Tag: Anna Torv

TCA Tour: “Fringe”

Fox’s “Fringe” premiered last season to a ridiculous amount of buzz, thanks to the combination of J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci, a trio whose various credits (many of them shared) – “Alias,” “Lost,” “Mission: Impossible III,” “Transformers,” and the then-still-forthcoming “Star Trek” – were more than sufficient to get the sci-fi fanboys into a tizzy. Things may have started off a bit rocky, mostly due to a slight uncertainty about exactly what the hell was going on, but by the close of the season finale, when we found ourselves barely getting over that guest appearance by Leonard Nimoy before we found ourselves looking at a still-standing World Trade Center, we were already ready for Season 2 to begin.

“As we went along, I think we got a better handle on the balance of our characters and the plots and making sure that our plots were character-centric,” admitted executive producer Jeff Pinkner. “I think that we learned how to write for these actors, these characters over time, and I think we learned this in ‘Alias’ and ‘Lost.’ The shows that are really about the characters, the characters and the actors playing them start to meld a little bit more, and I think we’ve gotten better at that.”

Orci noted that one of the series’ biggest issue from the very beginning was figuring out the percentage of standalone episodes versus a larger serialization. “We’ve all read the research that says a regular viewer watches three episodes in a year, etcetera, etcetera, so you try to modulate,” he explained. “In the first season, we actually had to sort of plan around resetting the series once or twice and doing it around three- or four-week-long breaks. And that kind of exercise makes us, in Season Two, a little more flexible, a little bit more able to read the green. And I think, you know, the fact that we are closer than we were from New York is also helpful. We can all be up there a little bit more; we can communicate better with each other. I think we’re just a tighter ship this year.”

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Mistresses: Volume One

In a sense, there’s really no reason for me to write a full-length review of “Mistresses,” BBC America’s latest contribution to the guilty-pleasure pile.

When I was working my way through the four-disc set of the series, which includes the first two seasons of the show, I made a comment about my current viewing on my Facebook page. Jeanne Jakle, TV critic of the San Antonio Express News (not to mention significant other of our own Ross Ruediger), responded by saying that it possessed “just enough sluttiness and sleaziness to offset the soapiness,” adding that “the British accents made it seem classier than ‘Sex and the City.’”

Now, I don’t know about you, but these two phrases alone would’ve been enough to make me want to check it out. Still, the more discerning viewer might prefer to have a bit more information about the series before diving headlong into “Mistresses,” and we here at Bullz-Eye live to serve.

America has already endured its share of “Sex and the City” knockoffs, and the two with the highest profiles – “Cashmere Mafia” and “Lipstick Jungle” – have already been knocked off the air. In Britain, however, they’ve tried a different tactic, avoiding the lighthearted feel of Stateside series and staying almost entirely serious with their gaggle of gal-pals. There are four female characters in “Mistresses,” and although there are occasions where their storylines will leave you begging for a little humor, you can’t say that they don’t manage to remain enthralling as a result.

As a physician, Katie (Sarah Parish) is the closest thing the group has to a grown-up; too bad her idea of maturity involves sleeping with a married patient and, after he dies, finding her way into an affair with the man’s son. Trudi (Sharon Small) is a 9/11 widow who’s trying to raise her two children and considering stepping back into the world of dating, but she’s hesitant because she doesn’t want to fall in with someone who wants her solely for the sizable settlement she received after her husband’s death. Jessica (Shelley Conn) is a party girl and the queen of the one-night stands, which makes her the envy of the rest of the girls, but they’re a bit shocked when her flirtation with the same sex seems to be the love she never knew she was looking for. And lastly, there’s Siobhan (Orla Brady), the married one in the bunch. It almost goes without saying that she’s the unhappiest one of all, doesn’t it?

