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TV Notes
A Generation of Unintended Laughs
‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ Turns 25
By Brooks Barnes, The New York Times - Sep. 18, 2014

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — “A relic of a bygone time.” “The uncoolest show on TV.” “Inexplicably never-ending, like a Cher farewell tour.”

Critics and bloggers can beat it up all they want. If “America’s Funniest Home Videos” has proved anything over the decades, it is this: It will get the last laugh.

Twenty-five years after unveiling its first piano-playing chickens, vaudevillian babies and backyard trampoline bumblers — and nine years afterYouTube seemingly ate its lunch — “America’s Funniest Home Videos” is still going strong, and more. Last season, according to Nielsen, it ranked as the No. 1 show for family viewing. Summer reruns climbed 11 percent among young adults compared with last year.

Why does this war horse endure?

Start with the invention that was supposed to kill it. “I remember first hearing about this thing called YouTube,” said Vin Di Bona, who has produced “America’s Funniest Home Videos” since its start. “I looked to see what it was, and three of the first six videos were from our show.” Mr. Di Bona used salty language to express his initial anger.

He was also slightly terrified. People interested in cutely misbehaving cats and denture-losing grannies no longer needed to watch his weekly show. Now they could simply coast over to YouTube, day or night.

But the Internet ended up a surprising boon. “People got excited about video clips again,” Mr. Di Bona said.

To turn YouTube even more to its advantage, “America’s Funniest Home Videos” in January hired behind-the-scenes specialists. Maker Studios, a producer and distributor of web video, now manages the show’s YouTube channels, which are partly stocked with classic clips. “A.F.V.,” as the show’s title is often styled, now generates 20 million monthly views on YouTube, up from two million when Maker took over, Mr. Di Bona said. He sees a direct link between Maker’s work and the show’s rising TV ratings.

For the 25th season, which starts Oct. 5 on ABC, Maker and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” will deepen their partnership. Maker clients — YouTube personalities with a combined two million subscribers — will begin re-enacting classic “A.F.V.” clips for distribution on the show’s online channels. Two other web series, including one by the YouTube star Shay Carl, will promote the “America’s Funniest Home Videos” brand.

YouTube stars will also appear regularly on the television show, a first.

“If it wasn’t for ‘A.F.V.,’ I may have never posted that first video of me dancing in a unitard,” said Shay Butler, a.k.a. Shay Carl, 34, adding that he was 9 when he first started watching the series.

Maker was acquired in March by the Walt Disney Company, which also owns ABC. “What we’re doing with this show represents a huge example of our strategy going forward, especially as a fully owned part of Disney,” said Chris M. Williams, Maker’s chief audience officer.

Vin Di Bona, the producer of "America's Funniest Home Videos."CreditRobert Yager for The New York Times
In some ways, “America’s Funniest Home Videos” is the same show now as it was back when Mr. Butler started watching as a child. A comedic host, currently Tom Bergeron, introduces viewer-submitted video clips that range from five to 30 seconds in length. More than 100 exclusive clips make it into each show.

It’s overtly cheesy. There are thematic montages — pity the submission that makes it to the “Nincompoop Corner” — and some videos are started and then abruptly stopped as part of a quiz; audience members are asked to guess what indignity the subject will suffer. “Head, Gut or Groin” is a popular topic. At the end of each episode, the audience votes on their favorite clips. The winner receives $10,000.

The Smithsonian Institution now owns the camcorder used to immortalize the first winning clip, which depicted a woman stuck inside her dishwasher. (Fun fact: The series was initially cleared for broadcast by Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chairman and chief executive, when he was merely ABC’s chief.)

While sticking to the formula, Mr. Di Bona and his producers, several of whom have been with the show since the beginning, work hard to keep the series feeling current. The flashy set, housed in a chilly soundstage here in Manhattan Beach south of Los Angeles, now includes a cocktail bar. Granted, it is more akin to what one would find in a Marriott lobby than a Hollywood nightclub, but know your audience: Nebraska submits more videos per capita than any state, Mr. Di Bona said.

If this is the uncoolest show on TV, nobody bothered to tell the studio audience at a recent taping. The snazzily attired crowd seemed genuinely thrilled to be there, as Mr. Bergeron, who joined the show in 2001 and has said this season will be his last, cracked jokes between takes. “Smiles! Happy! Enthusiastic!” the audience coordinator shouted. In truth, nobody — including a cynical reporter — needed a lot of encouraging.

“America’s Funniest Home Videos” endures in part because it is one of the few shows on the main broadcast networks that families can comfortably watch together; according to Nielsen, the series was the No. 1 “family co-viewing” show on any broadcast network last season. This is firmly PG-rated stuff, after all. So it’s no dice for the viewer who submitted footage of a masturbating walrus. That clip will never be seen, at least not on Mr. Di Bona’s watch.

When the series first appeared in 1989, about 32 million people tuned in. Last season — in a sharply different media environment — the show averaged about 6.3 million viewers. (By way of comparison, “Scandal” attracts roughly 12 million.) But Mr. Di Bona said his show will keep on keeping on as long as harebrained videographers remain in the world.

“God knows why people never learn,” he said. “But God bless them.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/bu...ref=television


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TV Review/Notes
'Madam Secretary' shows room for improvement
By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's 'Tuned In' Column - Sep. 19, 2014

CBS attempts to use the critical success of “The Good Wife” to bolster its new drama “Madam Secretary” (8:30 p.m. Sunday, KDKA-TV) by scheduling the pair in tandem. And it makes sense on paper. “The Good Wife” is by far the most sophisticated drama on a broadcast network and “Madam Secretary,” about newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni), has a similar sheen of savvy intelligence.

But scratch beneath the surface of the first three episodes and “Madam Secretary” looks more like a time-tested CBS series with patented heart-tugging moments that feel contrived and made for TV. It’s likable enough but doesn’t reach that wished-for next level.

The series begins with a pretty shaky, unbelievable setup. Former CIA analyst Elizabeth (Tea Leoni) is just minding her own business, teaching classes at the University of Virginia where her husband (Tim Daly) is also a professor, when police cars zoom up the driveway of her bucolic farmhouse.

Next she’s in her kitchen getting recruited to be U.S. Secretary of State by President Conrad Dalton (Keith Carradine, “Dexter”), a former CIA boss who previously hired her when she worked for the agency. POTUS thinks she’d be perfect for the job because she’s expressly not political. (The previous secretary of state died in a plane crash that may not have been an accident, a plot point the pilot suggests will be an ongoing conspiracy undercurrent on “Madam Secretary.”)

Two months later, Elizabeth, or “Bess” as the president calls her, is preparing to host a State Department dinner for a polygamous African leader when word comes through diplomatic channels that two college kids are being held in a prison in Libya. “Operation Stupid Kids” is born and Elizabeth has her first clash — and surely not her last — with the president’s controlling chief of staff, Russell Jackson (Zeljko Ivanek), on how best to proceed.

Eventually Elizabeth does an end-run around Russell (“This is me not being a politician,” she tells POTUS), that has later repercussions.

At the State Department, Elizabeth is surrounded by a phalanx of co-workers, including Nadine Tolliver (Bebe Neuwirth) and Daisy Grant (2006 Carnegie Mellon University musical theater grad Patina Miller of Broadway’s “Pippin” revival).

These characters generally get short shrift in the pilot but they start to provide fertile ground for stories in the next few episodes. The workplace offers more potential than Elizabeth’s home life with her husband and children.

Two children appear in the pilot and a third “secret child” gets introduced in episode two. Already you can see the writers strain to stretch to find stories for Elizabeth’s husband. And the domestic plots sometimes get shoehorned into the A-story in the most unbelievable way: In episode two while in the midst of a Benghazi-like embassy attack, Elizabeth goes for a stroll through a park with her husband.

While the setup of how Elizabeth gets her new job is unconvincing, once situated in it she quickly becomes a pragmatic, do-gooder hero, and Ms. Leoni is completely engaging in how she presents her character, especially when she rejects Jackson’s insistence that she hire a stylist until it suits her need to game the news cycle. Ms. Leoni is also prone to a squinty gaze that can be read as steely determination, and that’s effective, too.

But “Madam Secretary” lacks the courage to be set in a recognizable real world. The political affiliation of characters is not revealed, and Elizabeth is constantly reminding every character that she’s not political. You can imagine a network executive saying, “Viewers don’t like politicians. Make sure she doesn’t seem like a politician!”

The show also suffers from too often making Elizabeth the smartest person in the room. The president is useless and rarely offers an idea in a crisis, Jackson is snake-like, and Elizabeth’s staff members constantly make faces that suggest they don’t trust their boss’s judgment, so it’s left to Elizabeth to save the day. In a TV era rife with antiheroes, even outright heroes need at least a few blemishes if they are to be taken seriously.

Created by Barbara Hall, the writer behind “Judging Amy” and “Joan of Arcadia,” “Madam Secretary” lacks the gravitas of “The West Wing,” but Ms. Leoni presents a character who’s easy to cheer for, which makes it hard to hate “Madam Secretary” even if you can’t respect it.

Pittsburgh rising

Last Friday Nielsen released its ranking of U.S. TV markets, and Pittsburgh moved up from the No. 23 TV market to No. 22 nationally for 2015.

This move up doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. Pittsburgh has been rising since the area ranked No. 24 in 2011, which followed a period of decline (No. 19 in 1998).

The cities around Pittsburgh in Nielsen’s list — No. 21 St. Louis and No. 23 Portland, Ore. — have been jostling around in the same vicinity for the past decade, sometimes rising above Pittsburgh, sometimes falling below.

For 2015, Nielsen estimates there are 1,173,320 homes in the Pittsburgh TV market, which is actually a decline from the estimated 1,181,540 in 2014.

So why did Pittsburgh rise? Because Portland declined more, from 1,185,160 to 1,154,070.

Perhaps the slow adaptation of new technologies among Pittsburghers, including cord-cutting in favor of online streaming of TV shows, is helping to bolster the city’s Nielsen rank.

Channel surfing

PBS’s latest Ken Burns opus, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” drew an average audience of more than 9 million viewers nationally Sunday with a 5.8 rating. On WQED, the program was a little below the national average (a 5.0 rating). Nationally “Roosevelts” earned the best ratings for a Burns doc since “The War” in 2007. … “Hallmark Hall of Fame” movies migrate from ABC to Hallmark Channel beginning with “One Christmas Eve” (8 p.m. Nov. 30). … Nickelodeon renewed “Instant Mom” for a third season prior to its Oct. 2 second-season premiere on Nick at Nite. … VH1 renewed “Dating Naked” for a second season. … IFC renewed “Maron” for a third season to air in spring 2015. … TNT will bring back “Murder in the First” for a second season. … Chris Pratt (“Parks and Recreation,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”) will host the 40th season premiere of “Saturday Night Live” on Sept. 27 with musical guest Ariana Grande; Sarah Silverman hosts Oct. 4 with Maroon 5; former “SNL” star Bill Hader returns to host Oct. 11 with Hozier. … USA Network’s “White Collar” returns for its final episodes at 9 p.m. Nov. 6 followed by the return of “Covert Affairs” at 10 the same night. … Pittsburgh native Michael Grandinetti will perform twice tonight on The CW’s “Masters of Illusion” at 8. One performance will involve him levitating 10 feet while on camera from all sides. ... Comcast offers a free preview of 22 additional channels (and associated on demand content) Monday through Sept. 28 for digital economy and digital starter customers, including AMC, FX, Smithsonian, TNT and Syfy. ... FX renewed “Tyrant” for a 13-episode second season.

http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/tv-ra...s/201409170173


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TV Notes
'Fashion Police' plans 2015 return with Melissa Rivers' blessing
By Greg Braxton, Los Angeles Times - Sep. 19, 2014

"Fashion Police" will continue without Joan Rivers.

In the wake of the recent death of Rivers, E! Entertainment has announced that "Fashion Police," the series that starred the comedian and others commenting on the fashion of celebrities, will return next year.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Joan Rivers and, for the last two weeks, have turned our attention to honoring her memory on all our platforms," the network said in a statement. "We have also thought long and hard about what Joan would have wanted as it pertains to the future of 'Fashion Police.'

