TCA 2015/6: FX Is All About Lady Gaga in AHS: Hotel, Making America Fall In Love With You're The Worst, And...Vampires
Denis O'Hare's dressing up as Elizabeth Taylor on an FX show this fall. Guess which! ...No, not The League.
While FX CEO John Landgraf basically says we have way too much TV and the bubble is gonna pop real soon, he wants us to watch Married and Tyrant, and we're all kinda mean for not giving The Comedians more time, but it's cool because there is TOO MUCH TELEVISION.
Maybe it's okay that Louis C.K. is taking what Landgraf described as a long, long break. He's got other stuff to do, and...so do we.
American Horror Story: Hotel
I keep trying to get out of American Horror Story, but it keeps pulling. Me. Back. IN. I mean, come on: Lady Gaga! "Elizabeth [Lady Gaga] owns the hotel, and is a very wealthy, social doyenne who is consumed with art and fashion and people," creator Ryan Murphy said. "She has a nefarious plan that is revealed over the course of the season." I call Soylent Green/Sweeney Todd on this. I mean, what did you think the meat dress was made out of -- beef?
In other news, Elizabeth seems to be sleeping with pretty much everyone. Murphy said, "[She'll] have relationships with Matt [Bomer's character] and Angela [Bassett's character] and Cheyenne [Jackson's character]." That sounds exhausting, but if she can send out her laundry and order room service, what else does she have to do but screw around?
Murphy mentioned that the season of the show you like best is a kind of personality test. Did you hear the sound of a Buzzfeed employee frantically typing up a quiz? Anyway, true horror fans like Season 1; sci-fi fans likes Season 2; young people like Season 3, and artsy-fartsy people like Season 4. (Murphy didn't say artsy fartsy. That was me.) What kind of personality will click with Season 5? "It's much more noir-y and moody," said EP Brad Falchuk. Although, after a circus season, I'm pretty sure anything is more noir-y. A McDonald's commercial would be more noir-y.
And: "Dennis [O'Hare]'s character is named Elizabeth Taylor," Murphy said. Given that Denis O'Hare has killed it season after season -- sometimes when he didn't even get much dialogue (his character being mute pre-mortem during Coven) -- this strikes me as inspired. O'Hare clarified, "I'm not Elizabeth Taylor, but I am someone who is inspired by the awesomeness of Butterfield 8 and Cleopatra. I work in the hotel with Iris [Kathy Bates's character]. I work in the bar. We even have our own coasters...and I've already stolen two." Klepto Cleopatra! Love it!
The hotel is located in downtown L.A., and apparently the set is amazing because everyone on the panel couldn't stop going on and on about it. And they couldn't stop going on and on about the show and Ryan Murphy and how happy they all were, which is how people usually sound when they don't know if their character is going to die next week.
Fun actor facts: Sarah Paulson said, "My character this year is dark, she's sexy, she's a drug addict. Not that drug addicts are sexy...I should just stop talking. But she's unlike anything I've ever done on the show or anywhere." And Cheyenne Jackson will not be singing Heartbreak Hotel. However, he grew up in a "predominantly Republican town" in Northern Idaho, "so that was pretty scary." And, in general, he finds hotels scary.
We did get the lowdown on who the actors are playing, but out of context it isn't all that illuminating. Finn Wittrock will play a male model always looking for his next high and, according to him, "finds the biggest high in Lady Gaga." Don't we all? "They have a lot to do together, and she sees all of me." As long as we see it, too, rock on. Jackson is a "fashion icon" trying to recreate himself, and is also a father. Chloe Sevigny' plays a wife, mother, and doctor who is married to Wes Bentley's character, and he's investigating some grisly murders. Matt Bomer's character is "closely associated" with Gaga and Wittrock's character, and Angela Bassett is "sexy but not into drugs, and I have a very strong, lasting relationship with Stefani [Gaga]'s character." Kathy Bates's character Iris runs the hotel; Sarah Paulson's character hates Iris; and that's quite enough to keep track of before we've seen a lick of footage.
One more thing: "You will see people from other seasons check into the hotel" starting around Episode 6 or 7, according to Murphy. So many possibilities...
