TIME Television

Manhattan, the TV Season’s Secret Weapon

MANHATTAN
Greg Peters

This drama about the race for the atomic bomb showed in its first season that, just like in nuclear science, powerful forces can come from small things.

I cannot always pretend to understand this new age of television, with its surfeit of TV series from websites and tiny channels and online bookstores. But I am enjoying it.

Take Manhattan, the richly textured period drama about scientists trying to create the atomic bomb, in Los Alamos, N.M., during World War II. It comes from WGN America, the cable-broadcast “superstation” that’s trying to rebrand itself with original scripted dramas. (The first, the loopy supernatural serial Salem, debuted earlier this year.) It’s created little pop-culture buzz. (It’s apparently being recapped only at a few sites, chief among them Scientific American and Popular Mechanics.) It’s drawing live ratings well under a million, with its 18-49 advertising-demo audience practically a rounding error.

Yet it was recently picked up for a second season. How does this work? Is it a loss leader? Has WGN figured out, like the architects of nuclear fission, how to extract tremendous power from a tiny mass of viewers? I have no idea. But its season finale, “Perestroika,” left me very happy that somehow it’s working.

Manhattan began as one of those shows that seemed just good enough–one of the growing mass of competent cable series that I might watch regularly if I had 72 hours in a day. I would fall behind and catch up, but as it went on, it grew into something special. Like Masters of Sex, it used a fictionalized version of history to tell human stories at the same time, while dramatizing the excitement of scientific discovery.

Through the families of the scientists brought to the middle of nowhere for who-knows-what, it asked, what are the unintended costs of a culture of secrecy? Through the internecine competition of the bomb-race, it asked, where’s the line between necessary ambition and self-aggrandizement? And through the politics and paranoia of the project, it asks, how much individual sacrifice is acceptable in the name of a greater good?

“Perestroika” brought those themes to crisis while setting up the series strongly for a second season–in particular, through Frank Winter’s decision about whether to let Charlie twist in the wind, accused of espionage, rather than spill about the breach of compartmentalization. With the Thin Man project now over–and Reed fatally out of the way–his implosion program is the only game in town. He’s won, and all he needs to do to keep winning is to cut Charlie loose, one more unfortunate case of collateral damage, like Sid Liao.

Why he doesn’t, but rather arranges to be “caught” telling Liza what they’re really doing out in the desert, is an intriguing question. It may simply be human guilt. But there may be a larger recognition that once you accept the win-at-all-costs mentality and let it go unchallenged, there’s no telling whom it will claim. It’s understandable that people like Frank would develop a Messiah complex; after all, they’re being treated like messiahs, with the individual power to stop the slaughter of millions and save the free world. As Babbit (an excellent Daniel Stern) tells Frank, “It doesn’t matter that you’re a good man. Maybe a good man couldn’t have made implosion work.”

But their power is also terrifying to those who rely on them. Having to place so much faith in these inscrutable eggheads creates suspicion and resentment in the powerful, from the menacing Occam to the Secretary of War (Gerald McRaney), who bellows at Oppenheimer for selling the President “a Buck Rogers fantasy.” (In real life, after all, Oppenheimer was dogged by red-baiting accusations.) The godlike power of these physicists makes them invaluable and suspect at the same time. It may be that the prospect of unleashing such a tremendous power had led Frank to realize that win-at-all-costs is not longer a sustainable doctrine. Maybe we do still need good men.

Manhattan‘s first season hasn’t been flawless; its themes and exposition can be clumsy, and the production seems a little threadbare. But it’s been a fascinating twist on the disparate-soldiers-thrown-together-in-a-foxhole war story, following people whose wisdom doesn’t always match their intelligence. Even Frank, in his revelation to Liza, suggests a kind of sad-in-retrospect naivete, predicts that thanks to their work, “There will never be another war.” If there’s one thing Manhattan‘s first season showed us, people will always find reason to fight–even when they’re on the same side.

TIME Television

The Walking Dead Watch: ‘Strangers’

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier and Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead _ Season 5, Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier and Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon. Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC—© AMC Film Holdings LLC.

Episode two is a mostly meditative palate cleanser before what will surely be a gory continuation

Episode two of the fifth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead is titled “Strangers,” but it might as well have been called “Meditations” or “Aphorisms.” The bulk of the episode is composed of multiple, one-on-one ruminations on the fundamental question (after basic survival) for our group: how to be in this world.

Carol and Tyreese, Rosita and Abraham, Bob and Sasha, Carl and Rick, Carol and Daryl all take part in these brief discussions at the beginning of the episode. Rick tells Carl, summarizing his world view, “You are not safe,” in pretty much the exact opposite speech of the one given every day by every helicopter parent everywhere. Bob, in contrast, comes to a more optimistic conclusion: “This is a nightmare, and nightmares end.” (More on Bob’s nightmares later.) Michonne, who doesn’t have her samurai sword anymore, expresses an anti-materialistic worldview. She doesn’t miss her blade, she misses her friends who have died. (I miss her samurai sword.)

The stranger we meet is Gabriel, a world-weary pastor without a flock. In Christianity, Gabriel is the angel of God’s revelation, the messenger who comes to earth to tell people important things they should probably know, like a holy low balance alert. He tells Mary about Jesus, for example. This Gabriel, in contrast, is anxious, frightened, barfy. He tells the group he is a pacifist, having neither killed the living or the undead since the outbreak. The writers, in other words, paired the group’s self-searching with the meeting of a character who supposedly should have the BIG answers.

(Gabriel is portrayed brilliantly by Seth Gilliam, who played Sergeant Ellis Carver on HBO’s The Wire. Though, given his illustration in the comics I would have thought another Wire actor, Andre Royo who played Bubbles, might have been a better fit.)

Gabriel leads some of the crew to a canned food repository to get supplies, while Abraham and Eugene try to fix a broken down short bus that, they hope, will take them to Washington, D.C. The cans are submerged in about four feet of water and obstructed by about a dozen very water-logged walkers. When a walker was pulled out of the well on Herschel’s farm back in season two, it was a terrifying and pivotal plot point. Now, melty zombie faces are just par for the course.

Back at Gabriel’s church, it becomes clear he is hiding something. He’d panicked at the food storehouse when he saw a walker wearing church-lady glasses and Carl has found scratch marks on the outside of the church, suggesting it was locked from the inside. Somebody also took the time to carve “You’ll burn for this” on the side of the church before being bitten to death. Rick tells Gabriel we all have secrets but that if his threaten the group, he will kill him.

What happened exactly, we’ll surely find out. But Gabriel is an interesting new character for a number of reasons. He recalls Graham Greene’s whisky priest, the ordained man with obvious moral failings. (Gabriel’s not an alcoholic, but he is obviously a coward.) Think Friar Tuck or Robert Mitchum’s character in The Night of the Hunter. He is interesting because his moral quandaries are singularly different from everybody else’s. He isn’t grappling with kill-or-be-killed. He’s grasping with his own failings, personal sin outside of the basics of survival. He’s a pre-apocalyptic figure in a way.

The show ends on a double set of cliff-hangers. Daryl and Carol see the car that kidnapped Beth last season and go on the hunt. Poor Bob meanwhile is captured by Gareth and some of the surviving Terminus members. When Bob comes to, Gareth gets his turn at answering the “how to be?” question, making the case for the ultimate pragmatism being cannibalism. In one of the show’s more deliciously gruesome twists, the camera pulls back to reveal that everybody is having a fine old meal on roasted Bob leg. Ew.

Zombie Kill Report
1 gun handle to the face by Michonne; 1 bullet to the head by Carl; 3 blunt force traumas to the head by Rick, Michonne, Carol; 1 arrow to the skull by Daryl; 11 sharp objects to the waterlogged face by multiple; 1 knife to the throat by Carl.
Estimated Total: 18

New credits!
Unless I missed this last episode, the credits have been redone to reference more recent and upcoming scenery.

