Blog Archives

IR Interview: Jeffrey Donovan For “Burn Notice” [S7-USA]

Psyching The Profile Pendulum: New Summer Television Shows 2010 – Part I

The personification of what constitutes good and evil, and where the crossover lies, has bewildered psychologists who search for that kernel of betrayal that can either seduce or hold fast against temptation. With four new series, the idea stretches across different forms of law enforcement outside of the norm where bending the rules or even breaking them can be rewarded.

The Good Guys The texture of the old “buddy cop” formula had been overdone to bust before the procedural took over but there was a certain distinctness of the abandon to conventional political correctness and wisdom that made some of those shows fun to watch. With this new inlay starring Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks, the key is to make the pairing fun to watch without making the stakes too high from the outset. Created by Matt Nix, who figured the lead structure with his other hit series “Burn Notice”, the key here is comedy and making it feel natural and not overdone. While Whitford understands his character, he is definitely playing a camp version of it. When mixed with a great amount of licensed 80s music which plays exceptionally well (especially during a getaway driver sequence set to ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down”), the show can hit his stride. Originally called “Code 168” after the element of property and low rent crimes, our boys always stumble upon some big heist or case which needs their less than accurate skills. The series, also with a sense of structure, shows the paying of dues. Over the years, one of the stories told to me by Michael Douglas puts the angle in perspective since he too had a famous father in Kirk like Colin has with Tom. Michael made the point that the key to him learning was working with Karl Malden on “Streets Of San Francisco” early in his career which gave him a basis for the work ethic and the craft needed. Colin, in playing this role has a similar situation with Bradley, which tends to work to great effect. The storylines balance with distinctness and the writing is sharp despite the persistent fact that it seems apparent that they will always get out of trouble.

Memphis Beat The back step ideology works in an odd congruence here with distinct but limited results. Last time we saw Jason Lee, he was approaching the basis of Earl using common sense as a form of new zen. With “Memphis Beat” which was developed by George Clooney and his company. the background and its music figure incessantly important into the aspect of the lead character. The idea swirls in the fact that the music brings the detective back to his truism. However seeing the ideal within this structure, one cannot help revert back to a mixture of down home philosophy mixing with the Elvis showmanship. Unlike “Justified” which takes its Kentucky heritage as a badge of honor, the invention of this character comes off disingenuous because it doesn’t feel true to its roots. Lee, as a comparison created an iconic perception in “Earl” which was distinctly different from his perception as a Kevin Smith player. Working in resolution also with less humor motivates the viewer to see subtleties that simply might not be there. Misdirects however unintentional tend to impact the plot in unforseen ways which, at times, is not all together good.

The Glades Using a similar locale as “Burn Notice” but with a lead that is charming in non-serial killer way the way Dexter is not, the darker tone of this series in keeping track with both A&E’s previous series “The Beast” and “The Cleaner” shows the tendency of the cabler to play more towards the tracking elements of premium cable. Matt Passmore as the relocated cop who was run out of Chicago (after he supposedly had an affair with The Chief’s wife in the Windy City) sets the stakes. As a viewer you are not sure whether to believe him in terms of honesty (or at times vulnerability) or if he, in all reality, is serving another agenda. The first couple episodes show an innate ability of the characrer to both piss off superiors but also lack a sense of fear when it comes ultimately to dangerous gangster types, almost approaching a form of nihilism. While it is played lighthearted at times, there seems to be an undercurrent of dread permeating throughout the series which seems inherently apparent in the hurricane episode when they stumble upon a man shot in the forehead inside a car. The nonchalance of the Passmore’s Jim and the tone of the series seems to point to a tonal structure that will be further developed as time goes along.

Covert Affairs USA has a lot of ideas moving through the structure with some working exceptionally well (“Burn Notice”, “Royal Pains”) while others, to this reviewer at least, not quite catching as much (“In Plain Sight”). With more on the way, the making of another humor/drama balanced series that can still be made for a price is key. Trading in NY and Miami to shoot in Toronto which can double for European cities as well (which it does for the also locally shot “Warehouse 13”), “Covert Affairs” know its balance but the series really cruxes on the aspect of Piper Perabo (a newly promoted officer in the CIA) and Christopher Gorham (who plays her blind, in-control yet humorous handler). Perabo, best known for her turn on “Coyote Ugly” uses her cavalier attitude that has served her character work well to great effect in the past to likely inventiveness here. Unlike “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, which executive producer Doug Liman also directed, the idea of the series is identification beyond all thoughts. Annie (Perabo’s character) second guesses herself in the first couple episodes which adds to the structure of how human she can be. She is a low level operative which, as the series seems to move on, is being used for her connection to another high level operative whom she isn’t even aware is a spy or is ultimately protecting her. This is an overarching structure of mythology that will either work very well or might fall short in decisive order since most of the series at least at this point seems to be teetering on this mystery. Another point of contention is keeping Annie to a point naive and innocent of her plight before she is ultimately betrayed. The problem with this progression is that ultimately a degree of cynicism will cause the audience to lose touch with her emotionally because you have to respect the intelligence of the character while still rooting for him or her. That is a situation which is befalling Michael Weston in “Burn Notice” because there is just so many times you can say “I have to do this for the greater good”.

