Archive for HBO

Vamping out over HBO’s “True Blood”

Repeat after me: There is no shame in wearing a red T-shirt proclaiming, “Friends don’t let friends drink friends.”

Moonlight might have been staked, but those of us who like our boys with a little bite can take comfort in the fact that HBO is offering up a tasty new vampire treat on Sept. 7. “True Blood” is based on the popular Sookie Stackhouse novels about a perky waitress from a backwater Louisiana town that’s lousy with leeches — and we aren’t talking the swamp variety.

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Ah, Sookie. There’s plenty of sizzle going on between Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) on HBO’s new series “True Blood.”

Sookie can’t believe it when brooding vampire Bill steps into her backwoods Louisiana diner and orders up a cup of Joe. OK, make that a cup of synthetic Joe blood.

She’s been waiting for this all her life. And vamp fans know exactly how she feels. Fangers may be blood-suckers, but what a way to go. Most of our favorites are tortured souls looking to toss immortality for a sensual relationship with a mortal. Or those mighty queens of the damned. And you can always count on the strong mortals like the spunky Buffys and Sookies to get that vamp blood to boil. While I love curling up on the sofa for a nice wallow in Interview with the Vampire or Lost Boys, the old Dracula movies leave me cold. I like my vampire shows loaded with snark, hold the cheese.

Not since Buffy staked out a place in our hearts has there been a show about vampires we could really sink our teeth into like True Blood. But will viewers tune in? TV history has not been kind to the night dwellers. Check out our top-10 list of TV vamp-centric series:

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel: All hail the creator, Joss Whedon. Both the original series and the Angel spin-off were smartly written and acted. Who can forget when Angel appeared out of the darkness and came into Buffy’s life? Buffy made history with an episode shot almost entirely without dialogue, and also produced one of the best TV musical episodes ever. Buffy was all about girl power, and what just one girl could do. As it said on her tombstone, “She Saved the World. A Lot.” But the excellent spin-off with David Boreanaz as private investigator Angel proved to be a higher ratings grabber.

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“John” gone, but Kiwis come back

We weren’t surprised when HBO announced it was canning “John From Cincinnati” or that “Entourage” would be back for another season.

But color us wowed when the network announced today that “Flight of the Conchords” will be back for another season.

Starring the New Zealand music-comedy duo of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, the kooky show follows transplanted New Zealanders Jemaine and Bret, who live on New York City’s Lower East Side and split their time between seeking venues where they can perform and awkwardly courting women.

Since they find they can express themselves easier with music, about once or twice an episode, they break into song. Really, it’s the songs that make the show.

Here’s a few samples if you haven’t heard these boys before:

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“John” wipes out

Apparently, audiences didn’t take to David Milch’s cryptic series “John From Cincinnati,” about levitating surfers hanging out in the border town of Imperial Beach.

Or Venereal Beach as we used to call it when I was growing up in San Diego.

On Monday, the day after the season finale aired, HBO canceled the series after mixed reviews and lackluster ratings.

So devoted fans – and you two know who you are – will never know what the mysterious final line in the season finale meant.

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JOHN FROM CINCINNATI: Austin Nichols. HBO photo: John P. Johnson

John says “Mother of God, Cass Kai” over a shot of Kai (Keala Kennelly) surfing.

But the good news is perhaps now Milch will have the time to write that “Deadwood” movie fans have been wanting.

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And the winner is…

Here’s what it’s like to present a Television Critics Association Award:

You go up on the stage where the Golden Globes are presented, looking out at an audience that includes “Sopranos’’ creator David Chase with Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco, Alec Baldwin of “30 Rock,’’ Matt Dallas of “Kyle XY,’’ “Heroes’’ creator Tim Kring with Adrian Pasdar, Masi Oka, “The Office” producer Greg Daniels and castmembers and Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights.’’

And you pray you don’t black out.

Makes you understand yet again just how good these people in the room are at what they do.

Alec won the award for individual achievement in comedy and rocked the room. He told the story about how he tried to get a role on “The Sopranos.’’

In New York, he was going to a meeting with “a famous socialite’’ to raise some money for some foundation. But he went to the wrong place, and had to bolt down Park Avenue, he’s drenched in sweat. So he excuses himself to use the men’s room and takes his shirt off, and dries his shirt in the men’s room of the Four Season’s Restaurant.

And David Chase walks in and says, “Alec Baldwin?’’

He didn’t get a role on the show.

Of course, when Chase took the stage to accept the award for Outstanding Achievement in Drama, he says that in response to Alec, “When I walked into the (restroom), I thought `Holy (Shucks), that was Alec Baldwin the famous movie star. I didn’t even notice he didn’t have a shirt on.’’

When he came up again for the Heritage Award, Chase remarked that when you are in New Jersey, you can be sitting in a restaurant and have everything stop.

“It’s not that big of a deal,’’ he deadpans.

He then mentioned that he was awed by other nominees, which included “M*A*S*H,’ `Roots,’ `Mary Tyler Moore Show’ and “Sesame Street.’’

“But I thought we had a pretty good shot when I didn’t see any Muppets in the audience,’’ Chase says.

Then he said a TV critic told him it would be good to actually explain the ending of “The Sopranos.’’

“I wasn’t going to get into it, but when I was going to Stanford, at 23, I went to see the `Planet of the Apes’ with my wife,’’ Chase says. “At the end I said, `Wow. So they had a Statue of Liberty too.’ So that’s what you are up against.’’

For a better insight, check out the season one finale.

“The Office’’ producer Greg Daniels says he spent the whole day reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

“I’m on page 450, and it’s good,’’ Daniels says. “If we adapt it for American audiences, it could be really successful.’’

He then introduced the cast that showed up for the awards – and said how he would cast them as “Harry Potter’’ characters.

Brian Baumgartner as Hagrid; Mindy Kaling as Pavarti, or Luna; Angela Kinsey as Delores Umbridge; Kate Flannery as Aunt Petunia; Oscar Nunez as Viktor Krum; Leslie David Baker as Mr. Dursley and Creed Bratton as Lucius Malfoy.

“Is this too nerdy for everyone?,’’ Greg asked.

Not for this crowd.

2007 TCA Award recipients are as follows:

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: “Heroes” (NBC)

OUTSTANDING NEW PROGRAM: “Friday Night Lights” (NBC)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA: “The Sopranos” (HBO)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY: “The Office” (NBC)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NEWS & INFORMATION: “Planet Earth” (Discovery)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING: “Kyle XY” (ABC Family)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MOVIES, MINI-SERIES & SPECIALS: “Planet Earth” (Discovery)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY: Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock” (NBC)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA: Michael C. Hall, “Dexter” (Showtime)

HERITAGE AWARD: “The Sopranos” (HBO)

CAREER ACHIEVEMENT: Mary Tyler Moore

Oh, and I’m now the newly elected secretary of the Television Critics Association. Go TCA.

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“Sopranos” fade out

Even the new HBO executives Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo admit they aren’t really sure what happened at the end of “The Sopranos.”

While there’s been plenty of conjecture about what creator David Chase meant by the fade-out that made viewers believe their cable had gone out including that it referred back to an earlier episode in which Tony says when you die, everything just goes black, the executives admit they aren’t really sure what the ending meant.

Plepler says that he believes the ending said that here’s a guy who will have to lead a life of vigilance, always looking over his shoulder, always worried about when somebody’s going to pull the trigger on him.

And Lombardo?

“I don’t know because my TV went out,” he quipped.

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“Sopranos” ends with a ratings bump

Obviously, TV critics and media types cared more about the series finale of “The Sopranos” than most viewers.

Although “The Sopranos” ended its run with a season high of 11.90 million viewers and 7.08 million viewers in the advertiser-friendly demo of 18-49, it wasn’t the big jump you would expect from all the media hype that took place in the weeks before the series ender.

Not since the fifth season of “The Sopranos” has the mob drama grabbed so many viewers. It was the largest audience in total viewers since the fifth season premiere in March 2004, when 12.14 million viewers tuned in.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that “The Sopranos” had been rapidly losing viewers in its final years. With an average of only 8.23 million viewers, this final seventh season has been the lowest rated since season two.

Long delays between seasons, including an almost two-year lapse from seasons five to six, hurt the show in later seasons.

“The Sopranos” started slowly, averaging 3.46 million viewers when it premiered in January 1999. Season two averaged 6.62, season three 8.87; season four 10.99; season five 9.80 and season six 8.92.

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Did Viewers Get Whacked?

When Bay Area critics were giving predictions on how “The Sopranos’’ would end during a podcast this past week, I said “Quietly.’’

But I didn’t expect silently.

Written and directed by creator David Chase, the series came to an end after 8 years, 86 episodes and 18 Emmy Awards not in a hail of gunfire, not with mobster Tony Soprano dragged to jail, but with a blank screen.

Which probably made most people across America watching wondering if their cable and/or power went out just when they were going to learn the fate of their favorite mobster.

These days, viewers are used to dramas posing questions to string us along while we ponder if saving the cheerleader will save the world or if an island is really purgatory for plane crash survivors. Sometimes a drama is just a drama, and there is no real mystery to solve.

In expert fashion, Chase gave us a finale filled with juicy tidbits. Tony is out in the backyard raking leaves when he hears the sound of ducks. He looks above his head, but he and we see nothing.

Like the cat the crew adopts _ Paulie calls felines “snakes with fur’’ _ Chase toys with us in one of the funniest “Sopranos’’ episodes ever penned.

Classic Chase took us to a wooded area with the suicidal Anthony Junior parked with his girlfriend, the equally unbalanced high school junior/fashion model. We fear they are about to do each other in, but instead they were just there to do each other.

Except the car catches on fire and a $30,000 SUV plus some woodland goes up in flames. We spend some quality time with Tony and Carmela lecturing their son on his stupidity and almost forget we’re there to find out if Tony dies or goes to jail.
Traditionally, Chase likes the penultimate episode in a season to be the one that packs the biggest punch. The season finale generally has the characters reflecting the ripples felt in the aftermath.