Just as the title of the series implies, there’s a fair amount of infidelity going on within “Mistresses,” though it’s different from character to character. Katie’s is the most obvious, of course, but the woman with whom Jessica is enthralled – Alex, played by Anna Torv (now best known for her role as Agent Olivia Dunham on “Fringe”) – is engaged to be married to another woman, and Siobhan seeks sexual gratification outside of her marriage when her husband’s desire to have a baby abruptly moves from overscheduled and unromantic coitus to a total lack of sex drive. And what of Trudi? Well, the problem here is that you can’t say too much about her situation without giving away the best (and, ultimately, the harshest) storyline of the season, so let’s just say that, yes, there’s cheating involved on her end as well.

If there’s a problem with the second season of the series, however, it’s that you can’t help but feel that either these are the unluckiest women in all of Britain when it comes to love, or they’re among the most foolish. It’s been said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, but, wow, talk about having problems with short-term memory! Katie has further problems with a younger man and a married man, while Siobhan still can’t manage to get things right in her marriage. You can almost excuse Trudi for her issues, though, given what she’s been through in the past. The real exception here is Jessica, whose unexpected actions in the season premiere set up her surprising storyline, and whose shenanigans during the course of the subsequent episodes definitely keep you guessing.

“Mistresses” isn’t groundbreaking television, but, well, it’s like Jeanne said: it’s unabashedly a soap opera, but you get a healthy soupcon of sexiness, and the accents class it up enough to make you feel okay about watching it. All told, the first season is by far the better of the two, but by then, you care enough about the characters to stick around through the second as well.

Special Features: Although we receive no commentaries, we do get two features, one for each season of the show included in “Volume One.” The first is “The Making of ‘Mistresses,’” which offers a half-hour look into Season One, while the second, “Sex, Lies, and Infidelity,” takes the Mistresses and their significant others and gets their opinions on the topics addressed in the show as well as their thoughts on their characters at the end of Season Two. Both are top-notch, which is just as we’ve come to expect from BBC-produced bonus material.

* Buy “Mistresses: Volume 1.”

TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “Mistresses”

At first glance, BBC America’s new series, “Mistresses,” would seem to be a perfect candidate for this year’s guiltiest pleasure…a 2009 equivalent of “Footballers’ Wives,” if you will…and when BBC America’s President, Garth Ancier, described the series as “a story of friendship and infidelity,” that seemed to cinch the comparison. But then he added a wrinkle by throwing out this comparison: “If you think of ‘Sex and the City’ as sort of a fanciful look at modern life, then ‘Mistresses’ can, I think, truly be described as an intimate, honest, and provocative one.”

Creator S.J. Clarkson admitted that the name “Mistresses” actually wasn’t intended to be anything other than a working title, but it stuck because they couldn’t think of anything else that summed it up as much. “It’s a red-flag word, so it makes people sit up and take notice,” noted Clarkson, “but inevitably it was always about truthful performances and to try and — all the storylines, performances and the look of it needed to feel truthful, cinematic and grounded, I suppose, because I’ve actually directed ‘Footballer Wives’ as well. So I knew I didn’t want it to be like that. This was more in the vein of — you know, I don’t know, films we looked at for reference was ‘Three Colors: Blue’ and ‘Unfaithful’ and ‘L’Apartement,’ which is a French film. And we looked at a lot more films for reference for it, rather than sort of lighter television.”

Clarkson tried to show the reality of being a mistress, as opposed to the usual television exaggeration. “I don’t think it’s necessarily all stiletto-heeled secretaries hanging around in hotel bars,” Clarkson said. “It’s often you meet somebody, you have a connection, you fall in love, and suddenly you realize they’re with somebody else…and what do you do in that situation? You’re told, ‘Follow your heart.’ Or the fairytale is, you know, you love someone, fall in love, get married, have children, have a happy lifetime together…but what happens if the person you fall in love with is already married? I think that’s a real dilemma and a truthful dilemma for many women today.”

“What we wanted to do (with ‘Mistresses’), I think, is reflect the kind of truthfulness and honesty that women have between each other,” said executive producer Douglas Rae. “Particularly at an age in their 30s, when their families may have moved to another city and the girls are becoming family in a way that, you know, has moved on from the ’50s and ’60s. So the girls themselves are a family and they share the stresses and strains of everyday life with each other. The series is not about promiscuity; it’s about how people can bond together and share secrets together.”

