Evolving and Overachieving with The Way Way Back’s Jim Rash and Nat Faxon

In the opening scene of the  The Way, Way Back, Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s (the Oscar-winning screenwriters of The Descendants) dynamite coming-of-age film, Duncan (Liam James, The Killing) is asked by his mother’s boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) to rate himself on a scale of 1-10 on their way to a beach house. Strucken by the question, Trent steps in and rates the 14-year old boy a ‘3’ and demoralizes him. It’s a humiliating confrontation but it is effective in immediately rooting the audience to Duncan’s much-needed journey out of his shell.

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The title refers to the far back seat in old station wagons, the one that seats the passenger so that they look out to oncoming drivers and it’s while sitting there, listening to Trent’s idea of tough love, when Duncan comes face-to-face with his own private hell: he must spend his summer vacation with his newly divorced mother (Toni Collette) and her jerk of a boyfriend while his daughter (Zoe Levin) makes him feel more socially awkward than he already is. Trent’s invasive neighbor, Betty (Allison Janney) accelerates the need to escape, and so Duncan ditches them to wander the resort town by himself and that’s where he meets and eventually befriends Owen (Sam Rockwell) who is the manager of the local Water Wizz water park.

Coming of age stories are a dime a dozen, but recently, few have been as special as The Way, Way Back. It’s full of vivid characters, fully-realized people that audiences can endear to, dialogue that sounds natural and situations that are universal. There are several reasons why this film works so well because Rash and Faxon made it so distinctive. That tragically sad opening, was a real experience shared by Rash.

“It comes from a personal place,” Rash told BuzzFocus. “The very first scene of the movie is the exact same experience I had, being in a car and having my stepfather ask me what I thought I was on a scale of 1-10.”

EDITOR’S PICK: Read our review of The Way, Way Back

Rash went on to explain that for both he and Faxon shared the connection to the east coast summer vacation. “That destination stayed the same and year after year we would regroup with the same people who have evolved each year. We can always connect to it. Coming of age films do have that timelessness to it because we all did have a rite of passage, but for us it’s always been about character. The nuances and differences within the characters makes any story, coming of age or whatever unique.”

Some coming of age stories, like fellow indie gem The Kings of Summer, the challenge for some youths to come into their own is affected by their parents. While Collette’s Pam has her own issues, this story pushes Duncan into uncomfortable spaces and with the help of others who are more wiser, he is able to push through those barriers and mature before our eyes. He does so without his mother’s guidance but it’s clear that the bond is still there, there’s just someone else in the way.

“They’re both having a rite of passage,” Rash explained. “They’re both fish out of water. We do have a context of what Pam’s and what Duncan are going through, but  the point of view is pretty much Duncan’s observation of his mother’s behavior, of Trent’s behavior, and in order for them to find their way back to each other, we follow Duncan from scene-to-scene in every page, but the most important aspect of a true ensemble is that all of these characters connected via Duncan. These lives are impacting him and he’s impacting them in either minor or major ways. While the water park is our B story and the family is the A story, he’s the thread for both of those.”

Faxon said that both stories had their high points, though the water park in particular was a challenge as it was unpredictably loud and hot, “We didn’t have the budget to shut it down and control the environment. So we were facing obstacles like background or sound we couldn’t control. A lot of the scenes we were shooting there were the light and fun moments so it almost felt okay when you encountered those issues.”

“Both were very different and rewarding for different reasons. Shooting at the water park was an experience, certainly [Laughing]. The house had more of the intimate moments and dramatic scenes. Both places we had such talented actors performing and no matter where we were shooting, we were getting lost in the ability of our cast.”

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Water Wizz is where The Way, Way Back starts to become a full story. Amidst all the doom and gloom, who couldn’t have fun at a water park? It’s the vacation away from the vacation, Duncan’s desperate prison break and is enabled when he finds a (girl’s) bike in the garage and sets off looking for something to salvage his situation. The alternative choice is to stick it out for his mother and follow Trent’s overbearing rules. After that opening scene, who cares about a bright pink bike and a banana seat? Besides, mom is having fun.

“No matter what that bike is, he wants to get out of there,” Rash explains. “It is the beginning of the journey because it is taking him to what will be his Oz, which is the water park. The chariot is leading him to something unique and different. Also at that moment he’s also written off his mom. He kicked and screamed and now he’s leaving the house, even though Trent was in his brain saying, get out!”

Duncan’s afternoon ride lands him at Water Wizz and for the first time in the film, someone who shows some care and interest in him. The film suddenly turns into a modern day version of Meatballs as Rockwell doing his own version of Bill Murray. But Owen isn’t the only help for Duncan. Betty is no doubt a beautiful hot mess, but her daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) is old enough to know better and ignore her mother. She serves as something more than a love interest for Duncan. She’s been through a divorce much longer than Duncan and we can see that she’s learned much earlier than most that her own individual tastes and interests driver her, not those of her friends. There’s a confidence about her and willingness on her part to be patient with Duncan.

“She shares a connection with Duncan,” Faxon said. “They are going through similar experiences in terms of their parents splitting up and obviously there’s baggage that comes with that, probably worry from their parents about losing their kid to the other spouse or whatever certain alliances are there. Susanna is wise beyond her years as a result of all of those experiences.”

“Finding her own individuality and those moments are helping her shape who she is becoming and wants to impart some of that wisdom onto Duncan with a wonderful analogy about Ghost Crabs. This is a spring break for adults kind of place. She’s obviously a very instrumental person for Duncan and his journey and I feel she’s offering him a quite a bit in terms of guidance and allegiance.”

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It took nearly eight years to bring the film to the big screen, after it had come close to going into production a handful of times, only to have something trip it up. Yet despite all the time it sat on the shelf, it remained largely unchanged once it got traction again after the actors (most recently Rash on Community, Faxon on Ben and Kate) got notoriety as writers with The Descendants. When it looked like there would be interest again in The Way, Way Back, Rash and Faxon had the opportunity to direct for the first time and they successfully did that together too, except for the rare occasion when they were in front of the camera at the same time, playing two of Owen’s Water Wizz employees. The new venture gave the pair a new appreciation for the collaborative process of filmmaking, especially in a low budget film.

“As being actors and writers before being directors, you have an understanding,” Faxon said. “But I don’t think you have fully have an appreciation for every single component that goes into it. Every single stage there are so many crucial elements that you overlook or take advantage as an actor. You do your thing and you just see the finished product, but you don’t necessarily see the sound department pulling dialogue or fading it in a sound design fashion that enhances the movie in a such a way that creates another layer that you hadn’t thought of. So there’s a new appreciation to every single piece of making a movie, from the  pre-production to production and post-production.”

“There’s nothing more powerful than watching when it gets tough on set and watching your crew rise to that occasion,” Rash shared. “You absolutely realize that we’re making a small movie here. We’re all working long hours for not a lot and it’s just for the passion of making a movie. That’s a lesson you can get reminded of over and over again. At times you think this is frustrating and then you realize what it takes to push past that frustration and make a movie.”

When asked if they were going to continue creating these small-scaled, personal stories, Rash said that it doesn’t necessarily have to come from them directly or be so true that it’s ripped from the headlines of the news. With adapting The Descendants, they shared a fondness for Kaui Hart Hemming’s writing, they felt connected to the story, appreciated and understood who Matt King was. Regardless of whatever the story may be, if they’re both passionate about a project, then they’re going to let that lead the way.

Now it’s not rare that one person act, write, and direct, but to show great skill in all arenas is something that is unique and to decide where to lean towards could be a challenge moving forward. Faxon believes as long as they’re constantly evolving, never getting too complacent with any one aspect of the industry, they’ll be happy. Rash thinks they can do it all.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re going to be matched up at all times. It’s always been important to us. We started as actors and we want to continue that. We became writers and became writing partners and we want to continue that. As for directing, this was our first foray so hopefully we’ll continue [Laughs] – it’s all about evolution and get better in each one of those things and learn more from other people–

“And become action stars,” Faxon interrupted. “Probably all of that and become action stars.” [Laughs] Rash summed it up, “Action star is I guess the highest you can go.”

