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‘Amerian Gods’ on STARZ – Review and Guide

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, is possibly the only successful fantasy series set in the United States. STARZ just wrapped the first season, and wow, it’s off to an amazing start. American Gods will likely travel the same path Game of Thrones did. Meaning, they had small audience for the premiere and the first season, then great word of mouth, which lead to bigger and bigger audiences for subsequent seasons.

Let’s unpack American Gods, shall we?

Synopsis

American Gods is about a war that’s brewing between old and new gods. The traditional gods of biblical and mythological roots, from around the world, are steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods that reflect society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. Shadow Moon is an ex-con who becomes bodyguard and traveling partner to Mr. Wednesday. Mr. Wednesday appears to be a conman. But in reality, he’s one of the older gods. He’s on a cross-country mission to gather his forces in preparation to battle the new deities.

American Gods Review

I read American Gods several years ago. The imagery in the novel is dark and disturbing, and the TV series brought all that to life marvelously. Sometimes, the characters are simply appalling, but the hero is engaging, the perfect everyman who finds himself reluctantly saving the day. Despite having a large moral gray area, he soldiers on, doing the “right thing” when it’s required. His struggle to stay on the right side of things is what keeps you intrigued. Plus, Neil Gaiman’s use of the American landscape makes for lush and grand mental postcards.

Executive Producers Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have a solid grasp on the essence of American Gods. Like Legion on FX, American Gods is more about how to manifest a dreadful, ominous feeling, without spoon-feeding the plot to the audience. In fact, the visual style of American Gods, with lots of slo-mo and close-ups, takes precedence over dialogue.


Newcomers to Gaiman’s saga might be lost for the first three episodes, but I’m hoping that the stunning visual style, as well as the nods and winks, will keep them watching. The payoff comes in about the fourth episode, and then it becomes an intriguing mystery you’re dying to have solved.

WTF?

I wrote a list called OMG: The 15 Most WTF Moments of American Gods for Comic Book Resources. If you’ve watched the show, you can imagine the difficulty I had choosing only 15 shocking scenes! Check it out if you have time to see if you agree with my assessment of the most jaw-dropping scenes.

American Gods Cast

Here’s a guide to the cast and creators.

Shadow Moon

Ricky Whittle previously starred as Lincoln, one of the Grounders, on The CW’s critically acclaimed drama The 100. A native of Oldham, Greater Manchester, England, Whittle is best known for his role as Calvin Valentine in the popular series Hollyoaks. Other television credits include roles on Mistresses, Single Ladies, NCIS, and BBC One’s Holby City. On the big screen, Whittle appeared in the feature film Austenland, opposite Keri Russell.

Shadow Moon

Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon

Mr. Wednesday

From a lawless saloon owner to the most feared pirate that ever sailed the seas, Ian McShane certainly has carved out quite the niche playing bad guys one would cross the street to avoid. That just might have changed in recent roles in which he starred as Amphiarus (part priest, part prophet, part warrior) opposite Dwayne Johnson in Hercules for Director Brett Ratner; a salsa dance instructor opposite Nick Frost in Cuban Fury for Director James Griffiths; the good king of the land in Jack the Giant Slayer for director Bryan Singer; and in Snow White and the Huntsman as the lead dwarf Beith opposite Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth. McShane just reprised his role as Winston (club owner/conceivable ex-assassin) opposite Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter Two.

Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday

Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday

Laura Moon

In a short time, Australian Actress Emily Browning has established herself as one of the industry’s most versatile and exciting young talents, balancing studio films with artful independent fare. Browning first received international recognition when she was cast as Violet Baudelaire in the 2004 film adaptation of the popular children’s book series, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She received a 2005 Critics Choice Award nomination for ‘Best Young Actress’ from the Broadcast Film Critics Association on behalf of her performance, as well as a 2005 ‘Best Actress’ Award by the Australian Film Institute. Browning most recently appeared opposite Tom Hardy in the criminal biopic Legend. She also starred in the lead role in Sucker Punch.

Emily Browning as Laura Moon

Emily Browning as Laura Moon

Mad Sweeney

Pablo Schreiber was recently nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance as sadistic Corrections Officer George ‘Pornstache’ Mendez in the smash hit Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black. Schreiber was also recently seen starring opposite Tim Robbins and Jack Black in the HBO comedy series The Brink directed by Jay Roach, and in a major recurring role on Law and Order: SVU as sociopathic serial killer William Lewis who kidnaps and torments Olivia Benson, played by Mariska Hargitay. He was recently seen starring in the Paramount film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi directed by Michael Bay.

