“I bloody miss you,” is the first thing Josh O’Connor says to his Romeo & Juliet co-star, Jessie Buckley. The in-demand actors lovingly reconnect as only good friends can before our conversation begins about their work on the stage/screen hybrid performance of Shakespeare’s classic. We have seen so many versions of Romeo & Juliet, so why another one? When you have such passionate chemistry like O’Connor and Buckley share, it’s obvious.

PBS’ newest iteration of the doomed lovers was filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic in just 17 days and it’s a compelling mashup of stage performance and film. It opens with actors walking into a space to rehearse a Shakespeare play, but that artifice falls away by the time the romantic tragedy concludes. It’s almost as if we witness the rehearsal, tech, and live performances in a matter of 90 minutes.

O’Connor and Buckley excitedly talk about the intimacy and immediacy of theater–something they had to work around in a completely new way with the pandemic protocols in place. They took full advantage of the day when negative tests results came back as if it might be the last time they get to work on the material. When you watch a live performance of theater, the reaction you project back to the audience is immediate. It’s palpable. The pandemic almost took that away completely, but Buckley and O’Connor make a familiar story feel so alive and vital.


Music from https://filmmusic.io
“Cheery Monday” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)
License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

As first announced by the official UK soap Coronation Street Twitter account this morning, we are sorry to also share in the sad news of series creator Tony Warren’s departure. An ITV spokesman said Tony passed away surrounded by his loving friends after a short illness. He was 79 years old.

Tony Warren, who earned the title MBE and as well as a BAFTA in his long career, was not just a television screenwriter. Warren was also a stage actor, created a host of television dramas, and returned to the public eye with a series of critically acclaimed novels in the 1990s, including “The Lights of Manchester” and “Behind Closed Doors.” Openly gay, Warren was the object of highly publicized homophobia early in his career. He has also long since been rehabilitated from alcohol and drug problems.

Warren, of course, created one of the most successful and longest running TV shows of all time in the ITV soap opera Coronation Street. Actor William Roache, who has remarkably played Ken Barlow since the show began in 1960, said Tony would be “so desperately missed,” and that he was “the father of the soap.” Helen Worth, also known as another long-playing character Gail McIntyre, said Warren was “a genius of our time. The dearest, funniest and most inspirational man of his generation. He brought real life into our homes for us all to relate to and enjoy. He will, of course, live on forever through Coronation Street.”

Warren first voiced his inspiration for the show back in 1959. He awakened one night with an idea for a TV series about a small back street in Salford (the town where he was born in 1936) with a pub at one end and a shop at the other. UK viewers have known this as an iconic setting for decades now. Coronation Street was commissioned by Granada in 1960 and has been one of the UK’s biggest series since. Warren was heavily involved in the writing of the episodes right up until 1968 and has always been around to give creative input. He even made a cameo appearance in the soap’s 50th anniversary episode which ran live in December 2010.

I don’t really have anything to say about this except it’s great fun, it needs more Vera Farmiga, and I’m really looking forward to the series returning in 2016.

Bates Motel

Rose Siggins, Legless Suzi in American Horror Story: Freak Show, died this morning at the age of 43. TMZ reported the cause as an infection resulting from a kidney stone surgery earlier this week in a Denver hospital. A GoFundMe page has been established to help with Siggins’ residual medical expenses and to provide addition support for her two children, Luke and Shelby.

Born with sacral agenesis, a rare genetic disorder, Siggins suffered from kidney and pancreatic issues. Her legs were amputated at 2 years old, but she was reported to be the first woman with the genetic disorder to have children.

“I suppose Elsa Mars said it best: ‘The death of a beloved monster is always a sorrow, but never a surprise. If oddly formed organs or a random physical anomaly doesn’t claim them, then it is at the sheer density of their blaze. A carny’s life burns and brighter than most. It is bound to extinguish sooner,’ ” James Mullen, Siggins’ manager, said on the GoFundMe page Saturday morning.

