July 24, 2014
July 22, 2014
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July 21, 2014
Standard Interviews: Les Murray, president of Toronto’s Festival of Beer
July 17, 2014
Do Make Say Think (July 18-20)
How a Toronto company is helping the world’s creatives showcase their work
July 15, 2014
Five Toronto Designers You Should Know by Now
HBO Summer TV Primer: Three New Shows With Familiar Faces, and Aaron Sorkin
Joanna Adams: Three new single-camera television series are launching on the pedigreed cable network this summer. It's not TV, it's HBO

Summer is coming. Well, sort of. Following the season two premiere of Game of Thrones on Sunday, HBO die-hards salivated over their first look at Aaron Sorkin’s latest foray into television, The Newsroom.

The Newsroom is one of three new single-camera television series making their debuts on the pedigreed cable network this summer. Joining Sorkin’s indulgent Sports Night flash forward (let’s be honest) is Lena Dunham’s Girls, and the highly-anticipated Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The trailers for each of these have been spamming up social media feeds — mine especially – with buzzwords “Aaron Sorkin” and “The Newsroom” trending on Twitter in Toronto.

The real question remains whether these shows will be knighted the next Entourage, Sex and the City or The Sopranos. Or instead, is this new slate more John from Cincinnati, The Comeback and Luck; underappreciated gems that will have trouble finding an audience and barely last a season?

Regardless, each of these shows offers something for everyone, especially if you are an HBO nerd. Worst case scenario, if none of them stick, there is always a noble, mythical Peter Dinklage to carry viewers through until the smutty True Blood returns later this summer.

After all, it’s not TV, it’s HBO.

Here is the Toronto Standard primer on HBO’s new summer slate of television series.

Premieres Sunday, April 15

Format: Single Camera, Half-Hour Program
Familiar Faces: Lena Dunham, Allison Williams (Brian Williams’ daughter – the NBC Nightly News anchor who regularly slow-jams the news with Jimmy Fallon, not CTV’s jovial host of Olympic Morning), most of the cast of Tiny Furniture
Pedigree: Judd Apatow, the director-producer-writer behind Knocked Up, Freaks and Geeks, Anchorman and Funny People, is one of the show’s executive producers. Apatow saw a screening of Dunham’s microbudgeted debut feature, Tiny Furniture, at the 2010 South by Southwest Festival, and immediately latched on to her as “the next big thing.” Dunham writes, directs and stars in each of the show’s episodes, similar to what comedian Louis CK does on his eponymous show Louie, on FX. If that was not enough, one of the co-stars, Zosia Mamet is legendary Hollywood playwright and screenwriter David Mamet’s daughter. Not bad.
Homegrown Talent?: Nope, no Canadians listed yet. Fingers crossed for Canuck guest stars!
Set in a post-college, pre-”real” adult haze, Dunham and her female co-stars are 25-year-olds living in New York City, who pontificate about life’s idiosyncracies while supposedly “living the dream.” Insufferable? Perhaps. But unlike, say The New Girl, which is cliched and overwrought with inauthentic quirkiness, Girls is charming and endearing, and you find yourself rooting for these mid-twentysomethings to find their way. Oh, and it’s really, really funny – in that biting, sarcastic, witty sense.

Premieres Sunday, April 22

Format: Single Camera, Half-Hour Program
Familiar Faces: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, My Girl‘s Anna Chlumsky, Arrested Development’s Tony Hale, and comedy everyman Matt Walsh.
Pedigree: Veep, a nickname derived from the short-form for Vice President, VP, has been a long-gestating project. Originally inspired by the “fly on the wall,” talking-head, mockumentary style BBC sitcom The Thick of It, set in a fake department of the British government. The show inspired a spin-off film, 2009′s award-winning In the Loop. So, with that team behind it, plus Julia Louis-Dreyfus? Seems like a sure bet.
Homegrown Talent?: Nope, no Canadians listed yet. Fingers crossed for Canuck guest stars!
Synopsis: Think Parks and Recreation meets Yes, Minister, crossed with The West Wing. Louis-Dreyfus is a comedy legend, and in the most meta sense, here she finally gets to swear up a storm, on HBO, in a commanding lead role, just like she wanted to do on the second season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

The Newsroom
Premieres Sunday, June 24

Format: Single Camera, Hour-long Program
Familiar Faces: The most star-studded of all the casts, The Newsroom boasts Jeff Daniels, Jane Fonda, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Alison Pill, Emily Mortimer, Sam Waterston, and the list goes on… Also, is it just me, or was casting Jeff Daniels just part of an elaborate ruse to re-unite former The Squid and the Whale and Fly Away Home co-stars Daniels and True Blood’s Anna Paquin on-stage at the HBO Upfronts?
Pedigree: The show is somewhat of a portmanteau of Aaron Sorkin’s past projects – combining the zest and allure of Sports Night with the walk-and-talks of The West Wing; plus a sprinkle of fast-talking sexual tension from, well, everything. A Few Good Men, The American President, The Social Network, you name it – Sorkin’s influence is felt all over the trailer. If the showrunner’s influence was not enough, Sorkin teams up with famed producer Scott Rudin, also of The Social Network fame to head the series.
Homegrown Talent?:
Toronto’s very own Alison Pill!
Synopsis: Originally called More as the Story Develops, the show centers around a cable news network anchor, his new executive producer, and the foibles of his newsroom staff. Throw in a few network executives, one-night stands and rants about the state of American domesticity, and you’ve got yourself a show trying to be on the pulse of the cultural zeitgeist. Judging by the trailer, it mostly succeeds, even though it feels a bit too close to the ground that Sports Night trailblazed back in the late 90s. Still, it looks to have all the ingredients of a must-see series. You know, like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.


Joanna Adams writes for Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter at‏ @nowstarringTO.

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