Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kristen Moves into a "House of Lies"

Kristen Bell(ex-"Elle") just got cast as a "razor-sharp Ivy League graduate" in Showtime's "House of Lies," which makes us wonder: Does she just keep getting more ruthless with each role? Yes, she was very sweet as Veronica Mars, but we like her way better when she's making Jason Segel cry while naked or screaming at Adam Scott through a Bluetooth headset.

So it sounds as if her part in this new dark comedy from Matthew Carnahan ("Dirt") fits her well. Described as "a subversive, scathing look at a self-loathing management consultant from a top-tier firm," "House of Lies" stars Don Cheadle as Marty, a "highly successful, cutthroat consultant who is never above using any means (or anyone) necessary to get his clients the information they want," and finds Bell in the role of Jeannie Van Der Hooven, an ambitious woman who works at Marty's firm.
Based on Martin Kihn's tell-all book "House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time," the series has also tapped Ben Schwartz ("Parks and Recreation") and Josh Lawson ("Romantically Challenged") as employees at Marty's firm, and Glynn Turman ("In Treatment") as Marty's father. We look forward to seeing Bell crush them all beneath her sensible career-lady shoes.

-- Melissa Maerz

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ali's Close Call!

Actress ALI LARTER almost didn't make it to the hospital in time for the birth of her first child last month (Dec10) after mudslides closed off her neighbourhood in Los Angeles.
The Heroes star recently gave birth to little Theodore Hayes MacArthur, her first child with her husband, writer/actor Hayes MacArthur.

She has now shown off her son in the new issue of Us Weekly magazine - but admits mudslides caused by heavy rain in California nearly stopped her reaching the hospital when she went into labour.
Larter says, "During the L.A. mudslides, our street was closed. Four hours after the fireman opened it, I was in labour!"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NBC Developing Comic-Based Drama Starring 'Heroes' Alum Milo Ventimiglia

EXCLUSIVE: He just starred on an NBC drama series with comic book mythology. Now Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia is back at the network as the star/executive producer of Rest, a new drama project based on a comic book series he co-created.

Ventimiglia will executive produce the project, which has received a script commitment with film/TV/Broadway producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Footloose, Drop Dead Diva). Also executive producing are Ventimiglia's producing partner at Divide Pictures Russ Cundiff and Marc Silvestri and Matt Hawkins from Top Cow, the comic book publisher behind Rest. Writer Philip Levens (Smallville), who will also executive produce, is adapting the comic, which was created by Ventimiglia, Cudiff and Mark Powers based on a script by Mike O'Sullivan. It centers on John Barret (Ventimiglia), a normal twentysomething guy in New York City who spends every waking hour working. He enrolls in a testing program for a drug that eliminates the need of sleep and soon becomes addicted to it, which helps him accomplish more but also leads to serious consequences. Since the comic launched in 2008, there has been a lot of chatter among fans that Barret looks a lot like Ventimiglia and that Rest would be turned into TV series or film. Ventimiglia and Levens are with CAA.

The Event S1E7: I Know Who You Are (recap)

If there's one thing I always say -- and I do always say this, and you should ask anyone who knows me -- about TV shows, it's this: "If you can't end an episode of your TV show with a little girl entering a mysterious apartment full of what appear to be other little girls but are actually some kinda weird old people in little girl drag, then your TV show is a complete failure." The list of shows which this old maxim could be applied to is incredibly long, including such illustrious series as "The Wire," "Mad Men" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," and tonight, "The Event" joins their ranks, as Leila's little sister, whose name I haven't bothered to learn just yet, is ushered into an apartment that looks more like a library in an ancient country house, then confronted with the fact that all of the little girls there look like old women. (And some look like old men!) Cue the end of the episode.
I have no idea what any of this means, other than the fact that "The Event" just wants to keep tossing weird stuff at us in the hopes that we'll keep watching.

Tonight's episode was a decided step back from the last one, which at least suggested the series was figuring out its voice and its structure, so maybe this last scene was just a way to keep the weirdness quotient high. It happens. But in terms of making sense of anything or dragging the story forward or even making Leila's little sister a character who's something beyond "generic little girl," the scene didn't work. It was just oddness for oddness' sake, and the producers would surely be pleased if you tuned in for next week's episode, which is already going to the well of "let's watch the highly-rated pilot from a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ANGLE." Usually, shows don't go to this well until Season 3 or 4. There'd better be a darned good reason for "The Event" to be doing so so soon. (And, as we all know by now, there won't be.)

Anyway, this is the part where I'd theoretically summarize what happened tonight and talk about what sort of bearing it had on other events. Except, the thing is, pretty much nothing DID happen. The show wisely kept to the character-specific flashbacks of the last episode, this time letting us get to know Zeljko Ivanek's Blake Sterling just a little bit better, but the connection between the past and future storylines was far more tenuous this week than it was the last time around. In that last episode, Simon was the focus of both the present and past storylines, and the two of them commented on each other in interesting ways. In this episode, Blake is pretty much just hanging out around the edges of the present storyline, and all of the big decisions are made for him in the past (outside of one crucial one). It leaves the episode feeling oddly shapeless, especially since the main plot -- the aliens making sure that Simon isn't fingered as one of them -- has so little to do with Blake.

The flashback story for Blake isn't a bad one. Fourteen years ago, he was serving in the CIA under his father and happily married to a woman named Laura. Except, whoops, as it turned out, Laura was a Russian spy, embedded in a marriage to Blake to help leak U.S. state secrets to her compatriots back in just barely post-Communist Russia. Confronted with the truth of his wife's betrayal, Blake tells her that he knows everything about what she's done, but he believes she actually loves him. (Ah, we men! Always so stupid in these matters!) Of course she doesn't, and of course she bolts, and of course his father is lurking in the bushes to shoot Laura in the head. Blake's out a wife, but his dad offers to let him take credit for shooting the woman, the better to help him advance his career. Gee. That's great, dad.

Anyway, in the "present," Blake apologizes to the president for not realizing the mole (the recently framed Murphy) was in his department. He's usually better at catching these things -- since he's cultivated a "mole sense" after the thing with his wife -- but he let the country down this time.

This is all well and good, but it has so little to do with the major plots of the episode proper, which mostly have to do with Thomas coming up with a way to get Simon off the hook when he's so obviously guilty and Sean and Leila seeking out a mysterious dude who can help them find her sister, that it feels
inconsequential. It's nice to know more about the past of Blake, but it's simultaneously far from necessary. The title of the episode, "I Know Who You Are," is what Blake says to his wife when he finds out her terrible secret, but I think it's also meant to be applied to more and more of the characters, who reveal little things about themselves in this episode. (For example, as it turns out, Sophia is Thomas' mother, though I have this weird feeling we learned this before.) So, yes, it's good to know more about who Blake really is, but the best episodes of shows like this unite the past and present action through some sort of character and thematic continuity. This episode might have been better off as a flashback about Thomas, but it's obvious the series doesn't want to play that card this soon into its run.

So what we're left with is a centerless episode that doesn't do a lot to justify its existence. So little actually happens -- when the episode ends, we're basically where we were at the start of the last episode -- that it's tempting to write this off as yet another episode for marking time. Yet Ivanek is such a skillful actor and there are just enough neat little touches around the edges that I would rank this above the first few episodes of the show, where it felt like everything was just going to keep running in circles. And then there's that ending, which is just strange enough to make me want to see how it's resolved. (My prediction? The little girls are the ones from that encoded document Sean found, and the conspiracy dudes -- led by Hal Holbrook, who's mostly wasted but always a welcome presence -- have been trying various things to make them ageless, like the aliens, and have mostly failed.) This is a bland, shapeless episode of television, but it isn't as bad as it could have been.

The story in brief, in case you've checked out: It sure looks like Simon's the mole, which means that he's going to face some pretty horrific "enhanced interrogation" as Blake and his pals try to get information about the aliens' plan out of him. Thomas, however, has other ideas, and he spends much of the hour figuring out a way to get Simon off the hook, finally framing Murphy, the guy who caught on to what Simon was up to in the last episode, for the leaks. Oh, and Sophia is his mom. Blake, for his part, was betrayed by his wife 14 years ago -- she was a Russian spy! -- and then his dad killed her. Yikes. Sean and Leila spend most of the episode running around (when don't they?), but they at least find out that somebody somewhere was interested in girls around Leila's sister's age, right before the hacker they've turned to to help get this information blows up his apartment to stop the Feds, who are closing in. Oh, and Leila's sister? She's led to an apartment full of creepy old person kids. Yeah, we have no idea either.

--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Event S1E5: Casualties of war (Recap) (from LA TIMES)

"Casualties of War" has a couple of things that put it ahead of every other episode of "The Event" so far: a sense of purpose headed forward and a central question that puts its characters through something like the wringer. It's the best episode of the show so far because it slows down to tell something like an actual story, not just a long collection of events. And it centers that story on the two characters who actually make sense as characters at this point, Sean Walker and President Martinez. To be sure, most of the reason these characters are compelling has to do with the men playing them, not with anything the writers have done with them. But that doesn't mean that this episode isn't a fine showcase for the work of Jason Ritter and Blair Underwood, all the same.

