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NEW - 10/31/09 - Original creator Kenny Johnson happy with remake, says VARIETYBy MICHAEL SCHNEIDER

"'V' voice revisits familiar turf. 

Whether ABC's frosh drama "V" succeeds or fails, Kenny Johnson is just happy to see the show back on the pop culture radar.

Johnson has technically nothing to do with the new sci-fi drama, which bows this week and comes from exec producers Scott Peters, Jeffrey Bell, Steve Pearlman and Jace Hall.

But as the creator of the original "V" miniseries in 1983, Johnson knows interest in the new "V" will also spur nostalgia for his original. And Johnson, who didn't retain TV rights to the title, still has big feature plans for his own "V" remake.

"If the show succeeds, it gives us an opportunity to go out with a one sheet that says, 'You like the show, now see the original classic reborn,' " Johnson says. "And if the show doesn't do well, we can always say, 'Here is the "V" you've been waiting for.' "

"V" reps the latest franchise reborn from a Kenneth Johnson Prods. creation. The scribe has watched in recent years as many of his old smallscreen creations have been given new life, but without his involvement.

Johnson was behind several smallscreen titles that remain iconic TV touchstones: "The Bionic Woman," "The Incredible Hulk," "V" and "Alien Nation" (which Johnson adapted from a previous feature). 

"Someone pointed out to me that I was now four for four," Johnson says. "It's flattering, wonderful to know that things I've created have staying power."

The first two updates, however, have so far missed the mark, while the jury's still out on the other two.

 "Bionic" was given an ill-fated NBC makeover, while "Hulk" turned into two lukewarm box office features. Syfy is plotting another take on "Alien Nation."

And then there's "V," which bows Nov. 3 and will run for four weeks before disappearing and then returning in the spring.

Among all his original programs, Johnson says he still receives the most attention for "V."

"Of all the emails I get, 'V' is head and shoulders above the rest," he says. "So many people tell me they first saw 'V' when they were 10 or 12 and they loved the action, the spaceships. Then they saw it again years later, and discovered that there was so much more going on there than they first realized."

"V" wasn't even originally about aliens, but revolved around a fascist takeover of the United States. When NBC's Brandon Tartikoff read the first draft, he told Johnson he didn't think viewers would understand the concept.

Hence the decision to make it about alien visitors.

"What it was really about was power and people in power," he said. "It's funny, when you go back and look at my original 'V' miniseries, there are a lot fewer special effects than people remember. ... My frustration originally was I couldn't make it look the way I wanted it to look. We didn't have the money or even the tools."

People still recall the lizards and the big spaceships hovering over the nation's cities, and those two signatures also play a role in the updated "V." That's why Johnson grew concerned when his credit on the revival went to Writers' Guild arbitration.

Johnson feared that he was being completely iced out of the revival, while Warner Bros. TV says there was a misunderstanding -- claiming the plan was to simply make sure they identified the legally acceptable credit for Johnson (and avoid a skirmish down the road).

The Writers Guild opted to give Johnson a "created by" credit, and everyone appears to have moved on.

"None of us would be here without Ken Johnson, who did the original 'V' miniseries, which was obviously a phenomenal success," Peters says. "So we owe a lot to him. In that vein, we wanted to make sure as we moved forward that we made sure that we honored and respected the characters and the themes that that show envisioned and tried not to step on those and introduced brand new characters and brand new themes that would make sense in a post-9/11 world. So it's really an honor to be able to take the story forward. We're hoping to bring a whole new set of fans as well as the folks who watched it originally."

Johnson may still prove to be a slight nuisance for Warner Bros. TV, as he pushes ahead with a rival "V" project for the bigscreen.

"When I discovered that I controlled the motion picture rights to 'V,' I suddenly had a lot of new best friends," Johnson says. "All the major studios, Fox, Paramount, MGM, Warners, wanted to buy the rights with a whole lot of money. They see it as a $200 million tentpole picture, and want to bring someone else to direct. I took a deep breath and said no."

Since he's watched his smallscreen creations take new life without his involvement, Johnson isn't interested in letting "V" go.

"I got into the business to direct and do what I do," Johnson says. "So what we've been endeavoring to do is to set up an independent production and produce this movie for $50 million. So I can hang on to the director reins and make sure it gets done."

Johnson dismisses concerns that viewers might be confused over two separate "V" franchises at the same time. He notes that "Star Trek" has existed with different worlds on TV and in film at the same time -- ditto "Smallville" on TV and "Superman" on the bigscreen.

"I certainly wish Jace Hall and Scott Peters well on their series," he says. "They've been respectful of me and my original work and that's rewarding in itself."

But Johnson's also eager to revisit "V" the way he wanted to make it. 

"There's a sense that not only do I know the themes, but it's also because I've had that one on one connection with the audience over the years," he says. "I really listened to them and have got a pretty good sense of how to make 'V' work."


V producer on who might return and other homages - SciFi Wire by Patrick Lee on August 11, 2009

Scott Peters, executive producer of ABC's upcoming V series, confirmed that producers have spoken with Jane Badler, the actress who memorably played the evil alien leader Diana in Kenneth Johnson's original V miniseries, on which the new show is based, about possibly playing a role in the new series.

