ALL HAIL THE SUPREME

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…and RIP Nan.

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FLASHBACK: STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP

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During my screenwriting class last semester, our professor showed us the teaser to Aaron Sorkin’s pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and I was in awe. First of all, they introduce us to flustered production assistant, scurrying around the studio moments before the broadcast of a fictional variety show – think SNL on the West Coast…and on Fridays…and on a fictional network, NBS. Anyways, this PA turns out to be none other than my favorite actress at the moment, Merritt Wever! But back in 2006, she didn’t have her Emmy.

Anyway, the show follows veteran comedy duo Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) as they are called back to the variety show that helped define their careers. Matt is somewhat hesitant to return to Studio 60 because his ex, Harriett Hayes (Sarah Paulson) is now the show’s star, alongside Simon Stiles (D.L. Hughley) and Tom Jeter (Nate Corddrey).

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To complicate matters, NBS has just hired a new president, Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet), an attractive, young, sensible woman who doesn’t have the social wits about her. Sound like another Aaron Sorkin character to you? Sloan Sabbith, anyone? And that’s not the only Sorkin staple he throws into this show. The power outage right before airtime? The same problem plagues The Newsroom staff before News Night with Will McAvoy. The show also executes Sorkin’s famous “walk and talk” scenes, as made famous in The West Wing.

The combination of writing in acting in this show is surprisingly succinct for an NBC drama, but the lack of ratings and the promising comedy 30 Rock kept Studio 60 from being renewed for a second season. In its one season, however, Sarah Paulson was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, a well-deserved nod that put the show on the map too late in the game.

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If you’re interested in watching, you’ll have a tough time finding it online. I found the complete series at Newbury Comics for nine bucks – quite the bargain compared to my subsequent Chipotle lunch.

Enter the COVEN

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It’s witching hour, my friends. But stow away your brooms, return your wands, and hide your Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, because American Horror Story: Coven leaves all the fun-loved, preconceived notions of witchcraft at the gates.
In the third installment of Ryan Murphy’s twisted anthology series, our favorite actors return to modern day – ditching the dreadful Massachusetts insane asylum for the bustling streets of New Orleans.
This story opens on Taissa Farmiga as Zoe – just your average, sexually deprived teenage girl, whose kiss kills her boyfriend. In a flash, she’s sent on a train to a boarding school for witches – and don’t worry, they saved themselves by making a Harry Potter joke. Cordilia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) resides over the school and teaches the girls how to channel and control their powers.

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Zoe’s classmates provide some much needed comic relief to this dark drama. Emma Roberts essentially plays herself, an actress whose telekinetic super powers have been too grand for the limelight. Her cover story is that she’s in rehab for a heroine addiction – believable. Precious herself, Gabourey Sidibe, plays Queenie, the human voodoo doll. This smack-talking, street-smart girl wound up at the school after she plunged her arm into a frialator, burning her obscenely rude customer to blisters. The last houseguest is AHS alum Jamie Brewer, who played the sweet-loving Addie in season one. This season, the actress plays a clairvoyant child, who knows too much for her own good.

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The queen herself, Jessica Lange, has traded her nun garb for some more traditional clothes. Her name is Fiona Goode (a reference to Salem, no doubt) and she is “The Supreme.” On her quest for eternal life, Fiona decides to dig up the corpse of Madame LaLaurie, played by the terrifyingly wicked Kathy Bates. It seems like Lange has finally met her match. But the power struggle continues, and her name is Angela Bassett, who plays the voodoo, Marie Laveau. Much like Queenie, we learn that Laveau is a direct descendent of Tituba, the slave from Barbados who was one of the first accused witches in Salem.

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And then there’s Lily Rabe. As last season’s fan favorite, Sister Mary Eunice, the shy, obedient nun turned kinky, Devil-possessed entity, Rabe has gained quite the cult following. In this season, her character is no saner. Misty Day is a witch with the power of resurrection. After being burnt at the stake, Misty rises and makes it her first mission to bring back some alligators to kill their hunters. She derives her inspiration from Stevie Nicks, who she calls “the white witch.” I really would have loved to be a fly on the wall during Ryan Murphy’s chat with the singer’s manger…
Also returning this season is Evan Peters, who, along with Lange, has appeared in the most episodes of the anthology series. Instead of being the outcast he played in season one, he plays a frat brother named Kyle Spencer (who he probably would have gunned down as Tate). Kyle and Zoe meet at a party, as if Tate and Violet are meeting in another life, just as Kyle’s frat brothers are graphically raping Madison. Kyle breaks up the horrific scene and the brothers scramble back onto their bus, but not before Madison regains consciousness and uses her power to flip their bus, instantly killing seven of the nine passengers, including one of the star-crossed lovers, Kyle.