Take note kids, all of this from someone who was rated a three.

The Way, Way Back opens wide this weekend at a theater near you.

Can Community make it to Season 5 despite fickle studio treatment?

Community’s brief history has already been a tumultuous one. The Thursday night NBC comedy debuted to high ratings and higher acclaim, but by the end of its first season, it started trying unique ideas, which went along way to satisfy the show’s hardcore audience but likely hurt its chances at a wider audience, who turned to mainstream comedy like Big Bang Theory.

But Community was unwavering in creator and showrunner Dan Harmon’s vision to bring something original to the world of sitcoms. In doing so, the show not only built up an incredibly strong cult following but also joined the lineage of outstanding comedies — like Fox’s Arrested Development — that outsmarted and out-weirded a large portion of the television audience, with falling ratings making the show subject to questionable decisions made by the network.

In its third season, Community dealt with an awkward mid-season hiatus after it did not return at its regular time. Instead, fans waited (and took to twitter, as well as Rockefeller Center) for months, while NBC promised the remainder of Community’s 22-episode season would air, even if they didn’t clarify that with a specific date and time. In January 2012, the network confirmed the show was not canceled. In February, Dan Harmon confirmed it would return in March. And on March 15, 2012, Community returned in its regular time slot, and NBC aired the remainder of the season.

EDITOR’S PICK: 6 places Dan Harmon & Like-Minded Showrunners Can Shop a Comedy

But the show may be facing its biggest challenge yet in the wake of yet another lengthy hiatus, the threat of cancellation and the loss of Harmon, as well as other producers and writers.

Harmon was notably ousted from his position as showrunner at the end of last season, after some public spats with Chevy Chase, who stars as Pierce Hawthorne — an elderly, often racist, sometimes delusional man still attending community college. News recently surfaced that Chase, himself, agreed to part ways with the show in the fourth season, while having already filmed most episodes.

If they had filmed in order, a high point to look forward to this season may have been seeing how they wrote Pierce out of the crew, but reports are that he filmed for the final episode, so it’s unlikely that will happen unless Community finds renewal and a fifth season.

That’s the least of its problems, though. After NBC toyed with the idea of airing it in a different time slot so it wouldn’t face the same competition, it settled on returning it to its regular 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central) spot on Thursdays, starting Feb. 7. That’s all well and good, as if Community has any hope of sticking around — it does — it could eventually be helping Parks and Recreation hold down a mostly new comedy lineup that’s set to lose 30 Rock and The Office.

The problem is the show was originally slated to return in October and started filming for that return. Now it appears the episode to air on Valentine’s Day will be “Paranormal Parenting,” which one can only assume is the Greendale gang’s Halloween episode. It wouldn’t be surprising then, either, to see a Christmas episode air at the end of March or in April.

Fans will also likely be keeping a close eye on the tone of the show, which has always featured incredibly quirky humor, steered away from delving too deeply into any of the romantic tropes, and tends to wrap up with John Hughes-esque warm moments, only to hit reset, as if no one really learned from the revelations in the previous episode — at least until the third season, when some things finally started to stick for ongoing story threads. The question is whether or not the formula will remain intact in the absence of Harmon. There’s a reason he’s gone, and it will be interesting to see if those is his place uphold the things most important to the show.

It will also be interesting to see if the show still has a home on NBC after its fourth season, and a lot of that will depend on fans, as well as critical response. At one point, it almost seemed certain that this would be the final run of Community, but NBC’s Robert Greenblatt has in recent interviews indicated nothing is a done deal just yet. And along with NBC losing some of its other cornerstone programs, the network’s attempts at new programming haven’t been met with as much success as hoped, meaning if Community pulls even decent ratings, in comparison to its possible replacements, it could stick around.

Parks and Recreation is a good example of a quality NBC show that found itself near cancellation several times and bounced back to be one of the network’s best comedies. That show, however, has found critical success, especially in the realm of awards — whereas Community has not. And that could be a critical blow to the show. On NBC, it seems executives would love great ratings but are willing to forgive shows with lower ratings if they find that awards success. But without ratings or the awards, there would be little reason to keep the show around.

But there are three things of which fans can be sure. Community has shot and will ideally air all of a fourth season. Joel McHale will shamelessly promote the show on The Soup on E! And if nothing else, Community will live on in syndication on Comedy Central, which picked it up and plans to start airing reruns sometime after the new season starts. But let’s hope it sticks around for more than just that.

6 places ‘Community’ Creator Dan Harmon & Like-Minded Showrunners Can Shop a Comedy

It appears NBC’s former problem child, Dan Harmon may have found a new home. TV Guide reported earlier today that the former Community showrunner is close to a deal to bring an untitled multi-camera comedy pilot to Fox, his first major move since being booted from the NBC clever-but-cult-favorite comedy he created. Harmon is also hard at work in developing an animated series called Rick & Morty for Adult Swim.

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Since becoming a darling with fans and some of the media, New Girl has expanded Fox’s idea of what makes for a good comedy. For one, it’s NOT animated. Animated series are not a bad thing, but outside of Raising Hope, and before New Girl was a hit, the only comedies Fox seemed willing to develop were spinoffs of Family Guy. The climate is changing at Fox as former Community executive producers Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan are showrunners for Ben and Kate this fall, and Chris McKenna is writing for The Mindy Project. But here is what worries me as a fan of Harmon’s work. Fox didn’t know what to do to launch Breaking In the last two years. The niche, geek-friendly heist comedy starring Christian Slater never got a fair shot the first time around and its most endearing qualities were toned down or scrapped in Season 2. In order to stick with Fox, Harmon’s new show will have to be much more mainstream than Community ever was, or land a media darling on the same level as Zooey Deschanel to draw in curious viewers willing to wait for the show to find its stride.

Harmon is obviously not the easiest showrunner to work with, but there is something to be said about being original and that’s worth something if you’re in the business of programming television. If NBC doesn’t recognize how great Community was with him and what he brought to the show, despite it not being a draw for advertisers, we can assume a return to NBC in the near future is unlikely. Then again, we are talking about a network that had trouble deciding if it wanted to renew Whitney and still did it anyway.

While it’s great news to see Fox swooping in and giving Harmon another shot (he shot a pilot for them called Heat Vision and Jack in 1999) it made me think about where else Harmon or any similarly minded creator could realistically take a comedy in this current landscape of television? In addition to Fox, other networks are reportedly interested in working with Harmon, who is sure to have more ideas for unique television. It can’t be easy shopping geeky shows to networks, but we’ve come up with our list of potential suitors based on their track records and potential draws as a creator.

1. ABC
While NBC was once on the pulse of what America wanted in their comedies, ABC has quickly swooped in and filled that role with rapid fire shows like Modern Family and Happy Endings leading the way. But satirical and sharply written shows like Suburgatory and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23 give them some real bite too. The Neighbors is up this fall and will be as quirky a show as ABC has ever attempted in recent years. If they can make that show work, then they can handle anything and market anything Harmon could dream up. Plus they also have a lineup to sandwich any new concept he came up with and give it the best launch it could need.

2. FX or Adult Swim
Needing even fewer numbers, Harmon could be talking to FX where a creative talent like Harmon could make the show he wants and be edgy. Shows like The League, Louie, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Archer show the range at which a comedy could be defined. Something like Wilfred could appeal to the more intellectually crass, but the key to succeed on FX is to push the envelope, be edgy, be experimental, be a distinct voice even in the face of cancellation. For instance, Charlie Sheen’s new show Anger Management is essentially a network show that could easily be shown on any of the majors, but somehow feels mismatched at FX. Why do something so safe at FX? If Harmon wanted a marketing group that was as creative as he is, this is the place to go, but again, we’re not talking about needing to please 10 million viewers. He could get away with two million or maybe a bit less. It all comes down to what type of show Harmon wants to make and what kind of audience he’s trying to reach.