"Jane Badler has approached our producers and has been in touch here and there," Peters (The 4400) said in an exclusive interview over the weekend at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

Badler is one of the original cast members whom the producers are considering putting in the new show as an homage and tip of the hat, Peters said. "And I haven't had a chance to actually sit down or talk to anybody face to face, but I would love to," Peters said about the original stars, who include Marc Singer and Faye Grant. "And as we move forward in the writers' room, ... we're just getting up on our ... feet. We start shooting Monday [Aug. 10], and so once we sort of get that first one under our belts, I think we'll be able to take a bit of a sigh of relief and really sort of look a little bit more broad stroke, a little bit more big picture. ... I don't want somebody to just walk by in the background and then feature them for a second. ... I want to find a really interesting role for somebody."

That might include role that are 180 degrees different from the parts they played in the 1983 miniseries. "Yeah," Peters said. "I mean, just somebody who can come in, and ... it's either a really ironic role for them, based on what their old role was, or just something really fun or interesting. I want them to have fun doing it. I want the fans to be excited about it. And I think it's just a fun thing to be able to tip your hat to the old show."

The new V is a re-imagining of the original miniseries, about the world's first encounter with an alien race, in which the aliens call themselves the Visitors and have a seemingly friendly agenda that may or may not be a cover for something more malevolent. The new show stars Elizabeth Mitchell as Erica Evans, Morris Chestnut as Ryan Nichols, Joel Gretsch as Father Jack Landry, Lourdes Benedicto as Valerie Stevens, Logan Huffman as Tyler Evans and Laura Vandervoort as Lisa, with Morena Baccarin as Anna and Scott Wolf as Chad Decker.

Peters also promised that the new series will nod to the original in other ways as well, though it tells a new story in the present day with new characters and new situations. (Possible spoilers ahead!)

"Whenever we would audition actors or bring writers in to ... interviews, ... we would ask, 'What do you remember of the show? What's like the big [thing]?' And the big things were the huge ships, the red uniforms, ... eating the hamster and [the] alien baby. You know, universally, that was what everyone came up with. It was like our top four or five. So definitely, we are well aware of those moments and looking to put our own little spin on them to tip our hat to the old audience."

What about the famous reveal of the Visitor's face ripped away to reveal that lizard countenance?

"That was the other one, of course," he said, adding: "We tried to put our own [spin on it]. We're ... a little bit different than their execution of it. It wasn't so much latex mask as it is real flesh and blood."


Logan Huffman is Tyler Evans of ABC's V, Associated Content by Marissa Plains on August 10, 2009


ABC Executives Sound Coy About New TV Series's Political Edge, Washington Post by Lisa de Moraes on August 10, 2009

Almost as if Lou Dobbs had taken over the network, ABC plans to debut a series in the fall about aliens who come to Earth promising "hope," "change" and universal health care, but who actually want to infiltrate our government and our businesses and, to that end, have rallied the country's youth behind their nefarious campaign.

Morena Baccarin plays the good-looking, seductively charismatic leader of the so-called Visitors, one remarkably knowledgeable about human culture and media manipulation.

The series is called "V" and it's a re-envisioning of an old miniseries of same name.

Baccarin acknowledged she had modeled her alien character after politicians, saying: "I am trying my best [in the role] to be as trustworthy as I can be and to embody what everybody of every nationality and need wants to see. At the same time, you have your own agenda."

Oh, and "V" is debuting on Nov. 3 -- the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, a.k.a. the one-year anniversary of Barack Obama being elected the 44th president of the United States, which will be front and center on all the cable news networks, the broadcast TV networks' newscasts, the front pages of newspapers, magazine covers and pretty much otherwise on everybody's mind.

This was not lost on some of the TV critics attending Summer TV Press Tour 2009, especially those who knew the original "V" was seen as a political allegory. In that case, it was widely perceived as a thinly veiled portrait of fascism.

"Some of the words in the pilot associated with the Visitors' agenda are 'hope' and 'change' and 'universal health care,' " one critic noted. "So, was that intentional, or are you just freakishly prescient?"

"Freakishly prescient," replied executive producer Scott Peters, though not blithely -- not with any real zippiness. Many in the room did not seem to buy it, except maybe "V" heroine Elizabeth Mitchell, who responded, "Wow!" as if it was the first she was hearing about this.

The critic wanted more.

"We are not looking to put any sort of agenda onto the table but," Peters said, spinning madly, "you know, I wake up in the morning and you look at the news and you see there's wars; there's new diseases being discovered; there's old diseases that we are still dealing with. The economy is in the toilet; there are people losing their homes. Wouldn't it be awesome if 29 ships showed up and they all said, 'We've got this. We'll take care of you. Don't worry about it'?


The Cast and Crew of ABC's "V" Face the Press - by Jace on August 10, 2009

V fans may want to hold onto their hats (or whatever else is nearby) as ABC announced that the series will now launch on Tuesday, November 3rd at 8 pm ET/PT on ABC rather than in midseason. (The news echoes comments made by executive producer Scott Peters to me at Comic-Con.)

ABC announced the change in scheduling at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour session for V, which featured cast members Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Joel Gretsch, Lourdes Benedicto, Morena Baccarin, and Scott Wolf and executive producers Scott Peters and Jeffrey Bell. Or rather the cast of the alien invasion drama announced it... in unison, no less.

So what else did the cast and crew have to say about their upcoming first season? Let's discuss.

Executive producer Scott Peters was asked right off the bat about the fact that so many of V's cast members have appeared on a slew of genre series before getting cast in this project and whether that was an intentional, calculated move.

"We're trying to get every single, science fiction fan who's ever lived to come and watch our show," joked Peters. "No, we obviously went for the best actors we could possibly find, and as we went through this, we're, like, "Oh, hey, somebody from The 4400 and Serenity and Lost. Listen, we love our cast. They're wonderful. They're really not very attractive people, as you can see. (Laughs.) But it's a nice bonus that a lot of folks have appeared in genre shows in the past, but it was not designed that way."

So how different is this incarnation of V from the one that came before?

"None of us would be here without Ken Johnson, who did the original V miniseries, which was obviously a phenomenal success," responded Peters. "So we owe a lot to him. In that vein, we wanted to make sure as we moved forward that we made sure that we honored and respected the characters and the themes that that show envisioned and tried not to step on those and introduced brand new characters and brand new themes that would make sense in a post-9/11 world. So it's really an honor to be able to take the story forward. We're hoping to bring a whole new set of fans as well as the folks who watched it originally."

One of the major changes to the new V series is that the reveal that the aliens are actually scaly-faced reptilian creatures underneath the human-looking skin comes quite early and is handled with a minimum of a-ha trickery. Which was the intent, said Peters.

"I think there was an obvious huge awareness of the original," he said. "There are a lot of people who haven't seen it, but by the time we get to air, we feel like this is not the big surprise that everyone is going to gasp over. We really want to contain [telling] that story that is sort of already known out there so that we can leap forward in very quick manner so that we don't sort of build and build and build to something that people already know. Hopefully, we do it in an artful way and in a twist-filled way that will make folks who haven't seen the show before jump a little bit. Our cast jumped, which was awesome. (Laughs) And really try to bring a new audience to it as well."

Elizabeth Mitchell said that she watched the original series on television when she was a child. "I did watch the show when I was a kid," she said. "I think I was about 13. I was allowed to watch an hour of television with my parents. I really liked it. I liked the escape of it, and I liked the entertainment of it. It was a fun night for me. We kind of made a celebration of it, and I hope that other teenagers will do that with their parents. It's something that kids don't do as much anymore. Oh, my God, I sound like I'm 80. (Laughs.) But, yes, I did watch it back in the day."

Morena Baccarin was asked about her performance as Anna, the face of the Visitors, which one critic described as "every kind of a sweet-faced PR person for a seedy cigarette company."

"I have big shoes to fill as being, I guess, the face of what people want to see, and there's kind of no way to prepare on how to play an alien," said Baccarin. "I did some research, but there's not a lot out there. So, you know, I think I just am trying my best to be as trustworthy as I can be and to be what I would like somebody to be like if they were to come down to Earth, and I think there's an aspect of politicians in that because you need to embody what everybody of every nationality and need wants to see and at the same time you have your own agenda."

Scott Wolf, who plays ambitious journalist Chad Decker, said that he appreciated that critics saw a shading of a legitmate journalist in his performance.

"I appreciate you seeing the legitimate journalist in him; I see that as well," said Wolf. "I think he's a guy who's had success doing what he's doing, but he sees himself a lot further along than he's been able to get thus far. But amongst all the different themes that our producers and writers are dealing with, one of them is integrity versus ambition, and this guy's an incredibly ambitious guy, but there's also a sense of wanting to be a great journalist and be a voice for people so that when spaceships descend over the major cities of the world, he wants people to think, "What is Chad Decker saying about this?" So I think part of the fun of seeing how the character develops will be that relationship between his ambition and his journalistic integrity and which one wins out."

Jeffrey Bell said that the shadow of 9/11 definitely casts its spell over V and was a major influence on the tone of the revival, which is very different from the original.

"I think it's quite a bit different, and in terms re-imagining the original series," said Bell. "The original series, to me, felt very much like a military show almost. It was a resistance and gun fights, and there was a very clear and present enemy. They wore uniforms, and it was the Cold War. It was the Nazis, whoever it was. And post-9/11, that's not who our enemy is anymore. There is no other single threat. It's terrorists, and it's the guy across the street or the woman next door, and who do you trust? And I think one of the things we're trying to do is we have humans who are traitors, and we have Visitors who have a nefarious agenda, and we have Visitors who are heroes."

"And so not knowing who or what someone is and playing the paranoia that we all experience living in a world where we wake up every day and everything is at an orange alert," he continued, "I think the way we're trying to do it is, first off, not be a military show in terms [that] we're not a country at war the way we have [been] in the past, but we are a country very much fractured and struggling with all these issues. I think we've tried to tell stories that regular people -- moms and FBI agents and teenagers -- keeping them in their lives, have to figure out what they're supposed to do.

"Honestly, I'm fascinated by stories that there's a huge over-arching event," said Peters, "that there's a huge universal something that has touched everybody, and how does that affect a priest and an FBI agent and a teenager and a financier and this common thread that runs through all these very different stories. And they all start with very different storylines, which gives us the chance to allow these characters to cross in really unexpected ways and come together, pull apart, and those are just really interesting stories to tell, I think."

So, will Morena Baccarin's Anna eat a rat as the original's Diana did so memorably?

"Whenever we talk to people who saw the original and they [say], 'Oh, my God. I love the original," we go, "What do you love?" And they mention about four or five things, and the rat, guinea pig, bunny, mouse [is up there]," said Bell. "We get a lot of takes on it, but that's one of the things that everyone mentions, and we would be morons if we didn't find a way in the series to pay homage [to it.]"

"You found like the prettiest girl you could possibly find," Mitchell chimed in, "and you're going to make her eat a rodent!"

