“We are the angry mob, we read the papers every day / We like who we like, we hate who we hate, but we’re also easily swayed.”
Well, you’re a mob, so by definition, you’re prone to outrage and righteous indignation. As an added bonus, not having all of the facts makes it easier for your collective conscience to rationalize your behavior. “So tonight, you’ll sleep softly in your beds…”
The Kaiser Chiefs – writers of the above lyrics, and this week’s blog title – never really established more than a cult following here in the States – and that makes sense, given their overt “Britishness,” for lack of a better word – but damn, do I love those guys. And their new record, the politically charged Education, Education, Education and War, is their best in ages. All right, Shameless Plug of the Week ends here.
Aaaaaaaaand we’re back! First, I’d like to thank Fox for giving me a four-year vacation from blogging “24.” It was much needed, long overdue, and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I am refreshed and ready for duty, sir. So, what are we doing this year?
Ah, of course: we’re doing the same damn thing, only in London.
To be fair, the setup for this season isn’t awful; it’s just not any different than any other season. Jack Bauer, a wanted man in three countries, is still carrying out his duties as a counter-terrorist agent, despite the fact that his own countrymen consider him a terrorist. They’ve done this before, you may remember, when he began a season undercover as an employee for a Mexican drug cartel. Wasn’t that adorable? At least this premise makes more sense. Jack has always fought to protect the best interests of the United States; he just didn’t have much of a filter when it came to interrogating anyone he considered an enemy of the state. Foreign, domestic, whatever. If you mess with the USA, you will answer to me.
And who is the president now? Why, none other than Big Dick Heller! This is a contrived move but a savvy one as well. He’s a much-loved supporting character by “24” fans, and as an added bonus, Jack’s involvement with Big Dick’s daughter Audrey led to her abduction and subsequent torture at the hands of the Chinese government. Audrey is now married to Big Dick’s chief of staff Mark Boudreau (official “24” nickname: Hercules, because yes, he was the voice of Hercules in the 1997 Disney movie), and he doesn’t want Jack’s name even mentioned in front of Audrey, for fear it will cause her to relapse into the catatonic state that she was in when we last saw her. But that’s all busy plot stuff. What is really happening here?
“They said, ‘Hey, you’re blonde, awesome, when can you start?’ Easiest, audition, ever. Wait, is there a catch?”
Someone’s plotting to kill Big Dick on foreign soil, and they just did a test run on the murder weapon (a US drone, which is as heavy-handed as irony gets) by hijacking a drone pilot’s memory key and setting him up for the fall. Off-the-grid Jack intercepted intel that mentioned an assassination attempt on Big Dick, which is why he allowed himself to get caught by the CIA so he can break out Chloe, who’s gone all Wikileaks since we last saw her, and was being held in the CIA equivalent of Zed’s basement, only with torture instead of rape.
This might sound loyal or even romantic, but really, he broke her out because the person responsible for the drone strike is one of her now-former coworkers, who thankfully doesn’t live to the end credits of the second hour, for a couple of reasons. The guy is rightly paranoid about being afraid for his life since dead men collect no cash, yet he doesn’t suspect that the undersexed Russian Barbie doll he calls a girlfriend might be in fact an English assassin employed to kill him (hell, he didn’t even notice that she was wearing a wig). That needed to happen. Thank you, Fox. We may curse your name later but for now, we thank you. And bonus points for having her twist the knife in his head. That was a nice extra dose of nastiness.
Each blog post is based on a song title, and this week’s title comes courtesy of my lovely wife, after I complained that all of the songs with “London” in the title didn’t quite fit (I’m going to save those for later, with the hope that they might work out). The funny thing is that this song was co-written by Roddy Frame, who’s Scottish, but he has Mick Jones, a member of UK rock royalty, joining him, so it’s all good.
Paul W.S. Anderson must have had “Titanic” playing on a loop for his cast and crew during the making of “Pompeii,” because the director’s sword-and-sandals/disaster movie borrows heavily from the James Cameron drama. That’s not to say that “Titanic” was a wholly original story, but you’d think that Anderson could have done a better job of not making its influence so blatantly obvious. Of course, everything about “Pompeii” feels half-assed – from its bland romance, to its terrible dialogue, to the worthless addition of 3D – and though it’s slightly better than last month’s “The Legend of Hercules,” the film is still a pretty miserable viewing experience.
The movie opens in the year 62 A.D. as a young boy witnesses the murder of his entire Celtic tribe, including his mother and father, and is promptly sold into slavery. 17 years later, the now grown-up Milo (Kit Harrington) is fighting in Britannia as a gladiator known only as The Celt when his skills in the arena impresses a Roman lanista and he’s shipped off to the Italian city of Pompeii. Along the way, Milo catches the eye of a wealthy merchant’s daughter named Cassia (Emily Browning), who’s betrothed to the smarmy Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), the very man responsible for slaughtering his people. (Extraordinarily, neither Corvus nor his right-hand man have seemingly aged a single day, making identifying them that much easier.) Forced to fight in the upcoming games alongside fellow gladiator Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Milo is given a chance to exact his revenge when Mount Vesuvius suddenly erupts, causing mass panic throughout Pompeii as the city crumbles.
Those with a soft spot for Australian soap operas may forever think of Melissa George as Angel from “Home and Away,” but they’re doing both her and themselves a disservice by maintaining that mindset, because George has handily proven over and over again that she’s a far cry from being just another soap opera actress, be it by her Golden Globe nominated performance on HBO’s “In Treatment,” her work with David Lynch (“Mulholland Drive”) and Steven Soderbergh (“The Limey”), or her despicable turn as Lauren Reed on ABC’s “Alias.” With her latest small-screen endeavor, Cinemax’s “Hunted,” George is returning to the spy side of things, but trust Bullz-Eye when we tell you that “Hunted” is on a completely different level of television than “Alias.” We talked to her in conjunction with the series’ premiere – 10 PM tonight and every Friday night for the next several weeks – while also quizzing her about a few other past endeavors, including working with Heath Ledger on “Roar,” getting the shaft on “Grey’s Anatomy,” and just barely missing out on being part of one of the most notorious sitcom flops in NBC history.
Bullz-Eye: To begin at the beginning, how did you find your way into “Hunted”? Was it an audition situation, or did they come looking for you specifically?
Melissa George: They were very strict about making people read. Some jobs, not so much, they know who they want. But “Hunted” is (being produced by) HBO and BBC together, and they were both having to choose and decide, so we had the English with the Americans, so that’s why the audition process was so long.
I was walking on the West Side Highway in New York, and my phone rang. It was my agent saying, “I’ve just read the most dynamic role for a woman, it’s as complex as what you played on ‘In Treatment,’ with a bit of action, which you’ve done before. It’s shooting in Europe, it’s really good, it’s written by Frank Spotnitz, it’s an English and American production…you’ve got to get it.” That’s kind of what he said. And I hate when they say that, ‘cause that means no sleep for me. Because, y’know, of course if it’s that great I want to play it. And I was then shooting a movie with Julia Stiles in Los Angeles (“Between Us”) and I was busy with that, and I had a video camera set up in the hotel room, and I put together a scene. They asked me to do three scenes, but I just did one. It was the one where she confronts her ex in the apartment. Very emotional. And I remember I was just so choked up…and I was recording myself, not speaking to anybody, because I didn’t have an actor reading with me. And I was, like, “Oh, my God, I really love this part…” And I cut, printed, and sent it. I couldn’t do any more scenes because I was really upset. I felt really strongly about this woman. And I waited. I didn’t care, because I was shooting a movie.
Then I got a call saying, “They want you to meet with Frank and read a scene.” I was, like, “Oh, my God…” There were so many freaking people in this room. [Laughs.] So many people! I thought it was just going to be me. Every actor thinks that when you’re asked to read, it’s just gonna be you. But it was a lot of people, and I was on my own. But I met Frank, and he said to me later on, once I’d gotten the role, that he knew from when I put myself on tape, and when I went in to read, he said, “I just feel really connected to her.” But that was it. I didn’t hear for awhile after that, so I was, like, “Ugh, this is gonna be one of those jobs…” And then S.J. (Clarkson), who’s directing, got onboard, and…the director has a big say, so Frank’s got his choice made, BBC and HBO made theirs, but now I have to wait for S.J. to make hers. So I had to meet her. They fly me from New York to L.A. to have lunch, and all we do is talk about film, and then…I was the only girl, but I had to read with lots of guys. And none of the guys I read with got it. [Laughs.] But I was the only girl they were using, and yet still hadn’t told me that I’d got it! And I was, like, “What’s going on here?”
But I was so convinced that I was onboard that I went around convincing everyone else around me that I was. I was, like, “Oh, yeah, I’m gonna be playing this role in a few months…” But I hadn’t heard anything, and I was going, “This is ridiculous! They’re going all over the world looking for this actress, every single country, and I’m, like, “Well, does she have to be from a particular place?” “No, they don’t care where she’s from, because she has to play so many nationalities, so many different languages and accents.” So I waited while they went around the globe, reading hundreds of girls, and they were losing me, because I was going, “Well, if they wait too long…” And then finally everyone was, like, “C’mon, S.J.!” So that’s the story. And it was so funny on set, because while we were filming in Morocco, S.J. would come up to me and speak French, then she’d say, “Oh, sorry, wrong actress.” Like she’d found a girl in France that she really liked. I was, like, “Shut up, I know you didn’t find anybody!” [Laughs.] It was one of those things where the joke went on forever. Like, the whole season of the show. “Sorry, what’s your name?” So I don’t quite know what happened that made it take so long to decide, but I know that when I seize on something, man, I’d better get the job. Because I was honestly delusional. I was, like, “Yes, I’m shooting London in a few months,” and everyone was, like, “But have they said ‘yes’?” “No. But I’m going to be shooting!”
Just as 2011 is sure to end in a few days, 2012 is equally likely to follow on its heels, which means that the January TCA tour is right around the corner. As such, yours truly is about to be bombarded with the best and worst that the midseason has to offer…and, fortunately, there’s a lot more of the former than the latter. Indeed, there are a couple of shows that the broadcast networks have been unjustly sitting on for almost six months, even though they’re a damned sight better than most of the dreck we got back in September. (Stand up, please, “The Playboy Club.” Or, you know, pick the program of your choice. That one’s just easiest ’cause it was the first to go.) Much as last week found me offering up 11 shows, give or take, that I was sorry to bid adieu to in 2011, this week I’ve pulled together a list of 12 shows that I’m looking forward to checking out in 2012. Keep in mind, however, that I’m basing my excitement either on a rough cut of a pilot or, in some cases, merely on the hopefulness I get when I read about the show. Yes, this does often come back to bite me in the ass, but such is the life of a TV critic. If I’m wrong, I’ll roll with the punches. In the meantime, though, these are my personal picks for what’s looking good in the new year…
The Firm (NBC)
So sayeth the network: Based on the best-selling novel by world-renowned author John Grisham, “The Firm” is a new drama series that continues the story of attorney Mitchell McDeere (Josh Lucas), who, as a young associate 10 years earlier, had brought down the prestigious Memphis law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke, which had been operating as a front for the Chicago mob. After a difficult decade, which included a stay in the Federal Witness Protection Program, McDeere and his family now emerge from isolation to reclaim their lives and their future — only to find that past dangers are still lurking and new threats are everywhere. Abby McDeere (Molly Parker), Mitch’s supportive, smart and resourceful wife, who had helped her husband expose Bendini, Lambert & Locke, is excited to start a new life in Washington, D.C., as a school teacher and mom to their daughter, Claire (Natasha Calis). Ray McDeere (Callum Keith Rennie) is Mitch’s charming, yet volatile, older brother whose work as an investigator in Mitch’s office is uniquely informed by his past stretch in prison for manslaughter. Despite a gritty past that stands in stark contrast to that of his Harvard-grad brother, Ray shares one key quality with Mitch – a loyalty that is unbreakable. Tammy Hemphill (Juliette Lewis) is Mitch’s feisty, sexy receptionist whose work life is made all the more tumultuous by her on-again, off-again relationship with Ray. With a personality as arresting as her ever-changing hair color, Tammy is leery when Mitch accepts a deal to partner with a top law practice, as she’s not cut out for the conservative culture of a white-shoe firm.
My take: I literally only just got the pilot episode this morning, so I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, but the combination of Lucas, Parker, and Lewis has me very intrigued, and the fact that Grisham himself is part of the mix makes me hopeful about the possibilities of where this series could go if it’s given the chance. That’s a big “if,” though, because this isn’t the first time a Grisham novel has made the jump to the small screen. Anyone remember “The Client,” with JoBeth Williams and John Heard? It’s become so obscure that there’s neither a Wikipedia page for it nor even a clip from it on YouTube. Let’s hope “The Firm” gets a better go of it than that.
(Premiere date: January 8, 9 PM; regular 10 PM timeslot begins January 12)