Posted: 29 May 2013 05:06 AM PDT
Gillian Anderson may still wear the same pantsuits, but her return to TV is more than welcome.
IT has been more than a decade since Gillian Anderson played the character Dana Scully on The X-Files, but many TV fans still remember her as such. Well, that may no longer be the case as Anderson stages a return to TV.
For those who've lost track of her career, Anderson has actually been appearing in a number of British TV series and films like Great Expectations, Moby Dick, The House Of Mirth and The Crimson Petal And The White. This year, she starred in a five-episode BBC 2 show called The Fall (with The Good Wife's Archie Panjabi), which makes its premiere on the American subscription-based media provider Netflix today. Unfortunately, Netflix is not available here, so let's hope one of the local or regional TV channels picks up the series soon enough.
Last week, Anderson appeared on television twice – first on the ridiculous movie Johnny English Reborn (in which she starred alongside Rowan Atkinson and Rosamund Pike, a weird combo indeed) that was shown on HBO, and on Hannibal (AXN).
In the latter, the actress plays Dr Bedelia Du Maurier, Dr Hannibal Lecter's psychiatrist. It's an interesting character in theory, but there needs to be a little more interaction between the two to really figure out what she's truly like. That said, though, Du Maurier's demeanour reminds one of Scully, except that the good doctor is a lot more cunning.
Anderson is currently working on a new programme called Crisis, scheduled for release in the third quarter of 2013. The series revolves around a national crisis that occurs when a high school, attended by the children of Washington DC's prominent political and business figures, is ambushed and the children are taken hostage. Anderson plays the CEO of a big company whose daughter is among those kidnapped. Other stars include Lance Gross, Rachael Taylor, Michael Beach and Dermot Mulroney.
While waiting for these new TV shows to come our way, wouldn't it be great if one of the channels runs the whole nine seasons of The X-Files? Wishful thinking? Probably.
There are a lot of other programmes on my TV wishlist, but you can safely bet that a reality-based series is not one of them. However, there are some which I find quite entertaining, like Snooki & JWoww (MTV Asia). Yes, you read it right, I watched Snooki & JWoww and survived the ordeal. In fact, I was thoroughly entertained by the antics of these ... "TV personalities". The seemingly honest depiction of these rather comical characters, their unpretentiousness, bewildered ignorance and no-holds barred conversations – most of which are more stupid and brash than malicious – make for excellent, if silly, entertainment.
In last week's episode, a very pregnant Snooki or Nicole Polizzi (no one, except for the rabid fan or two, calls her Snooki on the show!) is just about ready to go into labour. She and fiance Jioni LaValle do a dry run to the hospital, which turns out to be quite hilarious. Jioni misses a turn because he's too busy talking, while Nicole pisses – literally – on the car seat ("Yeah I peed in the car but that's normal 'cos I'm pregnant!").
In another scene, when Nicole really is in labour, she tells her bestfriend JWoww aka Jennifer Farley that she feels like "pooping". "It feels like it's one of those long swirly ones that just won't stop" is pretty much how she describes it.
Yes, it's a tad disgusting, but you also see a side of Nicole that you probably thought did not exist in a former hardcore party girl like her. Like how she and Jioni, and to an extent, Jennifer, are actually quite responsible as parents, fretting over the baby's bassinet and other little things.
A snippet of the next episode – when Nicole finally gives birth after 27 hours of being in labour (yikes!) – shows her father, a scary-looking big bald man, crying and telling someone on the phone that "the baby's here". Awww ...
Team Scully or Team Du Maurier? Team Snooki or Team JWoww? Tweet us your TV gripes and wishes at @MyStarTwo.
Posted: 29 May 2013 05:06 AM PDT
Only Mad Men could open a new season with an episode set in sunny Hawaii and yet somehow have its lead character seem even more grim than he did in grey Manhattan.
As the critically-acclaimed show begins its sixth season, we find Don Draper (Jon Hamm) reclining on the beach with his beautiful new wife, Megan (Jessica Pare). This being Mad Men, Don is reading Dante's Inferno.
And of course, we remember that last scene in the season five finale: Don, recently married, sitting at a bar, contemplating a beautiful woman who asks him: "Are you alone?"
The answer, which faithful viewers of the show have known all along, is yes. Don Draper is alone. Always. Even when he's surrounded by admiring co-workers or lusty lovers. But this season seems like the one where he starts to realise it too.
With a two-hour premiere (The Doorway) that often felt like it was setting up a season-long descent into Don's own nine circles of hell, Mad Men proceeds to show us just exactly how alone the devilishly handsome ad man is. Megan has decided to go back to work as an actress, his protégé Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) is now working for their rival advertising agency, and even while sleeping with a neighbour's wife, Don says, "I don't want to be doing this."
It's a statement that is bigger than just that moment. When Don pitches an ad for a Hawaii hotel only to have the client say it appears to suggest suicide, Don may be surprised, but we aren't. Instead, we know that this is what the show has been building up to: Don's eventual self-destruction, whether literal or metaphorical.
Of course, the beauty of Mad Men is how, despite having a protagonist as complex as Don, the show still manages to introduce and explore a whole host of equally rich supporting characters – and while their development quite often complements happenings in Don's life, they never feel contrived or shortchanged.
I've always thought of Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) as different versions of the Don character – the former often seems to be Don without the darkness, while the latter is a weaker, slimier model – and so far, season six seems to be mining these parallels.
So, in the premiere, while Don struggles with issues of belonging, Roger is first shown attending therapy, and then later, losing his mother. But as Don gets progressively more closed off, Roger seems to be opening up, even having heart-to-heart conversations with his daughter and ex-wife after his mother's funeral.
