TV Junkie: Requiem for a Heavyweight - FX Cancels 'Lights Out'
Be sure to check out our recent interviews: today's with Candace Bailey of G4's "Attack of the Show" which is on at 7pm, Monday through Friday, and yesterday's with Chris Franjola of "Chelsea Lately" (Monday-Friday at 11pm) and "After Lately" (Sunday at 11pm) on E! (he was on "Chelsea Lately" last night and will be on "After Lately" this Sunday).
Some sad news was announced today as FX stated that they would not be renewing the series "Lights Out" after its final episodes air in the next two weeks. We were a little late in warming up to this show after seeing a couple screeners of it late last summer but showrunner Warren Leight made the show into an incredibly convoluted and dramatic tale by the time it premiered. We don't think the cancellation reflects badly on FX, who also tragically had to cancel one of our favorite shows of 2010, "Terriers." FX does so many uncompromisingly good dramas and comedies that they have to be as careful and as frugal as they can be.
If you look at broadcast TV, you have a show like "American Idol" on Fox that can fund a show like "Fringe," or on ABC you have "Dancing With The Stars" funding a "Lost." Are we saying that FX needs to have a high calorie-low nutritional value show like "Idol" or "DWTS?" No! Because that would change the entire network and we don't want that. We just have to understand when they have to end something for self-preservation's sake. FX also deserves a lot of respect in that they choose to show all episodes of a cancelled show even though they could possibly make more money with a rerun of National Treasure.
The problem is that we need more intelligent and discerning viewers - something that we are trying to cultivate with the TV Junkie. You won't see us talking about "American Idol" here because, not only do we not see much value in the show, but enough people are already talking about a show that is insanely popular. "American Idol" doesn't need our help, shows like "Terriers," "Lights Out," and "Fringe" need our help.
For another hint of the greatness that was behind "Lights Out," please check out our exchange with series star Holt McCallany and showrunner Warrern Leight, below.
The TV Junkie: Holt, I wanted to ask you in terms of your experience working in televisio, and I know you've had some experience with Warren before, but what makes working with Warren different in terms of how you guys prepare. I know, obviously his background is on the stage but are there some things you can point out?
Holt McCallany: Well, I suppose I'm in a position where I'll have to say some very flattering things about my boss in front of him. But the greatest thing that any actor can ever hope for is to have good writing and have very bright, very talented writers who are passionate about the stories that they want to tell. Who are interested enough in you, as an actor, to try to understand what makes you tick and to try to create stories that you'll really be able to do justice to.
I'm a very, very lucky guy to be working with Warren. He's definitely the most talented writer that I've worked with and also as John Solberg or any of the other guys on this call with me will tell you, he's also one of the nicest guys in the business. Listen, let's be candid, there are many times in the television business when the actor is reading a script and thinking, "Oh, my God, what am I going to do with this?" You try to make lemonade out of lemons sometimes. You try to find a way to elevate the material and you try to --- You understand, look, it can be very difficult for writers in TV to continue to deliver great scripts as the seasons go on and on and on and on. Everybody is under a lot of pressure and nobody has enough time. You have to keep working at such a fast pace and sometimes things don't really come out very well and you've got to kind of make the best of it.
I'm not in that situation here. I mean think about some of these performances from some of these guys: Eamonn Walker and David Morse and Billy Brown. It's not just great writing for 'Lights' Leary. It's great writing for the entire cast and I include Elizabeth Marvel and Bill Irwin and my children. I mean what an extraordinary job Ryann Shane has done this season. Who knew when we were shooting the pilot that this young woman would shine in the way that she has?
So, we're very lucky. Warren and his team are very experienced and very, very good at what they do. It makes my job a lot easier. I just have to learn my lines and show up.
The TV Junkie: As a follow up Warren, you spent this lifetime in New York and again with a lot of work on stage. I think you did this fantastic job in bringing Bill Irwin in. He's a fantastic stage actor. I've had the pleasure of seeing him many times. I wanted to ask you about the presence of New York in this series. I think it's presented very realistically. It takes the guys some time to get to New Jersey. They don't just instantly pop up there. There's a process of getting there and the kind of environment that you picked for the show. How important has this been to you to have this kind of realistic portrayal of the town in the series?
Warren Leight: I think sense of place is very important. Actually, when I took over "In Treatment," one of the first things I did in Season 2 of "In Treatment" was I moved Gabriel Byrne's practice and his character to Brooklyn because I really didn't know where Season 1 took place and it bugged me a bit. I need to know, maybe it's some sort of limit that I have. I need to know where I am before I could start writing. I need to have a sense of place.