Naomi Grossman, Pepper in the American Horror Story series, grieved the loss of her co-star and friend on Twitter.


The Mystery Shack is closing its doors.

Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch announced today that the popular Disney XD animated series will air its last episode at the upcoming end of its sophomore season. Hirsch stressed on his Tumblr site that Disney was not canceling the series, which can best be described as an X-Files for the tween set (and their parents). Instead, he’s ending it gracefully, following through on his original intent to give it a beginning, middle, and an end as it chronicled a single summer in the lives of brother and sister duo Dipper (Jason Ritter) and Mabel (Kristen Schaal) Pines.

“There are so many shows that go on endlessly until they lose their original spark, or mysteries that are cancelled before they ever get a chance to payoff,” Hirsch wrote. “I know that hits are rare in this business, and its hard to let one of them go, so I’m so grateful that [Disney] has had the vision to let me start (and end) the show the way I always wanted to.”

While the declaration is a bit of a surprise given the series’s blossoming popularity, it’s not entirely shocking given the dramatic recent episodes – the three part “Weirdmageddon” – in which main bad guy Bill Cipher (voiced by Hirsch) opened a rift between the human world and his bizarro world. The second chapter in the 3-part arc airs Monday, November 23. “Weirdmageddon III” has yet to receive an air date.

“…Gravity Falls was never meant to be a series that goes on and on forever. It’s meant to be an exploration of the experience of summer, and in a larger sense a story about childhood itself. The fact that childhood ends is exactly what makes it so precious- and why you should cherish it while it lasts,” Hirsch wrote.

Gravity Falls premiered on June 15, 2012, with a preview episode to build buzz. Its 20-episode first season ran through the summer of 2013. Season Two kicked off last summer and continues to run its critically acclaimed course. It most recently won the Best Animated TV/Broadcast Production for Children’s Audience at the 42nd Annual Annie Awards.

ABC quietly plugged the plug this week on its summer sci-fi series The Whispers after two months of life support. The now series finale saw FBI Special Agent Claire Bennigan (Lily Rabe) abducted by aliens and spirited away to another galaxy.

Perhaps she will show up on The X-Files reboot, tagged and pregnant.

“Executed produced” by Steven Spielberg (who likely nodded his approval during a power nap), the series was originally scheduled to premiere during the Fall 2014 TV season but was pushed back to a Summer 2015 birth – its first sign of sickness. Rather than treat the cancer aggressively, ABC aired it opposite the shocking (and shockingly good) Fox series Wayward Pines which stole all the hot summer night buzz from the alien-themed series.

After a decent ad campaign and pilot that featured an abundance of creepy toddlers (always a good thing), The Whispers tip-toed into obscurity by failing on a number of fronts. First, it wrapped its alien-threat plot line in a wet blanket of recycled human drama, too soapy to take seriously but not soapy enough to become campy fun (see: Wayward Pines). Second, its plot simply wasn’t all that complicated, and, as the series dragged on through its 13-episode order, the plot became increasingly thin. Finally, perhaps the most egregious cancer in the series, the main villain – the mechanically named “Drill” – never took a creepy alien form. It was seen only in infrared images that resembled clouds of gas emanating from the actors or in power sparks and flickers of light, making the audience wonder if ABC was paying the power bills.

The series will be survived by Spielberg, who sneezes higher budgets than The Whispers ever saw, and star Lily Rabe who actually acquitted herself nicely in the series. She will next be seen in Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology series American Horror Story: Hotel as a serial killer. The Whispers also starred Milo Ventimiglia who surprisingly reminded viewers he was still a thing after years ago starring in NBC’s Heroes. Ventimiglia has had a particularly difficult year after appearing in Lifetime’s Grace of Monaco, ironically the highlight of his year.

The Whispers is still available for open-casket viewing at Hulu and ABC.com.

Update: Proving once more that overnights are totally a thing of the past, Scream Queens soared in delayed-viewing ratings, gaining 65% (2 million viewers) in recorded viewing plus another 1 million viewers on Hulu and Fox Now for a grand total of 7.3 million total viewers. It proved to be the biggest grower of the night.

Social media can be a tricky bitch sometimes.

Those of us plugged into Twitter and other more traditional media outlets have been bombarded with ads and buzz surrounding last night’s premiere of Fox’s Scream Queens. So, it comes as a bit of a shock that Ryan Murphy’s series failed to dazzle in its 2-hour premiere. Not only did it fail to dazzle, it came in fourth.

From a Variety article:

Fox’s “Scream Queens,” which had generated the most social media buzz heading into premiere week, opened with a 1.6/5 in 18-49 and 4 million viewers overall from 8 to 10, though special “rush finals” ordered by Fox show the premiere at a 1.7 in the demo. It ran fourth in its timeslot in 18-49, while placing second in adults 18-34 (1.6/7). The horror comedy from Ryan Murphy opened with a 1.7 rating in 18-49 and then held at a 1.6 for its final three half-hours, according to the prelim nationals. It tied for the 18-49 lead in the New York market with “The Voice” (2.9/10).

The two-hour premiere provided some nice time period improvement for Fox, which struggled out of the gate on the opening Tuesday a year ago. Last night’s “Scream Queens” did 60% better than the net’s lowly 1.0 nightly average for “Utopia,” “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project.” Starting next week, new comedies “Grandfathered” and “Grinder” will open the night for the net, with “Scream Queens” airing at 9.

We here at ADTV were underwhelmed by the pilot which definitely had its moments but felt massively unfocused and bloated. Yet, the amount of publicity and advanced buzz hardly forecasted similarly underwhelming viewership. Now, these early numbers don’t include numbers from delayed watching, which almost certainly would increase viewership among the target audience.

So, what are your thoughts? Have we reached Ryan Murphy saturation? Was no one clamoring for horror camp? Does this bode ill for American Horror Story: Hotel‘s premiere in two weeks?

Sound off in the comments below!

Note: Wrapping up this week, the Awards Daily TV Crew will be making the case for each nominee in the Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series categories in random order. We’ll be dropping one each day leading into and through the Emmy voting period, which ends this Friday. Share/retweet your favorites to build the buzz! 

Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 

Metacritic: 78%
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Number of nominations: 7
Major nominations: Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress Comedy Series (Jane Krakowski), Outstanding Supporting Actor Comedy Series (Tituss Burgess)

“Unbreakable! They alive, damnit! It’s a miracle!” The instantly clever, quirky title sequence of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a viral video mash-up video of a neighbor being interviewed following the discovery of the mole women in an underground bunker, held there for fifteen years by a cult leader “reverend.” A familiar-sounding, disturbing premise, bravely given a comedy makeover – and I would like to say handled gracefully. A show essentially about acclimatizing to the reality of the modern world had you been completely sheltered from it. It also pokes fun and makes acute observations about today’s society (race perceptions, cosmetic surgery, the American law system – want me to go on?). And primarily the plight of women – “but females are strong as hell.”

On deciding upon a stay in New York City, a misunderstanding in communication lands Kimmy (wonderful Ellie Kemper) a job with rich, privileged, but completely unable to take care of herself Jacqueline (hilarious Jane Krakowski). In fact her friendship with the clueless, neglected housewife also prospers after a rocky start. Though on their second meeting, Jacqueline forgets Kimmy’s name, “Cornmill, is it?” she asks, one of many absurdly amusing quips. Jacqueline’s step-daughter Xanthippe appears as a pain in the ass teenage girl who thinks she knows it all (“I will chew you up and spit you out like my food.”), as we endearingly later discover though she knows very little and is actually a rather vulnerable.