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Cue the episode entitled “Boy Parts,” in which the girls attach the best limbs to Kyle’s head, just as Misty comes along to turn Kyle into a monster worthy of Dr. Frankenstein.
Meanwhile, the seemingly innocent Cordilia Foxx learns that her hormones are not helping her fertility, so her husband urges her to turn to magic. In a steamy sex rite, involving black powder, multiple herbs, fire, and hatching snake eggs, the two attempt to conceive a baby. Will it work? Probably. Will there be consequences because they used magic? Definitely.

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While this season has planted some strong roots, I’m a little disappointed that the show has moved on to incorporate big names like Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidibe, and Emma Roberts. Part of what has made AHS the show it has become is the no name actors making a niche for themselves. Where are Naomi Grossman and Chloë Sevigny, who played fan favorites Pepper and Shelley in Asylum? How about James Cromwell? His performance as Dr. Arthur Arden won him an Emmy and definitely should have won him a spot in Murphy’s script. Other notably absent series regulars are Zachary Quinto and Dylan McDermott, but Quinto’s run on Broadway and McDermott’s new role on CBS’s Hostages probably negated any hopes of their return to AHS. But with the set up this show has, there’s no reason why they can’t come back for the show’s fourth season. Or fifth. Or eleventh – it’s possible, right?

Mireille Enos and My On-Again, Off-Again Relationship with THE KILLING

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After Mireille Enos’ very convincing performance in the box office smash-hit World War Z, my on-again, off-again relationship with The Killing is back in full swing.

Although Enos’ role as Karin Lane, wife to U.N. globetrotter Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), allots her little face time, her ability to steal the early scenes of the apocalypse is uncanny.

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Much like her character Sarah Linden in The Killing, Karin appears to be a sheepish soccer mom of two, but she’s equipped with quite the roundhouse kick when the world falls to pieces.

The second season of the AMC crime drama is a continuation of season one’s Rosie Larson case, and the pieces are slowly, but surely, falling into place. Most critics wrote the show off in its second season, after becoming entranced with the surreal vibes from the first season. For this reason, there was a long hiatus to ultimately produced the show’s third season, currently airing Sunday nights on AMC – a nice liaison between the end of Mad Men and the beginning of Breaking Bad‘s final, eight episode stretch.

However, I like the “Big Brother” feeling that surrounds the second season of The Killing. By turning Linden against the police department and practically writing off Mitch Larson, the show is able to better delve into the Linden/Holder relationship and explore Sarah’s troubled past with Reggie and her various foster families.

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The female detective is becoming an increasingly prominent role in television these days. From Claire Danes in Homeland to Elisabeth Moss in Top of the Lake to Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story: Asylum (shown above, left to right), these women all share a similar troubled past and an extreme work ethic, which leaves them almost void of emotion. However, I feel as though Enos most powerfully conveys her detachment from herself and her family as the Rosie Larsen case comes to consume her and her son’s life.

Funny enough, the three women above are likely to each take home an Emmy in their respective categories – Danes for Actress in a Drama Series, Moss for Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series, and Paulson for Supporting Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series. Poor Enos. Maybe the writers should make Sarah develop a psychiatric disorder to get the voters’ attention!

CRITICS’ CHOICE TELEVISION AWARDS 2013

Last night, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) presented the third annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards. The always funny Retta of Parks and Recreation hosted the night of triumphs and snubs. Although winner Patton Oswald (Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for Parks and Recreation) noted that the ceremony was only being broadcasted on UStream to “Internet shut-ins,” I highly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the acceptance speeches.

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When the nominations were released last month, I tweeted my support for three underdogs: Eden Sher for The Middle, Alex Karpovsky for Girls, and Elisabeth Moss for Top of the Lake. Probably because the critics read my tweets, both Sher and Moss took home the awards in their respective categories. However, Sher tied for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series with the blown-out-of-proportion The Big Bang Theory star, Kaley Cuoco. Sher noted that this was her second happiest moment, “right after [her] bat mitzvah.” As for Moss, who basically robbed Jessica Lange of the award for Best Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series, she joked that she had no one from Mad Men to thank, since this was her first ever big-scale recognition as an actor.

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Lange’s co-stars, Sarah Paulson and Zachary Quinto, redeemed her loss by snagging their well-deserved awards for Best Supporting Actress and Actor in a Movie or Mini-Series, respectively, for their bone-chilling roles in FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum.

Although I have yet to see HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, I wasn’t too keen on it taking home the awards for Best Movie or Mini-Series and Best Actor in a Movie or Mini-Series (Michael Douglas). I was pulling for AHS to take home the big award and for Benedict Cumberbatch to receive some sort of recognition for his hauntingly detached portrayal of Christopher Tietjens in HBO’s Parade’s End. Let’s hope the Emmys don’t get it wrong, too.

As far as drama goes, HBO’s Game of Thrones and AMC’s Breaking Bad tied for Best Drama Series. And while I think a tie is sort of a cop-out, both shows have been groundbreaking in the past year and deserve the recognition.

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While Bryan Cranston added another trophy to his collection for his work on Breaking Bad, newcomer Tatiana Maslany, from BBC America’s Orphan Black, scored her first acting award. Although I’ve yet to see this show, her win over the likes of Claire Danes, Elisabeth Moss (the night’s only double-nominee), and Julianna Margulies prove that I’m missing out on the next best thing.

The Supporting Actor and Actress in a Drama Series never go to who I want, which is why Michael Cudlitz of TNT’s Southland and Monica Potter of NBC’s Parenthood took home the awards. I didn’t know anyone watched these shows, let alone the critics!

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And in terms of the comedy awards, I don’t really want to talk about it. The Big Bang Theory took home three-too-many awards, but the one silver lining was Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ win for HBO’s Veep, in which she portrays a fictional Vice President of the United States. Louie C.K. took home the award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series and his countless wins keep reminding me to watch his show.

A common theme throughout the night’s acceptance speeches was the diversification of television today. No longer are the four broadcast networks the kings. Stations like AMC and FX are continuing to define television, and newcomers like the Sundance Channel and even Netflix are following in their footsteps.

While the ceremony was underway, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences posted the ballots for the 2013 Emmy Awards. The nomination period closes on June 28 and the ceremony will take place September 22, just in time for fall programming.

Flashback: AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM

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With the mini-series categories blowing up within the past year, I have taken it upon myself to use my very abundant amount of time to explore these amazing artistic and creative feats. Most recently, I have checked myself into Briarcliff Manor – the setting for FX’s smash-hit American Horror Story: Asylum. And the things I saw were…well, horrifying – in a good way.

From the ironically deranged mind of Glee’s Ryan Murphy comes the second installment of the AHS anthology, the first of which followed a modern day family moving into a haunted house in LA. In the second chapter, however, Murphy quite beautifully recycles his actors to tell the story of an insane asylum in the 1960s and all of its inhabitants.

Once a prestigious tuberculosis ward, the manor was converted to a monastery-run home for the criminally insane. Owned by papal hopeful Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes from Shakespeare in Love), the asylum is under the rule of a Nurse Ratchet-type, Sister Jude, played by the incomparable, two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange, who played Constance in the first installment.

The overambitious reporter, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), attempts to come in contact with one of Briarcliff’s patients, a murderer by the name of Bloody Face, but her naivety gets her placed in the nuthouse herself.

Accused murderer Kit Walker (Evan Peters, who played Tate in the first installment) is locked up for Bloody Face’s crimes – but did he do it?

With the help of Dr. Oliver Thredson (Star Trek and Heroes’ Zachary Quinto), both Lana and Kit plan their escape from Sister Jude’s rule.

The show’s many religious undertones and gruesome sights of the conditions within the asylum create a much more ominous sense of horror, whereas the first season relies a lot on cheap, “jumpy” scares and Connie Britton just being afraid.

The second season continued the tradition of a Romeo and Juliet-type relationship that Tate and Violet have in the first season. This time around, former Nazi and asylum doctor Arthur Arden and the Devil-possessed Sister Mary Eunice meet their tragic fate. Ironically, it’s the ex-Nazi that initiates their incineration.

The show also plays well on the Cold War hysteria that has become a timestamp for the asylum generation. At the time, the threat of extraterrestrial war was just as real as that of the atomic bomb.

However, my one criticism for this amazing and addictive mini-series is that the ending seemed too dragged out. Not to spoil anything specific, I feel like they turn society and the media into the antagonist, which I didn’t feel was necessarily what Murphy intended to showcase. I would have much preferred they stuck to the “curiosity killed the cat” theme, but hey – who am I to say so.

If you have yet to delve into the series, please do yourself a favor and watch it. You can find the first season on Netflix and you can get a little creative when viewing the second.

Production of American Horror Story: Coven is now in the works in glorious New Orleans. Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, and Evan Peters are set to return amongst others, Joining the cast will be Kathy Bates (Fried Green Tomatoes), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire), and Emma Roberts (Scream 4).