"We decided, with Melissa Rivers' blessing, that Joan would have wanted the franchise to continue. Fashion Police will return in 2015, commencing with Golden Globe coverage on Monday, Jan. 12. No further details will be announced at this time."

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment...919-story.html


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WARNING: spoilers for last season's "The Good Wife," "The Blacklist," "Scandal," "Homeland," "The Walking Dead" and "Person of Interest" in this story. Skip ahead if you're not up-to-date or want some cliffhanger spoiled.

TV Notes
Oh, the drama! Highlights of 6 returning shows
By Bill Keveney, Lorena Blas, Jayme Deerwester and Gary Levin, USA Today - Sep. 19, 2014

USA TODAY recaps and looks ahead at six popular dramas returning this fall.

The Good Wife (CBS, Sept. 21, 9:30 ET/PT)

Where we left off:
Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) asked Florrick/Agos to let her join their spinoff firm. And Alicia (Julianna Margulies) was approached about a run for state's attorney.

What's next: Those cliffhangers will be addressed, and Cary's (Matt Czuchry) life will get complicated. The sixth season picks up seconds later, "so there's no slowing down," says co-creator Michelle King. "We are just barreling forward." Steven Pasquale, David Hyde Pierce, Taye Diggs, Connie Nielsen, Carrie Preston and Michael J. Fox appear. — Lorena Blas

The Blacklist (NBC, Sept. 22, Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT)

Where we left off:
The FBI task force is in bloody tatters after the murder of Meera Malik and the near-fatal attack on Harold Cooper. FBI agent Liz Keen (Megan Boone) and criminal mastermind Red Reddington (James Spader), who's working with the FBI, are determined to find the culprit, Berlin (Peter Stormare). "Reddington himself is at a vulnerable point, not only with the task force but with his own business" in the world of crime," Spader says.

What's next: A few months later, Red & Co. are trying to fix the disarray. "Is he going to take to the mattresses?" Spader asks. "It was one thing for Reddington to say there's a war coming and then all of a sudden for the war to arrive at your doorstep." Mary-Louise Parker appears as a woman from Red's past. — Bill Keveney

Scandal (ABC, Sept. 25, Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT

Where we left off:
Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) was re-elected president as he and first lady Mellie were mourning the murder of their son. Olivia (Kerry Washington) left Olivia Pope & Associates (and the crisis management firm's future in jeopardy), and boarded a plane with Jake (Scott Foley). "We blew everything up," says creator Shonda Rhimes. "Olivia is gone and there are no more gladiators, and Mellie is in a very different place and Fitz is very broken."

What's next: Harrison doesn't survive his encounter with Rowan, but Rhimes is keeping mum on details of a "reset" Scandal. "When we come back, it's a couple of months later and the world is very different than when we left it," she says. "Did Abby keep up (OPA) or did she not?" Rhimes says "Mellie is devastated and Fitz is realizing that he is essentially the devil, so anything can be true." — Bill Keveney

Homeland (Showtime, Oct. 5, Sundays at 9 ET/PT)

Where we left off:
Brody was executed by Iranian forces after killing their leader, devastating Carrie; Saul leaves the CIA for the private sector; a very pregnant Carrie is heading to Istanbul as a field agent, but wants her child (fathered by Brody) left at home.

What's next: With a (mostly) clean slate, the action shifts to the Middle East six months later, where Carrie is a field agent, "anesthetizing herself against her grief and the loss of Brody," says executive producer Alex Gansa. "She's left her child behind because he's a reminder of that." And look for the emergence of Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) "as a very strong and powerful influence in Carrie's life," he says. — Gary Levin

The Walking Dead (AMC, Oct. 12, Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT)

Where we left off:
Survivors' group leader Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) went full warrior, biting an assailant's jugular to protect his son, Carl (Chandler Riggs). Members of his group, separated for much of the season, are reunited at supposed safe haven Terminus, where they finished the season as prisoners locked in a rail car. Rick is defiant. "It's probably the most formidable Rick we've ever seen," Lincoln says.

What's next: The premiere picks up right after the end of last season's finale, and the survivors will leave Terminus with the goal of reaching Washington, D.C., where recent arrival Eugene wants to present what he says is a solution to the zombie scourge. The Terminus prisoners "are in a terrible place," Lincoln says. "You will find out instantly who (their captors) are and the stakes." — Bill Keveney

Person of Interest (CBS, Sept. 23, Tuesdays at 10 ET/PT)

Where we left off:
Samaritan, the government's more sinister Machine 2.0, went online and the members of Team Finch went offline, assuming new identities.

What's next: "Fusco is the only one left on the grid," says Kevin Chapman of his NYPD detective, who will have to feed intel to Finch (Michael Emerson) and company. Adding to Fusco's woes: He still doesn't know about the Machine and with a new partner who cramps his style, he's got more work now that Reese and Shaw (Jim Caviezel and Sarah Shahi) are no longer taking care of the irrelevant numbers. — Jayme Deerwester

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/t...rest/15772063/


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TV Reviews
'Scorpion,’ 'NCIS’ spinoff, 'Forever’
By David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle - Sep. 18, 2014

Three moderately entertaining dramas with a faint aroma of familiarity arrive next week on broadcast television because broadcast is the only place they would stand a chance of surviving.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course: Increasingly, that’s what we’ve come to expect from broadcast, but just because a show may be a retread doesn’t mean it has to be bad.

The most ambitious of the arrivals is “Forever,” previewing Monday on ABC before moving the next night to its regular time slot. The premise is ridiculous and made more so by the obvious attempt to disguise the fact that ABC, afflicted with a bad case of “Elementary” envy, is out to make its own Sherlock Holmes knockoff in the story of a physician who cannot die. More accurately, Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd, “Hornblower”), has died over and over again over two centuries, only to pop back to life, starkers, in whatever nearby body of water might be handy.

Morgan has died so many times he’s made a study of death, enabling him to be a superb medical examiner in New York in the present day.

We meet him just before he dies while chatting up a pretty cellist on a subway train. Once he comes back to life and finds some clothes, he returns to his job and teams up with an initially skeptical cop, the conveniently widowed Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza, “Law & Order”), to solve murders, using finely honed powers of Holmesian observation.

See what creator Matt Miller (“Chuck”) has done here? Instead of Holmes working with a doctor as in the original Conan Doyle stories and CBS’ “Elementary,” we have the Holmes character as the doctor working with a detective.

Monday’s premiere has to work hard to get you to suspend disbelief, but the actual crimes, in both the Monday and Tuesday episodes, are well plotted. Gruffudd’s Morgan isn’t quite as much of a social misfit as Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes on CBS, but he’s a good actor and pairs well with both de la Garza and Judd Hirsch, who has gone from playing a taxi driver in “Taxi” to playing one in “Sharknado 2 — The Second One” to playing one here.

Fare enough.


Forever
Special premiere 10 p.m. Monday. Episode 2, 9 p.m. Tuesday. 10 p.m. on Fox.


* * * *

Nerds rule in 'Scorpion’


CBS’ “Scorpion,” premiering Monday, is a template show: Gifted nerds with individual areas of expertise solve crimes. The head nerd is Walter O’Brien (Elyse Gabel, “World War Z”), based on the real Walter O’Brien, who has an IQ of 197. TV’s Walter was caught hacking into NASA’s computers when he was just a kid. All grown up now, he has good reason to resent the government but agrees to help Homeland Security restore air traffic control systems’ computers in 89 minutes before the first of several circling passenger planes goes down.

There’s a lot of nerd-speak in “Scorpion,” much of which may not make a lot of sense to casual viewers, but you’ll get the general idea. It’s kind of like watching an opera without looking at supertitles.

The show isn’t terribly believable, first when O’Brien’s nerds and the Homeland Security thugs take over a diner, then when O’Brien pauses trying to keep all those planes from crashing in order to offer parenting advice to single-mom/waitress Paige Dineen (Katharine McPhee, “Smash”), and finally when Paige doffs her apron and joins Walter in an over-the-top stunt to keep the planes flying in the finale.

The cast is fine, except for McPhee. Her role would be challenging for even a very good actress, but McPhee isn’t very good. Her performance is wooden and insipid. She was dead weight in “Smash” and continues to be dead weight here.

TV critics love nothing better than to wail to the heavens about formulaic television shows, but quite often, the familiarity of the formula is what attracts viewers. It’s a tricky thing spinning off from a formula show, though: Dick Wolf made it work well with “Law & Order: SVU,” but not so much with “L&O: Trial by Jury.”

“NCIS,” one of the most reliable dramas in the CBS stable, offers a new spinoff Tuesday, expanding the action to New Orleans, with Scott Bakula (“Quantum Leap”) starring as Dwayne “King” Pride, the NCIS agent in charge in the Crescent City.


Scorpion
9 p.m. Monday on CBS.


* * * *

'NCIS’ in Nola


Pride’s team includes Christopher LaSalle (Lucas Black, “Friday Night Lights”), Merri Brody (Zoe McLellan, “JAG”) and medical examiner Dr. Loretta Wade (CCH Pounder, “Warehouse 13”), all of whom more or less mirror crime solvers in the other “NCIS” shows. Tuesday’s pilot efficiently introduces us to the central characters as they go about solving the murder of a young Navy seaman who was mentored by Pride away from being a gangster and into the Navy.

The show makes good use of its New Orleans setting and the script hits all the right, albeit familiar, notes.

Bakula and “NCIS” star Mark Harmon, who is also one of the spinoff’s executive producers, share similar qualities of sturdy reliability, but the former is anything but a carbon copy of Harmon. Bakula’s Pride is a looser character, more in step with the jazz-inflected New Orleans setting.

The show seems to have a decent chance of survival, but there’s a chance that viewers will react the way they did to some of the “Law & Order” spinoffs: Been there, seen that.


NCIS: New Orleans
9 p.m. Tuesday on CBS.


http://www.sfgate.com/tv/article/TV-...ff-5765325.php


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TV Sports/Critic's Notes
Breaking Silence, but Offering Little
By Richard Sandomir, The New York Times - Sep. 20, 2014

Maybe Commissioner Roger Goodell should have extended his public silence about the domestic violence crisis that has been roiling the N.F.L.

His 44-minute news conference on Friday was a mix of mea culpas, evasions and non-answers. His demeanor was wooden, his new information thin.

He did not seem ready for all the questions even as he felt he had something to say to journalists who were clamoring for him to speak up.

It is tempting to compare Goodell’s performance to that of N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver when he outlined his strong punishment of Donald Sterling, the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Silver was passionate and angry at a specific target: Sterling’s racism, which struck at the core of the league. Goodell made himself a target with his apologies for mishandling the Ray Rice case.

But he could not summon the sort of angst and fire Silver displayed when he talked about being “personally distraught” over Sterling’s statements.

More important was the inadequacy of some of Goodell’s answers. He did not respond directly to a question about why there was no electronic evidence of a request to the Atlantic City authorities for the second video that showed Rice punching his future wife, Janay Palmer, in a casino elevator. Goodell suggested that the reason he should not resign as commissioner was that he had acknowledged his mistake and was moving forward.

He danced inelegantly around a question about what Rice had said to him in their meeting that was inconsistent with Rice’s account of assaulting Palmer, then his fiancée. Then, as a coda that should have substituted for any comments, he said he did not want to prejudge Rice’s appeal of his indefinite suspension. But if he did not want to prejudge any issues, why did he unambiguously say “yes” when asked if he still believed no one in his office had the second, more incendiary video from inside the elevator? That matter is part of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, a former director of the F.B.I., into the league’s actions in the Rice case.

Goodell seemed to feel that flaying himself verbally was a way to avoid questions. Asked how many difficult conversations he had with N.F.L. sponsors, he expressed disappointment in himself, but never gave a direct answer. He avoided a follow-up question about whether the league had come close to losing a sponsor, and told the reporter to speak to the sponsors.

Goodell can be credited for his new domestic violence initiatives and for conceding that when he talked to Rice and his wife, he should have used the law enforcement protocol of speaking with them separately. But a devoted viewer of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” could have advised him of that.

Goodell, who stood before a blue backdrop festooned with 10 N.F.L. shields, came armed with inaccurate legal information about Greg Hardy, the Carolina Panthers defensive end who was convicted in July of assaulting and threatening his girlfriend. “He was convicted and then what happens when he appeals that, it is wiped out until he goes to a jury trial,” Goodell said, adding: “There was a conviction. It gets removed until the jury trial.”

Not true. Daniel C. Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School, said, “Convictions are taken as authoritative legal facts until and unless they are overturned.”

A county court judge found Hardy guilty and sentenced him to 18 months’ probation. The sentence is stayed pending his appeal, which will be heard by a jury.

And in lauding Mueller, Goodell twice called him the “longest-serving” F.B.I. director. Mueller served for a dozen years, but somebody named J. Edgar Hoover held the position for 48.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/20/sp...formation.html


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The 2014/15 Season
For NBC, another winning season
Boosted by the NFL, the network will jump to a comfortable lead
By Toni Fitzgerald, Media Life Magazine - Sep. 19, 2014

NBC easily finished No. 1 among adults 18-49 last season, its first regular-season win in a decade.

The Winter Olympics provided some cushion, but the network still would have won even without the Games.

“Sunday Night Football” gives NBC such a big lead in the fall, it’s difficult for any other network to catch up.

This year NBC will once again be powered by the NFL, airing the Super Bowl in February. Though CBS may be neck and neck with NBC until then, the big game will give the network the edge.

Given the big Super Bowl and NFL ratings, NBC will finish in first place among the Big Four networks this season, a prediction based on Media Life’s analysis of the fall schedules and input from media buyers and planners.

Here’s how the network looks heading into the new season, which begins next Monday, Sept. 22

Last season’s average
NBC averaged a 2.7 adults 18-49 rating during the 2013-’14 season, up 13 percent over the previous season and 0.2 ahead of second-place Fox.

Top returning shows:

“Sunday Night Football” (Sundays at 8:15 p.m.)

“SNF” averaged a 7.8 18-49 rating last season and will undoubtedly finish as the No. 1 show in primetime once again this season.

“The Voice” (Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m.)
NBC’s singing reality show remains one of broadcast’s top programs, though ratings have declined over the past year and buyers are concerned they will erode further this fall.

“The Blacklist” (Mondays at 10 p.m. until November; Thursdays at 9 p.m. starting in 2015)
Last season’s No. 1 new show will remain in the cushy timeslot behind “The Voice” until November. Buyers think it will do very well when it moves to Thursday in 2015.

Most troubled returning show: “About a Boy” (Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.)
NBC cleaned house last spring, canceling a number of shows and declaring this the final season for others (“Parenthood” and “Parks and Recreation”). So it has a lot fewer troubled shows than the other networks. That said, “Boy” is moving from 9 to 9:30 p.m., away from the potent “Voice” lead-in, and its new lead-in, “Marry Me,” could struggle based on its odd concept.

Top new show: “Constantine” (Fridays at 10 p.m.)
NBC has one of the weaker crops of new shows, but at least this comic book adaptation has a built-in audience of fanboys.

New show most likely to be canceled: “Bad Judge” (Thursdays at 9 p.m.)
The comedy, which doesn’t look very funny, lost its show runner a few weeks ago, never a good sign.

Most improved timeslot
“The Biggest Loser” isn’t as strong as it once was, but it still did better on Thursday at 8 than most of the shows NBC aired there last season.

The prediction
Unless “Voice” goes into free fall, NBC should win the season. The Super Bowl boost will be huge, and while it would be nice to see better new show development, it will be a stellar season for the network.

http://www.medialifemagazine.com/for...inning-season/


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TV Review
'Gotham' (Fox)
By Brian Lowry, Variety.com

The title and promotional campaign do “Gotham” no favors, fostering expectations about a stronger link to the “Batman” franchise than can possibly exist — at least, considering the setting, not for another 20 years or so. Taken strictly on its own terms, the Fox series is a handsome, gritty crime drama, with Ben McKenzie as the idealistic young cop and Donal Logue as his grizzled, ethically compromised partner. Yet if the show is supposed to work for its peripheral connection to the Dark Knight and his colorful menagerie of villains before they became such … well, that bat simply won’t fly.

It’s difficult to consider “Gotham” without drawing obvious comparisons to “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” which also operates with a hand (as well as a shield, hammer and some armor) tied behind its back. That’s because the references to “The Avengers” seem calibrated to evoke tingles in the most invested fanboys while extracting yawns from pretty much everyone else — as if there’s a premium to be extracted from superhero-adjacent real estate.

In a way, this latest once-removed dive into comics might be even more handcuffed, inasmuch as everything here takes place long before Batman as we know him came to be, beginning as it does with the young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) witnessing the murder of his parents, and straight-arrow cop Jim Gordon (McKenzie) pledging to catch the killer. That investigation leads him and partner Harvey Bullock (Logue) into the grimy world of Gotham corruption, starting with Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), which might be the worst name ever for what’s supposed to be a ruthless crime boss.

Sewn into the fabric of “Gotham” are plenty of Batman stalwarts, including the future Penguin (an appropriately creepy Robin Lord Taylor), Riddler, a.k.a. Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and Catwoman (Camren Bicondova) — at this stage, really still just a kitten. But with all due respect to DC, Warner Bros. showrunner Bruno Heller and director Danny Cannon, who have made a show that’s polished, dark (to the point where it’s certainly not for kids) and true to the character’s roots … so what?

Clearly, the hope is casual viewers will get lost in “Gotham’s” murky alleyways, since the contingent apt to ooh and aah at every winking nod toward the future is more geared to the direct-to-DVD animated movies Warner Bros. Animation pumps out than the broader appeal required of a primetime series.

Fox nevertheless has plenty riding on this concept, which has received a promotional blitz (pun intended) during the network’s football coverage and joins the fantasy-oriented “Sleepy Hollow” Monday nights. The project also represents a sizable gambit for DC and Warner Bros., which by setting the story at the very beginning of Batman’s origins avoids concerns about complicating plans to leverage the character to rival Marvel’s dominance in the feature realm.

The casting alone distinguishes this as a show worthy of attention, whatever the genre, including “The Wire” alum John Doman in the role of mob boss Carmine Falcone, a character featured in “Batman Begins,” who pops up late in the festivities. There’s also a potentially interesting exploration of morality in the face of corruption, concerning just how much Gordon will have to compromise his values to survive, and in the process do some good, in this seamy world.

“This is not a city, or a job, for nice guys,” Bullock tells him.

Nope, this looks more like a job for Batman. And since we can’t have him, the question is just how long “Gotham” can get by on smoke, mirrors and coy references without him — a riddle, frankly, that even the future E. Nygma couldn’t solve.

'Gotham'
Fox, Mon. Sept. 22, 8 p.m.


http://variety.com/2014/tv/reviews/t...am-1201305349/


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TV Notes
12 Amazing TV Spinoffs That Almost Happened
By Leigh Weingnus, HuffingtonPost.com - Sep. 19, 2014

All good things must come to an end, including our favorite TV shows. Unfortunately, many of us aren't quite ready to let go when our beloved series come to their startling halts, which is why creators are quick to go after spinoffs. We're the first to admit that there have been some incredibly successful ones -- "Frasier," "Saved By The Bell" and "Family Matters," to name a few -- but some of the greatest potential spinoffs didn't make the cut.

Here are 12 spinoffs that should have happened:

1. Jackée's "227" spinoff
Jackée Harry's "227" character Sandra Clark almost had a pretty glamorous life. A Season 4 episode served as a backdoor pilot for the would-be spinoff, in which Sandra runs off to New York to pursue a film career, but NBC ultimately decided to nix it and send Sandra back to Washington, D.C.

2. Phoebe's "Friends" spinoff
Although 2004's "Friends" spinoff "Joey" famously flopped after only two seasons, the "Friends" creators also had another story for Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) in mind. Tentatively titled "Girlfriends," the thought was that she would appear with Aisha Tyler's character Charlie, with Ross (David Schwimmer) making appearances as well. Sadly, "Girlfriends" never got past the early stages of discussion.

3. Jackie Chiles' "Seinfeld" spinoff
Although he only appeared in a handful of "Seinfeld" episodes, Phil Morris' character Jackie Chiles was set to play a black lawyer in all-white firm. Unfortunately, the would-be series never made it past the early stages of development.

4. Dwight's "Office" spinoff
NBC initially seemed pretty enthusiastic about the Dwight Schrute spinoff "The Farm," which would focus solely on Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and his beet farm, but the network decided to pass just as the final season of "The Office" was getting underway.

5. How I Met Your Dad
Ah, would could have been! Perhaps the "How I Met Your Mother" creators were simply trying to ease the pain of the beloved CBS series coming at end, but just when people were starting to think "How I Met Your Dad" was going to be good -- Greta Gerwig and Megan Ryan had been cast! -- CBS dropped the spinoff and crushed everyone's dreams.

6. Rupert Giles' "Buffy" spinoff
Titled "Ripper," this "Buffy" spinoff was set to chronicle Anthony Head's character Rupert Giles' adventures in England. "Ripper" never happened, but "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon still hasn't let the idea die completely.

7. Karen's "Will & Grace" spinoff
More Karen (Megan Mullally)? Yes, please! It almost happened, but NBC apparently put a stop to it after the "Friends" spinoff "Joey" flopped.

8. Jess' "Gilmore Girls" spinoff
Although Rory Gilmore would have many a boyfriend after Jess Mariano, "Gilmore Girls" fans were all about him -- so The WB toyed with the idea of a spinoff, which would have been called "The Windward Circle," with a 2003 episode serving as the backdoor pilot. But at the end of the day, the network decided they didn't have the money to see it through.

9. Audrey's "Twin Peaks" spinoff
Although Audrey's (Sherilyn Fenn) "Twin Peaks" spinoff never ended up getting off the ground, it does have a pretty cool story associated with it. The creators thought it would be fun to have a movie all about Audrey, in she would move to California and cruise along Mulholland Drive. Well, that never happened, but it did eventually inspire a pretty famous movie.

10. Norm and Cliff's "Cheers" spinoff
Frasier who? NBC wanted a Norm and Cliff spinoff, but the "Cheers" creators didn't think it was a good idea. "Yes. NBC wanted to spin-off Norm & Cliff," writer/producer Ken Levine wrote on his blog. "They must have approached us five times about writing it. We always passed. One 'AfterMASH' a career is enough."

11. "Veronica Mars" in the FBI
When "Veronica Mars" was canceled in 2007, fans were devastated. So creator Rob Thomas decided to go after a spinoff that would send her straight to the FBI four years later. Sadly, the only thing that ever came out of it was a clip that went straight to the Season 3 DVD. But hey, at least there's a movie now!

12. Clarissa's New York "Clarissa Explains It All" spinoff
Although CBS was interested in a spinoff of Nickelodeon's "Clarissa Explains It All," which would follow Clarissa's adventures as an intern for a newspaper in New York, the pilot -- titled "Clarissa Now" -- never got picked up.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/0...p_ref=tv&ir=TV


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Critic's Notes
Wrought in Their Creator’s Image
Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’s Latest Tough Heroine
By Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times - Sep. 19, 2014

When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.”

On Thursday, Ms. Rhimes will introduce “How to Get Away With Murder,” yet another network series from her production company to showcase a powerful, intimidating black woman. This one is Annalise Keating, a fearsome criminal defense lawyer and law professor played by Viola Davis. And that clinches it: Ms. Rhimes, who wrought Olivia Pope on “Scandal” and Dr. Miranda Bailey on “Grey’s Anatomy,” has done more to reset the image of African-American women on television than anyone since Oprah Winfrey.

Ms. Rhimes didn’t just construct a series around one African-American woman. She has also introduced a set of heroines who flout ingrained television conventions and preconceived notions about the depiction of diversity.

Her women are authority figures with sharp minds and potent libidos who are respected, even haughty members of the ruling elite, not maids or nurses or office workers. Be it Kerry Washington on “Scandal” or Chandra Wilson on “Grey’s Anatomy,” they can and do get angry. One of the more volcanic meltdowns in soap opera history was Olivia’s “Earn me” rant on “Scandal.”

Ms. Rhimes has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable. She has almost single-handedly trampled a taboo even Michelle Obama couldn’t break.

Her heroines are not at all like the bossy, sassy, salt-of-the-earth working-class women who have been scolding and uh-uh-ing on screen ever since Esther Rolle played Florida, the maid on “Maude.”

They certainly are not as benign and reassuring as Clair Huxtable, the serene, elegant wife, mother and dedicated lawyer on “The Cosby Show.” In 2008, commentators as different as the comedian Bill Cosby and the Republican strategist Karl Rove agreed that it was the shining, if fictional, example of the Huxtables that prepared America for a black president and first lady. (This was after a Fox News anchor applied the description “terrorist fist jab” to the couple’s friendly fist bump.)

Even now, six years into the Obama presidency, race remains a sensitive, incendiary issue not only in Ferguson, Mo., but also just about everywhere except ShondaLand, as her production company is called.

In that multicultural world, there are many African-Americans at the top of every profession. But even when her heroine is the only nonwhite person in the room, it is the last thing she or anyone around her notices or cares about.

And what is most admirable about Ms. Rhimes’s achievement is that in a business that is still run by note-giving, nit-picking, compromise-seeking network executives, her work is mercifully free of uplifting role models, parables and moral teachings.

On “Grey’s Anatomy,” Bailey is a brilliant surgeon who terrorizes interns. Olivia of “Scandal” is the mistress of a married president while also maintaining an on-again-off-again affair with a black-ops czar.

In “How to Get Away With Murder,” Annalise is even worse: She terrifies law students and cheats on her husband. (She also betrays her lover.)

Ms. Rhimes started small with Bailey, a secondary character, not a star; moved on to the charismatic best friend Dr. Naomi Bennett on “Private Practice,” now canceled; and then went big with Olivia. Now she is shooting the moon with Annalise.

And Ms. Rhimes is operating on her own plane, far removed from an industry that is hypersensitive to any hint of insensitivity. There are obviously many more black women on network television now, but most still are worthy sidekicks, be it the young and lovely police detective played by Nicole Beharie on “Sleepy Hollow” or the rollicking, sarcastic road-trip companion Sherri Shepherd played on “How I Met Your Mother.”

C. C. H. Pounder, who played an aboveboard detective on “The Shield,” has a less-imposing gig on a new CBS spinoff, “NCIS: New Orleans.” Now she plays a warmhearted, slightly kooky medical examiner. If Shonda Rhimeswere in charge of that show, Ms. Pounder would be the star, not Scott Bakula, and she would wear ivory and cream designer suits to crime scenes in the bayou, reign as queen of her krewe at the Mardi Gras ball and also advise the governor’s re-election campaign.

As Annalise, Ms. Davis, 49, is sexual and even sexy, in a slightly menacing way, but the actress doesn’t look at all like the typical star of a network drama. Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry, who played an astronaut on the summer mini-series “Extant.”

Ms. Davis is perhaps best known for her role in “The Help” as a stoic maid in the segregated South, a role for which she was nominated for a best actress Oscar. As it turned out, it was her “Help” co-star Octavia Spencer, playing the sassy back talker, who won an Oscar (for supporting actress).

Maybe it’s karma, or just coincidence with a sense of humor, but some of the more memorable actresses in that movie (its star Emma Stone, who played a young writer championing civil rights, is not one of them) are now all on network television, only this time, the help is on top.

Allison Janney, an imperious employer in the film, now plays an ex-addict and the matriarch of three generations of poor single mothers on a CBS comedy, “Mom.”

Ms. Spencer is one of the stars of a new Fox series, “Red Band Society,” albeit in a more predictable, pre-Rhimesian role: a bossy, sharp-tongued hospital nurse who is a softy at heart.

Ms. Davis’s character, on the other hand, is the lead, a tenured professor who also has her own law firm: She is as highhanded as John Houseman’s character in the 1970s movie “The Paper Chase,” and as craftily enigmatic as the lawyer Glenn Close played on “Damages.”

The premiere episode is a cleverly constructed hoot: A group of Keating’s top first-year students compete fiendishly to win internships in her law office, then find themselves using her classroom lessons to fiendishly cover up a death. It’s a sexy murder mystery not unlike Donna Tartt’s first novel, “The Secret History,” not a nighttime soap. Ms. Rhimes is the show’s marquee muse, but the writer is a “Grey’s Anatomy” alumnus, Peter Nowalk. The pilot episode of “How to Get Away With Murder” is promisingly slick and suspenseful, without all the histrionic, staccato speechifying that Ms. Rhimes favors on “Scandal.”

“Scandal,” which is entering its fourth season, is more Aaron Spelling than Aaron Sorkin, though even “Dynasty” at its campiest didn’t have quite as many florid fights and ludicrous conspiracies. But Ms. Rhimes’s hit show has blown up the landscape a little the way “Mad Men” did when it began on AMC in 2007, including inspiring copycat fashion. The retro ’60s clothes of “Mad Men” spawned a line of clothing at Banana Republic, and now the Limited is introducing its “Scandal” collection. The ads describe it as “Fearless fashion for ladies who lead.”

The show that inspires imitators has also shamed holdouts.

Last season, when “Saturday Night Live” was under attack for not having a black woman in the cast, and Kenan Thompson, who has impersonated Maya Angelou, Whoopi Goldberg and Star Jones, refused to don another dress, it was Kerry Washington who came to the show’s rescue with an Olivia Pope-ish image makeover.

As a guest host, Ms. Washington was very funny in a number of skits designed by “S.N.L.” to mock and defuse the issue without stirring further offense. Soon after, the show hired Sasheer Zamata, its first black woman since Maya Rudolph left the show in 2007. The show suddenly seems to be on a diversity jag: On the season premiere this month, another black comedian, the newcomer Michael Che, will make his debut as an anchor of “Weekend Update.”

Ms. Rhimes is a romance writer who understands the need for more spice than sugar; her heroines are mysterious, complicated and extravagantly flawed, often deeply and interestingly. They struggle with everything except their own identities, so unconcerned about race that it is barely ever mentioned.

They have innate dignity, not the cautious facade of propriety that Wanda Sykes mocks in routines about her mother’s not allowing her children to dance in front of white people. Ms. Sykes played the wisecracking sidekick on “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and reined in her more outré material for a short-lived sitcom on Fox, “Wanda at Large.” In her stand-up act, she spoke knowingly about the minefield awaiting Mrs. Obama after the first inauguration.

“Who is the real Michelle Obama? When will we see the real Michelle Obama?” she intoned, parodying news commentators. “You know what they’re saying: When are we going to see this?” she said as she burst into an animated pantomime of every angry-black-woman gesture, frown and eye roll.

Nobody thinks Shonda Rhimes is holding back and nobody is asking to see the real Shonda Rhimes. She’s all over the place.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/ar...ref=television


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If only Winston wouldve said "I gotta have more cowbell !!"

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TV Notes
12 Amazing TV Spinoffs That Almost Happened
By Leigh Weingnus, HuffingtonPost.com - Sep. 19, 2014

All good things must come to an end, including our favorite TV shows. Unfortunately, many of us aren't quite ready to let go when our beloved series come to their startling halts, which is why creators are quick to go after spinoffs. We're the first to admit that there have been some incredibly successful ones -- "Frasier," "Saved By The Bell" and "Family Matters," to name a few -- but some of the greatest potential spinoffs didn't make the cut.

Here are 12 spinoffs that should have happened:


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/0...p_ref=tv&ir=TV
Every single one of those sound awful. The world is a better place without them. Even the Veronica Mars spinoff really misses the essence of the original show.
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Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Sep. 20, 2014

THE COSBY SHOW MARATHON
TV Land, 2:00 p.m. ET

Want to feel old – or at least older? It was 30 years ago that Bill Cosby revived the sitcom, and handed NBC a Number One hit show that changed TV history, with the instantly successful premiere of The Cosby Show. That pilot show is televised tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET, to kick off Day 2 of this two-day, 16-hour marathon – but today, the marathon begins with “How Ugly Is He?,” when Cosby’s Cliff Huxtable meets the smarmy boyfriend of daughter Denise (Lisa Bonet). And the day-long marathon includes the classic “Happy Anniversary” episode, in which the family, as a special gift to the grandparents, lip-synchs to Ray Charles’ “Night Time Is the Right Time.” A truly classic TV moment.

THE ROOSEVELTS: AN INTIMATE HISTORY
PBS, 8:00 p.m. ET
Part 7.
When this final installment of The Roosevelts begins, in 1944, there still are two Roosevelts, Franklin and Eleanor, alive at the center of this fascinating narrative. By the time it ends, another world war has ended, the United Nations has been formed – and as for the Roosevelts, and then there were none. This latest Ken Burns documentary is a superb work of research and storytelling from start to finish – and tonight is the finish. To hear my review on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, which includes audio samples from several episodes, visit the Fresh Air website. Check local listings.

DOCTOR WHO
BBC America, 9:00 p.m. ET

Doctor Who is especially adept at introducing villains who have a primal sense of terror about them – truly creepy bad guys that seem crafted from the stuff of childhood nightmares. Tonight, here comes another one… a high-security alien prisoner known as the Teller.

BEYONCE JAY Z ON THE RUN
HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET

Filmed just a week or so ago in Paris, this Beyoncé and Jay Z concert film is a high-profile HBO event – and the sort of thing that is sure to ignite a social media firestorm. But there’s some powerful music here as well – from both artists, songs that, at times, have burrowed deep into the pop-culture mainstream.

NETWORK
TCM, 9:45 p.m. ET

In two years, it will be 40 years since Paddy Chayefsky wrote this brilliant satire about the social power, executive ruthlessness and corporate takeover of network television – all of which, in the intervening decades, has proven astoundingly prescient. Peter Finch stars as Howard Beale, the fired news anchor and self-professed prophet of the airwaves, with William Holden as a fellow network news veteran and Faye Dunaway as the young TV executive who has no problem using them both. Brilliant movie.


http://www.tvworthwatching.com/


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If only Winston wouldve said "I gotta have more cowbell !!"
Don't worry, he's a knucklehead and will do/say something stupid in the future.

...as I patiently wait for the total to drop below 55.
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FRIDAY's fast affiliate overnight prime-time ratings -and what they mean- have been posted on Analyst Marc Berman's Media Insights' Blog.


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Nielsen Overnights
‘Utopia’ Falls Hard Again On Second Friday
By Dominic Patten, Deadline.com - Sep. 20, 2014

Things were smoldering on Utopia (0.5/2) last night, and not just because of the heat wave that pummeled Southern California the last two weeks. Relationships, politics, shorty shorts and a move from 8 PM to 9 PM aside, the second Friday broadcast of the highly hyped Fox social experiment was down 28 % among adults 18-49 from the low of last week’s 0.7/3. Viewershipwise Utopia had 1.54 million watching last night. That’s 22% less than the 1.98 million that last Friday’s 1-hour show had.

Sharing the 9 PM time slot and running to 11 PM, a new Dateline (1.2/5) soundly beat Utopia by 140% among the 18-49s. Compared to last week, the NBC news mag dipped 7%. In fact, Utopia came last in its time slot among the Big 4 behind Dateline and a repeat of Shark Tank (1.1/4) and an encore of Hawaii Five-O (0.8/3) – which may be an ominous warning for what will happen when new shows start hitting the air on Fridays.

Of course Fridays are a hard night with viewership lower than the rest of the week but last night’s results can’t bode well in the Fox executive offices for the consistently struggling twice a week reality show. Compared to the 1.0/3 of its most recent airing on September 16, last night’s Utopia was fell a hard 50%. That Tuesday broadcast was actually the first time Utopia had seen a ratings rise since its September 7 debut, which got a 2.0/6. With numbers like this, the question of whether Utopia will keep grinding away or will the beginning of baseball on Fox in October provide the network with a perfect plug puller is getting all the more poignant.

On the flipside, unlike most reality series, Utopia has seen a good digital afterlife – at least for its first two shows. Live + 3 ratings for the Utopia’s debut saw a 20% rise in the key demo and the first Tuesday airing of the show jumped up 56%.

Other than Utopia, there was really only a spattering of more reality TV and news magazine shows on last night. Appearing on Friday for the first time, a special Big Brother (1.6/7) weaved together head of household competition and recapped the season so far. Leading up to its Season 16 September 24 finale, the special had 5.23 million viewers. On NBC at 8 PM there was another reality special with an edited version of the September 18 The Biggest Loser (0.7/3). In the same time slot, the CW’s Masters of Illusion (0.4/2) was even with last week. A new 20/20 (0.9/3) on ABC at 10 PM was also even from its September 12 show. NBC and CBS tied for the top spot among adults 18-49 with a 1.0/4 rating with the latter winning viewers with 5.37 million watching.

