Thursdays This Fall: Your 2013 TV Preview

Iggy Pop in a different incarnation in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

It’s not too late to get all the information you need on all the new fall shows.

Thursday is home to the highest-rated and most heavily hyped shows on television. Because some of last year’s new debuts didn’t make it (The New Normal, Last Resort) and a few old favorites came to the end of their run (30 Rock, The Office), many new shows are competing for our attention on this night. There’s plenty of options and something out there for almost everyone.


ABC's Once Upon a Time In Wonderland

This Once Upon a Time spin-off focuses on the romance between Alice (Sophie Lowe) and the genie (Peter Gadiot) she met in Wonderland. Despite the Disney characters, this is anything but a fairy tale romance, as Alice faces off against psychiatrists in the real world and villains like Aladdin’s Jafar (Naveen Andrews) while down the rabbit hole.

Many gave up on the original when it started to get too complicated, but the producers promise that the main plot of this series will be resolved by the end of the season. That plot seems pretty thin, but critics have been raving about Wonderland’s psychedelic-inspired visuals. Due to its tough competition, don’t be surprised if this is quickly moved to Sunday nights. Either way, this will stick around for at least one complete season.

The Competition: CBS’ The Big Bang Theory and The Millers, NBC’s Parks And Recreation and Welcome to the Family, The CW’s The Vampire Diaries, and FOX’s The X Factor.

Watch it if you liked: Once Upon a Time, Merlin, or classic Disney movies.


CBS' The Millers

In this sitcom from the executive producer of Raising Hope and My Name Is Earl, a recently divorced man (Will Arnett) has to share his home with his kooky, intrusive mother (Margo Martindale) after his father (Beau Bridges) files for divorce.

Its brand of humor is more gross than funny, with plenty of fart jokes, blue language, and an odd focus on sleeping pills in the pilot. It’s simply a case of good actors playing out bad material. It might not last long on TV’s top network, as CBS could easily stick repeats of The Big Bang Theory in its place.

The Competition: NBC’s Welcome to the Family, ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, FOX’s The X Factor, and The CW’s The Vampire Diaries.

Watch it if you liked: Mike & Molly or Grounded for Life.

NBC's Welcome to the Family

A teen pregnancy brings two conflicting families together in this sitcom that stars Mike O’Malley and Ricardo A. Chavira as two feuding grandpas-to-be.

Isn’t everyone sick of the whole “pregnant teen” plot? It’s refreshing to see the young couple in love, but the rest of the show abounds in clichés and stereotypes. Comedy viewers have mostly stuck to CBS instead.

The Competition: CBS’ The Millers, ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, FOX’s The X Factor, and The CW’s The Vampire Diaries.

Watch it if you liked: Rob or 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter.


The CW's Reign

When a teenage Mary, Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) finds herself engaged to a snooty prince (Toby Regbo) who distrusts her, she becomes attracted to his mysterious half-brother (Torrance Coombs). The ages and appearances of certain historical characters have been changed to make this soap more appealing to teens, with a modern soundtrack and altered designer dresses livening up its society balls.

Described as a cross between Gossip Girl and The Tudors, Reign should appeal to its intended fan base, if just for the clothes alone. Unless it is an immediate hit, its high budget may keep it from earning a second season.

The Competiton: ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, FOX’s Glee, CBS’ The Crazy Ones and Two & A Half Men, and NBC’s Sean Saves The World and The Michael J. Fox Show.

Watch it if you liked: Pretty Little Liars or Once Upon a Time

CBS' The Crazy Ones

Robin Williams stars as a silly yet successful advertising executive whose workplace antics worry his super-serious daughter/ business partner (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in this half-hour dramedy.

It's interesting to see the process behind these fictional ad campaigns, but you are only going to like this show if you find Robin Williams’ brand of humor hilarious. It’s already pulling in good ratings, so expect it to be around for at least two seasons.

Watch it if you liked: Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip or The Office

NBC's Sean Saves The World

A single, gay dad (Sean Hayes) tries to be a great parent for his teenage daughter when his ex gives up full custody. Complicating matters is his demanding boss and smart-aleck mother (Linda Lavin).

Sean is a very likable guy. It’s great to see a show about someone who is actually glad to be a parent and tries hard at it. Some parts of the pilot are great (like his wacky boss, and the breakout star of the year: Hugo the cockatiel), but lame jokes and his cliché-riddled buddies bog the show down. Hopefully, NBC will move the show to a more agreeable spot betwixt The Michael J. Fox Show and Parenthood.

Watch it if you liked: I Hate My Teenage Daughter and Gary Unmarried.


NBC's The Michael J. Fox Show

This traditional family sitcom begins when a father goes back to work as a TV reporter after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. However, the main focus of the series is his adventures with his supportive wife (Betsy Brandt), confused college-aged son, opinioned teen daughter, mischievous toddler son, zany sister-in-law, and a boss who seems to be at their house every night for some reason.

I’m seriously surprised that this isn’t doing better in the ratings. It’s the type of old-fashioned, yet entertaining show that families (despite a few PG-13 rated moments) should be able to watch together.

Watch it if you liked: Parenthood or Family Ties

Times listed in the Central Standard time zone. Dates and times may change; check your local listings.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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