JoJo Whildens / Showtime

TCA 2015/6: Showtime Brings Us Paul Giamatti, Fake Babies, And Contradictory Viewpoints

Also: Jim Carrey and Twin Peaks are en route.

Solid news: the Twin Peaks sequel starts shooting next month! And we'll see it next year, or possibly in 2017, because David Lynch works on his own schedule. He will be directing all of it, and he and Mark Frost are writing every episode, and while I'm happy to hear this, I fear another season. You guys remember what happened the first time, right? It was a huge hit out of the gate, and deservedly so, but got canceled after the second season because it just started sucking. I am not one of the people jumping on the "it was unrecognized genius!" bandwagon. There's the matter of BOB.

Elsewhere: Jim Carrey will be producing a one-hour pilot called I'm Dying Here. Insert the joke of your choice for that. The show is the brainchild of writer and former stand-up comedian Dave Flebotte, and explores the fucked-up world of the L.A. comedy scene in the '70s. I am assuming this will fall into the funny-sad category.

Common, who has already won an Oscar and a Grammy, is going to try to get a little closer to an EGOT as the EP for an untitled one-hour drama set on the south side of Chicago. It's a coming-of-age story that explores how being black in America is, according to Showtime President David Nevins, "a matter of life and death. So, this is not Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air." Clark Johnson, who was everything in Homicide: Life On The Street and is just generally awesome, will be directing and producing.

Nevins promised that Homeland will air for a good long while, which is not a shocker. Ray Donovan and Masters Of Sex will be back for fourth seasons. Also, Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids is getting a limited series. Penny Dreadful producer John Logan will be writing the scripts with Smith, which means Robert Mapplethorpe will die of spider bites or vampiric transformation or something?

Nevins also said there was something about Happyish that was "hard to take," which could be, oh, I don't know, the fact that it wasn't just put to rest after Phillip Seymour Hoffman died.

Billions

9

I was pretty impressed with the first episode of Billions, though I did sense a few plot points were made big and broad for those of us who don't know anything about finance. As you'd expect, Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis deliver excellent performances as District Attorney Chuck Rhoades and Bobby "Axe" Axelrod, respectively, but the women are no slouches, either: while Malin Akerman's Lara looks like a trophy wife, we find out she is no one to mess with. And Maggie Siff as Chuck's wife? There's a pretty nice reveal of her character at the very end of the episode that makes perfect sense but is still a little shocking, which makes it clear how nicely written and well-acted the role is, even if it is (at the moment) too small. So far, so good. It's really about a pissing match between the D.A. and Axelrod, though it's unclear who the good guys really are at this point: Chuck seems to want to work "for the people" (I don't even know how many times that's mentioned by someone on the show), but going after Axelrod may not be about bringing down a dirty-dealing hedge fund bigwig so much as polishing his professional credentials and winning back some control from his wife. (That will make more sense after you've watched it.)

Giamatti concedes that Chuck is pretty squarely in his wheelhouse, which is okay with me. "I actually looked at this guy and thought, 'Wow, I play the guy who fucking wins a lot'....But this guy's got a really powerful position, so he can really sort of kick people around better than some of the other characters I've played." He will probably not be dumping a container of wine spit on his head.

We don't see much of David Costabile in the first episode, but keep an eye on Mike. "Every script I get...I'm surprised how my character goes further and further down the well of pursuing his passions. So that gets me very excited, and I'm almost always surprised by how dirty he is." I think we'll see a lot of dirty in this show, and not just in how money is mishandled. Hint, hint.

Masters Of Sex

7

The beginning of this panel was mostly about the cast joking about tampons and vaginas, which seemed very apropos, don't you think? Anyway, in Season 3 it's the swingin' '60s, whoot! Human Sexual Response has been published and it's all about Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan)'s research being received by the public.

Everyone was very excited to talk to Josh Charles about his perfume manufacturing character Dan Logan, who wants to bottle sex (well, the smell that makes women want to have sex, at least). Surprise, he's based on a real person. "It's a fascinating part of their story, the Masters and Johnson story, that this man came into their world as an investor, and then it got incredibly complicated, and we knew it was a really significant role. We just thought, 'Who is the greatest actor in the world to play it?'" EP Michelle Ashford said.


As for Charles, he took the role because, "I've been trying to master sex my whole life, so I feel like the idea that I could come and play with these guys in the summer...." He's kidding! "No, I think the dynamic is interesting. But that wasn't, I would say, the main part that would appeal to me. I mean, I love the world of the show, and I liked playing an outsider who is not of that world, who is still fascinated in it."

Plenty of people do not like kids in their sex show, because these two things go together about as well as fish and peanut butter unless you are a very, very messed-up person. Anyway: there were some questions about the kids (and a request that Tessa be sent to boarding school so that no one ever had to see her again, and no, I'm not kidding). So people who hate kids in their sexy time, rest assured. "It isn't the focus of our season, as you will see as the season goes on," Ashford said. "But we did need to age the children appropriately and say this is part of what happened in this complicated dynamic."

Oh, and that baby? "We were advised to add children to protect the people that are still alive....It wasn't a storytelling prerogative. It had to do with protecting living people." In short, the baby is to a device to make the lawyers at Showtime happy, and so you don't figure out which real plot points relate to real people. Tricky baby.

The Affair

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The first season, I didn't watch The Affair. An asshat novelist cheats on his wife with a waitress? Screw those guys. Even though the second season seems more interesting, I probably won't be watching because the upshot of the panel is that it's really confusing, which implies that I have to watch the first season and the second season and it still might be a big, gloppy mess.

During the panel, EP Sarah Treem said, "I think some viewers are definitely getting it. I think some viewers are perhaps more confused. I'm going to try to say this in a way that doesn't sound obnoxious." Too late!

Joshua Jackson tried to help. "Isn't the confusion part of the point?"

"Yeah," Treem said, because as long as it's intentionally a mess, it's totally okay. "Also, we're not doing it to make sure that everybody understands it perfectly. The POVs are integral to the show, and it was always going to be that people remember things differently, so we are actually okay if people start to think, like, 'Wow, those memories are so divergent, I can't understand how...they're about the same event."

So, it's intentionally confusing, which should make everyone feel better if they're watching, or if they say "whatever" and tune out to do something else.