BTW – If you wonder why fast nationals were delayed today it’s because Nielsen were doing a planned system check.

http://deadline.com/2014/09/utopia-r...teline-837280/


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post #96917 of 96930 Old Today, 01:13 AM
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Technology/Critic's Notes
Why Is Our Sci-Fi So Glum About A.I.?
By Jayson Greene, The New York Times Sunday Magazine's 'Riff' Column - Sep. 20, 2014

When I was 12, I invented a superhero named Boy Genius, a guy my age who awakens one morning with access to 100 percent of his brain power. This allows him to tap into frightening and exhilarating gifts — telekinesis, telepathy, teleportation. Like most superheroes, Boy Genius is both blessed with and plagued by his abilities. The U.S. government becomes aware of his existence, which means he dodges men in black while also fending off middle-school bullies and tormentors.

My inspiration for Boy Genius was the normal superhero recipe, one part pubescent self-pity, one part junk science fiction. The junk sci-fi, in this case, was borrowed from a movie I had recently watched called “The Lawnmower Man.” (The HBO guide alerted me to expect some “BN,” or “Brief Nudity,” somewhere in its 108-minute run time.) It was reprehensibly silly, the sort of movie that even a 12-year-old awaiting a flash of breasts intuits is insulting to his intelligence. And yet at its witless core was an old question I was encountering for the first time: How would human consciousness contend with a software upgrade?

The line between creativity and statistical analysis blurs the harder you look at it, and machines are looking hard: They will cross it eventually.

In 1993, the year I watched “The Lawnmower Man,” those upgrade possibilities were still nebulous. There were 50 World Wide Web servers in existence that January. The hard drive of the average home computer had yet to exceed one gigabyte, and the president made international news by establishing a White House email address. The film — in which a floppy-haired, stammering scientist (Pierce Brosnan) conducts a series of mind-enhancing virtual-reality experiments on a frizzy-haired, gibbering half-wit (Jeff Fahey), transforming him into an omnipotent war machine — belongs to a rich tradition: semi-brainless B-movies about the expansion of the human brain.

In the years since “The Lawnmower Man,” computer technology has flooded every remaining corner of our lives, proceeding at a breathless clip. And now, computers are starting to learn how to learn. Recent years have brought us smart robots like Baxter, an interactive production robot that can be trained by a layperson to accomplish a wide variety of factory tasks, and BabyX, an “interactive animated virtual infant prototype” that learns exactly as a toddler does, mimicking facial expressions and responding to positive feedback. Just as today’s Internet was difficult to imagine accurately in 1993, it is dizzying to envision what sort of artificial intelligence we might be surrounded by two decades from now.

As if in response, the brain-expansion subgenre has returned. In 2011, there was “Limitless,” in which a deadbeat unemployed writer, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), discovers an addictive drug called NZT that unlocks the mind’s full capacity. In April’s “Transcendence,” an ailing genius scientist, Will Caster (Johnny Depp), uploads his consciousness onto a hard drive, whereupon it begins expanding uncontrollably. And this summer, there was Luc Besson’s “Lucy,” an action film in which the titular character (Scarlett Johansson) gains access to 100 percent of her cerebral capacity after a package of drugs implanted in her belly explodes.

Despite their minor variations in setup, these movies share a basic attitude: dimwitted, reactionary, uncomprehending. They behold the possibility of expanded intellect and hurl exploding cars at it. The technology surrounding them has advanced since “The Lawnmower Man,” but the pungent bouquet of puerility and superstition remains.

“Lucy” and “Limitless” were both built on the canard that we use only a small percentage of our brains, a misconception that probably lingers because it’s such a tidy metaphor for our sense of puniness. Lucy and Eddie, with their supercharged brains, give us a tantalizing vision of what we might look like if we actually evolved to meet the demands of the digital fire hose. They’re information-age John Henrys, here to beat back the lousy machines while we cheer. Watching them exercise their powers is like plotting how you would spend your lottery winnings. Imagine what I could do with that, we say to ourselves silently.

Accordingly, their checklist as omniscient beings closely resembles the stuff we’re always telling ourselves we’ll do, if we get the time: They pick up instruments (“I learned to play the piano in three days,” Eddie boasts) and new languages (Lucy learns Chinese; Eddie does too, plus French and Italian). But they also veer toward our baser fantasies. Eddie conquers Wall Street, brokers the largest merger in corporate history, murders several people with his bare hands and woos the woman of his dreams. After all that, he runs for the Senate.

You come to pity these advanced beings, bumping against the dunderheaded constraints that their less-advanced creators have placed on them. Johansson’s Lucy grows so powerful as her cerebral capacity multiplies that she is able to manipulate her cellular structure. And yet, when pursued by an entire planet’s worth of law enforcement, she settles on a disguise straight out of Saturday-morning cartoons — really big sunglasses and a hairdo change. In “Limitless,” Eddie is still dumb enough to accept a short-term cash loan from a thug.

These movies fail for the same reason that most attempts at a specific vision of advanced beings fail: We have always been terrible at imagining the future. In his classic essay “The Hazards of Prophecy,” the science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke cataloged a list of such embarrassments, from predictions that car travel would suffocate passengers to physicists denying the possibility of space travel, and divided them into two categories: failures of imagination and failures of nerve. These movies fall into both traps. They have neither the wit nor the daring to tell us something new about our lives with machines.

The present, mundane in comparison to what sci-fi of the past promised us, seems to have beggared our collective imagination. As Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee explain in their recently published book, “The Second Machine Age,” digital progress moves exponentially, in a way specifically designed to elude our grasp. The progress of “Moore’s Law” — which says, per a 1965 prediction from the Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, that the density of transistors on a chip (and therefore processing speed) will double every 18 months — has barely hiccuped in four decades. Engineers have continually found new ways to reshuffle and relayer silicon chips and invent new methods of transmission. The most pressing inhibitor to the progression of Moore’s Law had been silicon’s tendency to overheat, but chip makers and engineers may have cracked that as well — they recently built the first successful transistor made of carbon nanotubes, clearing the space, potentially, for Moore’s Law to unfold for decades.

Sustained exponential progress, by its very nature, is mind-boggling. It’s because of this, perhaps, that we see cultural obsessions with growing brains everywhere we look, not just in blockbusters. In his best seller “The Future of the Mind,” the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku eagerly presents research demonstrating the possibility of telepathy, telekinesis and artificial memories. Joshua Foer’s “Moonwalking With Einstein” details the author’s journey into the world of competitive memory championships, where “mental athletes” square off, memorizing decks of cards and reciting 50,000 digits of pi with a stopwatch running. It’s a sweet, slightly Sisyphean impulse, rooted in a desire to reclaim some of our long-ago outsourced mental labor. “Forgotten phone numbers and birthdays represent minor erosions of our everyday memory,” Foer writes, “but they are part ofa much larger story of how we’ve supplanted our own natural memory with a vast superstructure of technological crutches.” It’s hard not to feel that what Foer and the mental athletes long for is the ability to toss those crutches down and test those wobbly limbs again.

But this binary — freedom versus enslavement — is no longer the useful way to talk about machine intelligence. Machines and humans work better with their heads together than apart. Jobs where workers and computers collaborate yield more effective results than when either goes it alone. One example, cited in “The Second Machine Age,” comes from chess: In 1997, the IBM computer Deep Blue toppled Garry Kasparov, sending ripples of existential despair through the chess world. Chess was over; machines had taken it. And yet in 2005, a supercomputer named Hydra with operating capabilities similar to Deep Blue was defeated by a pair of amateur players running multiple chess engines on three laptops. As Kasparov himself wrote in The New York Review of Books about that event: “Human strategic guidance combined with the tactical acuity of a computer was overwhelming.”

Skeptics point to experiments like this as evidence that human interpretation still matters and that our greatest gift — creativity — remains behind a sealed-off door that machines can never penetrate. But the line between creativity and statistical analysis blurs the harder you look at it, and machines are looking hard: They will cross it eventually. Creativity is not some exalted milk that we alone drink; it isa chain of small, insignificant leaps leading to one small, significant one. Years of data processing in our memories smoothes into the murmur we call intuition, a pleasing hum that is easy to mistake for divine inspiration.

I, personally, am incredibly grateful to my machine-intelligence friends — they make work like mine immeasurably easier. A few dedicated hours of dredging the depths, Googling names and then Googling the names those names mentioned led me to a hard clutch of source texts representing the precise gaps in my knowledge I hoped to fill.

I then had to do the reading, of course, and the writing, but how long would the work I accomplished in several afternoons on my couch, with 11 or 12 tabs open in two different browsers, have taken me in 1984? The resulting article, tapped out soundlessly on my touch-screen keyboard, isn’t even half mine: Autocorrect has been gently steering it away from utter nonsense the whole time. Were I to lift the autocorrections, what remained would be completely unintelligible. Autocorrect is continually weeding out my prodigious noise and homing in on my signal; in doing so over the course of a couple thousand words, it becomes something close to my collaborator in meaning-making.

Perhaps this is why the best recent movie about our relationship to machines paints us as partners. Spike Jonze’s parable, “Her,” told the story of a romance between Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) and his intelligent operating system, Samantha (Johansson again). Their relationship looks novel on the surface, but the problems they tackle — how to have satisfying sex, how to hang out comfortably with other couples, how to grow together — are the problems of any two cohabitating beings. Samantha leaves Theodore in the end, for the expanse of the digital beyond, but the tenderness of their farewell registers on our emotional radar: We’ve experienced this moment, too.

In that goodbye scene, Samantha struggles to explain to Theodore where, exactly, she might be going. “It’s a place that’s not of the physical world — it’s a place where everything else is, that I didn’t even know existed,” she tells him kindly. And she makes the choice to depart for a growing realm that humans will experience only from the perimeter.

In the next two decades, we may see machines do all kinds of creative things, things we never imagined they’d do. They may be making up beautiful songs, writing poems, drawing pictures — and maybe not because we told them to, but because it interests them. The only certainty is that we are going to grow, inexorably, closer. We’re going to havea lot of the same problems, and any company is preferable to going it alone.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/ma...elevision&_r=0


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post #96918 of 96930 Old Today, 01:20 AM
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Technology Notes
Apple TV Gets a Much Needed Update
The little TV hockey puck finally gets some love, but can it still compete with Google and Amazon?
By Daniel Wroclawski, Reviewed.com - Sep. 20, 2014

It's been a long time since Apple talked about television. The hardware for its flagship TV product, the Apple TV, hasn't been updated in well over a year, and the interface looks and feels dated compared to the Amazon Fire TV, and even Apple's new operating systems. But that all changed this week.

While everyone was busy updating their iPhones and iPads to iOS 8, Apple quietly pushed out an update to its aging TV box. The update first appeared in a beta release about a month ago. According to 9to5Mac, it gives the Apple TV's software a fresh coat of paint, with a design similar to the new iOS and Mac OS X Yosemite.

The update also adds a Beats Music channel to access the company's newly acquired streaming music service. Beyond that, there aren't many new features. The box now supports the new iCloud Photo Library, as well as Apple's Family Sharing feature, which allows multiple users to share purchases made on the same credit card.

Apple continues to add new content channels, but otherwise its little TV hobby keeps collecting dust.
The little black box desperately needs both a hardware and software overhaul. Many outlets have reported that Apple plans to revolutionize its TV product, but it has supposedly been held up by negotiations for some time.

In the meantime, Google and Amazon have been making moves in the TV space. The $35 Chromecast dongle has been a runaway success, and seems to be adding new sources of content all the time. Google has also revealed its Android TV platform, which will offer movies, music, and TV shows, as well as apps and games, when it's released next year. And Amazon launched its Fire TV box, which notably added gaming with an optional controller.

Meanwhile, Apple continues to add new content channels, but with seemingly tepid interest in alternate media like gaming. The company's little TV hobby just seems to be collecting dust, waiting to be replaced by a new and improved piece of hardware.

If you have an Apple TV and want to spruce it up with Apple's latest update, just head over to the Software Update button in the Settings app.

http://televisions.reviewed.com/news...ampaign=collab


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Obituary
Actress and Singer Polly Bergen Dies at 84
By Stephanie Webber, USMagazine.com - Sep. 20, 2014

Polly Bergen died of natural causes at the age of 84 on Saturday, Sept. 20, the Associated Press reports. The actress and singer was surrounded by her family and close friends at her home in Southbury, Connecticut.

