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TV Wasteland: The Future Is Now?
What the Emmy nominations tell us about where entertainment is headed.
By Rob Vaux
July 22, 2013
The Emmy nominations were announced last week, and seem to confirm a pair of interesting trends. The first is obvious: cable TV is eating network television's lunch. HBO led the pack, as always, but big nominations from the likes of American Horror Story and Mad Men proves that the field has widened considerably. (It's also worth noting that a number of genre projects received nods, particularly Game of Thrones, American Horror Story and Vera Farmiga's outstanding work in Bates Motel).
Even more interesting, the names include people we normally associate with movies rather than television: people like David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Matt Damon, Michael Douglas and Kevin Spacey. Movie studios seem less and less interested in funding the more intimate projects favored by these filmmakers, who have found a welcome alternative outlet on the small screen and left the multiplex to bigger, louder movies. Could that be a sign that the dreaded Lucasberg Apocalypse is coming to fruition – with little movies readily available at home and the big screen saved for extravagant productions that cost $75 a ticket? Maybe.
On a more positive note, it suggests that creativity doesn't stop just because the trends are changing... and indeed that those changing trends can encourage interesting projects that might not otherwise survive. The multiple nominations for House of Cards –produced by Netflix specifically for instant download – suggests that the Television Academy may be more cognizant of these trends than the studios themselves. Even better: they’re inclined to encourage artists and performers to make greater use of them in the future. The multiplex may be dying, but good entertainment, it seems, isn't going anywhere.
Under the Dome (CBS, 10:00 PM EDT)
A new danger arises from outside the dome. Not sure how that works, but I supposed there’s an explanation somewhere.
Teen Wolf (MTV, 10:00 PM EDT)
It’s a new episode, that’s all we know.
Fear Factor (Syfy, 8:00 PM EDT)
Syfy gives up on the evening and runs three back-to-back-to-back episodes of this fairly awful reality show.
Men in Black (Spike, 8:00 PM EDT)
One of the Fresh Prince’s finest moments: a gloriously ridiculous send-up of alien conspiracy theories that’s held up quite well over the years.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Starz, 9:50 PM EDT)
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a rapist getting a dildo kicked up his ass. I’m just saying it’s not especially entertaining to watch. Repeats on Sunday at 9:00 PM EDT.
The Mummy and The Mummy Returns (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:45 PM EDT)
Brenadan Fraser stars in a supernatural adventure series that proved surprisingly durable despite its initial throwaway qualities.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Cinemax, 8:20 PM EDT)
You’d think the sight of The Rock riding a giant bumblebee would be more interesting than this.
Stigmata (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EDT)
You can always count on the Catholic Church to deliver the trappings of a profoundly goofy horror movie.
Spider-Man 3 (FX, 8:00 PM EDT)
The film that brought an end to Sam Raimi’s reign with the character is actually a little better than its reputation suggests.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (HBO, 6:55 PM EDT)
The first forty-five minutes are great, and watching Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie eye-fuck each other holds an appeal all its own. Things kind of go off the rail once they start trying to kill each other, though.
Weird or What? (Syfy, 8:00 PM EDT)
Is this a burn-off? A Sharknado victory lap? Whatever the reason, Syfy is filling the evening with this: three episodes in a row, starting at 8:00 PM EDT.
Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection (Cinemax, 4:00 PM EDT, 6:15 PM EDT and 8:10 PM EDT)
For better or worse, Cinemax is showing the three Alien sequels in order tonight.
Prometheus (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EDT)
Is this an Alien sequel? I supposed we could shepherd it in…
The Incredible Hulk (FX, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:30 PM EDT)
Edward Norton is pretty good, but I think it’s safe to say that Ruffalo has since captured our angry green hearts.
The Bourne Legacy (HBO, 7:15 PM EDT)
Jeremy Renner gives it his all, but without Matt Damon it is nothing.
Casino Royale (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, Daniel Craig’s first Bond outing, and a wonderful time is had by all.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Showtime, 9:00 PM EDT)
Bella becomes pregnant with Edward’s child in the entry that went from the merely asinine to the flat-out offensive.
The Fog (Starz, 7:15 PM EDT)
There are some very good remakes out there. This is not one of them.
Paranormal Witness (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
We’re thinking Manson family compound this week. That should be cute…
Joe Rogen Questions Everything (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
Syfy unleashes a new series featuring the Fear Factor host cruising the country and looking for various paranormal phenomenon.
Futurama (Comedy, 10:00 PM EDT)
Bender attempts to resurrect his favorite robot actor by stealing from the dead. Yikes.
The World is Not Enough (BBC America, 8:00 PM EDT)
Brosnan is grand, the villain is MIA, and Denise Richards demonstrates that you can still screw up a Bond girl if you’re not caereful.
King Kong (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
It’s the Peter Jackson version which reduces the excitement level considerably.
Die Hard (Cinemax, 9:00 PM EDT)
The film turned 25 last week, so another screening is probably in order.
Gulliver’s Travels (FXM, 7:00 PM EDT and 9:00 PM EDT)
AKA the moment we all gave up on Jack Black.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (FX, 7:30 PM EDT)
Because the sequel will arrive about 24 hours later. Repeats on Sunday at 8:00 PM EDT and 10:30 PM EDT.
Hostel and Hostel Part II (IFC, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:00 PM EDT)
One for the guys, one for the gals, and both irredeemable pieces of shit.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Starz, 8:35 PM EDT)
One of the all-time greats and thus far the only fantasy film to win Best Picture.
Burn Notice (USA, 9:00 PM EDT)
The bad guys slip Michael a mickey, putting various secrets in danger of not being secrets anymore.
Wilfred (FX, 10:00 PM EDT)
Ryan and Wilfred go all vigilante on us. Yes, I’m scared too.
