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Spring 2012 TV preview: 11 shows we can't wait for

”Dallas,” ”Magic City,” ”The Hatfields & McCoys,” and more

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Dallas
TNT
Forkies, rejoice. It’s been more than 20 years since the classic nighttime soap went off the air, but the Ewings are finally riding back into view. Exec producer Cynthia Cidre (Cane) says her mission is straightforward: ”We want to bring the audience delicious entertainment, without ever spilling over into camp.” When we meet back on Southfork, J.R.’s son John Ross (Josh Henderson) is clashing mightily with Bobby’s adopted son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) over the direction of the family empire: oil or alternative fuels? Linda Gray, reprising her beloved role of Sue Ellen, is one of three returning cast members, along with Patrick Duffy and, of course, Larry Hagman as J.R. ”It’s very seamless the way the plot translates from 20 years ago to now,” Gray promises. As for her character’s boorish ex, she gives a big giggle. ”He’s just so yummy,” she says of Hagman. ”He’s going to just bring everyone back. Like, ‘Oh my God, J.R. is at it again.”’ —Karen Valby

Magic City
STARZ
As a Miami native, Magic City creator Mitch Glazer didn’t have to look far to find inspiration for his new ’50s-era drama about a chain-smoking, self-made hotelier’s struggle to protect his empire from power-wielding mobsters. ”A lot of the events that happen in the show I wish I could take credit for,” he says. ”But they actually happened.” City follows Ike Evans (Grey’s Anatomy‘s Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the charismatic owner of the swanky Miramar Playa Hotel, who gets caught in the middle of the Mafia’s bid to legalize gambling in the city after Havana’s fall. ”This is a good guy who gets into some bad situations,” explains Morgan. ”He loves his family and loves his hotel, and trying to keep both those things in order is a bit of a task.” —Nuzhat Naoreen

The Hatfields & McCoys
History
The most famous family feud in American history is being turned into a miniseries by two of Hollywood’s most famous feuders. Kevin Costner and director Kevin Reynolds — who lobbed insults at each other in the press after 1995’s Waterworld flopped — have reteamed to make The Hatfields & McCoys, about the infamous post-Civil War dispute between two Southern broods. ”I’ve always had a belief in Kevin as a director,” says no-longer-feuding Costner, who’ll be playing ”Devil” Anse Hatfield. Costner’s goal is to make the story relevant to modern audiences. ”It’s very easy to make fun of these people and call them hillbillies,” says Costner. ”But if somebody builds something that takes away your view in Malibu, you’re in court for 15 years. It’s not so different today.” —Benjamin Svetkey

Titanic
ABC Julian Fellowes’ wildly popular British period series Downton Abbey began with news of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. It’s fitting, then, that Fellowes has written this four-hour miniseries for ABC to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the doomed voyage. Like Downton, Titanic will combine romance and intrigue with issues of class. ”It’s got everything: It’s got the middle classes, immigrants striving for a new life, all the vanity of the Edwardian world — and then in this two-hour period everyone is brought low,” explains Fellowes. While he’s proud of the special effects in the disaster scenes, Fellowes emphasizes that his is a story about people, and is not meant to rival James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster (which will get a 3-D release in April) in the F/X department. ”I think people who enjoyed Cameron’s [Titanic] will enjoy our show,” he says. ”For Titanic aficionados, 2012 is going to be a pretty rich year.” —Stephan Lee

Under the Dome
Showtime; in development
Lost writer Brian K. Vaughan takes on Stephen King’s 2009 best-seller about a Maine town trapped under an invisible force field.

The Rifleman
CBS; in development
Reboot of the 1950s Western about homesteader Lucas McCain, who takes out bad guys with a rapid-fire Winchester.

The Flintstones
Fox; series order
Everybody’s favorite animated Stone Age family will return, with raunchy Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane at the helm (cue devious ”Mwa-ha-ha” laugh).

Bewitched
CBS; in development
Revival of the 1960s classic by Miss Congeniality co-writer Marc Lawrence. You can imagine the pitch: ”It’s Harry Potter meets Desperate Housewives!”

Hannibal
NBC; in development
Thomas Harris’ brilliant, deductive cannibal Hannibal Lecter gets a small-screen makeover from Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller. He’s like the Mentalist — except he’ll eat you. —James Hibberd

Aaron Sorkin Enters The Newsroom
The man behind The West Wing and The Social Network brings his walk-and-talk- brilliance to a new HBO drama.

Oscar-and Emmy-winning scribe Aaron Sorkin will return to TV this summer with The Newsroom, an HBO ensemble drama headed up by Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, and Sam Waterston that takes a behind-the-scenes look at a cable news show. Like Sports Night and The West Wing before it, The Newsroom will give Sorkin an opportunity to write about, in his words, ”workplace families populated with characters who are very good at their jobs and less good at everything else.” Adds Sorkin, ”Reporters used to be the good guys in popular culture, and I wanted to write them that way.” —Lynette Rice

In anticipation of the show’s premiere, Sorkin agreed to dissect a scene from the pilot script, in which anchorman Will McAvoy (Daniels) and producer MacKenzie McHale (Mortimer) spar just moments before breaking news comes over the wire.

INT. WILL’S OFFICE — DAY
The rain’s still beating against windows.

MACKENZIE
Now I’d like you to listen to these words which were written 500 years ago by Don Miguel de Cervantes: ”Hear me now O thou bleak and unbearable world, thou art base and debauched as can be. But a knight with his banners all bravely unfurled now hurls down his gauntlet to thee.” That was Don Quixote.

