Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mad Men Returns!

At last!  One of television's most compelling series has returned after a ridiculously long hellatus.  I was thankful for the "previously on" recap, though I could have used a lot more.  Really, all I had remembered from last season's finale was Don's unexpected proposal to secretary Megan.  So I was very much looking forward to catching up on where we left off.

Time hasn't only passed for us, but also for the MM crew - though it's not specified how much.  Enough for Don (Jon Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) to have gotten married and still be very much in the honeymoon can't-keep-their-hands-off-each-other phase, Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) to have moved to the burbs (life now includes "an acre of land, a wife, a child ...") and Joan (Christina Hendricks) to have given birth to son Kevin (still married to her doctor despite Roger (John Slattery) being the baby-daddy).

Some things haven't changed:  Roger is still a lush, Pete is still an uptight douche, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) still asserts her mind but feels ever-slighted and lacking deserved respect by her peers.  The show still has its spectacular production design, nailing  the 60s time period and capturing the decor and temperament to perfection.  Megan seems to be the most representative of the latter part of the decade, free in her modern style and fearless in her expression.  Case in point:  gifting her hubby with a sexy serenade at Don's surprise birthday party (in their luxury high-rise apartment, no less).  But is her confidence real or a facade?  Read on ...

Dear Don's turning 40, but you'd think he was turning 60 the way he carries himself.  At times he feels so very tired.  Another sign of the times:  40 seemed a much older age back then, given that the average life span was shorter than these days (when Don asked his son how old he'd be when the kid turned 40, his son replied "you'll be dead.").  Don wasn't thrilled at Megan's surprise and told her so after the guests had gone, even saying he didn't appreciate being embarrassed.  His attitude certainly put a downer ending to the festive evening.

By the way, Megan knows the truth about Don's true identity (he's actually been 40 for half a year).  I'm not sure if that's a new revelation or if that came about last season. She's definitely in the minority on that tidbit.

Don definitely seems like a changed man- happy, kind, patient (despite the glibness about his age) - and Peggy for one isn't thrilled.  After a pitch meeting where Don appeased the client instead of challenging them, Peggy admitted that the kinder, gentler Don concerns her ("I don't recognize that man.").  It'll be interesting to see how long this calm demeanor lasts.

Pete, on the other hand, is not a happy man.  He seems trapped by his home life and appears to still be low man on the partner totem pole.  His ire is mostly directed at Roger, hating the man for cutting in on his meetings and "persuading" co-worker and TV department head Harry (Rich Sommer) to switch offices (the bribe?  $1,100).  Pete feels he merits a larger office beacuse he brings in all the new business and should therefore have it - without Roger's interference. Pete's professional journey has never seemed like one wrought with success.  Is his time coming?  And if so, will it be deserved?

Joan loves motherhood but is ready to return to work.  Her position at the company, however, may not be secure, especially after her mother, who has been helping out with the baby, points out an ad in the paper for new help at the agency.  When Joan stops by with the baby for a visit, the "new girl" doesn't even know who she is.  And oh, how awkward some were around the baby - Peggy looked clueless, Pete asked "what's that?" (clearly some were made for parenthood more than others).  At least Lane (Jared Harris) assures her that he's been completely "adrift" without her.

As for Megan, working at SCDP isn't all ideal.  Don's thrilled to have her there, but between male co-workers talking sexually about her behind her back and others making fun of her party performance and assuming she has a hidden agenda, it makes her physically ill and insecure - a chink in the otherwise seeming confidence.  You can't help but feel bad for her.

Not making an appearance in the 2-hour return is Don's shrewish ex Betty (January Jones) - or "Morticia," as Don refers to her.  The character is one of the most unlikeable of the bunch, especially after last season, but she does add a certain tone to the show.  Curious to see where she is taken to this season.
By the end of the premiere, you feel pretty much back in swing with the show and its characters and anticipation for the coming season is peaked.  It'd be hard to top last season's brilliant "The Suitcase," but I look forward to finding out what's in store for the crew at Sterling Cooper Draper Price.  What new accounts will come their way, and what new players?  Will Don and Megan stay blissful in marriage or will he return to his adulterous ways?  Will the agency hire its first African-American employee?

Tune in and find out when Mad Men airs every Sunday @ 9 p.m. on AMC.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Recap - WonderCon 2012

Thanks to renovations happening up north in its usual San Francisco home, this year's WonderCon was held in Anaheim, Calif. and thanks to a good friend's birthday present, I was able to attend Saturday and Sunday, partaking in all the geeky and mainstream goodness offered to us humble fans.

