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post #83521 of 93719
Critic's Notes
It's not TV. It's 40 years of HBO: Looking back at 20 classic HBO shows.
'The Sopranos' and 'The Wire' are gimmes, but don't forget 'Larry Sanders' or the comedy specials
By Alan Sepinwall, HitFix.com

When I targeted Thanksgiving 2012 as the time to release my book, I didn't realize that it would be coming out in the same month as the 40th anniversary of HBO. (The pay cable channel launched on November 8, 1972.) But if the timing was accidental, it also feels perfect, because of course HBO was the place where the whole drama revolution began, and I could have easily written an entire book about what was happening at HBO from "Oz" through, say, "Deadwood."

Chris Albrecht, who ran HBO during this period, told me that pre-"Oz," HBO's ongoing series were "an afterthought" at the channel. HBO made plenty of original programming, but the prestige areas were the movies, miniseries and original specials. The ongoing series — most of them either horror anthologies or comedies — were a more motley bunch, like "1st & Ten," a raunchy comedy about a pro football team whose cast at one point included O.J. Simpson, Shannon Tweed and (in only his second TV job ever, after playing "Team Leader" in an episode of "The Equalizer") a very young Chris Meloni. But there were also gems like "Kids in the Hall" (which HBO imported from the CBC), "Dream On" (whose creative team would later be responsible for "Friends") and, of course, "The Larry Sanders Show," one of the all-time great satires of both Hollywood and workplace politics in general.

But even before HBO got serious about series, it was home to amazing concert specials, to uproarious stand-up comedy, and to movies and miniseries that are among the best examples of the medium to ever premiere on television.

So for a slightly belated celebration of the anniversary, I decided not to limit myself to only dramas, or even dramas and comedies, in picking out 20 of my favorite HBO shows of the last 40 years. The only limitations were the following:

1)One show per creative team, so if "The Wire" was on this list (spoiler: it is), "The Corner," "Generation Kill" and "Tremé" couldn't be. Ditto the various Tom Hanks-produced minis, etc.

2)It has to be something HBO made — or co-made — not something it imported. So no "Kids in the Hall," but "Extras" or "Rome" (which were produced in partnership with the BBC) were eligible.

3)If it's still on the air, it needs at least two seasons to be seriously considered. I loved the first season of "Girls," but we'll see how good it is going forward before we start considering its place in the pantheon. Even something like "Game of Thrones" I wasn't sure about, because I loved the first season and had major structural problems with the second that may not be changeable, given the source material.

With that in mind, in chronological order, here are 20 of the best HBO shows of all time:

"The Concert in Central Park" (1982)

HBO's name stands for Home Box Office, and in the channel's early years, it took the title literally, not just with its extensive movie collection, but its library of other special events — boxing, music, comedy and more — that gave subscribers the illusion of having gone out for a night on the town rather than one on their couch. One of the best, and most important, of those music specials, was this reunion of Simon & Garfunkel, attended by 500,000 people, and so popular on record and TV that it inspired the reluctant ex-partners to go on tour together again.

"Robin Williams: An Evening at the Met" (1986)

It's easy to look on his later movie career, whether the prestige stuff like "Good Will Hunting" or the treacle like "Patch Adams" — and forget what a force of nature Williams in his stand-up prime was. The sheer energy of this performance— which, even with topical jokes about Reagan, Gadhafi, P.W. Botha and other '80s political figures aside, has aged very well — is incredible, and goes a long way towards explaining why Williams' movie career has had so many peaks and valleys, because how do you harness... that in service of a script?

"Comic Relief" (1986-2006)

Given the presence of Robin Williams as one of the three co-hosts (with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg), this is at least stretching my rule about not including multiple shows from the same people, if not outright breaking it. But "Comic Relief" — a series of live telethons that raised money to combat homelessness (and, in later years, victims of other problems like Hurricane Katrina) — was much bigger than its three emcees. It was HBO's social conscience teaming up with its gift for luring high-end talent, putting as many funny and famous people on screen as possible to try to ease the suffering of the less fortunate. In many ways, it's the quintessential pre-"Oz" HBO show.

"George Carlin: What Am I Doing in New Jersey?" (1988)

You could cite any of Carlin's many HBO specials as your favorite, and I wouldn't object. Me, I've always had a fondness for this one, not just because it was filmed in my home state, not just because it was released at a time when I was turning myself into a real student of stand-up comedy, but because it's the moment when Carlin's persona, and career, transformed forever. This is the beginning of Carlin's angry period, and it is glorious to behold, whether he's ranting against political hypocrisy (his attack on the Rev. Donald Wildmon is, unsurprisingly, a delight) or giving us a long list of the people he can do without, including: "guys in their fifties named "Skip." Anyone who pays for vaginal jelly with an Exxon credit card. An airline pilot who has on two different shoes. A proctologist with poor depth perception. A pimp who drives a Toyota Corolla."

"The Larry Sanders Show" (1992-1998)

Often imitated, never duplicated, this acidic comedy about a fictional late night talk show host had the perfect star (Garry Shandling, a virtuoso of neurosis and also a former "Tonight Show" guest host), an incredible lineup of writers (including Judd Apatow, Peter Tolan, Paul Simms and Steve Levitan, among many, many others), a deep bench of both regular characters (Rip Torn's master manipulator Artie, Jeffrey Tambor's aggrieved sidekick Hank Kingsley) and actors willing to lampoon themselves (none better than David Duchovny's psycho-sexual obsession with Larry), and an unsparing commitment to the bleak, cynical realities of the TV business. Hey now!

"And the Band Played On" (1993)

HBO films by and large tended to tackle the big issues, like this look at the rise of the AIDS epidemic through the eyes of Matthew Modine's noble but frustrated CDC researcher. A sprawling project that seems to bring in a new famous actor every five minutes (Hey, it's Richard Gere! Ian McKellen! Phil Collins?) it is, despite the despairing subject matter, compulsively rewatchable (I must have seen it at least a dozen times), which is a testament to the work director Roger Spottiswoode and writer Arnold Schulman did in adapting Randy Shilts' enormous non-fiction book. Where HBO's other big AIDS film (more on that in a bit) shifted back and forth between Heaven and Earth, "And the Band Played On" is a film about science, and the ways that human emotions like greed and arrogance and prejudice can get in the way of the clear, hard facts. An amazing, devastating film.

