Fall ’16 TV schedule inside!

Welcome to the fall 2016 TV season, everybody! In this very post, I’ve brought together the new fall schedules for all four major broadcast networks–namely, CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC–as well as The CW. Without further ado, jump after the fold for the full breakdown, and note that all new programs are highlighted in red. READ MORE Fall ’16 TV schedule inside!

FX ends ‘Tyrant’, an important show of our times

After three and two seasons, respectively, FX axed Middle Eastern drama Tyrant and musical dramedy Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. My thoughts on the former below; spoilers ahead.

I stuck with Tyrant from its humble beginnings, when it was a show about a pediatrician from Pasadena who was quickly thrusted into a heated political landscape in the fictional Middle Eastern country Abuddin. During the show’s initial run, Barry had to acclimate to his estranged family consisting of his despot father and hot-headed brother. In its second going, Barry–now called by his birth name Basam–worked alongside his brother when their father passed away. Basam’s brother Jamal had a trigger-finger and was quick to violence, and the show hit its stride when Basam was able to unlock Jamal’s compassion and dig up long-buried truths between the brothers. In the most recent run, Basam takes over Abuddin and the show transitions from its familial roots to a hardcore look at the political climate there. It’s about power, and the fallout of gaining too much of it too fast–Barry becomes Basam the Tyrant, a role he rallied against until he was sitting on the throne. It’s about revenge and sacrifice and forgiveness. That’s what you get when you look at it season by season. As a whole, Tyrant told ripped-from-the-headlines stories about the turbulence in the Middle East, and it gave a voice to those who maybe aren’t so vocal in the news today, supporters of Peace in Islam. It did so with unrelenting realism–death and sacrifice were no strangers to Basam Al-Fayeed and his family. Far from perfect, Tyrant was a uniquely ambitious TV series in that it told important stories with emotional heft and ramifications that mirror our modern society, and it’s one that I will certainly miss.

Will Tyrant live on? Jump after the break. READ MORE FX ends ‘Tyrant’, an important show of our times

PlayStation 4 gets a mid-cycle boost with PS4 Pro: all the details inside

Sony announced not one but two new video game consoles this week at its PlayStation Meeting at the newly dubbed PlayStation Theatre in Times Square, New York. The first console unveiled, which was widely expected to launch here,  was the PS4 Slim. Of course, Sony doesn’t call it that officially, but it’s something gamers have become accustomed to during a console’s lifecycle. The updated PS4 is slimmer, lighter, and more energy efficient than the original model–it’s about 30 percent smaller and cuts power consumption by 28 percent to be more precise. Other minor differences: it boasts faster Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac), a third USB 3.1 port around the back, and the optical port’s been removed. Other than that, it’s got the same guts and glory that the OG PS4 always had. The heftier PS4 will phase out of market when PS4 Slim drops September 15. For $299, you get the console fitted with a 500GB HDD, a copy of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and an slightly updated version of the DualShock 4 wireless controller. The new DS4 features a secondary light bar above the touch pad, as well as USB communication. Preorder today.

Now let’s move onto the most exciting news of the event. “We realized that for the very highly discriminatory gamer, there’s always a desire for advancement and they want it in this generation…We are adjusting and accelerating our innovation cadence,” said Sony’s Andrew House to a crowd full of anticipation. In essence, what House is saying that Sony doesn’t want to make gamers wait any longer for a new, more powerful console. Instead of announcing the PlayStation 5, Sony’s taking a page out of Microsoft’s playbook and making a new console to “complement” the standard PS4 and sit right alongside it. Enter PlayStation 4 Pro. Jump after the break for more. READ MORE PlayStation 4 gets a mid-cycle boost with PS4 Pro: all the details inside

Use The Force to control BB-8 with Sphero’s Force Band

BB-8, the lovable android from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is about to get a major upgrade. And I’m not talking about Episode 8, I’m referring to the actual BB-8 toy by Sphero! The company’s showing off a new accessory for its BB-8 called Force Band and it allows you to control the android using The Force! Okay, fine, it’s hand motions detected by a wristband–but still! In addition to pushing and pulling BB-8, the wrist-worn Force Band will also have you acting out your favorite Light Saber, blaster, and Force battles; those distinct sounds emit from the band in Combat Training mode. In addition, you can go hunting for digital “holocrons” in your environment–sound familiar? (Cough, Pokemon Go!) The Force Band is compatible with Sphero’s other robots, too. But who are they kidding? BB-8 and The Force is a perfect (Bluetooth) pairing.

