What I Demand to See in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

The Force Awakens!

The Star Wars Cinematic Universe introduces the first three members of its All-New All-Different Avengers.

Every Star Wars fan, whether casual or hardcore, has their mental wish list of stuff they’re hoping Star Wars: The Force Awakens should contain in order to become the greatest Star Wars film of all time. With a modest running time of 136 minutes, J.J. Abrams and company can’t possibly satisfy every single fan on Earth, but it goes without saying that my checklist is the wisest and grandest of them all.

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MCC Q&A #7: “Revolution”: Who Dies Next?

Revolution cast, NBC

Our Heroes bide their time, waiting to find out who’s next to be chopped. (Left to right: Mat Vairo, Tracy Spiridakos, Billy Burke, David Lyons.)

“Nothing will prepare you when one of your favorites pays with their life!”

The last line of the promo for NBC’s next episode of Revolution has driven fans to the internets in search of hints or spoilers for the identity of the show’s next victim. In thirty-seven episodes the lengthy role call of the dead already includes two Matheson Family members, a British doctor anyone barely remembers, two high-ranking villains, countless minions, the entire populations of Philadelphia and Atlanta, and nearly every ex-girlfriend we’ve ever met. Judging by the search terms and traffic surge I’ve seen over the past two days, the fans are livid and demand to know: who’s the next Revolution character to die? And whose ex-girlfriend will she be?

Full disclosure: I do not have that answer, only my guesswork. But I’m less interested in the question of “Who will die?” than I am in the question, “Who should die?”

This way for my half-baked Revolution theories, 100% accurate on some alternate Earth!

My “Mad Men” Season 6 Finale Predictions, 100% Accurate on Some Alternate Earth

Stan Rizzo, Jay Cutler, Mad Men

Cutler and Stan (Harry Hamlin and Jay R. Ferguson) rush to the nearest TV to see what’s in store for their characters.

So far Mad Men‘s sixth season has been my least favorite. Though I’ve read articulate complaints elsewhere online, I’m still having trouble nailing down the exact reasons for my diminished excitement. I even procrastinated the last few episodes for days after their respective airdates instead of rushing to catch them immediately for the sake of spoilers. I trust that Matthew Weiner and his team have surprises and shocks in store for us in the future, but I’d rather have them five episodes ago than idle impatiently till next year’s final season.

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Can the Final Season of “The Office” Out-Excruciate Season 8?

Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, "The Office"After Steve Carell’s departure near the end of Season 7, and an uneven Season 8 marked by low ratings and much grumbling in our household about quality control, The Office returns for its final season on September 20th with original producer/showrunner Greg Daniels retaking the controls. I’m letting optimism get the best of me and taking this as a positive sign.

In a recent Entertainment Weekly interview, Daniels revealed some of the plot points in store for the last stretch of episodes, in which they’re free to go nuts and “blow things up.” Among other surprises in store, Season 9 will see Kelly’s defection to Fox’s The Mindy Kaling Project; two new characters taking over Customer Service; the return of Pam’s ex Roy (among other long-gone faces); an inevitable segue to Rainn Wilson’s Frasier-iffic spinoff The Farm, and at long last, a behind-the-scenes look at the documentary crew that sees, knows, and films all.

What about those other surprises in store? It’s too early to know for sure what ideas are locked in, what remains on Daniels’ wishlist, and what will end up as mere Season 9 DVD extras. It’s a good bet that whatever happens, it won’t be predictable, and in some cases it won’t be what we longtime fans want to see. Sometimes that’s a good thing, because we fans tend to imagine and ask for the safe, the easy, and the comforting from our favorite shows. When The Office is working as it should, it’s generally never safe, easy, or comforting — it’s the kind of awkward, messy, embarrassing series that can leave you laughing even while you cover your face in disbelief and keep peeking between your fingers at the TV.

If they really want to awkward things up, here are a few post-shark-jumping ideas for any number of episodes that will likely never be requested by fans, thus making them 50% more likely to happen than most of the typical fan wishlists currently viewable online:

* News arrives that Michael Scott has died offscreen. Totally, thoroughly, irrevocably, irretrievably dead, dead, dead, dead, DEAD. Thus is Steve Carell finally granted some semblance of peace, quiet, and reprieve from millions of fans who won’t stop pestering him to come back One Last Time to Save the Show. Carell instead relishes the chance to watch Season 9 from home as a fan while pondering his next dozen seven-figure-paycheck film roles.

* After buying the company, David Wallace gives Andy his blessing to run the Scranton office as he sees fit. Andy reassigns Nellie to the receptionist’s desk, has Erin take over the fictional role of office administrator, transfers Pam to Quality Control, and moves Creed down to the warehouse in the newly created role of Janitor Emeritus. Creed still never lifts a finger, except to devote more time to Creed Thoughts and its eight million imaginary followers. Most popular entries among the voices in his head include “Where’d All the White People Go?”, “What’s a Janitor, and How Does One Janit?”, and “I Must Kill The Baler Before It Kills Me”.

* Wallace also assembles his new officers. His new COO: Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration. Phyllis is subsequently appointed to an executive VP position.

* Pam follows up Cece and Philip with a set of healthy quadruplets. Pam can’t convince any of her coworkers to look at their cute photos. The writers never even bother to name any of them.

* Jan brings her li’l toddler Astrid in for a visit, but is dismayed to find out that He Who Is Not Coming Back no longer works there. She spends the day hanging around anyway, pays Kevin a thousand dollars to babysit for her, then goes out for a lovely, wild evening with Stanley.

* After a disastrous incident with Angela’s state-senator husband that no one ever describes onscreen, Oscar decides he might not be gay after all and tries flirting with Angela, just because he’s curious to see what happens. There is no conceivable TV universe in which this begins or ends well.

* Ed Truck’s ghost returns to haunt Dunder Mifflin, approaching each of our characters one by one and asking if they’ll be his friend. Everyone hems, haws, and finds excuses to say no. David Wallace drives his son to the office and has him capture Dead Ed with a Suck It. When fans ask if there’s a remote chance of a super-special cameo by Michael Scott’s ghost, the very next episode features a team of priests, rabbis, shamans, and Ghost Hunters taking turns doing whatever they can to Scott’s grave to ensure that he remains dead, dead, dead, dead, DEAD.

* Mose rides a jet-ski over a shark pool. Turns out it’s his favorite hobby. No one knows why, and they’re afraid to ask where he got all those sharks.

* Toby resigns to become a full-time crime novelist. His first book is poorly reviewed, but sells like gangbusters in Latin America. Several months pass before anyone in the office notices he’s gone.

* Ryan begins to freak out when he realizes that all of his coworkers have been slowly pairing up over the last several years, that sooner or later he’ll be required to pair up with someone else now that Kelly’s gone, and that the only remaining candidates are Meredith and Madge down in the warehouse. When a desperate Ryan finds out the hard way that Madge has already hooked up with Gabe, he spends the last three episodes in his office closet, curled up under his desk and crying till the cameramen promise to go away.

* Darryl goes back to being really cool, just like he used to be, once upon a time.

* Some genius superfan kicks all his social-media accounts into hyperdrive and organizes an international “Bring Michael Back” campaign by convincing several million fans to mail buckets full of cheese puffs to NBC. In answer to their demands, Greg Daniels appears in the very next episode in a special cameo, dressed as the Munchkin coroner from The Wizard of Oz, holding a poster-sized death certificate, and singing: “As showrunner / I thoroughly can now confirm / That he’s not only merely dead / He’s really most sincerely dead!” All of fandom agrees to stop asking if Daniels promises never to wear the costume again.

* Instead of filing for bankruptcy and closing its doors forever in the final episode, Dunder Mifflin becomes a new power player in the publishing industry with its brilliant innovation that takes America by storm: electronic paper that exists only in virtual form, but which the company sells in virtual reams of 500 and in virtual cases of twelve reams apiece. This proposal makes no sense whatsoever, but crafty ol’ Jim finds a way to sell millions of cases to hundreds of gullible companies whose management are all over age 80. It is the greatest prank of his entire life.

* Final sequence: for the first time in his life, Dwight accidentally kills someone with one of his stashed office weapons — a delivery boy who didn’t check in at reception and has more tattoos than Dwight would prefer. His retreat to The Farm is borne not of a desire to focus on a different career, but to escape the long arm of Scranton law. Dwight imagines he’s an excellent refugee. The reality is that the Scranton police know Dwight pretty well and never did like that delivery boy, who had a rap sheet a mile long and was more terrible at delivering than Fry from Futurama. According to their final police report, the evidence was all too circumstantial for them to build a solid court case, so they’re prepared to let it languish in permanent cold-case status. As a practical joke they let Dwight live the rest of his life in hiding instead of telling him all of this.

The “Falling Skies” Season 2 Finales You Won’t See on TV in Our Reality

The first nine episodes of Falling Skies‘ second season have been a tense thrill ride, except arguably the one episode that was devoted entirely to people chatting in cars. And, granted, fans of special effects may also noticed to their chagrin that last week’s episode, “The Price of Greatness”, didn’t feature a single live Skitter. I also find it immensely distracting every time two characters ostensibly hundreds of miles apart just happen to bump into each other. Otherwise, thrills have been a-poppin’ and tension has been mounting.

The addition of special guest stars Terry O’Quinn (Lost) as the first post-apocalyptic politician and Matt Frewer (forever Max Headroom in my heart) as an unthinking military man was certainly a step in the right direction away from staleness. Based on the promo for the season finale (enclosed below), it’s safe to say we can expect great, hopefully unpredictable things are in store for us. So far, I’ve been pretty satisfied with where the show has been steered of late, thanks in large part to season 2 showrunner Remi Aubuchon, whose previous work on NBC’s Persons Unknown was a big hit in our household and apparently nowhere else. (I still think of the show every time I’ve seen Reggie Lee pop up in other things like Grimm and The Dark Knight Rises. Seeing our heroes undergo Level 2 would’ve been a real treat.)

What if things had gone differently? What if Aubuchon hadn’t been available to helm Falling Skies because he was too busy wrapping up Persons Unknown season 3 after it magically found an audience? Imagine infinite versions of the show by infinite showrunners, perhaps in worlds where the fates of many a TV creator ran along a much different career track than they have in the reality we know and love.

In some of those alt-Earths, the Falling Skies season 2 finale, titled “A More Perfect Union” in our present reality, might be reimagined by those alt-producers like so:

Joss Whedon: One of the Overlords is finally given a name and a distinct, engaging personality. Season 2’s Big Bad is revealed at last, and happens to be the CEO of an evil galactic corporation. The season concludes not with another cliffhanger, but with a satisfying firefight that looks really expensive but was done on a shockingly modest budget, while at the same time offering deep-rooted closure to the season’s ongoing themes of distrust between allies and compromised freedoms. Also, because Tom has a happy relationship with Anne and is a great father to his boys, he obviously has to die quickly and brutally at the end. Season 3 will see the show renamed Maggie the Skitter Stomper, and Hal coping with his grief by developing unhealthy addictions to black clothing and expensive hair care products.

Chris Carter: Tom and Anne’s relationship is immediately downgraded back to irritating will-they-or-won’t-they status. The finale introduces four new kinds of aliens, six new supporting characters, and eight new conspiracies, ending after much sound and fury with an alien-war cliffhanger and a “To Be Concluded” placard. It is a placard of lies.

Amy Sherman-Palladino: After nineteen straight episodes of near-flawless heroism, Tom spends some time revealing all his fatal flaws and making sure we know he’s no hero to be praised or followed. This culminates in a harsh argument with Weaver in which both characters are required to recite entire speeches’ worth of dialogue at each other, longer than the Declaration of Independence and at 400 wpm. Weaver eventually convinces Tom about his wrongness just in enough time for the two of them to nab a pair of empty front-row seats at the Charleston Elementary production of My Fair Lady, in which li’l Matt closes the show with a heartbreaking rendition of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”. Eliza Doolittle is played by his new harnessed girl-pal from two episodes ago, who’s seen the error of her ways and begrudgingly joined the 2nd Mass after all. Forgiveness and healing are all but certain, as are countless tossed-away joke references to hip, erudite topics such as The Fantasticks, Secrets and Lies, Tamagotchi, The Decameron, and Steve Urkel.