Pete, on the other hand, is almost living the worst-case scenario version of Don's life. In the season's next episode, Collaborators, his marriage and his affair collide after some truly reprehensible behaviour on his part. This results in his wife Trudy (the perfectly cast Alison Brie) putting him in his place in a way that you almost want to cheer for.
Peggy is struggling with her own issues of faithfulness; when a friendly conversation with her former colleague Stan (Jay R. Ferguson) alerts her to the possibility of poaching a client, her current boss Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm) encourages her to go ahead. And on that thread, there seems to be a simmering sexual tension between her and Ted that I suspect will boil over at some point this season (though I'd take Ted over Peggy's lacklustre boyfriend Abe any day).
Collaborators also has some of those classic Don Draper moments we love, such as when he deftly deals with boorish Jaguar distributor Herb without him even realising he'd been played. The most powerful scenes in the episode, however, were the ones involving him and his lover (and neighbour's wife) Sylvia (Linda Cardellini). Truly, few lines can give you a glimpse into Don's psyche like when he tells her: "You want to feel guilty, right to the point where I take your dress off."
With the next season being touted as the show's last, season six looks set to tear down as many of the show's long-established structures as it can. Longtime followers will notice that the show has become progressively grimmer as seasons go by, and this season is no exception. Even the wry moments are permeated by an undercurrent of hopelessness that can sometimes make you long for the black humour of Don's ex-wife Betty (January Jones) shooting pigeons in season one, or season three's bloody lawnmower scene.
That said, the tone is fitting for both the characters and the era. The Swinging Sixties are coming to an end, and with that, the era of optimism in the US. The Vietnam War is already upon them, and historically, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr isn't very far away.
But it's also simply that the characters' burdens are becoming too much to bear; they're older, more jaded, and the cracks are beginning to show. The characters' search for their elusive happiness continues, but it is as if they are gazing at their dreams with increasingly hollow eyes.
Mad Men airs every Wednesday at midnight on FX HD (Astro Ch 726).
Posted: 28 May 2013 03:29 PM PDT
A new series pieces together the story of fictional serial killer Norman Bates during his teen years, growing up with good old mum.
IN the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock movie, Psycho, the audience discovered Norman Bates to be a not an altogether guy. Seeing him talk to his dead mother (taking on her persona, even) did not only give the film its dramatic twist and ending – not to mention goosebumps to viewers – but it also got the audience to form conjectures as to what might have made Norman that way.
Well, Bates Motel provides one possible theory.
With a contemporary setting, the loosely-defined TV prequel to Psycho introduces us to a lanky teenager named Norman (Freddie Highmore). He is moving to a seemingly idyllic town named White Pines Bay – to a particular house up on a hill – with his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga). She has just bought a motel on sale, and plans to run it with her son. All very normal and rosy – compounded by the exchanges between Norma and Norman on the drive to their new home – it's no different than that of any mother and her son. But we know better; The fact she gave her son a masculine version of her own name is already an indication of what seems like an unhealthy mother-son relationship.
When Highmore, 21, was offered the role, he knew playing a 17-year-old Norman would be an amazing opportunity. Like anyone who has seen the film, the English actor asked the same question – what turned Norman into a psycho? In an interview transcript with Highmore, he said the series explores nature versus nurture.
"Was Norman Bates destined to become a serial killer or is it his mother or the dodgy town that they moved to and their influence upon him? And so if it's the latter, if it's the fact that his upbringing has conditioned him in a certain way that means he's more likely to end up as we know he must, then what does that say about us? If we'd had his upbringing would we be slightly different? We all go a little mad sometimes. Would we be more like him? It's fascinating to ask these questions."
To make sure he covers all angles, Highmore watched the film and read the book which the film was based on (the book was inspired by the serial killer Ed Gein). Nonetheless, he admitted that he wanted to give the character in the series justice – to add layers to him especially since it's no secret that Norman becomes a serial killer in the future.
He said: "You have to build in things from the start so that it's believable at whatever point it is that he takes his first victim. So it has to be a level of believability to it – he can't be a completely normal guy, but at the same time, there's something very chillingly normal about some people who in real life perhaps have acted in the way that Norman does."
Bates Motel creators Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights) have also cleverly set the series in present times, giving the series flexibility not to follow resolutely on Psycho's footsteps. At the same time, however, all the clothes, cars and furniture have a vintage quality to them, linking it to Hitchcock's film. (So while Norma drives a classic Mercedes Benz, her son is listening to music on an iPhone – which lends the 10-episode series an interesting look.)
So what is Highmore's take on Norman's relationship with his mother? "It's very intimate, isn't it? I don't think Norman forgets Mother's Day. Every day is Mother's Day at the Bates household! It's interesting also the way that they both negatively impact the other but also can't live without the other. They are soul partners. And then perhaps partners in crime at a certain point.
"It's odd but it's also certainly two-directional: you can say there's those complexes there with Norman, but for me, that refers more to a son's desire for his mother. Whereas in Bates Motel, it's not just Norman desiring his mother but his mother desiring the son. And it's not necessarily sexual, but it's nice that it's hinted at. I think a lot of the important things in Bates Motel are left unsaid and suggested as opposed to being explicitly there. So a lot of things in people's interpretations are, where to draw the lines in a relationship, because it's not obvious. But that's what makes it exciting is that it's not being forced upon the audience or saying this is exactly what it is and we're going to say lines that are true.
"There's one episode where I remember thinking everyone is lying to each other, absolutely everyone! It's fantastic because you just don't know who to trust and you don't know who's telling the truth and that's kind of exciting to watch."
Bates Motel premieres tonight at 10.50pm on Universal HD (HyppTV Ch 612).
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