Seeing is believing, so check out the Force Band in all its glorious action in the video embedded above. It comes out on September 30 for $79. Or, if you don’t have Sphero’s BB-8 yet, you can buy the android-band bundle for $199. Preorder today. Oh, and one more thing: Sphero’s made a limited edition “Battle-Worn” BB-8 sporting the wear and tear of Resistance missions. Gotta love it! He’s paired with the Force Band for $199. All the above can be preordered today. May the Force be with you, always.

Sia & Maddie Ziegler team up again for new single “The Greatest”

Sia, Aussie vocalist whose wigs never go out of style, is back with a brand new single and she’s enlisted dancer Maddie Ziegler to star in another one of her wild music videos.

The new song is titled “The Greatest” and the music video opens with a hashtag stating “We Are Your Children.” It’s not made clear if this is the name of Sia’s next album, or if it merely refers to the many youthful sprites featured in the video. In typical Sia fashion, she is not present in the clip; Ziegler shines by dominating the zany choreography. The song, as expected, is another Sia smash that’ll have your grooving along in no time. The music and the choreography sync like magic–Sia and Ziegler are truly an artistic match made in heaven.

Sia’s latest, “The Greatest,” can be purchased on iTunes, streamed on Spotify, the works. Note that the single includes a verse from Kendrick Lamar, while the music video leaves that out.

Following the one-two punch that was 2014’s 1000 Forms of Fear and this year’s This Is Acting, I cannot wait to see what Sia has coming soon. With one of the industry’s most utterly unique voices and undeniably catchy sounds, Sia’s next moves are hotly anticipated. I’m still high off This Is Acting, and now this! READ MORE Sia & Maddie Ziegler team up again for new single “The Greatest”

Netflix renews ‘Stranger Things’ for season 2 (“Deleted scene” inside!)

Took ’em long enough! Today Netflix finally made the inevitable official: Stranger Things will return in 2017 with a second season. The 80s nostalgia-infused sci-fi adventure was the streaming service’s breakout hit of the summer, and it was widely expected that The Duffer Brothers would be given the opportunity to explore Hawkins, Indiana, The Upside Down dimension, and beyond with more episodes. In fact, the new season ups season 1’s episode count by one. And get this–all nine episodes have already been titled and the Duffers included the “chapter” names in the Season 2 announcement video embedded above. Can’t help but wonder about “The Lost Brother!”

Now, as excited as we all are about more Stranger Things in the pipeline, the series will be returning without its short-lived and most beloved character. That’s right, I’m talking about Barb. Poor Barb. Barb, who was kidnapped by The Demogorgon and ultimately swallowed up by the creepy-crawlers of the Upside Down. Or was she…

Pop after the break to watch a “deleted scene” from Stranger Things, provided by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. It is a riot. #BarbLives. READ MORE Netflix renews ‘Stranger Things’ for season 2 (“Deleted scene” inside!)

My thoughts on Netflix’s summer surprise, ‘Stranger Things’

Well that completely came out of nowhere.

Every now and then, a show comes along that reaches out and grips you with its claws and never lets go. Enter STRANGER THINGS, a new Netflix sci-fi drama. After scrubbing through a trailer last month, I quickly dismissed it and I wouldn’t have given it a chance if it weren’t for two of my friends reaching out and demanding I tune in. Word of mouth can be a powerful thing.

STRANGER THINGS is a true amalgamation of every genre I love. When people ask me to describe it, I gush like this: It’s an adrenaline rush of pure adventure, a tale told from the innocent, wide-eyed perspective of a ragtag team of kids. It’s an edge-of-your-seat thriller with nuanced scares that make your imagination do most of the work. There’s conspiracy theories and weird science to wrap your brain around. And it’s all set in an eerie town where nothing is exactly what it seems.

In a nutshell: THE GOONIES + THE X-FILES/FRINGE + TWIN PEAKS = STRANGER THINGS

And let’s throw CLOVERFIELD in the mix for good measure; there’s a Monster here that would make J.J. Abrams and even Guillermo del Toro proud.

Holding this all together is a thick coat of nostalgia. From the neon bright opening credits to an original electronic soundtrack pulsing with 80s flair, STRANGER THINGS is intrinsically a warm, inviting series that draws you in with its recognizable throwbacks. (I mean, look at this poster!) What’ll hook you, though, is the utterly unexpected places it will take you. Well, that and the unbelievably talented cast of unknown kids. They will make you laugh, they will make you cry, they will leave you begging for more.

Now go enjoy this eight hour movie. Happy binging!

Kanye West & Bon Iver reunite on eclectic track from Francis and the Lights

Francis and the Lights just released my pick for song of the summer. Never heard of ’em? Neither had I, until last night, when Kanye West tweeted out a link to the music video embedded above, claiming it, “My favorite song this year.” The track, titled “Friends,” is intrinsically pop, with a calm buildup that climaxes into a groovy medley with kaleidoscopic sounds and wavy echoes. The minimalist music video, expertly directed by Jake Schreier in a single shot, is the perfect compliment to the song. Francis Farewell Starlite–the musician behind the Lights–and his erratic dance moves are prominently featured here. Kanye makes an appearance as does Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. The video culminates in cool synchronized dance choreography that effortlessly draws you into the fun they’re having. The combined power of Kanye, Justin, and Francis’ electronic coos is nothing short of hypnotizing! If you are a fan of Vernon’s ethereal touch on West’s Twisted Fantasy tracks “Monster” and “Lost in the World,” then Francis’ “Friends” will surely soothe the soul.

If you’re like me and feel compelled to explore Francis and the Lights’ discography, let me help you with that. From 2007-2013, Francis released four EPs and they’re all available on iTunes. In addition, he scored the sci-fi drama Robot & Frank, which happens to be directed by the music video’s helmer Schreier. Francis recently posted a new song called “Thank You” on SoundCloud, and he’s currently on tour with Bon Iver. And if “Friends” sounds like something you’ve heard before, you’re not alone; Francis sampled the song in a track he produced for Chance the Rapper, “Summer Friends.”

Now excuse me as I plug in my headphones and get lifted by this summer surprise, on repeat indefinitely. Stream it on Spotify and download it on iTunes. READ MORE Kanye West & Bon Iver reunite on eclectic track from Francis and the Lights

‘Rogue One’ sizzle reel shows off ‘Star Wars’ practical effects (New poster inside!)

The very first standalone Star Wars movie is coming soon, and to (ahem) celebrate, Disney and Lucasfilm shared this Rogue One sizzle reel at Star Wars Celebration in London this week. The nearly three-minute reel takes you in front of and behind the camera, giving you an inside look at how much effort is going into making the world of Star Wars come to life outside the confines of the three trilogies. Episode VII director J.J. Abrams was praised for his use of practical effects in The Force Awakens, and it looks like Rogue One helmer Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) is taking a page out of Abrams’ playbook. The gritty war zones that makeup Rogue One are littered with real explosions and imaginative creature costumes. Of course, these moviemakers simply couldn’t put on the show without pushing the limits of CG animation, but it’s good to know that where possible, what we end up seeing on the big screen is the real deal.

Go on and enjoy the reel; in it you’ll also hear from the cast and crew and maybe learn a little more about the resistance fighters’ daring mission to steal the Death Star plans. Celebration attendees left the panel with the first official poster for Rogue One, and you can eyeball it after the break; that tropical locale in the teaser and sizzle reel now has a name and it’s Scarif. Also screened at the panel but not released on the Internet (yet) was the second teaser trailer for the flick; spoiler alert, it ends with the mother of all teases: Darth Vader is back!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theatres December 16, 2016. READ MORE ‘Rogue One’ sizzle reel shows off ‘Star Wars’ practical effects (New poster inside!)

Nintendo celebrates its history with retro NES console release

Nintendo is on a roll. In the midst of surging in popularity thanks to the overnight success of the augmented reality smartphone app Pokémon GO, the house that built Mario has announced a new console. No, it’s not the highly anticipated next-gen NX. Ninty’s playing its most reliable card, nostalgia, by releasing a miniaturized version of its very first video game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which originally debuted in the States in 1985. The company describes it as a “near-identical, mini replica” of the NES and it’s compatible with all modern TV sets as it utilizes an included HDMI cable to display audio and video. In addition to the cable, the package comes complete with an AC adapter for power and one NES Classic Controller for gameplay input. The wired controller is patterned after the iconic rectangular design of the original NES gamepad. You can even connect it to a Wii Remote to play Virtual Console NES games with it on the Wii and Wii U.

Speaking of games, the mini NES, which easily fits in the palm of a hand, comes preloaded with 30 classic and cult NES titles including Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, PAC-MAN, and Kirby’s Adventure. Though Nintendo doesn’t divulge into details, it seems like your dreams of blowing into cartridges and jamming them into the console’s slot-tray have been dashed here. What is cool, however, is that each game has multiple suspend points, so you won’t have to worry about manually saving your progress and locking it with a password. Additionally, some of the onboard games will support two players, and NES Classic Controllers will be sold separately for $9.99. Update: A Nintendo spokesperson confirmed to Kotaku that the “Chamber Lid” will not accept cartridges or any other kind of physical media for that matter. In addition, the console does not connect to the Internet, so the games library here is capped to the 30 that come preinstalled. Engadget adds that original NES controllers will not work with the new NES due to differing connectors. So there you go.

The Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition hits the market on November 11 at the reasonable price of $59.99. Be sure to jump after the break to view a full list of all the preloaded games, as well as an image of the retro product’s packaging.

Update (7/21): Ninty’s dropped an especially retro commercial to promote the mini console; it evokes its marketing campaign from the 80s with the classic tag, “Now you’re playing with power!”

[Via BusinessWire] READ MORE Nintendo celebrates its history with retro NES console release

‘Game of Thrones’ & ‘O.J.” lead Emmy nominations, ‘The Americans’ joins the race

Today the latest crop of Emmy nominations were announced, and they include the typical fare you’re used to seeing get recognized this time of year, as well as some welcome surprises and sour snubs.

HBO’s widely popular fantasy drama Game of Thrones earned a whopping 23 nominations, leading the pack by a narrow margin; FX’s The People Vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story (22 nods) and Fargo (18), as well as HBO comedy Veep (17) aren’t trailing far behind.

The following series vie for Best Drama: The Americans (!), Better Call SaulDownton AbbeyGame of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards, and Mr. Robot. That’s right–FX Cold War period drama The Americans, after four seasons on the air, is finally being recognized, and in more ways than one. In addition to landing in the Best Drama field, its stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are in the race for Best Lead Actor/Actress. Both are facing some serious competition. Rhys joins Kyle Chandler (Bloodline), Rami Malek (Mr. Robot), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan), and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) in the Best Lead Actor category; Russell makes good company with Claire Danes (Homeland), Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), Taraji P Henson (Empire), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, for the second consecutive year!), and Robin Wright (House of Cards).

The following series are in contention for Best Comedy: black-ish, Master of None, Modern Family, Silicon Valley, Transparent, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Veep. Best Lead Actors include Anthony Anderson (black-ish), Aziz Ansari (Masters of None), Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth), William H Macy (Shameless), Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), and Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent). Best Lead Actresses include Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Laurie Metcalfe (Getting On), Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish), Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer), and Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie).