As for Adult Swim? If he wants to play with the shorter format, like say, Children’s Hospital or NTSF:SD:SUV, then that’s available too and would be a great place to expand with Rick & Morty. The problem with Adult Swim shows is it would air on late nights, to a smaller audience that would need a season or two to be built up and over time can sustain itself like Children’s Hospital. Casting choices may not be as widely known and that’s fine, good writing always comes through.

3. Premium Cable: HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and Starz
Taking the FX model for comedy and going one step further, Harmon could be courted by one of the above to make a show with limitless vision and restraints but be patient enough to weather a slow start, banking on critical acclaim. The benefit of one of these networks is that they could land that actor or ensemble to bring in subscribers. And maybe, just maybe, get recognized by the Emmys like how Girls, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Nurse Jackie have, that is, if the idea is novel enough. This would give Harmon a chance to really be daring and experimental and be applauded for it every step of the way no matter the returns. There’s no pressure to do #sixseasonsandamovie, just do the best work and leave when you want to. HBO works with Larry David, David Simon and Aaron Sorkin and give them absolute free reign to do with their shows as they please. What showrunner wouldn’t want that?

4. TBS or the CW
Don’t look now, but TBS is growing a stable of original comedies like Sullivan and Son, Men at Work and they just saved Cougartown. They’re also the network that houses Conan O’Brien. Their audiences and original programming tends to skew towards younger demographics and Harmon’s shows and ideas tend to do that also. The only problem is that not enough people watch TBS, or even know they’re doing original content. They’re an afterthought in the comedy circles. TBS shows feel like they should be on a major network but lack that home run quality to them. It’s not a bad thing but it’s just different.

Now, if you want to talk about skewing to a younger audience, The CW is where Harmon would go. Known for hour-long genre dramas, this is an unlikely landing spot for Harmon, however, shows on The CW require less of an audience to keep it afloat, and they still have the marketing power of Warner Brothers behind them. For example, they are trying to branch out with The Cult, a meta-horror show and it’s as violent as anything they’ve put out in recent years. I’m not saying different equals success, but why wouldn’t they try a comedy? They’re showing a propensity to diversify and even though they have no good history with comedies, The CW does offer the best of both worlds in being able to reach a wider (and international) audience but not needing the numbers to justify its existence every week.

5. CBS
Outside of The Big Bang Theory, CBS is as vanilla as they come. When they’re not using the Laurel and Hardy model within a marriage (King of Queens or Mike and Molly), they’re going for the easy jokes in 2 Broke Girls or Two and a Half Men. It’s the antithesis of what Harmon is known for, but people love them and that’s all that concerns them. They’re TV lineup is as solid as they come and they don’t need to develop new, ground-breaking shows every year when they can keep pumping out the same stuff, repackaged and their loyal audiences aren’t as picky. What makes CBS even in the conversation? They have gobs and gobs of money! Something just tells me it would be more of the same head-butting with Harmon and CBS execs though.

6. The Alternatives
If Harmon just wanted to be a viral sensation, then he could take his skills to any number of services like YouTube, Netflix, amongst the dozens of other players trying to create original content in this ever evolving mass called entertainment. Just like premium cable, it would be easily trackable and reach that younger demographic that’s entitled to pay nothing or very little for their entertainment. Harmon has already made a name for himself however so he doesn’t need to raise awareness of his creativity, he’d just be looking for a place to sustain his esoteric ideas. This would purely be a vanity project, but the new Arrested Development deal with Netflix shows that for the right show, they’re willing to shell out some money. As “cool” as this move would be, it just seems like it would be a step back for Harmon’s career.

Other in the mix: IFC, Comedy Central, AMC, MTV

So what networks do you think is in the talks with Harmon? Where would you like to see his future projects land, because whichever network steps up will certainly have a fit or mold to their lineup. Share your thoughts below.

Emmy Nominations – Who Got Served and Who Got Screwed Again

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The 2012 Emmy nominations have been announced and we’ve got all of the major categories listed as well as our initial, emotional reactions.

Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Boardwalk Empire
Homeland
Mad Men
Game of Thrones

Reaction: What’s to debate here? All deserve it to some degree. Even in a down season, Downton Abbey is still phenomenal television, even if it’s not your cup of tea. My only gripe is that last year Abbey was considered a Miniseries and now they take the place of an equally deserving show. Nothing is budging Breaking Bad or Mad Men, and there’s no one else more thrilled to see Homeland and Game of Thrones included. Boardwalk Empire belongs too, but again, Sons of Anarchy will sadly never be in the Emmy conversation for whatever reason even though this past season wasn’t its most consistent. There were series that were going to be left on the outside looking in and SOA, The Good Wife, The Walking Dead and Justified were left out this year.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife
Elizabeth Moss – Mad Men
Michelle Dockery – Downton Abbey
Kathy Bates – Harry’s Law
Claire Danes – Homeland
Glenn Close – Damages

Reaction: There is nothing but rage, absolute rage. Someone please take Bates out and place Sons of Anarchy‘s Katey Sagal! It’s absolute B.S. And where’s Sarah Michelle Gellar for playing dual roles in Ringer. I’m kidding about that last comment, people, I’m kidding.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Anna Gunn – Breaking Bad
Archie Panjabi – The Good Wife
Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey
Joanne Froggatt – Downton Abbey
Christina Hendricks – Mad Men
Christine Baranski – The Good Wife

Reaction: It’s a glorious day to see Anna Gunn break into the category and get some recognition for Skylar White. It’s well-deserved and been a long time coming. Downton Abbey was a bit too soapy for me this past season but I can see why Smith and Froggatt are nominated. The Good Wife is filled with great actresses up and down that cast so there was no doubt that Baranski and Panjabi were going to be nominated. No Joelle Carter this year, but if all goes right, next year could be her year knowing her potential storylines in Justified.

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Joan Cusack – Shameless
Uma Thurman – Smash
Julia Ormond – Mad Men
Loretta Devine – Grey’s Anatomy
Jean Smart – Harry’s Law
Martha Plimpton – The Good Wife

Reaction: Good choices, especialy with Plimpton and Cusack. Thurman was one of the few memorable things about Smash, but does anyone believe that show qualifies as a Drama series? It’s more like a comedy…

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Hugh Bonneville – Downton Abbey
Steve Buscemi – Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall – Dexter
Jon Hamm – Mad Men
Damien Lewis – Homeland

Reaction: This is one of the toughest categories year in and year out. Anything Homeland is hot, but Cranston is putting on a clinic each week on Breaking Bad. Hall is getting a bit long in the tooth in this category and is a bit outclassed, so I would have cheered more had Fringe’s John Noble took his place who is long overdue for some recognition for playing a dozen versions of his character Walter Bishop. We still love you, John. And Timothy Olyphant was also left out for what was his finest season as Raylan Givens.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Aaron Paul – Breaking Bad
Giancarlo Esposito – Breaking Bad
Brendan Coyle – Downton Abbey
Jim Carter – Downton Abbey
Jared Harris – Mad Men
Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones

Reaction: Again, a knockout category and I’m glad I don’t have a vote for this one. Harris had a season to remember, and I’ve never rooted for an antagonist before like I did with Esposito’s Gus Fring. What’s not to love about Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister? And both Carter and Coyle are strong on Abbey but I’m surprised not to see Alan Cumming from The Good Wife, also no Walton Goggins for Justified? Bah!