Saturday was all about the big screen, offering sneak peeks and trailer premieres for a wide range of - for the most part - great looking, entertaining films: Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Looper, Lockout, Snow White and the Huntsman, Resident Evil: Retribution, Sound of My Voice and Battleship.  The panels were fun and the guests - including Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Michael Fastbender, Peter Berg, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Maggie Grace and Sir Ridley Scott - shared stories from the sets, little teases, etc.

But this is a bog about the small screen so Sunday was really my day. On the menu:  ALCATRAZ, FRINGE and ONCE UPON A TIME.


Stopping by for the Alcatraz panel were stars Sarah Jones (Det. Rebecca Madsen), Jorge Garcia (Dr. Diego Soto), Parminder Nagra (Dr. Lucy Banerjee), Jonny Coyne (Warden Edwin James) and Robert Forster (Ray Archer); co-creators Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt; and executive producers Jennifer Johnson and Daniel Pyne.

They opened with an exclusive sneak peak of the season finale (Monday, March 26 at 8 p.m. on FOX), which looks to be action-packed and promises to both answer season-long questions and pose more for the next season to (hopefully) come.  Questions/information included:
  • Why Alcatraz was chosen as the setting for the show - Say the word and it immediately evokes mystery and danger, plus rumblings of conspiracy ... after all, the order to close the prison on March 21, 1963 was signed by a Kennedy (Robert) - a name synonymous with conspiracy
  •  Will we find out what's behind "The Door"? - Yes. Pyne said everyone had goosebumps when they shot the reveal.  Forster got a hearty laugh from the audience when he boasted that he already knows what's behind it.
  •  Past inmates/escapees will be returning for the finale, which will end with a tremendous cliffhanger.
  • Apparently Sam Neill (Emerson Hauser) enjoys the scenes where he gets to shoot people.  In fact, he would rather have fewer lines and more gunplay!
  • Should viewers expect more deaths of the characters?  - Be prepared.  "This is Alcatraz ... things can always get worse," Wynbrandt warned.
  • How do the characters get from the Rock to the mainland so friggin quickly? - While the panel insists the actual boat ride takes about 10 minutes, next season they may try out the Alcatraz jet ski... or Rebecca's dolphin.
  • Most exciting of all - the finale features an exact recreation of the famous San Francisco car chase from the 1968 film Bullitt - one of the most thrilling auto chase scenes in cinema history.  But while the original film took 9 days to film, the Alcatraz crew did it in three.  Many locals who saw the original scene film came out to watch the remake.
Ultimately, the panel said the show really ramps up for the final three episodes and have much planned should they receive a second season.


This was the panel I was most looking forward to.  I've been a fan of this show from day one and have waited white-knuckled every spring for renewal.  It's always been a bubbled show but has lived on, and hopefully, if FOX is to abandon it, they'll at least grant it a chance to wrap up the story.

The future of the show was actually posed to the panel, which included executive producer/showrunner Jeff Pinker, executive producer Joel Wyman and stars Joshua Jackson (Peter Bishop), John Noble (Walter Bishop), Blair Brown (Nina Sharp) and Seth Gabel (Lincoln Lee).  Wyman said with great confidence "We don't even think about those thinhs," to which the cast let out hearty guffaws and Noble quietly stated "Bulls**t."

Noble himself was a riot.  The panel first screened a collection of "Walterisms" - a montage of the character's many often inappropriate but always hysterical sayings, comments, etc.  All at the table insisted that Noble in fact IS Walter, which is why he plays him so well.  Regarding whether the cast ever gets used to the weirdness of the events in the episodes, while Gabel said it would be really wrong if they got used to it, Jackson said they don't have to get used to the weirdness on the set because Noble is the weirdness.

Jackson had a blast and himself was hilariously entertaining.  For example:
  • Question: "Do you think Lincoln will end up with either of the Olivias in the various universes?"  Gabel:  "I hope I end up with at least one of them."  Jackson:  "If he ends up with both, we'd have to move to cable."
  • Late in the panel, an audience member wanted to know if the cast knows what's coming plot-wise ahead of time.  Jackson:  "I've learned more in the last ten minutes than I have all season!"
  • Regarding character deaths on the show and how many return, Jackson had this to say:  "Is anyone ever really dead on Fringe? Actually, the best way to be brought back is to die a noble death."  He added that a good phone call for a cast member to receive is "Congratulations!  We're killing you off!"
  • When asked if there are any comparisons between Peter and Jackson's character Pacey on Dawson's Creek, he said that they're both human.  Then later, when it came up that Peter can't seem to make up his mind about his relationship with Olivia, a lightbulb went off - "That's it! [Pacey] couldn't make up his f**king mind either!"  Seems the guys he plays sure can waffle!
The hilarity, honoring the theme of Fringe, went a little wonky when the question was posed about what Walter did when he was younger, maybe 20.  Noble offered that he was a student, he did a lot of drugs and dated Diana Ross.  The other panelists jumped on that tangent, suggesting that Astrid is actually Walter's love child with Ross and therefore Peter's half-sister.  Jackson admitted that he thought Astrid and Peter might have been a couple at one point, but with this new biological wrinkle thrown into the mix, he admitted "Even on Fringe, that's going too far."