Was Bob infected or what?
Moments before the Termians knock Bob unconscious and drag him away, he’s looking at the church and begins to ball. What’s up with that? Did something happen—a cut? a bite? pukey zombie water in the mouth that infected him? If that’s the case Gareth and company are not eating the finest quality meat…

TIME Television

Letterman Cue-Card Holder Canned After Writer Altercation

The Late Show With David Letterman Resumes Filming
NEW YORK - JANUARY 02: A general view of the exterior of the Ed Sullivan Theater during a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman on Jan. 2, 2007 in New York. Bryan Bedder—Getty Images

“I know I shouldn’t have put my hands on him”

A cue-card holder for CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman says he lost his job after getting into a physical altercation with a co-worker.

Tony Mendez says he grabbed a writer for the show, Bill Scheft, by the shirt on Oct. 9, which resulted in his dismissal, the New York Post reports.

69-year-old Mendez, who says Letterman wasn’t aware of the conflict between him and Scheft, told the Post that the outburst had been “coming for a long time.” Scheft declined to comment to the Post.

“I know I shouldn’t have put my hands on him,” Mendez said.

A spokesperson for Worldwide Pants, Letterman’s production company, declined to comment on the matter, according to the Associated Press.

Mendez joined Late Show in 1993.

TIME celebrities

See 34 Actors Who Dressed Up In Fabulous Drag

These movie stars took gender performance to a cinematic new level. See if you can recognize the actresses and actors below after they’ve traded in their street clothes for wigs and new wardrobes.

Dexter star Michael C. Hall is dressing up in drag as he takes the stage on Broadway as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Take a look at other actors throughout the years who’ve dressed in drag for their roles.

TIME Apple

It’s Time to Seriously Start Expecting an Apple TV Again

159078767
Images by Fabio—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Everything finally looks like it is falling into place

Apple’s Oct. 16 “It’s been way too long” event was supposed to be all about updating products that hadn’t been refreshed in a while. And it was. The Cupertino, Calif. company unveiled svelte new iPads, an ultra-high-resolution version of the iMac, an updated Mac mini, and a slew of software and service updates. CEO Tim Cook also said that a software development kit to help programmers make applications for the company’s upcoming smartwatch would be available in November, ahead of the much-anticipated device’s 2015 debut.

About ten minutes into his opening remarks, Cook put up an evolution of man-style slide showing Apple’s line of products, from the Watch through iPhone and iPad, laptops and desktops. (Scrub to 10:00 here to see it.) One could easily imagine the same slide with an additional product on the far right: a television. That is a rumor that has been around for so long, that it’s frankly grown tedious to think or talk about. Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson before he died that he’d long wanted to make a TV and had “finally cracked” the difficulty of creating a simple user interface. And, earlier this year, Cook told Charlie Rose that television “is one of those things that if we’re really honest is stuck back in the 70s…this is an area we continue to look at.” (It’s also a product Apple already made, sort of, in the early 1990s.)

What’s changed is that television is more ripe for disruption as the ecosystem of companies around it—cable providers, content creators—try to position themselves for the future. And, arguably, Apple’s clout and ability to disrupt TV is greater than ever. A number of developments in the last couple of weeks have given the idea of an Apple television set renewed luster. Consider that:

Apple has the display. The television-making business is no picnic; just ask Sony, which has lost nearly $8 billion in the last decade on TV’s alone. But the new iMac’s display—which has an extremely high resolution—is the kind of game-changer that consumers might be willing to spend more for.

Apple is calling the display a Retina 5K screen. The high-end 27‑inch iMac has four times as many pixels as the regular 27‑inch iMac display, some 14.7 million pixels. The company created its own timing controller to drive all those pixels and is using a new type of screen technology, an oxide TFT-based panel, to deliver extra brightness.

