WHAT TO WATCH: MAY 2014

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Well kids, here we are back again for another month of TV (this year is kind of going by incredibly fast, right?). May is an interesting month. Not nearly as busy as September, January or April, but significantly more interesting than used to be May. Traditionally, May would be the time when your network shows would be wrapping up their seasons, and the networks would be moving into summer reruns or limited run summer series. That’s not as much the case in today’s changed TV landscape.

May through August will likely not be as stacked as some months, but they will likely be very top heavy, with some cable networks premiering some truly excellent works (mainly HBO and FX, but AMC also has some interesting things coming up this summer).

So let’s get to the list:

10. The Americans: Season 2 finale (FX, May 21) — I’m starting with three shows that I absolutely adore at the bottom of this list. Shows that will almost definitely be in my top 10 (if not top 5) for the year. I do this just because they are finales, and the main purpose of this list is to make our readers aware of premiering shows. If you want to know about The Americans, you can refer back to our February list, where it was the number 2 entry for the month. Its inclusion here hopefully will be taken by our readers to mean that the season has lived up to any and all incredibly high expectations, and has been an excellent, likely improved, follow up to the sensational season 1.

9. Hannibal: Season 2 finale (NBC, May 23) — And, the number 1 entry on our February list was Hannibal. This is a show that surprised the hell out of me in its debut season. I had incredibly low expectations, was surprised to hear early reviews of its greatness, and loved the season overall. Season 2 did not have such benefit. I went into this season expecting, if not demanding, brilliance out of Fuller, Mikkelsen, Dancy and co. The season has turned what we know of this world on its head, and has been one of the fullest and richest experiences on TV in recent memory.

8. Mad Men: Season 7A finale (AMC, May 25) — Speaking of full and rich experiences…We just posted my review of the early season within the last week, so I won’t go on too much about Mad Men. But one thing that was not mentioned in that post was continued excellent guest casting for season 7A, with the additions of Not-Dog Travis (Dan Byrd), 90’s crush Neve Campbell, and Veronica Mars’s own Jessy Schram (who I just adore).

7. Rosemary’s Baby (NBC, May 11) — The networks are starting to figure out, the best way to get an audience is with miniseries and limited run series. This modern day telling of the Ira Levin novel is only 4 hours, and stars Zoe Saldana and Jason Isaacs. If we are going to continue to be lazy and refuse to come up with new and novel ideas, your best chance at getting me to watch is keeping it short (4 hours) and casting actors I’m interested in seeing (Saldana and the always excellent Isaacs). I’m making no long-term commitment NBC, but I’ll at least watch Night One.

6. Crossbones (NBC, May 30) — So, it seems like NBC is in the summer show business, doesn’t it? A pirates show starring John Malkovich. Oh, and brought to you by Michael Bay, did I forget to mention that part? Everything about this tells us it is going to be hideously awful, yet, I can’t help but be oddly intrigued. Let me also add, as I was doing my research, I noticed a strange name with the writing credits, Neil Cross. This is the man that brought us Idris Elba’s Luther, one of the finest shows of the last 5 years. Also, David Slade is credited as a director for the series (it appears he directed the pilot, as he did for Awake and Hannibal, which set amazing tones). With these guys involved, there has to be something there, right?

5. The Normal Heart (HBO, May 25) — I’m not going to pretend to know a great deal about this HBO movie, other than the fact that I’ve heard people talk about the fact that it’s an HBO movie. And, by just knowing that fact, I know that it’s going to win all the Emmy’s. Plus, with a cast including Julia Roberts, Taylor Kitsch, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Mark Ruffalo, Denis O’Hare, and Joe Zaso, even the fact that it is directed by Ryan Murphy can’t necessarily deter me. Based on a 2011 Broadway play, and dealing with HIV/AIDS activism in the 1980s…Again…All the Emmy’s.

4. Gang Related (FOX, May 20) — Our first look at FOX’s summer programming. I’m not sure I know why I’m interested in Gang Related, other than maybe to just say I love Terry O’Quinn (obviously), and the guy that plays Alvarez on Sons of Anarchy is also in this show. I guess it could be good, or it could be absolutely dreadful. Only time will tell I suppose.

3. In the Flesh (BBC America, May 10) — So this is a show that sat on my DVR from last summer until early this year. I believe it is even a show I pointed out in my top TV of last year as a show I had missed which may have been included. Having watched the first season, yeah, it probably would have been. In the Flesh, not unlike The Returned, is a zombie show without a lot of “zombies.” Set in the UK after a zombie outbreak, a cure of sorts has been found, and those that have been infected are attempting to re-integrate into society. It is clear that they are infected, but their symptoms are kept in check. Many people in the small town which the show is set in are unsurprisingly uncomfortable with these people being allowed back home. It’s a slow, thoughtful show. Season 1 was only 3 episodes, but they’ve upped it to 6 for season 2.

2. Penny Dreadful (Showtime, May 11) — The next Showtime show has probably the most impressive pedigree yet. Created by John Logan and being exec produced by Sam Mendes, and starring names such as Josh Hartnett, Helen McCrory, Timothy Dalton and the perfect Eva Green, it has all the makings of a great one. The show appears to be a mix and match horror anthology type show set in Victorian London and involving the likes Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and Dracula. I love it when shows take big swings, and with the brain trust of Skyfall on board, I will be too.

 1. Louie (FX, May 5) — It’s so good to have this show back.

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Alright, that’s it for this month.  We will see you again in June.

-CJ

 

SHAMELESS UPDATE: CASTING NEWS

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We don’t talk about Shameless enough on this blog.  It is definitely one of my favorite shows on TV.  And, while the Gallaghers are going through some tough, tough stuff right now (that is often times hard to watch), this dark comedy is having another fantastic season in my opinion.  This year some new characters were added to the show and one in particular has apparently made her mark.  Showtime has promoted Emily Bergl to a series regular for season 5.

Bergl is currently completing a 10-episode arc as Sammi Gallagher, a long-lost daughter of Frank Gallagher (played by William H. Macy).  Sammi has spent most of the season getting to know her dad, as well as her many siblings, and taking care of Frank as he withers away (and hopefully dies…I love William H. Macy, but Frank is the worst human ever).  With Fiona struggling and continuing to spiral downward, it will be interesting to see whether Sammi takes over the role of matriarch of the family and how Fiona deals with it.  We already can tell that Debbie is quickly bonding with Sammi.

I feel bad for Fiona this season, but I have been enjoying Sammi and the more time she spends in the world of the Gallaghers, the more and more I like her.  If she is a true Gallagher though, at some point, her self-destructive behavior will take a toll and hopefully we will be around to see it.

Congrats to Emily Bergl and if you haven’t been watching Shameless.  Start.  Like yesterday.

-LJ