The "Paradise Lost" trilogy (1996-2011)

You can probably group the three "Paradise Lost" documentaries together as one unit, as filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky spent 15 years looking into what turned out to be a gross miscarriage of justice in which three teenage boys were arrested and convicted of murder on very shaky ground. As the filmmakers kept returning to the story, the West Memphis Three were eventually freed from prison (albeit on Alford pleas that allowed them to assert their innocence without the prosecution having to admit a mistake had been made). HBO has been a great home to the documentary world over the last several decades, and the "Paradise Lost" trilogy is among the channel's signature non-fiction achievements.

"Chris Rock: Bring the Pain" (1996)

Rock had first appeared on HBO nearly a decade earlier, as a 22-year-old young comedian in the Eddie Murphy-produced "Uptown Comedy Express." After that, he knocked around on "SNL" for a bit, was on "In Living Color" for a while, but was in the danger of becoming, as he put it in a later interview, "a has-been" before he even turned 40. So he spent two years preparing for this special by honing his act and going on a national tour before unleashing one of the all-time great comedy sets, highlighted by the routine about the civil war in the black community that got Michael Scott in so much trouble on "The Office." It was an instant classic that reginited Rock's career and led him to get his own terrific late night talk show on HBO.

"Oz" (1997-2003)

The show that turned HBO into HBO as we know it today, Tom Fontana's drama about an experimental prison unit is among the most graphically violent series in television history, but also among the most thoughtful. The cons of Oz didn't just find creative ways to torture or kill each other; they debated race, addiction, sexuality, religion, elder care and whatever topics were on Fontana's mind at the time. "Oz" broke every rule in the book about the necessity for likable characters, about minority representation, storytelling structure, and a lot more, and it made it possible for HBO to try "The Sopranos" and every show that came after. Looking back, "Oz" is a little more conscious of its status as a trailblazer than some of the shows that followed, but overall the writing, direction, and performances by an absurdly deep cast — with Lee Tergesen, J.K. Simmons, Chris Meloni, Eamonn Walker and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as a few of the many standouts — transcend whatever might feel dated as a result of all the shows that followed.

"Sex and the City" (1998-2004)

When the second movie came out, I wrote that the films had started to make me retroactively hate the series that inspired them. And the pun-filled hatefulness of Michael Patrick King's work on "2 Broke Girls" hasn't helped, either. But if we take the sins of later works out of the equation and simply look at the TV series (particularly seasons 2-4), it was a terrific, ground-breaking dramedy, frank in its take on women's issues and relationships that went well beyond what happens in the bedroom. (In fact, the stories of sexual adventure — particularly involving Kim Cattrall's Samantha — have aged most poorly since the show ended.)

"The Sopranos" (1999-2007)

Mob boss. Henpecked son. Therapy patient. Monster. Father. Husband. Adulterer. Charmer. Pig. Protagonist. Villain. Tony Soprano was all of those things and so many more, as one of the most complicated, fascinating characters ever put on screen. Tom Fontana and "Oz" opened the door for more adventurous shows like this; David Chase and "The Sopranos" took an AK-47 to the door and kept firing until it could never be closed again. A blistering, moving, darkly hilarious look at America at the turn of the millennium through a wiseguy's lens. Like a lot of TV critics, in recent years I'd come to think of "The Wire" as easily better than "The Sopranos." Going back to rewatch the show to research my book, I was repeatedly struck by its genius. It had its flaws, but when Chase unleashed James Gandolfini or Edie Falco, good lord.

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" (2000-present)

Larry David was not only the co-creator of "Seinfeld," but the inspiration for George Costanza. With the largely-improvised "Curb" (which began as a hybrid stand-up/sketch special the year before), David got to step out in front of the camera to play himself — or, as some viewers saw it, as a George Costanza with limitless wealth and, therefore, self-confidence to challenge the laws of polite society. And though "Curb" is filtered more through Larry's point of view than "Seinfeld" was through any one character's, the HBO show has introduced its own collection of hysterical supporting players, from Susie Essman's blisteringly profane Susie to Bob Einstein's pained Marty Funkhauser to J.B. Smoove's irrationally confident Leon. The comedy of discomfort at its most painful and funny, and David's deal — HBO leaves him alone until he has another idea that feels worthy of doing a season of the show — suggests we could have years and years of "Curb" to come.

"Six Feet Under" (2001-2005)

As a whole, I don't think "Six Feet" stacks up to its millennial HBO contemporaries. It was a wildly inconsistent show where I'm not even sure I could pluck out an individual season and say, "Okay, this is the year it was great." But in the funeral home-owning Fishers, Alan Ball sketched out a family vivid in both its group dysfunction and in their individual problems — gay son David (Michael C. Hall) trying to escape a life of repression, youngest kid Claire (Lauren Ambrose) struggling to find a direction for her life as she enters adulthood — and crafted a series of incredible moments and episodes along the way. The last sequence alone probably earns it a spot on the list.

"Band of Brothers" (2001)

On any given day, if you ask me to choose among the three epic-length Tom Hanks-produced HBO miniseries — this story of a paratrooper company in World War II, the NASA love letter "From the Earth to the Moon" or the more brutal World War II story "The Pacific" — I could pick any of them and feel secure in that choice. Today, my pick is "Band of Brothers," anchored by Damian Lewis' superlative performance as level-headed company leader Dick Winters and enriched by a deep roster of characters slowly developed over the course of 10 episodes, and by one beautiful, heartbreaking tableau of war after another.

"The Wire" (2002-2008)

Crime reporter David Simon had come to television to work on the critically-acclaimed NBC adaptation of his book "Homicide," and he was an Emmy-winning writer and producer on another adaptation of his work, the outstanding HBO miniseries "The Corner." "The Wire" combined the two subjects, featuring Baltimore cops investigating drug-related murders, but in a way where 2 plus 2 didn't equal 4, but a much greater, more complex number. The Great American Novel for television, it's a crime story, but so much more, as a collection of some of the most vivid characters ever put on screen (cold businessman Stringer Bell, whistling bandit Omar Little, slow-and-steady investigative genius Lester Freamon, junkie with a heart of gold Bubbs, self-destructive, narcissistic hero Jimmy McNulty, and so many more) were used to detail the death of an American city — and, by implication, America itself. "The Wire" is a work of art that would be unbearable if it wasn't so damned entertaining.

"Angels in America" (2003)

The adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning plays about the AIDS epidemic should have lost something in the translation from stage to screen, but Kushner and director Mike Nichols kept the mix of stark reality (Justin Kirk's Prior Walter is diagnosed with AIDS, scaring away his longtime boyfriend Louis) and metaphysical fantasy (Prior is visited by angels and later ascends to a ruined version of Heaven to find out why God has allowed this plague to happen) in a way where the two sides fit together even though film tends to be a more literal medium than the theater. As aging, closeted political fixer Roy Cohn, Al Pacino gives one of the best performances of his career, and he's matched by an incredible cast of actors (many of them playing multiple roles), including Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Jeffrey Wright (reprising his role from the play), Mary-Louise Parker, Patrick Wilson and Ben Shenkman.

"Deadwood" (2004-2006)

The first thing we noticed with "Deadwood" — for a while, the only thing we noticed — was the profanity. Did cowboys and prospectors in the 1870s really swear that damn much, and were they so creative in how they did it? But what was special about "Deadwood" — among many, many other things — was how creator David Milch and his writers used language as a whole, and not just the four-letter variety. Week after week, for the three years were were fortunate enough to get before everything fell apart behind the scenes, "Deadwood" gave us some of the most gorgeous (and/or foul-mouthed) original dialogue in the medium's history. It gave us amazing characters like Ian McShane's surprisingly (even to himself) altruistic crime boss Al Swearengen, Timothy Olyphant's hot-tempered sheriff Seth Bullock, Molly Parker's aristocratic junkie Alma Garrett, Gerald McRaney's crude mining magnate George Hearst, and so many more. It give us violence and poetry, and abject greed and beautiful selflessness. In the second season premiere, Swearengen tells Bullock's young stepson, "Welcome to ****ing Deadwood! It can be combative." It could be a lot more than that.

"When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" (2006)

I wouldn't want to cost the world "Do the Right Thing," yet watching this harrowing look at the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, then adding it to its sequel, "If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don't Rise," plus his 1997 film "4 Little Girls," I can't help but imagine a reality where Spike Lee had always been a documentary filmmaker. The medium plays to so many of his strengths, as evidenced particularly through the way he interweaves footage of the storm and its aftermath with sober, heartbreaking accounts of those who survived it. Even by the lofty standards of HBO documentaries, it's special.

"In Treatment" (2008-2010)

This therapy drama was not for everyone, but that's exactly what made it special — and helped illustrate what HBO can do that few others in the business can, and that almost no one else would even try. Adapting an Israeli series about a psychiatrist (here played by the marvelous, intense, dour Gabriel Byrne), his patients (over three seasons, a collection of great performances by John Mahoney, Irrfan Khan, Mia Wasikowska, Alison Pill and many more), and his own therapists (first Dianne Wiest, then Amy Ryan), "In Treatment" was a show that was literally all talk, and no action. It asked you to watch five episodes a week (down to four in the final season) in which Byrne's Paul Weston simply sat and listened to his patients' many problems, or else in which he was busy exploding about the frustrations of his own life. A masterclass of acting, a wonderfully theatrical concept, and enough heartbreaking revelations to drive even the most stoic viewer into real-life therapy. "In Treatment" was never perfect (though the second season lineup came close), but its messiness felt appropriate to a profession where there are no simple solutions or clean breaks.

"Boardwalk Empire" (2009-present) & "Game of Thrones" (2010-present)

Okay, fine. I cheated on my last entry. Too much to choose from over 40 years, and these two feel like something of a matched set. At times, both "Boardwalk" (a classic gangster epic set in Atlantic City in the early days of Prohibition) and "Game" (an adaptation of George R.R. Martin's fantasy novels about a battle for power in an ancient kingdom) achieve the power and sweep that makes them seem like worthy descendants of the HBO dramas from the turn of the millennium. But both shows also frequently buckle under the weight of too many characters in too many locations, which forces the narrative to zip so quickly from story to story, place to place, that nothing has the impact that it should. (The season 2 "Game of Thrones" episode "Blackwater" cast a light on this problem by avoiding it altogether — spending an hour in one location dealing with a small subset of the cast — and being far more effective as a result.) "Game" is following the books, which introduce even more characters as they go along, and "Boardwalk" is at least somewhat following history, so it's hard to imagine either show tightening its focus going forward. At their best, though, each is a reminder of what can happen when you combine the resources of HBO with a lot of very talented, creative people.

http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/its-not-tv-its-40-years-of-hbo-looking-back-at-20-classic-hbo-shows
post #83522 of 93719
TV Review
Liz & Dick: A Retro-Bad TV Biopic
By Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture.com (New York Magazine) - Nov. 24, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, behold Liz & Dick, the worst reviewed program of 2012.

This made-for-TV movie (Lifetime, Nov. 25, 9 p.m) recounts the romance of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who had an affair on the set of Cleopatra, co-starred in the acclaimed film version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and married and divorced twice. It’s told through a framing device that finds Liz (Lindsay Lohan) and Dick (Grant Bowler) being interviewed while seated against a black backdrop: talk show purgatory. The contrarian in me would love to tell you that Liz & Dick is not that bad – that it has redeeming qualities, or that it’s a parody of mediocre TV biopics.

Alas, no: it’s just bad-bad. Specifically, it’s retro-bad – a compact yet still lumbering TV biopic that, back in the day, might have starred Kate Jackson and Richard Chamberlain and been filmed on whatever Dynasty sets were available that month. I wish it had been shot a touch more cruddily; slipshod visuals would have suited its stumblebum drama better than the lush lighting, the vibrant costumes, and the period-accurate eye makeup, which makes Lindsay Lohan credible as Elizabeth Taylor if you squint and cover your ears. (I love Lohan’s raspy Janet Leigh voice, but it’s too blah and girlish.) You can’t watch Liz & Dick and say that nobody’s trying. The problem is, you can’t tell what were thinking. Lee Holdridge’s score is pitched about right. It has two basic modes: jaunty, quasi-comedic galumphing, and a guitar-and-piano “lover’s theme” that sounds like music for a puppy to die by. It’s faintly absurd, in a good way. I wish that director Lloyd Kramer and screenwriter Christopher Monger (That’s Life) had matched it. Liz & Dick is a crushingly literal tale of A Great Love That Couldn’t Be, starring a couple too arrogant and petty to care about. This film’s Burton and Taylor are human gargoyles on the same emotional wavelength as Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, minus the volcanic madness that made her grotesquely sympathetic when she wasn’t terrorizing her moppet daughter.

