Author Archives: Joe Froemming

I’m a reporter/copy editor for the Bemidji Pioneer. Previously, I worked for the Worthington Daily Globe as a copy editor and before that, I had a brief stint as the Fine Arts Columnist for the St. Cloud Times. I was born and raised in St. Cloud, a graduate of St. Cloud State University and worked in record stores for 10 years before wandering into the world of journalism. I live in Bemidji with my wife Gina and our cat, Mac. All the papers and towns mentioned above are located in Minnesota.

‘Parks And Recreation’ Goes Out On A High Note

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I didn’t get into “Parks And Recreation” until it was beginning its third season. The reason was I was finishing my final year in college and had moved to southwest Minnesota for a job after graduation during its first two seasons. So at the time, TV was simply not in the cards that much in my life. But with the power of Netflix streaming the first two seasons, I was able to get caught up and then follow the show fairly quickly with the power of Hulu. And I have ever since.

Maybe part of my hesitation going in — initially — was it was at first being pegged as a spin-off of “The Office,” and the format was pretty much the same, technically. Both were shot as a documentary-style office sitcom with very well-written episodes. The same people, in fact, who were making “The Office” also made “Parks.”

But where “Parks” differed from “The Office” is what made the show, in my opinion, better. “The Office” took pains in letting the viewer know it was a documentary. “Parks,” on the other hand, never really acknowledged that. When the characters spoke to the camera (exactly like the folks on “The Office”), it was more of an inner-dialogue than speaking to a film crew. In their world, there was no film crew documenting their lives. And yet this format still somehow worked.

It was also a much more absurd show. The humor was so weird and off-kilter that it, during season two, became its own thing. You have Leslie Knope, a true believer in government there to help, working in local government under Ron Swanson, a devout libertarian who thinks the government would run better if it were completely run like a Chuck E. Cheese. “They have an impeccable business model. I’d rather work for Chuck E. Cheese,” he once said. But that chemistry, which could have easily been seven years of pure adversarial rivalry, worked great because the two respected and cared for each other. They butted heads, but sans a few episodes, it was never enemies. They worked a lot better when they worked together.

This final season was perhaps one of the best seasons of the show. Last season, the show began feeling stale. The stories fell flat and it felt like it was almost a parody of “Parks.” It began to fall in quality much like those final seasons of “The Office.” More misses than hits.

But this final season they went out on a high note. Jumping three years into the future allowed them to move the story along into new areas and not be bogged down with what was going on in the the sixth season. It allowed for Leslie and Ron to have a years long feud, and the greatness of seeing them get passed it. It allowed Tom Haverford to be successful without us seeing him build his success, after so many failure due to his own hubris. April and Andy have built their life, despite April’s disgust at the idea of growing up. And Jerry/Terry/Larry/Gary/Garry is still doing his thing. Because, that’s who Garry is. That poor bastard.

It was also great to see Donna have a bigger role in the show this season. The wedding episode was fantastic.

The finale (SPOILERS) itself was the best way it could have gone out. We got to see how this ragtag crew are years after the finale. Leslie and Ben are still in politics, April and Andy have a child (“His name is Jack,” April tells Leslie. “Whew, that’s good,” Leslie replies), Tom finally succeeds by writing a memoir on all his failures, Donna is happily married, Garry is mayor for life (just like his predecessor) and Ron is working for the federal government by keeping his park clean. They are where they were destined to be. And it was great.

And it was nice they paid tribute to executive producer/writer Harris Wittels, who unfortunately passed away just a few days before the finale. He was a hilarious guy. May Harris forever be humblebragging as a tour guide through the cosmos.

THOUGHTS:

* Jon Hamm had the best line this season: “If anyone wants to hang, I’ll be at Subway!”

* We finally find out Kyle (the poor guy who just wants his shoes shined when Andy was operating that business) works on the fourth floor.

* Donna finally getting people to call Gary by his real name, yet proceeds to misspell it as “Garry.” Even on his tombstone.

* Ron’s brothers never knew he worked for the government. It was none of their business.