Shonda Rhimes: Fifteen minutes of relationship angst and forty-five minutes of sex scenes. Noah Wyle will glisten and preen like he’s never glistened and preened before. Every female character will become insufferable.

Dick Wolf: The finale is a fully self-contained episode, except half the cast die or quit the rebellion. Their replacements in season 3 will be played by desperate but totally terrific Broadway actors at half the cost.

Alfred Gough and Miles Millar: Hal suddenly realized he’s still in love with Karen, was meant to be with Karen, and will never give up waiting for Karen, even though the best viewers will waste countless hours disagreeing with him via the Internet. All other characters will moan, groan, and keep pointing him toward Maggie in vain. Pope’s chaotic-good repartee will become three times zingier, and Pa Mason will spout more aphorisms than ever. Frustrating cliffhanger ending is mandatory, and won’t see full closure until eight episodes into season 3.

Vince Gilligan: Tom goes underground to meet the dregs of what’s left of American society. He discovers a way to destroy the invaders from within once and for all, but it may require him to sacrifice the life of one of his sons. He goes forward with it anyway, as the darkness begins to form slowly in his once-pure heart. Anne is strangely on board with every bizarre decision he makes. The Noah Wyle that America once knew and loved as the benevolent Dr. John Carter gets really scary to watch.

Frank Darabont: The first fifty-eight minutes will be the characters standing around wreckage, staring into space meaningfully, pausing to reflect and mourn at length, holding conversations about compromised freedoms, and ending every other sentence with, “…but at what price?” The final two minutes are super awesome alien wartime nonstop explosion cinema extravaganza that blows the fans away, costs $60 million to film, and requires a now-penniless TNT to cancel all its other original series except Franklin & Bash, whose two stars are willing to forgo paychecks and work for vending machine snacks.

Veena Sud: One solid hour of everyone standing, staring, pausing, and generally hanging out on lots of dull grey sets. Smiles are forbidden. Dale Dye and all other officers above Weaver will admit they’re no closer now to understanding the aliens’ motives than they were when the invasion began two seasons ago. In the only real plot development of the entire episode, Tom is relieved of command when he admits he has no idea how to use a gun, and has just been getting really lucky all this time.

Thankfully none of these realities are ours, for we live in the greatest reality of ALL TIMES. Enclosed for posterity is that brief season finale promo that may or may not contain all the hints we need to predict what’ll happen this Sunday night.

My amateur predictions:

1. Charleston will burn.
2. A minor recurring character will die. The easy money’s on Tector.
3. The firefight will look spectacular.
4. Lourdes hopefully stops mourning and gets back to representing for the faithful.
5. Just as the battle is nearly lost, Ben returns with a veritable cavalry.
6. Pope quits and leaves for good, and then returns again, and then quits and leaves yet again, and so on.
7. My wildest prediction, most likely to be wrong — Dai will have at least three whole lines. You heard it here first.

My “Mad Men” Season 5 Finale Predictions, 100% Accurate on Some Alternate Earth

Mad Men has already thrown a plethora of unexpected twists and pivots at us this year, but has one more hour at its disposal to see if it can top itself even more outlandishly. One can only hope the season 5 finale, “The Phantom”, will join the ranks of “The Wheel” and “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” as another finale to end all finales.

I’m terrible at guessing what happens next in any given show. Like all other failed prognosticators, that never stops me from trying. I may look weird keeping a book by my side while I watch, for something to occupy my time during commercials or sex scenes, but rest assured I’m otherwise paying attention, keeping mental tabs as best I can with my aging memory, and harboring my own half-baked theories about what ought to happen next. Fortunately, whatever happens is usually much more stunning.

Momentary pause here for courtesy spoiler alert before I proceed. If you’re not caught up through the June 3rd episode “Commissions and Fees”, or if you just don’t care, your exit strategy should be executed right about now. Please allow me to have you escorted to safety by this authentic 1960s artifact, and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

The Ghost of DC Movies Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

And now, on with my false prophecies about “The Phantom”:

* With Mrs. Pryce left behind in surprise financial dire straits, Pete offers to buy her green Jaguar as a gesture of charity, albeit for a song. For some reason the car starts just fine for him. Pete spends his long drive back to the suburbs with all the windows down, the radio cranked up, and imagining himself a Real Man. Halfway home he’s pulled over for doing 80 in a 25 MPH zone. The Jaguar is impounded. Pete is not happy.

* The funeral is a somber yet extravagant affair. With Lane’s overseas colleagues all declining to attend and Mrs. Pryce unable to speak, Don steps to the podium and delivers a eulogy that was written by Megan in about six minutes on the back of a funeral program. It is the Greatest Eulogy of All Time. Pete fumes with envy.

* A suddenly lucid and desperate Roger proposes to six different women: the twin models who witnessed his heart attack, Peggy’s brash friend Joyce, Don’s receptionist Dawn, his ex-wife Mona, and li’l Sally. We have to wait until next season to find out which one said yes. Pete overhears Roger’s end of the phone conversation, then stomps away muttering like an angry child about how he wishes he could go out and remarry every two years.

* Two months into her new job, Peggy is flourishing as a creative force at Cutler, Gleason & Chaough. Shockingly, Ted Chaough has proven not to be a lech. She later attends a business mixer with one of CGC’s major clients, the life insurance company that employs Pete’s commuter buddy. She has a chance encounter with Pete’s one-time fling, Mrs. Commuter Buddy, who’s attending the party dutifully with her husband. Casual small talk escalates into a tearful confession. Peggy somehow puts two and two together from the scant clues, makes a beeline for her old offices, kicks Pete right in his Campbell Soup Cans, and exchanges strained pleasantries with Don on her way out. Pete cannot breathe for the rest of the day.

* Don rehires previously laid-off copywriter Danny Siegel (Danny Strong) to handle the Jaguar account for him while he himself, emboldened by the Dow deal, decides go after a bigger fish than Jaguar: the great and powerful Rolls Royce. Don is convinced that their Phantom series (we have episode title!) is Where It’s At. By episode’s end, Don can’t close the deal without Megan’s help, but she refuses because of auditions and ambitions and such. The chase proves to be just another Dulcinea that teaches us the real “phantom” is the fleeting nature of happiness or business success or absolute manhood or whatever. Pete’s only moment of joy in the episode occurs when he realizes Danny is the first adult male he’s ever met who’s punier than he is.

* Betty and Henry have a mild argument or something. No one cares.

* Ed “the Devil from Reaper” Baxter calls Don, tells him he has some nerve!, and awards him with Dow’s business. All of it. After a series of fake meetings and fake intense arguments, Roger formally announces Ken will be handling the account under extreme duress, but totally solo due to fictional client mandates. Pete’s blood boils.

* The bigwigs at Heinz announce they’re so in love with the work that Michael Ginsberg and Stan Rizzo have done for their baked bean ads, they’re moving all of Heinz’ other accounts to the firm, including Big Catsup. Pete finds an excuse to leave the meeting abruptly with his face red and hot steam whistling out his ears, even though this subplot has virtually nothing to do with him.

* Trudy puts on the frumpiest dress she owns and announces she’s pregnant again. She wonders if perhaps they’ll need to move into a larger house even farther away from Manhattan, possibly as far as western New Jersey. Pete responds by climbing to the top of a water tower, wielding the trusty rifle that he obtained years ago in exchange for a duplicate chip-‘n’-dip set, and begins firing indiscriminately at innocent passersby. He doesn’t hit a single live target, but shatters the window of a beauty shop, where the bullet destroys a Clearasil display. Pete’s father-in-law is not happy. After he runs out of ammo, Pete throws his emptied gun at Trudy (missing by a wide margin), slips off his perch and onto the ground. The authorities toss him into a paddy wagon and wave him off. Our last sight of Pete is him clawing at the windows and frothing at the mouth. Trudy is later consoled by her new neighbors, Troy and Abed.

* The firm name is changed to Draper Sterling Cooper Harris. Pete’s head explodes.

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