TIME Television

Can Gotham Pull Off a Superhero Show Without Any Superheroes?

Detective Jim Gordon (Ben Mackenzie) and Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) in "Gotham."
Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) in "Gotham." Jessica Miglio—FOX

The series' creator confirms that Batman wouldn't appear on a show that doesn't really need him anyway

At the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour on Sunday, Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller confirmed what many had already suspected: the titular city’s most famous resident, Batman, will never appear on the show. The announcement didn’t come as a surprise: Gotham is the origin story of Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), meaning that the series’ events take place years — decades, even — before the Caped Crusader’s arrival (though a young Bruce Wayne will appear).

But the choice is also a bold one. Fox has a lot riding on Gotham, the network’s first foray into the superhero genre — a genre poised to begin making an impact in television as explosive as the one it’s already made in film. The natural inclination would be to pull out all the stops, to leave all avenues and possibilities open. Instead, Heller has closed the one door that would appeal more to mainstream audiences than any other.

It’s also probably the right decision. CW’s Arrow has earned a devoted following and a measure of critical acclaim by telling the origin story of its eponymous superhero (so much so that the network is attempting to replicate the formula with The Flash, which debuts this fall as well). But Green Arrow isn’t Batman. We could spend all day debating the merits and abilities of the two superheroes — both of whom belong to the DC Comics universe — but there’s no question who’s the bigger star. Arrow works as an origin story largely because he’s not one of that universe’s most prominent superheroes, and his story has mostly been told in print, rather than on a screen.

Batman, on the other hand, is a character with whom audiences have grown intimately familiar over the last two decades, most recently thanks to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Batman is no longer a mystery (and will become even less of one with Ben Affleck set to don the black suit for 2016′s Batman vs. Superman). In many ways, the city of Gotham still is.

A common refrain on Arrow is that Oliver Queen returned after a five-year shipwreck to “save” his hometown of Starling City. It’s hard to argue that Nolan’s Batman wasn’t endeavoring to do the same with Gotham City. But if we know how Batman ultimately saved Gotham, what remains is answering the question of why it needed saving in the first place.

Even more so than Starling City, Gotham City is a metropolis filled with colorful characters — many of them iconically unsavory ones. Just because Batman won’t be showing up in Gotham doesn’t mean many of his future adversaries won’t be around to serve as an unyielding stream of nemeses for Detective Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). Just as crucially, producers won’t have to worry about audiences believing that everything prior to Batman’s arrival was simply a prelude. And frankly, villains were always the more compelling characters in the Batman universe. Bruce Wayne isn’t without his fans, but even Nolan’s Batman films were at their best when someone other than the Dark Knight — most notably Heath Ledger’s Joker — was stealing the show.

That’s not necessarily the case in the Marvel universe, where ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been attempting to pull off a similar trick. Though the show managed to score a second season, critical and commercial response was middling. Part of the series’ shortcomings was due to the fact that the Avengers themselves weren’t involved — not to mention a lack of any particularly memorable villains. More significantly, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t have a setting like Gotham — arguably the most developed and best-known in all of superherodom (which is not a real word but should be).

It’s telling that the show isn’t named Gordon. Gotham City itself will be as much the focus of the series as any of the characters inside it. What exactly that means, we won’t know until September. But if the city was vital enough for Batman to save it over and again, maybe it’ll be worth it for Gotham viewers to immerse themselves in the lore of Batman’s hometown — even if he never shows up at all.

TIME Late Night

Watch: Dwayne Johnson And Jimmy Fallon Sweat It Out ’80s Style

The late night host and the actor broke out the shake weights for a hilarious fitness video skit

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The Tonight Show had a bit of an 80s workout makeover when Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and host Jimmy Fallon dressed up like a fake, albeit colorful, workout duo.

“About a year ago I found this old VHS tape that had a bunch of clips of this fitness duo called The Fungo Brothers,” Johnson said of his secret workout weapon.

Johnson was promoting his latest movie, Hercules, out Friday.