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Mark Margolis – Breaking Bad
Jeremy Davies – Justified
Jason Ritter – Parenthood
Ben Feldman – Mad Men
Dylan Baker – The Good Wife

Reaction: How the hell do you leave Neal McDonough off this list? What an absolute crime! He deserves the spot more than fellow Justified guest, Jeremy Davies who is great on the show, but McDonough was riveting. We’ll be rooting for Breaking Bad‘s Mark Margolis (DING! DING! DING!) who got to finally step out of the wheelchair and show people a great performance in the Breaking Bad episode, “Hermanos.” Ritter who got no respect in The Event, did remind people of his talent in Parenthood.

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie
American Horror Story
Game Change
Hatfields and McCoys
Luther
Sherlock

Reaction: Even with Downton Abbey leaving this category, it still stacked. BBC is well represented with Luther and Sherlock. American Horror Story qualified and that helped it not to get lost in the Drama series. I’m glad it’s recognized. Hatfields and McCoys made a late charge and it’s fresh on voters’ minds.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Connie Britton – American Horror Story
Ashley Judd – Missing
Nicole Kidman – Hemingway & Gellhorn
Julianne Moore – Game Change
Emma Thompson – The Song of Lunch (Masterpiece)

Reaction: Lots of reliable Academy and fan favorites make this category extremely competitive this season, but something tells me that Moore will get it for portraying Sarah Palin. Judd’s action role in the canceled Missing, AKA TV’s Taken, is a bit of a odd pick.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Kevin Costner – Hatfield & McCoys
Idris Elba – Luther
Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia
Woody Harrelson – Game Change
Bill Paxton – Hatfield & McCoys
Clive Owen – Hemmingway & Gellhorn

Reaction: – Connect yourself to Ernest Hemmingway in any way, shape or form and you will get attention. I’ll be rooting for either of the BBC representatives in Elba and Cumberbatch because both are so clearly distinct in the massive sea of good television.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Ed Harris –  Game Change
Denis O’Hare –  American Horror Story
David Strathairn –  Hemingway & Gellhorn
Martin Freeman – Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia
Tom Berenger – Hatfields & McCoys

Reaction: I’ll admit to seeing only Freeman and O’Hare, who I both enjoyed for different reasons. Knowing this Academy, Harris is the front runner in portraying McCain.

Outstanding Host in Reality TV
Tom Bergeron – Dancing With the Stars
Cat Deeley – So YOu Think You Can Dance
Phil Keoghan – The Amazing Race
Betty White – Off Their Rockers
Ryan Seacrest – American Idol

Reaction: I’m rooting for White. I am not afraid to admit that I watch this show and yes, I do think it’s funny. Also, does anyone really care about the rest of these puppets?

Outstanding Reality – Competition
Dancing With the Stars
The Amazing Race
Top Chef
So You Think You Can Dance
The Voice
Project Runway

Reaction: If we’re talking reality here, why is Dancing with the Stars here? The Voice could be roped into that strange celeb/reality blend too because in all honesty, our eyes are on what Christina Aguilera will wear and say next. The Amazing Race will be the odds on favorite, as usual, especially with Survivor being absent. I’ll still be rooting Top Chef and Project Runway but again, Survivor’s absence is a big surprise. Let’s just be thankful that American Idol wasn’t nominated.

Outstanding Variety Series
The Daily Show
Colbert Report
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Saturday Night Live
Real Time with Bill Maher
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Reaction: It’s the usual suspects except Conan O’Brien is missing. That move to TBS has not done much for Conan outside of security. It seems like everyone’s forgotten what network he’s moved to. I also don’t think this was one of SNL’s better years either.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Zooey Deschanel – New Girl
Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey – 30 Rock
Julia Louise-Dreyfus – VEEP
Lena Dunham -Girls
Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation
Melissa McCarthy – Mike and Molly

Reaction: The Academy is in love with Fey, Poehler, and McCarthy. Fey can do no wrong despite 30 Rock not currently being as great as the earlier seasons. Poehler and Parks and Rec probably had its best season, and it’s probably no coincidence that both that and Veep’s  leads were nominated in an election year. Well played HBO and NBC. I like Deschanel, but I’m surprised she got nominated, then again, I’m not. Dunham and Falco are no surprises here after their seasons but I feel like this category is missing some stronger candidates.  Also no Alison Brie and no Krysten Ritter… double sigh. Waitaminute, does anyone else notice how they got seven nominations when most others had only six? Lots of gripes are going to come at this one…

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik – The Big Bang Theory
Merritt Wever – Nurse Jackie
Kristen Wiig – Saturday Night Live
Sofia Vergara – Modern Family
Julie Bowen – Modern Family
Kathryn Joosten – Desperate Housewives

Reaction: When is the Academy going to grow some balls and nominate Kaitlin Olson for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? I’m eye-rolling at the Modern Family nods but mildly applauding Bialik’s nomination. Wiig is the only thing that saves SNL half the time and I have to admit that I never been desperate enough to tune into Housewives since the first season. Where are the girls of Happy Endings? Cheryl Hines or Allie Grant of Suburgatory? Bah! The comedy nominations get me pissed every single year.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Don Cheadle – House of Lies
Louis C.K. – Louie
Jon Cryer – Two and a Half Men
Larry David – Curb Your Enthusiasm
Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory
Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock

Reaction: People need to stop recognizing Two and a Half Men, seriously. Every time Cryer and this show are recognized, it shows why Hollywood keeps making brain dead comedies for the networks. Parsons, Baldwin, and David were almost written in months ago. Snooze. Here’s where Louis C.K. gets his nomination along with his writing and directing. Him winning would be an incredible upset knowing these voters, but there’s no one else who actually deserves it more than him.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Ed O’Neill – Modern Family
Jesse Tyler Ferguson – Modern Family
Ty Burrell – Modern Family
Eric Stonestreet – Modern Family
Bill Hader – SNL
Max Greenfield – New Girl

Reaction: Again, no disrespect to MF, but the Academy should be ashamed at nominating four goddmamn actors from one show in one category. There are other shows out there you know. Damon Wayans Jr. should be on this list. Also Nick Kroll from The League should be here and I also think that Garrett Dillahunt deserves a nomination for Raising Hope. Want another diss? How about James Van Der Beek on Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23. Hell, anyone but a Modern Family cast member–this season anyway.

Outstanding Comedy Series
Big Bang Theory
Curb Your ENthusiasm
30 Rock
VEEP
Modern Family
Girls

Reaction: Wow, Curb Your Enthusiasm made a resurgence in the comedy awards. Was hoping Louie would crack this category once and for all but somehow 30 Rock got yet another nomination even though it’s been sitting in park for the last few seasons. The same could be said about Modern Family. I’m not sure if Archer entered as a comedy or animated series, but it should be here nonetheless. Wilfred is a cutting edge show that requires more thought than just laughing straight jokes but it seems to go over many heads. Episodes was another snubbed victim. VEEP and Girls took away spots normally held by network comedies and that’s nice, but Louie still deserves to be in this category and so does Community. Booooooo!

Outstanding Animated Program
American Dad – Hot Water
The Penguins of Madagascar – The Return of the Revenge of Dr. Blowhole
Futurama – The Tip of the Zoidberg
Bob’s Burgers – BurgerBoss
The Simpsons – Holidays of Future Passed

Reaction: Where’s Archer? One episode of Archer is more entertaining than all of the nominees back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

Outstanding Short-Format Animated Program
Regular Show – Eggscellent
Adventure Time – Too Young
Disney Phineas and Ferb – The Doonkleberry Imperative
Robot Chicken – Fight Club Paradise
Mad – Kitchen Nightmare Before Christmas / How I Met Your Mummy

Reaction: Knowing that Adventure Time, Regular Show, Mad and Robot Chicken all have nominations this year but Sons of Anarchy doesn’t sums up the type of twisted turmoil happiness and anger bestowed on people like us who follow television.