Kimmy is also greatly appreciative of the box room with a window in the apartment share with Titus (flamboyantly good Tituss Burgess) – one of the biggest queens in New York, and wannabe Broadway superstar (ooh that rhymes with “Pinot Noir”). His highly-strung nature and Kimmy’s naivety make them somehow a likely partnership. Titus is plain and simply uproarious, we’ve seen this kind of over-the-top camp characters portrayal before, sure, but this is convincingly unique. These principle relations form a strong part of the way these oddball, but realistic characters all get along as well as contributing to the show’s chop-chop narrative.

In just ten tiny, super-paced episodic outings (binge-watch on Netflix immediately), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt flies through the season, offering plenty of intelligent and refreshing laughs. Of course with Tina Fey on typewriter duties (Outstanding Guest Actress Emmy nominee for her cameo here) the comedic aura of 30 Rock is certainly a blessing. Similar in clever, witty quips and character interactions, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stands on its own two left feet, dearly and enticingly amusing all the same – and consistently so.

The jokes and the plots are unquestionably captivating, and although often seem far-fetched or outlandish (that the bunker girls would sing, to the tune of O Christmas Tree “Apocalypse, apocalypse, we caused it with our dumbness.”), the execution of the whole affair mean you are not needed to even be reminded this is a sit-com, let alone that the more bizarre bits of humor and story-lines are portrayed in a straight-forward way that make them easy to swallow. Even when somehow dating (if you can really call it that) an elderly man clearly on a different planet mentally, the writers go to town on the slapstick routine, but also temporarily giving Kimmy an outlet for the troubles of her recent past.

One of the central  themes that shines through is that is it not just Kimmy that is adapting, these new people in her life have enough problems and insecurities for their own show. And the comedy phrases and one-liners follow suit by being spread across the vast array of these socialites or misfits (“Hey you respect your step-mother, she step-gave birth to you.”). There is too some background music that might belong somewhere in a melodrama or the more classy New York comedy film, but you hardly notice it here (a bit like elevator music?), but it works a treat against the comedy landscape.

The performances are top-notch, and not to be faulted, providing superb comic timing and bringing to life some of the best characters on TV at the moment. And characters that have heart and that you want to have better lives – we care about them and want to be around them. At the core is Kimmy, a warm, care-free soul, inspired to learn about the world in the most delightful and calamitous way. “I’ve been Googling you.” the suspicious Xanthippe threatens at one point, to which Kimmy alarmingly responds “Have you, I didn’t feel it.”.

There is of course no Kimmy quite like this without Ellie Kemper.  At times she is so charming, cute and cool in this I would struggle to find someone else I would rather spend some quality time with. It is great that Emmy showed Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt some love (well-deserved), but to not find a spot for Kemper is pretty hard to believe regardless of the level of fan you are of the show. Obvious to say that Kemper is Kimmy, but she embarks on the journey and inhabits the character so convincingly, a terrific performance, proving to us all about any potential she had after The Office to carry her own show. The lack of the Best Actress nod may sway voters towards voting for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as Best Comedy (stranger, and more predictable, things have happened). A kind of guilt trip right to the big prize, perhaps. The comedy category is cram-packed with diverse, quality shows (even with the absence of Orange is the New Black) so the competition is fierce, but given the creators, the broad appeal, and extremely positive response this might well be too hot to completely ignore. That and fifty other reasons why Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt might well be the freshest, best comedy show out there right now.

Season 2, Episode 21
Director: Mike Vejar
Writer: Sara Charno

In “The Calusari,” The X-Files revisits one of its most fertile genres – the “kids be creepy as shit” vein of horror. The best thing these episodes do is find The Perfect Child that either fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your vantage point) has the look of a Damien. In this case, young Joel Palmer embodies young Charlie Holvey, a potentially disturbed child, so effectively that he’s able to convey a foreboding sense of evil without much dialogue at all. If you’re wondering where that talent comes from, then look no further than my earlier statement – “kids be creepy as shit.”