Buddies, Lives & Bauer: The Fox Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

Fox, in past seasons, has tried a cross-section of different inferences melding between both genre outlays like “Dollhouse” and “Fringe” while trying out new essences like “Glee” while stalwarts like “American Idol” rumble along. The essence has always been about crucial character work with an overall sense of commercial viability.

Code 58 This new buddy series from “Burn Notice” creator Matt Nix places Bradley Whitford from “The West Wing” and “Sunset 60” with Colin Hanks as two reverse sector cops who investigate odd little crimes, not unlike “Dragnet” with role reversal which his father made a film of many years ago.

Nix explains that he wrote the original feature script that did not sell about 12 years ago. Two or three years ago, Mikkel (Matt’s manager) brought it back up. “Code 58”, he expounds, is the actual Dallas police code for a routine investigation. The key becomes, paraphrasing Travis Bickle, “getting organized” admitting all of his television heroes, including Michael Weston on “Burn”, do it. He jokes that Shawn Ryan, who runs “Lie To Me” is giving him some coaching lessons since to maintain the balance between the humor and drama is difficult to do well but “sometimes you get a break”. He calls the cops in this new show “not necessarily bad cops”. Dan, played by Whitford, “is a fantastic 1981 cop and everything that comes along with that” adding that “he hasn’t really moved along with the times”. Jack, played by Hanks, is what Nix describes as “a very good cop who has embarassed his bosses publicly”. The irony, he says, is that they are not really investigating the crimes they solve. The key becomes finding “three or four stories that work and dovetailing them into each other”. Nix admits that now, after having some experience in this genre, he has become more comfortable with the angle of some of his characters adding that “it’s not like a sit down and think ‘I am going to make them laugh with this one'”. He explains that the production model of “Code 58” is very similar to “Burn Notice” in Miami with Dallas providing the balance of both incentives and crews.

Whitford, in trademark style, with a new mustache to boot, jumps into the fray saying “it turned out the last pilot I did was not picked up”. The original script, called “Jack & Dan” was more angled on a lecherous cop. Whitford personally sees his character as a great cop adding that “we turn out to be wonderful crime solvers” but continually joking that “there is a little bit of a drinking issue”. There was a tone within this series that he says he really responded to it which is similar to “Burn Notice”. He says when he first watched that other show, he saw an Elmore Leonard/”Raising Arizona” action comedy flavor which he had not seen on TV. He doesn’t know if people will be “fascinated or disgusted by my character” adding that “30 years ago I could have been a hot young cop” but that “I wear make up for a living” explaining that “there is no way to win”. He continues that he went “from feeling like a young actor to [feeling like] Ernest Borgnine”. He explains that what he shares with this character is that “I have a bright future behind me” which results in “a ripe combination of wisdom”.

Colin Hanks, for his point just looks on in disbelief as Whitford goes at a million miles a minute exhorting a chuckle saying that “for me, this is a script where I actually get to say funny stuff back” from “wanting to be able to have a witty banter”.

Executive Session: Peter Chernin & Kevin Reilly Fox has been finding their stride with the genres but the necessities involve staying one step ahead of the competition.

Chernin begins by saying that “Glee” would be picked up for a second season and that they would be adding three new characters but that these new cast members would not be determined by vote. In terms of the Conan situation, he says there is not much more to digest although he made a point that their position on late night was consistent. He professes his love for Conan but says that the late night host needs to make a decision about his own future. He does admit that they have talked to his people and there have been informal conversations. Jumping from there becomes the ensuing questions about “American Idol”. Chernin agrees that Simon Cowell is irreplacable but that “AI” needs to continue despite any of these perceptions. His outlook is that there are very fundamental differences between “X Factor” and “Idol” but the true fact is that “Simon is at the end of his contract”.

Reilly, for his part, relays some statistics beginning with the facts that they were up 14% (7% if you strip out the sport package). He says that “The Cleveland Show” was “a great step”. He also speaks of “Bob’s Burger” which is to be a multi-part reality series based within “Glee”. The Simon speculation continues to build which will be addressed but reinforces that there is “a lot of anticipation for Ellen”.”Human Target” will be premiering out of “24”. He speaks to the 13 episode order of “Dollhouse” saying that they had to “work to do it on Friday”. He called it ” a good show that had its run…and that’s that”.