 

Other notable nominations and notes:

  • In the comedy writing category, both Community (Remedial Chaos Theory) and Louie (Pregnant) got nominations. So essentially the Butterfly Effect and TV’s longest fart joke got nominated. See how random the Emmys can be?
  • Louis C.K. also got a directing nomination for “Duckling” which may have been the greatest half hour of television last year.
  • Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan got a directing nomination for the series climax, “Face Off”
  • Mad Men dominated the drama writing category with three nominations; Homeland picked up one too for its Pilot.
  • Nominated for Main Title Design: FX’s American Horror Story’s creepy opening, Cinemax’s Strike Back, Starz Magic City, PBS’ Great Expectation, and Fox’s New Girl that lasts less than 10 seconds. How is Game of Thrones not nominated?
  • Burt Reynolds did not get an Emmy nomination for Voice-Over performance in Archer. Dammit!

Well, those are our initial reactions, want to share yours? For a complete list of the Emmy Nominations including the technical categories, click here.

‘Homeland’, ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Sherlock’, ‘Community’ and Louis C.K. Among Winners at Critics’ Choice Television Awards

It may not have the prestige of the Emmys, but The 2nd Annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards took place Monday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and at least one TV awards ceremony got most of the winners right. Winners are voted by The Broadcast Television Journalists Association, AKA people who watch television for a living.

breaking bad walt and hank

Drama
In the often-debated drama categories, Showtime’s Homeland took Best Drama Series and Claire Danes took Best Actress. Representing AMC’s Breaking Bad were Bryan Cranston and Giancarlo Esposito, who both took home hardware for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor in a Drama respectively for their Season 4 battle royale. Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks picked up Best Supporting Actress, while Lucy Liu picked up the Best Guest Performer for her fine turn in TNT’s Southland.

Comedy
Network television picked up a great deal of the comedy awards but were more evenly distributed. Yes there are other comedies besides ABC’s Modern Family and media darling, Community picked up Best Comedy Series and FX’s do-it-all, Louis C.K. picked up Best Actor for Louie. There was a tie in the Best Actress in a Comedy Series shared between New Girl‘s Zooey Deschanel and Parks and Recreation‘s Amy Poehler. Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell won the Best Supporting Actress and Actor awards for their portrayal of suburban wannabe-hip parents of three teenagers in Modern Family. Paul Rudd’s Guest Performance on Parks and Recreation got him the prize as well.

sherlock

Animated/Movie/Mini-Series/Reality/Misc.
Another BuzzFocus favorite, Archer took home Best Animated Series for its best season yet, and BBC/PBS’s Sherlock, (Hear our podcast of Sherlock vs. the CBS pilot, Elementary), earned Best Movie/Miniseries and star Benedict Cumberbatch took home Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries. Julianne Moore brought hardware home for HBO for her portrayal of Sarah Palin in “Game Change”.

In the Most Exciting New Series, Fox’s The Following starring Kevin Bacon is catching the eye of many critics, beating out other nominees including Fox’s The Mindy Project, ABC’s Nashville, USA’s Political Animals, and HBO’s The Newsroom. Others receiving Critics’ Choice Awards were Anthony Boudain: No Reservations for Best Reality Series, The Voice for Best Reality Competition, Jimmy Fallon for Best Talk Show and Tom Bergeron and Cat Deeley shared the Best Reality Hosts.

We’ll soon see if this will be a barometer for the upcoming 2012 Emmy Nominations. Who are you rooting for?

Best (and Worst) Season Finales of 2011-2012 – Estrella Picks

It’s that time of year… network shows are going off the air (some for good) and the cable summer season is about to premiere. We decided to take a look at all of the season finales that have aired thus far and here are more of our staff picks for the best and the worst for the 2011-2012 season. Here are picks made by BuzzFocus Associate Editor-Community Manager Ernie Estrella:

(Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t seen these season finales!)

dont trust the b finale

Best: Don’t Trust The B—- in Apartment 23
Wanna know why this show worked and 2 Broke Girls didn’t? We had rudeness from Chloe (Krystin Ritter) and the corruption and naïveté of June (Dreama Walker) is plenty fun, but the supporting characters prove to be something more than what they are on the surface. James Van Der Beek destroys playing a caricature of himself and as Chloe’s catty BFF, but her stalker (Liza Lapira) and peeping neighbor (Michael Blaiklock) were pleasant surprises.

The finale was a pop culture mish mash where the Beek and Dean Cain battle over Dancing With the Stars dressing room, meanwhile June reached Chloe on a personal level after appealing to her geeky side when she found out that Chloe’s the subject of an underground comic book. The Beek stole every episode and this last one was no different. His character on Don’t Trust the B—-, is everything we could ever hope for in a friendship with a celebrity. Not only am I encouraged by this show’s future, ABC comedy lineup got a lot tougher to beat as far as the networks go.

revenge finale

Best: Revenge
Guilty or not, Revenge was pure pleasure and it had it all–even a rough patch. But Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) finally returned to early season form and was proactive, aggressive, and resourceful. I tuned in to see her dish out revenge, not plan a wedding and get lectured by her Japanese sensei. She rescued Nolan (Gabriel Mann), kicked White Haired Man’s (James Morrison) ass and got him to work for her, and Conrad (Henry Czerny) killed both of his mistress (Amber Valletta) and his ex-wife (Madeleine Stowe) in a plane bombing. Killing off Stowe’s character is an immense risk given how good she was being evil on TV. But that was the point, she saw the light and was about to clear David Clarke’s name and become one of the good guys.

But wait, there was more sugar in the gas tank! Just as Emily was going to come clean to Jack (Nick Wechsler), Amanda (Margarita Levieva) intercepted him with an unsurprising reveal of a baby bump. Oh and Emily’s mother is still alive too? Can’t wait to see what they do to try and top Season 1.  Now they could undermine this greatness and fall into outrageous soap box affair by revealing that both Victoria and Lydia survived the bombing; let’s hope not. Also, ABC, is it too late to drop the whole Declan Porter (Connor Paolo) character, pretty please?

EDITOR’S PICK: See What The SUMMER’S 20 MUST-SEE TV SHOWS Are In 2012

fringe season 4 finale

Best: Fringe
Unclear whether they would be given the hook or a lifeline made of Red Vines licorice sticks, the last six or seven episodes of Fringe were crafted like each was their last. There were some serious “oh s—” moments in the two-part “Brave New World,” but it’s hard to think of greater moments this season than Rebecca Mader getting resurrected with a giant syringe needle stuck into her temple, or Walter shooting Olivia in the middle of her forehead to prevent the universe from imploding, fulfilling the The Observer’s (Michael Cerveris) prophecy, then using medieval methods to get the bullet out. That was intense TV! And there was lots of Leonard Nimoy acting eeeevil too. Obviously, Olivia would have remained dead had Fringe not been renewed for a final season, but the glimpse into the future episode, “Letters of Transit” gave us a point to build to in Season 5. Fight the future, indeed!

community digital estate planning

Best: Community
It was tough to determine what exactly was the season finale of Community since NBC packaged three new episodes on the final night of Season 3. Since NBC and Sony are in the business of booting off creators, then I’m taking the 3-pack as a whole, purely out of spite. Now the actual last episode, “Introduction to Finality” pitted Jeff (Joel McHale) went against an old co-worker at the law firm representing Pierce (Chevy Chase) to make sure that Shirley (Yvette Brown) gets her equal share of the sandwich shop in a deal with the school. Had that been the actual last episode of the series, it would have been anticlimactic.

