the cloneversation

About a year ago, my friend John Rogers and I walked to lunch, talking about how we’re living in a golden age of incredible scripted television. With very rare exceptions (Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, Castle) much of what’s on traditional broadcast networks isn’t particularly interesting to me, but the basic and pay cable channels are consistently producing programs that are so incredible, we’ll be talking about them decades from now. Shows like Mad Men, The Americans, Masters of Sex, Game of Thrones, Justified, and Boardwalk Empire are just a few of the compelling reasons to subscribe to cable, and I haven’t even gotten into the Doctor Whos and True Bloods of the world.

During this conversation, Rogers asked me if I was watching Orphan Black.

“I haven’t heard of it,” I said.

If we’d been listening to a record, it would have scratched straight across to the center. We got to a red light, and waited for it to change.

“You must stop everything you are doing and go directly to iTunes to buy it. It is one of the most amazing series, ever.”

“Those are pretty big words from guy who wrote Catwoman,” I said. (I kid. I kid. We have fun.) “So what’s the pitch?”

“A woman named Sarah is on a train, and when it pulls into the station, she sees another woman who is having a pretty bad time. That woman turns around and looks at Sarah, and she’s an identical twin.”

“Ohhhh twins,” I said. The light changed, and we crossed the street.

“Listen. She’s an identical twin, but before Sarah can say anything, she jumps off the platform and becomes part of a speeding train.”

“Holy shit.”

“Yes. So Sarah is like a punk or something, we’re not sure, but she needs money, right? She thinks for a second, grabs the dead woman’s bag, and assumes her identity.”

We got into the shade of a tall building. It was one of those days we have in LA where it’s miserably hot in the sun, but the shade is comfortable and soothing. “Oh, this sounds really cool!”

“It gets better. By the end of the pilot, we find out that the dead woman is a cop, and then we find out that she and Sarah and a bunch of other women are clones.” He looked sideways at me, knowing that he’d set the hook.

“Holy shit again.”

“And Tatiana Maslany, who plays all of the clones, is just fucking amazing. She will blow your mind, she is such an incredibly talented actor. By the second or third episode, you’ll forget that the same actor is playing all these different roles.”

“Wait. She acts in scenes with herself?!” We walked out of the shade and back into the sun. I squinted my eyes against it, and shaded them with my left hand.

“Yeah, and she does it in every episode,” he said. He landed me in the boat.

“This sounds incredible. How’s the writing?” We got to the restaurant, and I held the door open for him.

“It’s phenomenal. The storytelling is tight and crisp, the photography is great, and I know you’ll love it.” I imagined him standing on a dock, next to my body, strung up by my feet, posing for a picture with Actor Fishing Quarterly, a shit-eating grin on his face.

“Well, I am all over this. I’m buying it as soon as I get home.” I walked to the counter. “Burrito al pastor, extra spicy, no rice,” I said. I looked at Rogers. “Hashtag burrito watch.”

When I got home that afternoon, I went directly to iTunes and bought the series. I watched the first three episodes before I had to stop myself, because I knew that Anne would love it, and I’m always looking for something awesome for us to watch together.

Life happened, and we didn’t get to sit down with it for a month or so, when I saw that Season One of Orphan Black had been added to Amazon Prime Streaming. “You have to watch this show,” I said to Anne.

“You’re not the boss of me,” she said.

“You’re right. Let me try again. You’re going to love this, and I want to watch it together.” I didn’t give her any more details than that, because I thought it would be fun for her to discover the clone situation on her own.

I was right, and we binged the entire series over the next three days. We’ve been counting down to the start of the second season ever since.

I’m telling this story today, because I got super lucky, and was invited by BBC America to host the season 2 kickoff show next week!

But check this out: For my job, I get to meet and talk with and geek out all over Tatiana Maslany and the cast of Orphan Black. Orlando Jones and Patton Oswalt will also be there, and it’s called The Cloneversation.


Here’s a video trailer BBC America made for the show:

The Cloneversation airs at 8pm Eastern/Pacific on April 12, on BBC America. Orphan Black’s second season begins on April 19 at 9pm on BBC America.

Oh, and speaking of television, I’ll be on yours tonight (if you’re in the US or Canada) in a new episode of The Big Bang Theory, where I got to do what I think is the single funniest things I’ve ever done on television.

52 thoughts on “the cloneversation”

  1. I love Orphan Black and was thrilled to see you would be hosting this. Hopefully it will be posted along with the series so I can see it since no cable. Google Play better have it!

  2. I am so jealous, Wheaton you terrible bastard.

    I wonder how long we’ll have to wait over here… It’s quite something, a BBC show that doesn’t air on the BBC first!

  3. Just one thing, because this is getting ignored in all the US press over the series (ie; this isn’t specific to your involvement at all, and I’m actually really hoping the Cloneversation special airs where I can watch it) – this is an ENTIRELY Canadian production, and I feel like this keeps getting overlooked in US coverage. The show was pitched to, approved, and funded by Space in Canada before BBC America ever got involved. BBC America is a DISTRIBUTOR, and is putting up some of the funding, but the show itself is a Canadian show.

    Considering how often made-in-Canada shows get derided as crap, I feel like the focus US media puts on this show being BBC America’s is a bit of a slap in the face to the industry up here. This show is a stellar example of what is coming out of Canada lately, along with some others, and it’s a bit irksome that any foreign coverage of the show credits the production to a network that is only involved as a distributor and funding partner, rather than production partner.

    I love that people love the show (I do too), and I love that it’s found such a die-hard audience, but I feel like a lot of the coverage the show has been getting is trying to discredit the fact it’s a Canadian show – and thereby serving to perpetuate the idea that all-Canadian shows tend to be low-budget and low-quality – by focusing on BBC America’s distribution role.

    Beyond my random Canadian national pride, here, though, this sounds awesome! 😛

    1. They’re not in the same genre, but for those non-Canadians looking for good (Dare I say great?) shows you might have missed, check out Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie.

  4. Yeah, Orphan Black is awesome and Maslany deserve awards all over the place. The way she slips into each clone is amazing.

    Another show you might like… Person of Interest. Yes, it’s broadcast TV. And yes, it’s the best show on broadcast TV.

  5. I am sorry to tell you but it’s already been shown on BBC3 over here, but I can confirm it is truly an amazing series which is worth seeking out.

      1. Sorry, I think I caused some confusion there. It was supposed to be in reply to One Careful Owner, but now I reread it I realise he or she was probably talking about the second series.

  6. I laughed when you got to the part about showing it to Anne – I did the same thing with my wife – watched the first two episodes on my own and then stopped until she got home and said we had to watch it together. She was hooked right away! Cannot wait until the 19th!

  7. Damnit! With all the other stuff on my “to watch” list, now your dick friend hooked me too. Fishing should be outlawed >.<

  8. So glad you’re hosting it, Wil. All my faves in one night hanging out together, seems too good to be true. Congratulations!

  9. The best part about the show is that its filmed in Canada! As a Canadian we are so glad that we have so many great shows being filmed here (cannot wait for the Fargo series to start next month).

  10. Okay Wil– because you hadn’t heard of this… Wil+=100 because you’re kicking off the next season, you lucky SOB.

  11. Very excited about Orphan Black’s second season, and similarly enthused about your Cloneversation! But I have to admit… all I can think about right now is a burrito al pastor! Argh!

  12. Yet another of those moments where I simultaneously love your face and hate every single one of your guts. I think I’ll be tracking this show down now to watch all of it. Like, right now.

  13. “If we’d been listening to a record, it would have scratched straight across to the center.”

    Mr. Wheaton, what’s a record?

    I kid, I’m just as old.

    But hot damn, good on you for discovering this amazing show. Tatiana is beyond words. And it’s a real credit to the effects crew that I never even think “Oh, she’s acting with herself.” It looks that good and is acted so well.

    Is this the start of Wil Wheaton becoming the next Chris Hardwick? o_O

  14. Orphan Black is pretty sweet. I haven’t been able to watch the whole season yet, though.

    Oh, and your appearance in BBT was awesome. You gave me the biggest laugh I’ve had in a long time. :)

  15. I have to say when I first heard of the special and that you were hosting my first thought was, “Why not Patton Oswald?” because I recall how nuts he went over the show on twitter when he finally started watching. I see now he’s part of it. So yay all around.

  16. I haven’t seen this show, but it sounds great. But to your other point, I agree the best television is on Cable these days, and in fact I think that if there is to be a new Star Trek series, they ought to look at an AMC or some other cable channel, and do it right. Shorter seasons, more time to write, and extended plots over a series of episodes, ala Breaking bad or Walking Dead. Different from any other series? Yes, but maybe that’s the best part. For every good episode of TNG, there was one that stunk too.

  17. The best thing is Orphan Black is a Camadian project. It started on our Space Channel last year. Then it exploded! It’s nice to see people are finally taking a Canadian made show seriously now. #ProudToBeCanadian

  18. Loved Big Bang tonight. You rock, Wil!

    I watched Orphan Black the first time it ran and was sucked into its vortex from the beginning. I loved it enough to buy it in Bu-Ray and nominate it for a Hugo. Now I’m anxiously awaiting the Hugo finalist announcements on April 19th. I’d hate to think it would get an Edgar nomination and then be ignored by the science fiction community.

    As awesome as Tatiana Maslany’s performances are on this show, Felix is my favorite character. Paul is also hard to ignore.

  19. Thank You Wil, watched first episode on iTunes and bought the rest of the season right away. I’d like to see more tv show recommendations like this, especially if you can get it easily online (I live in UK and don’t watch Cable anyway).

  20. I will have to check this out — my boyfriend and I are always looking for shows to watch together. I just upgraded to an iPhone and still haven’t figured out how to watch TV on it. Loved TBBT.

  21. I saw the Big Bang Theory last night and enjoyed your part in it. It made me think of Hollywood business. I have a nephew working on a TV show and he’s been dealing with some of the problems common in the industry. Over the years I’ve watched performers enjoy the spot light for a few years, are then forgotten, and can’t seem to pull their lives together. Will my nephew endure? I’ve followed some of your post Star Trek work. I must compliment you. You’ve found and married someone special. You’re raising a family. You’re trying new things. You seem to have a life and are living it well. Keep up the good work. The greatest job there is, is being a parent. Everything else is secondary. Enjoy your family. Enjoy being a parent.

  22. Interesting coincidence.

    I came to your website because I saw you on “BIG BANG” last night (nice job, BTW). Here I find your post about “Orphan Black”, a show I’ve JUST started watching because my niece (age 20) recommended it so highly. I’m about 4 episodes in, and I’ll probably continue watching for at least a couple more (they’re repeating them on BBC America right now, probably in anticipation of your Season 2 kickoff show).

    I’m actually – at the risk of irritating the internet – going to try to lower expectations just a little. I think when your friend states, “It’s one of the most amazing series, ever” he may be overstating it a bit. It’s certainly good and worth watching, but not without its own issues, primarily related to an interesting but tough premise to pull off entirely convincingly.

    I’m not talking about production or technical issues. In fact, in scenes where multiple clones appear, it is done so well and seamlessly that – and this is the biggest compliment you can give to a production that relies on this technique – you literally forget that “movie magic” is happening and just accept the scene as is. Major kudos.

    That said, my biggest “con”, if you will, is that there are some moments (particularly in the pilot, IMO) where you’re asking yourself, “Is this really how someone would react to this? Or is this more of a plot convenience?”

    It’s a subjective line, of course, but “Orphan Black” sometimes winds up on the wrong side of that line for me.

    I bring this up not to totally douse enthusiasm, but perhaps to cool expectations just a notch.

    If “Star Wars” (“The Return of The Jedi” and the prequels) have taught us anything, it’s that too high expectations can negatively impact one’s enjoyment of any entertainment.

    Or maybe it’s just my clone talking…

    1. Roger, I questioned the opening scene myself, wondering why Beth didn’t react more strongly when she saw Sarah at the train station. But watching it closer after repeat showings, it becomes clear Beth was really stoned when she walked in front of the train. This storyline holds up better than I thought at first. I hope the writers do as good a job with the second season.

      1. Adrienne, thanks for your observation. I’m not sure the “stoned hypothesis” is sufficient excuse for me (nor that it was necessarily the intention of the writers) but it is interesting food for thought.

        I watched Episode #5 last night. No spoilers ahead. The show continues to hang together pretty tightly, and I can fling one more generalized compliment its way:

        “Orphan Black” seems to know what direction the viewer wants to go, and often proceeds accordingly (at least, this viewer). In other words, certain plotlines or characters that might be getting irritating are spun in a new direction – just before you start to lose patience with them.

        This is a mark of good storytelling.

        I think I’m probably going to finish the last 5 episodes of Season 1 over the weekend, which will catch me up with both my niece AND Wil Wheaton!

        1. The mark of good storytelling is chasing the conflict, but keeping the story focused. The writers have made it clear in subsequent episodes that Beth was relying a lot on drugs. When a series is set up like this one is, there is room to explore a lot of possibilities and I love some of the character growth among the clones. Allison could be the scariest of them all.

  23. Very cool!

    I once played Netrunner in Ottawa with John Rogers just after he was hired for Cosby.

  24. “And Tatiana Maslany, who plays all of the clones, is just fucking amazing. She will blow your mind, she is such an incredibly talented actor. By the second or third episode, you’ll forget that the same actor is playing all these different roles.”


  25. It’s already been said, but I agree that was one of your best Big Bang Theory appearances! I won’t give away spoilers; I’ll just say the very last scene made me gigglesnort.

    As for the rest of the episode, OMG! Sheldon trying to decide between an XBox One and a PS4 was dang hilarious!!!! Amy’s reactions to his obsession were just as priceless.

  26. I saw The Big Bang Theory last night and I loved the ending!! Seeing you in the orangutan suit was HILARIOUS!! I would loved to have been there during the taping if only to see how you all kept it together when you took off the mask. My only complaint is that your scenes weren’t long enough. More Wil Wheaton on TBBT, please!!!!!!

  27. I love it when a UK show finds success across the pond. Great casting, acting and script make this series an epic adventure that’s a rare delight. You guys will not be disappointed at all. If your hooked now, boy are you in for some treats along the way. I will not spoil anything for you except to say don’t miss it! Enjoy every moment.

    1. Actually, it’s a Canadian show…BBC Worldwide is simply the international distributor. I’m glad our show has gone across the pond to you and that you like it!

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