Tag: leverage

Read Before Watching: February 22nd

Another week, another clutch of shows (herd of shows? Murder of shows?). I’m going to eschew structure and free-form it again this week. First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room that looks like Dollhouse. Last week’s episode was much more like what I would expect from a Joss Whedon show. The humor that was sorely missing from the pilot was present and accounted for and the pacing was much better balanced. Plus, hey, the episode touched about all kinds of mythology elements. I just hope they have an idea of where they are going so things pay off in a respectable manner. I’m in for the long-haul now, however the ratings plummeted which means it probably won’t last until my birthday (May 23rd, for those of you playing at home), but I would love to be proven wrong. Bottom line, I can, in all good conscience, recommend you tune to Fox Friday at 9:00PM to check out this show.

However, that day and time will conflict with the other show I’m buzzing about this week, that being Battlestar Galactica. With only four episodes remaining you would expect this show to be in a wind-up pattern, but that is simply not the case. True, they are maneuvering the pieces in a end of series way, but there are many more things that are being set in motion that makes me wonder how there will be any sort of satisfying resolution in the time alloted. I still have the feeling it isn’t going to end all that well for the majority of the characters, but there are several that I previously thought hopeless that are on a more positive path. I think Baltar may have finally found his inner unselfishness and Tigh has given up the bottle in favor of true love at last. Looks like this week we may get some insight as to what the frak is up with Starbuck and I’m interested to see where they’re going with Anders sudden return of brain activity. I know at some point I will have to re-watch the entire series from start to finish. tune in for the penultimate penultimate penultimate episode Friday at 9:00PM on SCI FI.

Leverage wraps up a stellar first season this week. This show has been consistently good fun with excellent stories, look and acting right out of the gate. I am very happy that a second season is on the way. This week sees the second part of the season finale that was set up last week. Executive producer Dean Devlin hinted to me last year that the season would not end on a huge cliffhanger, so we’ll see if that was misdirection or not. Now that the team has blown up their headquarters and seemingly split up, there is the proverbial “Where do we go from here” plot thread to tie up this week. I trust that it will lead to somewhere unexpected through the usual twisty route. Tune in Tuesday at 10:00PM on TNT to see how it all shakes out.

Sweet mother of unexpected plot twists, Lost is just rocking my world this year! I just can’t even begin to offer up any theories on where things are going. Instead, I’m just enjoying the ride. I thought we would have to wait until the end of the season for the Oceanic Six to make it back to Time-Jump Island. Instead, they are now back and half of them have run into Jin, who’s in a Dharma Initiative jumpsuit driving one of their vans. And, just as soon as the show answers a packet of questions, it blindsides you with a whole bunch of new ones. None of it seems forced, however, and, as strange and mysterious as things have gotten, I really feel like it’s all heading somewhere. I can’t wait until Wednesday at 9:00PM (ABC is the network) to find out what happens next. And does anyone else have a feeling concerning the well being of Penny?

To wrap things up, I will also be watching Chuck (NBC Monday 8:00PM), Heroes (NBC Monday 9:00PM), The Mentalist (CBS Tuesday 9:00PM) and Lie To Me (Fox Wednesday 8:00PM). This week we’re still Fringe-less, unfortunately. More on that last show in a future installment. Also, next week I’ll be previewing Ashes to Ashes, making it’s American debut on March 7th (BBC America). Until then, stay tuned!

Read Before Watching: February 15th

Ok, I’m going to go ahead and get the big question out of the way this week, that being, “How is Dollhouse?” Sadly, I must report that it isn’t very good. The much anticipated pilot episode, written and directed by Joss Whedon, debuted last Friday on Fox. The pilot was very flat in that nothing about it really excited me. Other than Eliza Dushku, the acting was not very inspired and the characters didn’t grab me at all. A lot of things felt forced and contrived and there were many story points that didn’t make sense, and not in a “ooooh, cool mystery” kind of way, but in a “that defies logical storytelling” kind of way. There was none of Whedon’s signature humor, at all. It sort of felt like a fanboy attempting to write a Joss Whedon-esque script and failing. In fact, Whedon’s name is really the only thing going for it right now. He’s the reason I’m willing to give it another couple of episodes to see if it improves. If it had been produced by anyone else I would not even have watched the entire pilot. And because Whedon’s name is all over it I’m mostly just left feeling really, really disappointed. Five years away from TV and this is what we get? I may be getting inappropriately melodramatic, but, hey, so did the Dollhouse pilot. By the way, am I the only one who saw the interior set of the titular “dollhouse” and thought, “Wow, they really spruced up Wolfram & Hart?” Tune in to Fox Friday at 9:00PM and see what you think.