Chase gave viewers some wonderful action moments last week, with plenty of bloodshed including Tony’s brother-in-law and crewmember Bobby getting gunned down in a train store and his right-hand man Silvio going out in a slow-motion shootout.

After the hit, the denizens of the Bada Bing came out in the glaring sunshine for the first time and then marveled when a passing motorcyclist went crashing down the street. Classic.

When last we saw Tony, he was holed up with the gang, the gun Bobby gave to him for his birthday clutched in his hands ready to go out in a blaze of glory if need be.
But it never came to that.

While trying to broker a peace between the warring families, Tony has to contend with a son who wants to join the Army and save the world. With Dr. Melfi exiting last week as his therapist, he seems to be bonding with son A.J.’s counselor much to the disgust of wife Carmela. In Sopranoland, all the therapist are beautiful women who speak in measured tones and wear short skirts showing off their great gams.

Meadow has decided to follow in her mom’s footsteps by marrying a mobster’s son and soon A.J. has bagged his idea of serving his country and eventually becoming Donald Trump’s helicopter pilot in favor of making a movie with his dad’s backing.

And Tony has a meeting with his legal counsel who tells him it’s 80 to 90 percent sure he’s going to get indicted for crimes he committed. But that “trials were made to be won.’’

It would seem that those who bet Tony would be going to jail in the finale had won.
In the closing moments of the finale, the family arrives one by one in a diner for dinner. The tension builds. Tony, the first to arrive, chooses “Don’t Stop Believing’’ from the tableside juke box. In the background, different people start arriving. A man in a baseball cap, looking just like the hit man who took out Phil Leotardo and others, walks in.

Maybe he does die. Maybe the entire Soprano family gets wiped out in a bloody hit. Our pulse is quickening.

Other men arrive. Are they federal agents working undercover? Are they other hit men?

We are reminded of the FBI agent who warned Tony of the contract being put out on his crew last week by New York mobster Phil. In the finale, the agent tells Tony where he can find Phil.

When he learns that Phil has been killed (shot after exiting a Ford vehicle carrying his baby twin grandchildren, which then rolls over his head while their frantic mother tries to get them out), the agent says, “Damn, we’re going to win this thing’’.

Does winning mean Tony’s toast?

In what looks like an homage to “The Godfather,” one of the guys we suspect is a hit man heads for the restaurant’s Men’s Room. The same place Michael Corleone went to get a gun out of the toilet to whack the two mobsters having dinner in THAT restaurant who had taken out his dad the Don.

Our toes are curling, our nails are in the sofa’s arm rest. Who will get to Tony first?

We don’t know. All we know is that after bumbling parallel parking while the tension became excruciating, Meadow sprints towards the diner door, Tony looks up and darkness falls.

Was there a hit? Was there an arrest? Or did the family have a nice meal of onion rings and conversation?

We’ll never know. And that, my friends, is why “The Sopranos’’ is the best drama ever.

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“Sopranos” spoiler

Sometimes I look at spoilers, other times I don’t.

One thing I never want to do is to spoil the viewing experience, especially people who have invested years into a series like “The Sopranos.”

Even I don’t want to know.

Yet, right there in my email today was a message from an actor eager to boast about the role he plays in the series finale of “The Sopranos” tonight.

Character actor Peter Mele says he steps into the fray in the epic series finale in a pivotal role.

And then he tells us what that role is, which pretty much seems to tell us what happens in the finale.

Thanks a lot Mele.

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Baby talk with Alexandra Pelosi

Bay Area native Alexandra Pelosi did a whirlwind trip from New York to Pasadena to meet with TV critics about her documentary on evangelical Christians, “Friends of God,” which debuts on Jan. 25 on HBO.

“Am I a bad mother?” Pelosi asks after she finished her session, clearly conflicted about leaving her 8-week old baby at home. “This is the first time I’ve ever left him.”

We don’t really think he’ll remember.

Pelosi’s the daughter of California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who became the first woman Speaker of the House, and therefore second second in line to be President of the United States if anything happens to President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

It’s the closest any woman has ever come to the office of president of the United States.

Pelosi says the spotlight has clearly been on her mom, so she decided to do something nice for her dad and named her son Paul after him.

“He deserved a little recognition too,” Pelosi, who looks way too trim for a woman who recently gave birth, says.

In her session earlier, Pelosi told TV writers that it may be hard to believe, but when she gets together with her family they don’t end up talking politics or documentaries.

It’s all baby talk these days.

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Utah can’t be all bad

Rosie O’Donnell isn’t making any snap judgements about the state of Utah, despite the fact that a prominent theater owner pulled the movie “Brokeback Mountain,” about a love affair between two cowboys, from his theaters.

O’Donnell, who was in Pasadena talking to TV critics about her new HBO series “All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise” about the first gay and lesbian family cruise line, said she’s going to Utah for the upcoming Sundance Film Festival.

She was asked if the conservative nature of Utah makes the openly gay O’Donnell feel strange going there.

“Not really,” O’Donnell says. “I mean, the Osmonds are from there. That’s enough for me to like it.”

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