WILL
Those words were written 45 years ago by the lyricist for Man of La Mancha.

MACKENZIE
Didn’t think you’d know that, but the point’s still the same. It’s time for Don Quixote.*

WILL
And you think I’m him.

MACKENZIE**
No, I think I’m him. You’re his horse.

WILL
He rode a donkey.

MACKENZIE
I can’t help you there.

WILL***
Look–

MACKENZIE
It took me three years just to have a conversation with you so the least you could do is–

WILL
THE LEAST I COULD DO?!

MACKENZIE
–put the personal baggage down and think about–

WILL
My personal baggage? You walked in here.

MACKENZIE
I said the personal baggage and I didn’t walk in uninvited.

WILL
You want me in the same shouting match as everyone else.

MACKENZIE
You got yourself in the shouting match when you took vertigo medicine. I’d have you winning it.

WILL
And what does winning look like to you?

MACKENZIE
Reclaiming the Fourth Estate. Reclaiming journalism as an honorable profession. A nightly newscast that informs a debate worthy of a great nation. Civility, respect and a return to what’s important. The death of bitchiness. The death of gossip and voyeurism. Speaking truth to stupid. No demographic sweet spot, a place where we all come together.****

WILL
(pause) That’s…

MACKENZIE
Quixotic?*****

Sorkin’s Notes
*”The Don Quixote metaphor was the only thing I knew about the show when I started. A group of good people on an honorable uphill battle that they’ll almost surely lose.”

**”MacKenzie McHale [Emily Mortimer] is a very well-respected news producer, but she’s like a bull who carries around her own china shop. Her fatal flaw is also her superpower — she’s impervious to cynicism. She’s been brought in by the president of the news division, Charlie Skinner [Sam Waterston], to push Will to his full potential, which is the last thing Will wanted anyone to do.”

***”Will McAvoy [Jeff Daniels] is the anchor of News Night, the flagship newscast of Atlantis Cable News, which is owned by Atlantis World Media. His popularity is unmatched by any cable news anchor not on Fox, but his popularity is due largely to the fact that he clings to the middle of the road and has managed not to bother anybody. His success on the air doesn’t translate to happiness off of it, though. He’s lonely, miserable, and out of hope.”

****”I think different people will have different news sources in mind during that speech.”

*****”Every episode takes place in the recent past, so Barack Obama is the president right now. We don’t do any stunt casting, but real people play themselves in file footage.”

Hail to the Veep
As Vice President on a new HBO sitcom, Julia Louis-Dreyfus delivers the most cringes since Dan Quayle

Julia Louis-Dreyfus wants America to know that she’s not making fun of Sarah Palin. True, on HBO’s new, largely improvised comedy Veep she plays Selina Meyer, a former senator who ends up as vice president and finds that she’s more than unprepared for the job, despite help from her chief of staff (Anna Chlumsky), spokesperson (Matt Walsh), and right-hand man (Tony Hale). But Louis-Dreyfus and Veep creator Armando Iannucci (In the Loop) both insist that any resemblance between Selina and real-life D.C. baby-kissers is purely incidental. ”Maybe people in Washington are nervous because they think we’re going to make fun of specific people,” says the actress, 51. ”But we’re not.” Nope, Veep doesn’t make fun of specific people — just large groups of people. And everyone from Democrats to Republicans is fair game. —Melissa Maerz

What made you sign on for Veep?
I’d seen In the Loop and thought it was superb — subtle and yet broad at the same time. And the concept of a vice president who is, shall we say, somewhat unfulfilled struck me as really ripe for comedy.

You endorsed Obama in 2008 and have been active in environmental causes. Did you bring any personal experience to the script?
Armando was telling me that Selina would try to ”green up” Capitol Hill with cornstarch utensils. I’d just finished working on The New Adventures of Old Christine, and I’d brought cornstarch utensils to our craft services. So I said, ”The first day you try to stir your coffee, the [cornstarch] spoon becomes flaccid.” Armando said, ”There’s an incredible joke there…”

How much of each episode is improvised?
Tons. In the pilot I make a speech, and a lot of that was improvised. It starts with a joke that was written [”I have stepped into the president’s shoes this evening — and who knew he wore kitten heels?”], but the joke that followed it — ”He’s more of a stilettos kind of guy” — was improvised. The crowd is only kind of with me on the kitten-heels joke, and then I lose them completely. There’s a lot of cringing. It’s a very cringe-y show!

Has Joe Biden seen Veep?
Not yet, but we rebuilt the entire Eisenhower office space and the hallways on set, and people from the vice president’s office have come to check it out. They feel like they haven’t left work.

You joked on Facebook that you get to curse a lot on this show. There’s something funny about politicians cursing.
Anytime you see one face in front of the camera and then you see a totally different face [off camera], it’s always funny to see the fakery. Selina has a boyfriend for a few episodes, and they have a sexual way of speaking to each other that’s overheard, and it’s… very uncomfortable. [Laughs] Put the kids to bed!

Are there real-life current events that the show riffs on?
No. But in the pilot Selina says, ”Box me, Gary” — they carry around this stool for her to stand on because Selina is very short — and evidently certain politicians do that too. And did you see all the stuff with Newt Gingrich crying in Iowa, and Mitt Romney crying or not crying? We did a whole thing about crying in front of the camera. We shot it last month, and the next thing I know, everyone’s crying! It was almost as if the show was becoming real.