TIME Television

Jon Stewart Launches $10 Billion Kickstarter to Buy CNN

Jon Stewart speaks during a taping of "The Daily Show with John Stewart," in New York. in 2012.
Jon Stewart speaks during a taping of "The Daily Show with John Stewart," in New York. in 2012. Carolyn Kaster—AP

Jon Stewart doesn't like the cable news channel and wants to make it better—but he'll need some help raising the funds to buy it

If Rupert Murdoch buys Time Warner, the world’s other great media titan will be there to pick up the scraps.

Jon Stewart said Tuesday on the Daily Show that he is launching a $10 billion Kickstarter campaign to buy CNN. The legacy news station, whose value is reportedly around $10 billion and is a Time Warner company, would likely be up for sale if Rupert Murdoch were successful in his bid to acquire the media conglomerate.

Ten billion dollars?

“It’s a lot of money for anyone,” said Stewart on Tuesday. “But not a lot of money for everyone.

So that’s where the Daily Show host’s campaign comes in. Stewart’s LetsBuyCNN.com mimics a Kickstarter page, though it doesn’t actually allow users to contribute money toward the goal. Hypothetically, a contribution of $1 billion would allow you to host a CNN anchor Hunger Games-style fight to the death.

Worth it? Depends on whether you dislike CNN as much as the Daily Show does.

“CNN, America’s first 24-hour cable news network, has been terrible for many, many years,” LetsBuyCNN.com reads. “Does it have to be that way? Who knows, maybe it does. So let’s find out for ourselves!”

Amen?

TIME Television

Man’s 41 Homer Simpson Tattoos Set World Record

Lee Weir's Homer sleeve Guinness World Records

"Woo hoo!" as Homer would say

Some people get drunk before they get a tattoo, but Lee Weir, a 27-year-old from New Zealand, gave up alcohol for a year while getting 41 tattoos of Homer Simpson in a sleeve on his arm—setting a Guinness World Record for the most tattoos of the same cartoon character on a single body.

The tattoo might also break a record for how many different versions of the same cartoon character it contains. Weir has Homer as a jack-in-the-box, the Grim Reaper, and a donut. There’s Homer as a baby, as an old man, and in a Hawaiian shirt.

Why Homer? Weir wasn’t allowed to watch the cartoon as a kid, but he “got into it at a later age” he told Australia’s Sunrise morning show. He considered getting tattoos of all the different Simpsons characters, but the process was too difficult. How do you choose who to include and who to leave out? Homer makes for “a great conversation starter,” he said.

TIME Television

The Second Season of FX’s Fargo Will Travel Back in Time

Keith Carradine as Lou Solverson in Season 1 of "Fargo."
Keith Carradine as Lou Solverson in Season 1 of "Fargo." Chris Large—Chris Large

The upcoming campaign, set in 1979, will feature at least one familiar face — well, sort of

Yesterday we learned that not only would Fargo be returning for a second season on FX, but also that no members of the Season 1 cast (even those lucky few who survived the 10-episode bloodbath) would be returning for Season 2. If it’s any consolation to fans of the excellent first season, however, at least one character in the upcoming season — which may not air until the fall of 2015 — will be somewhat familiar.

Season 2 of Fargo will take place in 1979, predominantly in Sioux Falls, Luvurne and Fargo, and focus on a young Lou Solverson (Molly’s dad), who was a retired state police officer played by Keith Carradine in Season 1. Seeing as Solverson will be only 33 during the events of Season 2, Carradine won’t be back to reprise the role (and neither will Allison Tolman as his daughter). No announcement has been made as to who might take that lead role, though it hasn’t stopped some from throwing out one name as a possibility.

Despite the all-new setting and cast for Season 2, Fargo‘s new story shouldn’t be entirely unfamiliar for viewers of Season 1. Carradine’s character made reference to one of his most harrowing cases taking place in Sioux Falls, so it’s a good bet what went down with all those bodies “stacked so high, you could’ve climbed to the second floor.”

Showrunner Noah Hawley says that the show will continue to draw inspiration from Coen Brothers films, with the upcoming season taking cues from Fargo, Miller’s Crossing and The Man Who Wasn’t There.