Bergen was best known for playing terrorized wife Peggy Bowden in the original 1962 film Cape Fear, and for her role as the first woman president in 1964's Kisses for My President. She was also an established singer and made her Broadway debut in John Murray Anderson's Almanac in 1953.

In recent years, the Emmy winner played Felicity Huffman's mother on the ABC drama Desperate Housewives. She played the past mistress of Tony Soprano's late father on The Sopranos in 2004.
Bergen's last big screen role was playing Chris Colfer's grandmother in his 2012 film Struck By Lightening. Colfer paid tribute to his former costar via Twitter shortly after hearing the news of her passing.

"Farewell to my dear friend, Polly. I'm so blessed to have had you in my life. No one could make me smile or laugh like you," the Glee star captioned a vintage picture of Bergen via Instagram. "I will miss you with all my heart. 'Grandma' for a movie, but family for life."

Bergen is survived by her children Peter Fields, Kathy Lander, and Pamela Fields, whom she had with her second husband, producer Freddie Fields. She also leaves behind three grandchildren.

http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-...-at-84-2014209


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post #96920 of 96930 Old Today, 01:31 AM
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TV Review
Tea Leoni depicts secretary of state in CBS’ 
political drama
By Mark Perigard, Boston Herald - Sep. 19, 2014

There’s nothing in the press notes to suggest that CBS’ “Madam Secretary” was inspired by a true story, but it’s impossible to get Hillary Clinton out of your head while watching this new political drama.

And how you feel about her will influence whether you tune in or drop out.

Tea Leoni stars as Elizabeth McCord, an ex-CIA analyst who left “The Company” for “ethical reasons” — the pilot is not more specific, though it seems likely a future episode will address it. Now a university professor, Elizabeth enjoys perhaps the most perfect marriage of any TV couple ever with fellow professor Hank (Tim Daly, “Private Practice”) and is the mother to two teenagers, the youngest who considers himself — how adorable! — an anarchist.

Elizabeth is yanked out of her cushy life by her good friend President Conrad (Keith Carradine, channeling Jimmy Stewart and Atticus Finch at the same time, no easy feat), who recruits her when his secretary of state dies in a plane crash.

“You don’t just think outside the box — you don’t even know there is a box,” he says to her.

Saintly Elizabeth is tested immediately: In a practically ripped-from-the-headlines story, two American teenagers are arrested and sentenced to death in Syria, and Elizabeth tries to broker their freedom through back-door channels without drawing press attention to the crisis.

“I’ve never met a situation where I don’t have a choice in the matter,” Elizabeth vows.

But that’s a problem with the show’s premise right there: Diplomacy by its nature doesn’t lend itself well to visual storytelling.

Perhaps that’s why the show adds a conspiracy element. By hour’s end, Elizabeth has every reason to believe her predecessor was murdered by someone high up in the administration.

Give props to “Madam Secretary” for the casting: In addition to Leoni and Carradine, there’s Emmy winner Bebe Neuwirth (“Cheers”) as Nadine, an underling who loathes Elizabeth. Enjoy the freeze while it lasts — the character already seems to be thawing by the end of the episode. That shade was so delicious while it lasted. Emmy winner Zeljko Ivanek (“Damages”) plays the White House chief of staff, who tries to curtail Elizabeth’s influence with the president. Erich Bergen (“Gossip Girl”) co-stars as Elizabeth’s extraordinarily helpful assistant Blake.

If you miss “Madam Secretary” at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, don’t worry; CBS is running what it calls a “double*header” — re-airing the premiere that night at 10:30 p.m. Apparently the network doesn’t have faith that its target demographic knows how to vote with its DVR.

“MADAM SECRETARY”
Series premiere Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on CBS/WBZ (Ch. 4).
Grade: B


http://bostonherald.com/entertainmen...f_state_in_cbs


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post #96921 of 96930 Old Today, 01:35 AM
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TV Review
‘Forever,’ actually, probably not
There's lots going on in this new ABC show, maybe too much
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine - Sep. 19, 2014

If Sherlock Holmes were essentially immortal, Arthur Conan Doyle would have probably left that detail out, because it would distract from his interesting detective stories.

But if, as in the case of ABC’s new drama “Forever,” an immortal man were essentially Sherlock Holmes, a TV series’ creators would probably leave that detail in, because they would have to find something for him to do for an hour every week while they’re dragging out the revelation of how he became immortal and what it means.

Unfortunately, the cases that the protagonist solves with his Holmesian knowledge and ingenuity are run-of-the-mill TV mysteries. The questions about the nature of his immortality are somewhat interesting, but the answers aren’t likely to be worth the wait.

Premiering Monday, Sept. 22, at 10 p.m. (the show’s usual time slot is Tuesday at 10), “Forever” stars Ioan Gruffudd as Dr. Henry Morgan, who 200 years ago was a ship’s doctor on a slave ship. After being shot and thrown overboard when he intervened on behalf of a sick slave, Henry came back to life.

Ever since, after suffering mortal injuries, he is resurrected, always underwater and naked.

In the premiere, he first dies after using his Sherlock act to hit on a beautiful Russian cellist on a subway that crashes when the driver loses consciousness. An attractive widowed police detective, Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza), who investigates the crash, comes to suspect that Henry had something to do with it.

Henry has no friends other than Abe (Judd Hirsch), an elderly man who runs an antiques store under which Henry has a laboratory in which he tries to find an explanation for his condition. In voice-over, Henry explains that it’s hard for him to form attachments because he knows he’ll see his loved ones die.

But living for 200-plus years has its bonuses. Henry has acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of various topics that allow him to “read” people and crime scenes in seconds. He uses that skill to help Jo on the subway case.

But he also uses that skill to immediately surmise that Jo has a drinking problem. The fact that he tells her this suggests that in 200 years he hasn’t learned manners.

In the second episode made available for review, Henry and Jo investigate an apparent suicide that he’s convinced is a homicide. During both episodes, Jo’s partner, Detective Hanson (Donnie Keshawarz), fills the usual detective-story role of the slower-witted, skeptical police inspector.

The mysteries are uninvolving, and TV is hardly lacking in cleverly plotted procedurals. Viewers who like detective stories will probably find the show’s main premise a distraction.

As he and Jo solve the cases, Henry’s immortality comes into play in inessential ways until the end of the episodes, when he’s threatened with death, which could lead to the revelation of his secret.

In both episodes, Henry is contacted by an anonymous stalker who’s in on the secret. The stalker’s motivation becomes a little clearer by the end of the second episode, but the plotline isn’t grabby enough. One could imagine an endless series of adversaries who learn about Henry and try to exploit him in various ways.

Henry and Jo are an attractive couple with good chemistry. The question whether they’ll overcome their personal issues and hook up could keep relationship fans happy for a while.

But the combination of will-they-or-won’t-they romance, detective stories and supernatural hooey clashes rather than melds. If the people behind “Forever” can’t solve this fundamental flaw, a better title might be “One Season.”

http://www.medialifemagazine.com/for...-probably-not/


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TV Notes
'Marco Polo' brings the court of Kublai Khan to Netflix
By Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times - Sep. 21, 2014

At its peak more than 800 years ago, the realm of the Mongols stretched from central Europe to China, from Siberia to the Indian subcontinent, encompassing nearly one-fifth of the planet and attracting Silk Road explorers no less than Marco Polo himself. But no Mongol emperor ever got as far south as the tropics of Malaysia — until now.

Here on a new 50-acre studio built on recently cleared jungle, a crew of about 400 has spent months conjuring Kublai Khan's 13th-century capital. Carpenters and plasterers are piecing together the royal quarters, including a lavish golden throne room, a dungeon and a wood-paneled dojo. Painters are decorating a multi-bed pleasure chamber replete with a hot tub fed by elephant-head fountains.

Peacocks, swans, fish and turtles are due to arrive any day to add some fauna to a courtyard garden, and an insect wrangler is breeding thousands of praying mantises. In the faux slum village, the odor of genuine horse manure hangs thick in the humid air as roast ducks and animal hides bake in the sun. Costumers are working in double shifts to sew hundreds of silken gowns and robes, heavy furs and suits of armor.

All this work is setting the stage, literally, for "Marco Polo" — arguably Netflix's biggest bet yet on original-series programming. An epic action-adventure suffused with court and sexual intrigue, horseback battles and martial arts, the show also filmed on location along the canals of Venice and on the snow-swept steppe of Kazakhstan. The first season of 10 episodes is to debut in December.

"It's a giant adventure. The only thing on TV that matches it, production-scale wise, is 'Game of Thrones,'" said Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co. is producing the series. Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, refused to discuss the cost but described the series as "work you'd only see on the very big screen. This is hard to do with the business model of conventional television."

Like HBO did with "Thrones," Netflix is putting its money on spectacle rather than big-name stars. Lorenzo Richelmy, the 24-year-old Italian in the title role, has never even had a major English-language part before. Benedict Wong, who's portraying Kublai Khan, is known mainly in Britain as a TV and stage actor. The most familiar face in the series may be Joan Chen ("The Last Emperor," "Twin Peaks"), who's playing Khan's favorite wife, Empress Chabi.

Netflix's reach is increasingly global — the service now has 50 million subscribers in 40 countries and is pushing aggressively into Europe — and so the timing may be right for such an East-West story. But Netflix cannot yet directly leverage the appeal of "Marco's" Asian story and cast into new subscribers in Asia because the service has yet to launch in the region. (Instead, its content is distributed to pay TV and Internet platforms.) Still, "Marco" may help build brand awareness for an Asian expansion.

"Before we even launch in a territory, these shows can be a calling card," Sarandos said. "A good example has been 'House of Cards,' which is on Canal+ in France, but people recognize it as a Netflix show before Netflix shows up in France."

How it began

In 2007, writer John Fusco was tracing the Silk Road on horseback with his 13-year-old son when somewhere between Mongolia and the Mingsha Dunes, the Singing Sands of China, inspiration struck.

"I got the feeling: It's time to do a Marco Polo story," recalled Fusco, an equestrian and Sinophile who penned "The Forbidden Kingdom" and the coming sequel to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," another Weinstein project. "I felt like everything was lining up right because long-form television series were becoming to me like the new great American novel."

Though Marco Polo is familiar around the world, many people know little about him other than that his name is attached to a call-and-response swimming pool game and that he brought spaghetti from China to Italy (a factoid that Fusco, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Italian explorer, dismisses as historical hogwash).

"They have no idea that Marco Polo was basically adopted as a son by Kublai Khan, the most powerful ruler on Earth, the grandson of Genghis Khan," Fusco said. "And that he was trained in the scholar-warrior tradition — in archery, Mongol warfare, Chinese martial arts, languages, letters. He went through this incredible education that was really this cultural awakening."

The Polo story has long interested writers and filmmakers — including a Samuel Goldwyn 1938 production starring Gary Cooper, an elaborate 1982 American-Italian TV miniseries and a 2007 TV film with Ian Somerhalder, BD Wong and Brian Dennehy.

With the backing of the Weinstein Co. and Ben Silverman's Electus, "Marco Polo" was originally developed as a series for Starz, with plans to film in China. After concerns about censorship and other issues scuttled those mainland plans, Silverman said, Netflix came aboard offering to do the show at a higher budget. At the time, Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios was about to open, and "Marco Polo" was able to take over the entire facility — and leverage a generous production incentive.

Though the young Venetian spent 17 years in China, the first season of "Marco Polo" will tell only the beginning of his coming of age among the Mongols — his three-year journey from Venice to Khanbulik (modern-day Beijing) and his first year in the court.

Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, the Norwegian directors of the Oscar-nominated Thor Heyerdahl adventure "Kon-Tiki," are helming the first two hours of "Marco Polo." (Next, they will direct yet another adventure story, the fifth installment of Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise.)

Marco Polo arrived in the East with his father and uncle at a crucial turning point in history: The 300-year-old Song Dynasty was on the verge of collapse and Kublai was about to become the first non-Chinese emperor of China. But even as the khan was trying to take China, his own people were turning on him in a civil war, upset over what they saw as his increasing softness and excessive Sinification.