Ultimately, the panel said that while they do battle the network at times, their priority of storytelling is for us, the fans, and they stick with that till the end, whenever that may be.  Here's hoping for season five and a chance to end the show on their terms.

Catch Fringe Friday nights at 9 p.m. on FOX.


We were first treated to a screening of the episode "Heart of Darkness," which would air later that night on ABC.  Watching on the big screen in a room filled with dedicated fans was awesome.  Cheers and whoops arose every time Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold/Rumplestilskin) appeared on screen, everyone laughed in unison and thoroughly enjoyed the showing.

After, co-creators and executive producers Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis came out to express their gratitude for all the love and support for the show and answer questions.  I wasn't aware of it but apparently there are quite a few LOST "easter eggs" strewn throughout the show (both were executive producers on the hit series), so now I'll be paying attention.

They said they received great support for the show from ABC right from the start - after all, what better network to host a show about fairy tales than the one owned by Disney?  Both men said the net lets them pretty much do anything they want, and that gives them great story-telling freedom.

Fairy tales/stories/characters they hope to visit in the future include Ariel (The Little Mermaid), Peter Pan, Rapunzel and Mulan.  They said there are still lots of people to visit both in Storybrooke and Fairy Tale Land and they don't want to close off any doors to who could appear.


The finale, being filmed this week, will feature the return of a beloved character - the Huntsman, who was killed off earlier in the season.  "We gotta warn you," joked Kitsis, " He's gotten more handsome."  We will also learn more about the mysterious August, they have a plan for the town's doctor and the theme of love and how it's possibly the way for the trapped citizens to escape the curse will be explored further in this and future seasons.

There's no doubt ABC is bringing this gem of a show back for a second season.  Be sure to catch it every Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Keep your fingers crossed that I make it to Comic-Con this July!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Current Shows - Renewals, Safe Bets, Long Shots

Thanks to TV Guide online for compiling a current list of what shows have been renewed for another season, which have good odds for a return and the ones in jeopardy.

CBS has taken the lead, already renewing a great deal of their shows.  Other nets will follow shortly.

So where do your favorite shows stand?


2 Broke Girls  
The Amazing Race  
The Big Bang Theory
Blue Bloods 
Criminal Minds
The Good Wife  
Hawaii Five-0
How I Met Your Mother 
The Mentalist
Mike & Molly
NCIS: Los Angeles
Person of Interest 
Undercover Boss 

To Be Announced …

American Dad 
The Cleveland Show 
Kitchen Nightmares 
The Simpsons  
The X Factor

To Be Announced ..

The CW
America's Next Top Model


Two and a Half Men

The Bachelor 
The Bachelorette 
Dancing With the Stars 
Grey's Anatomy  
Happy Endings  
Last Man Standing 
The Middle  
Modern Family 
Once Upon a Time 
Private Practice 

American Idol 
Bob's Burgers  
Family Guy  
Napoleon Dynamite
New Girl 
Raising Hope 

30 Rock 
The Biggest Loser
Celebrity Apprentice
The Office
Law & Order: SVU
Parks and Recreation 
Up All Night  
The Voice

Gossip Girl
Hart of Dixie
The Secret Circle
The Vampire Diaries


CSI: Miami   
A Gifted Man 
Rules of Engagement 

Body of Proof  
Cougar Town  
The River
Pan Am

The Finder  
I Hate My Teenage Daughter

Are You There, Chelsea?  
The Firm
Harry's Law



Breaking In

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Salute to Supernatural Convention - Burbank, CA March 2-4


Another riotous blast of a convention!

You may have heard that Supernatural (The CW, Fridays @ 9 p.m.) has some of the most passionate, loyal, enthusiastic and supportive fans out there, and conventions like the one held in Burbank, CA this weekend proves that in spades.  I have never missed the L.A.- area con and I was again in my pre-reserved seat for all the action, hilarity and surprises.  (Alas, this may have been my last, as the event is moving to Las Vegas next year - boo! - and not sure I can trek so far, no matter how much I love the show ... and I do!).

Guests this year included (of course) the Winchesters themselves, Jensen Ackles (Dean) and Jared Padalecki (Sam) as well as Jim Beaver (Bobby Singer), Richard Speight, Jr. (Gabriel/Trickster - for my 2-part interview with Speight, scroll down),  Misha Collins (Castiel), Sebastian Roche (Balthasar), Mark Sheppard (Crowley), Matt Cohen (young John Winchester), Rick Worthy (Alpha Vampire), Chad Lindberg (Ash), Gabriel Tigerman (Andy Gallagher), Rob Benedict (Chuck Shurley), Kim Rhodes (Sheriff Jodi Mills), Madison McLaughlin (Krissy Chambers) and director Guy Norman Bee.

I wasn't able to attend Friday's day events but I heard Rhodes, Benedict, Lindberg and last-minute add Tigerman were great.  I was able to see them along with Cohen, Speight, Worthy and surprise guests Tim Omundson (Psych, Deadwood) and Michael Cudlitz (Southland) at the late-night, 60s-themed karaoke party, where everyone rocked out and had a blast.

Saturday's roster started off with Bee, who has directed some of Supernatural's most popular episodes, including "Frontierland," "Hello, Cruel World" and "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters."  He brought along actor Sam Hennings, who portrayed the legendary Samuel Colt in "Frontierland."  We learned Bee was also a cameraman on James Cameron's Titanic and worked previously with Speight, directing several episodes of his show Jericho.  Most recently he has been directing on Southland.  Questions included differences between shooting Supernatural vs. Southland (two pages on Supernatural can take 6 hours to film; on Southland, 2 pages can be shot is 45 minutes); doing many, many takes (a la David Fincher)  versus just a few (like Clint Eastwood); giving actors the freedom to try things in different takes ("when successful, no matter who's idea it was, the director ultimately gets the credit," he joked); and the pressure to be true to the show and please the fans.

Amazing trivia - Supernatural has had the same Director of Photography, Serge Ladouceur, for every episode except the pilot (141 episodes in all)!

Next we were treated to a hilarious tag team panel with Roche and Sheppard, which took some interesting ... and erotic ... turns (Roche definitely likes to play with the audience and push the envelope).  Both didn't hesitate to take digs at Misha Collins (in good fun, of course) and both did excellent impressions from Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Fave lines/exchanges:

Roche, upon his on-screen death - "I didn't see my crispy wings."

About the aforementioned "erotic" tone of the panel:
Roche:  (to audience): "Your mind is in the gutter!"
Sheppard:  "And you've driven them there."

Regarding fan fiction written about the two, linking their characters romantically:
A fan:  "Because of the way you two talk up there, you ask for all the [slash] fan fiction."

About the swearing that came out during the panel:
Sheppard:  "I have a 12-year-old and a 6-year old ... they TAUGHT me those words!"

And about being character actors:
Roche:  "Character actors are the backbone of every show."
Sheppard:  "We get the best stories."

Of course, Roche didn't leave empty handed:  during an exchange about cockroaches, he misspoke and it came out as "cockroche," to which Sheppard assured him the nickname would now follow him forever ...

We then had a terrific interactive panel with Worthy, Benedict and Cohen with Speight taking lead in a very Donahue-like fashion, heading into the audience to take questions for the quartet, leading with the riotous "In putting this panel together, what four people make the least sense?" Again, things got rather randy at times, but the guys had a blast playing with us.  Questions ranged from their favorite actors, Supernatural episodes, and board games; guilty pleasures they watch; best stunts they've done; how, if their characters are dead, would they like them to come back; what Rocky Horror character would they be; and fave lines they said on the show:

Speight:  "Lucifer, you're my brother and I love you, but you are one great big bag of dicks." ("Hammer of the Gods")
Worthy:  (said dryly) "Ouch. Stop. That hurts." ("Family Matters")
Benedict:  "I am the prophet Chuck!" ("The Monster at the End of This Book") or the one about hoarding toilet paper ("The End")
Cohen:  "Telling the boys to shut up in the car.  Messed up takes on purpose so I could keep saying it to them!" ("The Song Remains the Same")

Next it was fan favorite Collins, who took the stage solo.  But he takes command and doesn't let go, teasing, mocking, playing.  No one is off limits.  He got some weird questions (Castiel's favorite cheese, if he were a wasp, who would he sting?), got to talk about he recent, world-record-breaking online scavenger hunt and his ongoing "random acts of kindness" campaign.  We learned the episode where Bobby died ("Death's Door"), certain NPR news stories and Dead Poets Society make him tear up, that he once worked on a llama farm and that he adamantly disagrees that, despite what has been said online, his spirit animal is NOT a kitten  ("No!  It's a tiger!  Or something ... a wolf!  I feel like my spirit animal should have some say in this.").

