The progression of modern science fiction builds its basis on the oft misunderstood “Blade Runner” while the horror genre finds respect through the first “Alien”. Both films were undertakings of an early 30s Ridley Scott attempting to progress a notion of mortality or simply of loss within an unforgiving world which casts aside whatever it pleases.
That is why “Prometheus”, his long awaited return to the genre, is exactly reflective of that personification. While functioning simply as a thriller using ideas of immortality might be attributable and somewhat indulgent, the intonation of what he is saying is personified in his aversion to saying what really might be below the surface.
The functionality of the movie is based in Noomi Rapace’s character (whom she herself calls a “believer”) who convinces a certain company to fund a trip to a distant planet that might be the origin point for the human race. The interesting angle here in terms of topography, landing and literal proportion of the objects involved is that one could see this as the Alien planet. The key is in the details of which they are many and many are misdirects. Damon Lindelof, the writer (also responsible for “Lost” and the “Star Trek” reboot) knows the lore undeniably which concedes his point of misdirection but also essentially let him keep certain elements open.
The proponent of many things also revolves around David, played with almost comedic (say Chaplin) progression by Michael Fassbender. Whether through his fastidious coloring of hair to resemble Peter O’Toole as Sir Lawrence in a well-regarded film or small seemingly strategic ploys of the movie that only the audience sees, the intention is to use what we know of the “Alien” universe to extrapolate motivation. However, also in play is what a new generation will see without the background of those movies. The layers are applicable which is what gives this movie a bit more than one would expect.
That said, there are many theories that can abound and that is what is good about a film like this as well as the viral campaign that preceded its release. What it is also good at doing, unlike many films today, is feel the need to explain everything (which is more an extension of studio-watch guarding than anything else).
Charlize Theron’s character Vickers is of particular interest, specifically in the way she is built and inter-played throughout the film strategically with David and an older elder figure. The clues in the dialogue as well as what is not shown speak to something undeniably connected in who and what her character is. It is one of the nicely created puzzles of the piece. The ship itself as it lands and the maze they enter into are simply a construct for a different story being told.
Because saying any more would ruin much of the re-watch value on the picture, “Prometheus” does accomplish what it set out to do: create a thought provoking diatribe on modern science fiction by the man who redefined it nearly two generations ago. While time will decide this picture’s impact within the pantheon, it shows that time does allow a bit of perspective and, at times, influence on what is said, how it is built and how it is filtered.
ABC has show an ability for a specific cross-section of shows that push the envelope. While some like “Pushing Daisies” and “Better Off Ted” sometimes start to fall along the wayside, other successes like “Castle”, “Cougar Town” and “Modern Family” show that by angling the formula to a not-set portrayal, one can reap great awards. However with “Flash Forward” not performing as high as thought, the behemoth of “Lost” accelerates into its final season.
Lost The influx of many of the cast members for the final season were met with a thundering round of applause for this show who, in many ways, captured the zeitgeist the way few other shows in the past couple years have been able to do.
Emile de Ravin, who plays the returning Claire who had been missing since we saw her in Jacob’s hut a few seasons back, mentioned that they have seven more episodes to film in Hawaii. Her fondest moments have been when the whole cast has been together because of its family connotations though when she read the pilot back in the beginning, it took 3 times before it made any sense.
Evangeline Lilly, who was picked out of obscurity to play Kate, admits that as she was coming out for these final interviews, she knew she was going to “cry like a baby when it ends”. One of the aspects people don’t know is how hard filming the show can be. For her, the most lingering moments that stay in her mind come from the first season especially in the scenes when Claire gave birth and Boone died. That specific episode for her “culminated everything we were talking about”. The most intrinsic point for her was trying to find Kate as a character. Also being on Hawaii shooting can be a double-edged sword (in her estimation). She says “living in paradise is a little bit of a prison” because “when we’re on the island, we are on the island” but there is “an innate sense of freedom now that we are anticipating the end”.
Daniel Dae Kim, whose character Jin, morphed from a non-English speaking character to utterly subtle feats of discourse, says that the moment for him that defined the show was when they were launching the raft in the first season because that provided a culmination of thought. Now with the 6th season, the narrative style is again changing somewhat which distinctly makes it all the more challenging.
