Tag Archives: JJ Abrams

TV Newsround: Dollhouse Reopens, Prison Break Locked Down, Fringe Benefits

VIEWERS in the UK will get their first glimpse of Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon‘s new show Dollhouse on Tuesday (May 19) when the Sci Fi Channel starts to air the show.

It stars Eliza Dushku as Echo, one of many “actives”, or “dolls”, people who have had their own personality and memories erased so that they can be reprogrammed with new identities and skills to serve rich clients who hire them out from the mysterious, illegal Dollhouse.

It’s a very dark show at heart – although the dolls sometimes help people by being programmed as bodyguards or hostage negotiators, they are just as likely to be hired out to perform robberies or, most controversially, for sexual liaisons.

The 12-episode first season (a 13th episode was produced and will be included on the DVD release but no US broadcast is currently planned) ended last week in the US after a run on the Fox networkplagued by poor ratings, which raised fears that the show was sure to suffer the same fate as Whedon’s last Fox show, Firefly, which was axed after a single season.

However, against all odds, multiple TV news sources are reporting that the show has been given a 13-episode second season. So far all reports are unofficial, though Fox are expected to confirm the renewal on Monday at their upfronts presentation.

Apparently, though the low ratings are a worry (some say that Dollhouse will be the lowest-rated new show ever to get a second season), other factors, such as projected DVD sales and relatively high DVR numbers (people who record the show and watch it later) and online viewing figures, have helped tip the balance in favour of renewal.

Also said to be a big factor is the fact that the 13th episode was shot on a shoestring budget and is said to have helped convince the network that the show’s quality can be maintained on a lower budget, making it somewhat more cost-effective despite the low viewing figures.

Personally, I’m somewhat ambivalent about Dollhouse. It’s a decent show which, after a very shaky, slow start, kicked into high gear around episode six. However, the season-one finale was a major disappointment, for my money, after the build up. And a badly written and acted one at that.

Hopefully, it will get better in season two – but I’d much rather have seen its low-rated Fox stablemate Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles get a third season. A decision on that show is yet to be made but, sadly, a third season seems highly unlikely.

TALKING of Fox, the network’s one-time darling Prison Break has finally run out of steam. Except it hasn’t

The final two episodes of season four, the show’s last (which UK viewers will also see this coming Tuesday, May 19, on Sky One), aired on Friday. Except they didn’t.

You see, a further special two-hour episode – Prison Break: The Final Break – has already been produced.

Without giving too much away, Fridays final episode ended with a somewhat shocking “Four Years Later” epilogue. The Final Break, we are told, will reveal the events that happened during that four-year gap, while also closing a few of the other plot holes left gaping at the end of Friday’s finale.

Viewers in the US will have to wait for the DVD release in July to see this special post-finale finale – but the news is better for UK viewers, as Sky1 will be airing it a week on Wednesday (May 27).

IT has been confirmed that Fringe, the new sci-fi detective drama from J.J. Abrams which completed it’s first season on Fox last week in the US and is currently airing on Sky1 in the UK, will be back later in the year for a second season.

The show, somewhat reminiscent of The X-Files, is about a Boston-based FBI agent (Anna Torv) investigating “The Pattern”, a series of possibly connected crimes involving unorthodox “fringe science“. She’s aided by a mentally-unbalanced scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble), who may or may not have been involved in scientific research in the past that evolved into The Pattern, and his estranged son (Joshua Jackson).

It’s another show that started off a little slowly – initially held together mainly by a fantastic performance from Noble – but has gone from strength to strength as the series progressed and the underlying conspiracy began to emerge.

Unlike The X-Files, which had alien invasion at the heart of its mythology, it appears that a threat from an alternate reality may be at the centre of the Fringestory.

Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy guest stars in the season finale in a pivotal role.


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The Show WILL Go On…

So far, we’ve looked at the TV shows that have already been cancelled this season and the ones with their future hanging in the balance.

So to round off our mid-season round-up, here’s some better news for the new year, as we take a look at the TV shows that have a brighter future (at least for now).

Mad Men (AMC): Possibly the finest TV show currently in production, this character-led drama about advertising executives in early-60s new York simply oozes quality. Series creator and main writer Matthew Weiner has said that the show will run for five seasons (network permitting) and cover 10 years in the lives of the characters.

Season two ended its run earlier this year, with ratings that grew from season one (almost doubled, in fact). AMC have ordered a third season – however Weiner reportedly has been playing hardball, looking for a pay rise to reflect the critical and ratings success of the show, and whether he will still be in charge when it returns is somewhat unclear.

Dexter (Showtime): Superior drama, with a vein of dark humour running through it, starring Six Feet Under’s Michael C Hall as a serial killer who works a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police department. Season three recently ended its run and the network has committed to at least two further seasons, of 12 episodes each.

Caprica (SciFi): This prequel to the highly acclaimed Battlestar Galactica re-imagining was in development hell for a long time and looked doomed but the SciFi network in the US has finally given the green light to the show after a pilot episode was made. It’s unlikely to hit our screens until 2010, however.

Billed as more of a family drama than a space opera, Caprica is set 51 years before the Cylon attack that kicked off the Battlestar Galactica story and tells the story of two families (one of them led by the father of future BSG commander William Adama and grandfather 0f Apollo) and their role in the creation of the Cylons.

Survivors (BBC): The remake/re-imagining of the classic 1970s British show – created by Terry Nation (the man who created Blake’s 7– The Cathode Ray Choob’s all-time favourite TV show – and Doctor Who‘s deadliest foes, the Daleks) – about the survivors of a plague that wipes out 99.9% of the human race has been renewed for a second 6-part season.

