lovely Sevigny play a pre-op transgender woman in this (think The Crying Game). LOL. (US Netflix)

9. Orphan Black

OrphanBlack_TatianaIt’s hard to avoid seeing Tatiana Maslany’s name on the internet these days. Particularly for how she’s been snubbed by the Emmy’s for her work on this fascinating sci-fi show hailing from Canada on BBC America. The writing/directing team from the movie Ginger Snaps, Karen Walton and John Fawcett, created this fun, smart sci-fi series about cloning. To watch Tatiana Maslany portray no less than 7 distinctly different clones and then have them pretend to be one another while still in their original character is something you have to see. As one reviewer put it “she’s her own special effect.” BBC America On Demand. (UK/Denmark/Sweden Netflix)

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Lastly I wanted to highlight two US shows that are excellent in their own right and are truly like nothing else currently showing on American TV.

10. Transparent

TransplantJeffrey Tambor should be on the Emmy shortlist next year for his performance as a father that comes out as transgender to his severely dysfunctional family. Amazon Prime has really stepped up with its first original series. Based on the life experiences of creator Jill Soloway’s (Six Feet Under) family. The large cast is quite extraordinary. It’s as unique as anything you’ll see this year. (Amazon Prime Video)

11. Rectify

RectifyTo say there is nothing like Rectify on American TV is an understatement. It’s a deliberately paced, southern Gothic story of redemption and the loss of one’s self. After 19 years on death row, Daniel, who was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing his 16 year old girlfriend, is released from prison after new DNA evidence surfaces. Struggling to fit into a small town that doesn’t want him and a family that doesn’t know how to accept him, he tries to adjust to his new found surroundings. Did Daniel actually do it? You won’t find out until well into the series and it’s really beside the point anyway. I can’t recommend this sleeper enough. Created by the actor Ray McKinnon who was best known as Rev. H. W. Smith on Deadwood. (The Sundance Channel OnDemand and Netflix)


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Special thanks to our new *official* TV contributor Dave W (aka Ackackattack) whom many of you have *met* on the comment section here at FC :D Check out Dave’s profile and see if you share his fave movies and/or filmmakers/actors.


So have you seen any of these shows? Well, which one(s) are your favorite?
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Weekend Roundup: The Americans (FX series) and The Bling Ring reviews

Happy Weekend everybody! WOW, everything’s still very much awesome for The LEGO Movie, winning box office for the third straight weekend with $31 mil. It’s now made $183 mil domestically, and with a production budget on only $60 mil, that’s quite a huge hit for Warner Bros. The McG/Luc Besson’s spy thriller 3 Days to Kill (review coming later this week) is a distant second with $12 mil but with a low production budget of $28 mil, I’d think they’d still turn a profit. Pompeii on the other hand, lives up to its subject matter, being a major box office disaster as it only made a measly 10% of its $100 mil budget, ouch!

It’s home cinema this weekend for me, catching up on some older films and TV series I’ve been meaning to check out. Here are my thoughts:

The Americans (FX series)

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Two Soviet intelligence agents pose as a married couple to spy on the American government.

A few people have mentioned about this show, but finally my hubby and I had a chance to check out the pilot last Friday. We’re definitely gonna try to catch up with Season 1 as there are only 13 episodes.

I thought the concept of having two Russian protagonists in an American show is very intriguing. It certainly offers a fresh twist to an otherwise run-of-the-mill spy show. It’s set in the 80s during the Reagan-era Cold War, and according to IMDb, the show is based on a true story that broke in 2010 of Russian sleeper agents hiding in plain sites in the US for decades. So just like in the series, their children, coworkers, friends, and neighbors had no idea they were spies.

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Having just seen Austenland, it’s quite a change to see Keri Russell as a bad ass spy here, in the opening sequence she’s dressed like a hooker seducing an FBI agent. Welsh actor Matthew Rhys, with impeccable American accent, plays her *husband* aka spy partner. Both are excellent in the role of married couple Elizabeth & Phillip Jennings, who look like a typical suburban DC couple with a couple of kids posing as travel agents. The pilot presents quite a dilemma for the couple when their assignment involves kidnapping a defecting KGB agent whom Elizabeth had a personal vendetta. Their loyalties to Mother Russia is tested as the Jennings don’t always share the same feelings about their job. Of course things are about to get even more interesting when one of the FBI agent hot on the trail of the kidnapping suspects move in to their neighborhood! A strange twist of coincidence or is there more to it than that?? Well, I can’t wait to find out! Nice to see Noah Emmerich as FBI agent Stan Beeman, he’s one of those character actors I’m always impressed with every time I see him in a movie or TV series.

I think the most riveting of all is how the American audience are no doubt compelled to perceive the “enemy” of the states in a whole new light. I definitely sympathize with them more than I probably should. But really, are they really so different from our own agents working in a foreign country? The sharp script keeps me engrossed and in suspense. I love that this spy series is not about the cool action and gadget you’ll find in escapist fun like James Bond, but it’s more in the vein of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that explores the tricky adventure of espionage and really get into the intricate psyche of a secret agent.

I refrain from giving a rating at this point as I’ve only seen the pilot. But I highly recommend this one if you’re a fan of the spy genre or if you’re looking for a quality show to get hooked to.

Now switching gear to Sofia Coppola’s latest effort from last year. 

