Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Steven Bochco’s back with Murder in the First on TNT

'Murder in the First' premieres Monday on TNT.

Kathleen Robertson and Taye Diggs star as San Francisco police detectives investigating a pair of apparently connected killings in ‘Murder in the First,’ premiering Monday on TNT.


Ten-time Emmy winner Steven Bochco returns to primetime in his wheelhouse – the cop/courtroom drama – with Murder in the First, an uneven but promising new series premiering Monday night on TNT.
The iconoclastic writer and producer could use a hit right now. Since his groundbreaking NYPD Blue ended its ABC run after 12 seasons in 2005, he’s had two ratings failures. The excellent Geena Davis political drama Commander in Chief (ABC, 2005-06) lasted only a single season, while the quirky legal dramedy Raising the Bar eked out a 2008-09 two-season run on TNT.
Murder in the First borrows the same basic format as Bochco’s 1995-97 ABC courtroom drama Murder One, in that it follows a single case over the course of this 10-episode season. What seemed revolutionary in 1995, however, now seems commonplace. In fact, given Bochco’s career-long reputation as an artistic maverick, the most surprising thing about Murder in the First is how unsurprising it is.
Taye Diggs (Private Practice) and Kathleen Robertson (Bates Motel) star as San Francisco Police detectives Terry English and Hildy Mulligan, respectively, who are investigating two seemingly unrelated murders in the premiere episode. One involves a junkie shot to death in his seedy flophouse apartment. The other victim is a beautiful (and very nude) blonde found dead at the bottom of a staircase inside her home.
In short order, however, Terry and Hildy discover that both victims had intimate ties to an unlikely but high-profile suspect: Silicon Valley boy wonder Erich Blunt (Tom Felton from the Harry Potter movie series), whose technical wizardry has transformed him into the world’s youngest billionaire.
Erich’s initial arrogance when confronted by the detectives starts to crumble as compelling circumstantial evidence against him begins piling up, so he hires super-attorney Warren Daniels (Emmy winner James Cromwell, American Horror Story: Asylum) to represent him in court.
If Erich is the prime suspect, however, Terry and Hildy find another person of interest in Bill Wilkerson (Steven Weber, Wings), Erich’s driver and pilot, who also had had a sexual relationship with the dead woman.
TNT sent the first three episodes of Murder in the First for review, which was a smart move, because Monday’s episode is not especially compelling. In the span of a single hour, the premiere tries to introduce a staggering number of characters as well as laying out the basic details of the two murders. Concurrently, a secondary storyline shows Diggs’ character coming apart under the strain of caring for her terminally ill wife (Anne-Marie Johnson, In the Heat of the Night), a tedious subplot that only serves to distract us from the central mystery.
Robertson is terrific as Hildy, a single mom who is smart, focused and given to wisecracks. Diggs is fine, but his character’s personal story feels arbitrary and grafted on.
Based on the three episodes of Murder in the First I’ve seen, it’s Felton who turns in the most galvanizing performance. Now 26, the British actor spent most of his teen years playing nasty Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, but he has matured into a confident grown-up actor who skillfully plays things right down the middle as our principal suspect, keeping us guessing from scene to scene as to whether Erich is a sociopathic killer or just an innocent jerk. He also has potent chemistry with Robertson in scenes where each is trying to charm the other to find out what he/she knows.
By the end of the third episode, I was pretty firmly invested in Murder in the First, which sports a large ensemble that also includes Richard Schiff (The West Wing), Raphael Sbarge (Once Upon a Time), Nicole Ari Parker (Revolution) and Currie Graham (Raising the Bar). If this show feels like a throwback for Bochco, maybe he just figured if it’s not broken, why fix it?
Tom Felton in 'Murder in the First.'

British actor Tom Felton stars as a young Silicon Valley billionaire who becomes the prime suspect in a double murder in TNT’s new drama ‘Murder in the First.’

NBC delivers a glossy remake of classic Rosemary’s Baby

'Rosemary's Baby'

Patrick J. Adams and Zoe Saldana star as Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse in NBC’s two-part remake of ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ premiering tonight.