Cable companies are starting to unravel. Two back-to-back announcements this week suggest the television content business is starting to change. This had been Apple’s biggest obstacle to creating a television device with a radically better way of watching stuff. As my colleague Victor Luckerson put it earlier this week:

By making these channels available for purchase individually, CBS and HBO are embracing the “a la carte” TV model, in which viewers would be able to select the individual channels they want to pay for and ignore the rest. It’s a concept that makes intuitive sense in a world where songs, movies, books and news can be consumed individually, on the go and at little cost. But the model poses a huge threat to cable operators, network owners and even subscribers. If every network did what CBS and HBO are doing, cable and satellite operators would have the core part of their businesses wiped out.

HomeKit is the new “digital hub.” In 2001, Jobs organized the then-struggling company around a new strategy. The computer would become the hub for consumers’ various devices, cameras, music players, video recorders, et cetera. It worked. Today, Apple is working on HomeKit, a framework that lets the company’s devices control smart gadgets around your house. (For more on the smart home, read all of this special TIME issue.) One of a future Apple television’s killer features could be acting as a central nervous system for all the wired lightbulbs, thermostats and so on in your house.

Consumers want it. The current product called Apple TV, a $99 set-top box that can pipe in streaming content from iTunes, Netflix, Hulu and other digital service providers, was denigrated as a “hobby” product by Steve Jobs in 2007. Last month, Cook said the device had gone far beyond that status and has some 20 million users.

And finally, Tim Cook’s Apple is ready. The company has shown it is willing to sign the death warrant for technologies it no longer finds useful. Not to mention place big bets in brand new areas where its success is far from guaranteed. Cook said this was “the strongest lineup of products Apple has ever had and soon you can wear that technology right on your wrist.” I wouldn’t be surprised to find that amended to add the center of the living room.

TIME Television

The 13 Most Uncomfortable Family Feud Moments Ever

From hilariously botched answers to uncontrollable giggle fits

On an episode of Family Feud this week, host Steve Harvey posed the following question: “We asked 100 married women, if you could change one part of your husband’s body, what would it be?” A contestant named Joyce quickly — very quickly — buzzed in to offer her response: “His penis.”

As you can imagine, things got real awkward, real fast. Her husband was standing just 10 feet behind her! Wearing a tie with a bunch of smiley faces on it! This weird little moment got us thinking: Wait, awkward things happen ALL THE TIME on this show. Let’s go back and watch ALL OF THEM.

And so here you go: the 13 most uncomfortable moments on Family Feud:

1. That other time things got really sexual because the question kind of prompted it:

2. That time a contestant thought Jose was a name that started with H:

3. The time a contestant stood there uncomfortably, trying to be polite, for a full two and a half minutes, while everyone else carried on:

4. The time Richard Dawson completely lost it because he was totally making fun of a contestant’s answer:

5. That time “white dudes” was an answer to the question “What has white balls?”:

6. That time one family was really horrible at geography:

7. That time it was funny because it was true:

8. That time somebody was way too trigger-happy with the buzzer and then things got weird:

9. That time a contestant confused the words “douche” and “tush”:

10. That time the Family Feud writers referred to a penis as a “trouser snake”:

11. That time this guy just totally and completely blew it:

12. That time a lady called Dracula “a good sucker”:

13. That time a guy screamed “naked grandma” as an answer:

 

TIME Television

Scandal Teaches You How to Handle It When Your Kid Makes a Sex Tape

TONY GOLDWYN
Tony Goldwyn on Scandal Adam Taylor—ABC

In ten easy steps!

This post includes spoilers for Thursday night’s episode of Scandal.

With all the nude selfies getting leaked on the Internet and hacks of the supposedly self-destructing pictures and videos on Snapchat, parents have a reason to be worried about what their teens are recording and sharing. Our private lives aren’t so private anymore. That’s even true for the President’s kids — or, well, a fictional president’s kids.

