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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

The fate of 'Sherlock'

Posted: 21 Jan 2014 10:10 PM PST

The TV show's executive producer makes an interesting announcement.

Perhaps Sherlock fans should start hoping that Benedict Cumberbatch experiences a career slide.

Cumberbatch was on hand to discuss the series at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California, earlier this week. Among the topics discussed was how long the series – which premiered its third season last weekend in the United States – might last. A straight answer wasn't forthcoming from the panel, but executive producer Steven Moffat suggested that the show will go on, unless its star gets too big for the drama.

"Ben Stephenson, who is the head of drama at the BBC, has commissioned it for 50 years, he said, just to settle this question," Moffat cracked. "Yes, it will continue until Benedict gets too famous," he said.

"He gets precious and just doesn't want to do it," added Sherlock producer, and Moffat's wife, Sue Vertue.

During the panel, Cumberbatch (who juggles his Sherlock duties with big-screen roles in the Hobbit franchise and Star Trek Into Darkness) added that he's not in danger of burning out on the iconic sleuth character like some of his predecessors, noting, "I'm younger than any of them were or are."

Also helping Cumberbatch to not burn out on the role: The fact that he easily sheds the part when it's time to leave it behind. Sort of.

"Yeah. Well, sometimes. No," Cumberbatch hedged, when asked if the role is always with him. The actor did allow, however, that "I felt really sentimental about letting him go this time, which I normally don't because he's very hard. I love him to bits, I love the results, sometimes, but it's hard work. And this time I felt really sentimental about it."

Cumberbatch did, however, admit to inadvertently slipping into Sherlock mode on his off-hours during the show's early days.

"On the first series I was going from London on the train, and I got very interested in smudges on people's lapel," Cumberbatch offered. "I knew ***k-all about it back then ... I thought, 'Oh, here's a clue!'." — Reuters

Stock-dome syndrome 'Under The Dome'

Posted: 21 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

Silly bits aside, Under The Dome is intriguing enough for this viewer to give it a shot for one season.

UNDER The Dome ... the title almost makes you want to burst out into an Alan Menken-Howard Ashman song, if you were a talking crab singing to a Disney mermaid, that is.

What's with the cartoon reference? Well, the animation connection is strong with this sci-fi series from the book by Stephen King – after all, it bears more than a passing resemblance to The Simpsons Movie.

Like Springfield was in that side-splittingly funny cartoon feature, so too is Chester's Mill, Maine, sealed off from the outside world by an impenetrable, invisible dome in this TV series.

On paper, UTD seems like a fantasy/SF buff's dream come true: its source novel is by frightmeister Stephen King, and it is adapted for television by veteran comics writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Saga, Ex Machina) – who also served as a writer and story editor on Lost.

In addition, it's got that whole post-apocalyptic vibe to it, although the world hasn't exactly ended; it's just been sealed off.

It happens one sunny morning when the dome descends/appears without warning. Many townspeople are trapped inside; others are away and unable to return to their loved ones; a cow gets bisected by the dome (a gory but eyebrow-raising visual effect); while vehicles crash into it both on the road and in the air.

The gripping pilot episode also set up some intriguing plot threads.

It appears that the town has a dark secret known only to a select few – Jeff Fahey's police chief "Duke" Perkins, Dean Norris' town politician "Big Jim" Rennie and Ned Bellamy's Reverend Lester Coggins. Curiously, it involves large amounts of propane gas.

At the start of the pilot, we see mystery man and army veteran Dale "Barbie" Barbara (Mike Vogel, Cloverfield) burying a body in the woods around the town. After the dome comes down and he's stuck inside, he befriends local reporter Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre) who is investigating the large shipments of propane into the town. She offers him a place to stay. She's also worried about her husband, who is missing.

Back at Julia's house, Barbie sees a photograph of her with her husband, and realises that he's the same man he killed and buried!

The early episodes quickly introduce most of the principal characters: from sheriff's deputy Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez) who yearns for the approval of her mentor and father figure Duke, to Joe and Elinore (Colin Ford and Mackenzie Lintz), a couple of kids who have an unusual, unexplained connection with the dome; and to Rennie's psychotic son James "Junior" (Alexander Koch) – yes, they seem to be big on nicknames in Chester's Mill – who kidnaps and imprisons his ex-girlfriend because he thinks she's having an affair. And apparently also to save her from impending cataclysm. See, and you thought this warped notion of protective custody only happens in real life.

Junior's story arc is perhaps the most irritating of the lot. UTD suffers from some terribly uneven acting and writing, and unfortunately, an important character like Junior comes across as a one-dimensional caricature – he rapidly becomes the most annoying teenager this side of Terra Nova. I'm almost wishing they'd suddenly have carnosaurs appear inside the dome, just so one can eat Junior.

'I'll just stroll casually down the street so no one but the audience will ever suspect that I'm actually barking mad.'

'I'll just stroll casually down the street so no one but the audience will ever suspect that I'm actually barking mad.'

