Entries in TV (24)

Tuesday
Mar102015

'The Returned' is 'Walking Dead' With Soul, But See French Version First

 

There's nothing like a French mommy to comfort her French zombie daughter and her wildly sexy four-year-older twin. Welcome to the original The Returned(Credit: Sundance Channel)

BY ROBBIE WOLIVER

A&E’s The Returned, the American remake of the French/Sundance Channel’s The Returned (Les Revenants) is (so far) an almost scene-for-scene replication of the Emmy-winning original. But as one commenter stated on A&E’s Facebook page, “No! Why on earth would I watch [the] American remake when [the] French original is goddamn good!?” And he is correct.

Fox recently did the same thing with BBC’s thoughtful thriller Broadchurch. Despite turning it into an exact copy of the British hit called Gracepoint (including the same leading man, David Tennant), it lacked all the subtlety of the original.

The Returned takes place in a small mountain town where departed loved ones come back from the dead. More like a ghost story than your ordinary zombie fare, these are not predatory Walking Dead zombies. They are the same people who died and returned as confused by it as any of their living counterparts. The concept is thoughtful and compelling. In Les Revenants’ case, it is downright riveting—one of the best TV series…ever.  In A&E’s version, it is more like misguided homage.

The returned come back unchanged, extremely hungry, not remembering anything about their death and in great need of sleep. Slowly we discover they might have some unusual powers like kinetic abilities and superhuman strength. Why have they come back? Are they dangerous? How are they all connected to each other?

Oh, yes, there’s a serial killer on the loose as well. And a lake that has its own secrets.

The original, created and directed by Fabrice Cobert, was beautifully haunting. That’s what made it so unique. The remake, executive produced by Bates’ Motel and Lost’s Carlton Cuse, is bright and shiny, lacking the lovely subtlety of the original. (Cuse did boldly succeed creating something original from other material with Bates, but has yet to show us what he has in mind with The Returned.) Much of the original takes place in the viewer’s head, but it is shoved down your throat on the heavy-handed remake.  

So why wouldn’t a copycat edition be as good as the original?

Here are 10 reasons:

1. MOGWAI 

The eerie music of Scottish band Mogwai adds so much to the spooky ambience of the original. The minute the new version began with its folk-rock soundtrack, they lost the foreboding spirit of the original. Mogwai’s soundtrack is like a character, skulking around, mysterious and other-worldly.  The new soundtrack by the talented Zoe Keating of the cello-driven rock band Rasputina and Jeff Russo of Tonic, attempts hints at the original, but they don’t even come close to the way Mogwai interweaves his music deep, deep into the action. Here's the haunting theme song.

2. FRENCHINESS

 The original is in French and is subtitled. And even if you don’t know French, it’s beautiful to listen to. For Americans, hearing the dialogue in its original language adds to the stranger-in-a-strange-land atmosphere. Also, Les Revenants’ Alps-town seems ghost-like even before the dead return, and the French town is more conducive to goosebumps than the American one. Also, the doctor in the French version makes house calls. Boo, American health care system.

3. VICTOR

Original Victor? What kind of creepy secrets do you hold? (Credit: BBC Channel 4)

You couldn’t get creepier than little Victor (Swann Nambotin) in the original. The new Victor (Dylan Kingwell) is cute enough—well, too cute—but he doesn’t have French Victor’s alien eyes and devilish understatement. Nambotin’s Victor was the heartbeat of the original.

4. LENA

Jenna Thaim: Reason enough to watch the French version of The Returned on Sundance. (Credit: Sundance Channel)

We haven’t really gotten into new Lena’s character yet, but the original Lena (the Brave look-alike Jenna Thaim) was a wild-maned, untamed redhead whose electricity just bolted from the screen. I don’t know, but French redheads seem more intense than other redheads.

5. JULIE

In the original, Céline Sallette plays Julie, the doctor and Victor’s guardian, with a desperate ease.  She’s broken; you know it from the first minute you see her. You fear for her fragility, but it also adds to the impending danger that always seems to surround her.  In the new version, Sandrine Holt plays her with much more confidence. Perhaps that will make her eventual break more significant, but at first blush it just seems like more of the flash that occurs when a foreign show is Americanized.

