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Showing posts from December, 2010

Top 10 Nontraditional Holiday TV Episodes

Happy Festivus, everyone! To celebrate today (in addition to the feats of strength and airing of grievances), I rounded up the top 10 nontraditional Holiday television episodes over at The Daily Beast , from Community and Seinfeld to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who . (And, yes, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia 's direct-to-DVD special--which just aired on FX for the first time this month--made the list, naturally.) An aside, I could have filled the entire list with just British television shows, from The Vicar of Dibley and Doctor Who (which both made the list) to Gavin & Stacey, Blackadder, Catherine Tate, Absolutely Fabulous , and about a zillion others. But I am curious to know: what is your favorite nontraditional holiday episode/special? Putting aside the traditional Rudolph and Charlie Brown Christmas , what are some of the more out there holiday episodes or specials that add that extra spike to the eggnog? Or make that Festivus aluminum pole shine

Year in TV: The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) TV Shows of 2010

It's that time of year when we bid farewell to the last twelve months and start looking toward the future, but it's also a chance to reflect, to catalogue, and to reminisce as well. My selections for the Ten Best (and, cough, five worst) TV shows of 2010 have now gone live over at The Daily Beast . The series selected represent the very best that television had to offer the past twelve months and include such shows as Mad Men, Community, Terriers, Parks and Recreation, The Good Wife, Fringe, Justified, Boardwalk Empire, Friday Night Lights , and Modern Family. It wasn't easy to whittle down the competition to just ten shows as, despite the overall drain in creativity this calendar year, there were quite a lot of fantastic series. (In fact, one of the very best of the year didn't even air on American television at all: Season Three of BBC One's Ashes to Ashes --including its breathtaking and gut-wrenching series finale --would have made this list if it had been o

Blinded by Anger: The Loss of Grace on Friday Night Lights

What defines a man and a player? Is it grace in victory as well as defeat? That's always been the view of Eric Taylor, a coach whose love of the game has often meant that he has allowed his team's opponents the ability to score a few points so they don't walk off the field at zero. Or who tells his team, after a particularly brutal victory, to "take a knee" rather than unnecessarily run them into the ground. There's no gain to be had from kicking a man when he's down. Unfortunately, the Lions--or at the very least, Vince, under the guidance of his crafty father Ornette--doesn't see things quite that way. His decision to make a 65-yard throw and win the team another touchdown, acting against the instructions of Coach Taylor, was an opportunity to not score another goal or even conquer the Panthers, but rather to put the spotlight squarely on himself. While there might not be an "i" in team, Vince is trying his hardest these days to squeeze o

Press Release: The Paley Center for Media Announces PaleyFest2011 (True Blood, Freaks and Geeks, The Walking Dead, American Idol!)

THE PALEY CENTER FOR MEDIA ANNOUNCES PALEYFEST2011 THE TWENTY-EIGHTH ANNUAL WILLIAM S. PALEY TELEVISION FESTIVAL March 4–18, 2011, at Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA Evenings Honoring True Blood, The Walking Dead, 10 seasons of American Idol and a reunion of the casts of Judd Apatow’s Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared are the first four honorees revealed from PaleyFest2011’s 12-Event Lineup Los Angeles, CA—The Paley Center for Media will present the twenty-eighth annual PaleyFest: The William S. Paley Television Festival (PaleyFest2011) from March 4 to 18, 2011, returning to the historic Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California. The Festival is also revealing four of its 2011 honorees: HBO’s True Blood, AMC’s The Walking Dead, FOX’s American Idol, which will be honored for its ten seasons on the air, and the seminal cult classics Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared, which will be jointly honored on one special evening. PaleyFest is an extraordinary interactive pop culture

Paying the Piper (Perabo): Golden Globes Nominations Announced

Oh, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, you do love to make me laugh. The HFPA this morning announced their nominations for the 68th Annual Golden Globes, which will be telecast on Sunday, January 16th. Among the recipients, such worthy nominees as Mad Men, The Good Wife, Modern Family, Boardwalk Empire , and others. But as always, the voting board--which tends to be relentlessly populist and/or follows certain Emmy trends--went off-track completely in some categories, such as the nomination of Piper Perabo. Yes, Piper Perabo. The star of USA's espionage drama Covert Affairs was nominated for Best Actress in a Drama Series, where she will be competing against the likes of The Good Wife 's Julianna Margulies, Mad Men 's Elisabeth Moss, Sons of Anarchy 's Katey Sagal, and The Closer 's Kyra Sedgwick. It's really a case of which one of these things just doesn't belong? It's not a slam against Perabo or her USA series, but it's also indicative of

Heartless: Danse Macabre on Fringe

"I don't want to be with you." In a series where there is more than one of everything, where a shadow separates two similar worlds, what defines us as individuals? If we are identical on a cellular level with our twin from an alternate reality, are we the same or different? Do the little differences--being more quick to smile, still being married--separate us or are we still inherently the same underneath the surface? This week's sensational and eerie episode of Fringe ("Marionette"), written by Monica Owusu-Breen and Alison Schapker and directed by Joe Chappelle, examined the fallout from Olivia's return to her universe and the emotional destruction left in the wake of her alternate reality counterpart. But it was the way in which this week's heartbreaking installment dealt with matters of animus, of soul, of life force, that left me asking those questions. Peter didn't notice that the woman he was romantically involved with was someone els

AOL Television's Skype Second Opinion: Community's "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"

What did you think of last night's episode of Community ? This week marked another go on AOL Television's Skype Second Opinions, where I connected via Skype to ramble on for a few minutes about this week's episode of Community ("Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"), which included stop-motion animation, sad quick Christmas songs, actual humbugs, a gorgeous (seasonal) theme song, a trip to Planet Abed (where the atmosphere is 7 percent cinnamon), Christmas pterodactyls, the best Lost gag anywhere, and so much more. (You can read my advance review of "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" from earlier this week over here .) You can watch the video in full over here at AOL Television or right below. Community returns with new episodes in January.

All-Night at the Museum: Child-Size Dishes and Childish Attitudes on Top Chef: All-Stars

If you saw last night's episode of Top Chef: All-Stars , you saw just how competitive and cutthroat this competition has gotten, just in the second week alone. There's more on the line for these returning chefs than there was the first time that they were on the reality competition series. The cash prize is bigger than ever, there are cash prizes sprinkled throughout the challenges, but most importantly, there's an aspect of honor for the winners and a sense of embarrassment for those packing their knives early. No one ever wants to go home early, especially in the first few weeks. In any other season of Top Chef , these first few episodes are dedicated to sending home the sacrificial lambs, the culinary cannon fodder whose presence in the competition seems more of a fluke than anything else. But that's not the case here with Top Chef: All Stars , where the chefs competing are of a naturally high caliber. But that doesn't make defeat any easier to swallow. In

Crossroads: Truth and Consequences on Friday Night Lights

And that's how you do a pitch-perfect episode of Friday Night Lights . I've been on the writers' case this season for the handling of the Julie Taylor storyline, or more specifically from the, er, swerve it made into the territory of cliche. I can only hope that it was a case of taking a shortcut to get Julie to the here and now as quickly as possible because the ramifications of Julie's actions have proven infinitely more exciting and provocative than the actual commission of her affair with married head TA Derek Bishop. This week's fantastic episode of Friday Night Lights ("Swerve") delivered an installment that offered a look at the sacrifices and frayed bonds of family, contrasting the fallout from Julie's transgression--and its effects on Eric and Tami--with the way that Vince handled his own plight, turning to Ornette for help out of a terrible situation. The way Ornette may have handled Vince's situation might not have been what Vince ha

A House Divided: An Advance Review of Masterpiece's Extraordinary Downton Abbey

“Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.” - Ambrose Bierce A house might be a home, but it can also serve as an apt metaphor for an entire country. Numerous writers have offered portraits of the changing face of their nation in such condition-of-England novels as Charles Dickens' "Bleak House," Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited," and Elizabeth Gaskell's "Cranford" and "North and South." In the case of Julian Fellowes' extraordinary period drama Downton Abbey , launching January 9th on PBS' Masterpiece Classic , the titular country estate, home to the well-heeled Crawley family, is in turmoil. Great houses such as these are both relics of bygone eras as well as living, breathing organisms of their own right, humming along as they employ a staff of hundreds. Everyone--from the lord and lady to the humblest footman and scullery maid--has their function and their duty to maintain. That holdover

Uncontrollable Christmas Cheer: An Advance Review of Community's Stop-Motion Animated Christmas Episode

There's something both innately comforting and deliciously off-kilter about this week's stupendous Christmas-themed episode of Community ("Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"), which uses the stop-motion animation of holiday classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to offer an imaginative and emotionally resonant episode that explores the true meaning of Christmas (or any holiday, really). Community has thrived at both satirizing and embracing certain comedic tropes, twisting them together into a malleable and winning format in which anything and everything is indeed possible, from a zombie attack to an all-out paintball war, transforming broadcast network comedy into an infinitely elastic form. In this case, it's quite easy to accept that the Greendale gang would be portrayed as plasticine personages, as the episode unfolds from the perspective of meta-embracing Abed himself, who claims to have woken up that morning seeing everything in stop-motion animation