When Jim Beaver took the stage, it was to a standing ovation.  After all, his beloved Bobby was lost to us this season.  He admitted, "It's sad to no longer be an active part of this thing."  He went on to say that if his character had continued on, he'd hope for a hook-up with Rhodes' Sheriff Mills; he has no desire to direct or be on Dancing With the Stars ("I'm a horrible dancer.  Then again, I'll do anything for money or smatterings of applause."); and that he has no idea what's been happening on the show or if there's a chance for his return ("once they stop paying you, they stop telling you stuff.  But hey, it's Supernatural ... I'm sure they could figure out something.").  He also had high-praise for Ackles, who directed him in "Weekend at Bobby's".

"Jensen was a wonderful director, all things a director should be:  prepared, skilled, insightful, communicative, in touch." 

That takes us to Sunday, which brought back Jim Beaver and Richard Speight, Jr. for more questions about both working on Justified, eating on camera, difficult props, Tim Omundson's beard ("he's the Chia pet of American television"), their desired superpower, what's really in the liquor bottles on the set (Beaver: "watered down Coca-cola."  Speight: "Realy, Jim?  Not Pepsi?" - Speight, of course, is the pitchman for Pepsi Max), what karaoke songs would their characters sing (Speight: "Love Shack."  Beaver: "Some Enchanted Evening" or "Rock Lobster."  Mash-up possibility:  "Some Enchanted Lobster"!) and if had to, which brother would Bobby kill ("probably the taller one.").

And then ... stars JENSEN ACKLES (JA)and JARED PADALECKI (JP)!!

They never cease to look good, smile and be very personable, down-to-earth and funny.  At earlier conventions, they'd have each come out separately, then end together.  But realizing how well they play off each other, they now do the whole hour together, and it's incredibly entertaining.

There was much granting of congratulations to JP on the impending birth of his son with wife Genevieve (2nd Ruby) - phone was at the ready in his pocket - and birthday wishes to JA (March 1).  At the end Speight presented him with a birthday cake and led the room of 1,000+ people in "Happy Birthday," which ended with both guys smashing their faces into the cake.  Wish I had a picture of that!

Before that there were a slew of questions from fans about their first convention experiences; what they would go back and change about their characters' actions if they could (JA would have Dean not go off to be with Lisa and Ben; JP would have Dean not kill that Ruby-chick ... a wink to not killing off his real-life wife); what happened to Castiel's handprint on Dean's arm ("Lazarus Rising" - cover story: when Cas healed Dean in "Swan Song," he healed everything, all scars, including the handprint; true story: writers and crew simply forgot, so came up with believable cover story to avoid reshoot.); if JP really afraid of clowns (no, actually loved them as a kid; JA, on the other hand, says they creep the hell out of him, ever since the movie Stephen King's IT.

Interesting tidbit:  the young girl in IT was played by Emily Perkins, who played Becky Rosen ("Sympathy for the Devil," "The Real Ghostbusters," "Season 7: Time for a Wedding!")

There was talk about the weird first impression Misha Collins made on them both, what they watch when they can, Dean's compulsive eating and bad costumes, Jensen's soap days (Days of Our Lives), their love and affection for their crew ("They're family," both heartily agreed), why Sam and Dean never seem to learn from their mistakes, and the overwhelming demographic of women who watch the show:

JA:  "What would raise male viewership? Hot chicks.  We had that but it made all of you mad!  You gotta pick your battles.  (in girly voice) 'Get those sluts away from our boys!'  We don't want that." 

When asked if the guys were really laughing at the end of "Plucky Peniwhistle's Magical Menagerie" when JP was coated in glitter:  JA:  "No, we were ACTING.  We're ACTORS."  After which they demonstrated with over-the-top fave laughter.

The hour ended with a touching expression of gratitude by JP to the fans for contributing to St. Jude's Children's Hospital in lieu of sending him and Genevieve baby gifts.  To date, over $27,000 has been raised and fundraising will continue until the baby's birth, after which the couple will match the funds.

These are really great guys. All of these good folks - a terrific, talented, entertaining group of people have worked on this amazing show and we are so fortunate to have even just these few moments to interact with them and see for ourselves how great they are.  They genuinely seem to enjoy what they do, are thankful for what they have and appreciate us for our continued love and support for the show.

Here's to (hopefully) Season 8, a healthy son for the Padaleckis, more money raised for St. Jude's and more conventions in the future (bring in  back to L.A.!!).

Catch Supernatural Fridays @ 9 p.m. on the CW.  New episodes return March 16.