Kick-Ass (IFC, 8:00 PM EDT and 10:30 PM EDT)
It pretty much lives up to that title.
Judge Dredd (Showtime, 9:25 PM EDT)
The infamous Stallone bomb isn’t bad if you can forgive the whole “he takes off his helmet” thing.
Batman Returns (Syfy, 6:00 PM EDT)
Tim Burton tries to tackle Gotham City again, with the usual flawed-but-interesting results.
Batman & Robin (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
Do I really need to tell you how bad it is?
The Three Musketeeers (Showtime, 7:30 PM EDT)
It really needs to be called Milady: The Movie.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (ABC Family, 7:30 PM EDT)
Is it a big deal that it’s on basic cable now? Oh, I suppose…
Demolition Man (AMC, 7:30 PM EDT)
The 1990s’ version of the not-too-distant future was just awesome.
Snow White and the Huntsman(Cinemax, 10:00 PM EDT)
I was over this one the moment it popped up on the screen.
X-Men: The Last Stand (FX, 7:00 PM EDT)
Flawed but watchable, like a lot of Part Threes. Repeats on Saturday at 8:00 PM EDT.
Mission: Impossible III (TNT, 9:00 PM EDT)
Not even J.J. Abrams can save everything…
Continuum (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
The bodies of multiple time travelers disappear, prompting Kiera to start a search for them.
Iron Man (FX, 8:00 PM EDT)
It’s always a good time to remember how the mighty Marvel movie juggernaut got started.
Ted (HBO, 8:00 PM EDT)
Dear Seth MacFarlane: you’re not funny. You’re just ugly and cruel. Please try to change that.
District 9 (Sundance, 8:00 PM EDT)
Can this director save our summer again? Let’s cross our fingers and hope.
Hook (BBC America, 8:00 PM EDT)
Robin Williams is Peter Pan… yeah, we thought it was a bad idea then too.
Scary Movie (Bravo, 7:00 PM EDT)
You won’t find a more physically painful film to sit through all week. And I’m including RIPD in that.
In Time (Cinemax, 8:10 PM EDT)
Justine Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried score an unlikely win in a film that does much better than its reputation suggests.
SWAT (AMC, 9:30 PM EDT)
It’s always a good time to watch Sam Jackson bellow at people.
Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited (BBC America, 7:00 PM EDT)
This special focuses on the seventh Doctor battling the terror of the Rani. As always, Confessions of a Neowhovian (www.neowhovian.com
) has the hook-up for you
Being Human (BBC America, 10:00 PM EDT)
Tom gets inspired by a minor TV celebrity and wacky mayhem ensues.
Sinbad (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
Anwar discovers a box containing a little girl who claims to be a goddess. Good luck with that buddy.
Primeval: New World (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
A Pachycephalosaurus – one of my personal favorite sauri – runs amuck, while the Albertosaurus that killed Evan’s wife comes back for seconds.
Zero Hour (ABC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Trust me, we’re gonna miss this when it’s gone. Or not.
Do No Harm (NBC, 10:00 PM EDT)
Jason gets a text message threatening to reveal his secret, which I’m sure won’t prompt a homicidal rage of any sort.
American Haunting (A&E, 8:00 PM EDT)
A&E presents three episodes of a new reality series exploring the paranormal. Yawn. Next!
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Cinemax, 7:15 PM EDT)
The chimps are coming! Hide your daughters!
Ghost Rider (FX, 10:30 PM EDT)
I’d say it was awful, but then I’ve seen the sequel.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (IFC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Speaking of sequels, does this really qualify? Or is it just the second act of one big movie? Discuss.
The Adjustment Bureau (USA, 9:00 PM EDT)
This quirky fantasy love story hits basic cable, and it’s worth a look if you haven’t yet seen it.
Brave (Starz, 9:00 PM EDT)
Pixar didn’t quite drop the ball here, but definitely fell back to the pack a bit.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (ABC Family, 7:30 PM EDT)
Harry’s on his own, his nemeses look even scarier, and Dumbledore… well, just watch. It’s pretty good.
Shrek (Cartoon, 7:00 PM EDT)
Man, I’d forgotten how funny this movie is.
Gladiator (TNT, 8:00 PM EDT)
Russell Crowe wins his Oscar, the film wins Best Picture, and Ridley Scott gets squat. What’s up with that?
True Blood (HBO, 9:00 PM EDT)
Eric pledges loyalty to Bill in an effort to save Nora, while Jason just can’t get rid of that pesky bitch Sarah.
Dexter (Showtime, 9:00 PM EDT)
Dr. Vogel finds the Brain Surgeon, though Dexter and Debra kinda sorta have her back.
Falling Skies (TNT, 10:00 PM EDT)
The rebels gain new information about the aliens’ plans, while the mole is finally unmasked.
Gremlins (Nickelodeon, 9:00 PM EDT)
Joe Dante’s delicious piece of holiday anarchy makes an all-too-rare cable appearance. Huzzah!
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I (ABC Family, 7:30 PM EDT)
Having watched Harry backed up against the wall last night, it’s time to see what happens when the wall finally crumbles.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (HBO, 7:10 PM EDT)
Look, it’s not bad. Really.
V for Vendetta (IFC, 8:15 PM EDT)
Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman are in fine form, but the rest of the film misses the point by the thinnest of margins.
Sherlock Holmes (TNT, 7:15 PM EDT)
The game’s afoot as Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law give the age-old character a fantastic update.
Black Sawn (Sundance, 10:00 PM EDT)
Girl be crazy… and it’s incredible to watch.
Underworld: Evolution and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT and 9:00 PM EDT)
The third film doesn’t have the only real asset of the second… and it’s still better. That just does my head in.
Have a great one everybody!