Brilliant But Canceled: FX's John Landgraf on Terriers' Cancellation

Critics and audiences alike were disheartened--if unsurprised--by FX's decision to cancel the critically-adored but low-rated freshman drama series Terriers this morning. The announcement about the fate of Terriers , created by Ted Griffin and executive produced by Shawn Ryan, was made via a PR email to press members , which promised further information and a statement from FX president John Landgraf at an unprecedented telephone press conference later today. Many of us were curious to see just what Landgraf had to say about the network's decision not to bring Terriers back for a second season (and why he was willing to host this conference call), though the writing was on the wall for the drama, considering the ratings chart that FX sent out this morning, which compared Terriers 's thirteen-episode run with that of fellow FX series Dirt, Damages, The Riches, and Over There , all of which were canceled by FX yet all had significantly higher ratings than Terriers (more

Putting the Dog to Sleep: FX Cancels Terriers

It's official: FX has opted not to move ahead with Ted Griffin and Shawn Ryan's brilliant PI drama Terriers . The news of the cancellation was announced this morning by FX SVP of Media Relations, John Solberg, in an email to members of the press which invited us to participate in a conference call with FX president John Landgraf later this morning, in which Landgraf would discuss the network's decision not to order a second season of Terriers . The cancellation hits amid a fall season that hasn't generated too many hits, either critical or audience ones. (In fact, the only two new series that I fell in love with this fall season were Terriers and Boardwalk Empire , which should say something about the lackluster nature of the offerings this season>.) Hank and Britt's tagline may have been "too small to fail," but in the end it seems that Terriers itself was too small to succeed. Despite its creative triumph, the series was undone by low ratings, a

VIDEO: HBO's "Inside Game of Thrones" Special, Big Love, HBO 2010 Image, Mildred Pierce

No better time than Monday morning for a mega-video roundup. In this case, you find below a roundup from last night's gorgeous selection of HBO goodies, including the 15-minute behind-the-scenes look at the pay channel's upcoming Game of Thrones , two trailers for Season Five of Big Love (including the somber "Winter" trailer with the wives and Bill in the snow), the teaser for Kate Winslet-led miniseries Mildred Pierce , and the HBO 2010 Imagine campaign, which itself has some scenes from their upcoming series. Whew. Look at it as the perfect holiday present in video form. Inside Game of Thrones Big Love Season Five "Winter" Trailer Big Love Season Five Tease HBO 2010 Image Mildred Pierce

Life Serial: Dexter Gets Sixth Season

Not exactly a shocker: Showtime has officially renewed its top-rated drama Dexter for a sixth season. The current season will wrap up its run on Sunday, while Season Six of Dexter will go into production in Los Angeles in the spring. No word on when the next season will launch on the pay cabler, but another fall launch--such as the one for the current season--is more than likely. “ Dexter is the best suspense drama on television,” said Showtime President of Entertainment David Nevins. “To grow its audience so significantly in its fifth season is an enormous accomplishment by this amazing cast and crew. This is the easiest decision I’ve made since I got to Showtime.” The full press release from Showtime can be found below. SHOWTIME SLICES INTO A SIXTH SEASON OF DEXTER Network’s Top-Rated Drama Series Renewed DEXTER On Pace To Post Its Highest- Rated Season Ever LOS ANGELES, CA — (December 6, 2010) — As season five of SHOWTIME’s top-rated drama series DEXTER, starring Emmy®-n

Raising the Bar: Thoughts on Community's Contemplative "Mixology Certification"

Ah, how the child becomes the parent. Last night's sensational and heartfelt episode of Community ("Mixology Certification"), written by Andy Bobrow and directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, brought us Troy's 21st birthday and took the group out of the study room for a night of debauchery that gave us a glimpse into Shirley's dark past, Annie's home life, Troy's state of mind, and Abed's, um, love of Farscape . Now in its second season, Community has proven that it's adept at conflating genres and smashing expectations about what's possible within the confines of a broadcast comedy: it's a workplace comedy, thriller, horror survival story, romantic comedy, mystery, buddy comedy. An episode jam-packed with jokes and sight gags can give way to an episode like this one, that's higher on the heart quotient and lighter on overt humor. And that's a Very Good Thing for a thoughtful and contemplative episode like this one. The series' inn

Don't Put This Dog Down: TV Needs FX's Terriers

"Which way will it be?" And now we wait. I'm not typically an optimistic person. My cynical worldview has served me well in my thirty-plus years on this Earth, but for some reason I'm holding out hope when it comes to FX's Terriers , which wrapped up its sensational first season last night and is currently on the bubble for renewal. It will take a bit of a Hail Mary for this remarkable if underrated series to avoid the guillotine and return to fight again. Too small to fail? You bet. But unfortunately the smallness of the ratings have made Terriers ' future less than certain. Which is a shame, really, because those of you who didn't give Terriers a chance missed out on what was easily the best new series of the fall season, a genre-busting crime drama about real estate swindles, brotherhood, secrets, and lies. It was humorous, heartbreaking, and human drama at its finest, the story of two men who try to do good yet usually wind up making things worse