We asked, you answered. We recently polled 1,000 Rotten Tomatoes users to find out which shows they think are the most bingeable. And from Scranton to Hawkins and a Winnebago in the desert to a galaxy far far away, it just so happens that the top five results of that poll make for a pretty perfect binge guide.
Fall TV is still in full swing this month, which means more and more shows for your viewing pleasure. While you decide which new ones to tune into, catch up on the 13 series below — all of which are Certified Fresh returnees with zombies, superheroes, and brainiacs to spare.
What it is: Elizabeth Olsen stars as Leigh Shaw, a widow in mourning who, unable to bear living in the apartment she shared with husband, quits her job as a magazine writer and moves in with her mother. What follows is a nuanced character study of those left behind in death’s wake.
Why you should watch it: It’s not easy to make a show on grief, much less sell it. But I’m Sorry for Your Loss is benefited by its thoughtful and thought-provoking scripts from playwright-turned-series creator Kit Steinkellner and nuanced, heartbreaking performances from Olsen, Janet McTeer as her mother, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s Kelly Marie Tran as her sister. Plus, it’s perfectly timed at just 30 minutes per episode. Season 2 premiered October 1 on Facebook Watch.
Why you should watch it: We’ve seen plenty of naughty comedies in the past, but none of them excavate the triumphs and traumas of pubescent adolescence quite as fearlessly or uproariously as Big Mouth. Season 3 premieres in full on October 4.
What it is: The going’s rough and tough in this BBC and Netflix co-production from creator Stephen Knight. Charting the rise of the notorious Peaky Blinders gang in post-WWI England, the long-running drama is led by a never-better Cillian Murphy as the fearless, cold-blooded leader, Tommy Shelby.
Why you should watch it: Between its production design, its larger-than-life performances, and airtight writing and direction, this period series takes some big swings and lands each one. Murphy delivers as the icy Tommy, and Helen McCrory is stellar as the series’ hard-as-nails matriarch. Throw into the mix a strong, talent-heavy ensemble — including turns from the likes of Tom Hardy and Aidan Gillen — and Peaky Blinders earns its reputation as one of the best series that you just might be sleeping on. Season 5 premieres on October 4 on Netflix.
What it is: Thisdecorated,mind-teaser of a series from creator Sam Esmail is at its core the story of Elliot, played by 2018 Oscar winner Rami Malek in a role that nabbed him an Emmy for best actor after season 1. Elliot is a mentally unstable (see: socially anxious, depressed, and drug-addicted) hacktivist recruited into “fsociety” by one Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). Confused? Intrigued? Just watch it.
Why you should watch it: Over the course of three seasons, Mr. Robot has made it near-impossible to look away. Few other series today make for water-cooler fare at work, but Esmail — with the help of Malek, Slater, and an impressive supporting ensemble cast — taps into the cultural consciousness with a premise as timely as it is ambitious. Its fourth and final season premieres on October 6 on USA Network.
What it is: Ever wonder what the other surviving Kryptonians (what few of them are left) are up to while Superman is out there saving the world? Well, turns out his cousin, Kara Zor-El (aka Supergirl) is up to just about the same thing. This is her story.
Why you should watch it: It took until the second season for this DC Comics series to really nail down its tone on the CW with star Melissa Benoist and co., but there’s no doubt that it today ranks as one of the most formidable hour-long outings in the superhero comics-to-screen universe. Season 5 premieres on October 6 on The CW.
What it is: Don’t know what The Walking Dead is? You may want to check your pulse…
Why you should watch it: Based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard’s post-apocalyptic premise of zombies walking the Earth and ending mankind as we know it, the acclaimed series developed by creator Frank Darabont indulges in gore and “what if” fascinations. These are characters brought to life with bone-deep precision from a stable of some of TV’s greatest talents. You just never know when your favorite will bite the dust, but that’s admittedly part of the fun, too. Tune into this season to catch Black Panther star Danai Gurira’s final outing. Season 10 premieres on October 6 on AMC.
What it is: Inspired by the true story of former NFL-er Spencer Paysinger, this drama series from creator April Blair follows a talented high school football player from South L.A. who’s drafted to play for Beverly Hills — and the social and professional tensions that build when two worlds collide.
Why you should watch it:Hailed by the Hollywood Reporter the best new broadcast network drama of 2018, All American bears ingredients from some of our favorite teen and sports dramas of yesteryear while managing to stand out from the pack thanks to its central performances: newcomer Daniel Ezra as the recruited football star Spencer James and Taye Diggs as the NFL star-turned-Beverly Hills coach who sees a future in him. Season 2 premieres on October 7 on The CW.
What it is: Grant Gustin is crime scene investigator–turned–crime scene vigilante Barry Allen (aka the Flash), a lightning-enhanced fastest man alive. The story follows Barry’s crime-fighting adventures alongside a group of friends with their own special abilities.
Why you should watch it:You don’t gain an adoring following like that of The Flash without bringing edge-of-your-seat comic-book action and suspense, lovable characters and story arcs, and pitch-perfect performances week to week. Equal parts charming and high-octane in all the right ways, this DC Comics offering keeps us coming back for more. Season 6 premieres on October 6 on The CW.
What it is:Riverdale is the latest TV adaptation of the beloved Archie comics of yore — only this time, it gets the CW treatment as a murder mystery–thriller with hot, live-action high schoolers played by KJ Apa, Camila Mendes, Lili Reinhart, and Cole Sprouse. This is not your mom and dad’s Archie.
Why you should watch it: We’ll say it: Riverdale ranks among the best teen dramas to come out of primetime since Gossip Girl, and it deserves the viewership and brand ubiquity to match. It’s the classic Archie we know with a heaping serving of sex appeal and a dash of True Detective. What’s not to love? Season 4 premieres on October 9 on The CW.
What it is: Walter White is a high school chemistry professor who, after a terminal cancer diagnosis, begins cooking and selling methamphetamine to pay off his mounting medical bills and take care of his family. With that, what starts as a compelling enough premise in Vince Gilligan’s genre-defining character study builds to become one of the greatest series ever to grace the small screen.
Why you should watch it: As played by Bryan Cranston (who won a whopping five Emmys for the role), Walter White is one of the most iconic television characters of the 21st century. Meeting him mark for mark is Emmy winner Aaron Paul as his delinquent co-conspirator and cook, Jesse Pinkman. To watch the two of them play off each other while diving deeper into the underbelly of drugs and crime in New Mexico is about as good as TV gets. Binge all five groundbreaking seasons before its much-anticipated feature film bookend, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, premieres on October 11 on Netflix.
What it is: Set in the fictional, titular Maine town and drawn from the expansive works of Stephen King, this anthology series from creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason uses characters both classic and new to re-imagine the author’s best works for the small screen. Season 1 was largely inspired by The Shawshank Redemption, while the second outing looks to pull from Misery.