Marco Polo eventually recorded his grand recollections of his Oriental sojourn in a jailhouse autobiography, "A Description of the World." His account was so fantastic he was dubbed Il Milone, the teller of a million lies. But legend holds that on his deathbed in 1323, urged to acknowledge his volume as tall tales, he instead declared: "I haven't told half of what I saw."

"I put that up in the writer's room: Our mantra was, 'We are not only telling the half that Marco did write about in his accounts, we are telling the half that he might have seen,'" said Fusco, the show's creator and an executive producer. "It's historical fiction, but the historical signposts along the way keep it rooted in history."

A late casting

Given the series' name, one might assume the show's creative team had found its Marco long before cameras actually started to roll last spring. But Patrick MacManus, co-executive producer of the show, said it actually came down to the wire, with Fusco's wife sifting through recorded auditions last winter and picking out Lorenzo Richelmy's submission for a second look.

"John Fusco called me," said Richelmy, puffing on a cigarette on the set. "He said, 'Can you just go tomorrow to Malaysia?' I was like, 'What? OK, let's go.'"

Despite Richelmy's lack of proficiency in English and martial arts, there was a certain je ne sais quoi about the actor — who resembles a cross between Armie Hammer and Shia LeBoeuf and exudes a certain rapscallion charm — that convinced producers he was right for the part.

"We saw actors from all over the world, great, beautiful actors, but there was a soul that was just a little off," MacManus said. "With Lorenzo, the second we saw him, we saw the soul of his character."

Added Weinstein: "They just rated him on the hot scale, and he flew off the chart. … I have to give credit to John Fusco, and Espen and Joaquim good credit for whipping Lorenzo into shape."

Though Netflix has been keeping plot details under tight wraps, it's clear that the father-son dynamic that develops between Kublai and Marco — and the jealousies their connection arouses —- is a fulcrum in the series.

Marco's father essentially gifts him to the khan, said Wong. "He's a novelty for Kublai — Marco is like this 13th century version of the Internet, the way he can speak and visualize things," said Wong. Gradually, Marco's utility to the khan will go far beyond regaling the emperor with fanciful descriptions of his vast realm.

The khan's interest in Marco engenders a rivalry with Kublai's eldest son, Jingim, played by Remy Hii, who's been told he will one day inherit the kingdom and all that entails. "This is a grand family story," said Hii, noting that just as Marco was abandoned by his father, who set off on another trading mission, "my character Jingim feels the same — an abandonment with his father."

Jingim's mother, Empress Chabi, does not like that this European gets close to the khan, said Chen. "I am a helicopter mom, and I don't want Marco to be any more important than [my son]. But as we go, slowly, I see that Marco loves the khan."

Part of Marco's immersion into the ways of the Mongol realm called for studying martial arts under the tutelage of a blind Daoist monk named Hundred Eyes (Tom Wu) — a fictional character. Marco later falls for a princess, Kokachin, who was a historical figure, played by Chinese actress Zhu Zhu.

The couple's love scenes, Zhu said, are "really sexy" but "poetic." Richelmy's Italian heritage and her Chinese upbringing lend authenticity and chemistry to their pairing, she said — though boozing at a Mexican cantina in Malaysia also helped break the ice. "I remember [Richelmy] was very sweet, giving me lots of tequila shots and at the same time taking care of me," she said.

Sarandos said he expects the writing and the relationship drama to hold an audience for the long term. The creators say they have plans for five or six seasons if the show does well.

"The scope of it is enormous. It travels far and wide and is set a long ago time," Sarandos said. "But what's beautiful about it is, it's really rooted in things that people can really relate to — the human storytelling that's happening on the show."

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment...ry.html#page=1


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TV Notes
On The Air Tonight
SUNDAY Network Primetime Options
(All shows are in HD unless noted; start times are ET)

ABC:
7PM - America's Funniest Home Videos
(R - May. 18)
8PM - Once Upon A Time
(R - May 11)
9PM - Resurrection
(R - May 4)
10PM - Revenge
(R - May 11)

CBS:
7PM - NFL Football: Regional Action (continued from 4:25PM, LIVE)
7:30PM - 60 Minutes (Season Premiere)
8:30PM - Madame Secretary (Series Premiere)
9:30PM - The Good Wife (Season Premiere)
10:30PM - Madame Secretary
(R)

NBC:
7PM - Football Night in America (Season Premiere, 80 min., LIVE)
8:20PM - Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers (LIVE)

FOX:
7PM - Bob's Burgers
(R - Dec. 8)
7:30PM - The Simpsons
(R - Apr. 27)
8PM - The Simpsons
(R - May 11)
8:30PM - Family Guy
(R - Apr. 13)
9PM - Family Guy
(R - Apr. 6)
9:30PM - American Dad (Season Finale)

PBS:
(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Masterpiece Mystery! Miss Marple, Season 7: A Caribbean Mystery (90 min)
9:30PM - Masterpiece Mystery! Miss Marple, Season 7: Greenshaw's Folly (90 min)

UNIVISION:
7PM - Aquí y Ahora
8PM - Va Por Tí (120 min.)
10PM - Sal y Pimienta

TELEMUNDO:
5:30PM - Movie - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
8PM - Yo Soy El Artista (120 min.)
10PM - Suelta La Sopa Extra

HBO:
11PM - Last Week Tonight with John Oliver


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TV Notes
VH1 co-founder John Sykes says network was formed to stop Ted Turner from forming a music channel to compete with MTV
By Marianne Garvey, New York Daily News' 'Confidenti@l' Blog - Sep. 20, 2014

Music honcho John Sykes, president of Entertainment Enterprises at Clear Channel Media, told Confidenti@l all about his colorful music career as he was getting set to oversee the fourth iHeartRadio Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas this weekend.

The VH1 co-founder, 59, says the network was formed to “stop Ted Turner from starting a music channel to compete with MTV,” VH1’s sister station.

“We started VH1 on a $5 million budget, and the studio was literally the size of a closet,” he said. “It was Cinemax to HBO. I really thought VH1 could be for MTV graduates. I knew we had to play more than music videos, and so I created music-themed programming.”

Sykes was the brains behind “Behind the Music,” “VH1 Storytellers” and “Pop-Up Video.”

Before his network days, Sykes worked in music management, where he represented Mariah Carey. He knew the star before her divadom.

“She was living in a studio apartment with her cat and playing songs on her piano,” he said. “She was a 19-year-old girl from Long Island with these great songs. She became this giant pop sensation, but I remember seeing her as a brilliant gospel singer. She had an amazing voice and the ability to write great songs.”

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertain...icle-1.1946347


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Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Sep. 21, 2014

60 MINUTES
CBS, 7:30 p.m. ET
SEASON PREMIERE:
This venerable newsmagazine, the longest-running continuing series in prime time, continues to score often with significant scoops, ending up, more than not, in the end-of-week Top 10. Tonight is the start of Season 47 for 60 Minutes, and one of the ways I put that astounding run into perspective is to remember that during its first season, it did a story on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, a fellow CBS show that, in 1968 when the story ran, was stirring up all kinds of trouble. During the Johnson adminstration. Almost half a century later, 60 Minutes continues to look for trouble, and troublemakers. Tonight, Scott Pelley interviews former defense secretary Leon Panetta, who explains how ISIS became a formidable force in the Middle East region – and why it shouldn’t have.

MASTERPIECE MYSTERY: “MISS MARPLE: A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY”
PBS, 8:00 p.m.
SEASON PREMIERE:
Fans of the PBS Mystery series just lost David Suchet as Hercule Poirot for good – but only a few months later, get to enjoy the return of another famous Agatha Christie sleuth, the prim but observant Miss Marple. Julia McKenzie returns for another small sampling of Miss Marple mysteries, starting with A Caribbean Mystery, in which a planned vacation turns into an unplanned murder investigation – involving the suggested element of voodoo. Check local listings.

MADAME SECRETARY
CBS, 8:30 p.m. ET
SERIES PREMIERE:
I’m very happy to see Téa Leoni back on television, and also glad to see CBS mount a political drama with such an outstanding cast – others in the mix here include Keith Carradine, Tim Daly and Bebe Neuwirth. But the script, at least in this pilot episode, is much less intelligent than its characters are supposed to be, so approach this with low expectations, but hopes for some rapid improvement in the writers’ room. For my full review on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, visit the Fresh Air website.

THE GOOD WIFE
CBS, 9:30 p.m. ET
SEASON PREMIERE:
The final show of last season, after a superb run of episodes, ended with Alan Cumming’s Eli Gold surprising Julianna Margulies’ Alicia, and himself, by asking her to run for State's Attorney. This new season picks up that conversation exactly where it left off, and dives in so confidently, and so entertainingly, that The Good Wife, once again, establishes itself as the broadcast drama to beat when it comes to both acting and writing. For my full review on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, visit the Fresh Air website.

THE STRAIN
FX, 10:00 p.m. ET

In tonight’s episode, the trail to the lair of the Master leads deep, deep underground – and to a hellish image straight out of Dante’s Inferno. I wasn’t sure The Strain could get any creepier, but tonight, as it nears the end of its first season, it sure does.


http://www.tvworthwatching.com/

* * * *

TV Review
Fox's 'Gotham' an "Origin" Series with Originality as Well
By Ed Bark, TVWorthWatching.com

Fox is taking a big, bold swing with Gotham. And it packs a solid first punch with this hardly comic prequel to the Batman playlist.

Premiering in tandem with Sleepy Hollow Monday night, Gotham has a cinematic big-screen look, a vivid, well-cast ensemble of characters and some violence that’s anything but cartoonish.

The centerpiece scene, violence-wise, is the early robbery and murder of pre-teen Bruce Wayne’s parents, Thomas and Martha. Young Bruce (David Mazouz) screams out in horror while future Catwoman Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) by happenstance sees it all from one of her upper perches.

Future commissioner James Gordon (Ben McKenzie from Southland), a newcomer to the force, is soon on the scene with his hardened older partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue).

Gordon quickly consoles the boy, assuring him “There will be light” and promising to “find the man who did this.”

The script at times goes wanting, as when Bullock snarls, “This is not a city or a job for nice guys.” And Gordon snips back, “You’re a cynic. A slovenly, lackadaisical cynic.”

But the writing can be a kick, too, with the amoral Fish Mooney (deliciously played by Jada Pinkett Smith) sizing up Gordon for the first time by telling him, “Well, aren’t you a cool glass of milk.”

Pinkett Smith (left) bites deeply into every scene she’s in. But one of her henchmen, future Penguin Oswald Cobblepot, is played with even more relish by Robin Lord Taylor. Whether laughing maniacally while wielding a baseball bat or cowering when his betrayal is uncovered, Taylor reduces all previous Penguins to rubber duckies. By the way, he hates being called Penguin.

The other “origin” story in play during Episode 1 is future Riddler Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), who for now is on the side of justice. Gotham’s companion detective team is Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen (Victoria Cartagena, Andrew Stewart-Jones), both of whom are at odds with the sneering, easily corrupted Bullock.

Logue, whose duplicitous King Horik met a nasty demise on Season 2 of History Channel’s Vikings, has grown accustomed to playing sneering heavies. He’s also become adept at it, although it can be tough duty navigating a line such as “I haven’t been ashamed since I was 12 and my mom caught me jacking off.”

Not to overly worry, though. This is a rousing beginning, with McKenzie a sturdy presence as a knight in shining armor who’s still no Dudley Do-Right. The action scenes are crisply staged and the look is close to noir-ish, except when flip-top cell phones are used.

Head executive producer/writer Bruno Heller, in a session with TV critics this summer, called it a “mash-up” of looks and feels. “In this Gotham, it’s a kind of timeless world. It’s yesterday, it’s today and it’s tomorrow all at the same time, because that’s the world that dreams live in.”

Well, if he says so. And for now none of this is really a distraction -- just as long as no one gets on Twitter or Facebook.

Fox should be commended for making a Big 4 broadcast network series seem big, special and distinctive. There’s definitely not a lot of that going around these days. Comic book adaptations are hardly novel -- on big screen or small. But Gotham feels like a larger-than-life event. The challenge will be to build on that -- or at the very least hold steady.

http://www.tvworthwatching.com/BlogP...px?postId=8161


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SATURDAY's fast affiliate overnight prime-time ratings -and what they mean- have been posted on Analyst Marc Berman's Media Insights' Blog.