His story arc also leads to some unintended guffaws when his victim, Angie (Britt Robertson) actually starts to sympathise with him in a most unbelievable way ... call it Stock-dome Syndrome, if you will.

Three episodes in, and the mystery is only deepening with no sign of any answers on the horizon. The dome has a highly destructive effect on any electronics or electrical device that comes in contact with it, as one unfortunate soul with a pacemaker finds out in the pilot. As a near-future episode will reveal, it is also impervious to even the most frightful of manmade destructive forces.

And then there's the whole issue of the isolated town's diminishing resources and the rapidly fraying nerves of those trapped within, in addition to that big secret that Big Jim is guarding.

While I found some characters (Junior, the overprotective lesbian mums, the psycho deputy, the belligerent locals, the clueless Julia) highly irritating, others like deputy Linda, Joe and Elinore, and even the murderous Big Jim make me want to keep watching to see how their respective stories play out.

And the whole enigma of the dome is intriguing enough to keep me around until at least early next season.

Wait, what?

Yes, next season. Remarkable, isn't it, for something based on a standalone novel to already be heading for a second season? Hold on to your canned provisions: one producer has indicated that five seasons of 13 episodes each is an ideal length for UTD to run. That's actually more spine-chilling than anything the show has served up so far.

Apparently, the producers have "completely re-imagined" (in King's words) the source of the dome; furthermore, their series outline calls for the dome to stay in place for months, series time, instead of one week like in the book.

So is it aliens? Mad scientists? Or worse, clandestine government agency-sponsored scientists? Is it some kind of social engineering experiment, a sadistic superior intelligence at work, or a mass hallucination? If it's really going to last as long as it's been hinted, the answer had better be knock-your-socks-off good,

So ration out those crackers and crisps, people – if you're planning to stay Under The Dome, it's going to be a pretty long visit.

Under The Dome airs every Wednesday at 9.55pm on RTL CBS Entertainment (HyppTV Ch 616). E-mail feedback to

Harry Connick Jr ready for jury duty

Posted: 21 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

IN the past two years, Harry Connick Jr went from an American Idol viewer to a mentor and now a judge.

This year, Connick joins Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez on the panel of judges who will help select this year's newest pop star. Randy Jackson, who has passed judgment on singers since the reality competition series started, is shifting his role to mentor.

We talked to Connick about taking on the role of judge for American Idol 13.

What made you feel comfortable enough to agree to be a judge?

My whole life has been a lot of interaction with people who are a lot better than I am, whether it's in a one-on-one teaching situation or a clinic or mentorship or master class. As I got older, I started to be on the giving end of those things. I would spend a lot of time talking to kids in high school, college, even professional people about how they can improve. So I feel very comfortable in that kind of environment.

Is it the same being a judge as being a mentor?

When American Idol called a few years ago to ask me to be a mentor, it felt like a very natural thing to do. And then they called me back last year to do it again and I had a great time. I really, really enjoyed spending time with those talented young performers.

Then they called and asked me if I wanted to be a judge, which is different than being a mentor because you don't really have the intensity of the interaction but you get to share your views with a lot more people and try to help them develop their talent. So it just felt like a natural thing to do.

How are you different than the other two judges?

We're completely different. We're different brains, different personalities, different philosophies. I think what I bring to it is I have a lot of experience as a player, as a singer and as a kind of overall entertainer that's unique to my own life. It's like the movies I've done are different than the ones that Jennifer's done and the concerts I've played are different than Keith's. So just by virtue of our own experience; I think I can bring something a little bit different.

Does the overall male talent look stronger this year?

There's some crazy guy talent. For real. No joke. There are some guys that are really good, some great young women, too. So it's hard to say if it's a 50/50 split. It's impossible to know and we certainly would never try to reach any kind of quota because that would be biased, I think. We just respond to the people that we see. I guess the feeling is that it's about half and half; maybe two more girls than guys, but I think it's about even.

How has adding guitars affected the show?

I think it's a great thing because it's very telling. When people pick up the guitar and they're not good players, it shows immediately that A) They should put the guitar down, and B) A lot of the decisions that they make as singers are not dissimilar to what they're doing on the guitar.

If you're playing some chords that make no sense, that person can't hear. So, when they sing, it's obvious why they're making the choices they're making.

As a mentor, you put a lot of emphasis on the importance of contestants understanding the meaning of the lyrics of the songs. Will that be important to you as a judge?

Yes, that's huge. If they're going to sing a lyric, then you have to really start picking it apart. Sometimes, they'll listen to you when you say understand the words but then they'll over-sing it, or maybe it's kind of one dimensional. There's a lot of little roads you can go down for improvement. These are singers. You need to know how to sing a song. You need to know what you're singing about, and interestingly to me, that is not that important to a lot of singers. They just sing but they're not connected to the lyrics.

What are the chances of finding the next Harry Connick Jr?

Hopefully, there's only one me and you'll never find the next one! — The Fresno Bee/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

> American Idol is on Star World (Astro Ch 711) every Thursday and Friday at 6pm, with repeats.


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