Launching the new year in dramatic style, NBC has set January premiere dates for three key midseason series — “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” now in Los Angeles and starring master of the boardroom Arnold Schwarzenegger; “Grimm,” which will begin its sixth and final season; and the epic, romantic and wondrous “Emerald City.”
“THE NEW CELEBRITY APPRENTICE”: Monday, Jan. 2, 8-10 p.m.
Sixteen celebrities are set to compete for their favorite charities when “The New Celebrity Apprentice” shifts to Los Angeles for its eighth season where twice-elected California governor and international movie superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger reigns over the boardroom.
Advising the new head of the boardroom this season will be world-class business minds, including investment guru Warren Buffett, one of the most successful businessmen in the world; former Microsoft CEO and Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer; Tyra Banks, a supermodel, actress, TV host, producer, accomplished businesswoman and CEO of the Tyra Banks Company and cosmetics brand, TYRA Beauty; actress, author and entrepreneur Jessica Alba, the founder and chief creative officer of the Honest Company and Honest Beauty; and Schwarzenegger’s trusted confidante and nephew, prominent entertainment attorney Patrick Knapp Schwarzenegger.
This season’s celebrity contestants vying for the coveted title of the Celebrity Apprentice and a $250,000 check to give to their designated charity are:
- Laila Ali — Retired four-time boxing world champion and two-time hall of famer, TV host, author, health and wellness expert and daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali
- Brooke Burke-Charvet — Actress, host, entrepreneur, fitness expert and CEO of ModernMom.com
- Eric Dickerson — Pro Football Hall of Fame running back who played for the Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders and Atlanta Falcons
- Boy George — Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, lead vocalist for the pop band Culture Club, international DJ and a coach on the U.K. version of “The Voice,” as well as a top fashion designer and photographer
- Matt Iseman — “American Ninja Warrior” host, comedian, actor and licensed physician
- Carrie Keagan — Actress, producer, writer, entrepreneur and the former host of VH1’s Emmy Award-winning live morning talk show “Big Morning Buzz Live with Carrie Keagan”
- Carson Kressley — Emmy Award-winning television star, celebrity stylist, author and fashion designer, as well as a successful horse show exhibitor who owns saddlebred horses
- Lisa Leslie — Naismith Hall of Famer, four-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion who earned an MBA
- Jon Lovitz — Comedian, film and television star and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member
- Vince Neil — Lead vocalist for the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe as well as eclectic businessman with interests in liquor, bars, restaurants, tattoo parlors along with clothing and retail
- Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi — Reality television star and New York Times bestselling author
- Kyle Richards — Actress and star of ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” is a philanthropist who owns an innovative boutique concept in Beverly Hills
- Chael Sonnen — Former UFC standout and mixed martial artist
- Porsha Williams — Co-host of nationally syndicated Dish Nation, star of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” entrepreneur.
- Ricky Williams — Heisman Trophy winner for the University of Texas, 2015 College Football Hall of Fame inductee and ESPN sports analyst who was a running back for the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens
- Carnie Wilson — Singer, television host and member of the pop music group Wilson Phillips.
Mark Burnett, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Page Feldman and Eric Van Wagenen are executive producers. “The Celebrity Apprentice” is produced and internationally distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).
“GRIMM”: The final season begins Friday, Jan. 6, 8-9 p.m.
Closing out an incredibly successful series run and giving viewers a chance to say goodbye over the last 13 episodes, the sixth and final season of NBC’s drama “Grimm” will begin its last chapter with the battle fans have long been waiting for — Nick versus Capt. Renard.
The series, which reached the 100-episode milestone last season, has long been a fan and critical favorite, with the Los Angeles Times calling it “terrific and trendsetting… ‘Grimm’ has become a beacon of solid narrative and a weekly reminder of why monsters matter.” The New York Times said “Grimm” is “engaging, clever, tense, funny and well-paced, featuring a remarkably appealing cast.”
As for events leading into the final season, the nefarious forces of Black Claw have been silenced and Nick (David Giuntoli) faces an all too familiar foe in Capt. Sean Renard (Sasha Roiz). Now in the seat of power as the mayor elect of Portland, Renard is poised to bring rise to his own brand of law and order. Nick must take a stand to protect his city and those closest to him, especially his child with Adalind (Claire Coffee). It will take the full force of Nick and his allies to find a way to bring the peace.
Meanwhile, Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Rosalee (Bree Turner) grapple with bringing a child into a new and tumultuous world, and Eve (Bitsie Tulloch) faces unsettling identity issues as her former self lurks below the surface.
“Grimm” also stars Russell Hornsby and Reggie Lee.
The series was created by David Greenwalt & Jim Kouf and Stephen Carpenter. Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner (“Hollywood Game Night,” ”Hot in Cleveland”) serve as executive producers along with Greenwalt and Kouf. “Grimm” is a Universal Television and Hazy Mills production.
“EMERALD CITY”: Friday, Jan. 6, 9-11 p.m. two-hour event; 9-10 p.m. each week following
Swept up into the eye of a tornado, 20-year-old Dorothy Gale (Adria Arjona) is transported to another world — a mystical land where an all-powerful ruler (Vincent D’Onofrio) governs over one kingdom, has outlawed magic, and faces not only the wrath of a growing cauldron of witches but a looming disaster brought on by a mythical force. Epic, romantic and fantastical, “Emerald City” is an empowering tale of a young woman finding her true strength and identity even as she battles to bring a divided world together.
Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ana Ularu, Mido Hamada, Jordan Loughran, Gerran Howell and Joely Richardson also star. David Schulner, Shaun Cassidy, Josh Friedman and Matthew Arnold serve as executive producers. The series is directed by Tarsem Singh Dhandwar, who also serves as an executive producer. “Emerald City” is a Universal Television production.
Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life
The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God.
Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes.
Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God.
We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant.
Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed.
Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus.
Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship.
Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care.
The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love.
Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls.
Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.
The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.
The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.
The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.