The Bling Ring (2013)

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At first glance I really wasn’t all that enthused to watch this film. I mean I couldn’t be more disinterested in seeing materialistic and fame-obsessed teenagers robbing their favorite celebrities. I find the whole TMZ culture so loathsome, I don’t even care to read US magazine anymore even when I’m at the salon. It’s interesting why Coppola choose to do a film on them, but perhaps there’s some kind of message she’s trying to tell us with this story. Well, unfortunately this film is as shallow as protagonists depicted here.

The film basically shows us how these teens, led by its ringleader Rebecca (Katie Chang) and her new BFF Marc (Israel Broussard), rob one celebrity’s house after another. They’re mostly C-list celebs who are more famous for their shenanigans (Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton) or those famous for being in the fashion mags instead of actual work (Audrina Patridge, Rachel Bilson). So apparently none of these celebs have heard of home security as even Hilton’s mansion was so easy to break into, in fact, the group barely had to break anything to access their homes. I don’t know what is more repulsive than witnessing these kids stealing things left and right or seeing the excessive decadence on display.

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I have to admit I wasn’t as bored out of my wits watching this as I did watching her last film Somewhere, but I felt that even that movie perhaps had a bit more depth as at the very least Coppola tried to present some kind of redeeming quality for the disenchanted Hollywood actor. In this film, the characters only pass through time, living their incredibly shallow life in succession, simply motivated by the grand hedonistic lifestyle and self-indulgence. It’s stylishly shot but everything is so detached. Despite a few engaging and hilarious moments in a self-parody kind of way, I struggle to find a meaning – if any – that Coppola is trying to say here.

The only saving grace here seems to be Emma Watson, simply because it’s amusing to see her portray someone so different from Hermione Granger in Harry Potter. Her American accent is spot on and she certainly has the gift of comedy. It’s amusing to think that the young actress is surely as wealthy – if not more – as the victims that her character rob in this movie! But even she could barely save this vapid drivel. Even though it’s only 90-min long, it felt pretty tedious by the repetitive stealing-and-partying scenes displayed over and over. It’s darn near impossible to sympathize with any of the characters the way Coppola depicted them here. I think Marc was perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film as he seems to be the only one who has the slightest bit of remorse. But really, that’s not saying much.

This is the third film by Sofia Coppola I saw, but so far my favorite is by far still Lost in Translation. I might give her other earlier films a try, hopefully The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette fare much better than this one.

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So what did you watch this weekend? Thoughts on The Americans series and/or The Bling Ring? 

The Returned (Les Revenants) – Your next TV obsession

Hi everyone!
Today we’ve got a TV review from a new-ish FlixChatter contributor Dave W..
who gave us the excellent write-up of
Broadchurch last October. Thanks Dave!


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The Sundance Channel brought over the fabulous, 8-episode, French series The Returned (Les Revenants) which aired in November and December. To say it was the best new thing I saw aired on US TV, other than Broadchurch, last year is an understatement. The less you know going in the better so I won’t be giving too much away.

The story is set in a small French mountain town where people from the past suddenly start showing up on the doorsteps of their families and loved ones. The problem is they don’t know they’re dead. The reactions from the living run from thinking their prayers have been answered to the abject horror of seeing a ghost. The mystery of what is really going on is what makes this series really compelling. There is so much more going on here than just what you see in the first few episodes but I’ll leave that for you to discover.

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The show by Fabrice Gobert is a supernatural thriller that plays out more like a drama. The closest thing I can compare it to is Twin Peaks without all the wackiness. There’s even a diner, a roadhouse and mountain peaks peering out in the background. I can’t help but wonder if it’s a nod to David Lynch’s groundbreaking show. The characters are so well-drawn out and memorable that you really get wrapped up in the story especially with having unfamiliar French actors deliver such exquisite, understated performances. Add some truly beautiful, dark cinematography that would make DP, Gordon “The Prince of Darkness” Willis proud and atmospheric music from the Scottish post-rock band Mogwai and you have the winner of the International Emmy for Best Drama which sits atop of Metacritic’s TV scores with an aggregate score of 92%.

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Victor. The creepiest kid this side of Damien Thorn.

Ted S., I remember you having some frustration with a certain AMC series that just wasn’t living up to its promise. Well Ted… this is the real deal. What else can I say? The Returned is creepy, dark, intelligent, deliberately paced series that is so compulsively watchable it’s bound to become your next TV obsession.

The Returned can be found on Sundance OnDemand, Amazon Video or Blu-ray/DVD on February 11. I can’t recommend enough seeking out this version before ABC’s version comes out in March entitled Resurrection. I can’t see ABC even coming close to delivering what The Returned was able to achieve so don’t miss out on this remarkable gem. It defies expectations while rethinking what a series about the undead can be.

Check out the trailer:

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Have you seen The Returned? Well, what did you think?

Early 2014 TV Season: The Same Thing… Only Different!

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Greetings all and sundry!

After putting the Holiday and New Year season safely behind. I’ve taken some time to settle in behind the television to enjoy and occasionally dissect the latest offerings of the major stations.

Any decent dissection is the natural offshoot of an in depth comparison and analysis in order to find a common thread or theme. And one doesn’t have to travel far to find one or more in the:

Early 2014 TV Season: The Same Thing… Only Different!

With the exceptional BBC mini-series, Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch as the latest incarnation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s master sleuth knee deep in modernized crimes and dramas. Backed up by Royal Army medical Corp and Afghan veteran, John Watson. Played with low keyed and occasional comic relief by Martin Freeman.

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The series basks in wondrously deft contemporary writing. With previous mysteries brought anew as only the British can. Adding such modern trappings as texts, tweets, laptops and social media to the mix. Saving time on screen for deeper character development and longer, more subtle interviews of witnesses and suspects than on this side of the pond.

Which became the impetus for two series from CBS. Person of Interest and Elementary. The former sports the criminally under rated, James Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ, The Thin Red Line, Deja Vu) as former Army Special Ops guy, John Reese. Who is the very versatile dagger to the local cloak and Brainiac, Harold Finch. Marvelously quirky and eccentric Michael Emerson (Lost, The Return of the Dark Knight). Who may or may not have created the first generation of computers that knows all. Sees all. And may or may not be used for NSA surveillance today.

PersonOfInterest
The computer spits out Social Security Numbers of random individuals which are deemed in dangers. And Resse, Finch and killed off way to soon, NYPD detective, Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson) and her partner, Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman). In a series which has managed to recreate the best parts of  a previous 1980s classic, The Equalizer. With Edward Woodward protecting the endangered and down trodden of Manhattan.

While Elementary boasts Johnny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, Hackers, Mindhunters) as recovering drug addict and former London Metropolitan Police Consulting Detective, Sherlock Holmes. Transplanted in Manhattan and in the employ of a precinct’s major Crimes Unit, run by Captain Thomas Gregson (Perpetual cop, Aidan Quinn), Detective Marcus Bell ( Newcomer Jon Michael Hill showing lots of potential) and Dr. Joan Watson, Lucy Liu. Holmes’ recovery therapist and shrink .

Elementary

The stories are well written for the 45 to 48 minute time constraints per episode. The bad guys are almost uniformly bad. With no connections to Doyle’s short stories, novels and novellas. Entwined in plots that often take a hop to left field, but are nicely reeled in before the final minutes. Though what is slowly becoming a hallmark of the series is the rapid and often offbeat repartee between Holmes and Watson when unearthing clues or comparing notes in search of a lead. And occasional quips from Detective Bell are worth their weight in gold.

Taking us further down the line in our search for subtle and not so subtle similarities between two new contenders. Fox’s Almost Human and Intelligence from CBS. Where the former pits rough hewn Karl Urban (Doom, Star Trek, RED, Dredd, Riddick) in L.A.’s the not too distant future. As Detective John Kennex. Sole survivor of an ambush and recipient of a replacement leg. Teamed up with an older, close to obsolete android named Dorian, after his model series, DRN. Cleverly played by Michael Ealy (Fast Forward, The Good Wife). Basically a walking, talking, multilingual Crime Lab.

Aided by a phalanx of rigid, polysyllabic robot uniform cops (Think the faceless robot cops of ‘TXH 1138′ multiplied en masse)  who do not possess a good batting average in survival after annoying Kennex with their incessant legalese yammering.

AlmostHuman

In a series that shows ever evolving technology and its possible implications in countering systems (GPS, Facial Identification, hacking social media) used by police today. Also a decent amount of well executed Special Effects in regards to a crowded city scape, sidewalks and very cool looking drones.

Solid character acting sets the foundation. Buttressed with clever plots, well thought out and executed effects that live up to the future. Where programmable bullets that never miss, organ harvesting, more human looking and feeling Sex Bots and social media murder are the norm. Instead of the exception.

Which brings us to a less than spectacular offering from CBS. Intelligence. Which can trace its lineage back to the 1970s and two pilot made for TV movies, Probe, from NBC, which later evolved into a short lived series, Search. And a pilot movie and series from ABC titled, The Delphi Bureau.

The Delphi Bureau could be considered the first creaky prototype and great grandfather of Intelligence. Where a federal bureaucracy sent an investigator, glenn Garth Gregory, (Laurence Luckinbill) armed with a photographic memory to find and undo fiendish schemes involving surplus weapons systems and or missing government funding.

While NBC had Hugh O’Brien (Wyatt Earp) investigating conspiracies in Probe and Search. With the aid of a computer link in his Mastoid Sinus that fed audio and visual to an underground computer lab led by Burgess Meredith. Backed up by superior writing from Leslie Stephens. And a bevy of lab coated Tech Babes, Angel Tompkins and Jacklyn Smith included. Amongst blinking lights sets that appeared stolen from ABC’s The Time Tunnel. While countless other young viewers have likened CBS’s crown jewel to the NBC series, Chuck.

Intelligence

In Intelligence, we have Josh Holloway (Lost) as former Ranger and Sec Ops soldier, Gabriel Vaughan. Who has a computer imbedded and a link to another isolated lab filled with other computers to aid in his feats of world wide derring-do. Protected by Secret Service Agent, Riley Neal (Meghan Ory). With whom Gabriel has no chemistry. And overseen by Marg Helgenberger (‘Species’, ‘CSI’). Who is so much better than the material and is wasted as Lillian Strand. The organization’s stiletto heeled boss.

Whose series’ premise is continuously sending the most expensive and technologically advanced super soldier into harm’s way. With a single Secret Service Agent as back up. And expect to succeed week after week. When any Flag or Field Grade officer at the Pentagon would opt for keeping Gabriel far in the rear. While possibly expending just as well trained and far less expensive, or embarrassing if captured Rangers to perform the dirty work.The series’ concept is flawed. Though it is kind of cool to look as Gabriels walks through previous crime scenes and opaque pop up windows as he searched for hidden answers.
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And for something completely different. There is an offering from Fox that has revealed lots of creepy mood, shadow and mystique. Sleepy Hollow. Which focuses on a recently uninterred and reawakened Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) contending with the mysteries of a modern world. With the aid of police Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) and Capt.Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) as they fight the forces of demonic evil personified by The Headless Horseman.

The series is not as strage as it sounds. With lots of chemistry between Crane and Abbie Mills. Reinforced by exceptional flash back segues and asides that harken back to Highlander in their use of costumes and settings.While backstopped with impeccable guest stars such as Clancy Brown, who pioneered the ground covered before Crane’s arrival. And John Nobel (Fringe, Superman Unbound). Who comes up with spells and traps in the continuing battles of good versus evil.

Overall Consensus:

Sometimes, too much of a good (or not so good) thing can be dull and repetitious. Even more so when a project lacks spirit and chemistry. Not being open to new and imaginative ideas or scenarios. And ways to set them up for execution through the actors’ spoken words.Which speaks directly to writers who lack the style, panache and polish of their predecessors. Not exactly lazy. But very fuzzy and confused over short term and long term goals.
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Of the new series mentioned and critiqued. I’ll put my money on Almost Human. For its self deprecating wit, Castle-esque drive time banter. And Mr. Ealy’s ability to bring programming and computer glitches to life with tremors and quick switches to foreign languages.

Though, I’ve little doubt that Intelligence will get at least another season on Marg Helgenberger‘s name alone.


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews



Thoughts on 2014 TV season so far? Which show(s) are YOUR favorite?

10 reasons why BBC’s crime drama BROADCHURCH is a must-watch TV series

In light of the recent news of the remake of Broadchurch that I mentioned in last week’s Five of the Fifth, here’s why you should watch the original BBC series! I have not got around to seeing it myself but definitely will watch this at some point.

SPECIAL THANKS to Dave W for his wonderful contribution!

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“This morning the body of an 11 year old child was found on Harbour Cliff beach at Broadchurch, the body was subsequently identified as Daniel Latimer…”

I was going to sit down to watch the series finale of Breaking Bad later tonight… ending maybe one of the greatest runs of a TV show in recent memory. It’s stylistic, dark and dares to boldly go where other shows only dream of. BBC America’s eight-episode series Broadchurch is a drama of a different animal. It’s a rather straight-forward series as compared to the heavily-stylized, highly-acclaimed shows like Mad Men, Dexter and House of Cards. Yet it summons up more emotion and heartbreak than all our cool, hip TV programs put together. I was so taken with the show that I thought I’d give my 10 reasons why you should seek out what I feel is must-watch TV. It’s not a perfect show by any means but I think a rare achievement such as this should not go unnoticed.

1)  The Story

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Broadchurch is a little like a better told version of AMC’s The Killing. (Yes I know the original is from Denmark… but I haven’t seen it yet so I can’t comment!) It too involves a murdered child, a male and female detective and family/town coming to grips with that loss. The difference is Broadchurch is a densely-packed story that doesn’t overstay its welcome, wrapping up nicely after 8 episodes. It doesn’t linger on for three seasons much to the detriment of The Killing. In what is essentially is a ‘who done it’, the well-drawn, believable characters make you want to follow their stories through all the twists and turns of the plot. Keeping the story from dipping into melodrama is no small feat in this kind of drama. Creator Chris Chibnall shows how simplicity and straightforwardness can often be the best method for telling a story.

2)  The Acting

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In a show with pitch perfect acting where characters abound, the two leads, Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) and Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) really standout. As the local reigning detective she must put away her allegiance to the people of the town. This is harder than it seems as her boy was best friends with Danny and she knows the family well. If Coleman doesn’t win an Emmy next year for her portrayal it would be a shame. Her acting, especially in the final episode, is breathtaking. Tennant, of Doctor Who fame, shines as a prickly detective brought in from the outside to help solve the case. Unable to close his previous high profile child murder case he brings with him the demons of his past… driving Detective Alec Hardy to the brink of a breakdown. Tennant brings an intensity and determination to the role that it really deserves.

3)  Danny’s Family

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Watching Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker), Mark Latimer (Andrew Buchan) and Chloe Latimer (Charlotte Beaumont) tear each other apart over the murder is heartbreaking. Jodie Whittaker’s touching portraying of Beth who can no longer function in her daily life anymore is particularly painful to watch. In one devastating scene she turns to the mother of another murdered child for consolation only to find out that it doesn’t get any better. Ever.

4)  The Cinematography

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Matt Gray’s beautiful photography is worthy of a feature film. Warm interiors and picturesque exteriors. It does for English seasides what Breaking Bad did for desert landscapes.

5)  The Music

Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds creates beautiful and atmospheric soundscapes that haunt the film. Already being a fan of Arnalds I can’t recommend enough the 6 song soundtrack. Check out the slow burn of the Main Title above.

6)  The portrayal of a small town 

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The characters are spot on with great supporting turns by everybody. The town has more than its share of secrets and its darker past bubbles up to the surface when the murder brings scrutiny on all of its citizens. Everyone is a suspect and yet it never feels like you’re reading an Agatha Christie novel.

7)  The emotional weight of the show.

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Not since The Sweet Hereafter have I seen the dynamics of a small town played out like this. The characters are all flawed and proud at the same time. The collective weight of the tragedy takes a toll on everybody. Nobody comes away unscathed. Neither will you.

8)  By grown-ups for grown-ups

Shows for adults are in short supply. It’s intelligent. It’s moving. It’s not always fun but you are never pandered to. It’s like a good book you can’t put down. It stays with you long after the credits roll.

9)  Sticks the landing

This is exactly the kind of show that network TV would turn into a sappy piece of melodrama. One critic described Broadchurch as a beautiful downer… which it is. He meant that in the highest regard. The fact that they pulled it off with such grace is a minor miracle proving that, IMHO, the best drama is being done on the small screen these days. FOX is planning a US adaptation so I guess we’ll get to see exactly how they would handle it. Lucky for them series creator Chris Chibnall is producing it.

10)   The ending

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It all comes back to the people of the once proud town. It’s a poignant ending to a heartbreaking dramatic series. This is a show that finds beauty in sadness. There’s no getting over it… there’s only moving on. One of the case’s many suspects declares, “Death; once it’s got its claws into you, it never lets go.”

Post by Dave W. (aka Daveackackattack)


Check out the official trailer of the series:


Thoughts on the series? Would love to hear your thoughts!
[Be mindful of any spoiler in your comment though so please give proper warning]

ABC’s TOY STORY of TERROR – The only Halloween Special I’m excited for this month

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Wahoo!! My favorite toy gang is back! Can you believe it that it’s been 3 years since TOY STORY 3 was released? Well, that film made my top five of 2010, one of those rare movies that garners a full 5/5 score from moi. Now, I did have a small quibble about that film in that it didn’t have enough Mr. Pricklepants, voiced by, who else, Timothy Dalton of course!

So imagine my thrill when I heard his deep, inimitable voice narrating this spooktastic half-hour special coming to ABC on Wednesday, October 16 at 8 p.m. ET. Of course it’s always fun to see Woody, Buzz and the his riotous team back together again!

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This is the plot per Huffington Post: What starts out as a fun road trip for the “Toy Story” gang takes an unexpected turn for the worse when the trip detours to a roadside motel. After one of the toys goes missing, the others find themselves caught up in a mysterious sequence of events that must be solved before they all suffer the same fate in “Toy Story of TERROR!”

Angus MacLane, one of Pixar’s animators who worked on a bunch of Pixar animations since A Bug’s Life is directing the short feature, and Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino who won for UP worked on the score.

Check out the trailer:

I LOVE all the vocal talents here, Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz, Joan Cusack as Jessie, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, Wallace Shawn as Rex and Kristen Schaal as Trixie. A while back Tom Hanks described the challenges of voicing Woody on the Graham Norton show. Oh you’ve got to see it for yourself, it’s such a hoot! It shows just how awesome and affable Hanks is, and makes you truly appreciate his — and others’ — voice work in this Pixar masterpiece trilogy.


Related post: Top 10 Favorite Pixar Characters


Can’t wait to see this one. How about you, folks?

Musings on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Pilot

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Finally got around to watching this one as I missed the pilot on Tuesday. I was initially anticipating this but honestly, I kind of forgot about it for a while.

Whedon_SHIELDwritersYou gotta hand it to Marvel studios in their shrewd strategy in marketing/releasing their films. The Avengers stands as the highest-grossing superhero blockbuster of all time with over $1.5 Billion worldwide gross, so naturally the comic book studio would want to capitalize on that. It’s another proof of the studio’s shrewdness in marketing their products. Joss Whedon, who’s now the creative supervisor of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, heads back to his TV roots with creating this TV series. This time it’s a family affair too, he’s working with his brother Jed Whedon and Jed’s wife, fellow screenwriter Maurissa Tancharoen.  S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), led by Agent Coulson, is tasked with handling cases that involve the “strange and the unknown.” Seems that it’s got tons of potential to expand the Marvel universe, so did the pilot deliver?

A few quick thoughts on the pilot:

The setting takes place after The Avengers, post Battle of New York in the finale of the movie. I was a big fan of HEROES in the first couple of seasons but then the ‘freaks of the week’ storyline kind of get old. Now, I’m hoping it’d be different with Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. given its ties with characters I already know and love.

Welcome back Agent Coulson!

I love Clark Gregg! He’s just so darn likable you can’t help but root for him. I might’ve seen him in numerous supporting parts but the last show I saw him before he was part of Marvel universe was the sit-com The New Adventures of Old Christine. Wow, he’s certainly has come a long way since then, glad to see him finally leading a show of his own! Clearly he’s having a great time as Coulson, he has this constant smirk on face he can’t seem to shake, ahah. Nice intro on his character too:

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“Welcome to Level Seven.”

“Sorry, that corner was really dark and I couldn’t help myself”

Just how’s Coulson’s back from the dead?

If you haven’t seen The Avengers by now, you probably just aren’t interested. So I don’t consider this to be a spoiler. We all know Coulson stopped breathing when Loki stabbed him with a giant scepter. Now, I don’t know how far back was the plan to bring him back for this show, but even in the movie, Nick Fury and agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) sort of hinted that perhaps Coulson survived. Something about his bloodied baseball cards weren’t in his pocket in all that.

So it’s for the purpose of team building that Fury kept the truth from the Avengers to energize the team for the imminent battle. On the show, Coulson briefly explains just how he comes back to life… and the keyword is Tahiti.

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 “Tahiti. He really doesn’t know, does he?” Dr. Streiten (Firefly alum Ron Glass) whispered to Maria Hill.

“He can never know.” Hill replied.

Oh I love how Whedon keeps the mystery alive as to the real truth behind the whole ‘back to life’ ordeal and I’m curious what he’d do with that!

The crowd-pleasing snappy dialog…

I was getting tired of the ‘Don’t touch Lola’ quip that’s been played over and over again in every single promo of the show, but fortunately those aren’t the only quotable stuff from the show. There are actually not-so-subtle nods and references that geeks, esp. Whedonites, would totally eat up. Thanks to TVFanatic for these quotes!

Agent Ward: “I don’t think Thor’s technically a god.”

Agent Maria Hill: “Well you haven’t been near his arms”

The self-referential stuff are fun, like poking fun at the key audience of the show itself.

Agent Ward: She’s a groupy, all the hacking into SHIELD, tracking powers. She might as well be one of those sweaty Cosplay characters crowding around Stark tower.

Skye: WHAT?! I would… [whispers] it was just one time.

Cool Set Pieces + Special Effects

I’m not sure how big the budget is exactly but I’m sure it’s a boatload. Looks like after the behemoth box office success of The Avengers, Whedon could have anything at his disposal. The set pieces are top notch, the slick-looking headquarter, the SHIELD plane, state-of-the-art technology, etc. are as much eye candy as the pretty cast. That plane still can’t hold a candle to the geekgasm-inducing helicarrier but still it’s pretty sweet!

No shortage of action sequences and slick tech gizmos to um, marvel on, that’s for sure.

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Girl Power!

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise coming from Whedon. After all he’s created one of the most iconic female heroine with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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Love Ming-Na Wen casting … did you know she’s going to be 50 years old this year? You’d never know it by looking at her! Crazy that the last film I saw her in was The Joy Luck Club 20 years ago and there’s definitely no ass-kickin’ in that one. Here she’s like a slightly softer version of Michelle Yeoh but yeah, she’s bad ass and managed to still looks elegant doing it, too. I’d love to see how her character arc develop over the course of the show, she certainly is my favorite character after of course, Coulson.

The rest of the cast

Chloe Benet manages to surprise me as Skye, in a good way. In the pilot she looks like another pretty young thing but she actually has pretty decent comic timing. I like that she’s a rebel, albeit a goofy one, and her obsession with superheroes is endearing. She’s recruited for her computer hacking ability, and judging from her scenes with agent Ward, I wouldn’t be surprised if the two’ll hook up. I just hope they’d keep the romantic stuff to a minimum as it can get really lame, fast. Especially when you don’t have strong actors to pull it off, which brings me to …

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as the tough guy Agent Ward. Well, he is just as bland as he looks in all the promos. Skye referring him as T-1000 is quite spot on considering how robotic his acting style is. He just gives me a Soap Opera-ish vibe (NEVER a good thing), like he just steps out of Days of Our Lives or All My Children, arched eyebrows and pout intact. Not much to go for on IMDb as far as acting cred, which makes me wonder just how he convinced Whedon on his audition? Hopefully he’d step it up in the future episodes but right now, he’s just tall, dark and meh to me.

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Oh I’m also not terribly fond of the two Brits who make up the tech experts Fitz and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker). Yeah ok, catchy moniker but the two actors are pretty bland and when they try to be funny it makes me cringe! Maybe I’ll warm up to those two but right now they kind of annoy me.

How long will this keep me interested?

Well, so far it’s got enough going for it to keep me tuning in for the next one. The storyline involving Project Centipede should be familiar to those who’ve seen Iron Man 3. It could’ve been more compelling but I’m having mixed feelings the neat resolution at the end.

But hey, I can’t help but geek out at flying LOLA!

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I mean how could Skye ever say no to the offer of joining SHIELD now?? I literally clapped when that scene came on, it was pure geek-gasm stuff. Forget KITT (I probably date myself here, ahah), Lola is by far THE coolest TV car ever. Boy, if Whedon already shows something THAT awesome in the pilot, I’m hoping he’s got even cooler stuff in store for us in future episodes!

So I guess the answer to my question above is: we shall see. It’ll take a few more episodes before I can decide if I want to keep watching.


Ok so that’s my two cents on the show so far. What do you all think? Let me know your favorite and least favorite parts of the show.

TV Miniseries Spotlight: The Hollow Crown

I’ve heard of it but somehow it fell off my radar. Not sure how as I’m a sucker for this kind of stories… AND Tom Hiddleston! Well, thanks to my good pal Terrence for sending me the trailer link via Twitter. What a pal he is… oh btw, don’t forget to vote on his weekly Time to Vote Tuesday. Great topic today, as always!

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The Hollow Crown is a new adaptations of Shakespeare’s tetralogy of history plays comprising the ‘Henriad’ for the BBC’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad: King Richard II; King Henry IV, Part 1; King Henry IV, Part 2; King Henry V. The plays chronicle a continuous period in British history from the end of the 14th century to the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Together, the plays comprise a story with recurring themes of power struggles, redemption, family conflict and betrayal. (per IMDb)

I can’t friggin’ wait to see this! It’s no surprise that I LOVE all things British, including films about British monarchy, and man, I definitely would watch this for the cast!!

Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal/Henry V
Jeremy Irons as Henry IV
Ben Whishaw as Richard II
Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt

There are also notable British actors in the supporting roles: David Morrissey, John Hurt, Julie Walters, oh and James Purefoy as Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk.

Here’s the trailer:

Now, for my UK friends, this is probably old news and perhaps you’ve even seen this on BBC Two. But it’s finally making its way to our shores. It will air on PBS’ Great Performances on Friday, September 20. But if you can’t wait THAT long, it will be released on iTunes, VOD, and DVD on August 27th.

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Telegraph UK has some very nice things so say in its 4.5 stars review. I particularly like what it says about Hiddleston:

Hiddleston’s performance was a clever one. He is a cerebral actor and for that reason failed to convince in his early scenes (in Henry IV Part One) as a roister-doister. It was only when his heart was heavy, meditating on his destiny in a corpse-strewn foreign field, that you realised his quiet power.

The Guardian also says that “…The Hollow Crown feels as good as TV Shakespeare is going to get.”

So yeah, I’m so game for this!! I think I can handle 500 minutes of Shakespeare with THIS cast. I hope there’s a bunch of special features in this as well. I wouldn’t mind a whole video journal just on James Purefoy getting into costume and make up ;)

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Well, I’m already sold on this one before I read that director Sam Mendes is one of the executive producer! Even from the trailer, this looks like an epic with lavish locations and astute details on the set pieces and costumes. This miniseries has won several awards, including BAFTAs for Best Leading Actor (Ben Whishaw) and Supporting Actor (Simon Russell Beale). It was also nominated in the music and costume design category.

The Shakespearean English might be a bit hard to follow for someone like me but I’m willing to give it a shot, especially with Hiddleston’s gorgeous voice reciting them, he’s an actor who’s born to play this type of roles! Plus, with the right technique, even this old language could have a contemporary feel.


So what do you think folks, are you up for this? For those who’ve seen this, please let me know what you think!

Man of Steel Countdown #3: Smallville’s ‘Craving’ episode with Amy Adams

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In less than fourteen days, the wait would be over. The Man of Steel countdown has officially begun last week with Superman & Me and Superman: The Movie in 1978,The Year.

Today we’ve got Bubbawheat from Flights, Tights and Movie Nights‘ review of a Smallville episode starring miss Lois Lane herself, Amy Adams. 


When I was asked to be a part of this Superman countdown, I quickly agreed but I wasn’t quite sure at first what I would do for it. I didn’t just want to do a review of a Superman movie, especially since I’ve already reviewed almost every Superman movie out there and I didn’t just want to rehash one of my old reviews.

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Amy Adams as Lois Lane

But she also mentioned that I could do something involving one of the Superman TV series and it hit me. There is a connection between the new Man of Steel movie and one of the TV series. Interestingly enough, Amy Adams who plays Lois Lane had an early role in Smallville‘s first seasons as one of the freaks of the week in the episode Craving. So I thought I would take a look at that episode and her first interactions with the man who would become Superman, Clark Kent.

I was a big supporter of Smallville back when it first came out, and I actually had to rewrite this sentence because I had forgotten how long ago it actually was when it first came on the air. I originally wrote that both my wife and I were fans of the show from the very beginning, until I realized that it’s been over 12 years since the first season first aired, and we have only been together coming up on 10 years.

Smallville_LanaClarkAs much as I was a fan of the show, she would become the die hard fan and through the years I’d forgotten that it was actually me who introduced her to the show for the first time, probably towards the end of the second season, maybe even into the third. Of course, her love of the show was mainly focused on one character: Lana Lang played by Kristen Kreuk. After Kristen left the show during the last couple seasons, we both kind of fell out of love with the show and still have yet to watch or own the final two seasons on DVD, though we did tune in for the series finale.

But I’m getting off track here, let’s bring it back to the very first season of the show where Clark Kent was still learning his powers. At this point he had only developed his X-Ray vision alongside his strength and speed, Lana Lang was still dating the football player Whitney, and Lex Luthor was still playing at being a good guy who’s just trying to help the kid that saved his life get the girl he really wants.

And while there is the start of one of the ongoing plotlines with the Kryptonite scientist Dr. Hamilton, this is very much an episodic story that revolves around Lana’s birthday and our meteor freak-of-the-week played by Amy Adams in fat makeup whose name I’ve already forgotten. She’s the “fat” girl, and I use quotation marks because when she weighs herself the first time the scale reads around 170 pounds, and while that is a little overweight, it’s a far cry from “fat”. Of course this could have been a good opportunity to be a social commentary on the fact that in high school (or beyond for that matter) a 170 pound girl is considered to be fat by our current social standards based upon the ultra skinny models, Hollywood actresses, and vapid reality stars.

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One of the worst parts of these early episodes really is the drop-in drop-out characters who are only in one episode, but during the run-time try to act as if they’ve been there all along. Here, Adams feels like she should have been hanging out with the main group of Clark, Chloe, and Pete for the whole season as close as they are for her week. There’s also the stoner looking teenager who in Star Trek terms would be considered the red shirt, who makes fun of Adams and calls Pete a “chubby chaser”. I suppose I should mention the whole freak concept. Adams has a greenhouse where she grows vegetables in soil laced up the wazoo with Kryptonite meteors, and when she makes a diet shake with them, it speeds up her metabolism just enough to make her instantly lose weight and become closer to her ideal weight. There’s always a price, and after a while her metabolism supposedly catches up to her and she has to gorge, which usually means making a mess out of all the food in the refrigerator, but when the craving hits her at night after she has just hit a deer, she becomes this comical looking “fat vampire” where her jaw drops an extra foot wide which we’re supposed to believe allows her to suck all the fat out of the deer, and later in the episode the red shirt kid.