This show has been on the air for six seasons. The one about to premiere is its last, so if you haven't been watching, you either want to start now or just skip it entirely. I'm sure it's very super-wonderful if you like this sort of thing, but I am not the audience for this. I'd be happier doing trigonometry worksheets.
Leslie Bibb is back "in a big way," according to co-creator Jeff Schaffer; Rob Riggle will be appearing; and Will Forte will also return to the show.
As to storylines, they take "Inflategate" to breast implants. I'm out. Wait, we did see a short scene that was a fight over a pepper grinder. It was pretty funny, but a pepper grinder scene does not fire up my DVR.
You're The Worst
Sidebar: Stephen Falk talked about his time recapping at Television Without Pity, a site created by the same people who founded Previously.TV, so he's a member of the tribe. He's also written for Weeds and Orange Is The New Black, so it's not like he hasn't been busy since his recapping days.
This show sort of reminds me of Happy Endings (RIP) and other funny sitcom tales of arrested adolescence, though it's a little more pointed in calling out the characters' bad behavior. There is no Jennifer Aniston equivalent here, unless you think of J-An doing coke and horse tranquilizers before having a panic attack about committing to new towels. Maybepost-Brad, pre-Justin.
"I feel like delayed adolescence has become quite a thing in our culture," says Aya Cash (Gretchen). "What a grown-up is has changed as well, and you don't have to hit the milestones you used to have to hit to be grown-up."
What's different in Season 2? "There's an inherent change in the relationship that the three of them are in together, and [there's] the fourth, who got unceremoniously dumped by Paul, so she's probably hanging out a lot more," Falk said. "It is a romantic comedy, so we'll always have that relationship front and center, but it's always been my sneaky desire to do an ensemble."
No spoilers (though, come on, it's a romantic comedy; no one's overdosing in the middle of the season...probably), but Cash promises, "You do see the underbelly, and we get into some issues of what make the characters tick. You get a much more fleshed-out understanding. I don't know if they've grown much. But by the end of Season 2, they have taken a step forward." I suspect Gretchen totally buys those towels. Maybe even matching hand towels. But baby steps.
Also of note -- Edgar finds himself in the world of improv comedy (let's hope he can get a ride home and he's not forever stuck in a grown-up version of Inside Out), and there is rapping. For this, Falk has subjected himself to what I consider my personal nightmare from babysitting kids who were perversely cool and yet too young to be trusted not to burn themselves reheating mac and cheese. "The worst aspect of my job is I have to rap...into my iPhone and send them to these very hip African-American kids." Oh, the humanity.
If you watched the first season, you know that everything started to go to hell in New York City by the end of it. "It pretty much is like New York as it is now," joked EP Carlton Cuse. Ha! Not so funny!
Then, he got all serious, because some people in the room probably live in Manhattan and started thinking about whether their apartments are sufficiently secured against the threat of vampires. "There is dislocation in New York, but not full-scale social demise yet. That progresses in this season....There's a lot of willful denial." And really, can you blame anyone? I have a hard time dealing with a power outage. I think I'd really want to believe anything other than vampires.
We don't learn a lot, but Cuse says there will not be a spinoff, and there will only be five seasons of the show. "What I liked about this is it's a story with a beginning, middle, and end. It comes to a conclusion....We are getting away from the books, because to fill thirteen episodes in [each of] the first two seasons, there wasn't enough [material] in the books."
And while the show isn't 24, EP Guillermo del Toro said, "We have thirteen hours of television that could all be happening in six days, ten days...." You know, like The Simpsons. "Bart Simpson: why isn't he forty-five with a drug addiction?" he asked. Why, indeed.
The Bastard Executioner
This is a really period (like 14th century period) drama from Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter. Because when I think historical drama, I think of the guy who did that motorcycle gang show. Ironically, I don't think it's the worst fit ever, because everyone in the 14th century looked kind of rough and probably would have much preferred a Harley to a horse. Plus, the 14th century was, um, brutal. "Nothing wrong with colorful brutality!" Sutter said. "Violence, as absurd as it could be sometimes on Sons, it always came from an organic place. It was never done in a vacuum. The same mandate here. The laws and punishments were brutal and heinous, and that's the reality of the world. There's ways to portray that violence that don't make it openly gratuitous. Anything that happens, be it battle sequences or execution or a torture scene, it comes out of story, and we see the characters conflict or non-conflict in carrying forth that violence, but it always has some ramification."