Though a complete overhaul of cast, setting and time period might seem a bold approach for a show with just 10 episodes under its belt, there’s little reason to believe that Hawley won’t be able to pull it off. Fargo was arguably the best new show of 2014, and as long as Hawley remains at the helm, its future appears bright.

TIME Television

Hello, Simpsons World. Goodbye, the Rest of Your Life.

A sample screenshot from Simpsons World FX Networks

The biggest TV premiere of the fall season could be the one involving a 25-year-old show.

Years ago, when I named The Simpsons the best TV show of the 20th century for TIME magazine, one of the reasons that I gave was its depth; it had a vast canvas and dozens, nay hundreds, of characters well-drawn enough to potentially carry a story. It “created worlds within worlds,” I wrote–and this October, it’s going to become a world.

Simpsons World, to be exact: the digital platform, unveiled for TV reporters in Los Angeles yesterday, that FXX network will use to take maximum advantage of acquiring the entire 25-season run of The Simpsons. Accessible on the web and through apps (you also need service from a participating cable provider), it will allow you to watch any Simpsons episode you want, any time.

So there are several years of your life gone right there. But there’s more. You’ll be able to search for episodes by themes, quotes, and characters: if you want to watch nothing but Artie Ziff clips, your dream has come true. You can pull up an extensive episode guide and scripts. You can build playlists or have them suggested for you. And most important: you’ll be able to find, snip and share Simpsons clips–currently made scarce by the long arm of copyright law–in social media.

You may never do anything else again.

The ability to watch all 552 episodes is staggering in itself. (FXX will also marathon the whole shebang Aug. 21 to Sept. 1.) But it’s the search-and-share functions that threaten to transform communication as we know it. I’ve long said that there is a Simpsons quote applicable to nearly every situation in life; now we will be able to prove that. Online comments arguments will become an endless stream of “HA ha” and “Eat my shorts” clips. No one will be able to publish a beer review or write about a celebrity-drunkenness incident without a clip of Homer saying, “To alcohol! The cause of–and solution to–all of life’s problems!” We may be on the verge of a Simpsons Singularity, in which all digital dialogue, and eventually all of human thought, will be expressed in terms of easily accessible Simpsons quotes. (Here, for instance, is where I would insert a clip of Homer saying “Television: Teacher–mother–secret lover!” if only I could.)

More seriously, the venture suggests a new kind of future for TV, or at least for certain kinds of entertainments and franchises: one in which truly immersive TV is not just a show but an app, a platform, a medium. TV shows used to be on channels; now something like The Simpsons can be a channel. Earlier this month, South Park–long maintained with as much independence as possible by Trey Parker and Matt Stone–signed a different but related deal with Hulu, which gets rights to its entire catalog of reruns for over $80 million.

It’s not Simpsons World exactly–though South Park has long had an online home at South Park Studios–but it underscores a similar creative and business fact: a creative franchise evolving into something independent from, and in some ways greater than, any particular channel that happens to host it at the time.

Probably certain kinds of shows are more suited to world-ificiation than others: animated comedies like The Simpsons and South Park have vast room for invention, and large-scale world-building is part of their mission. But someday the same kind of strategy might be used by, say, a sci-fi or fantasy franchise or an immersive soap opera.

It’s partly a business phenomenon, in which digital opportunities allow already big franchises to become even bigger. But hopefully, there are creative implications here. What makes a Simpsons or South Park–or a Game of Thrones–great is its ability to create a vast imagined reality. If there are more ways to encourage that and reward the artists who create it, so much the better. The Simpsons, as producer Al Jean pointed out at yesterday’s presentation, predates social media (and it debuted on Fox the same year Tim Berners-Lee proposed the World Wide Web), but it was creating a virtual world even then. Now that world is inviting our world in.

I still say The Simpsons was the greatest TV show of the 20th century. It would be something if it helped redefine what TV shows are going to be in the 21st century.