I think the original pilot [for "Lights Out"] was set in Connecticut and I moved it to Bayonne when we reworked it. Bayonne has history and it's a tough working class neighborhood and it's isolated from the rest of the world. It's cut off from a lot of the culture blessings of the New York/New Jersey area. It's surrounded by highway and dirty water and people kind of don't move in and out of Bayonne that often and that easily. I like the tribal quality of that and so that we start in Astoria, Queens at the base of the Triborough Bridge surrounded by dirty water and housing projects and the ribbons of highway. I don't believe people can shoot Toronto from New York, but you can shoot Astoria for Bayonne and I think we did and we choose every location with extreme care.
To me, you learn a lot about class and culture from a place and just the exterior of dad's house, Pops' house tells us a huge amount that to think that the two big brothers and Elizabeth Marvel's character grew up in that house with Pops Leary tells you a lot about what there life was like. We just saw that exterior from time to time and it tells us a good deal about who these guys are. To show that exterior of 'Lights' house in Far Hills, New Jersey --- what we allege to be Far Hills --- there's not much else around there. It's a lot of land. It's a big house and 'Lights' is --- I think Tyson once famously said to somebody about, "Do you ever get lonely in the big house?" He's talking about himself and you worry what's that house like for 'Lights' when his family isn't there. What does he do? We don't have many traces of him in that house? So, I like setting up the world of Bayonne, setting up the world 40 miles away that's a whole other universe that 'Lights' is not as comfortable in.
Then from a shooting point of view, to get to shoot New York means I can bring in Elizabeth Marvel as his sister, Bill Irwin, Reg Cathey. There's a guy who plays Bill Irwin's concierge, Gus. This is a guy named Dan Moran. I've worked with him in various theater things for 30 years. I can kind of bring guys in --- I have my own repartory company with the "Lights Out" cast. It was very comforting for me to, we didn't really have much time to cast. We had to do it on the fly. We had a great casting director in Alexa Fogel, but I could get on the phone with Alexa and we can cast an episode in about eight minutes just from the actors she knows and the actors that I know and they're in New York and hit the ground running. In the David Morse episode, one of the toughest scenes anyone had to do all year was his first scene of the shoot. He came in fully prepared and nailed it. I don't know if you remember, Holt, the way he flicks the dime?
Holt McCallany: I do remember, yes. We had a lot of great actors this year. Alexa did a terrific job and Warren just listed a few of them, but there was nobody, nobody better than David Morse. I mean this guy --- I would look in his eyes sometimes when I'm acting with him and he just would break my heart. He is a very experienced, very, very talented actor and it was really a privilege to work with that guy.
Warren Leight: So you get these guys in and they all kind of --- in New York, word got out, "Oh, this is a good show to [work on]" Everyone knew the actors we were bringing in and nobody wanted to be the guy who drops the baton in a way. There's a lot less shooting going on in New York and there's very little TV writing going on in New York. So to have a whole local production, the writer's room was here, it's what I've hoped for you don't get too often.
Thank you Holt, Warren, and everyone at FX for working on "Lights Out" and giving it a chance. I'm sorry we couldn't get you the audience you needed.
The TV Junkie Must-Watch Plan: "Attack of the Show," "Community," "Perfect Couples," "The Office," "Parks and Recreation," "30 Rock," "Chelsea Lately" (Brittany Snow guests, Jen Kirkman on panel), "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (Rachel Maddow)
7:00pm Attack of the Show! G4 - New technology, hot games, breaking news and oddities.
8:00pm Community NBC - Things don't go as planned when Jeff plans a surprise party in "Pulp Fiction" style for Abed's birthday.
8:30pm Perfect Couples NBC - Julia plans a bachelorette party for Amy in Vancouver; Vance tries to impress the guys with his camping skills; Leigh and Rex have a hard time spending one night apart.
9:00pm Man vs. Wild Discovery - Global Survival Guide Bear Grylls gives tips and techniques on how to find water in the desert.
9:00pm SoCal Connected KCET - In depth report on corruption at Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles
9:00pm The Office NBC - Michael decides to ask Holly to marry him; the office has a garage sale.
9:30pm Parks and Recreation NBC - Leslie takes the department on a camping trip to brainstorm new ideas; Andy tries to romance April; Chris returns to Pawnee as the city manager.
10:00pm Archer FX - Archer discovers the chemotherapy drugs he's been taking are counterfeit and sets out to destroy the criminals behind the scheme.
10:00pm Fairly Legal USA - In a hectic day, Kate prevents an international incident, mediates between brothers and gets thrown in jail.
10:00pm 30 Rock NBC - Liz tries to convince everyone that the show's hiatus is temporary; Jack turns to his nemesis, Devin Banks (Will Arnett), for help.
11:00pm Chelsea Lately E! - Brittany Snow guests, Jen Kirkman is on the panel!
11:00pm Conan TBS - Stuntman and martial arts master Steven Ho, Patton Oswalt, Wanda Jackson performs
12:00am Lopez Tonight TBS - Kristen Bell, Jake Johnson, Slash performs
12:35am Late Night With Jimmy Fallon NBC - Show host Rachel Maddow; Tres Mts. performs.