But before that, aired the amusing “The First Chang Dynasty” caper, which also ended the war Troy (Donald Glover) had with the Air Conditioning Vocational School and the well-conceived/executed 8-bit battle for Pierce’s inheritance with guest-star Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), another one of the season’s high notes. Unlike other shows that front or back-load their seasons, Community’s best efforts are sprinkled all through the season. “Digital Estate Planning” is right there with the Ken Burns War spoof, “Pillows and Blankets,” Shirley and Jeff’s redemptive “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism,” and the Butterfly Effect spoof, “Remedial Chaos Theory.” Enjoy all of season three folks, next season will likely be very different.

modern family s3 finale

Best: Modern Family
So who expected that ending? In one of the most gut-wrenching episodes, Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) did not get the baby they had been trying to get all season long. While sad, the adoption process is full of highs and lows and MF reminded us this painfully well. Whoever didn’t get caught up in their whirlwind season has no beating heart inside of them. To have it play out like a Mexican soap opera though, well, that’s just the absurdity of life imitating art. Gloria’s (Sofia Vergara) pregnancy adds another crazy dynamic to the show–a great reveal! Jay (Ed O’Neil) hasn’t had a newborn of his own in over 30 years so he can’t possibly take the news well. As for Gloria, just think of her six months pregnant, still trying to fit into mini-dresses and having mood swings. The one thing I didn’t care for Haley (Sarah Hyland) and brain dead Dylan (Reid Ewing) part deux; I’m hoping we’ve seen the last of him. Claire (Julie Bowen) would probably agree.

happy endings s2 finale

Best and Worst: Happy Endings
The actual finale entitled, “Kickball 2: The Kickening” did air in the UK. I’m so glad to see it air here in the states, OH WAIT, IT DIDN’T! When I say, worst, it means, WHERE THE HELL IS IT ABC? I adored Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 (see above) as much as the next person, but did it have to come at the expense of the Season 2 finale of Happy Endings? Who lops off finales of good TV shows? This just belongs in the bone head department of network decisions this year. As a lone straggler, how do they think they can air this after May sweeps and get ratings for it? Why hold it out in the first place? Was it just so that Apt. 23 ended before Memorial Day Weekend? That’s boooolsheet if it’s true. Why didn’t they plan out the airdates so that they could squeeze in another episode in December?

The Season 2 finale we settled for is “Four Weddings and a Funeral (Minus Three Weddings and One Funeral),” a fantastic episode that included Max (Adam Pally) reluctantly reuniting with his old band, a Madonna cover band to perform at Derrick and Eric’s big day, and Jane (Eliza Coupe) desperately trying to get into the wedding party, if just to have a better gift bag. If ABC wanted to end on a wedding, well then I guess they got their wish, and the Skype table is one of the funniest bits I’ve seen in a wedding show. I think it will start a real trend for people who cannot make the trip to a wedding. Even funnier was Penny (Casey Wilson) being stuck at it and meeting a potential keeper in Chris, played by Brian Austin Green. Despite the finale gaffe, Happy Endings was renewed for 22 episodes (23 if they want to save Kickball 2 for Season 3), so hopefully we’ll be able to see if Penny did find true love at the Skype Table.

new girl season 1 finale

Worst: New Girl
I don’t have any problem admitting that I liked New Girl from the start and as time went on, more would jump on the wagon. Making the show bigger than Zooey Deschanel (that’s Jess!) was a big part of that. Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Cece’s (Hannah Simone) slow growing relationship solidified that. That’s what made this finale even more disappointing. Everyone wants to look back at those last episodes and see their lasting effect on seasons that follow. So careful watchers had to roll their eyes at the first mention of Nick (Jake M. Johnson) moving out of the apartment. As if the show’s second biggest character was really going to leave. It belonged in the history of bad TV bluffs. Schmidt’s you-deserve-better-than-me act to Cece induced shouts of “LAME!” And Winston (Lamorne Morris) has a fear of the dark? C’mon! It was cute though seeing Jess say, “Beep-Beep” at the coyote but this was a subpar effort. Now, if I were giving grades out for seasons, New Girl would get a solid B– but that finale was an epic fail.

EDITOR’S PICK: Read Alan Danzis’ Best and Worst Season Finales of 2011-2012

two broke girls season 1 finale

Worst: 2 Broke Girls
After having a blast with the first half, 2 Broke Girls got old, real fast. Maybe it was the undeveloped clichés used on as supporting characters, or Jennifer Coolidge’s “horrible-horrible” Russian accent as a mid-season casting power up. The finale’s big moment was a recycled situation where the girls are pimping their homemade cupcakes out of a bathroom. This time it was to Martha Stewart.  Both times it was pretty disgusting if you think about it. Then again, so did having a horse eating and crapping less than 10 feet away from where Max cooked her cupcakes was repulsive too. And does anyone else find it ironic that hipsters were made fun of all the time, but is there anything more hipster than the deluxe cupcake rage?

The luster wore off on this CBS comedy at the midpoint and the girls have yet to save up $1000 for their business. A meeting with Stewart would have been more significant if they were in position to actually do something as a result of her approval but this show looks like it was spinning its wheels. Seeing Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs) try to raise money in a variety of ways was the only interesting part of the show, well that and Caroline trying to reconnect with her incarcerated father. Unless you like shallow stereotypes in the diner or are engulfed by the floundering cupcake business–I’ve grown tired of both–there’s simply not much else to entice me back for another season.

the office season 8 finale

The Worst: The Office
The Office is like the alley dog that can’t walk, can’t see and everyone is too kind to just put it out of its misery; actually, if you ask me it should’ve been taken out to the shed and shot three years ago. I didn’t cry at Steve Carrell’s departure last season; I would’ve liked to congratulate him for getting off this sinking ship, but wow, did I really missed him after a full season with James Spader’s Robert California. The finale saw Cali mercifully ousted as CEO, oh and Angela’s baby is probably Dwight’s and they’re sneaking around the office again to make out and have sex? It was a bad case of déjà vu.

NBC continues to drag this rotting corpse on TV year after year (The Office UK left on top at two seasons) but it’s proof that they are desperate for anything that gets ratings. A ninth season is in the works despite Paul Lieberstein (who also plays Toby) is leaving as showrunner, B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling are leaving for Fox, and Rainn Wilson (with Lieberstein) is likely to be gone to launch a Dwight Schrute “down on the farm” spinoff! 164 episodes and counting, folks. Lawd, when will it ever end?

Agree or disagree with these picks? Share your thoughts below as well as some of your best and worst season finales.

‘Community’ Showrunner Dan Harmon Replaced; Addresses Fans And Sets Record Straight

It’s only been about five minutes that Community fans were able to catch their breathe from the triple-episode Season 3 finale extravaganza with a beam of hope that Season 4, though abbreviated, would be one step closer to #sixseasonsandamovie. There were rumblings that there would be a big change between seasons, one that might affect the on-screen chemistry of the cast -rumors of Chevy Chase leaving-or worse yet, creator and showrunner, Dan Harmon would be replaced. Surely everything would work itself out, right? Because viewers got their fourth season and the last three episodes were incredibly funny, right?

Well, as the saying goes, you have to give a little to get a little, and the sacrifice was Harmon. David Guarascio and Moses Port (Happy Endings and Aliens in America) will take over as the new showrunners.

Harmon took to his Tumblr account in the wee hours of Saturday morning to confirm the news and explain (in his own charming way) how Sony Television replaced him and NBC will make it sound much nicer than what really happened. These excerpts are quoted directly from Harmon’s last posting:

community dan harmon 2 wc

“A few hours ago, I landed in Los Angeles, turned on my phone, and confirmed what you already know. Sony Pictures Television is replacing me as showrunner on Community, with two seasoned fellows that I’m sure are quite nice – actually, I have it on good authority they’re quite nice, because they once created a show and cast my good friend Jeff Davis on it, so how bad can they be.”

“Why’d Sony want me gone? I can’t answer that because I’ve been in as much contact with them as you have. They literally haven’t called me since the season four pickup, so their reasons for replacing me are clearly none of my business. Community is their property, I only own ten percent of it, and I kind of don’t want to hear what their complaints are because I’m sure it would hurt my feelings even more now that I’d be listening for free.”

