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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 147: 'Breaking Bad' finale, 'The New Normal,' 'Sons of Anarchy' & more

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 147: 'Breaking Bad' finale, 'The New Normal,' 'Sons of Anarchy' & more

Dan and Alan also review the new season of 'Parenthood'

The

It's a late-week Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, thanks to Dan's international travels (which we discuss briefly at the start), in which we start looking ahead to next week's premieres of "The New Normal," "Parenthood" and "Sons of Anarchy" while also looking back to the "Breaking Bad" finale and to pilots that recast performers — not always for the better. As we warn you near the end, the next podcast may also not be on Monday, but we'll get to "Boardwalk Empire" and friends eventually.

(Also, for those wondering, here's this week's theme song, which is damn catchy.) 

The line-up: 

"The New Normal" (00:03:40 - 00:22:10)
"Parenthood" (00:22:15 - 00:34:30)
"Sons of Anarchy" (00:34:30 - 45:50)
Listener Mail on pilot changes (00:45:55 - 00:56:25)
"Breaking Bad" (00:57:15 - 01:22:45)
 
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
 
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
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<p>Taylor Swift at the MTV&nbsp;VMAs</p>

Taylor Swift at the MTV VMAs

Credit: AP Photo

Live-blogging the 2012 MTV VMAs

Robert Pattinson, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, others to have some camera face-time

The MTV VMAs have always promised drama and Moonmen, and 2012 will be no exception. Rihanna's performing, but where will Drake and Chris Brown be? Taylor Swift is hitting the stage too. And have you seen Miley's hair?

Follow the bouncing ball through the year's best (or most popular) videos and pop artists with me. I hope you brought a sixer.

The MTV Video Music Awards are broadcast live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

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6:58: Taylor Swift pantsuit. That is all.

7:02: Rihanna opens the show with shades, all-red floor-length number, and what look like Crocs. Of course she's starting it with "Cockiness" because that's the current singl... wait. A$AP Rocky tapped for the remix. On sale now!

7:05: She's actually encouraging that "OOaoooah-oooahhha" sound that college kids make at the bar when they're wasted during "We Found Love." Calvin Harris is laughing all the way to the bank.

7:07: Host Kevin Hart's "security force" is a staff of little people. Because little people are funny.

7:09: "I'm gonna nip this in the bud tonight," Hart addresses Chris Brown and Drake. "...you're arguing over a thrown bottle in a club. Drake is from Canada. Drake loves to recycle..." You see where this is going.

7:10: And now Frank Ocean's turn. "For that I commend you," Hart extols the R&B singer for coming out of the closet. Pan to Andy Samberg for some reason.

7:12: Mention of Kristen Stewart draw screaming from the girls and a string of curses from Hart because if there's something teenaged girls like more than "Twilight," it's foul language.

7:13: Katy Perry presenting "Best Pop Video." Probably wishes it was Katy Perry. In fan-voted contest that involves One Direction and Justin Bieber, there may just be a black hole of popular music that opens up and swallows us whole.

7:14: One Direction wins Best Pop Video for "What Makes You Beautiful"

7:15: Katy Perry literally breaks part of the Moonman award over the heads of one of these pretty dudes.

7:18: Previously filmed segment with Hart and 2 Chainz. The rapper is yet again the featured artist. Get it?

7:24: New Laker Dwight Howard: Taller Than Kevin Hart

7:26: Miley Cyrus' hair is talking. Mac Miller confusing lots of teenaged people.

7:27: Chris Brown is totally gonna cop Pink's 'do, just like Amber Rose was watching Beyonce's baby bump days last year. "Blow Me" is still not a strong enough single for Pink and the dancing lips are evidence.

7:30: My new band name will be Unneeded Trapeze.

7:31: Rita Ora looks like the superhero alter-ego of Demi Lovato

7:32: Oh great, Chris Brown won something. Takes home Best Male Video. That's. Great.

7:38: Zoe Saldana presenting in a bathmat. Perfect makeup, introduces Frank Ocean amid flaming flames. No, really.

7:39: Frank Ocean rocking the "nervous" look. Falsetto faltering but I'm finding it endearing. Backdrop looks like a beachfront bonfire. Kind of in love with the rocks, which look like unmelting glaciers.

7:42: Falsetto somewhat abandoned. But I was thinking 'bout forever. Great presentation of this song.

7:51: Samberg and Rashida Jones from "Celeste and Jesse Forever" present. As much awkward and funny energy as the movie itself. For some reason they're presenting Best Hip-Hop Video presentation.