* April and Andy’s child’s full name is Burt Snakehole Ludgate Karate Dracula Macklin Demon Jack-o-Lantern Dwyer, but they call him Jack for short.

* Mark Brendanawicz is still MIA.

* Donna has April in her phone-thing as “Satan’s Niece.”

* In an ironic twist, Indiana University names a library in Leslie’s honor, much to her chagrin. “The library is the worst group of people ever assembled in history. They’re mean, conniving, rude, and extremely well read, which makes them very dangerous,” she once said.

REVIEW: ‘Better Call Saul’ Episode Four: Hero

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It’ssss sssaaaauulll gooooood mannnn!

To say Jimmy McGill is heading down the rabbit hole of criminal enterprise is incorrect. From the flashback in the opening of this week and last week’s episodes, we know that before Jimmy became the hapless lawyer he is, he was a petty criminal conning drunks for his own “beer money.” Good cons, but petty. And we know that in the future, he is a professional criminal under the guise of a ambulance chasing defense attorney.

In the current timeline of “Better Call Saul,” Jimmy is at the crossroads of respectability and criminality. The Kettlemans offer him hush money so he doesn’t rat them out. He doesn’t want that tainted money, he wants them as clients. But as Mrs. Kettleman tells Jimmy “you’re a lawyer guilty people hire.” Sure, she is a hypocrite in that she is, indeed, guilty. She equates her husband’s non-paid overtime to “slavery” as a justification for their actions. But even she sees Jimmy as a two-bit operation.

So, Jimmy takes the money. He tries to rationalize it by itemizing his time dealing with the Kettlemans. Finally, he embraces his new-found money. Suits, haircuts and a billboard ad…mocking his brother’s (somewhat former) legal firm, and specifically mocking Howard Hamlin who heads it.

Now, it’s in the last quarter of the episode that we see that, just like Walter White six years later, Jimmy is pragmatic. He is a few steps ahead of everyone else. He gets student journalists to videotape his “David and Goliath” story between himself and Hamlin, when suddenly a worker falls from Jimmy’s billboard ad, and is dangling for his life. Jimmy sees this, and rushes up 60-plus feet to save the guy. And he does! And the worker was in on the con.

So Jimmy makes the nightly news, as a hero, with his Hamlin-mocking billboard plastered on the televised segment and the next day in the newspaper. It’s a great plan, the first we truly see of how manipulative Jimmy can be. He finally gets messages asking for his service on his work phone. Jimmy’s moving up in the world, but not in the way he wanted to.

And we see this when he talks to his brother Chuck. Jimmy gloats and brags about his new business opportunities. But he doesn’t want Chuck to be disappointed in him, to see that his new success was built on a scam. Jimmy hides Chuck’s one outlet to the world, his newspaper.

What followed was a very unconformable and frightened Chuck, space blanket in tow, out to get his newspaper. A harrowing event for Chuck, who seems agoraphobic and a little schizophrenic. It’s the one time, thus far, we see how Chuck operates outside the comfort of his home: scared, panicked and uncomfortable. I am looking forward to see just what happened to Chuck to put him in such a place psychotically and emotionally.

Thoughts:

* The one scene with Mike at the toll both shows that Jimmy sees something respectable in the man.

* “Because if there is one thing kids love, it’s local print journalism.” Chuck on the idea kids stole his newspaper. That stung.

* Kim Wexler’s looking out for Jimmy while working with Hamlin is nice. That smile she gives when he says Jimmy’s rescue scene on the news is a PR stunt was priceless.

* Jimmy’s speech to Nacho about how he should be thanking the good Samaritan for warning the Kettlemans was almost classic Saul from “Breaking Bad.”

* Hamlindigo Blue

Sunday Is Oscar Night, But I’ll Be Watching ‘Walking Dead’

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On Sunday, a city will be overtaken by a sea of soulless monsters with dead eyes and incoherent ramblings, raging with an insatiable hunger to dominate. Onlookers will watch this carnival of horror in shock and awe — at this seemingly never ending parade of gluttony, greed, envy and pride. I, on the other hand, will avoid this disturbing event known as the Academy Awards and will watch a bunch of characters over at AMC surviving a zombie holocaust on “The Walking Dead.”

