The Return of Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings

Ever since the writers’ strike, the television industry has been in a state of flux. Most networks still can’t figure out what works from what doesn’t, while the current economic climate has forced others to simply give up. Whether or not “The Jay Leno Show” is a success for NBC is debatable, but by surrendering the 10 p.m. time slot, they’ve greatly decreased their chances of bringing in new viewers. We would be exaggerating if we said the decision affected Bullz-Eye’s latest edition of the TV Power Rankings, but our Winter 2009 list does seem suspiciously familiar. Still, it isn’t without its surprises, as a longtime favorite returned from an extended hiatus to claim the top spot, while buzzworthy rookies like “Glee” and “FlashForward” also made impressive Top 10 debuts. At the end of the day, however, the real winner is HBO, who walked away with three of the four top spots, thus reestablishing themselves as the best network around.

A few examples from the piece:


5. Glee (Fox): There isn’t a show on this list that we love and hate with the same enthusiasm that we have for “Glee.” It contains some of the best-drawn characters in Fox’s history (aspiring diva Rachel Berry, adorable germaphobe Emma Pillsbury, cantankerous alpha female Sue Sylvester), and the iTunes chart-burning musical numbers, lip synching aside, are deliriously fun. Imagine, then, if they didn’t make these characters jump through such ridiculous hoops. Will’s wife is actually going to take her fake pregnancy to term? Emma agrees to marry Ken, but only as long as they never tell a soul? (Those plot threads brought to you by Bad Idea Jeans.) Yet for each blunder the show makes, they come up with something as brilliantly funny as Finn’s technique for not climaxing (he thinks about the time when he hit the mailman with his car), or the drama queen freak show that is Sandy Ryerson (a pitch-perfect Stephen Tobolowsky). Getting Josh Groban to do a cameo as a horndog version of himself, meanwhile – and hit on Will’s drunk mother – was a moment of “Arrested Development”-style genius. Yes, it’s made mistakes, but “Glee” gets a spot in our Top Five because no other show on TV sports dialogue like “mentally ill ginger pygmy with eyes like a bush baby.” But man, it would be a wonderful world if they did.David Medsker

15. Dexter (Showtime): Like “The Sopranos,” Dexter always has a theme that is explored within a season as a backdrop to the episodic progression of the show. Last season, it examined friendship within the context of Dexter’s secret world, and Jimmy Smits was brilliant as his first and only pal. This year explores the facets of intimate relationships, and balancing work and the rest of your life as it relates to it. Dexter (played with brilliant sincerity and conviction by Michael C. Hall) is struggling to find balance between his work as a blood splatter analyst, a new dad of an infant, stepfather to his wife’s kids, and his hobby of killing and dismembering other bad guys, while his entertainingly foul-mouthed sister Deb implodes the most stable relationship of her life when she sleeps with returning lover and retired FBI agent Frank Lundy. John Lithgow is also scary good as the Trinity Killer, the latest object of Dexter’s attention. When Trinity kills Lundy and wounds Deb while making it look like another killer’s signature, Dex is commanded by the ghost of Harry to seek revenge, making this season as entertaining as any in the past – no easy feat considering how consistently good this show has been.R. David Smola

Honorable MentionCougar Town (ABC): Yeah, yeah, we know: the title’s a bit dodgy. But Bill Lawrence, who co-created the show with Kevin Biegel, has said, “The roll of the dice I’ve made is that the title is noisy and that people will be aware of this show.” True enough, though the fact that the series stars Courtney Cox would’ve probably done a pretty decent job of putting it on people’s radar, anyway. The pilot alone was strong enough to suggest that “Cougar Town” could prove to be the perfect series for female viewers who’ve outgrown “Sex and the City,” but with enough of a dysfunctional family element to fit perfectly into the closing slot in ABC’s new Wednesday night comedy line-up. Although the show continues to hone its comedic formula, the trio of Cox, Christa Miller and Busy Philipps clicked immediately (particularly the latter two, with their characters’ diametrically opposed personalities), and the relationship between the teenaged Travis and his man-child of a father rings true with its blend of unconditional love and complete embarrassment. Now that Jules’s fling with Josh is over, however, we’re curious to see who’ll be next on her slate to date — and how long this one will last.Will Harris

Returning in 2010Lost (ABC): Here we are, folks. After five seasons of confusing viewers with one of the most elaborate mythologies on television, “Lost” is finally in the home stretch. Want to know what the heck that smoke monster really is? How about the weird statue? Heck, what about the Dharma Initiative itself? All will supposedly be revealed in the sixth and final season of one of the smartest, most fearless shows network television has ever bothered to offer. Of course, this being “Lost,” we still have something to bitch about – namely, that the goddamn Olympics will interrupt the show’s final 18 episodes – but if we’ve waited this long to determine the ultimate fate of our favorite island castaways, what’s a few weeks of curling and cross-country skiing? We’ve all had our issues with the way “Lost” has unfolded over the years, and the show isn’t the phenomenon it was in its first couple of seasons. To cop one of the fall’s most popular phrases, though, this is it – and if there’s ever been a serialized drama with the guts to stick the landing and make its finale truly count, we’re betting it’s “Lost.”Jeff Giles

Check out Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings in their entirety by clicking here or on the big-arse graphic you see before you. Also, be sure to check out the accompanying interviews with folks associated with the various shows, including David Goyer (“FlashForward”), Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”), Jonathan Ames (“Bored to Death”), and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”).

Did any of your favorite shows miss the cut? Let us know by replying below!

  

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Adam McKay talks “The Goods,” “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”

Anyone who’s a fan of Will Ferrell’s work will recognize the name of Adam McKay. The two have been in cahoots virtually since the day they met…which, as it happens, was the day they were both hired for “Saturday Night Live” (along with David Koechner, Cheri Oteri, and writer Tom Gianis)…and they’ve turned their collaboration on sketches like “Neil Diamond: Storytellers” and the ongoing saga of Bill Brasky into an partnership which has found McKay directing Ferrell in “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights,” and “Step Brothers.” It’s also led to a successful production company – Gary Sanchez Productions – which has brought us HBO’s “Eastbound and Down,” “The Foot Fist Way,” and, most recently, the used-car comedy, “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.”

“The Goods” was kinda sorta buried at the box office by the competition, but Roger Ebert describes it as a “cheerfully energetically and very vulgar comedy,” adding, “If you’re okay with that, you may be okay with this film, which contains a lot of laughs and has studied Political Correctness only enough to make a list of groups to offend.” Hey, sounds good to me…and although McKay was doing the press rounds this week in what one presumes was an attempt by Paramount to kick up the buzz for the film a little more, he seems pretty comfortable no matter what the resulting numbers are this weekend.

“Regardless, we’re either gonna be a small little box office surprise or we’re gonna be a cult cable hit,” he said, with a laugh. “It’ll be one way or the other. But it certainly makes us laugh, so we’re happy about that.”

Producer Kevin Messick came to McKay and Ferrell with the script for “The Goods” with star Jeremy Piven already attached, and after giving it a read, McKay couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about the actor’s involvement.

“Oh, my God, if there’s ever a role that you’re going to have him play coming off the success he’s had as Ari Gold (in ‘Entourage’), it’s this role,” said McKay. “And we thought, ‘Well, we can do a rewrite on this, kind of gussy this up, get people we like in it, and sort of approach it through improv.’ Will and I had written a car-salesman script about five or six years before that, which Lorne Michaels tried to get made at Paramount, but it was a weird time over there, and we couldn’t get it made, and it was very frustrating. So we saw this script come through, and we thought, ‘Well, this is perfect.’”