“I do want to correct a couple points of spin, now that I’m free to do so:”

“The important one is this quote from Bob Greenblatt in which he says he’s sure I’m going to be involved somehow, something like that. That’s a misquote. I think he meant to say he’s sure cookies are yummy, because he’s never called me once in the entire duration of his employment at NBC. He didn’t call me to say he was starting to work there, he didn’t call me to say I was no longer working there and he definitely didn’t call to ask if I was going to be involved. I’m not saying it’s wrong for him to have bigger fish to fry, I’m just saying, NBC is not a credible source of All News Dan Harmon.”

It goes on to say that news of him signing on as an executive consultant would be just to smooth things over with the public and he would basically be rendered powerless in that role, unable to have any creative control over story or scripts. He added this:

“I’m not saying you can’t make a good version of Community without me, but I am definitely saying that you can’t make my version of it unless I have the option of saying “it has to be like this or I quit” roughly 8 times a day.”

He goes on in great lengths to illustrate this, and does so funnily I might add (seriously, go read it in its entirety), talking about masturbating, playing Prototype 2, denying any incriminating photos that may suddenly surface, and forgetting to call his mother on Mother’s Day. But the bottom line:

“I’m not running Community for season 4. They replaced me. Them’s the facts.”

community dan harmon 1

Could this change of showrunners really been the fallout of Harmon’s spat with cast member Chevy Chase? Or was it just the final nail in the coffin for Harmon who has repeatedly clashed with Sony (and NBC) over the direction of the show?

Vulture’s Josef Adalian breaks down the clashes and their affects thoroughly and cites a source that praises Harmon’s creativity but questions his management of Community, one of the tasks of a showrunner.

NBC and Sony have both wanted Harmon to make the show more accessible to general audiences but many would argue that’s part of the charm of the show. Look at the final three episodes of this past season, you’ll not find a wider variety pack in any other television show (an episode done completely in the style of an 8-bit video game, a heist episode, and a makeshift legal episode over a minor technicality). It works beautifully as is. You either get it, or you don’t. It appears that those above Harmon were ready to move on as his deal with Sony was up and they simply did not want to deal with him any longer than they had to.

Most TV viewers don’t care or even know what a showrunner is outside of regular readers of sites like ours, and turnover at the position is not necessarily a rare thing, or even a bad thing in some cases. But can Community survive without Harmon? Maybe. He is such a big part of what has defined Community the first three seasons. It’s undeniable. Some believe that the showrunner gives life to a show, and his or her voice(s) speaks through the show. Now that that voice is gone, what will Community say or sound like?

How loud will the voice of Twitter be when the alternative is no Community at all, or gulp, the new version is still funny? I’m sure hardcore fans won’t sit still but I don’t think much more can be done. Believe me, I have plenty of doubts, but fans do lose out on this one as we have no idea what changes are in store to make this more palpable to a broader audience. And I’m certainly not wishing for Season 4 to fail. But it certainly won’t be the same. News of the change will bring a heightened level of curiosity, that’s for sure and the online community will be waiting to pounce seconds after the Season 4 premiere.

With respect to David Guarascio and Moses Port, making the show appeal to a general audience may give a boost in the beginning of season 4, but will a new direction keep its most loyal viewers? The curiosity factor will be a factor now, and if the new runners make funny television and most importantly deliver higher ratings, then the only thing we will be left wondering is “What would Dan Harmon have done?”

Sony made the gamble and perhaps all of this inability to see eye-to-eye is the reason why it only got 13 episodes in the fall. If it fails, then NBC has a full lineup of mid-season replacements ready to take its place. They won’t even blink an eye. The Friday night reschedule isn’t exactly the best endorsement, but if Grimm can pull 4-5 million viewers, why can’t Community? That’s going to be the reasoning of the network. And if it works well out of the gates, then NBC and Sony can pat themselves on the shoulder by ordering another short order of nine episodes for the Winter-Spring season. Or give viewers a Season 5 and string them along next year. They can say that they saved the boat from sinking by throwing over the dead weight (Harmon) and sailing forward. It’s going to be a lot of wait and see.

We shall see just how committed they are to the show when marketing and ads begin to roll out for the fall season. Grimm somehow defied all logic and got its modest viewership (with numbers Community would die to have) despite not being supported with a ton of marketing. Friday night shows tend to get that lack of support.

Will you still want #SixSeasonsandaMovie if the seasons 4-6 and the movie has nothing to do with Dan Harmon? Do you think it will survive without Harmon’s creative spin? How mad are you at Sony Television right now? Still like that move to Friday? Share your thoughts (and emotion) below!

Photos taken by Lucky Bronson.

NBC Unveils 2012 Fall Schedule and What That Means for ‘Community’

NBC had plenty to share with its Upfronts presentation today, sharing trailers for their new shows and lineup, which has been shifted considerably. Let’s take a look at NBC’s official fall schedule and how it affects returning shows:

NBC FALL 2012-13 SCHEDULE
*New programs in UPPER CASE; all times are eastern standard time

MONDAY
8-10 p.m. – “The Voice”
10-11 p.m. – “REVOLUTION”

TUESDAY
8-9 p.m. -“The Voice”
9-9:30 p.m. – “GO ON”
9:30-10 p.m. – “THE NEW NORMAL”
10-11 p.m. – “Parenthood”

WEDNESDAY
8-8:30 p.m. – “ANIMAL PRACTICE”
8:30-9 p.m. – “GUYS WITH KIDS”
9-10 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
10-11 p.m. – “CHICAGO FIRE”

THURSDAY
8-8:30 p.m. – “30 Rock”
8:30-9 p.m. – “Up All Night”
9-9:30 p.m. – “The Office”
9:30-10 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation”
10-11 p.m. – “Rock Center with Brian Williams”

FRIDAY
8-8:30 p.m. – “Whitney”
8:30-9 p.m. – “Community”
9-10 p.m. – “Grimm”
10-11 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”

SATURDAY
Encore programming

revolution

Monday remains the talent portion of the lineup where The Voice will open each week accompanied with a Tuesday night results show. Joining The Voice on Monday nights is J.J. Abram’s new sci-fi series, Revolution taking the 10pm time slot. Will this be THE ONE sci-fi show NBC to succeed where so many (The Event, V, Heroes) have failed?

Wednesday looks like it’s the big day for new series for NBC with Law & Order: SVU being the only returning show. New drama series Chicago Fire seems like a logical partner for SVU.

As for Thursday, NBC’s most successful night of programming, after much tinkering with the formula the network has decided to scrap the third hour of comedy and in fact take out any original scripted show and putting Rock Center with Brian Williams in the 10PM time slot.

Up All Night makes it into the Thursday night block too displacing Community to Friday nights. To me, this is a vote of confidence for the Christina Applegate-Will Arnett comedy to be sandwiched in between 30 Rock and The Office. That move is going to be a controversial one as Friday night is a typical seal of death for a television show but I can understand the thinking behind it. Community has never been able to beat CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, so move it out of there. It’s never really benefitted from 30 Rock or The Office either so if it’s going to have a loyal audience then it will move to Friday nights where all the cult shows seem to survive.

dan harmon community creator
Photo taken by Lucky Bronson.

If Grimm survived, launching on Friday night, then Community has a chance to stand out too, on a night where it will go up against Fox’s Touch, which has also moved from Thursdays to Fridays, and likely the CW’s Nikita. ABC and CBS have not cemented their fall lineups yet. If Friday is the day of the week where the most devoted TV viewers stay in (like fans of Fox’s Fringe) then perhaps Community can grow its numbers to the size of what Grimm was able to pull (4.5-6 million) in its first season. If not, well, it’s on Friday, right?

Having Whitney as a lead-in is not helping Community’s cause, but maybe they can share some of Grimm’s friday night action, which held its own against CW’s Supernatural and Fox’s Fringe – two semi-popular genre shows with strong and loyal viewers. The final hurdle team Community needs to leap over is finding out if showrunner Dan Harmon will return for Season 4. Much has been made about his clash with cast member Chevy Chase but the question on whether he returns or not, may be related to matters that have not been made public. The show has survived many things, but I would find it hard to believe it could thrive if the show’s creator left.

So Community fans, do you fear Friday nights or the threat of creator Dan Harmon (or Chevy Chase) leaving?

Renewals, Pickups and Cancellations Roundup for ABC, NBC, CW and AMC

Dozens of shows learned their fate this week so we’re going to run down the latest as they came in on Friday evening. The headline news included series such as Nikita, Happy Endings, Parks & Rec, Body of Proof, and yes, even Whitney being renewed while NBC’s Awake and Harry’s Law were not.

Make note of how many 13-episode seasons were ordered. The thinking may be that the networks are learning that the cable model does work better, because it 1) allows more shows to be added to the lineup and 2) keeps the interest going through the fall instead of trying to carry the momentum through the holiday breaks. That doesn’t give fans many episodes to be excited about, but in the case of Community, any word of renewal, regardless of number was good news.

Networks could also be thinking the strategy behind 13-episode seasons could be to air during the fall and if ratings quickly justify an additional order of 9 or more episodes, then they have that option, or they could use the winter months to release mid-season replacements.

happy endings cast

ABC
In one of its best moves of the day (and also long-awaited), ABC renewed Happy Endings for a third, 22-episode season. The fast paced comedy got the “ending” fans wanted and will join others already given the thumbs up including Modern Family, Suburgatory, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Grey’s Anatomy, Castle, and The Middle. Don’t Trust The B–— in Apt. 23 and Scandal were renewed earlier today, as did bubble shows, Private Practice and Body of Proof, which each got 13 episode renewals. For Private Practice it is expected to be its last season, while Body of Proof proved to have international appeal–a key factor in many other renewals (Fox’s Touch being another one) around the other networks. Last Man Standing was the last to get its expected renewal at the end of Friday. Cougar Town is moving to TBS.

ABC Pilots ordered to series were 666 Park Ave. with Terry O’Quinn; Zero Hour with Anthony Edwards and Michael Nyqvist; crime series Red Widow (formerly Penoza) with Lee Tergesen and Radha Mitchell; How to Live With Your Parents For the Rest of Your Life with Sarah Chalke, Elizabeth Perkins and Brad Garrett; Family Tools (formerly Red Man Van, White Van Man) with Leah Remini, Kyle Bornheimer, and J.K. Simmons; Last Resort with Andre Braugher, Dichen Lachmen, Autumn Reeser, and Scott Speedman; Neighbors with Jami Gertz; and Malibu Country with Reba McEntire and Lily Tomlin.

Those canceled were Ashley Judd’s Taken-like thriller The Missing, CGB, Pan Am, and The River.

NBC
The morning after its season finale, Parks & Rec was given a fifth season and a full order of 22 episodes. Hell froze over because Whitney was officially picked up. Up All Night like Community will be given 13 episodes. NBC has been giving its newer comedies and bubble shows 13 episodes to make room for ten (!) new shows that were picked up for series. Reality series Fashion Star also got a second season because of its immediate advertiser friendly format, especially for Macy’s, H&M, and Saks Fifth Avenue.  The Office was also given another season.

Those new series ordered to series include, 1600 Penn with Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman; Animal Practice with Justin Kirk; Go On with Matthew Perry Laura Benanti and Khary Payton; Guys With Kids with Jesse Bradford and produced by Jimmy Fallon; Dane Cook alpha male comedy Next Caller; Save Me with Anne Heche, the fire-fighting action drama Chicago Fire; a Meagan Good high society soap Infamous; Do No Harm with Steven Pasquale and Phylicia Rashad, and J.J. Abrams’ Revolution starring Billy Burke and Giancarlo Esposito.

One of those unlucky at the Peacock was David E. Kelley’s Harry’s Law, which did not reach a third season. This was a surprise considering it was drawing in an average of 8.8 million viewers. Those are numbers that NBC could use and while it wasn’t a hit with the coveted younger 18-40 demographic, the lead actor, Kathy Bates is in her early 60s and the audience skewed to her fans.

awake banner

Other cancellations included BFF, Are You There, Chelsea, Bent, and procedural mind-bender Awake, which many had hoped would be given another chance. Awake will be missed by its strongest advocates online, as it gave NBC a quality drama with subtle sci-fi elements allowing it to toe the line of genre and police procedural, but it could never generate the ratings needed to make the grade. It was one of the most anticipated series in NBC’s 2011-2012 rollout but lost steam when it was held over as a mid-season replacement. NBC keeps trying to make good dramas, but they just cut one.

CW
It was all love and drama at the CW as it gave Gossip Girl one last season. It might be an abbreviated season though as there’s been no word on how long the season will be. 13 more episodes may be all it gets. Rachel Bilson and Hart of Dixie were picked up for a second season and so was Maggie Q and Nikita. Both shows will get a full order of 22 episodes. Nikita is one of those shows that struggles on Friday nights, but the genre show has plenty of international appeal. These announcements come off the heels of the renewals of its strongest shows, The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural and 90210, which were given more life on Thursday. CW shows are getting additional viewings online and DVRs have been friendly to the network too.

nikita

New series pickups include a record five scripted series for the CW: Sex & The City prequel, The Carrie Diaries, mystery drama Cult, medical drama First Cut, the Beauty and the Beast reboot with Kristin Kreuk, and DC Comics’ property Green Arrow-based action series Arrow. With the Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen and The Avengers’ Hawkeye, archers are officially thriving in Hollywood.

But the CW wasn’t so charitable Friday. Given the swift swing of the axe were two first-season shows with poor ratings, modern noir soap Ringer and The Secret Circle despite Kevin Williamson’s involvement.

AMC
The cable network “where story matters,” finally discovered the beauty of low-cost reality shows and gave second seasons to Kevin Smith’s
Comic Book Men, which was basically Pawn Stars in a comic shop, and The Walking Dead companion talk show, The Talking Dead with Chris Hardwick.

NBC Gives ‘Community’ Fans 13 Reasons To Celebrate With Season 4 Order

dan harmon

Community creator Dan Harmon can relax for at least the summer, his cast and crew are welcomed back for Season 4. TV Line is reporting that NBC has been picked up for a 13-episode fourth season, which means it’s likely going to return for just the fall of 2012 or winter 2013. We can’t imagine them splitting up 13 episodes over a whole network season.

Now we can see if Annie (Alison Brie) and Jeff (Joel McHale) get together, what major Troy chooses and will he choose Britta (Gillian Jacobs) or Abed (Danny Pudi)… both perhaps(?), and maybe, just maybe Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Pierce (Chevy Chase) get that darn sandwich shop off the ground. And Señor Chang (Ken Jeong)? Well, let’s see what happens at the end of Season 3 first.

We would have loved to have seen a full season ordered but we won’t be greedy. If it is shown in the fall, that does open the possibility, if the audience grows that an additional nine or more episodes could be ordered. Perhaps this is the best way they can maintain momentum, by airing for 13 straight weeks, leaving no chance for viewers to fall off or walk away. Nielsen ratings were all over the place but the online support was evident and fans found a variety of ways to see the show whether it was live or on DVR. I don’t expect the campaigning to stop as fans are still going to be hoping for six seasons and a movie, but the most important thing to do is grow the audience and give these 13 episodes all the live support and attention.

Oh yeah, and you can start your support with tonight’s episode!

No word yet on the fate of The Office and Parks and Recreation but both are expected to return to join NBC’s 2012-2013 lineup that includes Community (Again-Yay!), 30 Rock, Parenthood, Smash, Grimm, and Law & Order: SVU.

Photo taken by Lucky Bronson.