The episode split down the middle like this: Sean tried to finally get Leila back, with the help of his FBI agent pal and, briefly, Vicky, while Martinez attempted to save the people from the plane, who were suffering from some sort of biological weapon and/or ailment. In the process of doing this, both men were forced to make some pretty terrible threats, and we were left to wonder if they would follow through. Meanwhile, the bad guys showed themselves capable of even worse stuff, and we got some nice glimpses into the past of the aliens, specifically their role in helping spur the Manhattan Project. There was some nice storytelling scattered throughout, and although the show continues to over-rely on hacky devices like the nesting-doll structure of the flashbacks, at least the episode more or less broke down into a concrete set of goals for the characters, and at least it didn't force a massive cliffhanger.

Let's start with Martinez. At this point, an idealistic president who confronts the limits of his ideals when he has to make a terrible choice to save the lives of hundreds of Americans is a TV cliche. The presidents on "24" and "The West Wing" both had to deal with these sorts of issues (fittingly, one of the show runners on "The Event" is a "24" alumnus), and numerous other tales of presidents facing down impossible threats have pivoted on similar plot points. So the idea that Martinez would have to confront his own desires to be a good man in the face of having to save the people on the plane was a bit of a nonstarter for me. Furthermore, within the universe of the show, Martinez has already compromised on his ideals. He was bent on releasing the alien detainees from their camp in Alaska, but he put a hold on that when he learned that there were more of them than he thought there were. Because he's already in a moral gray area he doesn't want to be in, I'm not sure his moral struggle had as much resonance as the show wanted it to, particularly when it came to handing over Sophia.

That said, Underwood really played the heck out of this moral calculus, this attempt to decide whether it was better to let everybody on the plane die and not have to compromise with the show's version of terrorists, or whether it was better for him to play hardball with the aliens by threatening to kill all of the detainees. Martinez knows the one option he doesn't have is to release the detainees, because that means that another species with far greater technology than his own will be calling the shots, and that puts him in a terrible position. Without the detainees, he doesn't have a bargaining chip, even as he wants to do the right thing. The weight of the decision to threaten the detainees was handled well both by the show and by Underwood, who played this with a kind of tense remove. The final moments, in which he and Thomas come to a kind of agreement -- he'll just turn over Sophia for the lives of all of the plane passengers -- were among the best the series has done, and I liked that the show let us know just how much these decisions weighed on Thomas as well.

Meanwhile, in Texas, Sean used the one bit of leverage he had to get Vicky to betray her own people. He knows about her son, who's not actually her son but, rather, a baby she rescued from a scene where she was supposed to kill everyone in the building. By threatening to expose her boy, Sean got Vicky to gun down her own men (a plot point that doesn't make a lot of sense, but whatever), then managed to get to Leila and finally rescue her. I'm glad the show hasn't stretched this out any further than needed, and that it seems like we're going to start getting some answers soon as to just why the conspiracy's so interested in Sean. A lot of this plot was pretty implausible -- mostly stemming from Sean's hacker friend's oh-so-convenient powers -- but at least it put Sean in the same place as Martinez, forcing him to make a terrible threat (of exposing Vicky's son) and then having us wonder if he'd follow through.

By far the most interesting development, though, has to do with the fact that the aliens destroyed their ship when they crashed in the 1940s and thus spent much of the 20th century trying to influence human technology in such a way as to reattain the kinds of parts they needed to rebuild their ship. This meant that the aliens got deeply involved in the Manhattan Project (of course they did), but we also got to see how Sophia originally sent Thomas out into the population at large, clearly not really knowing just what he would get up to once he was out there. It was a neat little flashback, and it mostly told one cohesive story of its own, something the other flashbacks haven't done.

I wouldn't say that "The Event" has risen to a level where I'm going to recommend it. This was still a bad episode of television in a lot of ways. But at least it was largely competent and told a story that mostly made sense. Sure, plenty of stuff was pointless and/or stupid, but there were some nice moments for much of the cast, and it gave a template for the show going forward. Plus, the cliffhanger -- which just involved Martinez putting Sophia on a train for Thomas to pick up -- was nicely small-scale, compared with the constant stream of cliffhangers involving the plane passengers. Every serialized show needs a sense that its story line breaks more easily into smaller components. This episode finally suggested that was true of "The Event," and I hope the show follows its lead going forward, especially now that the series has a full season order.

The story, in case you didn't bother to tune in: The president, after much hemming and hawing, finally cut a deal with Thomas to obtain an antidote for the passengers of the plane in exchange for turning over Sophia to the alien separatist leader (or whatever you want to call him). Meanwhile, Sean used his knowledge that Vicky's son was the sole survivor of a massacre that Vicky carried out to gain his girlfriend's safety, though the two were far from safe. Finally, it became clear that the aliens have been messing in human scientific development, the better to fix their ship and return to their home, wherever that may be.

-- Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

The Event S1E5: Casualties of war (episode)

Sean and Agent Collier rescue Vicky while Martinez releases Sophia in order to save the lives of the Flight 514 passengers.

No Ordinary Family-First 4 Episodes

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