In a small room, a dozen steps from the Oval Office, the First Lady’s fielding questions about her husband’s health, his lascivious ways and their impending divorce. She’s cool, calm and collected, most likely the result of patterning herself after Jackie Kennedy and Hilary Clinton. That means you should never be caught off guard by her charms because she’s knows every political angle.
At least that’s the way Bellamy Young’s playing First Lady Mellie Grant on the ABC drama “Scandal.” The series — that has the wickedness of both a daytime drama and a political thriller — has turned up the heat in the President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) administration with an attempted assassination, crooked political deals and the impending end of the Grant marriage. Kerry Washington plays the fixer who discovers politics sometimes makes for compatible bedfellows.
As to the possible separation, Young sounds like a typical politician as she prefers to talk about the positives of the pair’s life together.
“The have a great relationship. They are great partners. They function as a team so well,” Young says during an interview on the set of the series. A replica of the Oval Office and adjoining rooms fill the soundstage and create the illusion that the First Lady’s chat is going on in D.C. rather than L.A. “They’ve accomplished so much and they are a well oiled machine in terms of family and profession.”
It was beginning to look like cable was the only place to find great drama with programming such as “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” “Dexter” and “American Horror Story.”
FOX shows with “The Following,” scheduled to launch at 9 p.m. Jan. 21 on KMPH (Channel 26.1), that’s there’s still some creative life in the networks. The new thriller is the most addictive network show to come along since “Lost” but while the mystery is as thick as a unkindness of ravens, it certainly isn’t as confusing. This is just a smart story about the battle between good and evil that will be your next TV addiction.
Kevin Bacon stars in his first TV series playing burned out FBI agent Ryan Hardy. He’s a broken man who gets called back to duty when charismatic teacher turned serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) escapes from prison. What makes this production from Kevin Williamson (“The Vampire Diaries”) so intriguing is that unlike a typical escapee story, Hardy captures Carroll in the first episode. This allows for the pair to square off in psychological battles as Carroll’s followers continue his dirty deeds.
The series gets an even darker tone by the use of Edgar Allan Poe’s work as a backdrop to all of the death and destruction. Poe’s twisted and macabre writings send a charge through each step of the mystery that is chilling.
But, it’s Bacon and Purefoy who make this work so compelling,. Bacon, who thought he was reading a script for a feature film when he first read “The Following,” has the gaunt features and tired eyes that make him look like a man who has faced the devil and paid the price for a victory. He knows no happiness, just a determination driven by duty to stop this man and his psychotic minions.
Purefoy’s the perfect foil. He plays the role as a man whose heart is evil, but there’s a charm about him that makes it easy to believe he could get a large group of people to do his bidding. He gets as much joy from watching Hardy struggle with the mystery as he does causing pain.
“The Following” will immediately have you doubting everyone. By the end of watching the third episode, there were moments where it seemed possible I could be the serial killer. There’s no way to be a passive observer as each tiny move by the characters could be a clue to their involvement.
This show pushes past what has been acceptable on network TV in terms of subject matter. It’s not as strong as a cable show, but this is not a series for the young or faint of heart. As to watching the new FOX series, those people should say nevermore.
Those who dare enter the dark world of “The Following” will find it a mesmerizing journey that will leave you craving the next episode.
Paul Lee, President, ABC Entertainment Group, took his time today in front of the TV critics to admit the network’s fall schedule didn’t go as well as he expected. There was no breakout hit. He’s proud of “Nashville” but the numbers have been so low there should be a country music song written about them.
Here are a few of the other points Lee made:
Out of step: ABC was disappointed the All-Star version of “Dancing With the Stars” didn’t do as strongly as expected. Lee says, “Turns out people like to see bad dancing as much as they do good dancing, but we believe passionately in that franchise.”
Not so weak end: The network put the comedies “Last Man Standing” and “Reba” on Friday nights to recapture some of the interest families had in the network back in the “Full House” days. The surprise has been how popular “Shark Tank” has been with young and old.
King the faith: Lee says airing the comedies “Happy Endings” and “Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23” shows how much the network believes in the shows. “We love those two shows. They are incredibly distinctive. They are water cooler shows. They’re incredibly well written. We didn’t have much place to put them because we can’t put them at 8, so if you look at the nights of the week, really, Tuesday was the only place to do it. So we really thought this is a really nice place and a way slightly a cable play, if you think about it for us to use these slots to raise sampling on those shows and get people to see them.”
Checking out: “Last Resort” failed because it was a male show. It had a very passionate male audience but the show didn’t connect with female viewers.
The next time you watch an episode of “Glee,” play close attention to the apartment Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Rachel (Lea Michele) — winners last night at the “People’s Choice Awards” — share in New York. The actors had a lot of input into how the living space was decorated.