Over in the Limited Series field, American Crime, Fargo, The Night Manager, The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, and Roots were all nominated for a top prize. Yes, many of the OJ actors you loved watching in that series were nominated for their captivating portrayals including Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance, Cuba Gooding Jr, Sterling K. Brown, David Schwimmer, and John Travolta. Equally happy to report that AMC’s The Night Manager high praise also extends to its leads Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie.

The snubs that leave a sour taste in my mouth including the complete shunning of HBO’s The Leftovers, which came off an incredibly artistic and gripping second season featuring master-class acting and direction; the lack of love for A&E’s Bates Motel is appalling as leads Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore gave painstakingly breathtaking performances this year; also nada for Netflix/Marvel’s Jessica Jones and its stars Krysten Ritter and David Tennant, AMC’s Billions and its stars Paul Giamatti and Damien Lewis, and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black which is fresh off another solid season. And then, of course, there’s the yearly tradition of scratching one’s head over the lack of overall recognition for AMC’s The Walking Dead which year after year produces not only ratings gold but also creative powerhouse television. What makes all of these snubs somewhat more palatable is knowing that Louie Anderson squeezed into the race with a wholly deserved nod for his hysterical and nuanced turn as Zach Galifianakis’ mother in FX’s Baskets.

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards airs live Sunday, September 18 at 7pm (EST) on ABC. Click here for the full list of nominees.

Summertime renewals: ‘Preacher’ & ‘Bloodline’ will return

AMC’s Preacher premiered in late May, just as the traditional TV season winded down, and it quickly proved to be wildly entertaining summer fare. Producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, along with Breaking Bad producer Sam Catlin, took the popular comic book series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon and adapted it for the small screen without missing a beat. The darkly comedic drama twists the supernatural genre on its head, weaving a wild tale about good vs. evil featuring a talented cast of misfits including Dominic Cooper’s entitiy-empowered Jesse Custer, Ruth Negga’s bad-ass Tulip, Joseph Gilgun’s hysterical portrayal of an Irish vampire named Cassidy. The already mythos-heavy story will continue when an expanded 13-episode second season arrives next year. Preacher currently airs Sunday nights at 9pm on AMC.

“‘Preacher’ is a special television program and we’re eager to share with fans the rest of this wild first season and, now, an expanded second season,” said AMC head Charlie Collier. “What Sam, Seth, Evan and the entire creative team have achieved in bringing Garth Ennis’ graphic novel to the screen is extraordinary. We look forward to more time with these unforgettable characters be it in Heaven, Hell, Texas or beyond.”

Netflix’s Bloodline is an interesting beast. In its debut season, the dark family drama told an incredibly compelling story about what happens when lies and deception bubble to the surface amidst a tight-knit family. It utilized tantalizing voice-overs and layered flashbacks to uncover the mysteries hiding behind all-too-believable characters embodied by an all-star cast including Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz, and Sissy Spacek. By the end of the season–spoiler alert–Mendelsohn’s scene-stealing Danny Rayburn perished and I wasn’t so sure the show could go on without his menacing presence. Season 2 picks up right where things left off, and Danny does return in flashbacks (as expected), and perhaps more surprisingly he haunts the Rayburns in the present when his son, Nolan, crashes on the scene. The second run worked, sure, but I did not find it to be as compellingly stirring and engaging as before. Without Danny as a living, breathing antagonist to the rest of the Rayburn family, I felt the plot to be meandering and lost at times. Even still, the Rayburns without Danny are still an interesting bunch to follow, and with that said, there’s apparently more story to tell now that Netflix has officially greenlit a third season.

“Todd [Kessler], Daniel [Zelman], and Glenn [Kessler] have created a riveting family saga featuring one of the most talented ensembles in the history of television,” said Cindy Holland, VP Original Content at Netflix. “We can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds for the all-too-human Rayburns.”

Stick it here for more summer renewal news. READ MORE Summertime renewals: ‘Preacher’ & ‘Bloodline’ will return