"We asked her if she had any problems with rodents," said Peters, "and she said, "No." That was her fault."

"I don't mind holding them," joked Baccarin.

"That was before she got the part," joked Morris Chestnut. "Now she cares about it."

"Actors getting a part will say anything," joked Mitchell.

"We're going to say, we want to find a way to do it, but if we just had her do exactly what happened in the original," said Bell in all seriousness, "been there, done that."

"There are other iconic moments certainly within the original that we will find our way of paying homage to," added Peters.

As for Alan Tudyk, who guest stars in the pilot as the partner of FBI Agent Erica Evans (Mitchell), the producers said that he'll be back on the series in some capacity. (Mitchell herself said of Tudyk: "I love him. I want him, love him.)

As for the Visitors' motives in the revival series, don't expect it to be the same as the one in the original, which was basically: steal our water and eat us for dinner.

"It would not be the same as what it was because, again, that's been done," said Bell.

Still, if producers get their wish, actors from the original V could turn up in the revival series, much in the same way that Richard Hatch joined the cast of Battlestar Galactica as a new character.

"I personally like that idea," said Peters. "We talk about it a little bit in the writers' room and we'll obviously develop that as we go forward. But I think it's fun for the fans. I think it's fun just to see those actors show up... It wouldn't be in the same roles, but it would be sort of at an unexpected moment in, perhaps, an unexpected role that would be a little bit of a tip of the hat to the old fans. You know, I think everybody is fair game, but we'll certainly develop that as we move forward. I love the idea, personally."

Peters and Bell said that they have firm plans for the series in terms of overarching storylines and plots.

"The original [V] was conceived as a miniseries," said Bell. "So it was built that way. And knowing that we are built for longer, we've structured the end that way. We've set up the first season so, by the end of the first season, you know what the Visitors' agenda is and sort of where characters end up, on which side of the line they will be by the end of first season."

"That would be our first chunk," he continued. "And then the second season, beginning there, we have a whole different arc again, but we are very much interested in keeping our characters in their own lives. He's going to stay at the church. She's going to stay with the FBI. Chad is going to be a journalist. Ryan is going to be the finance guy he is. And Val is a therapist. Everybody is going to stay in their lives because we think it's more interesting for people watching the show to see someone more like themselves versus 'we are now on the run from an invading army,' and I think we are different that way as well."

Some of the themes of the V pilot--such as the emphasis on universal health care might seem, as Peters put it "freakishly prescient," but Peters said that the series has been in development for quite some time now.

"Because of the Writers' Guild strike, this show has been in development for a long time," he said. "We are not looking to put any sort of agenda onto the table, but I wake up in the morning and you look at the news, and you see there's wars, there's new diseases being discovered, there's old diseases that we are dealing with. The economy is in the toilet. There are people losing their homes. Wouldn't it be awesome if 29 ships showed up and they all said, 'We've got this. We'll take care of you. Don't worry about it'? Wouldn't this be great? And so, I mean, that's really where hope and change came from. Joel [Gretsch] has a line in the pilot that says, "The world is in bad shape, Father. Who wouldn't welcome a savior?" And I think that's a pretty interesting thesis statement. So that's kind of where this whole thing sort of came from. And, listen, I think that shows are open to interpretation. People bring subjective thoughts to it. And if you want to ascribe those words to the Visitors or to whatever is going on in our society, that's sort of up to the viewer, but there's no particular agenda to hone in on those specific things."

Asked to clarify Bell's statement, Peters later said: "I think that if you are bringing something to a show and watching it, looking for something in it, you can find it whether you are on one side of the political spectrum or the other. The main theme of the show is dealing with blind devotion, and I think that you can sort of look at that in two different ways. People will bring to it what they bring to it, and I think it's our job as storytellers to put some provocative things out there and leave things open to interpretation to really bring an audience to it and really be compelled by it. And if one group wants to claim it as their show and another group wants to claim it as their show, that's their prerogative."

"Look, there are always going to be people who will look for agendas in everything," countered Bell. "This show was conceived during the Bush administration. It got executed in an Obama administration. There are people on either sides of the aisle who can find things. You can say, 'Yeah, look how stupid these people are for following blindly and believing everything the government is saying,' and you can have people who are upset about that. And you can have other people saying, 'Look at these people who are promising everything at no cost, and look, they are leading them to their own doom.' And so, for us, both sides have strengths and weaknesses. Let's get people to
show up and watch it and talk about it. But to try to tie it to the birthers or anything is kind of ridiculous."

However, the emphasis this time around is certainly not on a metaphor for the rise of Fascism as in the original, said producers.

"The fear at the time was Fascism," explained Bell. "It was Communism. That was the fear, and that's not the fear now. And we are talking about the metaphors and allegories here, and at a certain level, I just want to remind people it's a show about spaceships on ABC at 8 pm.. And I mean that seriously in that there's this wish fulfillment element of it. And so if everything came true, you would be really excited, and then if it started to turn or you were one of the two or three people who seemed crazy because you knew more about it than anybody else or you didn't believe it, we are really interested on almost a personal level. What does a mom do? What does a priest do? What does a kid do? And how this works politically is fun for people to talk about, but as we are breaking the stories, we are really looking to tell really exciting, entertaining, emotional stories that these guys can do what they do with."

"When we originally conceived the show, I opened up and broadened the theme to be about blind devotion," Peters chimed in. "What happens when you don't ask questions about the things you believe in? And I think that can be applied across the board whether you are talking about a political issue or a religious issue or a relationship issue, any number of things. And so, to me, that was what was really an interesting place to look into to deal with themes across many different storylines."

Do the producers feel any pressure to make V overloaded with the sort of mythology-based mysteries and complexities of fellow ABC drama Lost?

"Sure," admitted Bell. "I think what's different about telling this story now is there are people are live-blogging and die-hard fans who are freezing frames and TiVo-ing and finding Easter eggs to see what happened on Lost or Battlestar or any other awesome shows out there, and so it's our job to build those in for those people but to keep the story simple and clean enough that people who just show up at 8 pm can just enjoy watching the show. But we are aware of both, and we are doing our best to balance that."

Back in May at the Upfronts, ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson said that V is being conceived as series with a four-year storyline. Is that still valid?

"We're looking at this first chunk as we've got it all mapped out," said Peters. "In fact, before the show was sold, there was a pretty solid direction to everything. And so Jeff came aboard, and we talked more about it. And as things developed, we certainly know where we are going the first season. We know where we are going the second season. We have a pretty solid plan all the way through. I did a show previous to this that was very serialized, and it helped a lot to know exactly where you were going so that you weren't making it up as you were going along because that just is too painful, and we spent time too many nights staying up."

"We know what the end is," added Bell. "We know where we are going. And whether that's three years or four years or beyond that, you know, look, it's gravy. But there is a plan, and we will stick to that."

So what does V's original creator, Kenneth Johnson, think about this new incarnation?

"I had a meeting with Ken at the very beginning," said Peters. "We sat down and got a chance to meet him. I was very happy to meet him. And one of the other executive producers, Jace Hall, has been in close contact with him throughout this project, and he wishes us well, which is great. This is, as I was saying earlier, a brand-new take on the show. As I said, we want to pay lots of honor and salute to him for starting this whole thing. And so he wishes us well, and we thank him for that."

Still, the notion of propaganda as an invasion tool seems to apply to both versions of V.

"Yeah," said Bell. "And in a sense, the interesting thing to us is propaganda has just become advertising, and everything is branded, and everything is turned into a product. And so the V's are going to do that. The V's are going to brand themselves. The V's are going to advertise and promote, and we are all going to want to love the V's."

For Mitchell, V is the opportunity to play a character very different than the ones she's played thus far in her career.

"I'm always surprised, always grateful, and always giggling a little bit," said Mitchell about getting to play a full-out hero. "So I hope to continue to feel that way. I loved my role on Lost. I thought it was incredibly rich, and I enjoyed every minute of playing it. And I really thought I was going to take a break in between doing that and doing this and doing the bit of Lost that I had left. And I have to say that my manager called and said that Morris [Chestnut] had read the V script and that he really liked it. So I thought, 'Well, if he liked it, then I should read it.' So I read it, and I really did fall in love with the character. And I called over one of my best friends, and I had her read it, and she also fell in love with the character."

"I like playing a traditional hero," continued Mitchell. "I don't think I've ever done it before, and I think it's big shoes to fill because we've had some amazing heroes. I did a panel with Sigourney Weaver, and she said she always chooses male roles because she felt like they are meatier. But this indeed started out as a woman in this incarnation, and then, in the previous one, I believe it was a man. So I'm incredibly excited, and I do feel like it's a lot, and I'm hoping to step up to it. "

V is working with special effect house Zoic--who provided special effects for Firefly--and producers said that they will be keeping up the same level of technical wizardry seen in the pilot episode.

"We were very, very conscious of this as we moved forward," said Peters. "We didn't want to be able to sort of promise something we couldn't deliver every week. And we are sort of on the cutting edge of some really interesting technology in terms of how we present the entry of the spaceship, for instance. We are able to actually shoot all of that on a green screen. And the spaceship is built in a virtual world, and it allows us to collect assets. In other words, we can build these enormous-looking sets in a computer. We can go back to them. We can reconfigure them. We can pop a camera into the virtual set and turn it a different direction and see something that looks like a very different place that we've never seen before. So that gives us the creative ability to really expand upon that so that we aren't leaving everybody in the dark in terms of really wowing everyone on a weekly basis, and that's really what we are striving for. But, obviously, first it's a character-driven show, and we need to deliver that first and foremost. The visual effects and all of the fun eye candy is frosting on the cake but really important frosting."

"We are visiting the ship every episode," he continued. "We are seeing ships in the sky every episode. We shoot in Vancouver, so we have to make Vancouver look like New York. So things that don't look like visual-effect shots are actually visual-effect shots. We are well-stocked and well aware of what we have to accomplish every week.


Veteran TV Stars Find New Forums on ABC - by Gary Levin and Robert Bianco on August 10, 2009

PASADENA, Calif. -- Familiar faces and their fall offerings on ABC dominated the final day of the semiannual gathering of TV writers Saturday.

*Courteney Cox. Her fall comedy might raise some hackles with its provocative title: Cougar Town, in which she stars as a newly divorced fortysomething mom looking for love in all the young places. Is it realistic? "I've been blazing that trail for 10 years," Cox , 45, says of her marriage to her Scream co-star David Arquette, 37.

"Ultimately, it's still a sexist and misogynistic world," says creator Bill Lawrence (Scrubs). "It's weird that when Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow do a movie, it's fine, but when Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock do a movie, 100 reviews use the word 'cougar.' " (Cox's Friends co-star Jennifer Aniston just announced plans for a similar-themed film, Pumas, apparently a slightly younger breed of cougar.)

Still, Lawrence promises the title is more hook than premise. "If this show every week is about what young guy is Courteney going to sleep with, that's the Samantha character from Sex and the City; that's not the show."

*Elizabeth Mitchell. ABC's remake of the '70s NBC sci-fi invasion series V, which was moved up from a midseason premiere to Nov. 3 and a Tuesday 8 ET/PT slot, stars Lost's Mitchell (Juliet) as an FBI agent whose son is drawn to the aliens. Scott Wolf is an ambitious journalist looking for a career boost from their presence, and Morena Baccarin is Anna, their charismatic public face, whose own face conceals a reptilian body.

For Lost fans wondering whether this means Juliet was vaporized by the bomb in last season's finale, Mitchell says, "I will be (back) on Lost. I am going to be traveling to Hawaii (where the series films) more than once; we'll see how that plays out. I can't say whether I'm dead or not, but as with all things on Lost, it will be tricky."

As for V, the remake blurs the lines between humans and the aliens who land on Earth as "visitors." "We have humans, and we have humans who are traitors; we have visitors who have nefarious agendas, and we have visitors who are heroes," says executive producer Jeffrey Bell. But by the end of the first 13-episode season, he promises that viewers will learn the aliens' motives and will draw the lines between aliens, their sympathizers and a resistance movement.

*Kelsey Grammer. The timely subject of downsizing is the premise for Hank, the Frasier star's new comedy. In his short-lived Back to You, he was an egotistical news anchor. Here he's an entitled Manhattan CEO forced to set his sights lower and move back to small-town Virginia after running his company into the ground.

It's not all hopeless: Grammer's Hank Pryor has a plucky attitude about his change of fortune. Hank is "far less complicated than some of the pompous people" he's played, Grammer says. Still, his family is having trouble adjusting to their new life: "We're all a little spoiled and not accustomed to taking care of ourselves."

"We will be touching on this riches-to-rags thing," says executive producer Tucker Cawley (Everybody Loves Raymond). "But Kelsey's character doesn't look on this as something you should feel sorry for. It's more of an old-fashioned American optimism in which he views the world."

*Patricia Heaton. While other networks seem to have given up on comedy, ABC is stocking Wednesdays with new offerings. Besides Hank and Cougar Town, there's Modern Family, which stars Ed O'Neill and Jesse Tyler Ferguson and follows three couples linked by a family bond; and The Middle, with Heaton as a harried heartland wife and mom struggling to raise a family. Heaton, who has three kids on the show, has four in real life -- and like her character, she's raising them without paid help. "You can see me at Ralph's and Pavilion three times a week over at Vine or Melrose. ... I buy my sweat clothes in the boy's section at Target, and that's what I wear. And I often wear it three days in a row."

It also helps, Heaton says, that she's from Ohio herself and can relate to the character's Midwestern roots. Plus, it's a place and a story she wants to see on TV. "There's nothing on that deals with Midwestern people, with the struggle with the economy, but in a funny way, in a celebratory way." (c) Copyright 2009 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.


V Updates From The TCA Press Tour - August 8, 2009

The V panel at the Television Critics Association's press tour was held this afternoon, and in attendance were Joel Gretsch (Father Jack), Morena Baccarin (Anna), Morris Chestnut (Ryan), Elizabeth Mitchell (Erica), Scott Wolf (Chad), Lourdes Benedicto (Valerie), and executive producers Scott Peters and Jeffrey Bell. Here are some details we were able to gleam from some folks who were lucky enough to be there (including our friends at TV Guide Magazine):

After showing a "sizzle reel" of clips from the pilot, Scott Peters began by saying "None of us would be here without Ken Johnson." He adds: "It's an honor to move the story forward."

Elizabeth Mitchell has revealed she will be traveling back to Hawaii "more than once," which implies her time with LOST is not yet over.

Jeffrey Bell hints that there will be some sort of homage to the rat-eating from the original V, and that there are other iconic moments from the original that there will also be homages to. Scott Peters says some actors from the original V may show up in new roles, and we will be seeing more of Alan Tudyk after the pilot.

We will know the Visitors' agenda by the end of the first season, and is NOT the same agenda the Visitors had in the original series. Season 2 will have a completely new arc. Arcs are mapped out already for the first 1-2 seasons. Elizabeth Mitchell joked that the Visitors brought down the Oceanic 815.


Comic-Con ‘09: V screening by Robin Parrish, on July 30, 2009

Everyone likes to complain about how there are so few new ideas in Hollywood these days, that studios are churning out remakes by the bushel. And sure, there’s some good stuff in the mix, but for every gem like Battlestar Galactica you’ve got four or five stinkers like Bionic Woman or Flash Gordon.

Based on the hour-long pilot episode screened at Comic-Con, the new reimagining of V is off to a very strong start. It’s not a new plot — alien “visitors” arrive on Earth promising peace, but secretly plan a subversive takeover — but there’s enough new angles in this version of V to keep things exciting and surprising. And it moves along at a fast clip, setting up the premise of the show while introducing the main characters, and it wastes no time on anything nonessential. There are some terrific special effects in the pilot, and I can only hope the standard they set here is maintained.

Without giving too much away, when the Visitors first arrive with their massive spaceships hovering over 29 major cities around the world, it creates quite the panic. (Yes, the show is fully aware of its opening scenes’ resemblance to the movie Independence Day, and even plays off of this at times.) Until, that is, the people of Earth set eyes on them for the first time, and find them to be highly attractive and human-like in appearance. The Visitors claim to be in need of natural mineral resources that can be found on Earth, and in exchange they will share their technology with us until they have finished replenishing their own supplies, at which time they will leave. But of course not all is as it seems, starting with an FBI investigation into a terrorist cell and ending with… well, that would be telling. But ask yourself how the Visitors would be able to immediately speak our language, appear in pleasing human forms, and cure many of our diseases if they have only just arrived.

One of the best parts of the show is seeing a lot of fan-favorite genre
actors in a whole new sandbox. Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell is arguably the show’s lead as FBI agent Erica Evans, and her steely-calm intensity is put to good use here. Morena Baccarin stars as the alien leader Anna, and she brings the same grace and tranquility she displayed in Firefly, along with a subtle, unsettling quality that lets you know not quite all is as it seems on the surface. The 4400’s Joel Gretsch takes an unexpected turn as a priest named Jack Landry, a devout man of faith who immediately suspects the Visitors of being less than honest about their intentions. Party of Five’s Scott Wolf is perfectly cast as ambitious-but-righteous news anchor Chad Decker, a man who unwittingly finds himself caught between the Visitors and humanity. And character actor Morris Chestnut is Ryan Nichols, a man with a very mysterious past who’s trying to leave it behind and create a new life with his romantic partner. Smallville’s Laura Vandervoort and newcomer Logan Huffman appear in supporting roles.

It’s a fun, fast ride, with a talented and appealing cast, and a modern take on a familiar premise. I’m looking forward to seeing it unfold. Watch for V to debut sometime this November. A full video of the brief Q&A panel that followed the screening is below.


First Episode of “V” Reboot Is Creepy and Intriguing by Annalee Newitz on July 28th, 2009

Moody, weird, and genuinely scary, the premiere episode of new ABC series “V” has us convinced that there’s life after Battlestar Galactica. We saw the whole thing at Comic-Con and have a spoiler-free report.

Based on an early-1980s miniseries, “V” is about what happens when dozens of gigantic alien ships arrive on Earth, hovering over major cities. A beautiful woman alien called Anna, played by Morena “Firefly” Baccarin, broadcasts the visitors’ messages from an enormous screen built into the bodies of the ships. She assures the people of Earth that the aliens want only to harvest chemicals from our waste products, which she says are valuable to them. In exchange, they’ll share technology with humans – especially medical technology, which they’ll set up in thousands of free clinics across the globe.

The only ones who doubt the good intentions of these preternaturally beautiful aliens are DHS agent Erica Evans and Catholic priest Jack Landry (played by 4400 alum Joel Gretsch). Erica and her partner Dale (the excellent Alan Tudyk) immediately start investigating them, and Jack gives a cautionary speech to his congregation about how humans should wait to judge the aliens by their acts rather than their words.

We see immediately that the aliens are masters of propaganda, using viral videos on YouTube to inspire teenagers (including Erica’s son Tyler) to spraypaint “V” on walls and giving slick TV interviews on the condition that no critical questions are asked. Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) plays a TV reporter who gets sucked into the aliens’ propaganda machine because he wants to score the ultimate interview with Anna – and caves when she says she’ll stop the interview if he asks probing questions. So at least in the first episode, the battle lines are drawn this way: DHS and church question the vistors; media-munching teens and reporters suck up to the visitors. Eventually, Tyler is drawn to join the youth outreach corps of the visitors, against the wishes of his mother.

Things heat up when Erica and Dale realize that the visitors seem to be connected with terrorist cells who are stockpiling C2 in massive amounts. It seems the visitors have been among humans for years, and we’re not sure what their goals are. We’re also introduced to some underground V-fighters via another main character, salaryman Morris Chestnut, who has some unexplained connections with these anti-V groups.

Especially in the first half, the premiere was gripping and eerie. The ships look great, and Morina Baccarin makes Anna incredibly menacing – mainly because she is always smiling so sweetly.

Created by Scott “The 4400″ Peters, the show clearly owes a lot to the original miniseries, especially in its depiction of how the alien “visitors” use the media – big media as well as virals online – to manipulate humans. But the original “V” dealt with themes of fascism, even including a Holocaust survivor character who comments on how the alien takeover reminds him of World War II. The reboot doesn’t touch on any of that. It’s explicitly about terrorism, and the aliens are actually referred to at one point as terrorists.

What this does, at least in the opening episode, is subtly shift the aliens from being superpowered, top-down authoritarians ala Hitler, to being diffuse, sleeper-cell style menaces who strike out from among the general population. This fits with the idea that the aliens hide their true, reptilian nature beneath human masks. But it also doesn’t quite work, because it seems obvious the visitors are so incredibly powerful that they shouldn’t need terrorist cells to take over the planet. They can just brandish their mega-ships and uber-technology to control all governments.

I think this problem is part of what makes the second half of the premiere episode a little choppy and confusing. A lot of plot developments happen really quickly and somewhat inexplicably, although you’ll be left wanting to see more. This is a pilot, after all, so some slapdashery can be forgiven in the service of setting up what looks like it will be an exciting, conspiracy-driven actioner. It’s also quite possible that we’ll find out why the visitors need to be sneaky. Maybe their powers aren’t quite as vast as they seem.

“V” drops midseason this winter with a 13-episode run, which means it will last longer than the two miniseries it’s based on. I’m looking forward to watching the plot unfold.


Comic-Con 2009 Special Sneak Peek Pilot Screenings: Human Target, V and The Vampire Diaries -, July 28, 2009

V is the re-imagining of the groundbreaking miniseries from the 80s. Starring in V is Elizabeth Mictchell who play Juliet in Lost. For me this is reason enough to watch. Elizabeth has earned this right IMHO with her work as Juliet on Lost. Other cast members include Morris Chestnut, Joel Gretsch, Lourdes Benedicto, Logan Huffman and Laura Vandervoort. I am unfamiliar with the rest of the cast and I am also unfamiliar with the miniseries. I actually know nothing about the story whatsoever. I feel this is a good way to get into this series. I will not go to the details of the story as I feel this is best if already unknown. I will say the effects in this show were spectacular. I felt like the acting was also top notch and except nothing less with Elizabeth at the helm. I do have some concerns about the progression of the story. I feel like there was a bit too much in the pilot. I felt like I rather have been eased into this story instead of being thrown in full steam and at a blazing fast pace. I felt like this one episode should have been 2 or maybe even 3 separate episodes.

Too much is revealed, there is not even time to speculate and consider possibilities. I suppose this could end up being a mute point if the show is carried out properly, which by all means I believe this story has great potential and the pace could be so fast for a reason. V reminds me very much so of another ABC product Invasion. I was really into Invasion which had a great cast and a great story but Invasion only lasted a year. I hate to say this but I feel like V could head down this same path. I just get a similar feel from V as I did with Invasion. I definitely will give V a chance and for Elizabeth’s sake I hope this show does well! V will premiere mid-season on ABC.


Elizabeth Mitchell's Returning To 'Lost' Because of You, the Fans (And Then Talks About 'V'), BuddyTV, July 28, 2009
Henrik Batallones, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
Entertainment Weekly

Elizabeth Mitchell's one of those names tossed into the pot that says "former Lost stars that will appear in the final season", and while the other names are still a slight secret, the one we know as Juliet has confirmed that she's doing at least two more episodes--and thanks the fans for it.

"It was looking [like nothing will happen to my character] and then I don't know what happens now," she told Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello.  "I do really think [the producers] listened to the fans, so thank you!"

Oh, and something else: "I think that there will be a little more because of that."  So maybe more than the long-hinted everything-will-be-reverted storyline for the final season, I guess?

But she was there to talk about her other ABC series, V, the refresh of the 1980s sci-fi series.  And, since it's a remake, someone's bound to scoff--and she isn't worried.  "I think about Battlestar Galactica, [and] I kinda felt that you can make a good remake," she said.  "I didn't feel like [V] was sacrilege but at the same time, you love what you love.  You loved the old one, and it's possible [that] we'll see how people feel about this one."

"You sit down with the script, and it was so good," her co-star Scott Wolf said.  "For some people, screwing [this] up would be sacrilege."

"We're paying homage to it," fellow co-star Morena Baccarin said.

And they are thrilled to have Mitchell on board--although it meant questions about her future on Lost.  "Part of the world of working on TV is, you sort of know the tricks, so you know what's going to happen," Baccarin said.  "But we're really thrilled [to have her.]"

So I guess, good things, then?  Surely.  Or, it should.


Who Won Comic Con’s Buzz Wars? Our 10 Picks by David, Movies B on July 27, 2009

Another television franchise we weren’t sure we wanted to see back again, another remake/reboot that we were leery of. But this show opened our bleary eyes with its moody, weird and scary pilot. The cast, including Firefly’s Morena Baccarin and Alan Tudyk and Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell, were snappy and fun to watch. And the old “beware of aliens bearing gifts” trope still turns out to have a decent amount of life left in it. The 4400’s Scott Peters brings the right amount of paranoia to a story where the terrorists turn out to be anti-alien freedom fighters, and the media is lying to us all along. We heard several people marveling afterwards that a V remake could be so intriguing. Hollywood Reporter says the screening and panel got a strong Comic Con response.”


'V' is Coming Back  to TV, Now with Less Fascism by Ryan J. Downey MTV Movies on July 27, 2009



''V' screening gets strong Comic-Con response by Lesley Goldberg on July 25, 2009

Saying they didn’t want to mimic the original miniseries, the executive producers of ABC’s upcoming “V” noted Saturday at Comic-Con that they wanted to pay homage to it instead.

Writer Scott Peters said the trick in making “V” relevant today was to find the show’s “own voice” and not step on the characters of the mini of 25 years ago. “We wanted to find new themes that were relevant today,” Peters added.

Peters, in a nod to the enthusiastic response to the pilot, which while unfinished was still screened for those inside Ballroom 20, added that people are clearly still excited about the show.
“A lot has happened in the past 25 years,” he said. “Paranoia, so many bad things … the economy has tanked. It seemed like an interesting time to bring up something that changes us.”

Series star Elizabeth Mitchell (“Lost”) said she was a fan of the original and used to watch the series with her brother. “I have huge memories of the alien baby,” she said to applause.

Co-star Morena Baccarin, who plays Anna, the Visitors’ leader, recalled watching the miniseries with her brother.

Meanwhile, Scott Wolf, who trades his journalistic integrity for success, said it was a “tie” which character was creepier: a cable news journalist or an alien.

Peters added that the drama wanted to put its emphasis on different things than the mini did in the ’80s: “they were a military show, we’re a character/relationship drama set against this (alien invasion). We wanted to see what a businessman or mom would do when faced with something like this.”