“The Calusari” opens at a local park that is surrounded by a small train track and working locomotive. Young Charlie and his family are meant to enjoy balloons and ice cream until Charlie’s 2-year-old brother lets go of his balloon and falls into his ice cream, ruining the day as little brothers are want to do. I blame the parents because all of this could have been avoided if they’d simply tied the balloon to the child’s wrist, but whatever… Incidents escalate until the small child chases his second balloon (formerly Charlie’s balloon) into the path of the oncoming train which is unable to stop and kills him on the spot. Flash forward a few months and Mulder and Scully are investigating the crime – the reasons of which are slightly mysterious… Something about the father working for the State Department. At any rate, they discover through fancy photograph filtering that an entity was indeed dragging the balloon against the wind into the path of the oncoming train.

When they investigate, they find a whole batch of crazy. First, the house seems supremely possessed with fires randomly raging in the fireplace and spotty power outages. Also, there is a Romanian grandmother whose comic ancient ways – protecting the child by drawing a swastika on his fist – go against the grains of traditional family bonds. Scully is convinced that the grandmother was harming the twins because she suffers from Munchausen by proxy. After the father dies from a mysterious garage door hanging, the grandmother calls in the titular Calusari – Romanian priests – to cleanse the house and the boy using the blood of dead chickens. Charlie’s mother kicks the Calusari out of the house, and Charlie takes revenge against his grandmother by BRINGING THE DEAD CHICKENS BACK TO LIFE TO PECK HER TO DEATH. Clearly, one of the more inventive deaths on The X-Files to date.

When questioned about the incident, Charlie claims a boy named Michael did it – Michael being the stillborn twin he never knew he had. Convinced Michael and Charlie need to be separated, Mulder joins the Calusari in an exorcism ritual over Charlie, stopping Michael just before he kills Scully and his own mother. The spirit is separated from Charlie, but the leader of the Calusari warns Mulder that “it knows you.” The end.

“The Calusari” is an average-to-good episode of The X-Files. It is effectively tense and unnerving thanks to Joel Palmer’s performance as the boy. Kudos, too, to Helene Clarkson as his mother, Maggie, for effectively looking frightened and bewildered for much of the episode. The Calusari and grandmother scenes are also well-staged and efficiently unsettling thanks to the vast cultural differences between the Romanian and American families. I also found the grandmother’s death by chicken to be one of those great scenes where you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing, but you know that it’s completely, amazingly bonkers.

I have minor quibbles with the Michael side of the equation as it wasn’t developed well enough to be anything but a swift resolution to a complicated plot. The X-Files sometimes dangers in, largely thanks to the limitations of 45-minutes of television, too quickly resolving complex plots with a single, swiftly resolved explanation. It’s aliens. It’s a ghost. He’s possessed. Many people claimed the episode was a retread of The Exorcist, but I don’t really fault it for that. Just because it dabbles in an exorcism doesn’t make it a copy of that film. It doesn’t even attempt to elevate itself to that level. Instead, it looks for quick, cheap thrills that could be quickly dealt with.

Overall, “The Calusari” isn’t something I’m going to remember a week or two from now, but it was entertaining enough in a pinch. It did take guts to make the chief antagonist a possessed little boy and have him clearly lead to the death of his much younger brother. That’s not something easily pulled off. In that light, the episode was indeed an effective outing. It just doesn’t really grow beyond that central point of shock value.

The Awards Daily TV crew will be celebrating two new premieres tonight in another Awards Daily TV Live Tweet event. Join us for Zoo, an “animals gone wild” (which seems totally redundant) series from CBS based on the 2012 bestseller by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, and Scream, MTV’s foray into the world of TV horror based on Wes Craven’s film series. Zoo has already proven controversial before airing as PETA has weighed in against its use of live animals.

Our last Live Tweet was Lifetime’s A Deadly Adoption and much fun was had by all. If you’re not following us on Twitter, then you can find us at Awards Daily TV, Joey Moser, Clarence Moye, and Megan McLachlan.

We will see all of you online tonight!

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