At this point, Simon Cowell himself emerges based on the different ideas that Reilly and Chernin had been bouncing around for the previous minutes. Cowell says that “there has been alot of speculation[on his future] partly because we didn’t have an agreement” before saying that they had reached “a deal at half past eleven” the night prior with the lock to launch “X-Factor” in the US in 2011. “This will be my last season on American Idol” were his following words. He explained that he had met Chernin last October but that he had made a committment to staying on the show (“Idol”) in America. Cowell’s strategic belief revolves around “having a plan like a good football team. Even though Idol is not his show, Cowell is very close to it and is “confident that it will continue to be the number one show”. The angle he likes with “X Factor” is that there is no upper age limit and because of the development time frame, “we have some time to figure out who the judging panel is” since “the auditions are done in quite different ways”. He makes the joke that Ryan [Seacrest] should be a judge “because it will be another job”. He makes the point that he “has had the best 9 years of my life doing the job” on “Idol”. The most important thing in a judge, he says, is someone who knows what they are talking about who can shepherd the most important idea overall which is finding talent. His intention is to leave “Idol” “bigger and better this year than I have before”. While admitting he doesn’t like rules, he says that the example of Susan Boyle is the best ideal of his thought process because “the contestants are what makes [these shows] different”. In terms of “X-Factor” he said “America needs a second show…a different type a show”. And with that, in front of us, he signs the “X-Factor” deal memo as Reilly and Chernin look on.

Past Life This new series from one of minds behind “Friday Night Lights” follows an investigative team that uses structures of past regression in homicide victims to rebuild and solve cases. While the pursuant of forensic-based cases makes this a hybrid with a bit of supernatural, the necessity will need to be of balance to maintain the viewer.

Exec producer David Hudgins understands that “one of the challenges of a show like this is belief”. He said one of the aspects that they talked about ruminated on the platform of “no rules” which he interprets as “pushing the envelope”. In this way “we took the attitude that it is ‘all’ for real”. It was a matter of keeping an open mind as to how they approach the material and reflecting back that “anything is possible”. The key was also to keep the stories contemporary which was a balance of both a limited budget but also the structure of shooting in Atlanta which, beyond its incentives, didn’t offer the option of an ocean or desert

Lou Pitt, also an executive producer who also made the film “Hollywood Homicide” with Harrison Ford, says that with “Past Life” what “we try to do is take a little bit of the reality and give it a twist”. The series itself is based on the book “The Reincarnationist” by M.J. Rose who also wrote some of the series episodes. Pitt believes that the fact that more than a million people in the world believe in reincarnation is a good start.

Richard Schiff, who plays Dr. Malachi Talmadge on the show, says “I actually believe in it…so there”. He likes that there is something generally good about these characters in that they are healers. The aspect of reincarnation relies on the fact that “certain phenomenon cannot be explained in another way”. The reason these investigators return to this certain field is because these are “unsolvable mysteries”. He admits that there is alot of things in life that he doesn’t understand but that the show “explores some of the mysteries that confound me”.

Kelly Giddish who plays regressionist Dr. Kate McGinn, says that “the relationships in these worlds are defined” so there needs to be a search for a “special reason”. Nicolas Bishop, who plays her more unbelieving partner Price Whatley, says that doing the show motivates him with alot more curiousity adding that “to delve into skepticism is an interesting concept”.

Ravi Patel, who rounds out the cast as Dr. Rishi Karna, admits that he doesn’t believe in reincarnation but that he does believe in karma which is “more of a principle”. One of thee major elements he enjoys about the show is that “no overarching key is left unturned” which allowed for some “really pleasantly surprising things to come to light”.

24 This series has becomes a crucial part in pacing. Like John McClane was to “Die Hard”, Jack Bauer now has a complete rule ovr a certain part of the TV landscape. The question becomes one of thought, pliability and effectiveness in the coming season.

Exec Producer Howard Gordon, who was also a major force on “The X-Files”, says that there is a cathartic aspect to “24” but balanced within that has always been a “creative proposition”. The key becomes to not become “too comfortable in your assumptions” but adds that “there is no sea change or conscious propaganda”.

Kiefer Sutherland, who also acts a producer on the show in addition to his starring role, says that their objective is “great substance in a 24-hour period”. He points to that fact that “24” as a show alleviated alot of the stress people had about terrorism on an individual level after 9/11. What Howard [Gordon] did was give Jack something to “right” for. He agrees that they have taken Jack to “some dark places: the loss of his wife, the estrangement of his daughter”. The kicker, for him. “is that giving him something to fight for is an exciting place to be for a character”. He relays that it surprises him that the show has been translated into 14 languages and that Jack Bauer has become part of the idiom of pop culture. He actually relates a story some kids told him about horsing around in a hot tub including a cannonball scenario where they said “I’m going to Jack Bauer you”. In terms of creative decisions that pushed the boundaries politically, Kiefer says that the torture sequence which were done for dramatic purpose did cause them some heat. However his perception is that Bauer is a “result oriented character” when, by paradox, his superiors wanted to do it by the book but admitted “that was the only time we addressed a specific political issue”. He always is shocked though when people say they feel safer on the plane with him.

Katee Sackoff, formerly of Battlestar Galactica and the short lived “Bionic Women” joins the cast as Dana who is involved in the new narrative this season. She says that this character is the closest she has ever played to herself even though Dana is a computer analyst. In this kind of situation, everything becomes more interesting because the woman has a past. One of the character’s former strengths was raising show ponies in Kentucky. But, of course, as Sackoff states, “it goes bad…it’s 24”. She admits Dana is “very good and loves being close to Chloe’s boss” a subtle hint at a development possibly this season. Her strength, she jokingly, adds is that she “has boobs and two guns” because unlike “Battlestar” “this is different…this is on land”.

%d bloggers like this: