The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Eric Ladin (“The Killing”)

If you’ve been trying to figure out why Eric Ladin, who plays Jamie Wright on AMC’s “The Killing,” looks familiar to you but can’t quite pin down why, maybe this will help: in addition to being one of the cast members of HBO’s critically acclaimed miniseries “Generation Kill,” he’s also turned up in a few episodes of “Mad Men,” playing Betty Draper’s brother. Now, however, he’s back to playing Darren Richmond’s campaign manager on “The Killing,” which – as you may already be aware – returned to AMC for its second season on Sunday night. Unfortunately, the ratings weren’t necessarily what you’d call stellar, but Ladin’s enthusiasm about what viewers can expect during the course of the series’ sophomore year may prove infectious.

Bullz-Eye: So are you psyched that “The Killing” is finally back?

Eric Ladin: I am. It’s about time! I think everybody is.

BE: Of course, you realize that a lot of people are really just desperate at this point to find out definitively who killed Rosie Larson.

EL: I do realize that, yeah. [Laughs.] I’ve been reminded of that quite a lot over the last nine months.

BE: Were you shocked at the outcry about the lack of resolution in the season finale?

EL: I was, a little bit. I knew that there would definitely be some people that were upset, but I didn’t foresee the hatred and…just the pure venom that was spat towards our writers. [Laughs.] Yeah, I was a little shocked by that.

BE: At least there was a small but somewhat vocal group that was reminded people that we didn’t find out who killed Laura Palmer until the second season of “Twin Peaks.”

EL: That’s correct. And if you ask David Lynch, he’ll probably tell you that the biggest mistake he made was telling people who killed her at all. I think he said – this was in an interview I read – that if he was able to do it again, he’d never tell who the killer was. So, yeah, I don’t believe that there was anywhere that said that you were guaranteed to find the killer in Season 1, but by the same token, I think that AMC’s PR probably could’ve handled it a speck differently. With that said, as a TV viewer, I would not have expected to find the killer in Season 1. So I guess there’s that.

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The Light from the TV Shows: “Game of Thrones” begins anew (and so does “The Killing”)

As we enter into the final quarter of the traditional broadcast TV season, where many of the mid-season entries are already beginning to wrap up their runs (“Alcatraz,” for example, aired its two-hour finale on Monday) and most of the series that kicked off way back in the fall are in that depressing twilight period just prior to their last run of new episodes before season’s end, many of your favorite premium cable programs are taking advantage of the semi-lull by coming back with a vengeance.

This past Sunday, of course, AMC brought us the return of “Mad Men,” which you probably already knew, since it managed to pull in 3.5 million viewers, a none-too-shabby increase of 21 percent over the series’ previous season premiere. This Sunday, the network has another series coming back, though it’s probably safe to presume that the numbers won’t be nearly as impressive for this one. But, look, if your excuse for not liking “The Killing” is that they didn’t resolve Rosie Larsen’s murder by the end of the season, go peddle your wares somewhere else, because I’m tired of hearing people whine about that. So what if it hasn’t been resolved yet? A show’s allowed to keep its viewers in suspense, isn’t it? If you didn’t like it because you thought it was boring, that’s one thing. If you’re really complaining because the producers promised “a very, very satisfying ending to Season 1” and reneged on that promise, though, I say that you may be well within your rights to be frustrated, but don’t say, “Ugh, they lied, therefore the show sucks,” because that’s just lame.

I do think AMC must be resigned to the return of “The Killing” being slaughtered both by the critics and in the ratings, however, since even though it’s coming back this Sunday night at 8 PM for a two-hour season premiere, the homepage of the network’s press resource center is still busy trumpeting last week’s return of “Mad Men.” For my part, while I do think the series dragged quite a bit in places and reached the point of ridiculousness with how many times Sarah Linden bailed on her planned departure (if I was Ray McDeere, I probably would’ve broken off my engagement to Sarah somewhere around Episode 1.3), I was perpetually gripped whenever Michelle Forbes and Brent Sexton were portraying parental grief, and I am steadfast in my disagreement with anyone who says that Episode 1.11 (“Missing”) was an unnecessary detour away from the case, because that may have been my favorite episode since the pilot. If you didn’t like that episode, you probably also watched “Twin Peaks” and complained about how they spent too much time focusing on Audrey Horne when they could’ve been figuring out who killed Laura Palmer…and I’m here to tell you that you can never spend too much time focusing on Audrey Horne.

Quick sidebar: if you didn’t watch “Twin Peaks,” this is Audrey Horne:

This concludes your moment of Sherilyn Fenn zen. We now return to our regularly scheduled column…provided we can all get our concentration back.

Oh, right, now I remember where I was…

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“Mad Men” cast and crew discuss the upcoming fifth season

“Mad Men” always had the feel of a show that couldn’t go on forever. It’s too smart, too ambitious, too consistent to live forever in a television world so full of subpar material. Basically, it’s too good to last.

So, it was disturbing, but not surprising to hear “Mad Men” cast and creators reveal the show is ready to retire from the advertising business after its seventh season.

For now – to celebrate the show’s fifth season – media joined fans of the show at the 2012 PaleyFest in Los Angeles to see what’s ahead for the most stylish and one of most (mad) manly shows on TV. Series stars Jon Hamm and January Jones joined John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, Kiernan Shipka and creator/executive producer Matthew Weiner for a red carpet episode screening and Q&A.

It was heartbreak for many of the male fans in attendance as the voluptuous and witty Christina Hendricks was otherwise engaged and couldn’t attend. Of course, it’s also possible she was laying low following her recent Twitter picture scandal in which said voluptuousness was on display for all the world to see.

Obviously, though still a couple years away, the specter of a series conclusion dominated much of the media’s bombardment of questions.

“As I’ve said, I don’t want to overstay our welcome,” Weiner said. “When I was a writer on “Sopranos,” I thought it was difficult sometimes to come up with stories that hadn’t already been covered on previous seasons or by other productions in the genre – other mob movies or TV shows. The fifth season is finished now, and I’m planning on seven. It’s just really hard to do this show.”

Pushing the idea of a final season aside, the hundreds of fans in attendance at the Saban Theater wanted the scoop on the new season. Last season ended with Don Draper – legally free of ice queen wife Betty and seemingly emerging from the shadow of alcoholism – suddenly getting engaged to Megan. Hamm said the major season-spinning plot twist felt like a shock right up until cast and crew made it official on film.

“(Weiner) and I talked about that ending for weeks before we actually shot it,” Hamm said. “But, even after all of that time, when it came time to shoot the scene, I was left wondering if it was all a fake. Was it just going to be a dream sequence or something?”

“I was just glad to see the season end up on sort of a hopeful, upbeat note,” Hamm added, “because my character had been on such a downward spiral throughout the season.

Weiner made it clear that, on the “Mad Men” set, the talented collective cast stays in character and interacts as a family as the top secret scripts unfold.

Weiner explained, “When I directed the scene where Don told his coworkers about the engagement, we filmed the group’s reaction shots first – a reverse angle. The other actors were mostly frozen – not a lot of reaction.”

“Then, we turned the camera around to see what they were so stunned by, and it was (Hamm) smiling as broadly as he ever has playing the role. That unnerved everyone. There hasn’t been a lot of smiling in (Draper’s life) recently before that moment.”

Hamm added, “I find myself really hoping that this works out for my character – after watching him struggle through the divorce and trying to give up his drinking.”

“We had that episode earlier in the last season in which (Draper) documented his struggles to stop drinking in his own journal. I think that story offered a new glimpse into how (Draper) was examining himself and evolving.”

While Hamm’s character moved on to a new potential relationship, ex-wife Betty Draper Francis (Jones) continued struggling with life as an often stern and unforgiving mother.

“I’m looking forward to see how people react to Betty now,” Jones said. “For a while, people have run away from me on the street all the time because they see how Betty treats her children. I think they’re worried about me becoming a mother myself now because they think I’m really going to be like that.”

“In this new season, I think Betty is still evolving, and I see her improving as a person.”

As the fifth season gets ready to roll on AMC, Hamm is following up on the longtime tradition of a series’ big star taking his shot at work on the other side of the camera by taking on some directing duties. It’s up to everyone else now to catch up to the idea.

“(The rest of the cast) said they’ll never work with me again. Actually, everyone was very supportive, and I got a lot of great advice from the other cast members.”

  

The Light from the TV Shows: No, seriously, “Mad Men” really IS coming back! For real, this time!

If you caught last week’s debut of Bullz-Eye’s 2012 TV Power Rankings, then you already know that we’re so excited about the return of “Mad Men” that we put it as our #2 show despite the fact that it hasn’t aired a new episode since 2010. So what? We’re excited, you’re excited, everyone’s been chomping at the bit for the fifth season to kick off that we can barely stand it. Surely that warrants a little fudging of the numbers, no…?

Since AMC let slip a few trailers this week to promote the new season of “Mad Men,” I figured this would be a good time to revisit the cocktail party thrown by the network during the January TCA Press Tour, where I was able to get a few minutes with a few of the cast members, but here’s the score, so you don’t get too excited: I got a couple of minutes one on one with John Slattery (Roger Sterling) and Rich Sommer (Harry Crane), got a single question with Jon Hamm, and was able to ask precisely nothing of Christina Hendricks. I did, however, stand next to her for an extended period of time, and just for the record, she’s just as gorgeous as in person as she is on TV and in photos…which, come to think of it, might have had something to do with why I never managed to ask a question. (Mostly, though, it was because I’m not into trying to out-talk other people, which was the modus operandi of just about everyone else surrounding her at the time.)

Oh, and speaking of not getting too excited…? Total-lack-of-spoiler alert: there ain’t a single lick of new footage in any of the below trailers. Thanks for nothing, Matthew Weiner. But, hey, at least they serve to remind you of how much you missed these characters.

Man oh man, March 25 seems like a lifetime away…

Don’s back!

One of the big pieces of news to emerge about the return of “Mad Men” was that one of the episodes in the new season – not the season premiere, although it was the first episode the cast filmed upon coming back to work – was directed by Jon Hamm. While standing in a scrum during the cocktail party, I was privy to some of Hamm’s reflections on the experience.

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Bullz-Eye’s 2012 TV Power Rankings

So…where were we?

Oh, fine, let’s go ahead and deal with the elephant in the room: it’s been nine months since Bullz-Eye doled out its last TV Power Rankings. What can we say? There were a lot of good shows on the air between May 2011 and February 2012, and somewhere around late October, it just kind of reached a point where we said, “You know what? It’s way more fun to watch TV than it is to write about it.” Eventually, though, the powers that be pried us off the couch (there’s still an indentation where we were sitting), set us back in front of the computer, and said, “Look, the readers demand to know Bullz-Eye’s take on the best shows of the past year* and, frankly, they’re starting to get a little belligerent about it.”

(*Rounded up for statistical purposes.)

So here we are, ready to offer up our list of the 25 best shows on television** as well as several shows bubbling just under our list, plus a new section called “Still Too New to Call,” where we praise shows that seem pretty damned good after their first few episodes but simply haven’t been around long enough for us to feel comfortable including them in the other two lists.

(**Okay, technically, it’s the 24 best shows on television plus one show that hasn’t been on since 2010, but we’re so excited about that particular show coming back that we included it, anyway.)

All told, we hope you’ll walk away from this piece either nodding your head in agreement or wondering why you haven’t been watching some of these shows. If not, however, there’s a perfectly good Comments section that’s just waiting for your opinions about what’s good on TV.

Everybody ready? Then let’s get this thing started…

25. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

No, it’s not quite the same show it used to be, owing to the fact that the cast now consists of almost as many women as it does men, but with the series now in its fifth season, the trio of Kaley Cuouo, Melissa Rauch, and Mayim Bialik have probably infused “The Big Bang Theory” with more laughs than the it would’ve had at this point if it had stuck strictly to the original four geeks. The only question now is how much longer we’ll have to wait for Raj to come out of the closet…because, seriously, you don’t need to possess gay-dar to see that that’s what they’re leading up to.

24. Weeds (Showtime)

When we first picked back up with Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) for the seventh season of “Weeds,” she’d spent three years cooling her heels in the clink while the rest of the Botwin clan had been chillin’ in Copenhagen, but with Nancy being shifted to a halfway house in New York City, a family reunion was only inevitable. Big shock: Nancy started selling pot again. Possibly bigger shock: even going into its eighth season, “Weeds” is still reliably entertaining.

23. New Girl (Fox)

When it comes to watching “New Girl,” one’s level of appreciation is directly proportionate to how one feels about the concept of “adorkability,” which Zooey Deschanel brings to the small screen in seemingly limitless quantities as Jess, a too-cute twentysomething who moves in with a trio of guys on the heels of an excruciatingly bad breakup. As with most ensemble comedies, it’s taken time for the chemistry of the cast to find its feet, but it’s coming along nicely.

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