Mad Sweeney

Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney

Mr. World

Crispin Hellion Glover is a multifaceted American artist. He is primarily known as a film actor, but is also a publisher, filmmaker, and author. His career has been marked by some portrayals of wonderfully eccentric people, such as George McFly in Back to the Future and Willard Stiles in Willard. He played Andy Warhol in Oliver Stone’s The Doors in 1991 and continued to play exceedingly eccentric types. He played the Thin Man in Charlie’s Angels, was seen in Hot Tub Time Machine, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and has various upcoming feature film appearances.

Crispin Glover as Mr. World

Crispin Glover as Mr. World

Bilquis

Yetide Badaki is a Nigerian born actress who grew up in England and the United States, and has spent most of her career working in the theater. She recently guest starred on the Showtime series Masters of Sex and was on Sony Crackle series Sequestered with Jesse Bradford and Summer Glau. Additional credits include guest starring roles on the David Duchovny NBC series Aquarius, US, NCIS: New Orleans, and Criminal Minds.

Yetide Badaki as Bilquis

Yetide Badaki as Bilquis

Technical Boy

Newcomer Bruce Langley is a young actor with an extensive background in physical, naturalistic, and improvised performance. He graduated with a First Class Masters in Physical Actor Training and Performance in 2014 from the University of Kent. Langley’s recent credits includeChase in Faith Drama’s production of The Den, and Charlie in The Brockley Jack’s Rock Paper Scissors. American Gods is his first television role.

Bruce Langley as Technical Boy

Bruce Langley as Technical Boy

Media

An Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG Award-winning actress, Gillian Anderson has long delighted audiences and critics alike with her versatile skills and classic beauty. Anderson reprised her role as Dana Scully in the Fox cult-classic The X-Files, for a six-episode series. Anderson was also recently seen in the television mini-series War and Peace alongside James Norton, Lily James and Paul Dano. Anderson will reprise her role as Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York. Anderson also appeared in the BBC miniseries Bleak House, in which she starred as Lady Dedlock. The critically-acclaimed performance earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress in 2006, as well as an Emmy Award nomination.

Gillian Anderson as Media

Gillian Anderson as Media

Easter

Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth’s career spans film, television, voiceover, and stage. In 2015, Chenoweth received a coveted star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2009, she received an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in Pushing Daises. In 1999, she won a Tony Award for You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and she was also nominated for her original role of Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked in 2004. Chenoweth has been nominated for two Emmy Awards and for a People’s Choice Award for her role on Glee. This spring, she began pre-production on Lionsgate/Hasbro’s My Little Pony movie, set for a fall 2017 release.

Kristin Chenoweth as Easter

Kristin Chenoweth as Easter

Czernobog

Swedish born actor/director Peter Stormare is best known for his breakout roles in Fargo and The Big Lebowski. Stormare has worked in over 150 films and most recently in John Wick: Chapter Two with Keanu Reeves and the upcoming Dimension Films release Clown, along with 22 Jump Street, and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. He made his television debut starring on the first season of the hit Fox TV drama series Prison Break and has also had memorable guest appearances on Entourage, Weeds, Hawaii Five-0 and CSI.

Peter Stormare as Czernobog

Peter Stormare as Czernobog

Zorya Vechernyaya

Cloris Leachman is an accomplished and beloved American actress of stage, film, and television. An eight-time Primetime Emmy Award-winner, Leachman’s career spans films and television dramas and comedies from the Golden Age to the hottest primetime hits today. Leachman most recently starred in the DreamWorks animated film The Croods with Nicholas Cage and Emma Stone, and The Wedding Ringer with Kevin Hart. She recently finished shooting The Comedian with Robert DeNiro for director Taylor Hackford, So B. It for Stephen Gylennhaall, and was the oldest competitor on the ABC hit series Dancing with the Stars. Additional TV and film credits include The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Young Frankenstein.

Cloris Leachman as Zorya Vechernyaya

Cloris Leachman as Zorya Vechernyaya

Mr. Nancy

In a career spanning 30 years, Orlando Jones’ versatility is well documented. He began his career by launching an advertising agency in his teens and then working behind the scenes as a writer on A Different World and Martin. Jones later combined his writing and acting talents when he was handpicked by Quincy Jones to join sketch comedy franchise, MadTV. Following his tenure on the show he partnered with 7Up to write, produce and star in a series of iconic television commercials that are still recognized among the Top 100 most successful advertising campaigns of all time. He recently starred in Sleepy Hollow on FOX.

Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy

Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy

Vulcan

Corbin Bernsen’s performance on NBC’s L.A. Law landed him two Golden Globe nominations and two Primetime Emmy Award nominations during the show’s eight year run. He recently wrapped a series regular role on USA Network’s long running Psych after eight seasons. Notable feature film credits include Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Robert Downey, Jr.

Corbin Bernsen as Vulcan

Corbin Bernsen as Vulcan

Mr. Ibis

Demore Barnes landed his first professional role right out of high school in his hometown of Toronto on Squawk Box, a sketch comedy show on YTV (Canada’s version of Nickelodeon). Barnes then crossed-over into the dramatic realm of performance within the television movies, White Lies with Sarah Polley and Lynn Redgrave, Second String with Jon Voight, and Black Out with Jane Seymour. Barnes went on to land a recurring role in the CW Network hit, Supernatural as the Archangel Raphael and also guest starred on FOX’s Fringe as Agent Hubert.

Salim

Prior to his move to the United States, Omid Abtahi (Yusuf) spent his childhood living in Europe and the Middle East. Abtahi is best known for his work as a series regular on FX’s Over There and Showtime’s Sleeper Cell. He has recurred heavily on NBC’s My Own Worst Enemy and FOX’s 24. Abtahi appeared in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which premiered at Sundance in 2008, starring alongside Peter
Sarsgaard, Nick Nolte, Jon Foster and Sienna Miller.

Omid Abtahi as Salim

Omid Abtahi as Salim

The Jinn

Mousa Kraish is a Palestinian-American actor from Brooklyn, New York. In his career he has had the good fortune to work with a number of acclaimed directors including Steven Spielberg (Munich), Mike Nichols (Charlie Wilson’s War), Justin Lin (Finishing the Game and Fast and Furious) and Greg Mottola, for whom Mousa appeared in the Judd Apatow-produced runaway summer hit Superbad.

Mousa Kraish as The Jinn

Mousa Kraish as The Jinn

Anubis

Chris Obi is an English actor, most recently known for Snow White and the Huntsman where he worked with director Rupert Sanders. Obi reunites once again with Sanders for the upcoming DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures release Ghost in the Shell.

Chris Obi as Anubis

Chris Obi as Anubis

Audrey

Betty Gilpin starred as Dr. Carrie Roman in the critically acclaimed Showtime series Nurse Jackie. Gilpin can also be seen in the films True Story, alongside James Franco and Jonah Hill, Take Care with Leslie Bibb, and Ghost Town with Ricky Gervais. Television appearances include recurring roles in Masters of Sex, Elementary and The Good Wife.

Betty Gilpin as Audrey and Ricky Whittle as Shadow

Betty Gilpin as Audrey and Ricky Whittle as Shadow

Robbie

Dane Cook has maintained his reputation as one of today’s most prolific stand-up comedians, while simultaneously distinguishing himself as a charismatic and versatile actor in a variety of film and television projects. Cook guest starred on Louie opposite Louie C.K, as well as the most recent season of Comedy
Central’s Workaholics.

Dane Cook as Robbie

Dane Cook as Robbie

Jesus

Emmy award-winner Jeremy Davies can be seen in the latest season of FOX’s Sleepy Hollow in the role of Malcolm Dreyfuss, an eccentric and outspoken tech mogul and billionaire. Davies is well known for his ferocious and fragile Richard the Third-esque portrayal of Harlan, Kentucky outlaw Dickie Bennett in the acclaimed Emmy and Peabody winning FX series Justified.” The role earned him two Emmy award nominations and one win. Davies is also well known for his work for three seasons on JJ Abram’s groundbreaking ABC series Lost, where his character,
Daniel Faraday, became an integral part of the Lost mythology and a favorite of critics and fans.

Production and Development

The pilot script will be written by a couple of powerhouse writers: Bryan Fuller, who worked on a few of my favorite (and short-lived) TV series, like Hannibal and Pushing Daisies; and Michael Green, who worked on The River and Heroes. They will executive produce along with Gaiman. FremantleMedia North America will produce the series.

