Tag Archives: Lost

HBO’s Leftovers a non-stop gloomathon

The Leftovers

Justin Theroux stars as beleaguered small-town police chief Kevin Garvey in `The Leftovers,’ which begins its first season Sunday night on HBO.

The Leftovers, an ambitious new HBO series adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s best-selling novel premiering Sunday night, opens with what is arguably its best scene. Three years ago, on Oct. 14, a frazzled young mother has just finished doing her laundry in a grimy laundromat, and now she’s buckling her whining infant into his car seat. That mission accomplished, she gets into the driver’s seat, chatting on her phone with someone at home, but then notices her baby has gone silent. No, wait. He’s just gone.
Panicking, she jumps out of the car and starts frantically calling the child’s name. Simultaneously, a few feet away in the same parking lot, a little boy begins screaming for his suddenly missing father, a grocery cart still in motion from where the dad had been pushing it a split second ago. In the distance, we see a serious car accident as one car, abruptly driverless, plows into another, badly injuring that driver.
Such eerie incidents are happening, not only here in rustic Mapleton, N.Y., but all around the globe, where mathematicians eventually will estimate that two percent of the world’s population has gone missing. Among those who were not spirited away, many of them surmise that the Rapture has occurred and they have been tried by heaven and found undeserving.
But is it? The more people look at who was taken, the less sense this “Sudden Departure” seems to make. Those who vanished on that Oct. 14 seemed to be a mystifyingly random collection. In addition to the righteous and heroic, that group also included known rapists, pedophiles, drug pushers, abusive parents and other heinous types. (In the only truly funny moment that occurs during the four episodes HBO provided for screening, we learn via a newscast in a bar that the Departed also included celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, Gary Busey, Jennifer Lopez and Shaquille O’Neal, among others).
Their loved ones snatched away by a bizarre event that surpasses comprehension, the remaining Mapleton residents struggle to find some meaning in their loss. Some suffer mental breakdowns. Some commit suicide. Others, like wife and mother Laurie (Amy Brenneman, Private Practice), leave their families to join a weird new fellowship that calls itself the Guilty Remnant. Its members, most of them chainsmokers, dress entirely in white and never speak, not even when alone with each other. Inherently non-confrontational, they travel in pairs and stand mutely yet prominently in public places, or quietly stalk local citizens who have caught their eye. They are not very popular.
The Guilty Remnant’s apparent purpose is to make sure no one forgets that the Sudden Departure happened. But to what end? The group doesn’t seem to attach explicitly religious significance to the event, nor can they shed any light on what it means. Four episodes in, I’m still completely stumped.
At the heart of The Leftovers is the Garvey family. The father, Kevin (Justin Theroux), is the town’s stressed-out police chief who realizes he is sitting on a pressure cooker that could blow at any moment. That’s true at home, too. His wife is gone, so three years after the event, Kevin and his headstrong teenage daughter, Jill (Margaret Qualley), are just trying to pretend that the “old normal” still prevails. Meanwhile, Kevin’s son, Tom (Chris Zylka), has drifted into the orbit of a cult leader (Paterson Joseph), who calls himself Holy Wayne and offers to “hug the pain away” for his acolytes, especially if they are underage Asian girls.
I absolutely get that The Leftovers is tackling some very big, very complex questions about the nature of life, the meaning of death, man’s relationship to God and the universe, lots of the biggies. And I applaud co-creators Perrotta and Damon Lindelof (Lost) for their courage and ambition. The huge ensemble — which also includes Ann Dowd (Michael Sheen’s mother in Showtime’s Masters of Sex), Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) and a beguiling theater-trained newcomer named Carrie Coon – turns in consistently strong work as well.
All that said, too much of The Leftovers is a real slog. Relentlessly somber even when it’s not aggressively depressing, the series just started to wear me down after awhile, and I’m not a guy who needs something to blow up on a regular basis to keep me entertained. I haven’t read Perrotta’s novel, but what may be fully engaging on the page too often feels inert and listless when we see it acted out. Case in point: the extended “conversations” between members of the Guilty Remnants, which force us to watch as one person scribbles down his “line” and shows it to the other person, who then takes his/her tablet and writes down the response and holds it up, etc., etc. If you think that doesn’t make for compelling television, well, you’d be right.
I watched all four of the episodes pretty much straight through, which is definitely not the way you want to approach such bleak material. On the other hand, it did make me feel immersed in the world of this story – because after four hours, I was ready to scream “Take me! Take me now!”
HBO's 'The Leftovers' with Amy Brenneman.

Laurie (Amy Brenneman) retreats to a mute existence in the Guilty Remnant in ‘The Leftovers’ on HBO.

Fox burns off ghastly police drama Gang Related

'Gang Related' premieres tonight on Fox.

Terry O’Quinn and Ramon Rodriguez (foreground, from left) head the cast of ‘Gang Related,’ premiering tonight on Fox.

After letting it sit on the shelf for a year or so, Fox appears to be burning off Gang Related, a new police drama premiering tonight. The bigger mystery is why they didn’t just torch the pilot script as soon as they read it.
Jam-packed with stereotypes and clichés, Gang Related was created and written by Chris Morgan (Fast Five), so we know in advance it’s probably going to look and sound a lot like a videogame, only not as interesting or sophisticated. Ramon Rodriguez (Battle Los Angeles) stars as Ryan Lopez, a promising member of the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Gang Task Force. What none of his police colleagues know, however, is that Ryan harbors a Dark Secret: When he was a child, Ryan was informally adopted by Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis, Training Day), the ruthless leader of a Latino gang called Los Angelicos, after Ryan’s father was killed.
Recognizing that Ryan was unusually bright and highly motivated by gratitude, Javier started grooming the boy for an important role in the Acosta crime family, much to the delight of Javier’s own straight-arrow son, Daniel (Jay Hernandez, Last Resort), Ryan’s best friend. Daniel’s older brother, the thuggish Carlos (Rey Gallegos, Sons of Anarchy), hates Ryan, however, seeing him as a threat to his birthright.
It was, in fact, Javier who pulled some strings and got Ryan assigned to his current unit, where Ryan has proven invaluable when it comes to “losing” evidence and tipping off Los Angelicos to police strategy.
After Ryan’s affable police partner is senselessly gunned down by a gang member, however, Ryan’s internal conflict starts to go into overdrive, partly because his mentor, Task Force leader Sam Chapel (Emmy winner Terry O’Quinn, Lost) ALSO has become a surrogate father to Ryan. Chapel’s newly launched hardline attack on Los Angelicos forces Ryan to decide whether he’s ready to stop playing at police work and turn on his childhood friends and family members.
The viewer is left to decide whether life is just too short to watch truly bad television like Gang Related. The dialogue thuds on the ear (“We did good today, partner.” “We do good every day, brother!”), and it’s just painful to watch seasoned pros like O’Quinn and Curtis struggling manfully to make their lines sound vaguely like something a human being might actually say. Loud, violent and ugly, Gang Related is such a mess that it took me three attempts before I could make it through the one-hour pilot.
For the record, I’m glad I finally got to the end, because the climactic shootout is so clumsily choreographed that I found myself laughing helplessly. Or maybe I was just relieved to know I was never going to have to watch Gang Related again.

CW’s new The 100 is Lost in space

'The 100' premieres tonight on The CW.

Bob Morley, Marie Avgeropoulos, Thomas McDonell, Eliza Taylor and Eli Goree (from left) are among ‘The 100,’ which premieres tonight.

In its basic setting and tone, The CW’s new sci-fi adventure series The 100, which premieres tonight, may remind some viewers of ABC’s Lost, with a dash of Lord of the Flies for good measure.
The series takes place in the relatively near future, 97 years after a nuclear apocalypse rendered Earth uninhabitable. Survivors were forced to live on space stations orbiting the planet, and now, only one of those stations – known as the Ark – remains functional.
Although the science team suspects Earth won’t be safe for another 100 years, oxygen and other supplies aboard the Ark are dwindling fast, so the ruling council makes a drastic decision: They’ll send 100 youthful offenders down to the planet and monitor their vital signs via wrist devices to see whether they can survive.
Among them is Clarke (newcomer Eliza Taylor), the level-headed teenage daughter of the Ark’s medical officer, Abby (Paige Turco). Clarke, we learn, had been arrested and slapped in solitary after she and her now-dead father had defied the Ark’s council members and tried to alert the ship’s population to their imminent danger.
Although their shuttle landing goes badly, cutting off all communication with the Ark except their wrist monitors, most of the 100 teenagers emerge onto the “new” Earth ready to shake off what they perceive as years of mistreatment by their elders and adopt “whatever the hell we want” as their new mantra. After Clarke and a small group of volunteers – which includes the obligatory sensitive hunk, Finn (Thomas McDonell) – set off in search of a cache of supplies, the rest of the teens party hearty and defiantly destroy their wrist bands so the grown-ups on the Ark will think they died on a still-hostile Earth.
Ironically, the young rebels don’t realize they’re not that far from the truth. While Earth may look like a pristine paradise, it’s teeming with mutant life forms, some of them deadly, including the show’s own variant on “the Others” from Lost.
Meanwhile, back on the Ark, scheming second-in-command Kane (Lost alumnus Henry Ian Cusick) is staging a coup against Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington, Grey’s Anatomy) as part of his ruthless plan to radically downsize the Ark’s population to ensure that he and his own loyalists will survive.
Clearly, The 100 isn’t exactly weak when it comes to story, although this being the CW, I suspect the grown-ups in space are quickly going to be marginalized in favor of the kids on the ground and, at least in the pilot, most of those kids fall into tired teen stereotypes all too easily. Given that pilot episodes are forced to paint characters very broadly, there’s hope that, in time, the survivors among “the 100” will emerge as individuals instead of a horny teenage blur.
Production elements in tonight’s premiere are very good, and the densely packed story line delivers some genuine “OMG!” surprises. All in all, The 100 is among this spring’s more satisfying series premieres, especially for sci-fi fans.
Although beautiful, the future Earth also teems with mutant menace in 'The 100' tonight on The CW.