6. THE OTHER ACTORS

The A&E cast: No parlez vous Français (Credit: A&E)

Everyone seems like fine actors on the new version (Six Feet Under and Law & Order’s Jeremy Sisto, The Killing and Battlestar Gallactica’s Michelle Forbes, Once Upon A Time In Wonderland’s Alice, Sophie Lowe), but this one’s hard to gauge because so many of the actors are dopplegangers for the originals, and a few are complete opposites. Camille (the first of the returned), played by India Ennenga (Treme), and her now four-year-older twin sister Lena are examples of good look-alike casting. So adjusting to the new looks of familiar characters is disconcerting to return viewers, but there’s a sheen on the new actors that’s wholly American, that you don’t find on the more scruffy French ones. The French characters seem more lived in.  In the new version, everyone seems more than capable of taking on these iconic (to some) roles, but there’s a depth that the originals had, an investment in the role because they were creating the characters, that is not evident in the new roles.

7. THE PACE

Cuse, perhaps gun shy from criticism that Lost was too slow-paced and left us with more questions than answers, rushes through the story, losing that slow, savorable pace of the original. In the original, each character had his or her own episode to be drawn out in, but although the new version has named its episodes similarly, the characters come crashing in one right after another. The unhurried, mournful original had us trying to catch our breath from its depth, not from trying to keep up with it.  

8. COPYCAT

Cuse promises that his show’s version will be different—that it will be original and make its own path. He says that it will be like The Office, where it starts out similarly but then diverges into an original. For that promise, I will watch—but it will be very difficult to match the enigmatic haunting beauty of Les Revenants. Also the French version has its share of nudity. How will A&E handle that?

9. THE HYPNOTIC MOOD

That was the simple key of Les Revenants, and the most glaring omission of the returned The Returned.

10. CAN’T RECOMMEND NEW VERSION

It is not fair to viewers to see the new version of The Returned until they see the original. Catch it on Netflix, get it on Sundance On Demand, but see it. You owe it to yourselves.

 

For fans of the original, here's a fun behind-the-scenes look at the show.

 

For more stuff like this, and other pop-culture thoughts, follow REVIEWniverse on Twitter.

Friday
Feb272015

New Series 'Sex Box' Will Leave You 50 Shades of Speechless

 

 

This is Elle and Brandon pre- and post-coitally humiliating themselves on national TV. Oh, and there's the Sex Box. (Credit: WeTV)

BY ROBBIE WOLIVER

WeTV's new reality series Sex Box, based on the British show, Sex Box, thinks it's title, Sex Box, is so titillating that Sex Box will be on everyone's DVR and Sex Box will be on everyone's mind. Has it sunk in yet? Sex Box. Sex Box. Sex Box.

OK, with that out of the way, here's the outrageous concept: Couples in marital or relationship peril take to three "experts"--wait, we'll get to that fun part soon enough--to discuss the intimate details of their sex life, and then they enter a sound-proof, opaque box where they have sex, in front of a cheering studio audience. They are given pajamas that have the logo "Sex Box" on them, and they look so silly that nothing they talk about, no matter how deep, can be taken seriously. The guys look especially ridiculous in their blue silk pajamas, with their hangdog looks (hangdog, of course, because they were just beaten up by the experts only minutes prior; because they just had sex in a box; and becasue they are wearing stupid pajamas).

So, let's meet the experts. Dr. Fran Walfish (best name on TV) is a "relationship psychotherapist to the stars, published author and keeper of Hollywood's bedroom secrets." Dr. Chris Donaghue is a clinical psychologist, "cutting-edge sex therapist and controversial voice in the study of relationships in the 21st century." (That's almost as funny as the men's pajamas.) Well, here's the most imortant thing about him: We see him doing pull-ups, so we know he's buff, he's tattooted and he wears lavendar shoes. He's the "cool" one on the panel. Yvonne Capeheart is a "renowned pastor and spiritual advisor to couples in serious crises." She winced at least twice, admonishing two guests about their cursing. This is fucking Sex Box, Sister Yvonne. 

Oh, we are also reminded that all three are "at the top of their field," so I imagine 30 years of practice each, publication in many revered medical journals and degrees from Harvard are also in their background.

With the tease that this is "the most transformative therapy ever captured on TV," we are introduced to the first guests: a musician couple, Elle and Brandon. Brandon's kind of a hipster with an attitude. He doesn't please Elle; she doesn't orgasm, but he does. So now we know too much about them, but it's not enough for our top-of-the-field panel. They want blood. And they rip into poor Brandon who looks like a deer in the headlights. (He looks even worse after the Sex Box romp.) 

