Katharine McPhee goes from Starlet to ‘Depravity’

Truth be told, I enjoyed NBC’s short-lived series Smash. Perhaps not the second season, save for a few great songs from Jennifer Hudson, but the first season touched on the unsung world of Broadway and off-Broadway theater.

Now that series Katharine McPhee is back on the casting blocks, she’s looking to shake the good girl, Sandra Bullock image and do something a little more dicey. In Smash, McPhee played the small town girl who tries to make it big through a theatre staging of Marilyn Monroe.

McPhee is attached to Paul Tamasy’s new thriller, Depravity, which was scribed by Dennis Lehane.
Depravity centers on “a group of roommates accidentally kill an innocent man they thought was a thrill killer.”

If you’re looking to make the jump from TV to Film, or remind Hollywood that you used to do features, thrillers are always a great way to go. The shooting schedules aren’t as demanding as TV. Also small screen actors can usually nab themselves a lead role since thrillers are often looking for “star” talent at a fraction of the cost.

Kiefer Sutherland did Mirrors during his 24 era, while Michael C. Hall did Gamer during Dexter‘s heyday. While both actors had bigger names than McPhee, doing those films kept their names floating around the feature film circle – a good thing when TV shows run out of steam.

[Source: Deadline]

Smash Season 2 Episode 3: Tale of Jimmy cry-to-much and fair maiden Julia

“The Dramaturg” was a mix of too much predictability, an overdose of emo and an overall lack of personality. At least Jennifer Hudson was there to remind us that this show is more about great musical numbers and less about an engrossing plot. On the positive side, we actually had a slight twist this week thanks to the most despised character on the show rearing his backstabbing head.

Let’s start with the basics. Where’s the conflict?
Talk about a bland episode. Absolutely nothing happened. We watched Jennifer get fondled by a few dancers and then saw her mom talk smack to Derek. Julia had a few students tell her how much her play sucked, which she already knew. And Ivy and Karen basically made up. They even got to caress each other on stage, while Ms. Hudson sang. Yay. But who cares?

Peter. That’s who. Julia’s friend Peter helps her to see the flaws in “Bombshell” by staging a mock reading with his students. Within thirty minutes, he was already asking her to go back to his place so that they could work together away from the prying eyes of Tom. We all know what that means. Peter and Julia are going to make love. Sex…love… same difference on Smash. The only person on the show getting more action than Derek is Julia. Now that her marriage is over, we won’t need to see her son or husband anymore and that gives Julia room to play playwright damsel.

You want conflict… then meet Jimmy cry-too-much.
He’s supposed to be this hardcore guy from Brooklyn, but all he does is storm off in a hissy fit every chance he gets. Well, at least he got a kiss from Karen, while apparently doped up on some unnamed drug cocktail. Their movie kiss was about as artificial as they come. She closed her eyes and when their lips parted, he was all “wowwwww.” Too bad the fireworks only went off in his head because watching it was a snooze fest of obvious. Sometimes tears do work. Jimmy’s many temper tantrums eventually led to Jennifer Hudson singing one of his songs. Good for him.

So what was good about this episode?
The closing scene. The back-and-forth Rand battle may be a bore, but we always loved seeing Eileen throw a drink on her husband in season one. Now, Eileen is supposedly out of the picture so that her husband can take over “Bombshell.” With a management change, we should start seeing a nice shakeup with the cast, which is missing now that the Ivy-Karen rivalry is done.

But what really made the closing scene interesting was that we found out that Ellis was behind Eileen’s problems. That smug little bastard (and not a bastard in a good way like John Snow on Game of Thrones) ratted out Eileen. At the end of “The Dramaturg,” Jerry cuts a check made out to Ellis. So we now know Ellis tipped Jerry off about Eileen’s private funding. Even though Nick is screwed, thanks to his mob connections, hopefully he’ll get one more episode to confront Ellis and punch him in the face. If not, then lets pray Ellis doesn’t come back into the mix. He hasn’t physically appeared in Smash Season 2, and I’m fine if it stays that way.

9 Focus Points on the Smash Season 2 Premiere

Smash returns to NBC for its second season tonight, with a 2-hour premiere. After seeing watching the first two hours, I can attest that the beating heart of this soap-opera drama is still alive and well with Broadway’s “Bombshell” black sheep.

Without giving away too many spoilers here are a few Focus Points on tonight’s 2-hour tv-theatre extravaganza.

Jennifer Hudson is amazing
Jennifer Hudson makes her Smash debut as Veronica Moore, a Tony Award winner who offers Karen (Katharine McPhee) some sage advice. In addition to a riveting solo performance of “Momma makes three,” Hudson ushers Karen into the hearts of Broadway’s elite with a duet.

Ivy Fallout
If you expected something dramatic from the Ivy pill-popping cut at the end of Smash‘s frosh season, think again. Season 2 takes place after the ensemble has returned to New York. Ivy is still a key character so you won’t see any drug-induced actor depression. She’s a little more humble this season even if she’s treated like the bastard stepchild.

Karen vs Ivy
We’ll see an interesting change in the Karen vs. Ivy relationship. Ivy’s done a lot of growing since she slept with Karen’s fiancee, but forgiveness takes time — a lot of time.

Julia (Debra Messing) and Frank (Brian d’Arcy James)
Can Julia and Frank really get past Julia’s indiscretions? Just ask yourself, would it be a soap opera if they could? Julia may be trying her best to patch things up, but it all boils down to Frank to make the decision. Can he really live as second fiddle to Julia’s stage family?

Eileen (Anjelica Huston) has to lawyer up
The problems with “Bombshell” extend beyond cast, crew and creative difficulties. Eileen has been struggling with financing the film since the beginning. At the start of Season 2, she’ll face new problems that may force her into some unholy allegiances.

There’s a NEW Julia and Tom (Christian Borle) Creative Team
Meet Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan) and Kyle (Andy Mientus), two bartender friends, who dream of becoming the next big theatre hit. Unfortunately, Jimmy has a chip on his shoulder, named Brooklyn School of Hard Knocks.

Margo Martindale makes a guest appearance
Around the office, we’re all a part of the Margo Martindale fan club ever since she appeared as Mags Bennett on Justified. We’ll see her in the second hour of tonight’s 2-hour premiere. It’s a small role, but she’ll have a “fun” scene with Tom and Julia.

Tom still spineless
Ah, Tom. If he could only tell the truth at the right time or keep secrets when they should stay buried, he might not find himself engulfed outlandish lies once a season. The lies never last long because as spineless as Tom is, he has the best intentions in mind.

Derek’s womanizing catches up with him
Derek beds just about every girl with a heartbeat, but his sexual indiscretions will catch up with him this season. Unfortunately, we’ve been seeing sparkles between Karen and Derek since her first “home audition.” Sorry Karen, you can’t teach an old-dog director new tricks.

The Smash 2-hour season premiere starts at 9/8C on NBC.

Emmy Nominations – Who Got Served and Who Got Screwed Again

Emmys Banner

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.

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.

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.

‘Smash’ – Episode 7: ‘The Workshop’ – Bernadette Peters Drops By To Sing A Song

So, the workshop happened. And Michael (Will Chase) is out as Joe DiMaggio. (Bye-bye, Michael. No more sneaking kisses with Julia in plain sight.) He wasn’t gelling with the show — “Marylin: The Musical” that it, not Smash — and he had to go. His performance was suffering from the torrid affair. And the writing process itself had become stifled since Julia’s head wasn’t in the game. But she’s more important than Michael so he was shown the door.

(And frankly, the scene where Julia sits in for Ivy as Michael goes over lines was pretty dumb — and pretty on the nose. So, an upside is that we’ll never have to see a moment like that again.)

Anyway, most of the episode not involving the workshop is devoted to Ivy (Megan Hilty) and her Broadway diva mom played by Bernadette Peters (for you non-theatre folks, she was in The Jerk). It’s a fun guest-starring role where Peters gets to belt out “Everything is Coming Up Roses” to the delight of the enter ensemble and then have it out with Ivy with regards to her career and love. It’s not groundbreaking but it’s a nice coloring in of Hilty’s character, especially since she’s dangerously close into becoming a cartoon character — though through no fault of the actress. She’s been pretty game.

In the meantime, Eileen (Anjelica Huston) continues to flirt with the handsome bartender, Karen (Katharine McPhee) starts working with a music producer while Tom (Christian Borle) finds out that Sam (Leslie Odom, Jr.) is gay. Minor developments that might blossom into more in later episodes. Also minor diversions from the big event: The Workshop.

And oh boy was it a thrilling sequence. Wonderfully filmed and edited. It came close to the rush one experiences when watching a sports film. And like Rocky Balboa, the ensemble doesn’t necessarily KO the big bad competition (in this case, expectations) but they live for another day. Well, everyone except for Michael. Sucks to be him but that’s showbiz.

But overall, this was an okay episode. Nothing groundbreaking happened. Nothing that will push this show into the same league as Mad Men or the now-dead Luck. It’s still entertaining but it is “missing the whole story” (to grab a phrase from one of the songs in the musical). Hopefully, Smash will get the needed injection or jolt it needs after the big cast shakeup.

‘Smash’ Episodes 5 & 6 – Sex, Lies, and Temper Tantrums

Hey, there Smash fans! Sorry for the delay. Been busy at work on my own creative endeavors so I didn’t get the opportunity to catch last week’s “Let’s Be Bad” until last night, before what turned out to be it’s sequel “Chemistry”. I can tell you first hand that putting a production together from scratch, dealing with budget problems, clashing egos, etc. can make anyone sympathize with people like Eileen (Anjelica Huston) and even Derek (Jack Davenport). Stuff can go downhill real fast but the opposite is also true. When good things happen, they happen as quick as lightening.

So, what are those good things? Guess as of last night, Eileen has potential investors interested in at least checking out a workshop of “Marilyn: The Musical”. That’s a pretty place to be compared to where she was at a couple of episodes ago. And hey, she’s now hanging out in dive bars and playing hunting video games (with Ellis nonetheless) so she’s also having some fun for a change which is pretty awesome because Huston is a fantastic perform and the more emotions she gets to play, the more us viewers will be rewarded with awesomeness.

Karen (Katharine McPhee) is slowly coming into her own, both as a sexy vixen and as a performer. When she’s not flirting it up with her boyfriend’s work rivals or belting out hot version of pop songs in her underwear or at a kid’s bar mitzvah, she’s being put into a position to “understudy” Ivy (Megan Hilty). Derek wants her to keep the diva on her toes, which means that Karen will occasionally “coach” Ivy in the ways of Marilyn Monroe. And when Ivy’s voice gives way — and her medication makes her paranoid and loopy — Tom (Christian Borle) preps her to take the star’s place for the workshop. Though that last part doesn’t come to fruition, it just means that the creative team is slowly realizing that Karen is a great back up for the ill-tempered Ivy — especially after she blew up at Derek and revealed their affair in front of the entire cast.

The Karen vs. Ivy plot continues to come close to the edge of camp and on-the-nose cat-fighting but, as I’ve stated before, the passive aggressiveness keeps this plot interesting. It’s when Ivy blunty states her dislike for Karen (as it tends to happen) that my eyes roll back into my head then reach for the remote. Plus, let’s be honest: who in their right mind is rooting for Ivy at this point? I’m Team Karen all the way! (And more of her singing in her bra and shorts, please!)

There are a couple of personal developments. Tom grows closer to his lawyer boyfriend, getting past “eh” sex and meeting his high-class (snotty) friends while Karen grows a tad jealous of Dev’s (Raza Jeffrey) New York Times pal who just happens to be a very attracted Iranian-American girl. But the biggest development of all is, of course, Julia (Debra Messing) re-starting her affair with Michael (Will Chase). They kiss at the end of “Let’s Be Bad” and then knock boots (is that still a thing kids say these days?) by the end of “Chemistry”. This comes as no shock for viewers — though the affair has been tackled in a refreshingly subdued manner — but it does come as a shock to Leo (Emory Cohen, who has gotten slightly better during the young run of the show), who saw his mom kiss who he thought was a family friend.

Shit getting real and will continue to do so as the ensemble fast approach the first workshop. Things may still fall apart. Chances are, they will. It’s how showbiz continues to live and breathe.

‘Smash’ Episode 4: ‘The Cost of Art’ – Passive Aggressive Cat Fight!

So, we’re finally getting to see the first round of the Smash plot that I so dreaded: the Ivy (Megan Hilty) vs. Karen (Katharine McPhee) title card fight. My worries centered around the countless cliches we had already seen before with regards to two women vying for the same goal, let alone two actresses vying for the same role. Would we get to see the girls snipe at each other during rehearsal in “The Cost of Art”? Would they get into a hair-pulling cat fight by the episode’s end?

Luckily, the answer was a resounding “NO!”. As a matter of fact, their rivalry was more passive aggressive than a bloodsport. And it starts small enough that it was almost unsuspecting. Ivy is kind of peeved that no one from the creative team had given her the head’s up that Karen was cast in the Ensemble. Karen is still pissed that she didn’t get the role of Marilyn, and gets even more pissed when she finds out from the gossiping dancers that Ivy has been sleeping with Derek (Jack Davenport). Both of their uneasiness manifests itself in rehearsal when Karen — in a surprisingly understated manner — upstages Ivy during the musical numbers, distracting Ivy from giving it her all. Ivy points out that “others” are distracting her, never really calling Karen out. Karen is reprimanded and pulled out of a couple of those numbers.

Both actresses have each other on their radars but they haven’t yet had it out face-to-face. That, in turn, is a godsend to the show, which desperately needed to break free from its own crutches of cliches. And while Ivy doesn’t outright berate Karen, members of the Ensemble do. (They soon come around to her and teach her how to play nice with the star by being a good background dancer.) It’s that passive aggressiveness that creates the tension in place of what would have been the stupid Ivy vs. Karen bout. So, a thumbs up to the main storyline! (Plus anytime where the writers and producers of Smash give McPhee a musical number where she shimmies and shakes is A-OK in my book!)

Also on the plus side, Anjelica Huston’s Eileen gets to do other things than throw drinks in her ex-husband’s face! Instead, she finds out that she can’t take the $200,000 needed to invest in the musical from her and her ex’s account and begins to scramble for the funds. She eventually decides to sell her Edgar Degas sketch, first to an auction house (which needs her husband’s approval) then to a Nick Jonas-type television star (played by Nick Jonas himself) who is looking to diversify his portfolio. It’s a decent plot line that resolves itself immediately but there a huge problem lies here: Nick Jonas can’t act for shit. His scenes with Huston are pretty much the David vs. Goliath of acting chops, but if David was super-sickly looking, had no weapons, and had poor aim. He is simply no match for the Oscar winner, which only goes to show the old adage: Anjelica Huston is a much better actress than most people in the world, and is exceptionally better than a damn Jonas brother. (Sorry, Disney Channel fans.)

There are a couple of minor storylines: Julia (Debra Messing) might still be in love with Michael (Will Chase) but she still hates Ellis (Jaime Cepero) while Tom (Christian Borle) goes out on a blind date with a very successful lawyer. They’re okay filler — though the matter of factness of a gay date on network television is pretty awesome — for an otherwise okay episode.

And while I may think that “The Cost of Art” was just okay, there is still something very compelling about everything that is going on in Smash. I — like the characters on the show — do hope that “Marilyn” is a success. That warrants continued viewing.

‘Smash’ Episode 3: ‘Enter Mr. DiMaggio’ – The Hit NBC Series Starts To Have a Bit of Fun

So, it’s starting to look like Smash is slowly settling into the groove that it’s been looking for the past two episodes. For the most part, it’s a rather reassuring sign that it is doing so this early in its run. There are still some trouble spots but characters are starting to be fleshed out in a manner that is not off putting. And matters that might have slipped into ham-fisted cliches haven’t yet. That’s very, very good — especially for a network show.

“Enter Mr. DiMaggio” may not win any awards for the best episode of television ever but it lays down a couple of new, much needed ground rules that will help steer Smash for the rest of the season. Firstly, that Ellis (Jaime Cepero) isn’t 100% annoying nor 100% conniving or even 100% gay (I really thought he was). He wants credit for giving the creators the idea to make a musical about Marilyn Monroe but he’s a passive aggressive prick about it. It touches the edges of soap opera-like characterization but Cepero, and the writers, know well enough to make him somewhat sympathetic. We’re not necessarily rooting for him but shit happens behind the scenes of showbiz and he just wants what he thinks is his.

Secondly, Debra Messing’s Julia stars in the main plot, for the first time, and it doesn’t involve that dumb adoption storyline. Instead, she’s going through a momentary — and relevant — crisis: Eileen (Anjelica Huston) and Derek (Jack Davenport) want to cast Michael Swift (Will Chase) in the role of Joe DiMaggio but Julia is very uneasy about it. Turns out, she cheated on her stay-at-home husband with Michael a couple of years ago and those feelings may have not dissipated. The back-and-forth Julia has throughout the episode turns her into a complex, compelling figure, away from the main drama of the “which girl will get the lead role?” which had dominated the last two episodes. (Remember last week when I wrote that I was glad that they got that plot over with very early? This is a reason for my sentiment.)

What I enjoyed most about this particular plot so far was Michael’s introduction: signing an overwrought rendition of “Grenade” in what looked like to be an awful but still Broadway-style production of a Bruno Mars jukebox musical. The audience applauding that performance says more about the typical New York theatre goer than the actors in the show. It’s the little things like that that ring true. (I doubt anyone at home enjoyed that number.)

There are still a couple of clunky things that happen in “Enter Mr. DiMaggio”, mostly on the personal front:

-Eileen is still battling her ex-husband (Michael Cristofer) over their estate and he’s still messing with her mind when it comes to the show.

-Derek is still sleeping with Ivy (Megan Hilty). Even though she’s still on the fence of whether or not she got the role by using her body, Derek has now slipped into “douche” mode with regards to the relationship. A cliche.

-Karen (Katharine McPhee) returns to Iowa, briefly, for a friend’s bridal shower where she kills it at karaoke. It’s a minor plot that isn’t very necessary, other than to showcase McPhee’s voice. (Though the Alpha Male Brit-off between Derek and Raza Jaffrey’s Dev before Karen’s trip was pretty amusing.)

So, the kinks still need to be ironed out. It’s early enough to not worry. And the fact that Smash is slowly coloring its characters with rich, complex details is a very, very good sign.