7:53: Breaking: Drake is black and Jewish

7:54: The whole Young Money gang hits the stage to help Drake with his win for Best Hip-Hop video. The Toronto almost breaks into a story about going to a party and getting made fun of, stops it there, and then dedicates his MTV award to "any kid that's ever had a long walk ohm by yourself." Inexplicably ends the speech with "bitch." And Lill Wayne flashing dem titties.

7:58: One Direction, a popular pop music group beloved by teenaged girls, takes the stage. The stage props are screaming teenaged girls. They are popular. "One Thing" is understandably popular.

8:02: To make sure the viewers get their fill of boy bands, The Wanted present... but don't perform. Favoritism, I call shenanigans. Rebel Wilson is actually more entertaining to look at than these clowns.

8:05: Speaking of clowns, Nicki Minaj wins for Best Female Video ("Starship"), the Song That Samples Twinkle Twinkly Little Star. She speaks normally for 30 seconds, then devolves into an 8-year-old child and peaces out in a trail of her own sequin echoes. It's poetry.

8:12: Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz get the twos up, for rhyming "cameltoe" with "casserole." Love Chainz' flash, and he's had the best sound of anyone all night. "Yuck" is tight.

8:15: Lil Wayne tries to skateboard to the stage, reminding everyone that they don't care about his skateboarding "career." I do care greatly, however, for those crazy pants. Rihanna whooping in her chair, with nuance.

8:17: Killed it, and they know it. 2 Chainz and Weezy have the best performance of the night so far.

8:25: "Gangnam Style," YES, all I needed was the dance and it's like I have new skin.

8:26: Watching Rihanna and Katy Perry whisper to each other make me 1) eager for a duet 2) anxious that they're talking about my prom dress

8:27: "Let Yourself Go" the studio version was posted by Green Day today. And they're performing it now. Thanks internet! It is a significantly better and more fun single than "Oh Love." Crowd surges onto the stage. Billie Joe Armstrong is clearly feeling better, until he catches a communicable disease from one of these fans.

8:31: I just bum-rushed the stage too but just ended up scaring my cats.

8:34: "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" presentation is happening! And there's NO Kristen Stewart! REPEAT, NO KRISTEN STEWART.

8:35: Trailer for "Twilight": "I won't ever let anybody hurt you," says Stewart. You hurt America.

8:37: Ke$ha and Wiz Khalifa presenting Best New Artist, everybody pretending it's not going to One Direction. Ke$ha says all her lines like she's just learning English with an American Accent.

8:38: One Direction earns Best New Artists. Give the mic to Harry.

8:39: Microphone given to Harry

8:44: Women's gymnastics team. U-S-A. Introducing another strong woman, Alicia Keys, with "Girl on Fire," which hopefully will fare better than "New Day."

8:45: Oof. Long notes and slipping in-ear monitors are a nasty pair. But Keys is looking ferocious as Swizz Beats hoists their love-child onto his shoulders.

8:48: Nicki Minaj gets a verse, an Gabby Douglas does a short floor routine to "Girl On Fire." This performance is like the Lunchables (TM) of raucous ladies.

8:52: Remember when Justin Timberlake appeared during the VMAs for the music he made? #troublewiththecurve

8:54: "Pubes on her shirt." I'm glad somebody said the phrase tonight.

8:56: Video Of The Year: the winner is Rihanna for "We Found Love." Rihanna does an end zone dance. Kevin Hart screams like a little girl.

8:57: Drama-free speech. Well said, we're all feeling good.

8:58: Taylor Swift is killing me with the sailor top, black shorts, Wave-Runners and red loafers. Microphone's red. Her album's called "Red." I'm drowning in cute. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is just over the top adorable.

9:02: Look, the talent show is ending on time, with Swift stage-diving just like Lil Wayne. Pop is dead, long live pop.

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<p>Green Day's &quot;Let Yourself Go&quot;</p>

Green Day's "Let Yourself Go"

Listen: Green Day releases 'Let Yourself Go'; Billie Joe Armstrong out of hospital

'It's hard to sing while you're puking.'

Only a couple of days since frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was hospitalized, Green Day are apparently ready to take the stage during MTV VMAs tonight, and have released another new "¡Uno!" track in the meantime.

"Let Yourself Go" was previewed during the punk-pop band's recent surprise stop at Austin's tiny Red 7, and released as a live performance back at the beginning of August. Now there's the official studio version release, ahead of the Sept. 25 drop of the first in the Green Day trilogy (you can still guess what the other two are named). It's back to the melodic, snotty sound of early Green Day, with some spit shine and a few f-bombs.

Fans may just hear it -- or, more likely, less curse-worthy single "Oh Love" -- at the Video Music Awards. Mike Dirnt told MTV just what was plaguing Armstrong over last weekend that caused him to hit the hospital: the flu.

"Billie came down with heavy, heavy dehydration; it was like severe dehydration, influenza, and it was just a really, really bad situation," Dirnt said. "Let's put it this way, if you're in your hotel room and you're vomiting profusely, it's not fun. So what are you gonna do? It's hard to sing while you're puking."

 

Get More: 2012 VMA, Artists.MTV, Music

 

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"The X Factor"

 "The X Factor"

Credit: Fox

'X Factor' judges Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato talk about hosts and NBC's sneaky move

Cowell calls 'The Voice' scheduling 'mean-spirited'

With the second season of "The X Factor" set to premiere over two nights (Wed. Sept. 12, 8:00 p.m. and Thurs. Sept. 13, 8:00 p.m.), fans may find themselves conflicted. Over on NBC, "The Voice" will be airing its third day of blind auditions on Wednesday -- and Simon Cowell isn't happy about it. "They don't want people to see this first episode," he said in a conference call with journalists and fellow judge Demi Lovato. "It's mean-spirited, and I hope and pray it backfires on them. I am pissed off about it." Cowell and Lovato promised that those who do choose "The X Factor" over the competition will be in for some fun thanks to a "quite mean" Britney Spears, lots of bickering and a backstage pass to the audition process. Cowell, of course, had some strong opinions about, well, just about everything. 

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<p>Anna Gunn and Bryan Cranston in a scene from the &quot;Breaking Bad&quot;&nbsp;mid-season finale.</p>

Anna Gunn and Bryan Cranston in a scene from the "Breaking Bad" mid-season finale.

Credit: AMC

'Breaking Bad' creator Vince Gilligan on poetry books, time jumps and the end for Walter White

How much do Gilligan and his writers know about the series finale? And was Mike too sloppy?

There have been times when Vince Gilligan has known from the start of a "Breaking Bad" season exactly how it was going to end (the plane crash of season 2), and other times where he and his fellow writers have had to improvise (they realized midway through season 3 that the Cousins were too dangerous to plausibly hang around forever, and as a result killed them off and made Gus into the new big bad).

As Gilligan and his writing staff have begun work  on the final 8 episodes of the AMC drama, they're taking an approach that's a little from Column A and a little from Column B, where they have an idea of what's going to be happen but are open to changing that idea if something better comes along.

I spoke with Gilligan about planning the ending of the series, and also about several of the key developments of the first half of this final season, up through the final images of Sunday's mid-season finale.

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<p>Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis play opposite ends of the same life in 'Looper'</p>

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis play opposite ends of the same life in 'Looper'

Credit: Sony Pictures

Review: Joseph Gordon-Levitt kills in the human and heady 'Looper'

One of the year's best films mixes big ideas and big emotion to stunning effect

One of the oldest time travel "what if" questions deals with the very idea of changing the future through one single action.  "If you could go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler as a child, would you?"  After all, with that one action, you would erase so much pain and horror that it seems like a more-than-fair trade, right?

But what if instead of immediately leaping to the idea of murdering a child, no matter who that child is or is going to become, you took a less easy route?  What if you went back in time and raised Hitler Jewish instead?  What if instead of killing him, you connected him to a faith and a tradition and you changed his entire set of values and beliefs?  It's not a single action, and it doesn't sound easy, but it does raise a far more pointed question about the hypothetical situation.  Can you erase an evil by committing an evil?  Can you do good by doing bad?

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<p>Doona Bae in &quot;Cloud Atlas&quot;</p>

Doona Bae in "Cloud Atlas"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

New 'Cloud Atlas' trailer drops in advance of Toronto bow

How do you whittle all of that down to two-and-a-half minutes?

Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer are all set to blow Toronto audiences' minds with the premiere of "Cloud Atlas" in a few short days. Everything I've heard about the ambitious ensemble project ends up pointing to "it's not for everyone," but each new nugget certainly makes me think it'll be for me.

A few weeks ago Warner Bros. tossed out a six-minute initial trailer for the film, an "extended first look," which did a great job of pre-immersing the audience in the world of the narrative (which is taken from David Mitchell's novel of the same name). And now, with the film getting ready for its close-up in Canada, things have been whittled down for an official trailer.

I'd have to think cutting trailers for this film is almost as difficult as seeing the whole production through. How do you find a throughline and steer away from confusing audiences while being inclusive enough to represent the entirety of the ensemble and the various settings they inhabit over the course of the film? Madness.

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<p>Shia LaBeouf in &quot;The Company You Keep.&quot;</p>

Shia LaBeouf in "The Company You Keep."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: Redford's 'The Company You Keep' hangs with the right crowd

Few surprises in enjoyably old-fashioned thriller, save for the cast itself

VENICE -- For one of the more sedate festivals on the circuit, there’s been a curious running theme of restless youth at Venice this year that can hardly be accidental. In Competition, Harmony Korine’s manic, fluorescent “Spring Breakers” – which I reviewed for Variety – observed (it’d be a stretch to say critiqued) the directionless nihilism of today’s college-going generation. Its opposite number, Olivier Assayas’s “Something in the Air” (reviewed here), mused on the ambitious social ideals of kids 40 years ago – but steered clear of suggesting that their activism was any more effective than 21st-century irony.

Indirectly triangulating with Korine and Assayas, only out of competition, is “The Company You Keep,” Robert Redford’s absorbing, undemanding and agreeably old-fashioned political thriller about where Vietnam-era radicals go when the flowers really are all gone. It’s more romantically liberal than both the aforementioned films, painting its 1970s rebels as more nobly consistent and influential than Assayas’s floaty political dilettantes and suggesting, in the doggedly principled form of Shia LaBeouf’s lone-wolf reporter and Brit Marling’s whip-smart law student, that there are youngsters more willing to continue their cause than Korine’s junked-up party posse. 

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<p>Jeffrey Katzenberg</p>

Jeffrey Katzenberg

Credit: Katy Winn/Invision/AP

Honorary Oscars go to Katzenberg, Needham, Pennebaker and Stevens

Doris Day and Angela Lansbury, among others, passed over once again

The release was later than anticipated but a decision was finally made by the Academy's Board of Governors on this year's Honorary Oscar recipients. And names long considered due for the recognition, actresses Doris Day and Angela Lansbury among them, will have to wait a little longer.

The organization has announced that stunt man Hal Needham, documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and multi-hyphenate George Stevens Jr. will receive recognition at this year's Governors Awards ceremony. DreamWorks co-founder and philanthropist Jeffrey Katzenberg has been tapped to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

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"Big Brother"

 "Big Brother"

Credit: CBS

'Big Brother' recap: Frank thinks he can trust Dan - but can he?

The veto competition could change everything

So, I'm guessing Dan's Machiavellian plan to race willy-nilly into the "Big Brother" winner's circle while all the other housemates thank him for taking the money and kicking them to the curb remains solidly in effect. The only hamster who could potentially throw a wrench into Dan's evil genius master plan is Frank, who's never met a veto competition he doesn't like. I'm hoping Frank can win tonight's game, if only to wipe that smug little grin off Dan's face. 

We pick up where we left off last week -- with Frank and Jenn on the block. Frank thinks Ian has to grow up, as he's taking this revenge thing altogether too personally. Jenn is going to fight to stay in the house, which is remarkable considering that she only started playing a week or so ago. Dan can't believe everyone is so stupid! They totally don't see that he's RUNNING the place! And all of them! Dan needs a waxes mustache to twirl. 

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"So You Think You Can Dance"

 "So You Think You Can Dance"

Credit: Fox

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: The final four are chosen

It's all down to America's votes, and Christina Applegate returns to judge

We're down to the top six -- which means that after tonight, we'll have our final four. But what's significant about tonight is that the judges can no longer save any dancers, rendering their commentary pretty much useless, especially as it relates to who is going home that night. They can be sad and chagrined all they want, but it doesn't matter how good someone is anymore. At this point, I've pretty much accepted that Cyrus will probably be one of the two winners, which is completely understandable (he's nice and smiley and works really, really hard) but also disappointing (everyone else works really hard, too, and they've taken some dance lessons). But the good news is that, no matter what, we'll see lots of performances tonight. Whether they're good or not, well, you can be the judge. Literally. 

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<p>Be afraid, Chris... be very afraid.</p>

Be afraid, Chris... be very afraid.

Credit: Jeff Wadlow/Universal Pictures

'Kick-Ass 2' director Jeff Wadlow teases the start of production on Twitter

A half-glimpse of Mother Russia is just one of the highlights so far

That look on Chris Mintz-Plasse's face pretty much says it all.

It is slightly miraculous that there is a "Kick-Ass" sequel.  I really like the first film, but while it did decent business, I wasn't convinced it did enough business for them to move forward with a follow-up.  Even when Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. published the sequel as a comic, it didn't seem like any sort of guarantee.

Over the last few months, the film's been coming into focus as they've started casting and as the returning cast has started talking about getting back to the characters they played in the first film.  I've interviewed Chris as well as Aaron Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz this summer, and they all said they were looking forward to a return to the world of the movie, but I also got a sense of caution from them, as if they were aware just how tenuous the whole idea was.

About a month ago, I finally read Jeff Wadlow's script for the film, and as far as I'm concerned, this thing can't get to theaters fast enough.  If you didn't like the first one, I'm not sure the sequel will change your mind, but if you did, they're turning everything up this time.  And if the new cast they're adding is any indication, it's going to be a much crazier movie.

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