Though Sutter pointed out there's only "two battle scenes and an execution in the pilot; the other scenes portray a moral conflict or spiritual angst," I still counted a skull-stabbing, a violent ripping into a pregnant stomach, some flaying -- you know, all the classics -- in the two-hour pilot. Personally, I don't even think this is as violent as, say, American Horror Story, which kind of wins in the gore department. My problem with Bastard had more to do with the incredibly slow start, and there's just a lot of historical drama out there right now. I didn't hate it as much as some people have, but I would be hard-pressed to binge-watch it.
Still, as Sutter said, he likes history, so this was his jam. Plus, "I thought it would be difficult to set an executioner in the 1960s." See? That sounds like a show I'd actually want to watch.
But hey, Katey Sagal is happy, and that's what counts. She plays Annora of the Alders, the resident pagan mystic, and she gets to wear peasant dresses and no high heels. Also, Annora is vaguely Slavic, unlike all the Brits around her. "I hope it doesn't sound like Lon Chaney," she said. Again, I would watch that show!
The one person unhappy is Stephen Moyer (who plays Milius Corbett). "After seven years of wearing fangs [on True Blood], I didn't think I'd be coming on a show where I had to wear teeth. But every motherfucking day." Yup, he had to wear fake dirty, English chompers. Still, he admitted, "I don't think you want to be criticized for something as stupid as shiny teeth. "
Sutter thinks this is tremendously funny, by the way. "So not only did I make them do dialects, I made them do them with mouth guards!"
This season of Fargo is a whole new (actually, old) animal: set in 1979 in both South Dakota and Minnesota, it focuses on a young couple (Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons as Peggy and Ed Blomquist) who, after a murder, find themselves stuck between the Kansas City mafia and the equally unsavory Gerhardt family. Dunst gets to wear ridiculous, period-appropriate clothing, which is laughable but intentionally so: it makes her character a little more sympathetic before the shit hits the fan.
Police officer Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) provides the moral center, investigating the murder as well as being assigned to protect presidential candidate Ronald Reagan during his stop in Fargo. "It is a complete reinvention and a completely new story," says EP Noah Hawley. "It's a much bigger story [this season], kind of an American epic. And the look is much different. We use split screens and freezes and a lot of elements you saw in the '70s. It wasn't originally my intention, but I realized I had a much bigger cast and I wanted to keep track of them, so we did these interstitial pieces. We may never win another award again, but I just want to make something that feels finished to me." He might be wrong about the award thing. It looks really good.
"The spectrum of Ronald Reagan hangs over the [show] because it hangs over the time period. After Vietnam, [the question was], how do we get out of this mess? And he came in and said it's not that complicated, we're Americans," said Hawley. "We started with a fake Ronald Reagan movie from 1951 called Massacre At Sioux Falls, and these characters are waiting around for Reagan. I kept waiting for FX to say 'You can't start your second season with a fake Ronald Reagan movie, because they're going to turn the channel.' But nothing's in there by accident, but there is a certain 'accept the mystery' quality that we cultivate on the show. The universe is not an easily explained place."
But you know what can be explained? Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan, which is all kinds of perfect. "We had a long conversation with him about the mannerisms and he did an amazing job," Hawley said.
The cast is pretty great, and I'm pretty sure FX sees (reasonably, mind you, not delusionally) another round of awards for Season 2. So, let's focus on superficial details, because why not. What did Ted Danson do to convey the weariness and pain of his character? "I grew a beard." Everyone laughed, but he was kinda serious. "For so much of my career I've been so coiffed; this time I didn't spend one second in the hair chair."
The only hint Hawley would give about what's to come is that, even though this is a completely new story -- though one featuring a character, Lou, that we met later in his life in Season 1 -- a connection will be made to Season 1 a few episodes in. Plus, "There will always be some connection [to the film]," he said. "It just might not need to be pivotal, but could be tangential." I guess that means no illogical cameos. Sorry, Billy Bob.