Burn Notice (USA): This Miami-set tongue-in-cheek drama, about a spy inexplicably cast adrift by his bosses and left to fend for himself, has earned a 16-episode third-season order from the USA network.

Fringe (Fox): The new show from Lost/Alias’s JJ Abrams, about an FBI agent who teams up with a brilliant but mentally unstable and amoral scientist and his estranged son to investigate crimes involving cutting-edge fringe science (concepts that blur the boundary between science fact and science fiction,such as telepathy, levitation, reanimation, genetic mutation), which seem to be part of a wider global conspiracy.

Solid, if unremarkable, viewing figures ensured that the show was picked up for a full 22-episode season order early on in its run.

Sanctuary (SciFi): Endearingly old-fashioned storytelling and cost-cutting use of green-screen technologyto digitally create the locations are the trademarks of this show, which began life as a series of webisodes broadcast over the internet before being picked up by the American SciFi TV network.

Stargate SG1’s Amanda Tapping stars as the enigmatic, long-lived English doctor Helen Magnus, who is in charge of the titular sanctuary that seeks out monsters, freaks and other “abnormals” (some human, some not) to either aid or imprison them depending on how hostile or dangerous they are.

It’s not a flashy or very sophisticated (in terms of writing) show – in many ways it harks back to simpler times when story-telling on TV did not have to be so cynical – but it’s hard to dislike and Tapping’s character makes for a enthralling lead.

SciFi were happy enough with it to order a second 13-episode season.

Life On Mars (ABC): US remake of the acclaimed BBC original about a present day police officer who has an accident and wakes up in the 1970s. After a dismal pilot version (filmed in Los Angeles and set in Chicago), a radical overhaul saw most of the cast replaced (with Harvey Keitel replacing Colm Meaney as Gene Hunt and The Sopranos’ Michael Imperioli brought in) and the action (and filming) switched to New York.

The new pilot was a huge improvement. The ongoing series has closely closely followed the plots and story arc of the UK version but with hints that the underlying mythology (and the explanation for Sam Tyler’s time-shift) may be very different to what was ultimately revealed in the BBC show.

The initial 13-episode order has been increased by four and when the show returns from the festive break, it will move from Thursday nights to Wednesdays, paired up with the reinvigorated Lost, which network chiefs at ABC hopes will help boost Life On Mars’ mediocre ratings. If the strategy works, a second season could be on the cards.

True Blood (HBO): Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball reunited with HBO for this series, based on a series of books, about a telepathic waitress (Anna Paquin) who falls in love with a vampire (the show is set in Louisiana in contemporary America, where vampires have come out of closet and co-exist, somewhat uneasily, with humans).

Ratings were very poor to begin with but grew steadily during the 12-episode first season, and the show is now one of HBO’s biggest ratings-grabbers. A second season has been ordered.

Kath & Kim (NBC): Another US remake, this time of the superior Aussie original. It hasn’t been the total disaster you might expect if you are a fan of the Australian show. However, the harder edges of the original have been softened somewhat for the American audience and casting the relatively slim, beautiful Selma Blair as Kim does seem to miss the point of the character somewhat. In any case, ratings, though slightly mediocre, were good enough for NBC to up the order fr the season from the initial  13 episodes to a full 22. Whether the show will return for a second season remains to be seen.

Worst Week (CBS): Yet more US remake-ry, this time of the BBC comedy The Worst Week Of My Life, about an accident-prone groom-to-be. Middling ratings but CBS ordered an extra three episodes (for a total of 16) and this remains a possibility for a second season.

Sons of Anarchy (F/X): Drama about a gang of outlaw bikers, starring Hellboy‘s Ron Perlman. First season has completed its
13-episode run and a second has been ordered.

Samantha Who? (ABC): Somewhat mediocre sitcom starring former Married With Children babe Christina Applegate as a woman who gets hit by a car, loses her memory and discovers that she wasn’t a very nice person before the accident. ABC has ordered an additional seven episodes for season 2, bringing the total to 20.

Californication (Showtime): David Duchovny vehicle about a charming but troubled writer, has been renewed for a third season.

Entourage (HBO): A sixth season has been ordered.

The Mentalist (CBS): Exceptionally high viewing figures for this crime drama – about a former phony psychic who now uses his brilliant powers of observation to help the cops solve crimes – won it an early full-season pick-up and a second season looks certain.

Psych (USA): A fourth season has been ordered of this comedy drama, which is also about a fake psychic who helps the police.

Gary Unmarried (CBS): The new Jay Mohr comedy received an order for an additional seven episodes (plus two further scripts) taking it to at least 20 episodes in total.

My Boys (TBS): Comedy about a female sports writer in Chicago, and the men in her life. Nine-episode third season has been ordered.

Medium (NBC): Season five of the supernatural crime drama, starring Patricia Arquette, gets an extra six episodes, for a total of 19.

Monk (USA): The “dramedy” about an obsessive-compulsive private detective is to get an eighth and final season.

Privileged (CW): Drama about a wannabe journalist who ends up as a tutor for spoilt rich kids. The CW network ordered an extra 5 episodes, bringing season one up to 18 in all.

90210 (CW): The updated follow-up to 90s teen drama Beverly Hills, 90210 has been a big ratings hit for the CW network, who ordered a full 22-episode season after only three episodes had aired.


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