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Fringe 1.2

This won’t be a formal blog, mostly because I wasn’t able to watch the episode when it originally aired, but given the discussion that evolved from my initial preview of the pilot, I thought I’d at least offer up a few brief comments about Episode #2.

* First off, I didn’t mention it in my original write-up about the series, but I really dig the way they set the location: with huge letters that look like they’re part of the scenery. It’s one of those accepted parts of a series that you wouldn’t think they could do anything particularly unique with, but damned if they didn’t.

* Like the pilot, the opening sequence is nice and harrowing, making it the perfect way to get you caught up in the episode right off the bat, and the decision to provide it with limited commercial interruptions – timed down to the second – was certainly appreciated as well. Also, the method of offering flashbacks to the pilot was a nice, unobtrusive way to giving first-timers just enough info to walk into this episode without feeling lost.

* The character of Dr. Walter Bishop continues to be fascinatingly eccentric, with his memories ebbing and flowing like the tide, but the reality is that John Noble’s performance in the role is enthralling to watch. His quiet, innocent delivery makes even the strangest lines work, and his sudden explosion of anger at one point is downright shocking.

* Thankfully, they have indeed attempted to downplay the Pacey-isms being delivered by Joshua Jackson. There are still a couple of moments where he throws out snappy lines which feel inappropriate, but the character of Peter is startling to feel more like a real guy caught up in a weird situation. (I can only presume that his aptitude at police work comes from years of watching procedurals on TV.)

* Okay, maybe Anna Torv is a little glum in her delivery, but I don’t really have a problem with her performance. I had to laugh when my wife made a comment about how she needed to get her roots done, but she accepted my argument (or pretended to, at least) that a real government agent wouldn’t be all that concerned about maintaining a glamorous look, anyway.

* Obviously, things don’t really kick into high gear until the last 15 minutes of the episode, but between the unfolding of the man-baby plot, Walter remembering where he parked his car, the tie-in to the case to Walter’s research, and Olivia trying to work out how much of her work over the past year was tainted by her traitorous partner, I remained thoroughly interested from beginning to end.

* All hail the cow!

Greetings to the New Show: “Fringe”

There’s a tendency among viewers to see the name “J.J. Abrams” and instantly consider it to be a mark of quality television. This is called “The ‘Lost’ Effect,” so named because Abrams is so intrinsically linked to “Lost” that those of us who are fans of the series – and, yes, I consider myself to be one – will tend to shrug off his failures because, hey, the guy was still responsible for “Lost,” so we’ve gotta at least give his stuff a shot, right? Now, in the interest of fairness, we should acknowledge that there are other individuals who subscribe to “The ‘Alias’ Effect” and “The ‘Felicity’ Effect”…though, oddly, you don’t hear much about “The ‘What About Brian’ Effect.” But I digress. My point here, really, is this: when it comes to the latest series to have Abrams’ name listed a producer, Fox’s “Fringe,” let’s all just try to keep things in perspective, view the show on its own merits, and try not to love it or hate it solely because he’s a part of it.

As it happens, “Fringe” has the advantage of featuring a couple of other names which give it added credibility, particularly amongst sci-fi fans: Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Fox has really been pushing the fact that the duo wrote the script for “Transformers,” but for some reason, they don’t mention that they were called upon by Zack Snyder to assist with the script for “Watchmen.” Funny, that. Probably more important than either of those credits, however, is their longstanding working relationship with Abrams, having done time with him on “Alias” as both writers and executive producers and writing the screenplays for both “Mission: Impossible III” and the new “Star Trek” film. The collaboration has worked out well in the past, so there’s every reason to be hopeful that…

Dammit! See what I mean? I almost fell into being optimistic about “Fringe” just because Abrams is involved. Granted, he was only a third of that particular equation, but even so, I don’t want to do that. Not again. I did it with “Six Degrees,” and 13 episodes later, I was left a bitter shell of a TV critic. I can’t handle that kind of heartbreak a second time…particularly not when “Fringe” reminds me so much of still another show that was canceled too soon: “Threshold.”

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