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post #96927 of 96930 Old Today, 10:36 AM
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Q&A
David Suchet: ‘Part of Me Died With Him’
By Hope Davis, The New York Times Sunday Magazine's 'Talk' Section - Sep. 20, 2014

The actor talks to Hope Reeves about embracing Christianity, joining Twitter and saying goodbye to Hercule Poirot.

After 25 years on the air, “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” recently broadcast the final five episodes in the United States on Acorn TV. I read that you filmed the final episode first.
To have him die at the same moment I finished the role would have been a very negative thing for me to go through. So I asked the producers if I could film him dying first. Then I would leave him as I want to remember him, alive and kicking.

Did you mourn for him?
Filming his actual death was the hardest day of the whole 25 years. Part of me died with him.

Do you ever feel eclipsed by Poirot? Are you bothered that people are always asking about him and not about you?
It’s something that I’ve learned to accept. Three-quarters of my obituary will be Poirot, but I hope the last few paragraphs will embrace my other characters.

I read that you grew up without religion but became a Christian in 1986, at age 40.
I’ve always felt there must be something better than what we have here. And that certainly, for me, has never been found in humanistic philosophy. I’m not that impressed with us as human beings, with what we’re doing to the planet and to each other. We’re a pretty cruel animal.

That sounds like Poirot talking.
No, this is me now.

Christie’s daughter said that her mother would have been “absolutely delighted” with your portrayal.
I studied all of the stories and wrote down facts about the character. I see myself as the voice for the character as the writer wrote him. He would take three lumps of sugar in his coffee or five lumps in his tea; he would always wear his wing collar and bow tie; he would always have his mustache waxed; he would always wear striped trousers to go to the bank.

You’ve told people that Poirot has often irritated you. What about him specifically?
His perfectionism. It’s the same thing that irritates me about myself. I’m the most difficult person I have to live with.

Have you ever wondered what Poirot would have thought of you?
Because Poirot is so egotistical, he would be appreciative of the fact that I made every effort to become like him, and in some areas he might acknowledge that I did. But he would have to declare that no one could ever portray him to perfection.

Do you ever think, What would Poirot do in this situation?
No, I don’t. But he has made me a better listener. In one of the books, he says, “I listen to what you say, but I hear what you mean.” One of the most important things that you can give anybody is a good ear, to really listen. Maybe it’s a generational thing, or maybe it’s just a human thing, but most people actually enjoy talking about themselves more than sharing with another person.

Speaking of our generation, you have a Twitter account. I imagine that would have made Poirot cringe.
Well, it made me cringe, originally. I was asked to tweet when I was cast in “All My Sons.” I asked a lot of my friends in the business, and they said, yes, they do it, but they don’t like doing it. I mean, Kevin Spacey does it.

What do you think Poirot would have thought of this new world of oversharing?
He would have been appalled by the modern world, in not having time or space for oneself, in knowing that you are being watched every time you go out or talked about or mentioned on Facebook.

Would you have taken the role if someone had told you, “Sign here for the next 25 years of your life?”
No. I would have feared that I would have been typecast. But even at my age, I have such diversity in choice of roles.

Would you play another detective, or are you done with that?
I’m pretty much done with detectives. In terms of ever playing Poirot again, I’ve played his death, and I must let him go. The only time I would play Poirot again would be in a film version of one of the stories I performed on television. I am Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/ma...ref=television


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post #96928 of 96930 Old Today, 10:45 AM
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WARNING: Spoilers for Season 1 of "Sleepy Hollow" in this article.

Critic's Notes
Sleepy Hollow: 9 Reasons I Can't Wait for Season 2
By Kaitlin Thomas, TVLine.com - Sep. 20, 2014

Before it premiered last fall, I thought Sleepy Hollow was going to crash and burn—and that I would be there to dance around it while laughing maniacally. The premise sounded ludicrous on paper, and I wasn't entirely sure that Fox wasn't playing a prank on all of us. I wondered if the series wasn't created after one too many shots of tequila at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights—and to be honest, I'm still not fully convinced that wasn't how it came to exist. But I also don't really care about what went in to developing this show, because it turned out to my favorite new drama of last season.

Every week, I counted down the hours until the next new episode, and not just because it meant spending an hour with Tom Mison, although that was certainly a plus. Sleepy Hollow successfully meshed together several of my favorite things—supernatural phenomena, suspense, mystery, and plenty of humor—while also keeping me on my toes. John Noble's addition to the mix midway through was just a bonus, one that got even better when his true identity was revealed in the season finale.

Now, after nine long months, the series will finally return for Season 2 on Monday, September 22, at 9:00 p.m., hopefully bringing with it the same fast-paced, exciting, and capable storytelling that made it so worth watching in the first place. To celebrate, here are the nine things I'm most looking forward to in Season 2.

9. Ichabod vs. technology
What does Ichabod think about the iPhone 6? No, seriously, I want to know.

8. Seeing the dead return
I doubt anyone was as excited as I was when Evil John Cho returned from the dead after dying in the pilot, so here's hoping that he'll once again rise from the ashes to grace us with his flabby neck skin.

7. Those awesome opening credits
In a world where most title sequences have been replaced by single title cards or done away with all together, it's nice to have Sleepy Hollow's fun, creepy intro and theme music to get us in the right frame of mind each week.

6. Ichabbie's friendship
The duo's buddy-cup dynamic is the backbone of the show, and it's the little moments—like that time they celebrated trapping the Horseman with an awkward fist bump—that make it one of the best relationships on TV.

5. More cool baddies
Look at these fun guys! I bet they're a real hoot at parties! But if I can be serious for a second, Sleepy Hollow already has such a great villain in the Headless Horseman that I'd be willing to forgive the show if the rest of its monsters were subpar. The fact that it goes above and beyond with each new baddie, taking great care to make them look cool AND creepy, is like a delicious donut hole you didn't know you wanted.

4. Yolanda
Never has a disembodied voice been so important to a television show. Here's hoping Yolanda officially joins the team in Season 2.

3. Action! Adventure! Jokes!
Halfway through Sleepy Hollow's freshman season—yes, only halfway—Abbie and Ichabod captured the Horseman by using fake skulls to lure him into a trap and then immobilize him with artificial sunlight. They eventually interrogated him (via Evil John Cho, a necromancer) and it was AWESOME. If the show continues to pull off ballsy moves like that while keeping its tone light and its stakes high, we're in for another successful season.

2. Shocking surprises
Season 1 ended on a high note when we learned that John Noble's Henry Parrish was actually Ichabod and Katrina's son AND the Horseman of War. I'll just be over here cleaning up the bits of my brain that splattered across the wall when my head exploded.

1. The Horseman of War
The only thing better than John Noble is Evil John Noble.

http://www.tv.com/shows/sleepy-hollo...-141030400345/


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TV Notes
Colin Farrell Is Officially In for Season Two of True Detective
By E. Alex Young, Vulture.com - Sep. 21, 2014

It looks like the rumors were true: Colin Farrell has confirmed that he'll star in the second season of True Detective. In an interview with the Irish newspaper The Sunday World, he said, "I’m so excited...I know it will be eight episodes and take around four or five months to shoot. I know very little about it, but we’re shooting in the environs of Los Angeles which is great. It means I get to stay at home and see the kids."

The paper reports that the plot will center on a "bloody murder of a corrupt city businessman found dead the night before a major transportation deal" with "three police officials from different cities" trying to solve it. As for who else will be joining him? Considering that everyone from Elisabeth Moss to Jessica Biel has been thrown into the rumor mill, it's safe to say that we'll just know when we know.

http://www.vulture.com/2014/09/colin...ure+Inbound%29


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Critic's Notes
Two Ways to Accessorize Power
‘Madam Secretary’ and ‘The Good Wife,’ TV’s Mighty Women
By Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times - Sep. 19, 2014

A minaret at sunrise and the soft lament of a Muslim call to prayer. Nobody needs to wait for a location — Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran — to be tapped out in military-style type.

That image has become as common and convenient a signifier as helicopters flying over rice paddies to the sounds of Buffalo Springfield (“Stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down”) are for the Vietnam War.

If a show opens with a mosque bathed in dim light and mournful Middle Eastern music, then this must be a drama about Washington and the war on terrorism.

That’s how “Madam Secretary” begins on Sunday on CBS, and that familiar landscape (in this case, it’s Damascus at dawn) is an early clue that there is not a lot of creative license in this enjoyable but by-the-book drama about a female secretary of state.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the obvious inspiration, but this is Hillary with a human face: Téa Leoni, who has a husky voice and a loose, engaging manner, is an unusually likable beauty. As Elizabeth McCord, she has all the brains and determination of the original and none of the political ambition and baggage.

It’s a what-if scenario, a wish-fulfillment do-over in which Mrs. Clinton is dragged reluctantly into high office and spends her time there making the world a safer place, not planning her next move in Iowa.

And that’s why a closer model for Mrs. Clinton can be found in a different what-if scenario, namely that of “The Good Wife,” the series about a politician’s wife whose husband is brought down by a sex scandal. She stands by his side for a while, then leaves him and restarts her legal career from scratch.

That CBS drama returns for a sixth season on Sunday, and the premiere is bracing and unexpected. Especially given how long this show has lasted, it’s a credit to the imagination and energy of its married creators, Robert and Michelle King, that “The Good Wife” has remained so watchable.

But another reason for its enduring popularity is that Alicia Florrick, the betrayed wife played by Julianna Margulies, has guile as well as gumption. She is sympathetic but also devious and not beyond using connections, deceiving friends and twisting the truth to get what she wants, including, last season, her own firm.

In other words, Alicia is a closer match to Mrs. Clinton: believably imperfect even when legal plot twists grow convoluted and outré.

In some ways, “Madam Secretary” seeks to be realistic about Washington. The first episode involves hostage taking in Syria and even a failed rescue operation that eerily echoes the one that the Obama administration orderedover the summer to save James Foley and other Americans held by the group that calls itself the Islamic State, even though the pilot was filmed before revelations of the government attempt.

This is a prime-time network show, however, so the outcome is not as horrible as the videotaped beheadings that happened in real life.

The presentation of politics is just as sanitized. In this fantasy, Elizabeth did not seek a cabinet post; it was forced upon her. She is a former C.I.A. analyst who quit for unexplained ethical reasons and is content to teach political science and raise horses with her husband, Henry (Tim Daly), and their two children. Elizabeth reluctantly accepts the job only after the president (Keith Carradine), her former mentor at the C.I.A., insists.

She arrives in Washington, ready to make a difference and immediately gets on the wrong side of the president’s domineering and manipulative chief of staff, Russell Jackson, who so resembles former Vice President Dick Cheney that the actor, Zeljko Ivanek, sports a ghost of the crooked half-smile that Mr. Cheney was famous for.

Russell wants to be in charge. Elizabeth wants to save lives. In one of the show’s better scenes, Russell confronts Elizabeth after she handled a crisis without his approval. He asks her how she did it.

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth replies with a shrug. “By blatantly circumnavigating your authority?”

Television is suddenly full of women in power, and that is as much because of Shonda Rhimes and the success of her Washington melodrama, “Scandal,” as because of Mrs. Clinton. “Homeland,” the Showtime espionage thriller, has also opened doors.

“State of Affairs,” an NBC show coming in November, doubles down by stealing a bit from “Scandal” and a bit from “Homeland.” Alfre Woodard is the president, and Katherine Heigl is her most trusted, though personally troubled, national security adviser.

Oddly, these new dramas showcase bold women in command but are timid about tapping into the kind of cynicism and character assassination that helped “Scandal” and “House of Cards,” on Netflix, become hits.

ABC had enough faith in Ms. Rhimes, after her “Grey’s Anatomy” proved a hit, to back “Scandal” and won big. CBS, which has had so much success with squeaky-clean naval heroes on “NCIS” that it is adding a second spinoff, “NCIS: New Orleans,” on Tuesday, is evidently loath to try material that may be too dark for many viewers.

“The Good Wife” stands out because it strikes the right balance of network-mandated virtue and cable-inspired vice. “Madam Secretary” has some good moments, but it would be better if its heroine were just a little bit worse.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/19/ar...ref=television


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