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'Alternative' views about the spin offered by stars of coming TV shows

Leftover notes and quotes from La La Land:

Considering the hot water that President Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, got in over the weekend for distributing falsehoods that senior adviser Kellyanne Conway laughingly called “alternative facts,” the timing is perfect for discussing the coming HBO movie, “The Wizard of Lies,” and ABC’s series, “The Catch.”

“Lies” is about con man Bernie Madoff, played by Robert De Niro in a film directed by Barry Levinson that will premiere on HBO in May.

It is based on the New York Times bestseller by Diana B. Henriques. The cast includes Michelle Pfeiffer as Madoff’s wife. With A-list stars, it is no wonder that producer Jane Rosenthal said the movie was originally looked at as a potential feature film but no studio would do it.

The big question is how the film will differ from last year’s ABC miniseries, “Madoff,” in which Richard Dreyfuss, played the con man who fleeced people out of billions.

“It’s certainly different than the ABC miniseries,” said Rosenthal. “You’ll have to decide how it’s different than all the others. Barry does a spectacular job of directing it, and clearly having Diana and the depth of knowledge she had and relationship she had with Bernie brought a lot to this. And, obviously, Bob and Michelle bring a different perspective.”

My “Alternative” Conclusion: It isn’t that different and the people behind "Lies" wish “Madoff” didn’t exist.

De Niro said he didn’t completely understand his character.

“The only thing that I feel is that his kids didn’t know and his wife didn’t know,” said De Niro. “What he did is beyond my comprehension. So there’s a disconnect somehow in him and I still would like to understand. I did as best I could, but I don’t understand. And Diana was great, of course, and, you know, some people just you can go so far. You can do your interpretation.

"The only things I do feel strongly about is that he didn’t tell his kids and he didn’t tell his wife. But everyone around him probably had an idea. They just didn’t want to look too deeply because they knew something wasn’t quite right.”

De Niro wasn’t sure what viewers would learn from watching that movie.

“You know, I don’t know what you will learn,” said De Niro. “You will get one impression and another person will get another impression. I think to me, it’s like the kind of story that you read into what you want in a way, like a book, a novel or something.”

“Alternative” Conclusion: You’ll learn next to nothing.

Speaking of cons, ABC is remaking “The Catch” in its second season. It premieres March 9. At the end of last season, con man Benjamin Jones (Peter Krause) turned himself in to save Alice (Mireille Enos), who he conned.

Writer-producer Allen Heinberg conceded it took a while for the show to find its footing in season one.

“I felt like I owed the network and the audience a case of the week every week on the AVI (Anderson/Vaughan Investigations) side of things," said Heinberg. "And I was realizing these cases were not allowing me to spend as much time getting to know the characters as I wanted to, and they were crowding out some of the soap I really wanted to do. Also, on the AVI side, we would talk... and see all the fun that was happening on the con artist side of the show, and (the actors) would say, ‘Why can’t we do that? I want to do that.’”

“So I made a promise this year that we would just get rid of all that stuff in Season 2, and only have AVI do cases that actually ended up exploring their lives, their backstories, their relationships, so that there are no wasted moments on the show.

"Everything is an exploration of the characters and their growing network of relationships and interrelationships. That’s the biggest difference… But we embraced the show as a comedy. I think that’s the other thing we did, is really just look at Season 1, and see that the show really is a romantic comedy at its heart, and embrace it. So I think, for me, those were the two big issues.”

“Alternative” Conclusion: ABC forced the creators to change because “The Catch” probably only survived because Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “How to Get Away With Murder”) is the producer.

During the same press session, the cast of the show was asked if they had ever been a victim of a con.

“I think all Americans right now are subject to a typical con game,” said cast member Elvy Yost to laughter.

“Alternative” Conclusion: She was making a thinly-veiled political statement to a receptive Hollywood audience.

Now it is time for a honest man. Actor-producer Tom Hardy didn’t disagree with critics of his new FX series “Taboo” who complained that the early episodes of the series weren’t easy to understand. Set in 1814, the complicated dark family series is about a man who was thought to be dead but returned to London from Africa to inherit his father’s shipping business.

“We don’t really want to give too much away,” said Hardy. “Don’t really want to. We obviously want to get more episodes out to people. We have to make sure they’re nice and polished. It’s a slow start. The first three are an introduction. We establish a sort of Gothic horror vibe, but it doesn’t stay there. It’s just a slow burn. You have to establish a lot of relationships and people that we want you to go on a journey with. Then they start to accrue. New characters come in that you won’t expect to, and it goes off on different tangents… Just please stick with it.”

“Alternative” Conclusion: We know American audiences aren't very patient and we blew it at the start. But, hey, I’m Tom Hardy so people please cut me a break and have some patience.

Lucy Hale, one of the stars of “Pretty Little Liars,” also couldn’t ’tell a lie when asked what she would say to fans of the show who are confused and frustrated because they can’t remember everything that has happened over the years in the Freeform series.

“I am equally as confused, and I’m on the show," cracked Hale. "No. It’s very fun. We actually were just sitting backstage saying, like, ‘Wait. Who did this? Who killed who?’ So it’s been very fun. We almost need graphs and grids, to sort of understand what’s going on, but I’m always constantly impressed that the people who have watched from the very beginning, and that’s why I love our fans.

"They don’t watch here and there. They watch West Coast feed. They watch East Coast feed. They’ll watch it, and they really put the pieces together. They’re very passionate, very smart. They come up with even their theories and, you know, they’ve changed our lives. This has been such an amazing ride, and it’s been so fun, and it truly is all because of them.”

“Alternative” Conclusion:  Hey, nobody said this show is for – or played by -- Phi Beta Kappas. And if you think our show is confusing, watch "Taboo."


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