Why you should watch it: With executive producers like King himself and blockbuster filmmaker J.J. Abrams at the helm, you know you’re in for some tricks along with your treats. And with Halloween right around the corner, the return of this hit horror series is sure to get you in the appropriate holiday spirit. Season 1 features standout performances from the likes of Andre Holland, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Skarsgård (himself a King-universe vet thanks to his Pennywise role in the record-breaking It films). Lizzy Caplan promises to light up the screen in season 2, which serves as something of a prequel or origin story for Misery’s demented nurse Annie Wilkes. Get a taste of the King-inspired mayhem before the new season’s October 23 premiere on Hulu.
What it is:Chuck Lorre knows TV, but we’ve never seen The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men mastermind tackle something quite like The Kominsky Method, a half-hour, single-cam comedy that follows an aging acting coach and his agent in contemporary Hollywood. Both a stinging comedy on the industry’s lasting truths and a revealing, humorous look at men of a certain age, the series racked up two Golden Globes earlier this year, including Best Musical or Comedy Television Series.
Why you should watch it: Few things have been more satisfying over the last few years than watching Hollywood heavy-hitters deliver career-best work on the small screen. Among them are Oscar winners Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin as the central Sandy Kominsky and his longtime agent and friend Norman Newlander, respectively. The pair’s rat-a-tat everyman rapport goes down easy, even when they’re not on their best behavior. Season 2 premieres on October 25 on Netflix.
What it is: This acclaimed HBO comedy from creators John Altschuler, Mike Judge, and Dave Krinsky is the story of wunderkind coder Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) as he and partner Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller) struggle to get their startup off the ground during Northern California’s tech boom.
Why you should watch it: Few shows pack as many laughs-per-episode as Silicon Valley.Through its hilarious portrayal of a company on the rise, it also taps into the real-world “brotopia” of the West Coast’s tech industry in more than just name with an assortment of memorable (and in the case of Middleditch, Emmy-nominated) performances across the board. Its sixth and final season premieres on October 27 on HBO.
Breaking Bad ended on September 29, 2013, after five groundbreaking, Certified Fresh seasons, four of which have a 100% Tomatometer score. Five years have gone by since Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) hung up their hazmat suits for good, and after all this time and all those Emmys — over the course of the series, it was nominated for 58 and won 18 — the show’s impact can still be felt across the TV landscape.
Over the course of its run, the Vince Gilligan–created series redefined great TV, catapulting character actors Cranston and Paul to superstar status while piecing together an intricately detailed story, presenting a sympathetic protagonist to audiences everywhere, and flipping the TV script formula on its proverbial head.
From epic performances by the show’s ensemble cast to its thought-provoking writing, Breaking Bad changed the game. Here are the five biggest ways the series has transformed the way we watch television, forever.
1. Breaking Bad was a savage exercise in character transformation
When Breaking Bad came along, TV’s episodic formula existed within specific parameters: As bad as things ended up getting in any show’s story, more often than not, the program’s lead characters would experience a soft reboot once the next episode aired. Basically, audiences wanted reliable characters to connect with, and no matter how challenging the events within their prospective worlds would become, it was understood that your Matlocks, Sherlocks, and Dr. Houses of the world would never change.
Then Breaking Bad‘s Walter White came along and evolved from “Mr. Chips into Scarface,” per Gilligan’s master plan.
This wasn’t the first time a television show made an antihero its focal point, of course; exceptional series like The Wire, Deadwood, and The Sopranos all dug into the lives of characters that, quite regularly, made sinister life choices. But as those shows, each in its own way, did their best to explore shades of morality, none of them ever really led their character’s lives down a path to ultimate change.
Tony Soprano, for example, was an especially flawed human who was constantly trying to become better — attempting to find some semblance of good within his life of crime. David Simon used The Wire as a method of exploring the struggle for change throughout the show’s five-season run. And yet, the main characters on both of these shows never fundamentally changed.
Gilligan threw the old rules out the window for Breaking Bad, and Walter White’s transformation from cancer-stricken science teacher to murderous drug lord took the audience on an epic journey usually reserved for icons of cinema and literature.
When all was said and done, pretty much every important character in the series — from Walt’s metamorphosis to Jesse and Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) individual redemptions to Skyler’s (Anna Gunn) criminal enabling, and Saul’s (Bob Odenkirk) downfall — experienced a beginning, middle, and satisfying end to their stories.
2. And a master-class in visual storytelling
The Wire and Breaking Bad have undergone many comparisons since both shows came to an end. While the two series explore the impact drugs and crime have on their characters and respective locales, they’ve got another overarching element in common: each program gives the viewer a cinematic exploration of the city their story takes place in. Breaking Bad excels here by elevating the importance of cinematography in episodic drama.
Originally, Breaking Bad was supposed to take place in Riverside, California. If the story remained there, it’s quite possible the series wouldn’t have become the groundbreaking hit we know it to be. The story ended up being set in New Mexico, allowing Gilligan and crew to take full advantage of the city’s desert color palette to bring Walt’s desolate, dry existence to life.
The natural scenery of Albuquerque not only gave the show a unique aesthetic previously not seen by TV audiences, but Gilligan’s attention to story detail regularly went beyond the written word, using color cues and tiny tidbits — from the ongoing use of yellow to signify Walt’s evolving relationship with the danger around him until he notoriously becomes the danger, to recurring motifs like the pink teddy bear’s eye that represents Walt’s past catching up with him — to formulate the world and story as the series progressed. With just seven episodes in the first season and 13 in each subsequent one (except the final 16-episode season, which was split in two halves) that’s quite the achievement.
3. Even the bottle episodes were must-watch television
Breaking Bad pushed the boundaries on so many fronts and won many accolades, but its acting and writing regularly took home awards. Nowhere did these two facets shine brighter than in the show’s various bottle episodes.
Every TV series has bottle episodes — their main purpose is to push the story forward with as little money spent as possible. This type of programming usually focuses on a small number of cast members in a single setting. The problem with this part of the television production formula is that most bottle episodes can come off as pointless, or as cheap tricks. That’s not the case on Breaking Bad.
Take, for instance, the Rian Johnson–directed episode, “Fly.” As they neared production of the 10th episode of the show’s third season, Gilligan and crew found themselves massively overbudget. To deal with this issue, they created an episode that focused solely on the evolving work relationship between blue-meth Jedi White and his young Padawan, Jesse. The occasional cinematic trick of filming from a roaming housefly’s POV gave the series a little cinéma vérité perspective on the duo, changing up the expected tone and pacing the show’s audience had become accustomed to. And while the claustrophobic episode ended up polarizing viewers for those same reasons, many critics and fans point to the episode as one of the show’s best.
4. Fandom that rivaled the biggest in the world
Conflict came at Walt and Jesse around every corner on Breaking Bad. From Walt’s own family drama to the constant, murderous politics our characters regularly faced with Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and the Salamanca Family, the series explored a multitude of challenges and struggles for each character on the show. As the program grew, so did its fan base, and once Walt’s villainous alter ego Heisenberg was created, Breaking Bad took on a whole new life.
Usually, in a story such as this, the audience is expected to root for a clearly defined hero. But in Breaking Bad, even the best-intentioned person had demons to confront. A morality play of the highest order, AMC’s landmark hit worked best when it explored the darkest corners of humanity through the trials and tribulations of its leads like Walt, Jesse, Hank (Dean Norris), Skyler, and Gus. While the show began as a dark comedy, it slowly headed down a spiral of blood, greed, and despair. And it was through that journey, and the introduction of a whole cartel of characters, that Breaking Bad‘s passionate audience was built.
The cast and crew of the series appeared three times at San Diego Comic-Con to masses of Heisenberg shirt–wearing fans. What made it all so attractive? The no-brainer answer would point to the stellar performances of the cast, the epic writing, and top-notch cinematography. But when you add in Albuquerque’s unique locale, Vince Gilligan’s quirky narrative talents, and the steady dose of Heisenberg and Gus Fring’s bad guy-vs-bad guy boss battle, Breaking Bad stood out from the prime-time pack.
5. It spawned a prequel series that keeps the Breaking Bad dream alive
With Better Call Saul, a new backstory trend has begun to unfold on the small screen, including HBO’s Game of Thrones projects.
Now four seasons in, Better Call Saul successfully crawled out of the shadow of its predecessor and did so by dialing back the clock to a time before Saul was Saul. Goodman’s introduction to Breaking Bad helped add some necessary levity during a tonal shift for the series, allowing Walt and Jesse to fully embrace the darkness this new partnership brought into their lives. Recognizing there was more to the Breaking Bad world than met the eye, Gilligan and Peter Gould dipped back into their universe and brought to life earnest yet damaged struggling lawyer Jimmy McGill.
Better Call Saul continues Gilligan’s Breaking Bad‘s Mr. Chips–Scarface mission, showing audiences the story before the story — all while giving Odenkirk’s Jimmy even more rich layers to work with. Through Breaking Bad‘s run, it became evident that Walt’s end would be a tragic one. Knowing where Saul ends up gives the audience haunting knowledge of the show’s end-point: How does Jimmy become Saul? The answer to that question is just the beginning of another epic chapter called Breaking Bad.
Vince Gilligan wants you to stop throwing pizzas on the Breaking Bad house. No, seriously, stop. Also this week in TV news, we learn about Hannibal Buress’ new Comedy Central series, a cab-driver who caught his big break on House of Cards, Matthew Weiner’s Hitchcockian inspirations for Mad Men, and a Firefly reunion in the works (kinda)!
Vince Gilligan: Stop Throwing Pizzas on Walter White’s House
In an interview on the “Better Call Saul Insider” podcast this week, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan said that people need to stop throwing pizzas on the Walter White house in Albuquerque, NM. Fans of the show will remember a scene from an episode in season three, in which Walter (Bryan Cranston), in his frustration, throws a pizza which lands perfectly on the roof of his house. Since then, the real-life house has been plagued with flung pizzas. “They’re throwing pizzas on roofs and stuff like that,” Gilligan said. “Let me tell you: There is nothing funny or original or cool about throwing pizzas on this lady’s roof. It is just not funny. It’s been done before. You’re not the first.” Fran Padila, the owner of the home-turned-tourist-attraction told CBS News, “If you’re going to be a jerk, stay the hell away.” Seems reasonable enough?
Broad City Star Lands Comedy Central Series
Comic Hannibal Burress, who plays Lincoln on Comedy Central’s cult hit Broad City, has landed his own eight-episode series order at Comedy Central called Why? With Hannibal Buress? According to a statement from the network, Buress will be “answering the burning questions on his mind through stand-up, filmed segments, man-on-the-street interviews, and special in-studio guests.” The show will be taped in front of a live studio audience and is set to premiere this July. “Hannibal keeps asking us ‘why’ so we just told him to go find out and we’ll air it,” Kent Alterman of Comedy Central stated, to which Buress added: “I’m extremely excited to help Comedy Central sell advertising.”
House of Cards Actor Gigs as a New York Cabbie
As reported by the New York Post, House of Cards actor Alexander Sokovikov took a hiatus from his regular gig, driving a New York yellow taxi, to play a five-episode arc as Russian ambassador Alexi Moryakov on House of Cards. In the buzzed-about bathroom scene in the fifth episode of season three, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) beckons Moryakov to the ladies room where she makes quite the power play. This was the second role Russian-born Sokovikov auditioned for on House of Cards this year, having also tried out for Russian president Petrov. When he’s not acting, Sokovikov drives a cab full-time around Gotham. “I am an actor,” he told the Post. “I am not a cab driver who acts. I am an actor who drives a cab.” An actor who takes his résumé, headshots, and reel with him whenever he goes because, hey, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
Matthew Weiner Names Hitchcock Among His Top Influences for Mad Men
As part of a new Mad Men exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY, creator Matthew Weiner curated 10 classic films that inspired AMC’s breakout hit. Among the list are two films by Alfred Hitchcock: Vertigo and North By Northwest. “[North by Northwest] became an important influence on the pilot because it was shot in New York City, right around the time the first episode takes place,” Weiner said. “While more overtly stylized than we wanted to imitate, we felt the low angles and contemporary feel were a useful reflection of our artistic mindset.” With regard to Vertigo, Weiner told the Moving Image, “I remember watching the camera dolly-in on Kim Novak’s hair and thinking, ‘this is exactly what we are trying to do. Vertigo feels like you are watching someone else’s dream.” Click here to see the full list of films. The final season of Mad Men returns Sunday, Apr. 5, on AMC.
There’s a Firefly Reunion on the Horizon (Sort Of)
Good news for Browncoats! After Tuesday’s announcement about their new crowd-funded web series Con Man, Firefly stars Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk have already reached their fundraising goals — and then some. According to the campaign page on IndiGoGo, the duo of the short-lived 2002 sci-fi series has hit a mark of $1.4 million in just two days (they only asked for $425,000). Con Man, pitched as a series of 10- to 12-minute episodes, will be about fictitious actors of a cancelled outer-space show called Spectrum who spend a lot of time at comic book conventions. The series will also star fellow Firefly alums Gina Torres (Zoe) and Sean Maher (Dr. Simon Tam), as well as Amy Acker, Felicia Day, and Seth Green. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn is also expected to make an appearance. For more info, watch the video here.
Better Call Saul is finally here and one of the biggest surprises this week has been the reemergence of Tuco’s character. Rotten Tomatoes talked with Raymond Cruz about how he kept the role a secret, where he found the real-life inspiration for his character, and whether or not Tuco’s that bad of a guy. [Warning: Spoilers for the first two episodes within!]
Sarah Ricard for Rotten Tomatoes: How long have known that you would be reprising the role of Tuco and how did you find out?
Raymond Cruz: I heard they were doing a prequel to Breaking Bad that was going to take place about five or six years prior, but I didn’t know they were going to want me to do the show until they were already in production. When they were getting ready to shoot, when they were writing, they contacted me and asked me if I would do it, and I was like,
‘Wow, I don’t know if I really want to go back and revisit this character.’ It’s really difficult to do that character.
RT: I had read an interview with you a couple of years ago and you were saying that it was really difficult and that your wife wasn’t really into it.
Cruz: My wife hated it. She hated Tuco. She hated the energy. When you’re building these characters, you’re not only changing and altering your thought process, but when you’re looking for the emotional support to the character, it’s all energy, so it’s a whole different feel than what she’s used to. I’ve been doing Major Crimes for the last 11 years and she likes that character a lot… Tuco is this wild beast. My wife is like, ‘Get away from me.’
RT: How would you characterize Tuco? I’ve seen him described as a psychopath and I’ve read the interpretation that Tuco just does what he knows. Where does he fall into that range for you?
Cruz: I never thought of him as a bad guy.There are lots of people who say, ‘He’s terrible; he’s evil.’ I’ve never looked at the character that way. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at any character [that way]. I don’t make a judgement. I just look at what he’s doing and how he’s trying to do it. He’s very passionate. He’s not the most cerebral guy, but he is smart — I’m talking about street smarts. He’s almost like a dog. They feel you out… We saw that with Breaking Bad. He’ll feel you out. He’ll take emotionally what he’s getting from you and then he doesn’t hold back. With a lot of characters, when you’re reading them and trying to build, you’re looking at what the parameters are. I never found parameters for Tuco — emotional or mental. When we were doing Breaking Bad, everything he did was altered by the blue meth that he was taking because it heightens everything. There was no end.
RT: Right. Breaking Bad‘s Tuco was high on this drug that doesn’t even exist in Better Call Saul.
Cruz: It’s interesting because when I was working on him and trying to find him, I remembered when I was a kid, I saw a guy who was high on PCP, he was naked, he got on top of a police car, and he kicked the windshield. He was laughing and it was almost like he was superhuman, so that always stuck with me.
RT: But the Tuco that we see in Better Call Saul isn’t there yet.
Cruz: Right. But you can see that he doesn’t hold back. He’s very angry and dominant and fierce. Tuco’s very loyal to the things he cares about, which is basically his family.
RT: The fact that he’s so angry with those two kids is less so that they’re trying to pull one over on him and more that they called his grandma a — what was it?
Cruz:Biznatch. It’s funny because when we were shooting that I was like, ‘What the hell does that even mean?’ and you can see it in the character. He’s trying to figure it out, but he knows it’s not good.
RT: So that comes from a place of you not really knowing that means.
Cruz: Right. But then I have to equate it to something that’s horrible.
RT: When you beat them with the cane, it’s so violent. What was it like to shoot that?
Cruz: Well, I’m very physical. I grew up boxing. I’ve done almost all of my own stunts in movies and in television and I’ve been injured a lot. I’ve dislocated both arms, I’ve had a broken hand, I got stabbed on The Closer.
RT: Oh my gosh! There’s method acting and then there’s getting stabbed!
Cruz: It was an accident. It was an accident.
RT: I hope so!
Cruz: You know what it is? I watch a lot of television and I watch a lot of film and I hate when you watch the action sequences — and I always tell when they use a stunt man — and then they put the actor in and you can tell these actors haven’t done anything… Again, Tuco’s way out there so there has to be raw physicality. If you’re willing to do it, you just have to accept that you’re going to get injured. It’s just part of the job.
RT: One thing that’s quickly apparent about this show is that it’s just so funny. Having played the same character in Breaking Bad, are you sensing a different vibe with this one?
Cruz: Yes, because of Bob Odenkirk and what he brings to the scenes. Tuco sets everything off but Bob has this great reactionary sense about him when he’s in the scenes. He’s terrified and he’s trying so hard to lighten things to possibly tilt it in his favor so he can walk out of there and Tuco’s amused by this. It was the same thing in Breaking Bad with the lead characters. I’d always been amused by the ways they tried to manipulate him. It’s like a cat playing with a mouse… these guys are trying to use their intelligence and talk their way out of it, so it’s almost shocking to me, like someone trying to throw water in your face. You’re like, Whaaat?
RT: By episode two, “Mijo,” we see a dynamic between Tuco and Nacho that seems like Nacho is learning all the different angles of Tuco to make a play.
Cruz: That’s the thing. Tuco can’t be handled. You have to stand back and hopefully not get in the way because if he focuses on you? You’re f—ed. If you draw too much attention from him, you’re screwed.
RT: How did you keep this part under wraps? It was such a great reveal when the door opens and we see your face in “Uno.”
Cruz: It was out of respect for Vince [Gilligan]. They didn’t want me to tell anyone. When we went to shoot, they would hide me under the umbrella. When we’d go to set, I’d have to lie down in the van. When I was at the hotel, I was under an assumed name. I felt like I was in the witness protection program. No one knew I was there but the crew — and they were all sworn to secrecy.
RT: So now that it’s out there, what’s been the best reaction? Because I know that after the reveal, Twitter exploded.
Cruz:That’s the great reaction — that everyone’s so excited… You get another chance to live through Tuco.
RT: By the way, the shot of you down on your hands and knees and cleaning the carpet is so funny.
Cruz: What about when I have my apron on?
RT: Tuco likes to cook!
Cruz: It was evident in Breaking Bad. He has a domestic side.
RT: That’s the thing about him. He has these moments when he’s so sweet to his grandma, and then he can bludgeon a guy or break his legs. It’s at once horrifying and hilarious. The scene with the negotiation in the desert is so tense and you feel all these emotions simultaneously while you’re watching. I don’t know if you can feel that on set — how funny it is, but also how violent and scary it is.
Cruz: Well, I knew it was funny because when they would cut, the crew would start laughing. Not when we were doing the take, but then we’d cut and they’d be like, ‘Oh my god, that was so funny.’ I’ve always looked at Breaking Bad as a dark comedy, so when we were approaching Saul, again, it was a tense drama, but it’s funny. Whether you feel uncomfortable and it’s funny because of that, or funny because of the situations, or funny because of the players, it works.
RT: The character of Saul was such a wonderful comedic character in Breaking Bad, but it’s going to be really cool to see him as a fully realized person in this show.
Cruz: It’s great to see in the first episode how he gets pushed into a corner and he’s fighting for survival and that he’s trying to figure out where to draw the lines — what’s ethical, what’s not, where do you push that line to, what am I going to be okay with — because everyone has to decide for themselves what’s ethical for them. Tuco’s lines are in a whole different place than other people. And if I kill you, that’s why. You got in the way.
Better Call Saul returns next Monday, Feb. 16 at 10 pm on AMC. Season one is currently Certified Fresh at 100 percent. See reviews here.
AMC has delivered a one-minute sneak peek from the series premiere of Better Call Saul, the eagerly awaited spin-off of Breaking Bad. The two-night premiere of Saul begins Sunday, Feb. 8 at 10 p.m. See the clip here:
This week’s Ketchup comes to you on a pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday, allowing for coverage of a few stories that didn’t fit in last Friday. Included in the mix are ten movie development news stories covering such films as James Bond 24, Wonder Woman, X-Men: Apocalypse, Zoolander 2, and a Janis Joplin biopic.
This Week’s Top Story
SAY HER NAME: BREAKING BAD DIRECTOR DEVELOPING WONDER WOMAN
As Hollywood publicists prepared for their obligatory collective extended Thanksgiving vacation, some of the “big stories” this week were actually retreads of stories we’ve already covered in previous Weekly Ketchups. This can pose something of an editorial conundrum, because if we don’t include them, it looks like we’re ignoring some of the biggest news stories of the week (which is sort of the opposite of what this column is about). The first such story is that Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones director Michelle MacLaren has indeed signed on to develop and direct the Wonder Woman movie for Warner Bros and DC Comics. (Here’s our first coverage of this story, from just twelve days ago). In addition to directing, Michelle MacLaren will also develop the script with the film’s writers, who haven’t been announced yet. Warner Bros will release the Wonder Woman solo movie on June 23, 2017, after the character makes live action debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in March of 2016. Another story we’ve already talked about before which got a lot of new press this week is the buzz that Warner Bros wants Matthew McConaughey to play the villain Randall Flagg in their multi-film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand from director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars). We first covered that story back in August.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 DALLAS BUYERS CLUB DIRECTOR TO COVER JANIS JOPLIN
After directing one of last year’s most acclaimed films (Dallas Buyers Club), Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée has another film (Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon) this year which is on many critics’ predicted “best of” lists for 2014. We already know what film will be next, and it’s Demolition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts. Vallée’s next film after Demolition, however, might be another film based on a true story, like Dallas Buyers Club and Wild. That’s because the director has taken over development of the long-in-the-works Janis Joplin biopic in which Amy Adams is attached to star as the 1960s Texas blues-influenced pop star. Jean-Marc Vallée is taking on this Janis Joplin project after previous directors like Fernando Meirelles (City of God, Blindness) and Lee Daniels (The Butler, Precious) spent time working on it before eventually moving on. As part of his deal, Vallée has tasked his Dallas Buyers Club screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack to work on the screenplay, which has to be creative in its scope, because the independent budget is expected to stay within the $15-$20 million range.
#2 OSCAR ISAAC AS X-MEN VILLAIN APOCALYPSE: HE’S NOT NEW, AND NEVER GETS OLD
For the last 30 years, one of Marvel’s biggest, baddest villains, in or out of the X-Men titles, has been Apocalypse, the mysterious, seemingly immortal Egyptian mutant. The blue-and-grey super mutant has been so popular and influential that not only has he led various villain groups (including the Four Horsemen) and been the Big Bad in various events, but there’s even a hugely popular timeline and alternate reality called Age of Apocalypse. So, as production readies for X-Men: Apocalypse (5/27/16), the casting of Apocalypse himself is sort of a big deal. There had been talk that Tom Hardy might get the role, but instead, Inside Llewyn Davis star Oscar Isaac will star as Apocalypse. We’re still a year away from the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which also features Isaac, so 20th Century Fox might be playing the long game here, anticipating the star he might become not this year (or next year) but by the time 2016 rolls around (much like what Marvel Studios has been doing with their casting since Chris Evans was cast as Captain America). Oscar Isaac’s profile will continue to rise next month with the release of A Most Violent Year.
#3 SPEAKING OF VILLAINS AND CATS… IS CHRISTOPH WALTZ BRINGING BACK ERNST BLOFELD?
There’s a reason we haven’t seen the villain organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. or characters like Ernst Blofeld in official James Bond movies since the 1970s (an uncredited Blofeld appeared in the beginning of the 1981 film For Your Eyes Only). Well, last year, the lawsuit preventing the use of Blofeld ended with a settlement, which leads us to this week’s rumor. Just two weeks ago, we first heard that Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained) was in some stage of negotiation to play a character in the untitled movie we can only call “James Bond 24” right now. London’s The Daily Mail (which has a strong recent history of reporting James Bond stories that turn out to be true) is reporting that Christoph Waltz will be playing none other than Ernst Blofeld. Even if you have only a fleeting familiarity with Bond villains, you’d probably recognize the iconic image of Ernst Blofeld (even if only it’s because you’ve seen an Austin Powers movie): the bald head, the scarred eye, the neutral tone Mao suit, the obligatory white cat, and the booby-trap dispatching of underlings. In an age dominated by cinematic superheroes and supervillains, are we finally ready again for Ernst Blofeld? MGM and Columbia Pictures have scheduled “James Bond 24,” whatever it ends up being titled, for November 6, 2015. Director Sam Mendes and franchise stars Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, and Ben Whishaw are returning, along with new cast members Dave Bautista and Léa Seydoux.
#4 THIS WEEK IN STAR WARS RUMORS: WILL THERE BE SOMETHING LIKE A BOBA’S SEVEN HEIST FILM?
Guardians of the Galaxy proved audiences still enjoy space opera adventures featuring bandits, loveable scoundrels, and all-around badass wiseguys, so it should surprise no one that other studios are looking to produce similar films. Of course, Lucasfilm has the inside track on that sort of thing, since Han Solo is the character that basically defined that appeal for an entire generation (or two). With all that in mind, a new rumor is circulating that claims the Star Wars movie that director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) is developing is a “heist” movie about a group of bounty hunters hired to steal the plans for the original Death Star (ie, set before Star Wars: A New Hope). This rumor also ties into past talk that one of the “prequel spinoffs” would involve Boba Fett (Han Solo and Yoda might be the stars of the other two). If this rumor pans out, however, Boba Fett won’t be the “star” of this movie (though he could certainly be one of the bounty hunters); it will instead be a new character to be introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There’s already speculation that it could be the character played by veteran actor Max Von Sydow (because of his age), but that’s not necessarily a given in a galaxy with so many aliens and robots. In other Star Wars news, the first 88-second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (12/18/15) will debut at select theaters this weekend, and probably online soon after (either officially or otherwise).
#5 JURASSIC WORLD STAR BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD JOINS PETE’S DRAGON
Just yesterday we saw the release of the first trailer for next summer’s Jurassic World, in which Bryce Dallas Howard is shown doing what Kitty from Arrested Development advised her kid to do: “run.” Within the last seven days, it was reported that Bryce Dallas Howard is in talks to join a very different movie (presumably) that’s also about a very, very big lizard-type beast. In the remake of Pete’s Dragon (which is sounding like it’s quite an altered update), Howard’s character would be a forest ranger who doesn’t believe the titular little boy has really befriended a dragon in the nearby forest which is being cleared by loggers. Robert Redford is already signed to play a local old man who tells crazy stories about a dragon that lives in the aforementioned woods. The Pete’s Dragon remake is being directed for Walt Disney Pictures by David Lowery, who’s making his big budget studio debut after impressing with last year’s indie hit Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.
#6 PENELOPE CRUZ JOINS ZOOLANDER 2, WITH RIDICULOUS SEQUELS BACK IN VOGUE
It doesn’t take much to revive an old classic, even if the results aren’t always favorable. Take, for example, the “ridiculous comedy sequel.” We don’t really see that many of them anymore, but there was a time in the 1980s and 1990s when the release schedule was packed with movies like Weekend at Bernie’s II, Police Academy 5, or Austin Powers in Goldmember. All of this is pretense to the recent success of Dumb and Dumber To, and the impact it has reportedly had on other studios. Specifically, the long-in-development Ben Stiller sequel Zoolander 2 is finally getting close to production, with the news a week ago that Penelope Cruz has signed on to costar in the fashion industry spoof. Zoolander will always be a historical exception, because its $60 million box office total might have been much higher if its release date had not been September 28, 2001 (Hollywood just doesn’t move fast enough to cancel a release date 16 days away). Ben Stiller will once again direct Zoolander 2, hopefully to better effect than his last film as director, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s not yet known which other Zoolander stars might return, such as Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Milla Jovovich, or David Duchovny.
#7 DJIMON HOUNSOU TO REPLACE IDRIS ELBA IN KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE
Earlier this year, Idris Elba was mentioned as being in talks with Warner Bros to play a “Merlin-esque” character in their planned six-movie adaptation of the legends of King Arthur. Well, in the last seven days, we learned that the first movie is now called Knights of the Round Table, and that Djimon Hounsou is now in talks to play that character. Guy Ritchie, who successfully directed two Sherlock Holmes movies for Warner Bros, will direct this first film (and possibly the rest). Charlie Hunnam is attached to play King Arthur, Astrid Berges-Frisbey will play Guinevere, and Jude Law will play the first film’s villain (though we don’t know who that character is, yet). Warner Bros has scheduled Knights of the Round Table for July 22, 2016.
#8 CHANNING TATUM TO MAKE DIRECTORIAL DEBUT WITH FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK
Now that critics and prognosticators are speculating that Channing Tatum might receive an Academy Award nomination for his role in Foxcatcher, it might have been inevitable that the star known for the two Jump Street films would ultimately want to direct. Well, co-direct, actually, but it still gets him a WGA card, so it counts. Channing Tatum and Magic Mike writer/producer Reid Carolin have signed a deal with the Weinstein Company to produce and co-direct an adaptation of a YA book called Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. The book was written by Matthew Quick, who is a favorite at TWC following the success of the adaptation of his book Silver Linings Playbook. Channing Tatum will also costar as a high school teacher who intervenes in the plans of a troubled teenager who has plans to kill his best friend, and then himself. Yeah, Step Up, this is not. Tatum is also expected to make his big screen debut as Gambit in the aforementioned X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016 before going on to star in a Gambit solo movie.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#1 RIDLEY SCOTT NOT DIRECTING BLADE RUNNER 2 AFTER ALL
We should start this article by acknowledging that when he turns 77 this Friday, Sir Ridley Scott is, like us all, going to be a few days closer to shuffling off this mortal coil. There’s only so many more films he’s ever going to direct, and that’s especially significant when we’re talking about a director who is sort of known for having multiple films in development at any given point. This all might indeed be a valid justification for this week’s news, but that’s not really the “Rotten Idea” part, which we’ll get to very shortly. Talking to Variety about Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ridley Scott revealed that he will no longer be directing the planned sequel to Blade Runner, which is still expected to start filming next year. Scott did not finish that de facto announcement by stating specifically who will be directing the sequel (which may or may not have saved this from being the week’s Rotten Idea), but he did give us an important plot detail, which is that the sequel is actually about finding Deckard, as played by Harrison Ford, who doesn’t really enter the movie until the third act. Instead of directing the Blade Runner sequel, Scott’s immediate future will be dedicated to directing The Martian (with Matt Damon) and the sequel to Prometheus. As for why all of this is a “Rotten Idea,” it’s because now, without Ridley Scott’s involvement, and with Harrison Ford only in one third of the movie, it leaves us wondering why we are getting a Blade Runner sequel at all.
Bob Odenkirk (“Jimmy McGill”), Jonathan Banks (“Mike Ehrman”), Michael McKean (“Chuck McGill”), Rhea Seehorn (“Kim Wexler”), Michael Mando (“Nacho Varga”), and Patrick Fabian (“Howard Hamlin”) send a special greeting from the Albuquerque set of their new Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul:
Vince Gilligan’s Better Call Saul will air on AMC in February 2015. Will you be watching? (P.S. Yay for Vic from Orphan Black!)
This week, Mena Suvari helps the possessed while Morena Baccarin treats the criminally insane. Plus, Breaking Bad causes a stir while a Real Housewife heads to stir. Lastly, find out why a cable network is paying your fare to the polls this election.
Toys R Us yanks Breaking Bad toys from shelves.
Florida-based mom Susan Schrivjer petitioned Toys R Us this week to remove its Breaking Bad action figures from the shelves, calling the Walter White toy which comes with a mini tray of meth “a dangerous deviation” from the store’s family values. Schrivjer, an admitted fan of Breaking Bad, said on NBC’s Today show that the toys were “appalling.” In response to Schrivjer’s petition, Toys R Us issued a statement on Sunday that the toys were labeled as suitable for kids ages 15 and up, but the store has since removed the product from its shelves. Schrivjer appeared Fox & Friends on Thursday to elaborate on her stance. “Putting something that has fake illegal drugs with it next to G.I. Joe or Mario Bros. just morally isn’t right,” she said. “This has nothing to do with people taking their kids in there or buying that or anything, this has to do with the placement of that doll.” In response to the kerfuffle, Bryan Cranston tweeted the following
on Wednesday: “Toys R Us puts Breaking Bad toys on ‘indefinite sabbatical.’ Word on the street is that they were sent to Belize. Nicely played Florida Mom.” The action figures are sold out from the manufacturer Mezco Toys. Before you know it, the street value on these dolls will be Blue Sky high!
Mena Suvari is an exorcist in South of Hell
WE tv announced its new supernatural thriller South of Hell Thursday, including casting news. Mena Suvari
(Chicago Fire, American Beauty) will play Maria Abascal, a reluctant exorcist (reluctant perhaps because she has her own demon named Abigail living inside her) who lives in Charleston, SC — the most possessed city in America. Working together, Maria and Abigail will battle evil, while Maria’s brother David (Zachary Booth) will battle his own real-life demon: heroin. Eli Roth
(Hemlock Grove, Hostel) will direct the pilot and production is underway now. New episodes of South of Hell are coming to WE tv in 2015.
Real Housewife will serve time at the Orange Is the New Black Prison.
Teresa Giudice, the Real Housewives of New Jersey star sentenced to 15 months behind bars will go to prison (and not to a halfway house as she had requested earlier in the week). Judge Esther Salas revealed on Wednesday that Guidice, who will serve time for conspiracy and bankruptcy fraud, is going to the same prison that was the basis of the Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black . When Giudice surrenders herself on Jan. 5, she will go to Danbury, CT (about 100 miles from her home) to join 200 other inmates at FCI Danbury — the same prison where the real-life Piper Kerman served time for drug trafficking and money laundering. In an interview earlier this month, the RHONJ star told Bravo’s Andy Cohen that she didn’t think that she would actually have to go to prison after pleading guilty.
Pivot and Lyft are teaming up to drive voters to the polls.
Pivot, the socially-conscious cable network owned by Participant Media and founded by billionaire Jeff Skoll, will be shuttling voters to the polls for this year’s mid-term elections. Pivot and its social-action platform TakePart.com are encouraging more voter engagement by offering the code JustVote for free Lyft rides (up to $25) in select cities from today through election day. “It’s important to vote in mid-term elections and have a voice in state and local issues which can have lasting impact on national policies,” said Jacob Soboroff, co-host of Pivot’s TakePart Live. “Registering is just the first step, if you don’t get to the polls to vote your voice doesn’t count.” For election coverage, tune into TakePart Live, hosted by Soboroff, Meghan McCain and Baratunde Thurston, Monday through Friday at 10 pm, and visit TakePart.com/justvote
to get more information.
Morena Baccarin joins Gotham
Morena Baccarin, the Homeland beauty who was nominated for an Emmy in 2013, will take on the role of Gotham ‘s Dr. Leslie Thompkins. News of Baccarin’s casting comes as Fox orders a full 22-episode season of Gotham. She will appear as a recurring star in season one and will most likely return as a regular in season two. Baccarin’s Gotham casting marks a return to genre for the actress who also appeared in Firefly, V, and Stargate. According to Batman universe lore, Thompkins is a dedicated doctor and was a friend to Bruce Wayne’s parents. Rumor has it that the young Dr. Thompkins will take on a gig at the newly-opened Arkham Asylum’s Home for the Criminally Insane.
See AMC’s original song Better Call Saul, performed by Junior Brown, with lyrics by show creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. AMC debuted the song Sunday night, following its Breaking Bad marathon which has been running since August.
Better Call Saul is AMC’s highly anticipated spin-off of Breaking Bad, starring Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman. Season one is expected to air in early 2015. Till then, just keep singing, “Saul, Saul, you better call Saul / He’ll fight for your rights when your back’s to the wall.”
This week in TV news, David Chase stirs up a Sopranos storm and FX makes a clown of Zach Galifianakis. Plus, Netflix acquires The Blacklist, Showtime makes Ray Donovan changes, and Breaking Bad brings back the Blu-ray barrel!
David Chase responds to Sopranos chatter.
On Wednesday, the internet went into full-on tizzy mode over the Vox article that definitively declared Tony Soprano as not dead after years of speculation. Since then, Chase has responded that Tony Soprano is not-not dead. “To simply quote David as saying, ‘Tony Soprano is not dead,’ is inaccurate,” a representative of Chase’s said in a statement. “There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true. As David Chase has said numerous times on the record, ‘Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.’ To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of The Sopranos raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.” And so, while The Sopranos has been over for seven years, it’s clear that its final question will live on and on. See Vox’s response to Chase here.
FX orders clown comedy from Louis C.K. and Zach Galifianakis.
FX has given a 10-episode order to Baskets, a comedy pilot by Louis C.K. (Louie), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), and Jonathan Krisel (Portlandia). Galifianakis will play Chip Baskets, who after studying at a prestigious clown conservatory in Paris, can only land a gig at the local rodeo in his hometown of Bakersfield, CA. “Zach Galifianakis, Louis C.K. and Jonathan Krisel have created an absolutely brilliant show,” said FX’s Eric Schrier. “To say Zach’s portrayal of the lead character Chip Baskets is hilarious/unique/riveting/fascinating would be an understatement. We can’t wait for the world to meet him.” Production for Baskets will begin next year for a 2016 launch. It marks the first project under FX Productions’ overall deal with Louis C.K.’s Pig Newton production company.
The Breaking Bad barrel is back.
It’s a big week for Breaking Bad fans. First, the show swept the Emmys, taking the statues for Best Drama, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, and Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. And now, IGN has reported that the Breaking Bad barrel is back. AMC and Sony Home Entertainment are re-releasing Breaking Bad: The Complete Series on Blu-ray, which comes in a nifty commemorative “barrel” and includes all 62 episodes of the series, 55 hours of special features, and a two-hour documentary. This time around, the collection — in addition to a Los Pollos Hermanos apron, a 16-page collectible booklet, and a commemorative Breaking Bad challenge coin designed by Gilligan himself — also includes a preview of Better Call Saul on a 4GB flash drive that looks like a matchbook. The Breaking Bad barrel is available for pre-order on Amazon now and will ship Oct. 28.
Netflix acquires Blacklist for $2 million an episode.
Deadline.com reported the biggest deal in per-episode TV-streaming history this week, sharing the news that Netflix will acquire the NBC hit series The Blacklist from Sony Pictures TV for $2 million an episode. Rumors have it that Netflix will start streaming season one next weekend, and that future seasons should be available shortly after each Blacklist season finale. According to Entertainment Weekly, Sony TV will also sell the series to broadcast and cable networks for syndication. Season one of The Blacklist is Certified Fresh at 82 percent, and season two will return to NBC on Sept. 22.
Ray Donovan showrunner Ann Biderman is stepping down.
A week after the news that Showtime is renewing Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan for third seasons, the word is out that Ray Donovan showrunner Ann Biderman will not be helming season three. Ray Donovan writer/exec producer David Hollander is expected to take Biderman’s place as showrunner, with Biderman sticking around as a creative consultant. Changes in showrunner won’t impact the remainder of the current season, which is already finished with shooting and currently in post-production. Season two is currently 78 percent on the Tomatometer.
NBC’s Monday night broadcast of the 66th Annual Primetime Emmys brought in a lot of viewers — many of whom had plenty to say about it. Here’s what the critics thought of the show, including who won, who lost, who hosted, who nailed it, and who might want to stay home next year.
How did Seth Meyers do?
Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter: Meyers was funny the majority of the night. While he didn’t deliver searing, belly laugh-inducing jokes (Jimmy Kimmel and Ricky Gervais did, with Jimmy Fallon, late in the evening, helping Stephen Colbert make up for a terrible bit), Meyers was affable and steady and kept the banter light and upbeat.
Robert Bianco, USA Today: Unlike jokes from some other Emmy hosts, none of Meyers’ were mean, pointed or unsuited to the occasion… That choice may not have made Meyers the most exciting host, but he was good-natured and efficient — as witness that on-time ending. Those are qualities we don’t always see at the Emmys.
Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press: No gimmicks. No dancers. Just a smart guy in a tux saying funny things. NBC late-night newcomer Seth Meyers scored big laughs with his opening monologue, which took aim at fat-cat network targets, not the nervous nominees.
Brian Lowry, Variety: Meyers adopted a minimalist approach to open the show, delivering a straight stand-up routine aimed at the TV-literate crowd — both in the room and at home — that resembled some of the better Oscar intros of years past. Going with a monologue not only played to the host’s strengths but reflected a sense TV has indeed grown up, without requiring inordinate bells and whistles to set the ball rolling.
Daniel D’Addario, Salon.com: [NBC] has a few potential hosts on its air, and seems to have chosen wisely with Seth Meyers; the Late Night host has his limitations, but does straightforward observational humor well.
How beautiful was that “In Memoriam” segment?
Michael Stark, Tampa Bay Times: The night’s most meaningful moment came later in the show, when the In Memoriam montage accompanied by Sara Bareilles’ lovely rendition of Nat King Cole’s “Smile” led into an anticipated Robin Williams tribute. It didn’t disappoint. Williams’ longtime pal and colleague Billy Crystal weaved a touching and bittersweet tale about working with Williams that emphasized his ability to inspire laughter anywhere. Followed by excerpts of Williams on TV over the years, it was the perfect blend of sentimental and celebratory.
Matt Roush, TV Guide: As expected, Billy Crystal delivered a genuine, sweet, funny and movingly personal tribute to colleague and friend Robin Williams at the end of a classy In Memoriam segment featuring Sara Bareilles singing “Smile.”
Alan Sepinwall, Hitfix: Though Robin Williams’ death is still raw for all who knew him and/or loved his work, Billy Crystal gave a composed, beautiful tribute to his longtime friend and collaborator, capturing what made Williams both a brilliant comedian and a great friend. And the clip reel of Williams’ TV highlights ended on the perfect one: Williams in his classic “An Evening at the Met” HBO special imagining a conversation with his young son, tenderly escorting him offstage and assuring him things will be okay.
Sara Smith, Kansas City Star: Billy Crystal sent off his pal Robin Williams with a low-key appreciation, calling him “the brightest comedy star in our galaxy.”
Did the Academy pick the right winners?
Brian Lowry, Variety: The parade of repeat winners — and overlooking of projects that injected new blood and excitement into this year’s races — simply flummoxed whatever plans the producers might have had. There was probably no bigger example of that, frankly, than the momentum-busting Emmy haul for the latest season of PBS’ Sherlock, which felt slightly deflating, no matter how red-hot Benedict Cumberbatch (an upset winner, and not in attendance) is right now.
Robert Bianco, USA Today: As for the awards, for the series at least, they were largely predictable — and largely a rebuff to shows like True Detective and Orange Is the New Black that tried to game the system by moving into categories where they didn’t belong. Repeat winners abounded, led by series champs Modern Family for a record-tying fifth time and Breaking Bad for the second. Which is fine: Complain about repetition all you want, but why should people who were great this season be punished for having been great before?
Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter: Jim Parsons winning — his fourth time! — for lead actor on Big Bang Theory only further fueled the notion that Emmy voters were mailing it in. Not an unfamiliar charge, obviously, but one you’d think they’d have corrected in a decade or two’s time.
Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times:[Breaking Bad is] a great show, a deserving show, but in this time of such rich and varied splendor, it’s hard to justify a sweep of any sorts.
Frazier Moore, The Associated Press: The prime-time Emmys, bestowed for 66 years, are meant to celebrate excellence in television. But in Emmy’s eyes, excellence too often takes the form of stamina, not the burst of inspiration that may have launched a series and its characters many seasons earlier and since settled into routine.
Ellen Gray, Philadelphia Daily News: Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that there are more good things on TV — and now on online platforms — than there are Emmys to go around. And more, too, than some Emmy voters, who do seem to watch broadcast TV, may get around to seeing.
Andy Greenwald, Grantland.com: It’s OK that the Emmys continue to go to the same handful of people. Really, it is. I just wish the ceremony around those lucky few could be filled with the energy of the ones who still have empty space on their mantels.
What about those comedy bits?
Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press: Billy Eichner might be new to some people. But anyone’s who’s watched “Billy on the Street” on the Fuse network or Funny or Die’s website knows how hilarious it is for a crazed grown man to ask people impassioned questions about pop culture.
Alan Sepinwall, Hitfix: Weird Al’s attempt to provide lyrics to the theme songs for Mad Men, Scandal and other shows mostly didn’t land, but the Game of Thrones song at the end — which had backup singers reminding the audience they can pause the opening credits map, and admonishing Weird Al for spoilers — worked.
Hank Stuever, Washington Post: It only felt like the 2014 Emmys once “Weird Al” Yankovic (a throwback himself, who has nevertheless happened to release one of the year’s best albums) took the stage to supply lyrics to some of the top nominees’ instrumental theme songs, including the manic jazz riff of Showtime’s Homeland intro and the thrumming anthem of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Curt Wagner, RedEye: Weird Al Yankovic’s made-up TV theme song medley was an unfortunate part of the telecast, but it did give us Andy Samberg, dressed as King Joffrey from Game of Thrones, interrupting Lena Headey as she presented the next award.
Gail Pennington, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Billy Eichner of Billy on the Street was a bright spot, joining Meyers for a taped piece asking New Yorkers Emmy questions. Eichner’s best line: “Hotmail just picked up 12 new episodes of Judging Amy.”
Eric Deggans, NPR: Love that Chris Hardwick used his Emmy presenting moment to crack on Internet trolls’ bad grammar.
Esther Breger, The New Republic: Sofia Vergara began to spin onstage, providing “something compelling to watch” as the Academy’s CEO discussed, of all things, diversity. Vergara has defended the grossly sexist scene, but the queasy objectification was hard to forget in a ceremony that reflected the worst aspects of modern television.
Joanne Ostrow, Denver Post: Most daring but unfulfilling intro: Stephen Colbert and his imaginary friend. Equally daring but more fulfilling: Key and Peele.
Ana Luisa Suarez, Hollywood.com: Amy Poehler AKA Beyonce, is half the reason we even tune into these awards shows. She’s either hosting, presenting, or just being fabulous, and that’s alright by us.
Breaking Bad will win and Breaking Bad should win. I think there’s maybe an outside chance that True Detective becomes the shiny new thing and it takes it, but I feel like there’s been enough backlash against True Detective in the last few months.— Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
I love Game of Thrones and True Detective was one of the best break-out series of all time, but Breaking Bad was one full movie from episode one of season one until the last episode of season five. So it was a complete series. It was the best written show in the history of television. It has to win.— Kristian Harloff, Schmoes Know
It’s pretty close between True Detective and Breaking Bad. I have a feeling that True Detective might win just because there’s been so much chatter and they did give it to Breaking Bad last year.— Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times
It’s going to be between Breaking Bad and True Detective. I think most people are predicting Breaking Bad, and that’s what my official prediction would be to win, but I’d much rather see True Detective pull it off. I just don’t think that any other show is going to come out that’s going to be like that again, even in its second season, so I’d like to see it honored for what it is this year.— Ben Travers, IndieWire
It’s going to be really close and if True Detective wins, I will not be surprised. It’s going to come down to whether the number of people who have forgotten that Breaking Bad was on in the last TV season will be greater or smaller than the number of people disappointed by the True Detective finale. — Todd VanDerWerff, Vox Media
The ending of Breaking Bad is the best ending of a series I’ve ever seen, but I think True Detective is going to win because it has so much buzz and because it McConaughey is so popular.— Eric Deggans, NPR
With True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto dogged by hardly specious accusations of plagiarism, the question becomes not whether the series can win over Breaking Bad’s incredible swan song, but whether it will even return for a second season. — Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine
This race is a tough one to call, to be sure. It comes down to the star power and novelty of True Detective vs. the legacy of Breaking Bad. Yes, it won last year. Yes, it aired so long ago. But I’m going with my heart on this one, and giving the edge to Breaking Bad. — Debra Birnbaum, Variety
Newbie True Detective and old hand Game of Thrones are formidable contenders, but the final eight episodes of Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece are in a league of their own. — Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter
True Detective might be the buzziest show, but the ending was polarizing, and a recent plagiarism controversy could hurt its chances. Plus, it’s hard to beat the near-universal love for Bad, which finally won its first series Emmy last year and will never get that chance again.— Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly