There are a lot of choices this week for the discerning consumer, from fantasy adventures to historical miniseries to horror TV shows, crime comedies, quirky indies, and foreign classics. Read the full list for details.
Based on Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies, this Starz horror-comedy follows Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell, reprising his role) as he attempts to stomp out the demonic forces threatening humanity once again. The season one set comes with episode commentaries for every episode, an inside look at the series, and more.
This History Channel retelling of Alex Haley’s epic saga stars Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte, a West African warrior who is brought to colonial Virginia during the 1770s and rebels against his new life as a plantation slave. The only extra included is an extended making-of featurette.
Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, and Julianne Moore star in Rebecca Miller’s comedy about a young woman who falls in love with a married man after deciding to become a single mother. Bonus features include a commentary track with Miller, a making-of doc, outtakes, and a Sundance Q&A.
This FX series from the mind of Guillermo Del Toro begins with four survivors of a mysterious plane crash in New York who develop an appetite for blood, setting off a vampiric epidemic whose roots stretch back to Nazi Germany. The season two set comes with one episode commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and more.
Wagner Moura stars in this Emmy-nominated Netflix original series about the rise of Pablo Escobar as a billionaire drug kingpin during the late 1970s. The season one set comes with three episode commentary tracks, a look at the origins of the series, an examination of the show’s authenticity, and more.
AMC’s wildly popular horror drama follows a group of weary survivors attempting to thrive amid a zombie apocalypse and discovering that the undead aren’t the only ones they need to worry about. The season six set comes with an extended episode, episode commentaries, deleted scenes, a look at the “walkers,” and more.
Greta Gerwig leads an ensemble cast in Todd Solondz’s comedy, which tells a series of stories about ordinary people whose lives are connected by the presence of the same dachshund. No information on special features is currently available.
This CW action drama, which exists in the same universe as Arrow and The Flash, centers on a time traveler who gathers a team of superpowered individuals to help bring down a ruthless dictator destined to destroy the world in the future. The season one set comes with the show’s 2015 Comic-Con panel, a look at the production design, gag reel, and more.
Based on the comic book of the same name, this cheeky Fox series stars Tom Ellis as the Devil himself, who abandons his kingdom in Hell, takes human form, and helps the LAPD catch bad guys… all because he’s bored. The season one set includes the show’s 2015 Comic-Con panel, a handful of character profiles, a look at Lucifer himself, deleted scenes, and more.
Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth reprise their roles from Snow White and the Huntsman for this sequel, which spins another revisionist twist into the story of the Ice Queen and Snow White’s evil stepmother. Extras include several making-of featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a commentary track, and it’s also available in a 4K version.
Based on the video game franchise of the same name, this animated feature centers on a cat-like alien and his sentient robot pal, who team up to save the galaxy. Special features include interviews with the cast and crew and a comparison between the movie and its source material.
And lastly, from Criterion, we have two selections, beginning with this Oscar-nominated Hiroshi Teshigahara classic about an entomologist stuck in the desert who is forced to seek shelter with a mysterious woman who lives there. The new Blu-ray comes with four short films from early in Teshigahara’s career, a documentary about Teshigahara’s collaboration with novelist Kobo Abe, and more.
The second Criterion Collection release this week is this film from the British New Wave of the 1960s about a love affair between two working-class teenagers that results in an unplanned pregnancy. Extras include new interviews with the film’s stars, a 1962 audio interview with director Tony Richardson, a 1998 interview with cinematographer Walter Lassally, and more.
Crowded has a dream cast: Carrie Preston (The Good Wife, True Blood), Patrick Warburton (Rules of Engagement, The Tick), Stacy Keach (The New Mike Hammer, Fat City) Carlease Burke (Switched at Birth), and onscreen sister duo Mia Serafino (The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations) and Miranda Cosgrove (Despicable Me). The show is a multi-cam live-audience sitcom about a couple of parents who must adapt their empty nest to accommodate their grown daughters moving back in. To add to the mayhem, Dad’s parents opt to stay rather than retire in Florida. The show previews tomorrow night and has its official premiere on Sunday.
We went to the set to check in on production and ask the cast about the experience while we got to hang out in the bar (those cocktails ain’t real, dern it!). The actors were all smiles and warmth, clearly delighted to be a part of the show. Here’s what we learned:
Is the live sitcom making a comeback? “NBC is definitely behind trying to make a multi-cam stick and we’re hoping this is going to be the one,” said Carrie Preston of the format. They can be exciting for the cast and the audience, but that doesn’t mean it’s not nerve-wracking, too. Patrick Warburton told us, “I was nervous at first. Going into another multi camera show wasn’t something that I intended to do — but they seemed to have something special here.”
Preston wasn’t nervous, though. As a “theater baby,” her first love is working in front of an audience. “This is like a wonderful hybrid between film and theater,” she said. “It’s thrilling. It’s like game night. We rehearse during the week, but then it’s really exciting when [the audiences] finally come and we get to fly.” Veteran actor Stacy Keach feels the sitcom is the “best gig in the world for an actor.” He said, “You get a chance to have a life — you don’t have to work on the weekends, except to memorize lines. And I think there’s nothing more purgative than laughter.”
When writers think jokes don’t land, or dialogue sounds wonky, or even if they just want to hear something different, they give rewrites to the cast which must be instantly incorporated into the next take. “[It’s] a little bit like being shot out of a cannon,” Preston explained. “You see the script supervisor coming over and she’s got the script, and you’re like, ‘Oh God, is it me?’”
Those of us above a “certain age” recall the magical moments when the actors in The Carol Burnett Show would break character in front of a live audience (the cast used to make bets offstage as to how soon into a sketch Harvey Korman would break and start laughing). Anytime there is a live audience, actors are in jeopardy of this. “[Thos moments] work in a sketch show like Carol Burnett,” said Preston, “not so good when [it’s] a multi-cam.” But she shared a story of a funny exchange between Mia Serafino and herself that grew so out of control with laughter, that they had to re-stage the scene so Serafino would look down — avoiding eye contact with Preston — because they kept making each other laugh.
Serafino then recounted a time when she couldn’t stop laughing during a sequence with onscreen sister Cosgrove. “I kept laughing,” she said, “and [Miranda’s] face is like twitching and [director] Jimmy Burrows, like, yelled at me. And I felt bad I threw [Miranda] under the bus — I [said] ‘It was Miranda!’ And [Burrows] was like a parent scolding us. He was like, ‘Miranda, you are not to look at her until she is done with the line!’” Serafino felt bad about it, hoping at least one take was usable. Cosgrove, though, responded, “I didn’t do anything, I was stone-faced!”
According to Carlease Burke, who plays Keach’s wife in the show, actors who play loving couples on screen simply must have a chemistry together. “Even Stacy mentions in his book,” she said, “just by pretending to be in a relationship can create intimacy between people.” She clarified that, of course, nothing romantic needed to happen, but that there is a certain closeness involved. She learned a valuable lesson, though, about blurring the lines early in her career when she was a stage actress in New York. She recalled, “I didn’t quite get the difference between reality and fantasy — lines got a little blurry. So I ended up getting in a relationship with someone who I was playing a girlfriend to and it was just all wrong. Then you would have thought that I learned my lesson, but then I did another play and the same thing happened and there really was no chemistry.”
Burke enjoys working with Keach as her onscreen husband. “Stacy Keach definitely has swagger,” she said. “He is a sexy man and I love pretending to be married to him. I’m not married in real life and I don’t have a relationship, so I get to come to work and have this gorgeous man look into my eyes and tell me how beautiful I am and we get along really great.”
Keach told us the advice he gave his daughter entering the industry: “Be persistent and patient. Don’t take things too seriously. When rejection comes your way you have to learn to roll with the punches.” He feels that’s the hardest thing in the world, even for an experienced pro like himself. With disappointment and “unfulfilled expectations” at the crux of the business, Keach said he tries to impress upon his daughter and his acting students that the only recourse to rejection is to just keep going. “We have an idea of what we want to happen — and things don’t happen,” he said. “You crash and that’s not good. You’ve got to go on.”
So how does a successful actor like Keach still have rejection to contend with? He explained, “What you don’t see are the moments when the phone doesn’t ring, and the part goes to the other actor. You don’t get to see that.” He grew up in Southern California in a theatrical family — his dad was an actor. He got used to the life, but it still can be tough. “You never get to the point where you’re so jaded that it doesn’t affect you and disappoint you and [you] feel stung by rejection,” he told us. He teaches his students, “If you want to really be successful in this business, you have to be so determined that nothing will take you down. You have to have that kind of ferocious appetite for punishment.”
The creative team behind Crowded also worked on Hot in Cleveland, so it’s not a huge surprise that Betty White and Jane Leeves make appearances. Burke told us there was an exciting energy on set when the two arrived. “Betty White is just … Does anybody not like her? She’s 93 years old and still sexy and funny and sharp and witty — when I worked with her [on Cleveland] she was 89. It was actually her 89th birthday on one of the days that I was on set. Here she is now at 93. And then I said, ‘I want to be like Betty White’ — I was kind of imagining myself as the black Betty White of this cast. But then she showed up and I was like, ‘No, you are the queen. Just let me be Alice.’”
Crowded previews on Tuesday, Mar. 15 at 10 p.m. and premieres Sunday Mar. 20 at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.
The deadliest force Bruce Campbell faces in Ash vs Evil Dead may not be the Deadites after all — it may be Xena herself. Lucy Lawless plays a new character in the Ash vs. Evil Dead TV series and she’s not too happy with Ash.
Lawless has her own history with Evil Dead in real life. Evil Dead creators Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert produced Xena: Warrior Princess (and she got married to Tapert). She also worked with them on Spartacus.
Over the summer, Rotten Tomatoes sat down to lunch with Lawless before Starz presented their Ash Vs Evil Dead panel to the Television Critics Association, and we couldn’t wait to find out how she’s going to give Ash more hell than he’s already been through!
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Were you ever interested in The Evil Dead before you married Rob Tapert?
Lucy Lawless: There was some talk about it for the last 10 years. Rob’s kind of the television guy so he would want to do it in the television format, but figuring out what that is and writing it, it’d be easy to mess this one up… Fans have very high expectations. You don’t want to let them down. I think it was just time now because Bruce was of the age where it was now funny to go back and find Ash exactly where we left him. Now he’s an aging Lothario and it’s hysterically funny.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do your fans have very high standards for what they see you in?
Lawless: My fans are very forgiving. I don’t get any negativity about not playing Xena, because every role cannot be a feminist icon. Sometimes you want to play the victim. Sometimes you want to play somebody who’s weak. They seem to stick with me throughout so I’m very grateful for that, but if you were to remake Xena, look out if you in some way don’t honor the original intent of the show, the friendship. You would have a lot of fan expectation. They feel a lot of ownership I think over it.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did you appear in the first episode of Ash Vs. Evil Dead?
Lawless: I’m there but like Jaws, I’m a fin, I’m a shadow. I’m a music sting — dun dun dun dun dun dun duh — but I’m coming. I’m tracking him down.
Rotten Tomatoes: Tell us about her.
Lawless: My character is obsessive about getting to Ash Williams and putting him down like a dog, because he’s responsible for the Deadite plague. She holds him responsible for the death of her father, Professor Knowby, who was the original holder of the Necronomicon back in the movies. So she lost her family. She’s looking for payback.
Rotten Tomatoes: Doesn’t that mean her sister was also there in the cabin with Ash in Evil Dead II?
Rotten Tomatoes: Is the Evil Dead style of action very different than anything you’ve ever done before?
Lawless: Every time I do a new show, I think, “Well, this is the most outrageous thing I’ve ever done.” On Salem, I was bleeding out young virgins over a bathtub and washing down my young protege in virgin’s blood to take away her burns so I’m thinking, “This is absolutely the most grotesque setup for a scene ever.” And then come on Ash Vs. Evil Dead and I have those moments every other day. It takes the cake in every direction.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you get drenched in blood?
Lawless: I’m the one character so far who has managed to avoid that, but I do come in contact with a pretty horrible bonfire at some point.
Rotten Tomatoes: Sam Raimi likes to throw eyeballs in leading ladies’ mouths, so watch out.
Lawless: [Laughs] That says it all actually. The show is like throwing eyeballs in ladies’ mouths. It’s going to shock you. It’s really distasteful and we don’t apologize, and really, really funny.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you get to be funny?
Lawless: No, the thing with the show is that nobody can occupy the same space as Ash. Bruce Campbell is a force of nature and a beloved, brilliant performer. You can’t have two Bruces in a show, so you’ve got to play it really straight. Everybody else plays it really straight and therefore it’s funny. You’ve got to be the straight man.
Rotten Tomatoes: You’ve done historical drama recently with Salem and Spartacus. Was it nice to get back to something modern day?
Lawless: Oh, I love modern clothes. I love modern clothes. I wear a lot of tight pants in this, to be honest. Thank God for spandex, that’s all I can tell you.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did you see the Evil Dead movies in their time, before you married Rob?
Lawless: I didn’t see them in their time. I saw them when I was 17 and I stomped out after the first five minutes where the girl gets, shall we say, mutilated by the evil roots of the tree. I was so mortally offended that I got up and I stomped out saying, “These people are misogynists and sick and that movie’s awful.” Twelve years later, I was married to one of them. Trick of fate.
Rotten Tomatoes: Have you gone back and reconsidered the earlier movies?
Lawless: You know what, I haven’t but I should do that. I’ve seen Evil Dead II a number of times and this is more like that. It’s more like the later Evil Deads. It’s obviously that brilliant slapstick comedy and Bruce, to this day, will trip himself and fall just to make me laugh. I’m a great laugher. I’m not good at telling jokes but I’m a great laugher so I’m his best audience.
Rotten Tomatoes: Are you shooting out in the woods like the classic Evil Dead movies?
Lawless: Yes, lots of woods. You’re going to love it. You’re a real fan, aren’t you?
Rotten Tomatoes: Yeah, Evil Dead II was the first movie that really made me take notice of filmmaking and how you could do different things than traditional films. The way Sam uses the camera, like the eyeball cam. I actually saw II first.
Lawless: As you say, technically that was really innovative use of cameras. Sam really pioneered some stuff that everybody uses now.
Rotten Tomatoes: Is Ash Vs. Evil Dead bringing that back?
Lawless: Yeah, it’s horror and it’s comedy, but it’s not at the same time. This is not like Scary Movie because the horror has to be real. I think that’s very much a Sam thing. Also, his kooky sensibility like eyeballs into ladies’ mouths. Even the word “ladies” in that sentence is funny, right? There’s a certain uncanniness to the execution of the shows. The trick is how do you sustain this over 10 episodes? That’s why the half-hour format is really brilliant. It’s how young people watch now. You’ll record it all and then watch it in an orgy of craziness. This is going to play at your house on an endless loop for years, and in frat houses across the country, not that you live in a frat house.
Rotten Tomatoes: I never did, but now I hope you don’t think I’m really into violence. It’s the comedy of the Evil Dead movies I love.
Lawless: I’m not judging you, baby. Me too. The show is violent. I’ve not shied away from violence in my life because that’s some of the more intense parts of human nature and the human experience. We’re not making a bloody sitcom here. We are nasty, we are distasteful and very, very funny. If you don’t like these things, it’s best you stay away.
Episode two of Ash vs. Evil Dead airs Saturday on Starz at 9 p.m. Read season one reviews here.
It’s time for our weekly Fall Premieres TV Review Countdown. Here are the best (and worst) premieres for the week of Friday, Oct. 30. See how this week’s shows Wicked City, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Supergirl, and season two of The Returned stack up against each other on the Tomatometer!
Hollywood director Sam Raimi is going back to where it all began with Ash vs. Evil Dead, the Starz series that unfolds 30-plus years after audiences first encountered Ash Williams and his college buddies being tortured by an ancient curse in a frisky forest in The Evil Dead. We sat down with the sports coat-wearing, infallibly polite Raimi on the Auckland, New Zealand, set, where he was reunited with fellow Michigan natives Bruce Campbell (Ash) and longtime producing partner, Rob Tapert. Raimi’s oldest child, Lorne, was directing a splinter unit for Dad, who co-wrote and directed the series premiere.
Lori Rackl for Rotten Tomatoes: What made you want to resurrect the Evil Dead franchise?
Sam Raimi: There’s a small but very dedicated fan base for the Evil Dead films. At every other film promotion we’d do throughout the years, we kept hearing, “When’s the next Evil Dead film?” We tried to satisfy them by doing a  remake with a really good filmmaker, Fede Alvarez. I really liked his movie. I think the audience really liked it, too. We thought that would end it. It didn’t. We heard, “That’s good, but we really want to see Bruce Campbell playing that role again.” That’s why we’re making this. We’ve never done this before, where we’re answering the fans.
Rotten Tomatoes: Why do it on the small screen?
Raimi: The Evil Dead movies have been mildly successful, but there’s never been an Evil Dead movie that’s a hit. Through time they’ve developed a following. What’s great is we don’t have to make a movie that’s going to be a hit — a movie that’ll be taken off the screens if it isn’t — and Evil Dead movies never are. With this scenario, we’ll be on TV for 10 episodes. It’s going to have a chance to develop an audience, which is a good thing for Evil Dead.
Rotten Tomatoes: Evil Dead has spawned sequels, comic book series, video games — even a musical. Why does it resonate?
Raimi: I don’t know exactly, but I’d guess that it’s Ash. He’s a monster-fighting hero, something that shouldn’t be so rare. A lot of horror movies have really good characters like Jason or Freddy. They’re the villains of the piece. This is more of an old-fashioned guy who fights monsters. People like a horror movie with a hero. I think they also really like Bruce Campbell. He’s funny, charismatic. They like that he’s an idiot and selfish and a blowhard. He’s the one they’re stuck with, the one who has to rise up and do battle with these monsters. He’s an unusual choice for a hero.
Rotten Tomatoes: Your beloved 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 is back for another cameo…
Raimi: That was my mother’s car. When it came time to make Evil Dead, we needed a car we could endanger and possibly hurt. It was the old family car so we used it. When it came time to make the sequel, that car had to be in it. Whenever we needed a car for a movie, we’d borrow it. It’s run over a lot of dummies. It’s had love scenes played in it. It’s had chase scenes. It’s traveled through time. It’s been turned into a death-coaster in Army of Darkness. And now, it’s traveled to New Zealand to make an appearance.
Rotten Tomatoes: You went to high school with Bruce. When did Rob enter the picture?
Raimi: He was a friend of my brother Ivan. Rob saw that I was a moviemaker and I think that titillated him. We made a film with Ivan my freshman year at Michigan State University. We charged admission and made a tremendous amount of money, even though that wasn’t our goal. We thought we’d make enough to pay back the cost of the room and the advertisements. All of a sudden, instead of making $4.50 an hour being a projectionist for the school, we’d split a pot of $300 just for showing our movie. We started to learn there’s a public out there and they buy tickets. Sitting in those shows at Michigan State was a great learning experience. People would tell you, “This sucks,” and you’d think, ‘I better cut that scene down.’ Or, if they really laughed at a scene, we’d go out that weekend and shoot more of those jokes and cut them in for the next week’s show. We really learned what a paying audience liked and didn’t like.
Rotten Tomatoes: You’ve been involved with so many movies over the years. Where do you rank the Evil Dead franchise in your career?
Raimi: It’s probably the closest to my heart. It’s something we conceived ourselves. It’s where I got my start. As much as I loved working with the great cast of Spider-Man or great [actors] like Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe, I really like the down-home quality of the Evil Dead films and their pure desire for rock ‘n’ roll entertainment for the audience.
Ash vs. Evil Dead premieres this Saturday, Oct. 31, on Starz at 9 p.m. Read season one reviews here.
This week at the movies, we’ve got a cantankerous chef (Burnt, starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller), an ace political strategist (Our Brand is Crisis, starring Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton), and defensive campers (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, starring Tye Sheridan and David Koechner). What do the critics have to say?
At this point, we expect celebrity chefs to act like college basketball coaches — it’s a surprise if they aren’t yelling all the time. The problem with Burnt, critics say, is that its central culinarian is such a jerk that he ends up giving the whole dish a bad taste. Bradley Cooper stars as Adam Jones, whose genius in the kitchen has often been undermined by a short temper and a taste for booze. In a bid for redemption, Jones tries to keep his emotions in check and repair his interpersonal relationships. The pundits say Burnt looks appetizing but is made with stale ingredients — in other words, its excellent cast and strong visuals can’t salvage its predictable plot.
It’s easy to be cynical about politics, so if you’re going to make a film that satirizes the electoral process, it needs to be sharp enough to draw blood. Unfortunately, the critics say that while Our Brand is Crisis offers a tough, smart performance from Sandra Bullock, its insights aren’t particularly deep. Based on a 2005 documentary of the same name, the film stars Bullock as Jane Bodine, a hotshot political strategist who’s hired to resuscitate the sagging campaign of a Bolivian presidential candidate. What makes this election personal is that Jane’s hated rival Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) is working for her candidate’s opponent. The pundits say Our Brand Is Crisis gets a decent amount of mileage out of its stars, but otherwise, this comedy is breezy when it should be down and dirty.
Must an adolescent fantasy be so juvenile? Critics say Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse — which, as the title indicates, is the story of a group of Scouts who must save their community from a zombie outbreak — has enough decent gags for a killer webisode, but at feature length, its scatological humor and narrative slackness wear thin.
Wicked City falls prey to the style-over-substance stereotype of the decade in which it takes place — although it does have a killer 1980s soundtrack.
“Thank You” is an example of what The Walking Dead does best, combining gripping action with troubling existential questions in a heart-wrenching plot twist.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release
B-movie star and best-selling author Bruce Campbell is ready to kick some Ash as the eponymous hero of Starz’s new Evil Dead series. We caught up with Groovy Bruce on the set of Ash vs. Evil Dead in Auckland, New Zealand, where the actor with the killer chin talked about what’s wrong with today’s horror shows and why Standards & Practices can kiss his ass.
Lori Rackl for Rotten Tomatoes: It’s been a long time since we last saw Ash. What’s he been up to all these years?
Campbell: Jack s–t. Hiding from responsibility in Michigan, which is a good place to hide. He’s had some sex over the last 30 years — always meaningless. He’s been living what he thinks is a normal life, but it’s really kind of a depressing life. Now, he’s had greatness thrust upon him through the actions of his own misdeeds.
Rotten Tomatoes: Does it blow your mind that you’re here in New Zealand with your high school buddy (director Sam Raimi), making a TV show based on a film you shot in 1979?
Campbell: How could it not? It’s even weirder being directed by Sam again as that character. I’m as astounded as anyone that we’re here. It’s ridiculous. Just the fact that all the pieces came together … Rob [Tapert] had established a really good set-up here as a producer for years. Sam had become a big feature guy. I’d just finished seven years on Burn Notice, which at the time was the number-one show on cable. We were all busy, but it all came together.
Rotten Tomatoes: How much pressure did fans put on you for more Evil Dead?
Campbell: I get tormented at all these conventions I go to. I’ve been going to them since ’88, and even then they were saying, “Give us another one,” because we’d only done two at that point. We did Army of Darkness 24 years ago, which is a lifetime in and of itself. We did the Evil Dead remake two years ago. It was well received but people still weren’t fully satisfied. They’re like, “Thanks for trying to distract us. We want the real thing.”
Rotten Tomatoes: Is there an upside to doing this as a TV series instead of another movie?
Campbell: The characterization we have to do for Ash for 10 episodes is so much more than we’d do in one movie. I’ve only done six hours worth of this character. At the end of one season, there will be five new hours — almost as much as three movies. I’ll probably have more dialogue in this than I had in the Evil Dead movies combined.”
Rotten Tomatoes: Sam has been known to put his actors through the wringer, physically. At 57, you’re a little older than when you guys started. Is it tough to keep up?
Campbell: I’ll do more than the average actor, but I’m smart enough to know why stunt guys exist.
Rotten Tomatoes: You and Sam go way back as childhood friends growing up in suburban Detroit. Did you bond over a love of horror movies?
Campbell: Horror had nothing to do with it. All the early, amateur stuff we did in high school — the Super 8s — it was all comedy based on, like, The Three Stooges. All broad, slapstick comedy. Sam is one of the funniest guys you’ll ever see on camera. He just ended up behind the camera. Sam claims it was Rob who said, “If you’re going to make a movie, you’ve got to make a horror movie, something people will pay to see.” That’s why we threw down with horror. We weren’t even really interested in it.
Rotten Tomatoes: What’s the ratio of horror-to-comedy in Ash vs Evil Dead?
Campbell: It’s 70/30 in horror’s favor. You have to take the horror seriously but there’s gags aplenty. Most people, when they do horror it’s just grim. It’s The Walking Dead. No jokes allowed. That never really appealed to us. The first Evil Dead movie isn’t meant to be camp, although it’s hokey dialogue said by inexperienced actors, so you’re going to get unintentional laughs. And the movie has really extreme violence. Sometimes that will create giggles in and of itself. But the second one was co-written by Scott Spiegel, who’s the biggest fan of the The Three Stooges. That one took on the first hint of weirdness. And Army of Darkness is really just an adventure movie. It’s not even really horror.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did the network ask you to tone anything down for TV?
Campbell: We found a good home on Starz. We had multiple suitors for this — it’s a good, under-exploited property — but Starz is the only company we went to. Story-wise they’re involved, but in the execution of it they never go, “Golly, do we need to say the F word?” Or, “Should that character be smoking?” Standards & Practices, they can kiss my ass because it relates to freedom of expression. Creative freedom is everything in this business. Without it, you have nothing.
Rotten Tomatoes: Starz also has a reputation for quickly giving new shows a second season.
Campbell: From your lips to Starz’s ears.
Ash vs. Evil Dead, which was renewed for a second season on Wednesday, premieres this Saturday, Oct. 31, on Starz at 9 p.m. Read season one reviews here.
Starz is breathing new life into the Evil Dead franchise with Ash vs. Evil Dead, a horror-comedy hybrid chronicling the Deadite-dueling exploits of Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell). Filmed in New Zealand, the 10-episode season debuts on Halloween. Here are eight things we learned while visiting the show’s set in Auckland.
Director Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, and producer Rob Tapert all hail from the Wolverine State, the same place the show is set. Kiwi prop master Marney McKenna snagged a bunch of Michigan memorabilia on eBay and peppered it around the set for authenticity.
To wit: A T-shirt from The Fish Market in Erie dangled from a clothesline outside Ash’s Airstream trailer. Bottles of Jolly Pumpkin and Motor City Brewing Works beer were strewn around a fictional watering hole loosely inspired by Detroit’s legendary veterans’ bar, The Old Miami.
“You’ll see other Michigan products like Better Made Potato Chips and Detroit Tigers baseball stickers on cars’ bumpers,” said Raimi, who still has lots of family and a holiday home in the Midwest state.
As a kid, he and Campbell guzzled more than their share of locally made Faygo Red Pop.
“I contacted the company and asked if they’d be interested in having their product in the show,” McKenna said. “They said they were more than interested and sent it all for free.”
Fans of The Evil Dead — or Raimi’s movies in general — will instantly recognize Ash’s yellow cake batter-colored ’73 Oldsmobile Delta 88. The engine’s baritone rumble filled the cavernous soundstage during a trailer park scene.
“You can’t just drive it to New Zealand; it had to be shipped like the Crown Jewels,” Campbell said.
Raimi’s dad bought the set of wheels in the ’70s. It served as Raimi and Campbell’s main mode of transportation when they were students at Wylie E. Groves High School in Beverly Hills, Michigan.
“We’d go to movies in that car, we’d make movies in that car,” Campbell said about ‘The Classic,’ which has several replicas. “Sam has put that car in every movie he’s ever made, that same piece-of-s–t car that I’m going to kill if I ever get the chance because it’s an unhealthy obsession.”
When we last saw Ash in the 1992 film Army of Darkness, he had a retail job at S-Mart. (Who could forget the catchy logo? “Shop smart. Shop S-Mart!”)
These days, our aging under-achiever makes bank by stocking shelves at a joint called Value Stop.
“It’s the equivalent of S-Mart,” Campbell said. “It’s just a fictitious place where a loser would work.”
His fellow employees are Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas), described as a moody wild child trying to outrun her past.
“She’s a tough but lovable ball-buster,” said DeLorenzo, who fronted an Amy Winehouse tribute band in Chicago before moving to Los Angeles for her acting career. “When we first meet her, she’s gone through a tragedy — so she’s a little lost, trying to find a purpose in life. She finds her calling with Ash and the fight against the Evil Dead.”
Another one of their coworkers is Pablo Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago), an idealistic kid from Honduras who desperately wants to be an all-American boy.
“As somebody who comes from a different country and is here illegally, he’s struggling with fitting in,” said Santiago (Touch, Meet the Fockers). “But he’s smart and very Americanized. He’s USA all the way.”
He must be a hard worker, too. A sign in the Value Stop break room lists him as employee of the month.
Fantastical fight scenes are the stock-in-trade of The Evil Dead franchise, and the TV series seems intent to carry on that tradition.
Ash’s Airstream trailer — built nearly twice as big as normal to accommodate the camera equipment — is the site of an epic, bloody brawl. So is a country home where Michigan State Trooper Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones, Sleepy Hollow) responds to a call in the series premiere.
“Stuff goes down in this house,” Jones said while sitting on the set of the vacation home under a row of ominous-looking mounted deer antlers, just waiting to impale some poor sucker.
“In episode one there are so many set pieces and action sequences,” said production designer Nick Bassett. “It’s kept us busy.”
The Deadite-slaying protagonist is a superhero of sorts and that’s meant to come across in Ash’s wardrobe, which includes a royal blue shirt topped with a red jacket.
“I’m trying to portray the Superman look,” costume designer Barbara Darragh said. “It’s based on a very sad Superman.”
“We have racks and racks of blue shirts,” she added. “It’s also a good color to show blood.”
Ash lopped off his right hand with great fanfare in 1987’s Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn. When he isn’t wearing his chainsaw glove, his arm is capped off by a dark, swollen-looking appendage with five sausage-like fingers.
“It’s just a rubber hand,” Campbell said. “You put baby powder on there and slip it on and off. Everything has to be fast and modular in television.”
He was wearing it when we were introduced on set and he reached out to shake hands — a sensation I won’t soon forget.
“It’s like a dead fish,” Campbell said. “I give a real limp handshake just to freak people out.”
Raimi first gave a shout-out to his childhood Camp Tamakwa in 1981’s The Evil Dead. A T-shirt emblazoned with the Canadian summer camp’s beaver logo hung in the closet of the haunted cabin in the woods.
Souvenirs from the camp have popped up in myriad movies since then, both in Raimi’s films and others, like American Pie.
The trend continues. I spotted a Tamakwa decal on the rear window of Ash’s car.
“Sam’s always threatened we’d do this,” veteran TV producer Rob Tapert said about resurrecting The Evil Dead. “Sam’s not a TV guy. It’s not in his DNA. He and his brother [Ivan Raimi] had been working on an idea and I said, ‘Guys, we should do this as a TV series.’ The reality is the Evil Deads were never very successful theatrical motion pictures. They succeeded in their longevity after developing a fan base. That’s the model for television. And the half-hour format is good for a show that doesn’t want to get bogged down in heavy drama. We want to horrify the audience but we also want them to laugh.”
Tapert (Xena: Warrior Princess, Spartacus) is no stranger to making TV in New Zealand.
“Financially it was advantageous to shoot it here with the incentives, the dollar exchange,” he said. “There are cheaper places to shoot in the world but not better places.”
It’s also where he lives with his Kiwi wife, Lucy Lawless, who’s in the show.
“She plays Ruby, a mysterious figure — our version of The Smoking Man from The X-Files,” he said.
“It’s ridiculous on some level that we’re here doing a TV show about a movie that we made way back when,” Tapert said about reuniting with Raimi and Campbell. “The last time we were all on set together working on something was Army of Darkness. We forgot how much we like it.”
Ash vs. Evil Dead premieres on Starz this Saturday, Oct. 31, at 9 p.m. Read reviews here.
Emmy nominations are out for last season, but it’s already time for a new one. Television continues to rival, and sometimes surpass, the quality and success of film industry releases, with more networks than we ever thought possible 20 years ago. And, with the growing number of cable networks, we witness the capability of catering to more adult-oriented content. This fall, we will continue to see television grow, for better and for worse. Which new shows will achieve Fresh, or even Certified Fresh, status? Which will quickly go Rotten? And which of your favorite returning shows made the cut this year? Here’s the list as we know it, and we’ll continue to update it as premiere dates continue to be broadcast.
Monday, Aug. 3
Significant Mother series premiere, 9:30 p.m., CW
Tuesday, Aug. 4
Playing House season two premiere, 10 p.m., USA
Wednesday, Aug. 5
Difficult People series premiere, Hulu
Mr. Robinson series premiere, 9 p.m., NBC
Friday, Aug. 7
Casanova series premiere, Amazon
Sneaky Pete series premiere, Amazon
Saturday, Aug. 8
Funny or Die Presents America’s Next Weatherman series premiere, 11 p.m., TBS
Wednesday, Aug. 12
Young & Hungry season two return, 8 p.m., ABC Family
Kevin from Work series premiere, 8:30 p.m., ABC Family
Sunday, Aug. 16
Show Me a Hero miniseries premiere, 9 p.m., HBO
Tuesday, Aug. 18
The Hotwives of Las Vegas series premiere, Hulu
Thursday, Aug. 20
Documentary Now! series premiere, 10 p.m., IFC
Saturday, Aug. 22
Blunt Talk series premiere, 9 p.m., Starz
Survivor’s Remorse season two premiere, 9:30 p.m., Starz
Sunday, Aug. 23
Fear the Walking Dead series premiere, 9 p.m., AMC
Vicious season two premiere, 10:30 p.m., PBS
Monday, Aug. 24
Switched at Birth season four return, 8 p.m., ABC Family
Tuesday, Aug. 25
From Dusk Till Dawn season two premiere, 10 p.m., El Rey
Public Morals series premiere, 10 p.m., TNT
Wednesday, Aug. 26
The Carmichael Show series premiere, 9:30 p.m., NBC
Friday, Aug. 28
Narcos series premiere, Netflix
Monday, Aug. 31
Awkward season five premiere, 9 p.m., MTV
Faking It season two return, 9:30 p.m., MTV
Tuesday, Sep. 1
Drunk History season three premiere, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central
Friday, Sep. 4
Hand of God series premiere, Amazon Instant Video
Sunday, Sep. 6
Arthur & George series premiere, 8 p.m., PBS
Tuesday, Sep. 8
The Awesomes season three premiere, Hulu
Late Show with Stephen Colbert series premiere, 10:30 p.m., CBS
Wednesday, Sep. 9
The League season seven premiere, 10 p.m., FXX
You’re the Worst season two premiere, 10:30 p.m., FXX
Thursday, Sep. 10
Longmire season four premiere, Netflix
Friday, Sep. 11
Z Nation season two premiere, 10 p.m. SyFy
Continuum season four premiere, 11 p.m., SyFy
Saturday, Sep. 12
Ferrell Takes the Field special event premiere, 10 p.m. HBO
Sunday, Sep. 13
Project Greenlight season four premiere, 10 p.m., HBO
Doll & Em season two premiere, 11 p.m., HBO
Tuesday, Sep. 15
The Mindy Project season four premiere, Hulu
The Bastard Executioner series premiere, 10 p.m., FX
Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris, series premiere, 10 p.m., NBC
Wednesday, Sep. 16
South Park season 19 premiere, 10 p.m., Comedy Central
Moonbeam City series premiere, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central
Friday, Sep. 18
Black Jesus season two premiere, 11 p.m., Adult Swim (Cartoon Network)
Saturday, Sep. 19
Doctor Who season nine premiere, 9 p.m., BBC America
Sunday, Sep. 20
67th Primetime Emmy Awards special event, 8 p.m., Fox
Monday, Sep. 21
The Big Bang Theory season nine premiere, 8 p.m., CBS
Gotham season two premiere, 8 p.m., Fox
The Voice season nine premiere, 8 p.m., NBC
Life in Pieces series premiere, 8:30 p.m., CBS
Minority Report series premiere, 9 p.m., Fox
Scorpion season two premiere, 9 p.m., CBS
Blindspot series premiere, 10 p.m., NBC
Castle season eight premiere, 10 p.m., ABC
NCIS: Los Angeles season seven premiere, 10 p.m., CBS
Tuesday, Sep. 22
NCIS season 13 premiere, 8 p.m., CBS
The Muppets series premiere, 8 p.m., ABC
Scream Queens series premiere, 8 p.m., Fox
Fresh off the Boat season two premiere, 8:30 p.m., ABC
NCIS: New Orleans season two premiere, 9 p.m., CBS
Limitless series premiere, 10 p.m., CBS
Wednesday, Sep. 23
The Middle season seven premiere, 8 p.m., ABC
The Mysteries of Laura season two premiere, 8 p.m., NBC
Rosewood series premiere, 8 p.m., FOX
Survivor season 31 premiere, 8 p.m., CBS
The Goldbergs season three premiere, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Empire season two premiere, 9 p.m., Fox
Law & Order: SVU season 17 premiere, 9 p.m., NBC
Modern Family season eight premiere, 9 p.m., ABC
black-ish season two premiere, 9:30 p.m., ABC
Nashville season four premiere, 10 p.m., ABC
Thursday, Sep. 24
Grey’s Anatomy season 12 premiere, 8 p.m., ABC
Heroes Reborn series premiere, 8 p.m., NBC
Scandal season five premiere, 9 p.m., ABC
The Player series premiere, 10 p.m., NBC
How to Get Away with Murder season two premiere, 10 p.m., ABC
Friday, Sep. 25
The Amazing Race season 25 premiere, 8 p.m., CBS
Last Man Standing season five premiere, 8 p.m., ABC
Margaret Cho: psyCHO comedy special premiere, 9 p.m., Comedy Central
Hawaii Five-0 season six premiere, 9 p.m., CBS
Blue Bloods season six premiere, 10 p.m., CBS
Saturday, Sep. 26
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy series premiere, 9:30 p.m., Disney XD
Sunday, Sep. 27
Bob’s Burgers season six premiere, 7:30 p.m., Fox
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation two-part series finale, 8 p.m., CBS
Once Upon a Time season five premiere, 8 p.m., ABC
The Simpsons season 27 premiere, 8 p.m., Fox
Brooklyn Nine-Nine season three premiere, 8:30 p.m., Fox
Blood & Oil series premiere, 9 p.m., ABC
Family Guy season 14 premiere, 9 p.m., Fox
Indian Summers miniseries premiere, 9 p.m., PBS
The Last Man on Earth season two premiere, 9:30 p.m., Fox
Quantico series premiere, 10 p.m., ABC
Blood & Oil
Monday, Sep. 28
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah series premiere, 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central
Tuesday, Sep. 29
Grandfathered series premiere, 8 p.m., Fox
The Grinder series premiere, 8:30 p.m., Fox
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season three premiere, 9 p.m., ABC
Wednesday, Sep. 30
Criminal Minds season 11 premiere, 9 p.m., CBS
Chicago P.D. season three premiere, 10 p.m., NBC
Code Black series premiere, 10 p.m., CBS
Thursday, Oct. 1
Bones season 11 premiere, 8 p.m., Fox
The Blacklist season three premiere, 9 p.m., NBC
Sleepy Hollow season three premiere, 9 p.m., Fox
Benders series premiere, 10 p.m., IFC
Gigi Does It series premiere, 10:30 p.m., IFC
Friday, Oct. 2
Dr. Ken series premiere, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Saturday, Oct. 3
Saturday Night Live season 47 premiere, 11:30 p.m., NBC
Sunday, Oct. 4
Home Fires series premiere, 8 p.m., PBS
Madam Secretary season two premiere, 8 p.m., CBS
The Good Wife season seven premiere, 9 p.m., CBS
Homeland season five premiere, 9 p.m., Showtime
The Leftovers season two premiere, 9 p.m., HBO
The Affair season two premiere, 10 p.m., Showtime
CSI: Cyber season two premiere, 10 p.m., CBS
The Widower miniseries premiere, 10 p.m., PBS
Tuesday, Oct. 6
The Flash season two premiere, 8 p.m., CW
iZombie season two premiere, 9 p.m., CW
Finding Carter season three premiere 10 p.m., MTV
Wednesday, Oct. 7
American Horror Story: Hotel season five premiere, 10 p.m., FX
Casual series premiere, Hulu
Arrow season four premiere, 8 p.m., CW
Supernatural season 11 premiere, 9 p.m., CW
Thursday, Oct. 8
The Vampire Diaries season seven premiere, 8 p.m., CW
The Originals season three premiere, 9 p.m., CW
Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street season four premiere, 10:30 p.m., TruTV
Friday, Oct. 9
Red Oaks series premiere, Amazon
Reign season three premiere, 8 p.m., CW
Undateable season two premiere, 9 p.m., NBC
The Enfield Haunting miniseries premiere, 10 p.m., A&E
Saturday, Oct. 10
The Last Kingdom series premiere, 10 p.m., BBC America
Sunday, Oct. 11
The Walking Dead season six premiere, 9 p.m., AMC
The Walking Dead
Monday, Oct. 12
Fargo season two premiere, FX
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend series premiere, 8 p.m., CW
Jane the Virgin season two premiere, 9 p.m., CW
Tuesday, Oct. 13
Manhattan season two premiere, 9 p.m., WGN America
Chicago Fire season four premiere, 10 p.m., NBC
Wednesday, Oct. 14
Kingdom season two premiere, 9 p.m., DirecTV
Thursday, Oct. 15
Nathan for You season three premiere, 10 p.m., Comedy Central
Friday, Oct. 16
The Knick season two premiere, time TBD, Cinemax
Truth Be Told series premiere, 8:30 p.m., NBC
Please Like Me season three premiere, 10 p.m., Pivot
Satisfaction season two premiere, 10 p.m., USA
Saturday, Oct. 17
Amy Schumer: Live from the Apollo comedy special premiere, 10 p.m., HBO
Wednesday, Oct. 20
Being Mary Jane season three premiere, 9 p.m., BET
Friday, Oct. 23
Hemlock Grove season three premiere, Netflix
Billy Elliot the Musical: Live special event, 9 p.m., PBS
Saturday, Oct. 24
Da Vinci’s Demons season three premiere, 8 p.m., Starz
Sunday, Oct. 25
The Guilty miniseries premiere (US), 10 p.m., PBS
StarTalk season two premiere, 11 p.m., NatGeo
Robot Chicken season eight premiere, midnight, Adult Swim (Cartoon Network)
Monday, Oct. 26
Supergirl series premiere, 8:30 p.m., CBS
Tuesday, Oct. 27
Wicked City series premiere, 10 p.m., ABC
Friday, Oct. 30
Exorcism: Live special event, 9 p.m., Destination America
Grimm season five premiere, 9 p.m., NBC
Saturday, Oct. 31
Ash Vs. Evil Dead series premiere, 9 p.m., Starz
The Returned season two premiere, 10 p.m., Sundance
Ash Vs. Evil Dead
Sunday, Nov. 1
The Librarians season two premiere, 8 p.m., TNT
Mike Tyson Mysteries season two premiere, Adult Swim (Cartoon Network)
Monday, Nov. 2
Legends season two premiere, 10 p.m., TNT
Thursday, Nov. 5
Mom season three premiere, 9 p.m., CBS
Elementary season four premiere, 10 p.m., CBS
Friday, Nov. 6
Master of None series premiere, Netflix
Saturday, Nov. 7
Untitled U2 Documentary, HBO
Sunday, Nov. 8
Flesh and Bone series premiere, 8 p.m., Starz
Agent X series premiere, 9 p.m., TNT
Getting On season three premiere, 10 p.m., HBO
Flesh and Bone
Tuesday, Nov. 10
Donny! series premiere, 10:30 p.m., USA
Thursday, Nov. 12
2 Broke Girls season five premiere, 9:30 p.m., CBS
Friday, Nov. 13
With Bob and David series premiere, Netflix
Sunday, Nov. 15
Into the Badlands series premiere, 10 p.m., AMC
The Royals season two premiere, 10 p.m., E!
Tuesday, Nov. 17
Chicago Med series premiere, 10 p.m., NBC
Thursday, Nov. 19
The Art of More series premiere, Crackle
Friday, Nov. 20
The Man in the High Castle series premiere, Amazon
Marvel’s Jessica Jones series premiere, Netflix
Friday, Nov. 27
South of Hell series premiere, 3 p.m., WE
Unforgettable season four premiere, 9 p.m., A&E (new network)
Monday, Nov. 30
Superstore series premiere, 10 p.m., NBC
Tuesday, Dec. 1
Real Rob series premiere, Netflix
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce season two premiere, 10 p.m., Bravo
Wednesday, Dec. 2
RocketJump: The Show series premiere, Hulu
Thursday, Dec. 3
The Wiz Live! special event, 8 p.m., NBC
Friday, Dec. 11
Transparent season two premiere, Amazon
Monday, Dec. 14
Childhood’s End miniseries premiere, 8 p.m., SyFy
Expanse series premiere, 10 p.m., SyFy
Sunday, Jan. 3
Downton Abbey season six premiere, 9 p.m., PBS
Sunday, Jan. 10
73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards special event, 8 p.m., NBC
Thursday, Jan. 14
Colony, series premiere, 10 p.m., USA
Sunday, Jan. 17
Mercy Street series premiere, 10 p.m., PBS
Sunday, Jan. 24
The X-Files season 10 premiere, 10 p.m., FOX
Sunday, Jan. 31
Grease: Live special event, 7 p.m., FOX
Monday, Feb. 15
58th Annual Grammy Awards special event, 8 p.m., CBS
Sunday, Feb. 28
88th Annual Academy Awards special event, 4 p.m., ABC
11/22/63 series premiere, Hulu
American Dad season 12 premiere, TBS
Crowded series premiere, NBC
Emerald City series premiere, NBC
First Dates series premiere, NBC
Game of Silence series premiere, NBC
Haven season five return, SyFy (October)
Heartbreaker series premiere, NBC
Hot & Bothered series premiere, NBC
Legends season two premiere, TNT
Shades of Blue series premiere, NBC
Uncle Buck series premiere, ABC
The Way series premiere, Hulu
You, Me and the End of the World series premiere, NBC