Since I am not the cinephile I once was, and have only seen maybe two movies released last year (neither nominated as far as I know), the Academy Awards really offers nothing for me this year. I want to see “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” but since I haven’t yet, I really can’t make an argument for either of them during the awards. But you can participate with others in a live blog over at www.inforum.com and www.grandforksherald.com Sunday night.

For me, this season of “The Walking Dead” has been pretty great. From the cannibals at Terminus (that trough scene was nuts — and disturbing to say the least), that creepy hospital full of deranged authority figures, to losing (SPOILERS) Beth and Tyreese. And in the trailer for Sunday night’s episode, it looks like Glen might get bit by a walker. I am not missing this for anything.

So, I will be watching “Walking Dead.” If I have good enough cell reception, I will live tweet it (no reviews, those are for “Better Call Saul” and when “Fargo” returns). This has been the wife and I’s tradition since the start of this season, and making a night out of zombie gore may not sound conventional, it sure is fun.

To follow me Sunday night for the “Walking Dead,” my twitter handle is @josephbemidji

Dan Aykroyd Still Plotting ‘Ghostbusters 3′

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When it was announced that the powers that be will simply be rebooting the “Ghostbusters” franchise instead of a traditional sequel, a lot of fans were upset with the choice of director, Paul Feig, and his cast choices for his all women-“Ghostbusters.” But the saving grace most of us had was that, much like escaping the proximity of a belligerent drunk on an airplane, we would no longer have to put up with Dan Aykroyd’s almost yearly promises that we would see him, Bill Murray and the rest grace the old proton packs and bust ghosts once again. We especially did not want to hear those after Harold Ramis died.

Never one to recognize some things should just not be revived, Aykroyd is once again floating his vision of a proper third installment of the original films. In an interview on “Unmasked with Ron Bennington,” Aykroyd said “I’ve written, well, there’s three drafts of the old concept that exists. And we’re going to be able to salvage some of it and use it. Yeah, we’re gonna be able to use it some day. Let’s get this one made and that will reinvigorate the franchise and then we’ll go on to maybe doing a more conventional third sequel as we were planning and another idea I have for it.”

Not that he is dismissing the reboot, in fact, he seems pretty excited about it. He said “The real reality in fact of the third movie with this tremendous cast of women, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Kristen Wiig … [Director Paul Feig] establishes the voices beautifully in these characters. Now of course, he’s got masters playing the roles for him, so this is going to really work in our favor for the third movie.”

The reason for the reboot over the traditional sequel probably was 1. Harold Ramis is now dead and 2. Bill Murray is not interested in returning. That leaves Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson as the lone two ghostbusters of the original cast that seem willing to return. And let’s face it, we have the first two films to watch and enjoy. Some of us will enjoy the reboot, some of us won’t. And I’m sure his ideas might be good, but that train has long since passed and if he really wants to see those ideas into fruition, maybe another avenue would work better. Graphic novel, video game, animated film, whatever. Just please stop with the idea of the old gang getting back together for a film.

In 1987, Lou Reed Was No Fan Of The Beatles

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Ever the pillar of positivity in his time, in a 1987 interview Lou Reed pretty much said he thought very little of his musical contemporaries in the 1960s by saying bands like the Doors were “stupid” and the Beatles were “garbage.” This interview was discovered by the PBS Digital Studios series Blank on Blank, and set to animation. He also reflected fondly on his quiet life in New Jersey with his wife, and the times he pointed his shotgun at fans who snuck up on his property, like a punk rock Hunter S. Thompson.

Regarding other bands of the time during his Velvet Underground heyday, Reed said: “I’m saying, from my point of view, I know this sounds pretentious, but I just thought the other stuff couldn’t even come up to our ankles. Not up to my kneecap, not up to my ankles, the level we were on compared to everyone else. They were painfully stupid and pretentious. Then when they did try to get in quotes, ‘arty,’ it was worse than stupid rock and roll. What I mean by stupid, I mean the Doors.”

