Movies & TV / Columns

Two Tivos To Paradise 12.05.14: Is Sons of Anarchy One of TV’s Best?

December 5, 2014 | Posted by Al Norton

Hello friends; what’s good? I hope everyone had a productive Black Friday and Cyber Monday and that folks are heading into the holiday season with a good chunk of their to-buy list taken care of. My 25 year high school reunion was Saturday night – yes, I am that old – and it only took 38 minutes (I specifically checked) for someone to ask me if I liked a specific show. In this case it was, “Hey, do you like Elementary?”, and I do, so that made things less awkward than if someone had said, “Hey, don’t you love How To Get Away with Murder?”

Here’s the first look at NBC’s upcoming mini-series from the producers of The Bible

A new clip from Better Call Saul

And a trailer for season two of HBO’s Looking…

I keep a close watch on this news of mine.

I Could Tell It When I Woke Up This Mornin’ Cause I Can Smell It When A Heartache’s Comin’
NBC has given the final season of Parks and Recreation a January 13th premiere date; the episodes will run on Tuesdays at 8 & 8:30 pm until the one hour series finale airs on Tuesday February 24th at 9pm.

While the season will have the free publicity of the Amy Poehler co-hosted Golden Globe Awards two days earlier, pairing two episodes together strikes me as a guarantee fans DVR the episodes and watch later as opposed to tune in live. This scheduling also is indicative of some of the winter/spring issues facing NBC; despite winning November sweeps for the third year in a row, Sunday Night Football going away exposes flaws in their lineup by opening up three hours of primetime programming at once on a night they haven’t launched a successful new series in a longtime.

To me the smart play would be holding Parks until The Voice returns, with elimination episodes of the reality hit running Tuesdays at 8pm, a new comedy to benefit from the huge lead-in at 9pm, and then P & R at 9:30pm. (you know, like they are doing now with great success with Marry Me & About a Boy). But while there seems to be no question that they are burning through this final season of the critically acclaimed but low rated comedy, they have bigger issues to deal with, namely Monday at 10pm. State of Affairs has done ok at best in its first few weeks and there’s the possibility NBC is rethinking its decision to move The Blacklist to Thursdays at 9pm starting in February; as of now it’s unclear what will be airing before and after the hit action/drama, although the network has multiple new dramas to find room for. I think they may run Aquarius (their Charles Manson mini-series) on Thursdays at 10pm, using 8pm to launch a new series (or two).

P & R fans can’t really complain, though; all the episodes are going to air and it’s not like the show is a ratings producer that they are screwing with; we Swanson-heads should be happy were getting 13 more episodes and not care when/how they air.

You Gave Me Love, You Did Me Wrong, Didn’t Know What To Do
Another week, another batch of high profile new shows in development…

*HBO has FINALLY ordered a first season of the untitled 1970’s music industry drama from Martin Scorsese, Terrence Winter, and Mick Jagger. The project, in development for what seems like forever, follows a record executive in 1970’s NYC trying to re-climb the ladder to success in the middle of a fast changing music scene and its top notch cast includes Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, Olivia Wilde, Juno Temple, Andrew Dice Clay, Max Casella, P.J. Byrne, and Bo Dietl.

*Preacher, an adaptation of a cult favorite comic book that has been in development for a long time with multiple networks, officially got a pilot order from AMC. This version is written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, with the latter directing, and Sam Catlin (Breaking Bad) will serve as showrunner. The story follows a disillusioned preacher (with some special powers) who takes off with his ex-girlfriend and a vampire on a literal search for God.

*AMC’s upcoming The Walking Dead companion series – the working title for the pilot seems to be Cobalt – has its first three cast members, with Cliff Curtis (Gang Related, Missing), Frank Dillane (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince) and Alycia Debnam Carey (<bInto the Storm) signing on. The show exists in the same universe as TWD with much speculation that it takes places at the start of the zombie outbreak.

*Parenthood is coming to an end but NBC is looking to keep Lauren Graham in the family, signing her to star, co-write, and executive produce the new comedy Kate on Later, about a female late night talk show host. Liz Tuccillo (Sex and the City) is co-writing and Ellen DeGeneres is on board as an executive producer.

*TTTP fave Natalie Zea (The Following, Justified, Dirty Sexy Money, Hung) has signed on for the female lead opposite Jason Jones in the TBS comedy pilot from Jones and real life wife Samantha Bee. The story follows a family on a vacation where everything than can go wrong does.

*Helena Bonham Carter and Rebecca Hall have joined the cast of HBO’s Codes of Conduct, a pilot co-written & co-executive produced by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and Michael Carnahan (World War Z), with McQueen directing. The story follows a young African American man making a name for himself in NYC high society.

It’s Time To Play The Music, It’s Time To Light The Lights

The Muppets video of the week…

But You Were Up To Your Old Tricks In Chapters Four Five And Six
Ratings Notes From The Last Eight Days…

WEDNESDAY
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving was up 50% in viewers and 31% in the demos from last year, finishing in second on the night in the latter…Criminal Minds won the night in totals and demos…Red Band Society was down 22% after news of its pseudo-cancellation, hitting series lows in demos and total viewers…Stalker matched last week, winning 10pm in totals and demos against no new competition…Survivor was down double digits but still won 8pm in total viewers…Hell’s Kitchen was down 27%…

THURSDAY
While the ratings for NBC’s coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were down from last year’s high, the 22.6 million viewers was a larger number than any non-sports primetime program on any network in 2014 (I know the parade wasn’t on in primetime, just using that to illustrate how big the audience was)… The 32 million who tuned in for the Eagles – Cowboys match up made it Fox’s most watched regular season football game since 1998 (not just for Thanksgiving but for ANY regular season game)… The Bears – Lions game was CBS’ highest rated Turkey Day game in 16 years…NBC’s coverage of the Seahawks – 49’ers game won the night in totals and demos, up 9% from last year for the network’s best Thursday Night Game ever with total viewers…A Big Bang Theory rerun almost beat the combined audience for ABC’s Thank You America with Robin Roberts and Fox’s Cause for Paws , the former of which topped the latter…CBS made the interesting choice to go with mostly original programming and paid for it, with Mom (-35%), Two and a Half Men (-32%), and The McCarthys (-21%) taking big hits…Elementary was actually up 10% at 10pm…

FRIDAY
Dateline won the (quiet) night in both totals and demos…Grimm, Constantine, and The Amazing Race – the only original series to air new episodes – were all down in both totals and demos…

SATURDAY
The overnight numbers for Saturday’s Auburn – Alabama “Iron Bowl” made it the highest rated regular season college football game of all-time for ESPN… Christmas Under Wraps was a huge winner for Hallmark Channel, setting new records for total viewers (5.8 million viewers) and ratings for one of their original movies. It was also the top rated and second most watched original movie on all of cable in 2014. C

SUNDAY
The Walking Dead set new series highs in total viewers and demos for a mid-season finale, up 22% in the former (to 14.8 million viewers) and 23% in the latter from last fall. As expected, the demos topped everything else on TV for the night (and the week), beating Sunday Night Football for the fifth time in eight weeks (last year it only beat it twice). The first half of the current TWD season is up 13% in total viewers and demos from the first half of last season… Talking Dead also joined in on the fun, setting a series high in the demos while pulling in 6.6 million total viewers…Rough night for ABC, with Once Upon a Time down 16% to a season low and Resurrection (-22%) & Revenge (-33%) hitting new series lows…OUAT still won the night in non-sports, non-zombie demos…Madam Secretary was up in totals and demos, winning the night in non-sports, non-zombie total viewers…The season premiere of The Mentalist was up 7% in viewers and even in demos from its opening episode last fall…Mulaney and Brooklyn Nine-Nine were each down a smidge in the demos while Bob’s Burgers was up a modest amount in that 18-48 measure…Sunday Night Football won the night in broadcast total viewers and demos

MONDAY
Sleepy Hollow enjoyed modest demo and total viewer increases…The Voice was up 15% in total viewers, winning the night in that measure as well as in the demos…State of Affairs was up 20% in total viewers and also won 10pm in the demos…CMA Country Christmas was up 20% from last year…Castle was down double digits to tie a series demo low…

TUESDAY
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD was up double digits in total viewers and demos, with the latter being the best numbers since the series premiere…Forever had its best numbers in two months…The Flash was up 22% in total viewers…The Voice won the night in the demos, up double digits …Marry Me spiked 43% in viewers and 27% in demos…About a Boy was up 43 in viewers and a bit in the demos…Chicago Fire was up 23% in viewers and even in the demos…MasterChef:Junior and New Girl were each up a bit in the demos…The Mindy Project and Supernatural matched last week…Charlie Brown Christmas was up double digits from last year…11.5 million watched an NCIS rerun, making it the most watched show of the night…What these numbers mean is a LOT more 50+ viewers watched TV last night than did last Tuesday… Chrisley Knows Best hit series highs in total viewers and demos on Tuesday night

WEDNESDAY
Arrow hit a series high in the demos while posting its second best total viewer numbers ever (behind only the series premiere)…The 100 was up 20% in viewers…Red Band Society’s likely final episode was up double digits in total viewers and demos…NBC’s coverage of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting won the night in total viewers…Rough night for ABC, with their entire lineup down, including The Middle tying a series demo low and black-ish hitting a new series demo low. Modern Family still won the night in the demos, with black-ish finishing second overall…

All The Young Dudes, Carry The News
Industry News, Notes, and Hot Rumors…Krysten Ritter (Don’t Trust the B- In Apt 23, Breaking Bad) has landed the lead in Jessica Jones, one of the four Marvel series set to air on Netflix. Deadline.com tells us that one of the things that got Ritter the part was her chemistry in a reading with Mike Colter (The Good Wife, The Following, Ringer), believed to be the frontrunner for the part of Luke Cage…Season three of House of Cards premieres on Netflix on February 27th…Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) is said to be thisclose to signing on for season two of Fargo. Also of note are reports story of a major part being offered to Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation)…El Rey has cancelled Matador after one season, which is somewhat of a surprise since the network picked up a second season back in July, before the series premiere…Worst Cooks in America returns for a 6th season on January 4th, with new coach Chef Tyler Florence set to take on Chef Anne Burrell…CBS’ annual Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials special is set for January 26th, with Scorpion star Katharine McPhee co-hosting with Boomer Esiason. Folks can vote online for their favorites, with a live vote taking place during the broadcast to choose between the two finalists…E! has confirmed that Kathy Griffin and Brad Goreski will join the Fashion Police panel when the show returns in January for the first of seventeen 2015 episodes, all scheduled around big events like The Golden Globes, The Oscars, The Grammys, and Fashion Week…January Jones and Kristen Schaal have signed on for multiple episodes of the new Fox comedy Last Man on Earth, as has Enlisted’s Mel Rodriguez. Created by and starring Will Forte, the show premieres on Sunday, March 1st…Bravo’s newest cooking competition series is Best New Restaurant, where host/judge Tom Colicchio oversees a battle between sixteen new restaurants in NYC, LA, Austin, and Miami, with one being crowned Best New Restaurant (and winning $100K as well). The show premieres on January 21st and is based on Gordon Ramsay’s UK series Ramsay’s Best Restaurant, with the famed restaurateur and TV personality serving as an executive producer on this US version…TTTP fave Steven Weber is very much in demand these days, with a recurring role on ABC Family’s Chasing Life, a recently announced guest spot on Showtime’s House of Lies, and now comes word that that he will guest on Sleepy Hollow as Thomas Jefferson as well as recur on The CW’s iZombie…Manu Bennett will reprise his role of Slade Wilson on the thirteenth episode of Arrow this season, although it’s not clear if he will appear in present day or in flashbacks…TNT has picked up a 10 episode second season of Legends

Turns Out Not Where But Who You’re With That Really Matters
The Best of What’s Around aka The Best Thing I’ve Watched This Week…
Tuesday was a pretty remarkable night of TV, starting off at 8pm with The Flash’s half of the big Flash-Arrow crossover event, an hour of television filled with joy and exhilaration, yet another example of how watching The Flash is the closest TV has ever come for me to duplicating the excitement I had when I got my hands on the new issue of Spider-Man. TVgasm is the word I would use to best describe how I felt throughout the hour, and if I really think about it I’d call it a tantric TVgasm since it lasted for 60 minutes. And then 10pm came around…

The penultimate episode of Sons of Anarchy was as devastating an episode of TV as I can remember, in some ways fully expected and in some ways shocking, and it made me sad and angry, which I mean as the highest of praise. I am in no way ready for next Tuesday night.

And in those two hours was just about everything I love about the medium of television and its ability to tell stories and elicit strong feelings from the audience.

People Say I’m Crazy Doing What I’m Doing, Well, They Give Me All Kinds Of Warnings To Save Me From Ruin
What’s flashed before my eyes the last seven days…

I continue to love Slow Jam the News…Thanks to the twins I am a casual viewer of Disney’s Jessie, a show about a young nanny taking care of the adopted kids of a Hollywood super couple, and the episodes I’ve seen are usually mildly entertaining and inoffensive but WOW, that one hour holiday episode that premiered on Friday night was not only terrible, it featured more scatological humor than I’ve seen in a long time. Well, I shouldn’t limited it that way, there were also plenty of jokes about vomit and animal flatulence. Oh, and I didn’t mention how having the teenage boy hiding under the bed (and in various other places) in the room where Jessie and her friend were sleeping was played for laughs as opposed to creepy borderline stalking. I never thought I’d be longing for the glory days of Good Luck Charlie but man, this was bad on so many levels…I watch (and enjoy) TNT’s On the Menu but inevitably I find myself imagining a TV-centric version of the show, with folks cooking to get dishes on the menu at Mel’s Diner, The Max, MacLaren’s Pub, Monk’s, The Regal Beagle, Nuovo Vesuvio, or maybe Los Pollos Hermanos…Trying to remember the last time a child actor had as successful a transition to adult roles as Tyler James Williams; he finished up his run on Everybody Hates Chris in 2009 and followed that up with a guest spot on House, a series regular role on Go On, and you can currently see him on The Walking Dead. He’s now 22 years old with a strong resume and very long career in front of him…Sadly, the Every Witch Way: Spellbound special was just as bad as the show, and sadly, the twins were indeed spellbound. I’ve started to think we may have some sort of Smile Time situation going on here… Lieutenant Louie Provenza is on my list of best/favorite cops of the TTTP era and frankly, after 7 seasons on The Closer and now 3 on Major Crimes (totaling 150 episodes), he’s pretty damn close to the all-time list, too. G.W. Bailey is note perfect in the role, turning world weariness into an art form. His resume spans five decades and includes the Police Academy franchise and TV classics like MASH and St Elsewhere, but his work catching criminals and giving life lessons on TNT is what he should/will be remembered for…The Daniel – Emily conversations are easily the best thing about this season and I have my fingers crossed for a drunken hookup…Last night’s Modern Family was decent but the scene where Alex talks about her date while her parents think she is Usual Suspecting it was fantastic. Actually, that was the whole episode in a nutshell; great wordplay but the stories were just retreads of previously established character traits.

TV Pick Of The Week
I have a confession to make; I didn’t enjoy the Sons of Anarchy pilot and almost didn’t watch the second episode. The show premiered a week after the twins were born and during that time I had a lot of late night feedings, so one night I threw the screener disc FX sent me in, figuring I might as well give the second episode a shot, and from that point on I was hooked. I’ve never been so thankful for a lack of sleep.

While the seven seasons have had some fluctuation in quality, there is no doubt that the show is among the best in TV history in terms of long term storytelling, with some plot lines taking seasons to finally come to well-earned dramatic and emotional fruition. The emotional part is one of the show’s trademarks, letting the audience see how all the pieces fit together (and/or fall apart), so the audience felt the emotional payoff (good or bad) as much as the characters.

Another hallmark of the show was its brutality, with some of the most graphic scenes of violence in TV history. And finally there was the humor; the citizens of Charming knew how dark their lives could be and enjoyed the occasional remark that poked fun at it and themselves.