Nearly 50 years after its 1968 release, Roman Polanski’s big-screen adaptation of Ira Levin’s 1967 bestselling horror novel Rosemary’s Baby still stands as a brilliantly constructed milestone in film horror. The director scored an Academy Award nomination for his taut screenplay, which leavened the suspense with Polanski’s typically mordant wit, and supporting actress Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for her unforgettable performance as Minnie Castevet, the sweet little old neighbor who was harboring a big secret.
In contrast, NBC’s two-part remake, which begins tonight and concludes this coming Thursday, feels more like the work of international corporate deal-makers, not artists, with a cast and production that seems to be designed primarily to appeal to as wide a global audience as possible. In fact, arguably the most audacious thing NBC has done with its Rosemary’s Baby is programming it to start on Mother’s Day.
That’s not to say that it’s a train wreck, though. Although this new version incorporates most of the broad tropes of Levin’s book, it transplants the main action from New York to Paris, where American couple Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Zoe Saldana of Avatar and Patrick J. Adams of Suits) are currently living, following her recent miscarriage. Guy’s an aspiring novelist who is teaching at the Sorbonne for a puny salary while struggling with massive writer’s block. Their lifestyle is changed dramatically one day when Rosemary comes to the rescue of chic Parisienne Margaux Castevet (Carole Bouquet, For Your Eyes Only) during a “chance” encounter.
Warm and effusively maternal, Margaux and her handsome husband, Roman (British actor Jason Isaacs from the Harry Potter films), almost immediately adopt the Woodhouses as their latest project, insisting that the couple move into a newly vacant apartment in their impossibly grand building. What Guy and Rosemary don’t know is that their flat is vacant because the previous tenant, a young pregnant woman, leapt to her death from its balcony.
At a party hosted by Roman and Margaux, Rosemary witnesses, or hallucinates, a handsome stranger having sex with some of the other guests. The man begins to turn up elsewhere in Rosemary’s life, chiefly in her dreams, which carry a new erotic charge.
You know what’s coming, at least in broad strokes. Rosemary becomes pregnant following a hallucinatory dream/nightmare in which the mystery man appears to take Guy’s place in her bed. Not long after that, Guy’s fortunes mysteriously begin to improve. As Rosemary feels a mounting sense that something is terribly wrong, she begins to fret that Guy has made some sort of Faustian bargain with occultists who want to use her baby in their obscene rites.
Close, but no cigar, Rosemary.
The four main performances (you won’t recognize most of the rest of the cast) are all quite good. Saldana, often cast in films as an action babe, gives Rosemary a strength and a quiet resolve that’s a marked contrast to Mia Farrow’s most aggressively neurotic performance in Polanski’s original, and Adams’ Guy very clearly loves his wife, which was somewhat in doubt while watching the more feral John Cassavetes on the big screen.
Making the Castevets younger and sexier also makes dramatic sense. After all, if you’re going to be two of Satan’s most powerful earthly minions, you’re going to want to look the part.
Under the direction of Agnieska Holland (Europa, Europa), the TV movie looks very expensive and captures the feel of a very old and jaded city in which Rosemary and Guy are natural-born outsiders. Unfortunately, the pacing is seriously off, mainly because of the very uneven screenplay by Scott Abbott and James Wong. While some scenes still carry a jolt, others seem to drag on forever, undercutting the tension. Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby clocked in at a fairly efficient two hours and 15 minutes. The NBC remake, if you subtract commercial breaks, comes in at about three hours. I watched the two parts back to back, and still my attention began to wander in several spots. I can’t imagine how much worse it will be for most viewers, who have a four-day intermission inserted due to NBC’s scheduling.
Ultimately, the scariest thing about this new Rosemary’s Baby is that it’s just not all that scary.
Carole Bouquet and Jason Isaacs.

Carole Bouquet and Jason Isaacs star in NBC’s remake of ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’

Hamm, Radcliffe shine in a noteworthy ‘Young Doctor’s Notebook’

Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe star in 'A Young Doctor's Notebook.'

Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm share the same role in the decidedly unconventional Ovation comedy ‘A Young Doctor’s Notebook.’

I didn’t want to let the weekend pass without at least mentioning A Young Doctor’s Notebook, the weird but hilarious British miniseries currently airing in heavy rotation on the Ovation cable channel. Set during the Russian Revolution and adapted from a series of short stories by Russian doctor and writer Mikhail Bulgakov, the dramedy stars Jon Hamm (Mad Men) as a physician whose discovery of a diary he kept as a young man prompts him to reflect on his challenging days as a recent medical school graduate (Daniel Radcliffe) struggling to cope with life in the snowy and remote village of Muryevo, where he has been dispatched.
This Younger Doctor (neither Hamm’s nor Radcliffe’s characters are giving proper names) has an excellent academic record behind him, but his lack of professional experience leaves him racked by insecurity, especially with the surreal added pressure of having the Older Doctor peering over his shoulder and second-guessing everything he does. How are these two alter egos interacting and occupying the same space and time? Maybe it’s all happening in the imagination of Hamm’s character, or perhaps these are hallucinations brought on by the Younger Doctor’s increasing addiction to morphine, which he has begun taking to endure a stress-induced peptic ulcer. Or maybe it doesn’t really matter, because no matter how you rationalize it, Hamm and Radcliffe make for a truly splendid comedy duo.
And, much as M*A*S*H mined big laughs against the backdrop of Korean War horrors, A Young Doctor’s Notebook is, for the most part, unabashedly comic, which only intensifies the impact of moments like the one in which the Older Doctor tries in vain to stop his younger self from taking that first shot of dope. This duality of tone makes A Young Doctor’s Notebook an ideal vehicle for Hamm, since it gives him a chance to show off both his formidable comedy chops and the undercurrent of deep melancholy that is so much a part of his performance as Don Draper on Mad Men.
Radcliffe, however, is just as good as the Younger Doctor. You have to give it to this young actor: He easily could have coasted, or even just comfortably retired, following his phenomenal commercial success in the Harry Potter movie series, yet he seems to be working overtime to prove his range as an actor, even if that means toiling in decidedly unconventional projects like A Young Doctor’s Notebook for a British satellite channel and, now, an American cable network with a less-than-stunning subscriber reach.
Sky Arts, the British satellite outlet that originally aired these four episodes of A Young Doctor’s Notebook, already has ordered four more that are due to air in the UK this December, with Hamm and Radcliffe reprising their roles – role – whatever. I hope those episodes eventually make their way to this side of the pond, because trust me, A Young Doctor’s Notebook is a risky and rewarding breath of creative fresh air. For more on the series, visit www.ovationtv.com.