Although beautiful, the future Earth also teems with mutant menace in ‘The 100′ tonight on The CW.

You’ll want to check out ‘Bates Motel’

In the opening scene of Bates Motel, the compelling new “contemporary prequel” to Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic 1960 horror film Psycho that premieres tonight on A&E Network, 17-year-old Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) jerks awake in his bed as, behind him, a 1940-ish black-and-white Rosalind Russell movie plays on an old-model TV set. Norman seems disoriented, even drugged, as he hauls himself from his bed and staggers unsteadily down the hall. In the kitchen, an unattended steam iron hisses in disuse, while a meal on the stove simmers messily on the brink of burning. He makes his way into the next room, a garage/work space, to find the bloody and lifeless body of his father lying on the floor.
As a freaked-out Norman races down the hallway to the bathroom where his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), is taking a suspiciously leisurely shower, we share his disorientation. Where are we? No, more to the point: WHEN are we?
Flash forward six months from wherever the heck we are. Norma is driving Norman from their former home near Scottsdale, Ariz., to the coastal town of White Pine Bay, Ore., where Norma has bought a ramshackle motel for the two of them to manage. The property, as well as the adjacent house looming above, are virtual clones of the buildings from the Hitchcock film, so it’s only as Norman sits waiting for the bus to take him to school on his first day and we see him listening to music on his smartphone that we realize we’re really in the present day.
It’s an interesting creative decision and one that some critics already have jumped on as a flaw in an otherwise provocative series, but that sense of time being out of joint seems to be very much by design. How else to explain why that distinctly non-digital TV set in the original Bates home in Arizona is tuned to a classic movie channel or, even more striking, there are vinyl LPs playing on a ’60s-style hi-fi console in Norma and Norman’s sinister abode adjacent to the motel?
Given that the show’s two executive producers – Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin – hail from such Emmy-winning shows as, respectively, Lost and Friday Night Lights, I’m inclined to cut them some slack for now, especially since Bates Motel is anchored by two absolutely spellbinding performances by Highmore and Farmiga.
In terms of degree of difficulty, I have to award points to Highmore, the former British child actor who tore your heart out as the little son of doomed Kate Winslet in 2004’s Finding Neverland and took the title role in Tim Burton’s uneven 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Now lean and lanky at 21 in real life and managing a credible American accent, Highmore is inspired casting in a role that previously has been inextricably associated with Anthony Perkins. The show’s creators have indicated in interviews that they hope viewers will grow attached to Norman and his mom in a way that de-emphasizes the grisly events that will, eventually and inevitably, follow and Highmore does a splendid job of playing a younger Norman Bates who is both already seriously damaged yet heartbreakingly salvageable at the time the events in this series play out.
The reason his sad fate is sealed is spelled out by Farmiga’s uncompromising and multifaceted portrayal as a woman who wants to be all things to her son: protector, companion, confidante, even surrogate lover. Watching her scenes, you get a sense that this actress, who has been plugging away for so many years without the appreciation she deserves, recognized a career-changing role when she saw it, because she delivers an utterly fearless performance. Her Norma is determined to keep Norman bound to her in a you-and-me-against-the-world dynamic, and what she does to assure that is one of the creepiest things about Bates Motel.
By the end of the premiere episode, we’ve seen (probably) two murders, a violent attempted rape, plus evidence of a sex slave ring, with hints to follow that this Pacific Northwestern community is so kinky that somewhere there’s a diner that serves a damn good cherry pie (Cuse has freely acknowledged that Twin Peaks is an integral part of the show’s DNA).
This early 2013 TV season includes such other serial killer projects as the popular but probability-stretching The Following on Fox and NBC’s upcoming and very bleak Hannibal, but it’s Farmiga and Highmore’s dazzling double act that will keep me checking into Bates Motel week after week. It’s wonderful to see A&E, once a front-runner in terms of original dramatic programming, raise itself out of the muck of low-budget reality shows to deliver such an audacious new original. Bravo.