Brandon suddenly realizes that he is on television, on a sex therapy show, after he is asked to describe what their lovemaking consists of. "Really? I'm doing this?" could not have been written more clearly on his pathetic face, and he tells a panelist that their intimate question to him was an "awkward time to bring it up." Hello, that's why you're on the show, Brandon. There was no way you couldn't have sympathy for poor Brandon, even if he doesn't please his wife, because suddenly he was being bullied by the panel of experts. His highlight was calling Dr. Chris a "suspect individual" and his lowlight was entering the box and emerging 17 minutes later to discuss what just happened. Oh, and they had to rate each other's sexual performance. Another deer-in-the-headlight moment for Brandon, who was looking more and more defeated by the minute.

Sex Box is the TV equivelant of the film 50 Shades of Grey. There's no sex. Well there is sex hidden away, but this is the least sexy show on TV. Some unlikely sounding reality relationship shows like Married At First Sight are actually pretty good, as explained in this fine, afore-linked Vulture.com story by REVIEWniverse co-editor Kenny Herzog. But most are disasters, and Sex Box is probably the worst. 

Just to sum up the other two couples: One husband, Dyson, apparently obsessed with Sister Wives, wanted he and his gigantically fake-breasted wife, Rebecca, to turn into a thurple (he wanted to bring in another woman into their relationship) after being together 17 years. They like extremely kinky stuff, but the thurple might interfere with raising their children, Rebecca thinks. They coupling took 26 minutes and 41 seconds. Here's their exit interview:

Alexandria and Christoper, a young married couple of two years, were nervous as they walked on stage. Turns out that they used to be kinky, but after the birth of their child, they don't really have sex any more. Their idea of not having sex anymore is once a week, by the way. The problem is Alexandria feels like a mom now and doesn't want to have sex, but she got all nostalgic and informed the audience and the panel that Christopher, fortunately, "knows the slut I can be."  Her kid will be proud when he watches this, and their truncated 31 minutes and 49 seconds reigniting their pre-baby sex life.

So, you get the idea here, right? It's not as much fun as VH-1's Dating Naked, but it's more fun than the sex you're not having.

And it's certainly not worth your DVR space. You want sex, watch Banshee.

ASIDES:

  • Looks like next week there's a lesbian couple that the preacher lady doesn't take a hankerin' to.
  • Elle: "Our sex life now goes up and down."
  • Fortunately Dr. Walfish only said, "In my Beverly Hills practice..." once.  
  • Elle's Sex Box request: "I want to be on top."
  • Bully Dr. Chris to Bashful Brandon: "You weren't that likable [at first]." 
  • Preacher Capeheart: To Brandon and Elle after their 20-minute segment..."I've never seen emotional growth that fast."
  • What do they really do in that room? Make fun of the judges? Watch The Voice? Play "Crimes Against Humanity"?
  • Rebecca: "We've had a threesome, foursome and more-some."
  • Is the interior of the sex box Jim's Storage Facility or Christian Grey's Red Room of Pain?
  • Dyson quoted an X-rated Chris Rock routine that made the preacher blush...and then admonish him. Noone wants a schoolmarm on a sex therapy show.
  • Rebecca did not lose her foot-long fake eyelashes after almost 27 minutes of sex.
  • Post-coital Dyson: "I'm ready for a nap." The panel: "You can't handle one why do you want two?"
  • Do they sanitze the sex room between guests???
  • Walfish!!

 

For more stuff like this, and other pop-culture thoughts, follow REVIEWniverse on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Feb262015

Rick Grimes And This Century's Five Best Pop-Culture Beards

 

 

BY MIKE VIGLIETTA (REVIEWniverse Guest Contributor)

Inspired by Andrew Lincoln's (aka Rick Grimes') grizzly growth this season on The Walking Dead (AMC, Sundays, 10 p.m.), it got us thinking: Who else's facial coverage can man-up to everyone's favorite zombie-killer? Starting with Grimes himself, here's a handful of our favorite 21st century pop-culture beards. 

 

5. RICK GRIMES (THE WALKING DEAD)

Who's gonna mess with this Grime-y beard? (Credit: AMC)

Rick’s bushy, crazy-man beard is filled with blood, sweat and tears. A lot more emphasis on the blood than anything else. A LOT MORE. Who knows what Rick’s confirmed kill count is tallied at, but it’s definitely way more than any other character in the show. Not only is Rick’s beard dirty, but it serves as an intimidation factor. Anytime the group is confronted by an outsider, we are introduced to someone who is clean-shaven and appears to have access to running water and electricity. It gives the impression that they’ve had an easy go at it compared to Rick and his comrades. When these outsiders are introduced to Rick, they see a man who has been through some heavy stuff and will stop at nothing to keep his group safe. Yep, the beard tells them all that.

 

4. WALTER WHITE (BREAKING BAD)

From mild-mannered chem teacher to Heisenberg, all it took was a beard. And meth. (Credit: AMC)

The only argument for Heisenberg’s (Bryan Cranston) exclusion from this list is that a goatee isn't really a beard. But according to the Internet, it is. It’s no secret that Mr. White was an intimidating force and eventual infamous drug kingpin. But that was only after this wimpy, mustachioed science teacher who would surrender his lunch to a fifth grader shaved his head and grew out that goatee. Those are just the facts, Jack.

 

3. HUGH JACKMAN (WOLVERINE)

Cool beard, and bad-ass coiff. (Credit: 20th Century Fox) 

More recognizable than Heisenberg’s beard. Wolverine’s enemies see those chops and they curl up in the fetal position almost immediately. This may not be a real-life stat, but it’s pretty safe to say that at least 53.4% of men who grow a decent amount of facial hair have tried out the wolverine beard once or twice in their life… including me.

 

2. SANTA CLAUS (CHRISTMAS)

How many awesome elfs did it take to groom St. Nick?

How could St. Nick not be on this list? The man is still alive and well, and the sleigh-puller's beard has reigned in the top five for pretty much every century. He’s on the all-time squad. Seeing that big white puff of facial hair means presents and joy are not far behind. He loses points for watching us sleep, though. That’s just weird.

 

1. ALBUS DUMBLEDORE (HARRY POTTER: THE SORCERER'S STONE AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS)

'Nuff said. (Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

I’m talking about the original Dumbledore. Not the one that replaced the original Dumbledore (much as we love Michael Gambon in our favorite new show, Fortitude). Only the late Richard Harris' Dumbledore from the first two movies of the series. Dumbledore’s beard may be the most powerful entity ever, period. If he was clean-shaven or even if the beard just wasn’t as long, he would be a muggle just like the rest of us. End of story.

Who do you think should be on this list? Kathy Bates in American Horror Show: Freak Show? Jack Sparrow? ZZ Top? Anyone who plays Moses? Hagrid? Gandalf? Fu Manchu? Tom Hanks in Castaway? Everyone on Whisker Wars? And, of course, Incredibeard!! You tell us. Let us know which are your favorite beards.

For more stuff like this, and other pop-culture thoughts, follow REVIEWniverse on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Feb242015

'Girlfriends' Guide' Has Been Tale Of Two Shows

 

Girlfriends (and man) in happier times. (Credit: Bravo)

BY KENNY HERZOG

As tonight's Season One finale of Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce approaches at 10 p.m. om Bravo (isn't it the TV event we've all been waiting for?), the most pressing question isn't whether 40-something self-help author and mother of two Abby McCarthy (Lisa Edelstein) and her soon-to-be-ex-husband Jake Novak (Prison Break baddie Paul Adelstein, in a jarring but believable turn of face) mend fences and stave off separation. The real mystery is which version of GG2D (as the Twitterverse calls it) arrives in our DVRs to say sionara and head into hiatus. Will it be the crackling, relatable, casually groundbreaking genre hybrid we've seen at its highest points? Or will this last hour revert to the underwritten, cariacture-driven chaos that's pockmarked frequent periods of its initial dozen episodes? And will this paragraph end with a declarative statement rather than open-ended question?