Last night on Scandal the president’s daughter Karen filmed what D.C. fixer protagonist Olivia Pope called “the dirtiest sex tape I’ve ever seen in my life.” I know, it sounds like a problem you’ll never have to deal with in your life. But if a teen can slip her secret service detail to attend a party and “Eiffel Tower” with some guys (look up at your own risk), then parents should be in full-blown panic mode about what their non-guarded kids are doing.

Olivia’s job is to manage crises, and Karen’s dad Fitz is the damn president of the United States. Surely we can learn a little something from them about what to do if your kid makes a sex tape. Here’s the step-by-step list:

1. Be outraged

The mean parent, in Scandal‘s case President Fitz, should yell things like, “Start talking, now,” to get a clear idea of how bad the situation is. You may uncover information like that your daughter hitched a ride on “someone’s father’s jet” to get to the party in question. (N.B. Apparently if your kid does not attend the most expensive boarding school in the country, you’re already ahead of the game.)

2. Flirt with the “fixer” handling your child’s case

Oh, you didn’t hire Olivia Pope to handle this? Good luck.

3. Lie to other parent about why child is home

Because there’s no way she’s going to find out about this eventually, right?

4. Use hyper-advanced computer software to locate the other people in the sex tape

Apparently typing in a lot of code with the words “tattoo” and “arm” can determine whether a guy in a blurry party pictures tagged #swaggapalooza has a tattoo or not, give you all his information and thus help you track down the tape. Sure.

5. Be forced to admit that there’s a sex tape to your spouse because she thinks you’re having an affair with the fixer who is suddenly hanging around the house all the time (which you are…but whatever)

In defense of yourself, you should probably accuse your spouse of being a bad mother and thus being ultimately responsible for the sex tape. When tempers are high, it’s always best to blame someone else. Expect a response from your spouse like, “She takes after her daddy, then, doesn’t she?”

6. Have one of the fixer’s assistants intimidate the guy in the sex tape

May I suggest saying things like, “I know who you are, Bobby,” and then listing off a bunch of personal factoids about the person in a fast, staccato voice. That tends to scare to crap out of people. Oh, grabbing them by the throat and threatening to destroy their lives works, too.

7. Once that person has coughed up the name of the third person in the sex tape who actually has the video (scandalous, right?), bring in that teen’s parents for a negotiation

These parents will probably blackmail you for a lot of money because people are the worst.

8. Kiss the fixer

This will take your mind off of the whole blackmail thing.

9. Deal with the parents

When the parents ask for another $500,000 (again, people are the worst), photograph them with the check and say that you will send it to the tabloids, who will write that they are child pornographers. See, this is why you hire a fixer.

10. Talk to your kid

Actually, the best parenting advice comes from a surprising source in this episode: First Lady Mellie Grant.

Mellie doesn’t slut-shame her daughter. She tells her that if she felt empowered and happy by her sex act she would “have a tiny seizure inside,” but still be supportive of Karen and happy for her. “But I don’t think that’s why you did it,” Mellie says. And the two talk about how Karen has been depressed since her brother died in front of her, “which means you get one free pass. This was it. You do not get another.”

Mellie also teaches Karen the life lesson that the world sucks: “It’s definitely sexist. If you were a boy, they’d be giving you high fives.” Well played, Mellie.

So there you have it: hire a fixer if you can, turn the tables on anyone who tries to blackmail you and don’t slut-shame your kid. As Olivia Pope would say: “It’s handled.”

 

 

 

TIME Television

Watch Game of Thrones Star Jason Momoa’s Intense Audition Tape

The clip has been on YouTube since 2012, but it's worth watching if you want to see how the little-known actor scored his breakout role

Despite lasting just one season on Game of Thrones, Khal Drogo remains one of the show’s most memorable characters — thanks in large part to Jason Momoa’s indelible portrayal of the Dothraki lord. In this YouTube clip from 2012, we see that the actor landed his breakout role performing the haka, a traditional dance associated with New Zealand’s Maori people, during his audition.