Josh Holloway, who created one of the most nuanced con-men in TV history, with the nickname-spewing Sawyer, says the whole experience has been incredible but there has been something about this last year. He admits a certain propensity for group scenes. He says they take two or three days to film but if you position yourself right, that is key, and admits he has gotten very good at that. For him, the premiere this year felt big like a finale which points for an interesting end to come. He thinks back to when he read the original pilot. His first impression was that Sawyer “was an asshole” and that he, as an actor” had “to figure out how to stay alive” because “unless [Sawyer] became something different, he might die soon”. He parallels the aspect of Kate explaining “as Evy says, to play a character within a place, you have to explore new character perspectives”. Josh’s observation of this man becomes that “Sawyer has been walking the fine line of humanity but retaining his edge”. This comes on the aspect of the writers putting him through every possible situation, both emotionally and physically. The scariest thing of all was “the whole Juliet thing”. He thought the audience might reject those two characters getting together because it was “discovering his humanity while being salty”. He admits that many of the greatest points of his life happened during the show: “validation as an actor, marrying, having a baby, my first home”.
Michael Emerson, who emerged in later seasons as a major character in Benjamin Linus, says that, with a show like “Lost”, it is better to be in the dark adding that “it is nice not to be burdened with the secret” because “that seems to get in the way”. In terms of the moments he remembers most, he jokes “that I have alot of fond memories of breathless confrontations in small rooms”. He says the Whidmore Bedroom and Jacob scenes are “scary and I love them”. He also mentions a scene when he and Sawyer are on a cliff and trading Steinbeck quotes all the while with Ben saying “I have a rabbit in my backpack”. In terms of the ending of season five, he thought it to be a master move adding “that it was a two-part cliffhanger but sufficiently mind-bending”. He ultimately sees Ben “as a character that reacts in a calculated way but once in while acts in a childishly impulsive way”.
Terry O’Quinn, who undertakes the enigma of Locke, says that he found out that he wasn’t real Locke during last season about a month before the episode aired, indicating that he was completely unaware to the fact for most of last season. For him, there is no true special moment in the series though he remembers when they were hanging out between a break in filming listening to Naveen Andrews playing guitar under the famous Banyan tree. He also reflects back to the pilot with JJ telling him that at first in the beginning with Locke there wouldn’t be alot but later on there would be.
Damon Lindelof, who along with fellow executive producer Carlton Cuse, have become the think tank of “Lost” after the departure of co-creator JJ Abrams, says that the idea of ending with the 6th season is “doing it while we still care” calling “Lost” “a once-in-a-career experience”. ABC allowing them to end the series on these specific terms is what Damon terms “a tremendous gift”. He echoes Evangeline in that they can’t believe it is coming to an end. In terms of what they tell the actors in terms of the story, he jokes that “quite honestly, we don’t speak to them at all”. He uses the example that if they told Terry O’Quinn (who plays Locke) that he was actually playing a guy from 1000 years ago, it would completely alter the approach. For Lindelof, the most memorable points in the show are the bridging aspects in creating these connections. For the following seasons, they usually start writing in the summer time but the inherent challenge always was walking the bridge, even when time travel came into play. In terms of the finale, he says with a wry smile: “Get ready to scratch your heads America”.
Lindelof says the major shift since the show started is informational because of the minutae that the fans follow vigorously. The biggest obstacle is to “guarantee a shitty ending” to “Lost”. For him, “the worst ending we could provide is a safe ending” but “you can’t take a risk just to take a risk” because ultimately in respect they “have no excuse to say anything other than ‘this is the way we wanted it to end'”. He admits that there is hope on their parts to wow the audience with the finite possibilities of the finale because “it wouldn’t be ‘Lost’ if it wasn’t an ongoing or active debate”. In terms of story for the final season, “there is an inherent process that when ending something, you always think about the beginning. He reflects on an earlier comment by Josh about the essence of new character perspectives because “you want to show the audience the before of where the characters were then”. He says he does reflect on what the legacy of the show will be but realizes that in the weeks after the series finale airs, the only thing people will be thinking about is just that episode. He makes a comparison to “The Sopranos” because people remember absolutely everything about the diner scene and the fade to black. The end always moves in mysterious ways.
Carlton Cuse, who runs the show with Damon, says that “we came up with the final image of the show in the first season but we started to add elements to that as we went along towards the end point”. The character stuff, he adds, works itself out as you go along but that the process of ending the show was fun because, as in many seasons before, the actors didn’t know where it was going beyond the next given script. The network has not pressured them for a spin-off but definitely says that “we are ending this story”. As far as the moment he remembers most, it involved Jack swimming out with the dog to save the drowning girl. In terms of the new season, the premiere picks up exactly where the finale last season left off. He agrees that they have been very circumspect about what actually might be going on in the 6th season. Jack and Farraday, he says, believe that the bomb going off might reset everything. He warns that not every question will be answered because they still want to maintain a fundamental sense of mystery.
Executive Briefing: Stephen McPherson The enigmatic and charming head of ABC entertainment actually made a point of introducing the “Lost” cast stating that many of the crew and some of the cast were still in Hawaii shooting but that “we look forward to finishing the journey”.
He recollects that when they were shooting the pilot for “Lost”, “with Evangeline, it came down to 24 hours before” when they barely got her work visa cleared from Canada. He credits Abrams and Lindelof for having a plan and a mythology in what “arguably will be one of the most influential shows of the decade”. He compares the season premiere “to nothing different than a gigantic movie” adding that “they put all they spend on the screen”.
In terms of ABC’s fall, McPherson announced the picks up of “Cougar Town”, “Modern Family” and “The Middle” for next season. No decisions, he says, have been made yet on “Hank” or “Better Off Ted” while “Castle” is their highest performing repeat show saying that, with the Alyssa Milano episode, the show “has met its stride” adding that he “hears so much anecdotally about that show”. To that point, he says that many “shows are alchemy to some extent”. With “Modern Family”, the pitch was simply “a big family”.
In terms of two new and expensive shows finding their footing, McPherson says, first off, with “V”, they always intended it to be in chapters but that production issues came into play. With “Flash Forward”, he said, it was a bit different because the repeat viewers didn’t seem to be coming back. The show’s reaction has to be supportive of its production. That is why they did a big push about bring “Flash Forward” back while making “V” more independent of that conversation. He sees a similar possibility in the upcoming “Happy Town” because it is also “serialized and event” but “honestly it all comes down to how it performs in the end” adding that they don’t have a set premiere date as of yet.
In terms of the response on the ongoing NBC difficulties, he says that “seeing a great network tumble is not something we revel in” because “it is disconcerting to see that happening in the industry”. That said, McPherson states that they are actually up 8% in their 10pm slots because the inherent situation has put “an emphasis on creative shows” adding that “we are very happy with the way things have gone down.”
The Deep End One of the few new shows that ABC is bringing forth is this lawyer drama which uses the rookie perception to show this cutthroat world in a new era.
Exec Producer David Hemingson, whose experience in the legal world provided the basis for the series, calls it “a confluence of circumstances” since “the show mirrors the beginning of my career. Billy Zane, as the venemous Cliff Huddle, calls his character “a shark” with a personality “always moving…always calculating”. He sees Cliff as operating on his own code because even though he and his wife are very passionate, he can’t keep his hands off of everybody else so he is interested how they handle his infidelity.
Clancy Brown, an actor best known for his genre turns in “Highlander” and “Starship Troopers” and recently mentioned as a front runner for the movie adaptation of “Lobo”, sees the story as a reflection of present day mediaries in that “you just look at the headlines and see the struggles between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law”. Matt Long, embodying series lead Dylan Hewitt who must deal with attacks on all sides, used lawyers in his family as reference but understood the key to the character is “to add to the situation but not add to what the hell is going on” but “it also helps to know what you’re [actually] saying.
With a slate that is very rich is the balance of drama versus comedy, ABC is making their way through the aspect of the Leno landscape with a determination of ease and poise. Looking at their upcoming slate, the essential building blocks for many successful seasons begin to take shape simply for the essence of testing the waters.
Modern Family This comedy, unlike series co-star Ed O’Neill’s previous family outing, takes its cue from the mockumentary format but more Christopher Guest than “The Office”. It follows three interconecting groups of the same family, all with their little quirks and idiosyncracies. Exec Producer Steve Levitan says that the essence of the show is within the paradox. There are actually fathers now to young daughters that are in their 70s which makes it probably pretty hard to keep up. Ed O’Neill, Al Bundy forever, (who plays the said father of sorts) says that this show is an entirely different thing from “Children”. He also speaks of his recent dramatic work like “Dragnet” which he says was fun but alot of work.
This series by its design is much more ensemble plus it’s a comedy. He sardonically says with a smile that his wife in this show is pretty much the same as the last one (in this one he is married to a hot young Latina woman). He says jokingly that he is older than his new co-star but also fairly deadpan that he was older than Katey [Segal] (who played Peggy Bundy). He admits that here he is completely in over his head and just trying to keep up.
Shark Tank After we had met Mark Burnett on ABC’s set visit the day before he jetted off for “Survivor”, he spoke of the interesting dynamic of the sharks in “Shark Tank” in the fact that these people are participating in the show with their own money (not ABC’s or his). As a result, they have something perssonally on the line. Seeing them in front of you and their very obvious and strong personalities, you see what some of the contestants are up against.
Kevin Harrington, the first of the sharks, says that the first step that was essential in the process was that Burnett’s people looked at thousands and thousands of products to get it to these final few so they are the cream of the crop. Due dilligence was taken which was very important to them.
Robert Herjavec, the seeming conscience of the group, says the excitement for an young entrepreneur is infectious in this new digital era. The bar though, in his mind now, is higher since these people can’t get money from the bank because of the current economic crisis. Success is all forward momentum. Herjavec says that the reason we are in the crisis we are in now is because the rich people were risking money that was not their own. This country was built by small business but he believes that it is the blind pursuit of pure greed that got us to where we are today.
Kevin O’Leary, the admitted cruelest shark in the group, says that the only reason you give people money is to make yourself more money. All the rest is crap, in his words. He says that liquidity is very hard to come by and you want that idea to get to cash sooner. Greed for him is freedom and provides financial flexibility. Greed is powerful and important pure and simple. Herjavec comes back at him and says that “the big guy in the sky is going to get a big spatula and whack you with it”. He says that greed is not the point to it all. O’Leary tells Herjavec that he is “absolutely wrong”.
Daymond John, a shark who made his fortune in fashion, says that after the lights come up after this show, there will be alot of work for them afterwards. He says that he will probably lose money on half the deals he made on this show but, in that shark room, you get a lipnus test of what reality is. To Kevin O’Leary’s perception of greed, he retorts that the people in jail still want more money too.
Hank Kelsey Grammer returns to television after his bout with health problems and the cancellation of “Back To You” with a significantly optimistic comedy of life. The story behind this sitcom is a man who took a fall financially who moves back to his hometown with his family after a life of luxury is taken away from him due to the current financial crisis.
Kelsey compares his character in “Hank” to that of “Back To You” in saying that the latter was a lothario whereas his character here (Hank) is blissfully ignorant about the task of being real. In his mind, Hank sacrificed his parachute of luxury (since it was his company that got sunk) in order to make other people have something instead of nothing. He helped make them whole and took responsibility for the downfall of his company. He says that the boon of this show is that one of the greatest human characteristics is the ability to laugh at certain situations.
Kelsey also detailed the timeline of what happened from here to there in terms of his trajectory from his last show to this one. He says that he started “Back To You” where he enjoyed working with Patricia Heaton tremendously. Fox hired Jim Reilly who had originally turned down the pitch from Kelsey at NBC. Then the writer’s strike began. This, he says sarcastically, pre-empted the recession on themselves in advance. From this point onward there was very little ability for Fox to have a sense of commitment to the show. There was also, he says, building tension between him and Reilly. Then off he went. And then the heart attack happened.
After he recovered, Kelsey thought about the fact that there wasnt really a traditional family show on television. He was pitched one other concept about a successful man who was after teenage women which he didnt think was quite right at the time. Kelsey, in encompassing his thought, wants to lend himself to this character like he did to Frasier. Frasier liked clutter like Hanks loves sports. Hank is not pompous. He loves the American Dream and the aspect of working back up from the bottom. He is just out of touch with some things. Grammer uses an example from his own life that mirrors Hank. He says that he was trying to make a cup of coffee with three friends one morning and they couldn’t figure it out. Hank probably has the same problem because in his world, coffee was always brought to him. He wouldnt have done that task in years.
In terms of his heart attack, Kelsey says that there is obviously a connection to one’s life and the stresses that are involved. The doctors had told him, in his own words, that the heart attack was stress related. He jokes that it was time for him to get retooled. He now chuckles that he is somewhat bionic.
In the show he jokes that he wants to take his character in a baking direction as well. He says with a laugh that people seem to think he can play rich obviously because he is so “damn sophisticated”.
In terms of the business of TV itself, with introspection on departures like the one of Ben Silverman at NBC, Grammer’s thought is that executives always change. One of things that many people don’t know is that Kelsey is a producer on “Medium”. With that show, he and his partners had sold it to NBC. Grammer then speaks of another executive (Les Moonves at CBS), “being the selfless egoless man he is” (according to Kelsey), who, because the show was made by CBS but picked up at NBC, used it as a rallying point on the quality of shows at NBC. Grammer said that Moonves (whom he had pitched the show to unsuccessfully) spent the next five years trying to make something similar to “Medium” that was good. The press release for “Medium” next season on CBS points to the fact that, according to Kelsey, “Medium” is a spin-off of “Ghost Whisperer” (which he says Les made to be like their show). He jokes that this was “a bit disingenious” of Moonves.
Tucker Cawley, the exec producer of the show, provides more basic structure comments in terms of “Hank” saying that the scripts will touch on this “riches to rags” situation. Hank. as played by Kelsey, doesn’t see his new home as being less. He instead reserves a bit of American optimism. Hank still had a nest egg of sorts so he doesn’t have to worry about making ends meet. The character started with nothing and now sees himself as simply down but coming back up. The stories will also address the downsizing of a lifestyle and how Hank comes to see his family and himself in a different way.
Hank believes that he is destined to return to greatness and he will. It just won’t be the “greatest” like he imagined. Cawley just wants to make sure there is a hopefulness to the show. They have only shot one episode post pilot so now it is simply a question of what Hank is going to do. Melinda McGraw, who plays Hank’s wife, follows up in wonderful spouse fashion saying “Redemption is a rocky road. We [Hank and his family] are creatures of habit…and those habits are nice.”
Flash Forward This new series which was gotten a significant amount of buzz off its supposed tie-in with “Lost” is a creature of a different sort as discussed in this review. However after viewing it before the panel, the mythology and cinematic story structure do create a comparison in addition to the inclusion of two “Lost” veterans in the cast in the form of Dominic Monaghan (“Charlie”) and Sonya Walger (“Penny”).
David Goyer, most recently lauded because of his work on “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”, is the creator and exec producer of the show along with his wife Jessika. To the inevitable mythology base and story structure, he says that they have the story progression to go three seasons for sure. He came across the novel “Sawyer” [another coincidental “Lost” reference] through Jessika who was working in development for him at the time. The novel addresses the concept of what would you do if you know where your choices led you.
Goyer speaks of the “Lost” connection as he is “pretty good friends” with Damon Lindelof [who runs “Lost” with Carlton Cuse]. He is a big fan and the way that show connected with fans proved to Goyer that there was a place for shows like that. Lindelof told Goyer that ABC was very supportive of their vision and to the fact that you could maintain a show with such a large ensemble. “Lost”, in Goyer’s mind, traffics a lot in shades of grey which is one of its strengths. Lindelof told him in making this new show to “stick to your game…and your guns”.
But Goyer doesn’t think that the lessons of “Lost” are applicable to “Flash Forward”. He is first and foremost a fan of story (which seems at least similar on the surface to the other show). He explains that the base concept of the “Sawyer” book involves particle physicists at CERN in Switzerland which gives a hint to the aspect of where the genesis of “Flash Forward” is based. They took that premise and truncated it. He does allude that the author of the book will write an episode in the show’s first season.
For those with a love of details (and easter eggs for that matter). there is a kangaroo (idealogy anyone?) in the first episode which will return more than once over the series. Goyer jokes that “the kangaroo is the thing…people like the kangaroo”. He reserves the point though that kangaroos are not very easy to train as they have learned to his dismay. He does promise that the bouncy critter will return in Episode 6.
The psychological basis for the event portrayed in the show comes from Goyer’s observation of other countries in the world following 9/11. He says he experienced an enormous outpouring of sympathy in Paris (as he was there right after the attacks) from the French. He says he is trying to capture a little bit of that feeling in this show since the event portrayed here is something that everyone on the planet experiences. He also teases that there is a reason why some of the characters are looking at the calendar in their flash forwards (which are quickly explained in the pilot).
Goyer says that “the razor’s edge” is what the show traffics in. He says that he believes people flock to drama because of conflict whether it be responsibility or infidelity. It is about the progression of A to B to C. He said that they made the decision very early on to not tell the actors where they are going in terms of story. He says that they have to “titrate” certain information out in order to give the semblance of continuity in the characters. He says that Hitchcock would do that with some of the actors he worked with as well.
To that point, Goyer says that this point is written into all the actors’ contracts in the aspect that they don’t have to reveal story details. In terms of scripts, he says they have alot of them in the bank. They have written up to script 11 and had 7 done before they even started shooting the pilot.
Changing the future which is a crucial part of the story in the series is, according to Goyer, half the mystery. The characters in the series break down into three specific categories: fearful, hopeful and agnostic. In terms of the treatment of the “flash forwards”, whatever the characters were feeling emotionally at the time it happened was real to them, which he says specifically relates to the lead character, played by Joseph Fiennes. Goyer hopes people will tune in for how these people wrestle with these issues.
Jessika Goyer, speaking of the gestation of the series from her point of view, says that when he was talking to David initially about it, she could tell the idea was spinning in his brain. David went to Brannon Braga (a veteran of “Star Trek”) and found a way to make the story work. In the book, according to Jessika, the flash forward is 21 years into the future which is different from the actual series. The show address thematically, in her mind, what people can do to change their lives. Her hope is that alot of these questions will help alter and shape the audience’s perception.
Marc Guggenheim, another exec on the show, reveals that by the end of the first season they will get to a fateful day in April 2010 which is alluded to in the pilot. He makes the joke that if the show doesn’t work, they will be back next year with a show about wacky particle physicists (making reference to the book’s original concept). He says the date referenced in the pilot is one of significance in the show and is actually a date they are airing on: a Thursday to be exact. For him the show is about the resillience of humanity but the challenge is how you capture that moment.
Dominic Monaghan, a wild card in the buzz over this series, does not reveal who his character is but speaks to the zeitgeist noting that there are similarities to “Flash Forward” in “Lost” in terms of its large ensemble cast and ambitious storyline. He also speaks to the fact that with a cast that is similar in many ways (to “Lost”) in addition to a globally connected storyline, it is easier to sell the series internationally (which is very important overall in terms of resell value). “Flash Forward” he says is as deeply rooted in a mythology that needs to be solved as “Lost” but adds that it is more simplistic. He says that he was in Hawaii (where they shoot “Lost”) when he read the pilot for “Flash Forward”.
He jokes half seriously that he didnt want to take parts away from Americans (then he realizes what he said looking across the room at Englishman Joseph Fiennes). David and Jessika asked him to meet. It was a bar on Sunset called Delanceys where Dom had a pint of Boddingtons. He said it was one of those special meetings but that the most important thing for him was to do something completely different from Charlie on “Lost”. Goyer said he had just the part for him. After that, Dom again half jokes that it was just about agreeing on money.
Joseph Fiennes, who takes the brunt of the series on his shoulders much like Matthew Fox’s Jack on “Lost”, says that it is “David’s fault” that he is on the series. He says that TV is the medium for writers which is what interested him about the project. There is a large conflict here with the characters and great room for them to grow. He says that within this structure you are not as much a slave to the three act structure. Things are not set in stone. And what you are not told (as is a specific exercise of this show in terms of the agreement he had to take on as an actor) you “can embrace the future as you saw” it. Or he warns “you can also embrace a strategy where [your actions] become a self fulfilling prophecy. He also admits that it was a way to get out of a flouncy shirt and put “a gun on my belt”
“Flash Forward” has the most buzz of any show heading into this season but it is just a matter if it can maintain the drama with the sense of wonder without becoming too vague. This is its challenge but, after seeing the pilot, the potential is strong.
The essence of Part II of the ABC Summer 2009 TCA Summer Press Tour continues next.