The answer to that last one is no. Far as the preceding conundrum, it's hard to say whether a show that's been scrambling to cohese since redacting one of its key characters from the mix can gel in time to tantalize for Season Two. To explain, GG2D thus far can essentially be boiled down to two eras: Pre- and post-Janeane Garofalo. The erstwhile comedian, activist and actress signed on as powerful divorce attorney Lyla, playing against type as an alpha female in limbo with her emasculated husband who's somewhat neglectful of her precocious kids. Garofalo rounded out the primary gal-pal trio (also featuring bombshell Beau Garrett as doted-on hippie hottie Phoebe), but more importantly, grounded the show's lofty L.A.-ness with her familiar edge... even if Lyla couldn't be less counter-culturally inclined. And when GG2D was first humming, the result was a series that could visually blend into Bravo's patchwork of socialite reality but sneak in substantive laughs and sentiment around the notion that a more inclusive and open-minded society (it has been consistently forward-thinking about race, gender, religion and sexuality) hasn't made us more capable of keeping families and relationships together.

 

Then, precisely halfway through, Lyla freaked out that she'd lose her kids in the custody battle, more or less kidnapped them and fled to Oregon, and was only ever heard from again via phone to declare she and hubby reconciled and they're all living happily ever after in the Pacific Northwest. Some cursory digging revealed this was due to Garofalo exiting production early (a source close to the network tells REVIEWniverse that the character may come back, but Garofalo wanted to balance work on the show with her standup career and other projects), saddling creative with the unenivable task of compensating for her departure.

Apparently, she left not so much a hole as an abyss, one that required a several-headed solution. Suddenly, Abby's brother Max (Patrick Heusinger) and his husband Ford (J. August Richards) were going through previously unintimated and rather mundane marital woes; Abby's colleague and nemesis Delia (Necar Zadegan) was inorganically repackaged as one of Abby's closest confidants; Phoebe, who'd gotten all her grit opposite Lyla's pragmatic foil, was relegated to vanilla soul-searching B-stories; and most desperately, Lyla was literally replaced with Abby's apparent college buddy from New York, the brash and batshit Jo (Alanna Ubach, who's generally delightful, but a bit too typecast here), who basically barnstorms through Abby's life with her uptight daughter Zooey (Alison Thornton) along for the mania. 

What the hell just happened here? Well, that's exactly what the show's fans have been trying to figure out ever since. Light has cut through the clutter, as when Abby had a frank and provocative conversation with her daughter Lilly (Conner Dwelly) about slut-shaming, Jo went banans on her kid's private school's snooty "mommy Mafia" and the frequent occasions in which Abby and Jake have bittersweetly attempted holding on to their mutual love and respect. But from the moment Garofalo made her fateful call from Oregon, Girlfriends' Guide has been a bit at sea, attempting to enhance the depth of so many regulars to overcome the loss of one and forgetting to fully nourish Abby's story. And while Lyla was admittedly a big part of GG2D's (if you'll allow me to alternate titular shorthands) heart and humor, Abby (and Edelstein, who's very good and likeable) is still its soul. 

Whether all this makes you recoil, or piques your curiosity to tune in, there's two prevailing takeaways from Girlfriends' tempestuous debut season: It's hard not to have an opinion, and Garofalo is a real asset for the right show. Too bad it (probably) won't continue to be this one, but it Divorce is still worth sticking around for.

For more stuff like this, and other pop-culture thoughts, follow Kenny Herzog and REVIEWniverse on Twitter. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Feb242015

'The Voice' Can Just Award Prize to Sawyer Fredericks NOW 

 

Sawyer Fredericks: Just give him the prize. (Courtesy NBC)

BY ROBBIE WOLIVER

The latest season of The Voice debuted on Monday night, and the final performer, 15-year-old, homeschooled farmboy Sawyer Fredericks gave Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Pharrell and Blake Shelton a lesson in how to re-invent a song. The long-haired, chapeau'd teen, who says he's influenced by Ray LaMontagne and Creedence Cleerwater Revival, sang his haunting version of the country-folk classic "Man of Contstant Sorrow," displaying a mature musicality. All four panelists turned around for him, and he chose Pharrell, because as homeschooley as he is, he's still markets himself pretty well on the Internet, especially YouTube

 

March 17 Battle Round Update: We picked this kid from the start,and he didn't let us down in the Battle Round, even though he had some stiff competition in Noelle Bybee. The song: Creedence Clearwater's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain." And, of course, Sawyer won the round.

Bottom line: Just hand the trophy to him now -- with his musical ability, pretty boy looks and dapper hat, he's got in this the bag.

 For more stuff like this, and other pop-culture thoughts, follow REVIEWniverse on Twitter.