TIME Late Night

Watch: Zach Braff Went Extra Mile to Fund Movie on Kickstarter

The actor revealed how he thanked his crowdfunding supporters

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Actor Zach Braff went on Late Night with host Seth Meyers Monday to talk about his new movie, Wish I Was Here, which was funded by fans through Kickstarter.

With the help of about 47,000 supporters from around the world, Braff was able to write and direct the film with his brother. To thank those who funded the project, Braff said that he decided to leave personal messages on his fans’ voicemail.

But some requests were a bit odd, Braff said.

“This one guy was a dentist and wanted me to read a greeting for people in his waiting room,” Braff said. “So I did it! Welcome to Dr. Shapiro’s office! Hi I’m Zach Braff, please turn off your cellphone!”

Wish I Was Here opened in theaters July 18.

 

TIME Television

Lucy Lawless Joining Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Lucy Lawless
Lucy Lawless Jeff Kravitz—FilmMagic/Getty Images

Details are scarce

The Whedonverse is getting a dose of the warrior princess — although it’s unclear exactly what kind.

Lucy Lawless is joining the cast of Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for season two, TVGuide.com reports, but specifics about her role aren’t yet known.

In addition to playing the title character in Xena: Warrior Princess, Lawless has also had stints on Parks and Recreation and Battlestar Galactica.

The second season of the Marvel Comics-inspired show about a peacekeeping agency operating in a superhero-filled world returns Sept. 23 on ABC.

[TVGuide.com]

TIME Earnings

Netflix Crosses 50 Million Customer Streams

Updated July 21 at 5:38 p.m.

Netflix’s customer base has passed 50 million members, the company announced in its quarterly earnings report Monday. The streaming service added 1.69 million new members during its second quarter, bringing the total to 50.5 million customers and generating $1.1 billion in revenue, slightly missing analysts’ projections of about $1.2 billion.

The company had earnings of $1.15 per share, missing projections by a single penny. Overall, Netflix generated $71 million in profit, triple the figure from a year ago.

In a letter to shareholders, the company touted the success of its original programming, noting that Orange Is the New Black is now the most-watched series on the service in every territory. The next shows on the company’s production docket will be the final season of the cancelled AMC show The Killing and a new adult animated comedy called BoJack Horseman, both of which premiere in August.

Netflix is also planning an aggressive international expansion later this year. The streaming service, which already has almost 14 million customers abroad, will launch in Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg in September. Netflix is prepping some original shows aimed specifically at foreign audiences, such as a soccer comedy that it will air in Spanish.

The company reiterated that it does not want to pay interconnection fees to Internet Service Providers to get its video content delivered to customers, an issue it has tried several times to fold into the zeitgeist of the ongoing net neutrality debate. “In the cable industry, there’s been constant conflict between the networks and cable distributors,” CEO Reed Hastings said in a video call with analysts. “We would hate to see ISPs brownout or blackout certain Internet sites while they try to extract payments.”

Netflix has also formally opposed the proposed merger between ISP giants Time Warner Cable and Comcast, unless the two companies are specifically banned from charging interconnection fees.

 

TIME Television

Good News for Fans of Good TV: FX Picks Up New Seasons of Louie and Fargo

LOUIE: Episode 14: "Pamela Part 3" (Airs Monday, June 16, 10:30 pm e/p). Pictured: Louis C.K. as Louie. CR: KC Bailey/FX
Louis C.K. as Louie. FX Networks.

2015 will bring the fifth and second seasons, respectively, of the two acclaimed shows

It’s not a huge surprise, but FX announced today that Louie and Fargo will both be returning to your televisions sometime in 2015. Louie, which wrapped its fourth season in mid-June, will have just seven episodes (down from 13 or 14 in each of the first four seasons), but any Louie is better than no Louie at all.

Initially, Fargo was intended to simply be a one-off, but the critical acclaim garnered by the show’s initial ten-episode run likely inspired FX to change that plan. The new season will feature a new story, a new setting and all new actors — most crucially, however, showrunner Noah Hawley will return to steer the ship. It’s a little sad imagining a Fargo without Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) or Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks), but there’s no reason to believe that Hawley won’t have as much success crafting Fargo‘s second season as he did its first.

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