• Some big movie-related TV news this week: Brett Ratner, who was all set to produce the 2012 Oscars with host Eddie Murphy,
was fired left the job after the hellacious PR fallout that hit him after he remarked at a Tower Heist Q&A that "rehearsing is for fags." For those who've forgotten, it's still 2011, and we as a society have moved on from thinking shit like this is remotely okay to say, especially publicly, especially in a state and country and industry that has long been the harbor of gay men and women who have suffered for years in the closet thanks to the ubiquity of hate speech (and worse). Soon after Ratner left, Murphy stepped down, too.
You have to feel a little bad for Murphy: He hasn't been legitimately, edgily funny in years, and Tower Heist's $24 million opening probably wasn't the comeback he was hoping for. The Oscars could have been his chance to kick ass, take names, and apologize for squandering one of the best comic minds of the past 30 years on a decade of family films currently playing in hell's waiting room. But he's tainted by association with Ratner. You know who gets to step in and save the day? Not the Muppets, despite the hopes of the Internet. Nope, it's Billy Crystal for the win, with Brian Grazer producing. I'm not sorry Ratner's gone, but I would've liked to see Murphy make a run at the show.
• In Showtime news: The cable network has renewed Weeds for an eighth season, with production set to start next year. The show's not exactly at its creative peak, but then, premium networks are weird like that. Cachet counts for a lot.
Additionally, DreamWorks has hired Brian K. Vaughan -- former Lost writer and author of comic books Y: The Last Man and Runaways -- to adapt Stephen King's Under the Dome as a drama at Showtime. The network announced the project a couple months back, but this is a solid step forward. The logistics of adapting a finite novel into an ongoing TV series are probably pretty tough (HBO is also doing it with The Corrections), but Vaughan's a wicked smart writer with an eye for character, so he's a solid choice. Plus he knows how to craft heartbreaking death scenes, which will likely come in handy telling a story about a small town hemmed off from the rest of the world and forced to fight for survival.
• In its bid to remain your parents' favorite network, CBS is remaking The Rifleman, a Western series that ran from 1958-1963 on ABC. The original starred Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, a Union vet living in New Mexico who uses his rifle to put down varmints and keep all the womenfolk safe. Chris Columbus -- who previously delved into the dark side of the human psyche with Mrs. Doubtfire -- will executive produce the series and direct the first episode. This is the kind of prestige package that's attractive to feature helmers; Martin Scorese did it with Boardwalk Empire, and Michael Mann's doing it with the upcoming Luck. Obviously, Rifleman will be a little bit safer than those cable shows, and will probably turn into an Old West procedural by midseason.
• I think I've given up on The Walking Dead. It took me a while to catch up with the first two episodes of this season -- they'd aired against Breaking Bad, and a man has to have priorities -- but when I did, it felt like a chore. The pilot episode was one of the strongest drama pilots in a decade, and while the rest of the first season didn't always live up to the standard of that first installment, there was at least a sense of momentum. Now, though, I'm not so sure. The Walking Dead borrows heavily from Lost for individual episode structure (Person A needs Item B from Location C, spends an hour getting it, roll credits), but there doesn't seem to be any rush to make these characters feel like real people. A couple weeks back (mild spoiler for those not watching), Lori suggested to Rick that maybe they should just let Carl die, which would be horrific coming from any parent but seemed additionally ludicrous given that Lori's spent the past few months of her life protecting Carl at all costs. I'm okay with a story that explores her exhaustion and despair, but it didn't at all click that she'd consider pulling the plug. It was just a sensationalistic twist before a commercial break.
The other night, while watching the thousandth cable rerun of Elf, my DVR alerted me that my recording of The Walking Dead was about to start, and because the machine would be recording two programs at once, I had to decide whether to change the channel to watch and record The Walking Dead or stay with the movie and cancel the recording. I barely hesitated. I deleted the recording of The Walking Dead, and I'm honestly not sure I'm going to get back into it. Am I crazy? On the right track? Anyone else out there still with the show?
• Jon Stewart absolutely brought the heat last week on The Daily Show. Both of these clips are worth your time. First up, Stewart sets the matter straight for the shortsighted college kids (redundant, I know) who rioted over the firing of Joe Paterno:
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Next, he demolishes Rick Perry. It's a thing of beauty:
• Finally, this has to be the weirdest thing SNL has ever done: