Tube Talk: Sweden, science and sci-fi

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

CBS’s science fiction series Extant has already gotten a lot of media attention because it supposedly marks Oscar-winner Halle Berry’s television debut. But it really doesn’t. Berry has starred in award-winning TV movies like 1999’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (for which she won a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award) and 2005’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and even had recurring roles on a couple of series back in the ’90s before her film career took off.

But it is true that Extant’s astronaut Molly Woods is Berry’s first starring role in a TV series. That’s reason enough to check out the sci-fi series. The fact that it’s produced by Steven Spielberg’s Ambin Television is another good reason to give it a chance. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a little extra sci-fi in the summer?

Not enough sci-fi for you? Then you might want to watch FX’s new series The Strain — a horror/sci-fi hybrid thriller co-created and produced by Guillermo del Toro, who also directed the pilot episode. The plot focuses on a viral outbreak linked to an ancient, evil strain of vampirism unlike any kind of vampirism you’ve seen in horror movies, True Blood, Twilight or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

If you feel a need to escape to a brighter world after watching The Strain, take a trip to Sweden in NBC’s new comedy, Welcome to Sweden, loosely based on creator and star Greg Poehler’s own life as someone who moved to Sweden for love. (Yes, he’s Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler’s brother.)

I’m part Swedish, so even if the show didn’t sound funny, I’d still tune in to get a feel for Sweden. The show has already aired in Sweden, where it was the first English-language program on Swedish TV. It’s also NBC’s first comedy to be shot in Sweden.

Both Poehlers have producing credits, and Amy appears as a guest star along with people like Will Ferrell, Patrick Duffy, Aubrey Plaza, Illeana Douglas and Gene Simmons. Simmons and Ferrell play themselves; Ferrell can relate to the main character, since his real-life wife is Swedish, too.

You say you prefer more challenging shows? You’re in luck.

Nat Geo’s Brain Games returns for a new season starting next Monday. The show is a mix of interactive experiments and challenges that help explain how our brains work. The best part is host Jason Silva offers tips for improving how our own brains take in and assess various kinds of information. Not many other new shows can make the same claim … except, perhaps, History’s Pawn Stars spinoff, Pawnography.

Pawnography pits players against Pawn Stars’ Rick, Corey and Chumlee in a trivia contest. The prizes? Straight out of Rick’s personal collection at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawnshop. Pawn Star fans know Rick’s a smart guy who hates losing. The question is how well he’ll handle the competition.

Programming notes

• Extant premieres Wednesday, July 9, at 8 p.m. Central on CBS.

• Welcome to Sweden premieres Thursday, July 10, at 8 p.m. Central on NBC.

• Pawnography premieres Thursday, July 10, at 9 p.m. Central on History.

• The Strain premieres Sunday, July 13, at 9 p.m. Central on FX.

• Brain Games returns Monday, July 14, at 8 p.m. Central on NatGeo.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to

Posted July 9, 2014

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