And on The Fab Four: “I never liked the Beatles. I thought they were garbage.”

Which, to be fair, should be taken with a grain of salt. Reed has a colorful history dealing with the press, often times saying things just to get a rise out of reporters. Or simply hanging up on them during interviews. He also said in this interview “If you said like, ‘Who did you like?’ — I liked nobody.” So, it probably wasn’t anything personal.

The interview also delves into his interest in being a novelist during his college years, his time in the Velvet Underground and how his early recording style had engineers walk out on the band and how he feared about potential damage to his ears from it.

Here is the video:

REVIEW: Episodes 1-3 Of ‘Better Call Saul’

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A note: I didn’t get around to writing up about this last week. I intend on doing a weekly review of “Better Call Saul.” Also, there WILL be spoilers.

The amount of pressure in creating a spin-off of “Breaking Bad” was probably huge. Since “Breaking Bad” is pretty much a high water mark in modern TV in quality, the idea of a prequel to the events that led to the rise and fall of Walter White, dealing with his criminal attorney Saul Goodman, must have been quite the gamble.

But thus far, that gamble is paying off. Big time.

Before I get into the episodes, I must say what I’ve loved about the show, so far, is that it feels like slipping on a shoe that’s already broken in. Because of the familiarity of the character, and many of those who worked on “Breaking Bad” are on this show, it has allowed the show to move at a pace that most shows need more time to establish. We know where Saul is in the future, the character has been around since the second season of “Breaking Bad.” But it still feels fresh, and it’s a different story in the same world as “Breaking Bad.”

Vince Gilligan and Bob Odenkirk - Better Call Saul _ Season 1, Episode 1 _ BTS - Photo Credit: Jenn Carroll/AMC

Vince Gilligan and Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul _ Season 1, Episode 1 _ BTS – Photo Credit: Jenn Carroll/AMC

Also, I like how different Saul’s story is compared to Walter White’s. We know Saul is not going to be a Walter White or a Tony Soprano. He will become a criminal, sure.  A very good criminal. At this point, he’s not even a decent lawyer, he’s a pretty terrible one. He’s a survivor, not an Alpha. He’s not going to blow up an old folks home to kill off a rival. He eventually breaks bad, but in a different way and for different reasons.

In the first episode, we see Saul living the “best case scenario” he told Walter in the final episodes of “Breaking Bad,” when both are on the run. Saul, now managing a Cinnabon in Omaha, Neb., (and seen in black and white) is at his bottom while reliving his glory years by watching his old commercials he has hidden in a box.

Then flash backward to six years prior to the events on “Breaking Bad.”

Before he was Saul, he was Jimmy McGill. A down in a rut defense attorney who is making $700 a case and is barely getting by. His brother, Chuck (played by Michael McKean) is a brilliant attorney who is suffering a mental break down. And who is being ripped off by the law firm he built, but refuses to be bothered with it.

He is also pestered daily by the man at the court house’s parking ticket booth. That would be Mike Ehrmantraut, who in “Breaking Bad” is Saul’s main man. It’s funny seeing how these two first are acquainted, knowing the bloody path they will embark six years later with Walt, Jesse, Gus and the Mexican cartel meth ring.

Jimmy decides to get into a scam to pressure Betsy Kettleman, a wife of city treasurer Craig Kettleman, accused of stealing money from the city to have him represent her husband . Unfortunately, the  kids he’s hired picked a wrong car to scam, for it’s not only the wrong person, it’s family of Tuco Salamanca’s (one of Walt’s nemesis from “Breaking Bad”).

The second episode deals with Jimmy getting himself and his goons out of the deadly situation with Tuco. He also finds himself dealing with one of Tuco’s henchmen, Nacho, with regard to the treasurer’s million dollar theft. We see perhaps the first of Jimmy’s decent toward criminal activity. And his morally ambiguous dealing with criminals (making the case only for Tuco to only break one leg each of his cohorts in the desert).

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Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman and Raymond Cruz as Tuco Salamanca

The third episode opens even earlier than the show, with Jimmy in jail and Chuck having to bail him out (man, that wig looked pretty bad on Odenkirk).

Fast forward to the show’s current time and his brother’s law office has pilfered Craig Kettleman as their client. And Jimmy knows Nacho is out to steal that money Kettleman stole.

And the Kettlemans go missing, after being awkwardly warned by Jimmy in a drunken stupor, that someone is out for the money. Jimmy also drunkenly blurted out to his lawyer friend who got the Kettleman case that they may be in danger.

Which puts Nacho at the scene, because he was casing their home prior to their disappearance and was spotted by a neighbor. But he didn’t take the family, but the cops think he did. And thus puts Jimmy on a mission to find the family, because his life is now on the line. Nacho doesn’t need the police poking around his “business.” And he will blame Jimmy if they do.

Long story short, the Kettlman’s where hiding, with the stolen cash when Saul finally tracks them down (with a good tip from Mike, and that scene in the court house with these two and the police was fantastic).

So these have been a strong three episodes for “Saul.” We got Mike, the connections to the future meth ring and Jimmy putting his story forward. It will be interesting seeing where this show will go and (I hope) we get some more insights to his post-Walter White situation like in episode one’s intro.

Thoughts:

* I’m glad to see Jonathan Banks back on TV. He was great on “Community,” but him back in Mike’s shoes again is great.

* With “Breaking Bad” and “Fargo,” Bob Odenkirk has become a great dramatic actor. If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I thought the guy from “Mr. Show” could pull off roles like this, I wouldn’t have believed you.

* Tuco was probably one of the more insane characters from “Breaking Bad” and I enjoy seeing him in his early years.

* Michael McKean pulls off kooky characters pretty well.

40 Years Of ‘SNL’

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I’m part of one of the first generations that has had “Saturday Night Live” my entire life. Almost every Saturday since I entered this world has had “SNL,” for better or for worse. And each generation after the show debuted has their “SNL.” There are the folks who were there from the start who claim the best years were the early years. There are those born after me who contend the late 90s were the best. I’ve yet to meet anyone who thought the mid-80s “SNL” was any good, so there is that.

I was born in 1981, so I never knew Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy (to name a few) other than big movie stars, let alone cast members on a weekly sketch television show that I started watching toward the very late 80s. The cast I grew up with had Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Mike Meyers, Jan Hooks, Victoria Jackson, Tim Meadows, Dennis Miller, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, ect. Those years will always be my “SNL” years I look back fondly on.

There was “Wayne’s World,” a sketch about two metalheads with a public access channel that would go on to become one of my favorite comedy movies. There was Chris Farley freaking out over someone switching his coffee, or his Matt Foley character who lived in a van down by the river. Phil Hartman’s spot-on Bill Clinton sketch were the president eats (steals) people’s food as he explains various politics at a Mac Donald’s was classic. That was the “SNL” I grew up with.

This year marks the 40 years of the show. It’s also a show that definitely goes through phases of quality. For instance, this past year I started watching it regularly again for the first time since probably 1999-2000. And in all honesty, this has been more of a nosedive in humor, with very few highlights that come to mind. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that this show is nearly unwatchable. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that this show, much like a cockroach, refuses to die. And it will more than likely become funny again.

Anyway, here is a classic that I will forever enjoy from “SNL.”

Kanye West Does It Again

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Much like Daylight Savings Time, at least twice a year we see self-proclaimed genius, musician and clothing mogul Kanye West rise to the occasion of publicly embarrassing himself and others in a grand fashion. So it was destined to be that during Sunday night’s Grammy Awards Kanye would, much like a werewolf under a full moon, make a spectacle of himself.

When it was announced that Beck, a man who has been making critically acclaimed alternative folk-rock for more than 20 years, won the award for Album of the Year instead of Beyoncé (whose album was also fantastic), Kanye West decided this artistic injustice must be corrected by, in an act eerily reminiscent of when he interrupted Taylor Swift at the MTV VMA awards all those years ago, walking upon the stage. Only this time, he did not have to speak, for the action alone told the world Kanye West was not happy about the situation.

Many assumed it was a meta joke from the previously mentioned Taylor Swift scene, until Kanye broke his silence and spoke to the mighty news media Goliath that is E! Entertainment News. “I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us,” West told a stunned world. “We ain’t gonna play with them no more. And Beck needs to respect artistry and he should’ve given his award to Beyoncé.” Unfortunately, the obviously selfish Beck has not given his award to Beyoncé, who didn’t look all that upset by Beck winning the award in the first place.

What followed was a hailstorm of judgments passed upon West by the likes of Shirley Manson of the 90s alt-rock band Garbage, and Paul Stanley, a full-grown man who has dressed like a clown for four-decades in the band Kiss. Beck, for his part, seemed genuinely unfazed by the whole scenario, saying “You can’t please everybody. I still love him and think he’s genius. I aspire to what he does. How many great records has he put out in the last five years, right?”

Later, Kanye clarified that it was “voices” in his head that inspired him to walk upon the stage when Beck won, and that it was vaguely E!’s fault for talking to him in the first place. “I was given a platform,” he told Ryan Seacrest on Seacrest’s radio program. “And when given a platform, it’s very hard, as we know — and I’m going to talk in the third person like I’m a crazy person — but it’s very hard for Kanye West to not be very true and vocal to what he feels.”

After sensing that perhaps people misunderstood his direct quotes about Beck to E!, Kanye said “Beck is one of the nicest guys and one of the most respected musicians in the game. When I said that thing about respect artistry, I think it came off the wrong way and that was a miswording on my part. … Obviously Beck is one of the most respected artists, and respects artistry.” So that clears everything up.

Kanye also stated he plans on collaborating with Taylor Swift, so we will have that to look forward to.

Alex Trebek Reads Mötley Crüe Lyrics On ‘Jeopardy!’

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Hard rockers Mötley Crüe have quite the debauched resume: Selling millions of albums, touring the world for 30-plus years, surviving overdoses and lethal car crashes, watching Ozzy Osbourne snort fire ants, mainlining Jack Daniels, constant infighting and suing one another over the past two decades and a ton of other events that should probably have killed them by the end of 1989.

Now they can add having metal aficionado game show host and famous Canadian Alex Trebek awkwardly reciting some of the lyrics to “Girls, Girls, Girls” on a recent episode of “Jeopardy!” It was part of  a Teacher’s Tournament this week with a category called “Hard Rockers.” And it sure sounds like Trebek is having a little fun reciting the lyrics, giving it his full William Shatner treatment.

Mötley Crüe are currently on their final tour, which will supposedly end on New Years Eve of this year.

I Don’t Think We Need ‘Heroes Reborn’

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Sometimes TV shows deserve to comeback after being mercilessly cut down by the powers that be. Shows like “Twin Peaks,” “Community” and “Arrested Development” quickly come to mind. They had the quality writing, the cast and everything else that left us wanting more.

Then there are shows that simply ran too long and got too convoluted. NBC’s 2006-2010 superhero series “Heroes” fits that category. It went on for four seasons, two of which were not very good. The show had a promising premise (if not almost a ripoff of “X-Men”) of people discovering they have super powers and an organization trying to hunt them down and a solid first season.

Toward the end of its second season, it began to spiral into depths of awful. By the shows end, where they were battling carnival folk, it was unwatchable. It was a show that deserved the ax. Even a lot of its core fanbase had given up on the show.

So it came as a pretty confusing surprise when NBC announced they will be bringing the show back for a 13-episode mini-series this summer called “Heroes Reborn.” Confusing in that I was not aware there was any demand for a revival of a show that jumped the shark early on, and continued to do so for three more seasons much to the frustration of the show’s fans.

Not surprising is that most of the original cast are not returning, especially Zachary Quinto who played the show’s antagonist Sylar, because I’d imagine going through the kind of thing that was the final two seasons could not have been an overly positive thing to remember.

So “Heroes Reborn” will come this summer, with one original cast member (Jack Coleman will reprise his role as Noah Bennet). A teaser was aired during the Super Bowl.