Neil Gaiman (Author), Bryan Fuller (Executive Producer), Michael Green (Executive Producer)

Front row, L-R: Neil Gaiman (Author), Bryan Fuller (Executive Producer), Michael Green (Executive Producer)

In a press release, author Neil Gaiman said, “When you create something like American Gods, which attracts fans and obsessives and people who tattoo quotes from it on themselves or each other, and who all, tattooed or not, just care about it deeply, it’s really important to pick your team carefully: you don’t want to let the fans down, or the people who care and have been casting it online since the dawn of recorded history. What I love most about the team who I trust to take it out to the world, is that they are the same kind of fanatics that American Gods has attracted since the start.

“I haven’t actually checked Bryan Fuller or Michael Green for quote tattoos, but I would not be surprised if they have them. The people at Fremantle are the kinds of people who have copies of American Gods in the bottom of their backpacks after going around the world, and who press them on their friends. And the team at Starz have been quite certain that they wanted to give Shadow, Wednesday and Laura a home since they first heard that the book was out there. I can’t wait to see what they do to bring the story to the widest possible audience able to cope with it.”

The 2001 novel has been translated into over 30 languages and earned numerous accolades including Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker Awards for Best Novel.

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‘Better Call Saul’ Season 3 Finale

The Season 3 finale of Better Call Saul airs tonight, June 19, and it feels like we are about to step fully into the Breaking Bad era as Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) is being more like Saul than ever.

Like many, I approached Better Call Saul with some trepidation that the Saul character did not have enough backstory to fill out a three-episode mini-series let alone three seasons. But co-creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan have proven otherwise. They have dived into Saul’s origin story, creating something entirely new but deftly bringing in elements of Breaking Bad that remind us all where this story is going.

But they have done even more than that. They have used the story of Saul to give us new insight into the machinations that created the Breaking Bad universe, all the backdrop that is unknown to an unsuspecting chemistry teacher about to get some bad news. Especially in Season 3, I am seeing the Breaking Bad world rise from the New Mexico desert before my eyes, and I am loving it.

At the heart of tonight’s finale are the choices that Jimmy, his partner Kim, and the wily Mike all face.  Compared to the high-wire act of Breaking Bad, the characters in Better Call Saul have had to make a series of seemingly mundane decisions. Yet each decision has led them to the precipice that they now stand atop. And as viewers we have seen cover of this jigsaw puzzle box, but we still are not sure how the pieces are going to fit together.

For me, Rhea Seehorn playing the workaday attorney Kim Wexler is a particular standout.

She has played the tenacious Kim wonderfully as an often stoic young professional, locking horns with the old guard, and concealing a fear that only the viewers can see.

Furthermore, Kim has made all the right choices.  Except one: falling for Jimmy.  But who can blame her? Most of us viewers have fallen for him too, only to realize that beneath the charm of the lovable loser was a monster waiting to get out. That probably sounds familiar to fans of Breaking Bad. But this time we get to hear the song in a different key and it still sounds great.

I don’t know what decisions Jimmy, Kim, and Mike will make tonight, but I have a hunch it’s not going to turn out good. Somebody’s going to end up managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.

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‘Powerless’ the Unaired Episode

Powerless was canceled before the TV show had a chance to air all of its episodes. DC Comics website posted one of the unaired episodes as a tribute to the late Adam West, who guest-starred before his death. An actor who excels at meta humor guest-starring on a meta comedy? Brilliant!

Background

Powerless died an early death before audiences had a chance to even find it. NBC did a lousy job with marketing, making it look like a cut-rate superhero TV show, rather than the absurd office comedy it was. (Think WKRP.) NBC aired clips showing secondary superheroes and Vanessa Hudgeons doing goofy facial expressions. No doubt viewers wondered why they should tune in to see Crimson Fox and Green Fury, rather than Superman or Wonder Woman.

NBC should have highlighted the chemistry between the castmates and the genius — GENIUS — performance of Alan Tudyk as Van Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s cousin. Powerless was at its best when the slacker staff made fun of their uptight boss, or when the cynical assistant outwitted her man-child of a boss. Powerless was a character piece, similar to The Office, which required that the audience get to know the characters, not the superfluous superheroes who flew around Charm City.

Full Review

I wrote a lengthy list for Comic Book Resource on why Powerless was better than you think (although the title my editor chose was misleading). Read that list if you want to know more about why you should watch Powerless, either online or on demand or in some form of purchase (iTunes or Amazon).

In the meantime, visit DC Comics to watch the unaired Powerless episode guest-starring Adam West, the original Batman, who will be sorely missed.

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