TROUBLE CITY

THUD: TV NEWS ROUNDUP - 5.05.07

THUDBrendan M. LeonardComment

THUDLOST: ALL WILL BE REVEALED…OR WILL IT?

It looks like the brain trust behind Lost is serious about not falling into the same holding pattern as The X-Files, dragging the central mysteries between pretty people on a pretty fucked up island out for as long as humanly possible. The “ever-reliable” Kristin from E! (you know, the one who likes to use antagonizing random fanbases as a sexual aid) reports ABC will soon announce a series finale date for Lost sometime soon – and that date may be as soon as 2009. This is actually a pretty ballsy move for the network, as the suits usually like to make these shows last as long as they can (case in recent point, Gilmore Girls), but Lost has been faltering in the ratings this year and I think a lot of the fans have started to feel that hint of frustration with it that I got right around the time Charlie came back in Season 1.

If ABC does announce an end date for Lost, it will allow the creators of the show to finally sit down and plan out the remainder of the show, which should, hopefully, improve the show. I know at least for me, I’d be willing to give Lost a shot again if I knew there was a plan. You can’t reveal anything if you don’t know what you’re revealing, after all. Still, if everyone can pull this off, it might allow more tv creators to come into pitch meetings with a set number of seasons and arc for their show, comparable to the British model. (ABC is also considering moving Lost from its Wednesdays at 10 time slot and moving to the 24 model of back-to-back episodes for its fourth season.)

RESCUE ME: NOW WITH 90 PERCENT LESS RAPE

The fourth year of the FX firefightin’ series Rescue Me, whose controversial third season taught co-creator Peter Tolan that you probably shouldn’t get into pop culture internet spats unless you have an advanced degree in pwnage with a minor in snark, returns on June 12th at 10 PM. (The Leonard-Justus Institute of Popular Culture defines a television creator defending a buzz-worthy moment on their series with message board posters to the point where the mainstream media begins to cover said debate as ‘Sorkownage.’) In addition to the return of Susan Sarandon and a four-episode guest appearance by Jennifer Esposito (unbelievably, ridiculously hot), the cast features two new regulars: Jerry “Hesh from The Sopranos” Adler and Mr. Ford Lincoln Mercury himself, Larenz Tate. I know that Leary and Tolan have been working on that cop show for the broadcast networks, so we’ll see if that distraction affects the series.

A SPORTSWRITER COMES TO HBO

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been reporting on a slew of projects put into production by HBO, from that bizarre “Sex and the City in Africa” pitch to a totally kick-ass sounding Iraqi war miniseries from The Wire guys. With the Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (which I had no idea was coming out and am now amped for) miniseries airing this summer and Pacific, the Spielberg/Hanks follow up to Band of Brothers that just went into pre-production, it seems like HBO’s green-lighting more and more miniseries these days.

The most recent of these is The Sportswriter, a six-hour miniseries based on Richard Ford’s trilogy of novels about New Jersey sportswriter Frank Bascombe. The second novel in the trilogy, Independence Day, won the Pulitzer Prize, and Variety reports that the pretty underrated James Mangold of Walk the Line and Cop Land is slated to direct. This seems like a really ambitious project for HBO, as the novels (1986’s The Sportswriter, 1995’s Independence Day, and 2006’s The Lay of the Land) cover about thirty years, from ‘ Nam to 9/11. Which is why I have no idea why the guy who wrote Live Free and Die Compromised (word is bond, Brother Vern) is writing this. Still, I’m excited, and I think that HBO making more miniseries is always a good thing – they did do the greatest mini of all time, Angels in America, after all.

MODINE LIKES THE POT

Matthew Modine is an actor who seems like he should have a lot more success than he does. I mean, the guy’s worked with Kubrick. With Altman (twice). With James Ivory, Oliver Stone, Alan Parker, and Jonathan Demme. Of course, he does have What The Deaf Man Heard, The Transporter 2, and Cutthroat Island on is resume. Despite these missteps, Modine’s been on a bit of a comeback kick lately as one of those actors using TV as a way to get themselves back in the public eye – including the all-time-greatest Special Guest Star on Law & Order: SVU. (“Take away all of that, and what would you be?” “I’d be you,” indeed.) And although Bedford Diaries flopped, Modine recently signed on to join the cast of Showtime’s Weeds for its third season. According to Maddening Mike Ausiello of TV Gude, Modine will play a real-estate developer who has the hots for both of that show’s MILF’s –- Mary-Louise Parker and Elizabeth Perkins. In short: Matthew Modine: Luckiest Guy On Television.

FAITHFUL: PROBABLY BETTER THAN FEVER PITCH

You know that cabal of [Insert ethnicity here] that everyone is saying controls the world? The media conglomerates who own everyone, including you? I wonder if those guys have a long-standing bet as to who can adapt the most Stephen King properties, like if Rupert Murdoch has to spend a day answering phones in a dress if he loses or something.

I only bring this up because HBO has chosen to adapt one of the stranger Stephen King books, Faithful, for a miniseries. Faithful, written with author Stewart O’Nan, chronicles the now-legendary, now-over-covered Boston Red Sox’s 2004 season, which culminated in the dual miracle of a World Series win and me telling my old man I loved him for the first time in years. (He raised me as a BoSox fan, and while my loyalty for them has only been casual, it was still a pretty magical season for anyone who’s a fan of America’s greatest game. This nostalgic digression brought to you by James Earl Jones.) Faithful looks to be in the neo-factualist (TM Devin Faraci 2006) tradition, as it’s being done with the blessing of the team, who are allowing full access to players, management, and fans, the trinity around whom the miniseries revolves. So it’s like From the Earth to the Moon with baseball.

I’m actually pretty excited about this, the more I think about it – it’s been a long time since we had a truly great baseball movie, and the story of the Boston Red Sox and that season is a truly great baseball story. I almost want to say that they should go with an approach similar to Miracle, and make the climax of the story be that come-from-behind victory against the Yankees, who had beat them the previous year in the playoffs and had come to represent everything they had to overcome over the last 86 years. With the way they swept the Cardinals that year, the Series win seemed – at least to me – almost anti-climactic. If I were in charge of this thing, which I’m not, I’d say make the Yankees victory the climax of the piece and then jump ahead to the lunar eclipse in the last game of the Series to keep the emotional momentum going. The other question here is who’s gonna play Stephen King, Bill Simmons (as himself?), Jeter, Schilling, and of course, Johnny Damon. (Send your best fantasy castings to brendan.m.leonard@gmail.com.)

BURNS LLAMADO ABAJO DEL TRUENO; AHORA EL LO TIENE

Pay attention, Drive fanboys and all you fan fiction writers looking for ways to keep your favorite show on the air (amazing how none of y’all can take a joke or two. It’s called good-natured ball-busting. Look it up.). This is how you get things done, as the Latino advocacy organizations pissed over the upcoming Ken Burns’ documentary The War have shifted their focus and ire from PBS and the filmmaker to the corporate sponsors behind The War. After negotiations in Washington failed to provide a solution that would keep both parties happy, the Leaders of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility took their fight to General Motors and Anheuser-Bush (which provided about two-thirds of The War’s budget, and GM has a long-standing relationship with Burns going back decades), asking the companies to remove their logos from and disavow The War. In addition, Hispanic members of Congress have made requests to meet with these same companies to discuss similar concerns – and both companies have said they have no plans to pull their sponsorship. This is a smart move for those looking to amend the documentary – corporate sponsorship (especially on PBS) and advertising is what makes the television world turn, after all, and while nobody’s saying “boycott” yet, it’s certainly been hinted at – but Jesus H. Christ, Burns, just man up, pull the damn docu, and expand it already.