I am not sure if all the actors who were a part of the Sons troupe were brilliant thespians but they all seemed perfect for their roles; I can’t recall a poorly cast role from the show’s seven seasons, and many of the recurring roles were brilliantly played by the likes of Donal Logue, Jimmy Smits, Ally Walker, Ray McKinnon, Kenneth Choi, and others. And then of course there’s Walton Goggins…

One thing I certainly didn’t see coming was that Sons would establish itself as one of the most progressive series in TV history when it comes to LGBTB characters, with Venus Van Damme becoming one of the most groundbreaking characters in TV history, both in terms of her existence, her portrayal, and her acceptance (both by the folks on the show and the people watching it).

The show brings its seven season run to a close this Tuesday at 10pm and my TV world will never be the same…

Don’t miss the series finale of Sons of Anarchy, Tuesday at 10pm on FX.

Hope You Need My Love, Babe, Just Like I Need You
Other noteworthy programming options for the week…

*While I didn’t actually watch any of the TV movies that led to The Librarians (Sunday, 8pm, TNT), I am still quite excited to see the series premiere as it looks great…

*Robot Chicken (Sunday, 10:30pm, Adult Swim) takes on pretty much every holiday in a new special…

*ABC Family airs Christmas episodes of The Fosters (8pm) and Switched at Birth (9pm) this Monday.

*TBS’ Ground Floor is back for a new season this Tuesday at 10pm.

Two Tivos To Paradise
@Midnight, A to Z, About A Boy, American Idol, America’s Best Cook, Antiques Roadshow, Beat Bobby Flay, Archer, Arrow, Auction Hunters, Baby Daddy, Bakery Boss, Benched, Bitten, Black-ish, The Blacklist, Bones, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Buddy’s Bakery Rescue, Cake Boss, Chasing Life, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Chopped, Comic Book Men, Community, Cougar Town, Counting Cars, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Cutthroat Kitchen, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Dancing with the Stars, The Deadliest Catch, The Divide, Face Off, Faking It, Falling Skies, Family Guy, Fargo, Flipping Out, Food Court Wars, Food Network Challenge, Food Network Star, Forever, The Fosters, Frankenfood, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Mine, Glee, Gotham, Graceland, Gracepoint, Great Food Truck Race, Grey’s Anatomy, Haunted Collector, Haunted Highway, Haunted Treasure, Hawaii Five-0, House of Lies, Inside Comedy with David Steinberg, Inside Amy Schumer, Iron Chef America, Justified, Key and Peele, Kitchen Inferno. The Last Ship, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Late Night with Seth Myers, Law And Order: Special Victims Unit, The League, Lost Girl, Louie, Mad Men, Madam Secretary, Major Crimes, Married, Marry Me, MasterChef, MasterChef Canada, MasterChef: Junior, Masters of Sex, The Middle, Mike and Molly, The Mindy Project, Modern Family, Monster Man, Murder in the First, Nashville, New Girl, Next Great Baker, Next Iron Chef, NY Med, On the Menu, The Originals, Outside the Lines, Parenthood, Parks & Recreation, Penny Dreadful, Project Runway, Project Runway All-Stars, Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook Off, Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook Off, Ray Donovan, Real Time With Bill Maher, Rectify, Restaurant Impossible, Revenge, Royal Pains, Satisfaction, Saturday Night Live, Scorpion, Selfie, Shark Wranglers, So You Think You Can Dance?, Sons of Anarchy, The Soup, Suits, Supernatural, The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Top Chef, Top Chef: Duels, Top Chef: Masters, Tosh.0, True Detective, Undateable, Under the Gunn, The Vampire Diaries, The Voice, The Walking Dead, Wizard Wars, Worst Cooks In America, You’re The Worst,

People Love You When They Know You’re Leaving Soon
Here ends another Two Tivos To Paradise.

We’ll be back next week with all the TV headlines!!!!

Sources for this week’s column include Daily Variety, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, and Hollywood Reporter (plus the web sites for those publications) as well as Aintit.cool.com, TVline.com & Deadline.com.