Some may hear about the concept of this film and think, “Didn’t they already do this with ‘Used Cars’?” Although McKay is a fan of the classic 1980 Robert Zemeckis comedy and admits that it’s one of the reasons that the idea of the movie was so attractive to him, he estimates that 8 out of 10 people don’t even remember the film.

“It’s a film-fan movie,” he said. “I love it, of course, but it was so long ago. It’s kind of amazing that there really haven’t been many car-salesman movies since then. There was ‘Cadillac Man,’ but that wasn’t really about car sales. My favorite salesman movies are ‘Tin Men’ and ‘Glengarry Glen Ross,’ and that’s really what got us excited about it. If anything, ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ was a huge influence on this movie. Even though this movie’s raunchy and absurd and silly, that vibe is still very funny to us.”

And so, by many folks’ estimations, is “The Goods,” although – appropriately, given the subject of the film – your mileage may vary.

McKay is currently in pre-production for his next directorial effort, “The Other Guys,” but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have his eye on what project will be next on the horizon. He’s excited at the prospect of branching out beyond his usual realm, and in addition to the sci-fi satire, “Channel Three Billion,” he’s particularly chomping at the bit to get the ball rolling on the intriguingly-titled “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” from writer/director Tommy Wirkola.

“I love that movie,” said McKay. “That’s exactly the kind of shit where, like, it almost veers a little more toward Sam Raimi Land. Yeah, our production company, Gary Sanchez, is producing that. We saw ‘Dead Snow,’ the movie that Tommy did first, and Kevin Messick had Tommy come in, and he told us about this ‘Hansel & Gretel’ idea, and we were instantly, like, ‘Oh, my God, we’re doing that.’ And then he wrote an amazing script, so I’m as excited about that as anything we’re doing.”

Be sure to head over to Bullz-Eye.com next week for the full interview with McKay, where discusses the history of his collaboration with Ferrell, the status of “Anchorman 2,” and what we can expect from the second season of “Eastbound and Down.”

  

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TCA Update: HBO Executive Session

The HBO executive session with Michael Lombardo (President, Programming Group and West Coast Operations) and Richard Plelpler (Co-President) just wrapped up, and here were the highlights:

* Before Plepler and Lombardo took the stage, we were treated to the trailer for the network’s new 10-hour miniseries, “The Pacific,” produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Gary Goetzman. Let’s just go ahead and give the Emmy now, shall we?

* “True Blood,” “Hung,” and “Entourage” will all be coming back for new seasons next summer.

* Conversations are underway to potentially bring back “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.”

* Neither was willing to offer up any information about how Evan Rachel Wood would look as the vampire queen at the end of the second season of “True Blood,” for fear that they would suffer some horrible fate at the hand of Alan Ball. They did, however, assure us that surprises are in store, and that it totally delivers.

* “Little Britain USA” is not coming back, but they’re talking about bringing creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams back for some specials. It’s still in the development stage, but the intent is to come back with a whole new cast of characters and a whole new approach to their television appearance. In short, they will be back on HBO, though whether it will be at the end of next year or later remains to be seen.

* Season 2 of “Eastbound and Down” will begin shooting it sometime at the end of winter or the beginning of spring, and it will air next year.

* David Simon’s new series, “Treme,” will be on the air next April, fingers crossed. The current intention is for “The Pacific” to premiere mid-March, and, at the end of its run, ‘”Treme” will begin.

* The pilot just wrapped for Martin Scorcese’s “Boardwalk Empire,” and they are anxiously awaiting a cut from Marty so that the series can receive a green light. Provided it’s as good as they’re presuming it will be…and, thus far, “everything we’ve seen is fantastic, big, everything we hoped it could be”…their fingers are crossed that a pick-up is imminent.

* As for Season 3 of “Flight of the Conchords,” the official word is, “When they’re ready, we’re ready.”

* They have begun receiving episodes for Season 2 of “The Life & Times of Tim,” and they describe them as “funnier than the first,” but they haven’t yet figured out where they want schedule the show. They do, however, have an upcoming series that could fit the bill nicely…

* They’ve ordered an animated show from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, based on their long-running series of podcasts. I’m saying it right here: the time is right for Karl Pilkington mania to grip the States!

* Although the histrionics of Jerry Rice probably didn’t help things any, the big reason that the Bengals are the focus of this season of “Hard Knocks” rather than the Cowboys is that the network wanted to open up a new team to the audience and show a different organization and the habits and attitude of that team.

* Season 4 of “Big Love” is scheduled to kick off in January.

* Season 3 of “In Treatment” is something they’re trying to put together, but given that the show was adapted from an Israeli series that only ran for two seasons, they’d have to create all-new scripts for a third season. Still, it’s a good sign that Gabriel Byrne is “very interested” in returning.

* And, lastly, they are forever trying to figure out a way to extend the length of Bill Maher’s seasons, in order to give him more time on the air. Whether that’s a good thing or not, you be the judge.

  

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Greetings to the New Show: “Eastbound and Down”

I’ve never actually seen “The Foot Fist Way,” the motion picture which really served to bring Danny McBride to prominence (he wrote and starred in the film), but when a review written by someone whose opinion you trust opens with the lines, “The first 30 minutes of ‘The Foot Fist Way’ are as intolerable as anything released in the last ten years,” it’s the kind of sentiment that keeps a movie from working its way up the hierarchy of your Netflix queue. I have, however, seen and loved “Tropic Thunder,” and I’ve heard a lot of good things about “Pineapple Express,” so I do still have a certain degree of respect for Mr. McBride. Therefore, when I heard that he was going to be starring in a new series for HBO that would be executive-produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the duo who have brought us “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” and “Stepbrothers,” there was every reason to believe that the combination would prove to be a successful one.

“Eastbound and Down” certainly starts promisingly, with a flashback laying out the career of Kenny Powers, a major-league baseball player who has seen the highest heights one can reach in the sport, including cover stories for every magazine from Highlights to Cat Fancy to American Woodworker. “Everyone wanted a piece of my shit,” says Powers, in a voiceover, describing himself as a man with “an arm like a fucking cannon.” Unfortunately, as with so many athletes who get a taste of glory and then dive headlong into the trough, Powers’ ego expands to a size far larger than his home state of North Carolina. He begins to blame his failures on his team, so he leaves Atlanta, becomes a free agent, and starts a career freefall which seems him moving from New York (“You mean Jew York?”), Baltimore and San Francisco (“I gotta tell ya, I thought the blacks in Baltimore were bad, but it turns out they’re nothing compared to these fags they got in San Francisco”), Boston, and Seattle.

Seattle, however, proved too much for the man, and after proving directly responsible for the team’s devastating loss against Los Angeles, things fade to black for Powers, and after a caption which reads, “Several shitty years later,” he find that he’s now out of baseball and has carried his remaining belongings back home to the state known as North Kakalaki to work as a middle-school substitute teacher…and it’s at this point that feelings about “Eastbound and Down” will begin to vary wildly.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Coming to HBO on Sunday: “Eastbound and Down”

When HBO’s new sitcom, “Eastbound and Down,” premieres on Sunday night at 10:30 PM, you’ll see a fair amount of Will Ferrell, who – along with Adam McKay – serves as one of the series’ executive producers…but don’t get too used to it. Although Ferrell gets a lot of hilarious screen time playing car dealer Ashley Shaffer, who’s clearly modeled his coif after legendary wrestler Rick Flair, the word on the street is that we won’t be seeing much…if any…more of Ferrell in future episodes. And, frankly, that’s only fair to the show’s real star, Danny McBride, who’s never going to make any headway if people only keep watching because they’re saying, “Yeah, yeah, now where’s Will?” Still, Ferrell is a good reason to start watching the show, as you can see from these two commercials for Ashley Shaffer Imports.

Head on over to Bullz-Eye to see a “Making Of” featurette and interviews with Ferrell and McBride.

  

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