July 28, 2013

Reign: Totally CW, But for the Lack of Vampires

The CW will be adding several new shows to its line up this fall, and most of them are as supernatural as you'd expect. They've got the Vampire Diaries spinoff, the Romeo and Juliet with aliens thing, and the sci-fi standards. But then there's Reign:

My first thought when I saw ads for Reign was, "This is Gossip Girl. It's Gossip Girl, but with a dash of Downton Abbey." Apparently, I'm not the only one. Huffington Post's Alex Moaba called it "a Game of Thrones meets Gossip Girl thing." Let me be clear, I think this is a good thing. Yes, the plot and setting make it ripe for historical inaccuracy and anachronism, but I will ignore those if Reign proves to be as intriguing a political drama as the trailer promises.

Source: cwtv.com/reign
And I suspect that it will. Here's something interesting: the creators of the show aren't your typical CW stock. Laurie McCarthy and Stephanie Sengupta's past credits include several formula police procedurals like Ghost Whisperer, CSI: Miami, Hawaii Five-0, and Law and Order. (For what it's worth, Sengupta is leaving the show before it even premieres.) I have to wonder if their experience will result in Reign being a mystery-followed-by-solution heavy show, which I believe would greatly benefit the plot. This might balance out the romance/seduction side that's ever-present on this youth-focused network.

As for the cast, I'm most excited to see Megan Follows, who plays Queen Catherine de' Medici. Since her breakout role as Anne of Green Gables (a personal favorite of mine) in the 1980s, Follows has become quite the accomplished actress, both on screen and on the stage. I suspect her stage experience might translate nicely to regal nature of her role on Reign. Again, if the trailer is any indication, this show will be full of some genuinely good acting, which is not always a sure thing on the CW.

The final reason this trailer has me excited for Reign is the music. One of the great advantages to telling a historical story today is that it gives the creators a chance to interpret it through a (literal and figurative) modern lens. The soundtrack of the trailer comes across as classic, but the drumbeats and energy give it a present-day twist.

Reign won't premiere until October. You can catch it Thursday nights on the CW. I know I will.

July 19, 2013

Emmy Nominations: Rabbit Ear Reactions

Emmy nominees were annouced this week, and I can't let this momentous television occasion pass without sharing my two cents. I'll try to avoid reiterating what you've probably already heard. Here are some Rabbit Ear Reactions: First, two disappointments. Then, a program I was thrilled to see nominated - one you might have overlooked.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have read my grief tweets about Survivor, which was not among the nominees for Reality Competition. Nor was Jeff Probst nominated as host. This was particularly sad because Survivor had one of its best seasons this year with Caramoan's Fans vs. Favorites. Not to mention the fact that episode 5 of that season was a landmark in the history of reality TV. That said, those who write that the show was "snubbed" aren't quite right. It did receive nominations in some of the less-hyped categories.

Another show that received little recognition in the major categories is The Office. I was surprised to see how differently 30 Rock and The Office - both departing NBC comedies - fared in the nominations. 30 Rock received 9 nominations in major categories: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, 2 Guest stars, 2 for Writing, 1 for Directing, and Outstanding Comedy. The Office got only 1: Greg Daniels for Writing for the finale. Even though I'm sad The Office didn't receive more, I'm pleased that the finale was recognized. It was perfect. Daniels should win. But chances are, he'll be beat out by Tina Fey, nominated in the same category for the 30 Rock finale.

So far I've just been talking about the "major" categories. The ones listed here. But it's worth downloading the complete list of nominees

If you just glanced through those major categories on Emmys.com, you may not have noticed that Live from Lincoln Center received three nominations for "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel." I was thrilled to see that this New York Philharmonic stage production of the classic musical was nominated for Musical Direction, Choreography, and  in a category called Special Class Programs, where it's up against award show broadcasts and the London Olympics Opening Ceremony. You can (and should) watch highlights from this phenomenal musical production at PBS.org. Or right here!

I can't remember a televised stage production this well done. It was technically masterful and emotionally powerful. Carousel can be a frustrating play. Its storyline - with outdated gender roles and domestic violence - is troubling. But these actors brought the characters to life so authentically that I watched Carousel in a totally new way. I think I understand it better now than I ever have. (By the way, that's saying something, as I was once in a production of this musical!)

Reading through the list of nominations this year - and seeing Carousel recognized in particular - made me realize something about these awards: No matter how much the Emmy broadcast itself will focus on the big-budget, popular, and mostly cable television series, the awards are for gems like Live from Lincoln Center, too. There are wonderful things happening on TV that you just might be missing. So, tune to PBS every once in awhile.

Special shout out this post to my father and my grandparents. The day after Carousel aired, I got phone calls from all of them, telling me I had to check my local listings and catch it the next time it came on. Thanks, guys. 

July 7, 2013

Under the Dome: "The Fire" Review

Summer television series are to regular season shows what B movies are to, well, actual movies. That hasn't stopped Under the Dome - the B series of the summer - from becoming a hit. Variety reported that the show is the "most watched new summer drama...in 20 years."

In my last post about the show,  I pointed out the crime, corruption, and psychosis that are already in the Chester's Mill fishbowl. Monday night's episode added chaos. Makes sense. You put a group of people in an inescapable situation, and tempers will rise. Fear will take hold.
Deputy Linda: "When people are scared they start acting stupid."
Other Cop: "You'd have to be stupid not to be scared."
Classic signs of this ensuing chaos include the crumbling of trustworthy pillars of the community. When men of the cloth and police officers lose it, you know you're in trouble. Then those same men start a fire.  (In an attempt to cover up their own corruption, no less.)

Source: cbs.com

The Lost parallels continued in this episode as Barbie, in true Jack Shephard style, became the reluctant hero leader, putting out the fire with an old-timey bucket brigade. And if you still don't see the Lost rip-offs, try imagining that Michael Giacchino's ominous strings are playing.

So that's it. Chaos, fear, fire, and at least two more casualties in this episode. I'm not sure any of these characters are going to get out alive. Oh, and Angie's still trapped in the fallout shelter. My money's on her staying there for the duration of the series. Creepiest Couple on TV award goes to Junior and Angie for sure.

Thing is, this is still a summer series. A B series. Unlike in Lost, the acting in Under the Dome is mostly sub-par. (Not that the actors aren't doing their best with the dialogue they have to work with.) Mike Vogel's acting is the notable exception. He is hands-down the most believable of the Dome-ies. And Alexander Koch is a close second. His sinister smile sends a chill down my spine.

I'll keep watching Under the Dome, but not because it's exceptional TV. It's B television for sure. But it's the summertime, and there's not much else on. Plus, B television can be fun, especially when everyone's watching it. Under the Dome doesn't have to be great TV as long as it makes for a great conversation on Tuesday morning.