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As far as Adams’ role in the episode, even though it’s a very cheesy concept, she pulls it off quite well. She’s great in both the scenes where she’s hanging out with the Clark gang as if she’s been there the whole time. She also handles the dramatic moments very well, whether she’s hiding the fact that she just went through a gorge-fest, she’s calling out the red shirt on his verbal bullying, or when she’s trying to save Pete from her own cravings which she can’t control. It’s a shame that she was only cast for the weekly freak as I think she would have fit in well as a recurring character and oddly enough it does make me look forward to seeing her as Lois Lane in Man of Steel in its own small way.

Smallville_Craving_Amy3The episode itself draws some minor parallels to eating disorders, but I didn’t feel like the connection was very strong. The B story with Lana’s birthday party falls into the same old typical routine where Clark gets his chance to be with Lana, as friends, and promises that he’ll be there for her but ends up a no show because he’s busy playing the hero to save Pete. And in the end, he makes up for it with a little help from Lex’s money.

It was fun taking a look back at this early episode of a show I watched for years, it definitely has its problems, but it was fun seeing Tom Welling play his awkward Clark Kent. The cast of the show and relationships between the characters were one of the reasons why I think the show lasted as long as it did, as well as one of the reasons why I didn’t stick with it when they lost a lot of the core cast. Michael Rosenbaum, Kristen Kreuk, Tom Welling, and even Allison Mack as Chloe just work so well together even as early as this first season and really helped remind me why I loved the show.

Thanks again to Ruth for giving me an excuse to go back and revisit the show and I know I can’t wait to see Man of Steel.


Thanks again to Bubbawheat for his awesome contribution.
Check out more comic-related musings and reviews over on his blog.

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Thoughts on Amy Adams and/or Smallville? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Guest Post: TV Show Fails and Wins – Replacement actors who made or broke their shows


Hi everyone! Taking a bit of a break from movies, today we have a special TV-related guest post from Lindsay Mcmahon. Her interests are entertainment, television, parenting and health but she is constantly extending her field of view to incorporate interesting news suggested to her by her readers. Her favorite flick is ‘Fight Club’, a great classic combining action and philosophy. When it comes to TV, she’s an absolute Fantasy freak, having ‘Game of Thrones’ sitting at the top. She currently works for Direct2TV.com.


TV shows have the unique problem of cast retention. Unlike most industries, once a TV character is signed onto a show, they are almost required to remain for the entire run of the show. If they do not, or are unable to for some reason, then the TV network must scramble to replace that character. Sometimes, the replacement is able to keep the fans of the show, but in most cases, the show soon ends after the cast replacement.

KutcherThreeAndaHalfMenAshton Kutcher in Two and a Half Men

The most famous replacement in recent years is the replacement of Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men. Two and a Half Men is currently in its 10th season, after starting in 2003. The show followed two brothers, one rich and single, one divorced and with a kid. The series focused on the romantic pursuits of the brothers.

Over the years, Charlie Sheen fell deeper into drug addiction, which eventually led to his being fired from the show at the end of season 8. His replacement was Ashton Kutcher. The show has continued for two years after Charlie Sheen left, and has been able to hold its viewer ratings.

DIckSargentBewitchedDick Sargent in Bewitched

Bewitched is famous for its switch of Samantha’s husband halfway through the series. After the 5th season, Dick York quit the show to pursue other interests. The replacement was Dick Sargent.

Surprisingly enough, the show made no mention of the fact that the husband was now a completely different man. While this bothered many viewers, the show continued to run for an additional 3 years, giving the show a total run-time length of 8 years.

CharlieSheenSpinCityCharlie Sheen in Spin City

Charlie Sheen has had many different projects over the years, and one of them was a replacement for Michael J. Fox on Spin City. It was a show about the mayor’s office in New York, featuring the relationships of the various employees- and specifically Fox’s character.

When Fox started exhibiting severe signs of Parkinson’s disease, he had to leave the show. The series made it look like a regular job switch, and replaced Fox with Sheen. The show ran for a total of 6 years, 4 with Fox and 2 with Sheen. The ratings fell dramatically during the last two seasons.

KristieAlleyCheersKristie Alley in Cheers

Cheers featured a fun cast of several characters who own the bar or visit regularly. The show ran for a total of 11 seasons, and was one of the highest rated shows in the 1980s. During the first 5 seasons, Shelly Long played a waitress at the bar. She left after season 5 and was replaced by Kristie Alley. Alley’s forceful personality and charm gave the show new life, and it was able to continue for 6 additional seasons until 1992.

All of these shows had replacement actors with varying success. The shows that did the best were the ones that replaced characters in a logical way with an actor that had an extremely likable personality. The shows that did worst tried to ignore the difference or replaced the original actor with someone who was much less likable.


Thoughts about TV’s cast retention dilemma? Are you a fan of any of the shows and/or actors?