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Author: Jeff Jensen (1-10 of 279)

'Raising Hope,' 'How I Met Your Mother' and the obligation of a 'Legendary!' finale

Our TV week is bookended by sitcom goodbyes. It began with the series finale of How I Met Your Mother; it concludes with the capper to Raising Hope, tapping out tonight with back-to-back episodes, including one cheekily entitled “How I Met Your Mullet.” Created by Greg Garcia, who also gave us My Name Is Earl, the four-season-running Raising Hope was a sweet-and-salty sitcom about the daffy-dumb Chance clan — Virginia, the responsible materfamilias (Martha Plimpton); Burt, the air-headed dad (Garret Dillahunt); Jimmy, the teen-son-turned-teen-father (Lucas Neff); and Maw-Maw, the cracked and coarse grandma (Cloris Leachman) — collectively raising the titular babe, and was always a big-hearted, absurd amusement. One of its best episodes was the season 4 premiere, which featured Jeffrey Tambor as Virginia’s deadbeat dad, a self-centered gay man who skipped town because of perceived bigotry that was actually all in his head. The series finale sees the return of Tambor, with a story that thematically brings the series full circle. READ FULL STORY

The David Letterman Legacy will live on in every other late-night host

With the news that David Letterman will retire next year, the narrative that has defined the late-night talk show wars for decades finally comes to a close: The mismanaged end of the Johnny Carson era of The Tonight Show, a blundered hand-off with far-reaching, long-term, biz-changing ripple effects. It immediately put CBS in the late-night business, seeded the (staggered) rises of Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon, and settled and linked the legacies of Jay Leno (The Man Who Stole The Tonight Show. Twice!) and Letterman himself (The Man Who Should Have Been The Next Carson) long before the end of their runs. READ FULL STORY

'The Good Wife,' 'New Girl' and the hollow gamesmanship of TV 'game-changers'

It’s been a bad week to be a ‘shipper. Last Sunday, The Good Wife killed off legal eagle Will Gardner (Josh Charles), gunning down the dreams of fans who’ve hoped that the series would reunite Will with Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies). That same night, Girls drove a wedge between Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver): In a development as out-of-the-blue as the bullets that claimed Will’s life, Hannah was accepted into the University of Iowa’s prestigious writers’ workshop, then mishandled the communication of the news with Adam, who used the occasion to break up with her after a season of growing doubt about their relationship. A couple days later, another pair of scrappy-scruffy love birds surrendered to anxieties about their union when New Girl‘s Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) decided to decouple and revert back to just-friendship. All this, and Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin called it quits, too. It’s all very sad and Phil Collinsy.

With the three television shows, ‘ship death (and just plain death) brings creative opportunity (albeit not before an obligatory grief ep or two). As Mark Harris observes, Will’s death should seed “dramatic possibility” for several characters, notably Alicia and Diane (Christine Baranski). Season 4 of Girls (due next year) could feel like a markedly different show — one with new characters, conflicts, and of course setting — if Hannah follows through and relocates to Iowa. And New Girl – struggling since the sitcom put Jess and Nick together — has a chance to win us over anew by basically reverting to its original settings.

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'True Detective' post-mortem: Creator Nic Pizzolatto on happy endings, season 2, and the future of Cohle and Hart

True Detective wrapped its celebrated, intensely parsed first season last night with a finale that has invited a wide variety of reactions. Your opinion might hinge on whether or not you found the revelation of The Yellow King — Errol Childress, aka The Lawnmower Man — and his evil to be interesting and a surprisingly uplifting, optimistic ending for Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) to be the correct call for the series.  The man behind the madness stands behind his choices, although the writer (best known before this for the crime novel Galveston) sounds a bit relieved that the roller coaster ride of his first major work for television has reached its conclusion.  “Our long national nightmare is over!” laughs Nic Pizzolatto, jumping on the phone not long after the east coasting airing, and before watching the finale with his family and music supervisor T. Bone Burnett at McConaughey’s house. In this brief interview, Pizzolatto discusses his endgame vision, clarifies Errol’s master plan, and teases season 2 of True Detective — and the future of Cohle and Hart.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So let’s talk about the twist ending: Rust Cohle and Marty Hart walk away from this alive. I was not expecting that. I also wasn’t expecting that we’d get to see them process the experience to the extent that they did. And then there was the strong note of optimism at the end. Why did you want to end this story this way?

NIC PIZZOLATTO: A few reasons. We’re never going to spend time with these guys again. And killing characters on television has become an easy short cut to cathartic emotion. So I thought killing the guys, or having something more mysterious happen to them  – like the guys charged into Errol’s underworld, and disappeared, and nobody knows what happens to them – would have been the same thing if the show had gone full-bore into the supernatural: To me, it would have been puerile, and it would have skirted all the issues the show raised. To me, the challenge was to not only let these guys live, but show true character change through this journey. That passing through the eye of the needle in the heart of darkness has actually done something to them.

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'True Detective' finale review: Truth, justice, and the satisfying surprise of a happy ending

Culminating a remarkable first season in fine, moving form, True Detective’s finale, titled “Form and Void,” took us to the heart of darkness at the vortex center of its weird fiction — as well as  the final stage of its meta-commentary on the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, for better and worse. It was a tale that ripped dark marks on our bellies, then soothed us by “making flowers” on us. So to speak.

We start on the outskirts of the infernal plane. We begin in hell on earth. The ersatz underworld of The Yellow King — a.k.a. Errol Childress, a perverse product of paternal abuse, generational evil, and his own deranged, pop-culture informed myth-making — was a theater of the mind for a fantasy made real: His vision of Carcosa, the necropolis of Ambrose Bierce and the fallen world of Robert W. Chambers, littered with dead trees and body bags. Childress lured Cohle into his ascension chamber — the staging area for so many murders, and last night, a stage for an ancient ritual, the oldest story of all. Light versus dark. Good versus evil. “Little priest” versus wannabe Elder God. It was The Real World: Dungeons and Dragons, and Cohle, hard boiled to the core, was ready to play. I’ll see your abyss and gaze right back, Lawnmower Man!

He was fooling himself. Rust Cohle has always been fooling himself. His cynicism, his callousness were parts of the mask he wore to engage the world, to deal with himself. But it offered no protection when his mind — tweaking from the fetid evil around him — conspired against him and waylaid him with a vision of a coal-black vortex spiraling down to claim him. Maybe you were thinking: They’re going to do it! Cthulhu is coming! Coming to take us away, ha-ha! Ho-ho! Hee-hee! Beam me up, Lovecraft!

But no. It was gotcha moment, for Rust, and for us. READ FULL STORY

'Cosmos' then and now: The 'personal voyage' of Carl Sagan, the Hollywood cool of Neil deGrasse Tyson

Like reboots of most anything, be it the Star Trek film franchise or the Hannibal television series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (premiering Sunday, March 9 on Fox) does not require familiarity with its original incarnation to be appreciated and enjoyed. Yet comparing the two shows, and their first episodes, is instructive. The first Cosmos, broadcast on PBS in 1980, had a different subtitle: “A personal voyage.” The person implied was the viewer — all of humanity. It was also the creative intelligence behind the series, astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan, who died in 1996. His widely watched series explored all of creation, and expressed all of himself — his mind, his heart, his hopes, his fears. Sagan wanted to use popular culture to evangelize science, exploration, and a worldview that was infinitely bigger than the world itself.

Inspiration for the series sprung from disappointment. In 1976, Sagan, then a member of the Viking Lander Imaging Team at NASA surveying Mars with robots, was dismayed by the lack of attention given to their historic, important work by the news media. At the time, the cultural narratives about space focused on the question of alien life and hospitable planets, and Team Viking couldn’t support reductive storylines about little green men or interplanetary manifest destiny. But Sagan was convinced the public was hungrier for knowledge — and more capable of appreciating complexity — than the press assumed. In the companion book to Cosmos, Sagan wrote: “I was positive from my own experience that an enormous global interest exists in the exploration of the planets and in many kindred scientific topics — the origin of life, the earth, and the Cosmos, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, our connection with universe. And I was certain that this interest could be excited through that most powerful communications medium, television.”

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'True Detective': Does Stephen King's 'The Lawnmower Man' explain the monster at dream's end?

The gripping nightmare that has been True Detective’s first season is almost over, and like all dreams, there’s a monster at the end of it. He’s a real grim reaper, only he comes decked in green, not black, and his blades are motorized, and actually, he’s a friendly neighborhood guy, in a Mr. Rogers meets Slingblade sort of way … if you can get past him being mucho psycho. Behold the demon lawn barber of Carcosa: The Lawnmower Man, an agent of an ancient cult that swears by the Greek goddess of magic Circe, serves the Greek god of fields and shepherds Pan, and practices ritualistic sacrifice by slaughtering dumb greedy Republicans (among others) using a rusty red …

Wait. Sorry. I’m getting my lunatic landscapers confused. That’s the deranged grass muncher of Stephen King’s 1975 short story “The Lawnmower Man.” (The story has little to do with the so-called “movie adaptation” from 1992, a techno-thriller about mad, artificial enlightenment and virtual personhood. A Rust Cohle fave, no doubt.) (But I do totally recommend this comic book iteration, with art by the great Walt Simonson.) No, True Detective’s sketchy greenskeeper is Errol the lawnmower guy, and the final scene of the penultimate episode fingered the tractor-driving “simpleton” (?) as the “green-eared spaghetti monster” and “the tall man with scars” long suspected of being the killer of Dora Lange. To build on Nietzsche: All truth is crooked, time itself is a circle, and evil is The Straight StoryREAD FULL STORY

'Heroes: Reborn': We are never, ever getting back together. Probably.

In a more fair world, one where television shows are not judged by the announcement of their intention to exist but instead by the content of the episodes they produce (which is to say, a world without Twitter), we would keep our mouths shut and wait for Heroes: Reborn to hit the airwaves next year before deeming it the mediocre thing it has every chance of being. But my editors tell me that taking a respite from obsessing over True Detective “might be healthy” for me. And anyways, there are some legit things to fret in theory about the prospect and potential of Heroes: Reborn. READ FULL STORY

'The Tonight Show' without Jay Leno: Like the man said, it's time to go

Jay Leno said goodbye to The Tonight Show for the second time in his career on Thursday. Gone for good? So he joked. “I don’t need to be fired three times! I get the hint!” And so he wept, during his most personal — and arguably best — moment of his 22-year run as the custodian of the hallowed late night institution. “It really is time for me to go and hand it off to the next guy.” His last hour was a pretty good one, highlighted by the pure-pop moment of Billy Crystal bringing out a bunch of stars — Jack Black, Jim Parsons, Carol Burnett, Oprah Winfrey — for a snarky-funny ribbing of NBC for wanting Leno gone, or as the comedian put it earlier this week, in his sarcastic, self-serving way, “dead.” But those minutes, with Leno breaking down at his desk, were undeniably powerful. “This is tricky,” he said as he recalled how he lost his mother, father, and brother during the first three years of hosting The Tonight Show, and how the show and his work filled the void of a man suddenly without family, save for his wife of 34 years, Mavis. “This has been the greatest 22 years of life.”

It was a powerful exit for a man who loved his job and loves to work, perhaps too much, and who served his network faithfully if not always well, and vice versa. As affecting as Leno’s last bow might have been, the episodes that preceded the finale this past week represented a convincing argument that NBC needs a new suit sitting behind the desk, and a whole new creative sensibility in general.
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