Reversing gears now, I completely apologize for having ever doubted Chuck. I finally got to see the 3-D episode last week and, wow, that show is just firing on all cylinders. I am a fool for doubting and I will do so no more. Chuck is new this week after being bumped last week due to the President. Also new is Heroes. I’m still enjoying the fugitives storyline, especially Sylar getting a sidekick. I like that Sylar’s little trip on the light side has only served to make him a stronger bad guy. Daddy has a lot to answer for. NBC is the network and from 8:00-10:00PM is the time you want to block out for both of these.

The Mentalist (9:00PM CBS) and Leverage (10:00PM TNT) still make fine Tuesday viewing and both are new this week, the latter airing the first part of it’s two-part season finale. Both are still solid shows that consistently entertain week after week.

Wednesday brings my most anticipated show of the week, Lost. Last week continued to bring the mind-numbing reveals and story twists. They are really pulling out all the stops this season and it is making for some very compelling TV. If you aren’t glued to ABC at 9:00PM on Wednesday, then there is no hope for you. DVR Lie To Me at the same time on Fox, however. It is proving that it can maintain consistently good quality, but it still has some quirks that could prove detrimental in the long run. I’m nowhere near giving up on it, but we’ll see how I feel about it next season, should it get a pickup.

Thursdays still have nothing for me, which makes it a good night for me to catch up on things. I had hope for Fridays, but Dollhouse may have spoiled that. However, last week’s Battlestar Galactica (SCI FI 10:00PM) proved to be one of the show’s best episodes as we got lots of information and reasons why. Five more weeks and then that one is done and I’m starting to feel the first twinges of missing it. In light of the new revelations, I am even more intrigued by how this will all play out and how they will give us a satisfying answer to it all in just five more hours.

That’s it for this week. Again, let me know if I am missing anything compelling on Thursday. Next week, I’ll do a little recap of what’s happened on Lost this season so far. In two weeks, I will be taking a look at a British show making it’s American debut on BBC America. Stay tuned!

Read Before Watching: February 8th

First, let me apologize for the delay in this edition of my fledgling column. I’m still tweaking the format of it. I had thought to have it be every Wednesday to have something new for you in the middle of the week. However, in rethinking things, maybe having this be at the beginning of the week and looking ahead to what’s coming on will be a little better. I’m still uncertain. Read Before Watching gets a good amount of traffic, so I know you’re reading it. Please leave me some feedback with what you’d like to see as far as format and coverage. Now, then, let’s take a look at what I’m looking forward to this week on the small screen. Note, you will need a DVR this week in order to play along at home.

Chuck (8:00PM, NBC)
Is it just me or is the shine beginning to wear off of Chuck? It could just be me, but I’m just not as excited as I used to be about this show. It’s still funny, it still delivers, but I don’t think about this show until it’s time to watch it. It still beats, say, Survivor or doing laundry and I’m not dropping it by any means. I just hope they do something new sometime soon.

Heroes (9:00PM, NBC)
Heroes got a lot of flack for a convoluted Volume Three, but not from me. I’m not saying it was perfect, but it sure tried. I’m still digging this show quite a bit. I do think there are some things here and there that could be changed and, admittedly, it may be time for some characters to go, but this new storyline has me intrigued enough to give the show as a whole a spot on my must-see list. This week I think we finally get to meet the man who fathered Sylar.

The Mentalist (9:00PM, CBS)
This is probably my second favorite show right now. Everything is perfect, from the scripts to the characters to the acting. The chemistry between the main characters is just spectacular and the twists and turns each week never get old and always surprised. I can see Patrick Jane becoming one of my all-time favorite TV characters. The Mentalist has been on break for a couple of weeks, but it’s seemed too long and I will be happily tuning in on Monday.

Fringe (9:00PM, Fox)
Told you that a DVR would be required! Fringe had me at “created by J. J. Abrams,” but I’m no longer sure that will be enough to keep me watching through the rest of the season. As a whole, the episodes so far have been uneven in quality. Walter remembering an experiment he once did being similar to each week’s gory death and the sometimes half-baked resolutions are beginning to verge into annoying territory. The next two or three episodes will bring me down off the fence. I really do hope it’s on the side of “keep watching.”

Leverage (10:00PM, TNT)
Leverage is just a consistently fun show to watch. Without a doubt, you will be entertained and feel the hour go by all too quickly. After this week, we get the two-part season finale and then a long wait until season two. This is a great show and you should be watching it.

Lost (9:00PM, ABC)
Now in it’s fifth season, Lost has gone from one of the most frustratingly fun shows to the pinnacle of greatness. This, my friends, is what TV was invented for. This is the show that keeps me awake not just contemplating it’s mysteries, but the implications of the answers it gives to those mysteries. Drama, humor, great acting and time travel done right.

Lie To Me (9:00PM, Fox)
Another one to DVR. Three episodes in and I’m still on the fence about this one too. The things that could be annoying about this show, as I outlined in my review of the first episode, are still there. The twists of each week’s investigations are already deducible prior to the reveal as well. Still watching for now, we’ll see how I feel about this one next week.

Wow, there isn’t a single thing on Thursdays I’m interested in watching. That’s very odd as Thursday nights use to be the night for viewing. If anyone has a favorite that airs Thursdays, please leave a comment or email me to enlighten me.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (8:00PM, Fox)
I think I might be done with this one. It’s been on a long break, so I’ll watch this week, but unless there has been some huge, fundamental shift, I’m done. The main characters continue to make slasher-film-esque poor decisions and only seem to survive them through a badly written final act. Wile E. Coyote seems a more adept choice at saving the world on a weekly basis at this point.

Dollhouse (9:00PM, Fox)
Joss is boss, so, yeah, this one’s a no-brainer. I’m in for however many episodes it takes for Fox to cancel this one. Yes, I’m still bitter about Firefly. But, hey, there’s supposedly a new regime at Fox that appreciates that some shows take time to build an audience. I hope they mean longer than episode three. Anyway, this one debuts Friday, so please watch it live to show the network the audience is already there.

Honorable Mention: I feel compelled to mention Battlestar Galactica again as, after this week, there are only five episodes left. However, to follow up my last view of it, I officially don’t like any of the characters, except for the two that spent last week bleeding from the head. I am ready for the end.

That’s it for this week. If someone can recommend some shows I should be watching on Thursdays, Saturday and Sunday I will check them out. And Desperate Housewives should be excluded as I gave up on that one a while back.

‘Leverage’ Gets A Second Season

Michael Wright, executive vice president, head of programming for TNT has announced that the network has given a second season pick-up to the acclaimed series Leverage. Currently airing it’s first season Thursdays at 10:00 PM, the hit series will return for fifteen episodes later in 2009.

“We’re thrilled that audiences and critics have responded so positively to Leverage and made the show a solid hit,” Wright said. “We look forward to another great season of fun and exciting storylines brought to life by the outstanding cast, led by Timothy Hutton, and the incredible production team, headed up by executive producers Dean Devlin and John Rogers.”

Dean Devlin added, “We had an amazing experience shooting the first season of LEVERAGE with such a talented cast and crew and with the full support of TNT behind us. We can’t wait to get to work on season two and take viewers on another adventure with Nate and his team.”

Pop Culture Zoo previewed this great series last year with interviews with Devlin and castmember Gina Bellman, as well as a review of the first episodes. We are absolutely delighted that the series will be back following the conclusion of this first season. Keep checking Pop Culture Zoo for a wrap-up of the first season and a look forward to season two in early March.


‘Leverage’ Interview II: Talking With Dean Devlin

Chances are good that you’ve seen a film that Dean Devlin has been involved in. Both by himself and together with director Roland Emmerich, Devlin has written and produced some of the biggest blockbuster films in the last fifteen years, including Stargate, Independence Day, the American version of Godzilla and The Patriot. More recently, he is responsible for The Librarian series of TV movies on TNT and now the ongoing series Leverage, where he has made his directorial debut. We recently spoke to Dean about his new show as well as the differences between the television and film industries.

PCZ: How did Leverage come about?

DD: I do a series of films for TNT called The Librarian. When I finished the second movie we were doing some promotion for it and Michael Wright from TNT said to me “When do we get a TV series out of you?” I said that the problem is the trend now, the style in television is to be very dark, kind of cold and procedural. While that makes for very compelling television it wasn’t something I was really interested in doing. He said “Well, what kind of show would you want to do?” and I said something more like a throwback to Mission Impossible or The Rockford Files. A mainstream, fun show the whole family can watch that isn’t being dumbed down. He said do you have any ideas? I said I’ve always wanted to do a show about high tech thieves who become modern day Robin Hoods. And he went “Sold!” So, suddenly we had to come up with a show. John Rogers and Chris Downey came up with this phenomenal script then everything took off from there.

PCZ: Did you have Timothy Hutton in mind all along or did that come about later?

DD: Well the truth of the matter is that when we sat down with the network they asked who we saw in the lead role and I said I don’t know, someone like a Tim Hutton type. They said why don’t you just ask Tim and I thought yeah right, we’re going to get an Oscar award winning actor in our little cable show. So, we pried him with a lot of alcohol and he woke up one morning with a signed contract, didn’t know how it happened and he had to do the show. (laughter)

PCZ: One of the dangers in casting someone like Timothy Hutton is you also have to cast people around him who are strong enough to keep up with him and you guys have done a great job with that.

DD: That’s one of the great advantages of working at TNT. If you watch their shows, they really bet on talent rather than just celebrities. In our modern age now you do a sex tape on the internet you’re a celebrity and you can get a TV series. They were very encouraging of us hiring actors. If you get really good actors you’re eighty percent of the way done.


PCZ: Did you go out and individually choose actors or have people in mind for the roles?

DD: A couple we did and a couple were discoveries. Gina had so blown me away in this mini-series called Jeckyll, I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see it.

PCZ: Oh yeah, definitely!

DD: It’s my favorite mini-series in forever! So, I showed a clip of Gina to the head of TNT and he loved her in it, but he said to me “Dean, let’s just forget all the restrictions. If you had all the money in the world and you could get any single actress in the world to play this part, who’s your number one choice?” And I said Gina Bellman. So he said go get her. But other people, like Aldis Hodge, were a complete surprise to me.

PCZ: Yeah, where did you find him? He’s fantastic.

DD: I actually had another actor in mind completely for the role and I had made my mind up, I didn’t even want to read any other actor. John Rogers had read Aldis in another casting session. He said “Dean, I think you ought to see this kid.” And I went no, I know who I want. The day we were finally taking the actors to the network for approval John twisted my arm and said come in and read just a couple more people before we go in. I said fine. So he brought Aldis in and Aldis knocked it out of the park. There was just no question in my mind after he was done reading that this was the guy who had to play the part. We brought him into the network that day, the network was blown away by him, we told him he got the part and then we found out it was his twenty-first birthday. That was a pretty amazing day for him.

PCZ: I imagine so! Having a computer background I just wanted to say I appreciate you guys having plausible computer technology in the show.

DD: I’m so sick of this 1980’s version of the computer geek with the pocket protector and the broken glasses with the band-aid. In our modern day world the computer guy is the coolest guy in the room. That’s where the line comes from in the show, “We run the world.” (laughter)

“In our modern day world the computer guy is the coolest guy in the room.”

PCZ: You are known, obviously, for writing and producing some of the biggest blockbusters in the last fifteen years. Do you think that kind of large scope lends itself to Leverage?

DD: The things is our ambitions didn’t just shrink just because of our budget and the amount of time we had to do this in. So, it became the real challenge. We said we’re not willing to cut anything out of the script, but we don’t have enough money or time to do it, so how do we do it? What’s fabulous about that is it really forces you into old-fashioned filmmaking techniques. The problem with doing movies that cost one hundred fifty million dollars is you can always buy your way out of a problem. But when you have a cable television budget and seven days to shoot a show, you really have to be creative. I compare it to doing speed chess. It’s no less difficult than playing the grandmasters, but you have to do it in one tenth of the time.

PCZ: You directed the first two episodes. This was the first time you directed, right?

DD: It was. It was the first time I took the director’s chair.

PCZ: You’ve produced, you’ve written, you’ve acted. What did you learn or was it easy to slip into the director role?

DD: Again, in all honesty, I was just being a pig. I read the script and loved it so much I wasn’t about to let anyone else have it! (laughter) I hired myself! It’s such a horribly gluttonous thing to do, but I’ve been waiting my whole life to have material like this. I just wasn’t going to let go of it. And I was so blessed. I had this amazing cast, I had amazing writers, I had a phenomenal director of photography, the camera operator had done every one of my feature films. I had a phenomenal editor, phenomenal production designer… I was so surrounded by feature film quality talent. When you have that all around you all you really do is sit back with a cafe latte and yell “Action!” (laughter)

PCZ: Exactly!

DD: My job was pretty easy. I had a lot of people that made me look good.

PCZ: Do you direct anymore this season?

DD: I direct five of the thirteen.

PCZ: Is the season set at thirteen episodes? Is there the possibility of more than that?

DD: On TNT thirteen is a full season.

PCZ: What kind of feedback have you gotten about the show so far?

DD: The reaction has been phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal. The testing was through the roof. We’ve been traveling the country doing these little screenings and the audience response has been amazing. The problem with television is whether you’ve made something good or not good has nothing to do with whether or not people tune in to watch it. We’re very confident that if people tune in they’re going to like it because the vast majority do, but will they tune in? That’s the big question that has all of us nervously grinding our fingers into our chairs.

PCZ: Do you think television still kind of has that stigma of “just being TV?”

DD: I think less and less. Years ago it used be that TV was the ugly step-child and was incredibly formulaic and movies were king. Well, with the rising cost of production and marketing a studio can live and die based on one movie. So now there’s huge pressure in movies to be more formulaic. When I was coming up in the movie industry you could do an original movie and have it be a big, giant movie. Today they don’t really want you to make a big movie unless it’s a remake or based on an old television show or a highly successful video game or highly successful children’s novel. There’s this pressure to be more formulaic. At the exact same time on television suddenly there’s five hundred channels on cable and satellite and they’re trying to get heard in all that noise. The only way to get noticed is to be more daring. So, we’ve watched this migration of some of the best writers in feature films moving into television. Also, some of the best actors and directors. I think it’s a very interesting time to do television because suddenly now we have the freedom in TV we used to have making feature films.

“When I was coming up in the movie industry you could do an original movie and have it be a big, giant movie. Today they don’t really want you to make a big movie unless it’s a remake or based on an old television show…”

PCZ: You’ve also been doing The Librarian series [of TV movies] for TNT.

DD: This is the last movie-of-the-week we’ll do. What we’re really hoping is that if the audience shows up for the third one then we’ll try to do the next one as a feature film.

PCZ: You’ve got both of these projects at TNT. How are they to work with as a network?

DD: These are the best partners I’ve ever had in my whole life. Their philosophy is we’re going to be very careful in what horse we bet on, but once we’ve bet on him we’re going to let the horse run. They don’t give notes just so they can feel like they were part of the process, they give notes when they feel very strongly about something. What’s great about that is then the notes you get are very intelligent. If you don’t agree with one of the notes you can actually have a discussion like grown-ups in a room talking about something. I’ve never had that before in my life, I’m telling ya. It’s completely unusual. The process became so supportive and so creative that what ends up happening is that all the writers, all the actors and all the directors suddenly want to do their best work to reward that kind of support. Instead of it being this constant conflict where you feel like you’re fighting them to make something good, now you find you’re fighting yourself to make something even better to reward them for all the support they’ve given you. It’s a remarkable situation.

PCZ: So far the episodes seem pretty self-contained, but will there be threads that play out over the season?

DD: There are character threads that go throughout. There’s a lot of shows that you have to watch every episode and some of them I really like. I’m a huge Brotherhood fan, but what I do find even with that show is if I miss the first two or three I end up thinking I’ll wait until the end of the year and buy the DVD’s. I kind of give up on it. We wanted to have a show where you could see the first one, the fourth one, the ninth one and you’re not lost at all. You know exactly what’s going on and it’s easy to follow. However, if you do watch each week then there will be some rewards because there will be these things that have an over-arching story. Things like the story of Tim Hutton and his son that will become clearer throughout the show. These characters, why they are as broken as they are slowly gets revealed over the course of the season. The more you watch it the more you can get that aspect of it, but if you missed it you will still understand any episode you watch.

PCZ: One of the traditions on TV is everything leading up to a big season finale cliffhanger. Do you do that or do you wrap everything up?

DD: That’s a hard question to answer, so I’ll put it this way. The biggest episodes are the two part season finale. We decided to approach this entire season with the assumption that we don’t get a second season. We want one! (laughter) We’re hoping we get one, but we said let’s not make a show where you don’t feel like you’ve had a complete meal. We really designed these thirteen to be a fulfilling season.

PCZ: That’s all the time I have. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me.

DD: I appreciate you talking to us. It’s hard to get heard in the noise and we appreciate it.