“We talk to the art director and said we would like to put up a ‘Funny Girl’ poster and a ‘Wicked’ poster. So there are some little things around the apartment that we wanted. I also wanted them to use some of the items that were in Rachel’s apartment,” Michele says.
The actors had to create the new space for this season because Kurt and Rachel are part of the story line on “Glee” that takes place in the Big Apple – post graduation. The stories may be different but the actors have never gotten that far away from the McKinley High School gang as the two different parts of this year’s series are filmed on sets that are side-by-side on the studio lot. Michelle says that when she’s not shooting scenes on her set, she will go over the the other set to hang out with other members of the FOX series cast.
The upside of having parallel stories going on is that the “Glee” cast isn’t being worked as hard as in the earlier seasons. There days are no longer filled with recording sessions, learning choreography and filming scenes. There are actually days off.
Rumors continue the Colfer/Michele story could become a completely different series. As far as Michele is concerned, as long as she’s working on “Glee,” she’ll be happy.
“I’m working with Chris Colfer and that makes me very happy,” Michelle says. “I really think this set-up is working. I can work on my own set or I can go back to McKinley.
The only downside of this year’s New York story line for Michele is that Rachel has been put in a very demanding dance class. She laughs and says, “I was like, why did they have to put her in dance class? Couldn’t they have put her in a singing class? A pottery class? But, I really think it’s been great for me because dancing’s not my strong point so it’s been a real challenge to me to do something that makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s good. You should go to work and do something that challenges you.”
Terrell Owens has had no problem during his days playing for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals dealing with the frustration he would feel after a bad play. He took it out the aggression he felt on the opposing team with the very next play. He had a little trouble figuring out how to deal with what happened when things went bad with his latest sports endeavor.
Owens is one of the celebrities who slipped into a Speedo (or one-piece swimsuit) to compete in the FOX reality competition special “Stars in Danger: The High Dive” airing at 8 p.m tonight. The six-time Pro Bowl selection goes against Stephen “Twitch” Boss, David Chokachi, Jenni Farley (JWoww), Bethany Hamilton, Alexandra Paul, Kim Richards, Kyle Richards and Antonio Sabato Jr. in a competition that has the celebs trying to do the best dives. Think of it as a much wetter version of “Dancing With the Stars.”
“When I would have a bad dive it did no good to try to take it out by aggressions on the water because the water always when,” Owens tells me during a FOX party.
Two of the better shows of the new fall season begin tonight.
“Last Resort,” 8 p.m. KFSN (Channel 30.1): The plot of this new drama about the crew of an American submarine who go into hiding after defying what seems to be false orders has some major holes. It’s hard to believe anything the size of a sub could evade capture in this era of advanced weaponry.
What makes this show work is the casting. Andre Braugher plays the ship’s captain and this incredibly talented actor is so good he could make you believe the sky is green if that’s what he had to do for the role. Braugher is reason enough to watch.
“Elementary,” 10 p.m. KGPE (Channel 47.1): There have been several updated versions of the Sherlock Holmes story. Just like “Last Resort,” what makes this one so entertaining is the casting of Jonny Lee Miller as the super sleuth and Lucy Liu as Watson.
Miller has that look that’s somewhere between genius and madman. That makes him perfect to play the detective who while brilliant, is also one step away from losing it. Liu’s Watson is not the comic relief but a character so strong she could have her own series.
Also, don’t forget the season opener of “Grey’s Anatomy” as it deals with the aftermath of the plane crash.
“Vegas,” 10 p.m. KGPE (Channel 47.1): This new crime drama is one of three new series launching tonight. The other two are the FOX comedies “Ben and Kate” and “The Mindy Project.”
“Vegas,” a series based on a true story, takes a look at the early days of the Nevada gambling center with the main focus being the efforts of rancher-turned-sheriff Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid). He’s a guy who would rather take care of his farm but gets pressed into helping out the growing community.
The series has good odds of surviving because of the two lead actors.
This is the first regular series role for Quaid and he brings a good ol’ boy grittiness to the performance that will make the character a favorite. Equally as entertaining is Michael Chiklis as mob boss Vincent Savino. Very few actors can play likable bad guys the way Chiklis can and he’s in prime form with this show.
CBS has had good success with 10 p.m. dramas and this looks like the next winner for the network.
You can see the season openers for three NBC comedies tonight on KSEE (Channel 24.1)
“Up All Night,” 8:30 p.m. p.m.: Reagan (Christina Applegate) and Chris (Will Arnett) have new reasons to lose sleep: a new houseguest and changes in their careers.
“The Office,” 9 p.m.: The final season of the office-based comedy opens with Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) taking charge. It wouldn’t be “The Office” if things went smoothly.
“Parks and Recreation,” 9:30 p.m.: Keep an eye out for Sen. Barbara Boxer in this episode called “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington.” Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) take a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) at their new jobs. John McCain guest stars.
“Survivor: Philippines,” 8 p.m. KGPE (Channel 47.1): The new season of contestants trying to outwit and outplay each other begins with some familiar faces.
Returning is Michael Skupin who left “Survivor: Australian Outback: in 2001 as the first ever medical evacuation on the series after he burned his hands after passing out into a fire from smoke inhalation on day 17. Jonathan Penner also returns. He had to leave “Survivor: Micronesia” in 2008 because of a knee infection on day 15. And, Russell Swan gets a second chace. He left “Survivor: Samoa” in 2009 due to dehydration on day 15.
You also might recognize Lisa Whelchel, who starred on the TV series “The Facts of Life” and Jeff Kent, who played for the San Francisco Giants.
It will be interesting to see if the returning players have an advantage because of their previous experience. It will also be interesting to see whether or not the celebrity contestants become early targets.
“Revolution,” 10 p.m. KSEE (Channel 24.1): You’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little gun-shy about watching “Revolution.” Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept: a world without electricity. That makes it a modern-day western.
What worries me is getting involved with another series with a secret. There have been too many network shows in recent years based on some big secret that never got revealed because the program was canceled. That’s VERY frustrating.
If you decide to take the gamble and watch tonight, you won’t be disappointed. Giancarlo Esposito makes a great villain and Billy Burke an equally interesting hero. The key will be how Tracy Spiridakos, who plays the spunky teen hero at the middle of the story, grows into her role. That’s assuming it stays on the air long enough to find out.
Also starting tonight is “Mob Doctor,” the worst named show of the new season. All I can think about when I hear the title of the show that launches at 9 p.m. on KMPH (Channel 26.1) are the inane movies Susan Lucci use to make. That’s not fair because this is actually a decent show because of series star Jordana Spiro. If you can get past the goofy name, the show is worth a look.
Also, the new season of “Bones” begins at 8 p.m. tonight on KMPH.
You might not be familiar with Brett Gelman now, but that’s about to change. His character, Mr. K, in the new NBC comedy, “Go On,” is a the kind of strange role that stands out especially in an ensemble comedy.
Strange might not be the right word to describe Mr. K. He appears to be a total lunatic who will say and do the weirdest things as part of the show’s therapy group.
“He’s not a sociopath, but he’s not somebody who’s used to being around people very often. And so I think it’s really a big thing with him is that he wants friends, but he doesn’t really know the proper way to go about acquiring them. So it gets pretty awkward,” Gelman says.
It gets really awkward when the sports talk radio host, played by Matthew Perry, joins the group. His overt efforts to get the new guys attention are definitely strange, but harmless.
“Unless you consider it harmful seeing me in my underwear, which you might,” Gelman says. If you saw the first episode NBC has repeatedly shown, Mr. K was in his undies and carry a sword. He also was in a Lamaze class despite not having a pregnant partner.
“He loves people, but maybe too much at times,” says Gelman.
Actors like Jonathan Kite are the unsung heroes of comedies. You probably don’t even recognize his name, but if you watch the CBS comedy “2 Broke Girls,” you’ve seen his work. He plays the lecherous short order cook Oleg.
Kite joins the long line of accent actors who aren’t necessarily the star of a scene but pop in to put an exclamation mark on the joke. It’s an art perfected by the likes of Christopher Lloyd on “Taxi,” Polly Holliday on “Alice” and Michael Richards on “Seinfeld.”
Kite says his character only works because the writers make his appearance in a scene feel organic. It’s not like he was added in after everyone was done.
While he’s not the star of the show, Kite works just as hard as “Broke Girls” Kat Dennings or Beth Behrs.
“When I am back in the kitchen, I’m actually doing something and not just waiting to come in,” Kite says. “People who have sat back there with me are amazed that I’m going through a routine I’ve worked out every single time.
“I’m not sitting back there because there’s not an organic nature to that. You have to be a part of what’s actually happening.”
It helps that Kite worked as a short order cook when he was in college.
Sidney Lumet, the acclaimed director who brought us such gems as “Network,” “12 Angry Men,” “Serpico” and “Dog Day Afternoon,” has died at 86, the New York Times is reporting.
It’s fitting that Lumet lived long enough to witness the satirical world he wove in the 1976 best-picture-nominated film “Network” — which had well-meaning observers at the time chuckling at the absurdity of a respected TV broadcaster launching into on-the-air tirades — become more real than anyone thought possible. Witness the “reality shows” running rampant today and getting more crass by the season (did you read about Showtime’s new show “Gigolo,” where we follow men selling themselves for sex?) and a caustic political environment as today’s talking heads use their media influence as platforms for shrillness and demagoguery.
Besides “Network,” my favorite Lumet film has to be “Dog Day Afternoon,” among Al Pacino’s best performances. What’s yours?
More: My colleague James Ward at the Visalia Times-Delta has a nice Top 10 list of Lumet’s films here.