Though the haka has a legacy entirely unrelated to Game of Thrones (obviously), its intensity — and Momoa’s fervent, wild-haired rendition of it — helps reveal why the actor was so well-suited for the part of Khal Drogo. And it was that short-lived role that has launched the 35-year-old actor to greater stardom. Momoa has recently been cast as Aquaman and is slated to appear in a number of DC Comics’ upcoming films.

Plus, with the recent announcement that there will be flashbacks in the upcoming season of Game of Thrones, there’s always a slight chance we could see Khal Drogo once again. Let’s just hope he’s slightly less terrifying than he is in that audition tape, because seriously — you do not want to turn the volume up too loud for that one.

Read next: HBO Will Finally Start Selling Web-Only Subscriptions Next Year

TIME Television

Check Out Allison Williams and Christopher Walken in the Official Peter Pan Live! Poster

NBC

Get excited

NBC has released the official poster for its upcoming live production of Peter Pan, which stars Allison Williams (as Pan) and Christopher Walken (as Hook.)

Peter Pan Live! is set to air on Dec. 4, and we know Williams — best known for her role as the Type A Marnie on Girls — has already been hard at work practicing her flying skills. We’re sure Walken has been hard at work practicing Captain Hook things, too — like steering a boat, as seen in this behind-the-scenes photo tweeted by executive producer Neil Meron.

Get excited, and feel free to start planning your viewing parties now.

TIME Television

The Wire’s Kima Was Supposed to Be Killed in the First Season, Creator Says

The Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball II
Actress Sonja Sohn attends The Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball II at Harman Center for the Arts on January 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. Jemal Countess—Getty Images

And Michael K. Williams was not happy about the second season taking place at the docks

Correction appended 10:40 p.m. EST

This post contains spoilers for The Wire

Much of the massive cast of HBO’s The Wire reunited at PaleyFest New York on Thursday to talk about the groundbreaking show 12 years after its premiere. In a panel hosted by HitFix critic Alan Sepinwall, the cast reflected on their time on the show and even shared some never-before-revealed secrets from the set.

Sonja Sohn, who played Detective Kima Greggs, revealed that she found out by accident during filming of the first season that she was supposed to be killed off fairly quickly. Worried about her character’s fate, she confronted the creator, David Simon, and he admitted to the plan.

Simon confirmed to Sepinwall that he had originally intended to kill Sohn’s character off the show when she was shot in the 10th episode of the first season. But Carolyn Strauss, an exec at HBO, told Simon she wanted to save the character and he listened. Though Kima Greggs does get shot in that episode, as written, she survives.

“Girl power!” Sohn said, after finding out it was Strauss who saved her character.

Sohn said she’s now extremely grateful she got to stay on the show through all five seasons, though she noted that she had initially had reservations after seeing the pilot. “Oh my lord, this is going nowhere,” she remembers thinking at the time. “I don’t know, it’s kind of slow.” But the writers reassured her that things would pick up, and other cast members expressed similar faith in Simon’s roadmap—one that would include insightful social commentary and lots of blood.

Kima would go on to be one of the few characters to escape a bullet on the show about cops, criminals and politicians in Baltimore, which offed some of its most beloved players. The cast even started a tradition of attending everyone’s death scenes to honor the actors before they left. And those characters who weren’t killed off often disappeared for entire episodes, or even seasons when the show moved locations.

Michael K. Williams, who played Omar Little, joked that in season two he became “the angry black man” after Simon briefly moved the show away from the projects and into the largely white world of the city’s waterfront docks. “How come when we made the show hot, you give it to the white people?” Williams said he asked Simon at the time. Simon replied that they would make the city too small if they continued to film in the same place, an idea Williams came to later accept and appreciate.

Though many of their characters were killed off or forced to the sidelines during filming, the cast extolled Simon, who many critics agree penned the best show in the history of television. “I have been so spoiled since because the writing was so good,” said Lawrence Gillard Jr., who played D’Angelo Barksdale, before hugging Simon.

“Now I’m sorry I killed you off in the second season,” Simon quipped.

This article previously misstated which actor hugged David Simon during the panel.

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