The ensemble of 'A Young Doctor's Notebook' on Ovation.

Rosie Cavaliero, Adam Godley, Daniel Radcliffe, Vicki Pepperdine and Jon Hamm (from left) star in ‘A Young Doctor’s Notebook’ on Ovation.

Four degrees of desperation

Olivia-Colman-Run-02-GQ-15Jul13_channel4_b_642x390
Olivia Colman
If you’ve been watching BBC America’s gripping new murder mystery Broadchurch, I’m guessing that you’re falling in love with Olivia Colman, who stars as nurturing police detective Ellie Miller. This astonishingly versatile actress seems to be popping up everywhere these days, most recently in the United States on Run, a four-part miniseries that started streaming today on Hulu.
Colman, best known for playing warm, self-effacing characters, is decidedly cast against type here as Carol, an exhausted single mother with mousy brown hair streaked with blonde highlights that are less self-applied than self-inflicted. She shares her cramped council flat in London with her teenage sons, a couple of mouth-breathers who drift from one short-term job to another, filling in their frequent downtime with pot-enhanced video games and beer, pilfered from their mum’s refrigerator.
While her sons are spending their days in varying degrees of incoherence, Carol struggles to pay their rent and board with a soul-killing job at a characterless retail warehouse, where she helps stock the aluminum shelves with items sold by the case.
At the end of the day, Carol is so tired she barely can drag herself to the corner store to pick up more beer and liquor, then head home to cook a meal for her boys, who more often than not turn up their noses and lurch out for a night at the pub.
Things manage to get even worse on My Two Thugs, Carol’s life if it were a TV series, when she finds a bloodstain on one of her son’s clothing and eventually realizes they may well be behind a recent and savage homicide not far from their home. And while her first instinct is to protect her delinquents, their semi-casual dismissal of the crime makes her realize they are heading down the same dangerous path as their father, an abusive lout who walked out on them years ago.
That’s just in Episode One. Which lasts just over 40 minutes.
The concept behind this miniseries is to follow the ripples of an action from its point of occurrence to the seemingly disconnected lives it affects. The points of connection in Run are somewhat tenuous and occasionally not very compelling, but at least two of the episodes are well worth your attention.
In the first episode, we learn that Carol is augmenting her meager warehouse salary by stealing small electronics, ideally cell phones, and fencing them to Ying (Katie Leung, Cho Chang from the Harry Potter movies), an illegal Chinese immigrant who is selling them, and bootleg DVDs, to pay off a gangster. (Stay with me here, folks, I am not making this stuff up). One of those sales inadvertently causes some heartbreaking complications for Richard (Lennie James, AMC’s new Low Winter Sun series), a recovering heroin addict trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter. His travails lead us, in turn, to Kasia (Katharina Schuttler), a young Polish cleaning woman who – forgive me, I do not know the Polish equivalent of quelle surprise – was the girlfriend of the murder victim in Episode One.
Complications ensue, not all of them credible. In fact, as all the social horrors kept piling up – drugs, white slavery, larceny, immigration fraud, black market piracy, et al. – I started to wonder whether I was watching some contemporary variant on Reefer Madness. Stay out of wicked London Town, kids. It gets badder.
That said, I don’t especially regret watching all four episodes this morning, since each had its arresting moments, but if you’re strapped for time, I would recommend checking out Episodes One (Colman) and Three (James), both of which deliver powerhouse performances. The other two episodes aren’t bad, but they do traffic mainly in complex issues that have been tackled elsewhere more effectively, and frankly, I had hoped Episode Four was going to tie up all the narratives in a powerful bow.
It doesn’t.
Still, I’m glad that Hulu – which keeps getting publicly trumped by its streaming rival Netflix when it comes to high-profile events – remains a go-to service for people who want to explore more of the work of rising stars like Colman that isn’t otherwise available.
Run Episode 3 Lennie James as Richard
Lennie James