In the arguments and tantrums, you glimpse a film sharper than the one you’re watching: an account of how Hollywood greed and hypocrisy turns toxic narcissists into tin-pot royals whose every wish, no matter how ridiculous or destructive, must be indulged, to provide producers with names to put on posters, and the media with a way to sell papers (and incidentally promote the stars’ movies). Liz & Dick is aware of this vicious/ridiculous cycle. There’s a scene early on where Dick complains, “Why is it so hard for us to find out where she’s dining, but the press always knows?” and his handler replies, “Because she bloody tells them, that’s why.” But it’s mostly dim-bulb awareness of the sort that a starlet might trot out on Jimmy Kimmel’s show. David Eigenberg’s Ernest Lehman – the screenwriter who adapted Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – regards Liz and Dick as if they were tortured animals who should be both pitied and feared. Like the film’s composer, he has the right attitude. Too bad the filmmakers don’t match it. The story of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton is a classic with-or-without-you scenario – the kind of hopelessly mercurial love that Albert Brooks explored in his 1981 comedy Modern Romance, which includes the line, “You’ve heard of a no-win situation? Vietnam? Us?” I kept hoping for some creative spark – of camp or tragedy or poker-faced sincerity – to ignite a reaction besides derision. Liz & Dick was put on earth be laughed at, though. At its worst — which in this context means “best” — it’s a stitch.

The film shifts gears from passively bad to actively, delightfully bad when Dick’s wife Sybil (Tanya Franks) confronts him about his infidelity and screeches, “Nooo moooore LIES!!!!!” From then on, it’s hate-watch material. The Office’s Creed Bratton plays 20th Century Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck, who brandishes a salacious news story about the cheaters and snarls, “I have a publicity department specifically so that photos like these do not, not, not get published, capiche?” The film’s highlight is probably the scene in which Taylor’s then-husband Eddie Fisher (Andy Hirsch) surprises his wife at a party with Dick, and Dick demands that she choose between them on the spot. “Here we are, two schoolboys begging for your hand,” he says. “Answer us now. Who do you love: Eddie or me?” How I wish that were a cue for a song!

The thudding expository dialogue — as if the characters are reading aloud from whatever books the screenwriter used as research — plays like placeholder material that was meant to be rewritten but wasn’t. “This was the scandal,” Liz tells the Afterlife Exit Interviewer. “Before us, they never really wrote about affairs between married people.” “We were meant for each other!” Dick yells at his much older brother/father figure Ifor Jenkins (David Hunt). “That’s what she said to Conrad Hilton, Michael Wilding, Mike Todd and Eddie bloody Fisher!” he yells back, incidentally bringing us up to speed on Elizabeth Taylor’s matrimonial history. A drunken Liz, stung by her lover, smashes a bottle against a wall, and her voice-over tells us, “I was so mad at Richard!” Thanks, movie! Whenever the action flags, you can admire the jewelry, makeup and costumes (the fur hats deserve a special fur hat Emmy). Or you can close your eyes, listen to Grant Bowler’s honey-and-whiskey baritone, and imagine you’re watching Jed Harris imitate Richard Burton to amuse Lindsay Lohan at a party.

“You look at me like you loathe me,” Dick tells Liz. “I don’t loathe you,” she clarifies. “I hate you!” It’s a thin line between loathe and hate. I don’t loathe or hate Liz & Dick. It gives me pleasure — not in the way that it’s makers intended, probably, but I’ll take it.

http://www.vulture.com/2012/11/tv-review-liz-and-dick-lindsay-lohan.html
post #83523 of 93719
TV Notes
‘Face the Nation’ talks to David Baldacci, Gillian Flynn, Chris Pavone
By Hal Boedeker, Orlando Sentinel's 'TV Guy' Blog

On the Sunday morning circuit this weekend, “Face the Nation” will be doing something different. The CBS program offers its annual authors program. One panel features writers David Baldacci (“The Forgotten”), Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”), Chris Pavone (“The Expats”) and Alex Stone (“Fooling Houdini”).

A second panel brings together presidential authors Doris Kearns Goodwin (“Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”), Jon Meacham (“Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power”), Evan Thomas (“Ike’s Bluff”) and Bob Woodward (“The Price of Politics”). The program airs at 10:30 a.m. on WKMG-Channel 6.

Also Sunday morning:

CNN’s “State of the Union” features retiring members of Congress: Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.; Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas; Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.; and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. The program starts at 9 a.m. and noon.

NBC’s “Meet the Press” looks at the challenges President Obama faces in a second term. Joining that discussion will be filmmaker Ken Burns, Carly Fiorina, the Rev. Al Sharpton of MSNBC, David Brooks of The New York Times and Andrea Mitchell of NBC. The program starts at 9 a.m. on WESH-Channel 2. Other guests are Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Honeywell CEO David Cote.

“Fox News Sunday” talks to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Matthew Shay, president & CEO of the National Retail Federation; and John Sweeney, executive vice president of Fidelity Investments. The program starts at 10 a.m. on WOFL-Channel 35. The panel will be Bill Kristol, Juan Williams, Liz Cheney and Kirsten Powers of The Daily Beast.

CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” talks about second presidential terms with author Meacham and Robert Caro, author of “The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4.” The program starts at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Another guest is Robert Kaplan, author of “The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate.”

ABC’s “This Week” talks to Ben Affleck; Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. The program starts at 11 a.m. on WFTV-Channel 9. The panel will be Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal, Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post, David Sanger of The New York Times, Joe Klein of Time magazine and ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd.

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment_tv_tvblog/2012/11/face-the-nation-talks-to-david-baldacci-gillian-flynn-chris-pavone.html
post #83524 of 93719
Critic's Notes
Larry Hagman, boyish to the end: An appreciation
By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times - Nov. 24, 2012

Larry Hagman, who as J.R. Ewing was famously shot but survived to finish 14 seasons and 357 episodes of "Dallas" and who rose again to lie and scheme in this year's successful revival, died Friday in Dallas, just down I-30 from Fort Worth, where he was born 81 years ago.

The son of musical-comedy star Mary Martin, Hagman worked on the New York stage through the 1950s, on and off-Broadway, then moved into movie and TV roles. But it was as the star of "I Dream of Jeannie" that he first became widely known, a good-looking, easygoing, dark-haired leading man in the mold of contemporaries like Jim Hutton and James Garner.

A knockoff "Bewitched" in which Hagman played Maj. Anthony Nelson, a bachelor astronaut more or less cohabiting with curvaceous female genie Barbara Eden, who called him "Master," the series, which was risque in a way about to become outdated, ran from 1965 to 1970 -- its end, one might note, concurrent with the rise of the women's movement. But Hagman's easygoing approach made its weird power relationships palatable.

And then there was J.R. I can't swear, without spending some time in a library, that he was television's first antihero. Ralph Kramden might be, viewed from a certain angle, and daytime soap operas, of which Hagman was a veteran and "Dallas" a prime-time variant, were full of characters You Loved to Hate (yet really loved). But J.R. was the godfather, certainly, of Tony Soprano and Walter White, of Nucky Thompson and Al Swearengen -- and their better, one feels.

Although Hagman's two great roles -- the sitcom hero, the melodramatic villain -- would seem remote, both depended on a native boyishness that kept him likable in situations that might otherwise have turned sour. What made J.R. attractive, after all, was not that he was a winner, albeit an unscrupulous one. What made him delightful was his capacity for delight. He treated life as a game.

Mythologically speaking, he was a "trickster," a cousin to Bre'r Rabbit, to Coyote and Loki: the beloved troublemaker the culture requires to keep things in balance. The 2012 "Dallas," whose second season was in production when Hagman died, may have pushed a young generation of Ewings to the fore, but it still depended largely on Hagman's sense of fun, on a wide smile and twinkling eye as vibrant at 80 as ever. Thinking of J.R., we reach for terms not of disapproval, but of affection: rascal, rapscallion. His charm was puckish.

If the actor was technically too old to be even an old hippie, he was a bit of one, anyway. He bathed in the Esalen hot springs with Alan Watts. He lived for many years on the beach in Malibu, where a flag reading "Vita celebratio est" (Life is a celebration) flew at his house, and later in the arty climes of Ojai. He was a member of California's Peace and Freedom Party and an advocate for solar power.

Hagman had a long, bad history with alcohol and nicotine, the drugs of his generation. (He had a liver transplant in 1995, and it was throat cancer that killed him.) He quit both but remained a devotee -- that seems to be the apt word -- of marijuana, to which Jack Nicholson introduced him, thinking it might help cut down on his drinking. (Characteristically, that vice tended toward champagne.) And he wrote and spoke glowingly of his experience with LSD, which, he said, opened him to "the oneness of the universe" and rid him -- I am glad to think today -- of any fear of death.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-larry-hagman-appreciation-20121124,0,415922.story
post #83525 of 93719
TV Sports
Ownership Change Unlikely to Alter YES’s Formula
By Richard Sandomir, The New York Times - Nov. 24, 2012

Fear not, Yankees fans: the YES Network’s Yankees propaganda will continue even if News Corporation increases its ownership stake in the channel from 49 percent, which it agreed to purchase Tuesday, to as much as 80 percent in three years.

The deal cedes to the Yankees continued control of pinstripe content even if the team owns as little as 20 percent.

And why would Fox Sports, the division of News Corporation that owns 19 regional sports networks, want to alter YES’s Yankees propaganda formula? It has served YES so well that it will be valued at $3.8 billion if News Corporation buys majority control. Carrying the Nets did not make YES valuable. It’s about Yankees games; the pre- and postgame shows; the “Yankeeography” series and replays of games; and the “Yankee Classics,” in which the Yankees never lose. (They have lost classic games, but YES does not show them.)

Earlier this year, when YES was celebrating its 10th anniversary, I talked to Randy Levine, the Yankees’ president, and Tracy Dolgin, who runs YES, about the unashamedly pro-Yankees slant of the network’s announcers and the absence of a news operation like the one on SNY. “We tell our people if you want to be bipartisan and fair, don’t work for YES,” Levine said.

As for carrying a nightly news show, like SNY’s “SportsNite,” Dolgin said: “News is a loser. If you want news, watch ESPN.”

Fox will, of course, bring some of its programming to YES. That was one reason to make the deal. It needs a New York outpost, especially as it starts a national sports network that is, for now, called Fox Sports 1. But tinker with the propaganda? Never.

Now, if the Steinbrenner family is willing to sell some of its stake in YES, or all of it, is it willing to sell the team?

Hardly likely. There seems to be no incentive unless Hal Steinbrenner eventually cannot envision the Yankees without Derek Jeter. The Yankees owners will continue to get an annual rights fee from YES, now about $85 million. That will rise at about 4 percent annually for a while, and, eventually, to 5 to 7 percent a year. Through their holding company, Yankee Global Enterprises, the Yankees will get $420 million — half of it now, and half of it in three years — from News Corporation to keep the team on YES through 2042.

Another reason the Steinbrenner family might be averse to selling the team: the tax bill they would be handed upon a sale.

The evolution of YES would have been quite different if another deal had gone through.

In 2000, Dave Checketts, then the president of Madison Square Garden, flew to Florida to meet with George Steinbrenner and two of the New Jersey Nets’ owners, Ray Chambers and Lewis Katz. This was after the Yankees and the Nets ownership groups had merged into YankeeNets.

The subject of the meeting was to create a Yankees-centric network together, Checketts said. James L. Dolan, then the chief executive of Cablevision, which owned the Garden, had given him the go-ahead to try.

“Let’s take a shot at this deal,” Checketts recalled telling Dolan.

Checketts, also in an interview earlier this year, said that the joint venture was intended to keep the Yankees and the MSG Network together. For 13 years, MSG had spent nearly $550 million to carry the Yankees. The Yankees wanted their own network and MSG was looking at the distinct possibility of losing its most dominant programming, a staple from March to September.

Checketts suggested that the Yankees get a 40 percent stake in the proposed network, which would have converted what was then called Fox Sports New York — now MSG Plus — into a channel with the Yankees, the Islanders and the Nets. Cablevision would have run the network, so the pronounced Yankees bias would not have been so apparent. Checketts’s bosses subsequently told him he had made too rich a proposal. And Steinbrenner was seeking 50 percent, said another executive involved in the talks, so a deal could not be reached.

With that deal dead, a rancorous legal battle developed over the Yankees’ intent to leave MSG to start their own network. The Yankees paid a $30 million escape fee and started with Goldman Sachs and Providence Equity as their primary partners. Now, having enjoyed YES’s profits and benefited from previous bank refinancings of the channel, they are all cashing out to some extent.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/24/sports/baseball/change-in-yes-ownership-unlikely-to-alter-yankees-heavy-format.html?ref=media
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TV Review
TLC's ‘Extreme Cougar Wives’
By David Hinckley, New York Daily News

Okay, kids, here is today's lesson from what used to be The Learning Channel.

Cookies may not be the only thing that Grandma’s got baking.

TLC’s “Extreme Cougar Wives,” which debuts Sunday, follows three women who have relationships with men young enough to be their sons or grandsons.

Kevin is 21 and Jude is 53. Octavio is 28 and Stephanie is 65. Hattie is 76, and while she has no steady fella, she says she sleeps with men as young as 18.

As an affirmation of senior empowerment, all this is admirable. It proves life doesn’t end at the age when television networks no longer care if you’re watching.

Also, both couples here profess to be deeply in love and profoundly happy. Good for them.

That’s not, however, the reason TLC created “Extreme Cougar Wives” — which, careful readers will note, involves no actual wives.

No, this show exists because TLC knows most viewers will find the whole idea creepy.

Should any viewers fail to do so, TLC reminds them by highlighting two incredibly, painfully awkward scenes in which the family and friends of the young men hammer that precise point.

Kevin’s mother, who is younger than Jude, goes to pieces while Jude is sitting 6 feet away, looking like she’d rather be boiled in chicken broth.

Octavio brings Stephanie to a beach party to meet his twentysomething friends, who treat her like they’d treat anyone’s grandmother, except she’s sleeping with their pal.

Hattie, who lives in Hell’s Kitchen, is the semi-outlier here, a harmlessly quirky character who stays in shape and likes to talk about sex.

TLC is clearly counting on a combination of fascination and revulsion to sell “Extreme Cougar Wives.” If that fails, maybe someone could bake cookies.

EXTREME COUGAR WIVES
Network / Air Date: Sunday at 10 p.m., TLC
Rating: (out of five)


http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/tv-review-extreme-cougar-wives-article-1.1205175
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Q&A
'Homeland's' Morgan Saylor takes center stage
By Yvonne Villareal, Los Angeles Times

Morgan Saylor is the teen with the most overworked eyebrows in the business.

At a time when everyone is taking notice of Claire Danes' cry face on "Homeland," Saylor has managed to carve her own facial stamp. The 18-year-old plays Sgt. Nick Brody's (Damian Lewis) dour teenage daughter Dana on the Showtime drama. In the show's debut season, she was introduced as a pot-smoking troublemaker mad at the world -- or at least, her mom, played by Morena Baccarin. And she managed to save America from her suicide-bomber father -- all valid reasons for brow stress.

Then Season 2 got underway. And Saylor's role has grown substantially, with a story line that has included a budding romance with the vice president's son and being involved in a deadly hit-and-run. In addition to adding reason to scowl, her boosted presence has left her hard to ignore -- even "SNL" felt compelled to spoof her in its recent "Homeland" sketch.

Show Tracker recently spoke to the senior in high school. Read on to learn what Saylor had to say about being parodied on "SNL," her overworked eyebrows and contributing to the "Homeland" cryfest.

Let's just go right to it: Please tell me you saw the "SNL" skit.
Yesss. That was so weird. It was so weird. I didn’t get to see it when it aired, but my managers had called me that night so excited because they heard it was going to happen. I was out, and a lot of my friends were texting me and telling me and I still hadn’t seen it. I didn’t have access to a computer so I could only watch it on my phone. But, yeah, it was sooo weird! So funny, though.

Were you, like, "Hey, what the heck?" or were you amused?
I thought the Carrie [Claire Danes] stuff was really well done. And the Brody mouth thing cracked me up. But it was so weird to see because it’s like a caricature, you know?

… but what about their take on your character?
It was funny. They did the little nervous hand thing that I guess I do, apparently. A bunch of people at school have been coming up to me and saying, “Dad? … Dad? … Dad?...”

Let’s talk about Sunday’s episode. Dana has more crying scenes than Carrie in this one. Did you feel a lot of pressure to do justice to the quivering chin?
I mean, there is a lot of crying. And, let me tell you, it isn’t over. And, yeah, it’s hard to compare to Claire on the crying scale. But it’s easy to cry on a show like this — it’s not like it’s out of the blue. The stakes are so high. I sort of have been building up to the quivering.

Do you think Carrie is trying to be your new mommy?
Ugh, would be Dana’s response. … uh, I don’t know. I don’t think Dana would really enjoy that!

Dana and Carrie have a lot in common. They see Brody in ways the others don’t.
I think Dana and Carrie have a lot of similarities, especially in their view in Brody. I think the writers have purposely put a lot of parallel aspects in the stories that are unfolding. The pressures are the same for them, but in different ways. But they are also very different. And I don’t think anytime soon they’ll be getting along just because of the way Dana has been introduced to Carrie. But I bet in a different context, Dana would look up to Carrie. She’s a strong woman.

Your part has gotten meatier this season. Was that cause for concern, like, "Uh-oh, what do they plan to do with me?" At least it’s not like on “The Walking Dead” where you have to wonder if they’re building you up to kill you … or is it?
It was a surprise. My character got a little bigger at the end of last season, but this season I have my own plotline. It’s crazy. Each script came out and it was juicier and juicier. And I was excited, but so nervous and scared that I wouldn’t be able to carry it.

And you got a little romance in the process with the VP’s son, Finn. And poor Xander got downgraded.
I actually heard that I’d be getting a romance before [Timothee Chalamet] was cast and I was really, really excited. I remember the day he was cast, we were on set and we Googled him and the crew was excited to find out who my love interest was going to be. But it took a while because we couldn’t find photos of him online! I mean, there were a couple, but we weren’t even sure if it was the right person.

When you learned this romance would eventually entail you guys contributing to the death toll on this show, what went through your mind?
Isn’t it crazy? I had a dream the night that I read that script that I hit a policeman. It was so terrifying. I was literally, like, at the next block and I couldn’t decide if I should get out of the car or what to do. My head is racing just thinking about it. I’m not very good at keeping secrets.

Well, in Sunday’s episode, we learn how Finn’s parents handle the situation. How are things going to play out from here?
The last episode definitely caused a big separation between not only the Waldens and the Brodys, but Finn and Dana. And Dana doesn’t really respect Finn after what’s happened because she’s so shocked that he couldn’t do the right thing. And it’s miserable. He’ll be back, but I don’t know how ready she is to forgive him.

You’ve got the teen angst thing down solid — you always look like you're carrying the world on your shoulders. Is that difficult, to constantly have your eyebrows furrowed?
Ha! Yeah, it’s not too bad. But, yeah, sometimes we’ll be laughing on set or doing something ridiculous and I’m so used to doing what you said — like, right now, I’m picturing my eyebrows furrowing — and it's funny because I do get a slight headache from it all. It was hard sometimes, but most of the time a lot of what the story line has been, and what it’s built up to, is cause for it. And not just with my character. Jessica, Carrie and Brody have had a lot of reason for it — pain, and agony, and grief.

I wish someone would fill Chris [Jackson Pace] in on something. We sometimes lose sight that he’s there — unless there’s like another karate tournament.
Yeah, he’ll step up a little. I know Jackson is eager to do something, but, you know, I think as he gets older, there will be a little more juice able to be soaked up by him.

Damian and Claire seem like very serious people. Tell me you guys are playing Candyland between takes or something.
In between takes, we hang out, we play card games. On set, yeah, Damian is very serious. Off set, we all know how to have a good time. We film in Charlotte and there’s not too much to do. I’ve learned to cook from Morena— she taught me how to chop onions -- and we’ve done some dinner parties.

Being on a Showtime drama would seem like an intense thing. Were you actively looking for something more dramatic as opposed to, like, being the next Disney star?
Kind of. I’m not good at Disney acting. I’m really not. I never was on that audition list, which I don’t mind. I don’t know. I look back and I’m kind of wiping my forehead at the thought of, "What if I had gone that route?" Because I’m an unknown and you kind of just take what you’re given. I got lucky.

Have you had a chance, off-screen, to touch the corkboard in Carrie’s apartment?
To touch the board? Ha! Yeah, oh yeah.

Have you tried to pin anything on it when no one is looking? Sorry, I'm obsessed with it.
No, no, I haven’t. It’s funny because I could, it’s right near the Brody house stage.

Also, how many pairs of those ankle boots do they have on deck for you?
Well, you know, I’m actually wearing a pair right now. There are two pairs. I don’t know why they have become such a staple. They were in the pilot and just kind of stuck. And I have literally taken them home last hiatus and this one, and I’ve re-soled them. I love them. I think they are Steve Madden. And I like that they can fold down or be up.

OK, on to serious matters: What can we expect as the season finishes out?
There are some big changes in the family. We’re kind of pushed to the limit.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-morgan-saylor-homeland-omnipresent-daughter-20121116,0,5718537,full.story
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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 Insight's Blog
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Nielsen Overnights
'Frosty the Snowman' Bests Steady 'Last Man Standing,' 'Malibu Country'
By Michael O'Connell, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Feed' Blog - Nov. 24, 2012

ABC led Friday night against a slew of Holiday specials, topping in adults 18-49 (1.4 rating) and total viewers (5.8 million). The network had steady offerings of Last Man Standing (1.4 adults) and Malibu County (1.4 adults), before a Shark Tank encore and a new episode of 20/20 (1.5 adults).

Thanks in no small part to a strong showing of Frosty the Snowman (2.0 adults rating) at 8 p.m., CBS came in second for the night with a 1.1 adults rating and 4.4 million viewers. Other holiday specials included Frosty Returns (1.6 adults), Hoops & Yoyo Ruin Christmas (1.0 adults) and It's a SpongeBob Christmas (0.9 adults). Person to Person pulled a 0.7 in the demo.

NBC's coverage of the National Dog Show averaged a 1.0 adults rating between 8 and 10 p.m., before a new Dateline pulled the same. The network averaged a 1.0 and 4.8 million viewers.

Ahead of back-to-back Simpsons encores, Fox had Happiness is a Warm Blanket Charlie Brown (0.5 adults) for a 0.7 adults rating and 2 million viewers for the night.

And on the CW, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer and Happy the Elf both averaged a 0.5 rating among adults 18-49, the latter beating out regular time slot holder Nikita.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/tv-ratings-frosty-snowman-bests-393775
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Critic's Notes
My Life as a Television Throwback
By Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The New York Times - Nov. 25, 2012

Los Angeles.- In 2009 my husband and I dropped our cable carrier, feeling we were paying too much. Before we could find a new one, my husband was laid off, and we decided that our money was best spent on food and rent, especially when Netflix was streaming, and most shows were available online. We’d find a carrier when our future wasn’t so unpredictable.

I’m not being dramatic when I say this was devastating. Television has been the one stable thing throughout my life. It drowned out the sounds of my parents’ impending divorce; it muffled roommates’ romantic escapades. But, more important, it was a crucial tool of escape and catharsis, exactly what I needed when our financial future was at risk.

Our options narrowed from a world of entertainment to the whims of the few channels that would deign to come clearly through what are essentially newfangled rabbit ears: a high-definition digital antenna intended to capture the over-the-air signal, which was once how everyone watched TV. Sure, some shows were online, but in the beginning the number of commercials in them seemed prohibitive. We’d just come from a paradise of DVR fast-forwarding. Now we had to sit through the same ad over and over? We also had only one computer; with two writers in the family, it wasn’t available for TV watching.

We quickly learned some lessons. Would “Mad Men” still run if we couldn’t watch it? (Yes.) Would people refrain from spoilers while “Breaking Bad” made its way to streaming? (No, they would not.) What was this “Walking Dead” everyone was talking about? (Still not sure, but apparently it’s a big deal.)

When the weather is right, we get most of the channels. Sometimes. CBS is the only network that shows up consistently and pristinely, and one day I’ll be old enough to enjoy its fare. There is also a channel that doesn’t seem to have a name but broadcasts reruns of “Three’s Company” or “Sanford and Son,” which is not so bad in the beggars/choosers category.

Yet what initially seemed like a torture we’d simply have to endure became a surprising reminder of the simple pleasures of simple TV.

Call it Slow TV. I had never stopped loving TV, but I had stopped appreciating it. Entire seasons of shows had piled up on the DVR, on the theory that they might be interesting someday. TV was everywhere now — on the phone, on the computer. It was on while I wrote, did taxes, folded laundry. It was background noise. When I really had to make choices about what to watch, and then pay attention with no rewind to fall back on, TV became absorbing again, an activity in itself, as it had been when I was younger. And I watched much less, if only for logistical reasons.

As it turns out, I unintentionally had become part of a growing group of Americans giving up wired cable and even televisions. Nielsen recently reported that TV set ownership has dropped to 96.7 percent of American households from 98.9 percent, and it isn’t because we’re reading more. Instead we’re cobbling together new ways of digesting programming. We watch on iPhones, computers, Rokus, other people’s HBO Go accounts, and yes, a digital antenna; one-size-fits-all TV is over.

Still, analog watching isn’t without its inconveniences. Even in the heady days of cable service, the DVR was overwhelmed by the choices on some nights. The answer should have been simple: Watch some shows online when the computer is available. But “Gossip Girl,” for instance, had so many unforwardable commercials on Hulu that it’s clear who the real demographic for those shows are: people who don’t yet believe that they have the right to not be advertised to for 30 minutes of a 60-minute show. When the ads became burdensome, the series had to do some mighty things to stay on the list. Blair’s marrying a prince, then leaving him for Chuck, simply didn’t qualify.

A return to as-it-happens TV is also a reminder of the annoyance of learning that there’s a rerun when you didn’t expect it. The monthlong wait for a new “Revenge,” which was delivering fresh installments in the fall but grew spotty as the season wore on, seemed interminable. There was the sinking realization that, sigh, this wasn’t a new one, or worse, that there was some kind of news or reality special in its place.

And in this online-watching, DVR-heavy, pause-happy culture, the phone always seemed to ring during pivotal scenes.

Worst of all was arranging my schedule around TV. There once was a time when no one would ask you to do anything on a Thursday night. “Seinfeld” was on! Now, with the timetable made so irrelevant by digital recording, it was hard to explain why a book club on Monday nights wouldn’t work. Not while “Smash” was still on the air, no sirree, Bob.

But slowly the advantages of Slow TV began to outweigh these problems. First, while swallowing a season whole is a lot of fun — as with Showtime’s “Homeland,” which I did because I got a press screener — some shows (and maybe even “Homeland”) benefit from a weeklong wait. The anxiety of a cliffhanger could have me reeling for days. It might be that these shows are best watched with breaks between episodes to build suspense. Think back to the six-week arc of Bobby Simone’s slow and awful death on “NYPD Blue” in 1998. That was six weeks of gloom in which you could get so enmeshed in a character’s fate that it began to affect your soul.

And there is nothing to make a person focus like knowing there’s no pause or repeat. Yes, a DVR can reduce an hourlong show to 40 minutes, but mostly it lets the show linger for hours, or days. Pausing to get something to eat or to remind your spouse about a bill isn’t how the writers want you to watch their work; it also isn’t how to get the most out of it. What is so interesting about Slow TV, in the end, is that the screen that we so often accuse of outsourcing our mindfulness became a source of actual mindfulness.

We have two computers at home now, one easily hooked up to the TV monitor. (Note to Netflix: Exactly when is the fifth season of “Mad Men” going to start streaming? Tick tock.) But I am still lost in the sweet haze of intimacy I have found again with television. So maybe we’ll keep ourselves cable free.

Or maybe not. We’re both gainfully employed now, and there are a million reasons to get cable again, along with a DVR. Maybe three years is long enough.

And God, I do miss “Gossip Girl.” I was flipping through the channels the other day, and Dan was kissing Blair. Dan and Blair! Can you imagine?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/arts/television/life-without-cable-tv-not-such-a-tragedy.html?ref=television
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Critic's Notes
'Homeland' makes Mandy Patinkin feel young, and he's ever active
Mandy Patinkin, nearing 60, calls the 'Homeland' cast a 'fountain of youth.' In addition to a bevy of other projects, he's ready to baby-sit for Claire Danes.
By Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times - Nov. 24, 2012

A word of advice: Don't strike up a conversation with Mandy Patinkin if you've got anywhere you need to be.

Unlike Saul Berenson, the tight-lipped CIA Middle East division chief he plays on the Showtime drama "Homeland" (9 p.m. Sundays), Patinkin is a talkative sort, prone to lengthy but wonderfully entertaining digressions about, say, his bathroom reading habits or the career advice he once got from Gene Kelly.

Take, for instance, his response to a question about whether his wife of 32 years, actress Kathryn Grody, minds the thick beard he wears to play Saul Berenson. Rather than offering up a simple yes or no, Patinkin rises up from a chair in his sunny home office on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and reaches for an old black-and-white photograph of himself, twentysomething and bearded, onstage with Grody.

Patinkin then offers up a detailed history of their romance, including their fateful meeting (at an audition for a play called "The Split"); their first date (he brought yellow-button mums); and the time early in their relationship he showed up cleanshaven to a date at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sending his future wife fleeing down Fifth Avenue in shock.

After 15 minutes or so, he finally asks, "What was the question again?"

Oh yeah — the beard. It turns out she likes it, which is a good thing, as "Homeland" is here to stay. In less than two seasons on the air, the series has ascended to the top of the appointment-television list, taking home an Emmy for outstanding drama in its freshman season, becoming the subject of "Saturday Night Live" parodies, and racking up admirers with names like Barack and Bill.

As the stoic Saul Berenson, Patinkin provides a vital counterweight to the high-volume performances of his costars Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. In the morally ambiguous world of prestige cable drama, Saul, who practically radiates with decency and compassion, is that rare thing: a good guy, plain and simple.

Until now, Patinkin was perhaps best known as Inigo Montoya, the vengeance-seeking Spanish swordsman he played in Rob Reiner's cheeky fairy tale "The Princess Bride." Though Saul may not be as dashing (or as quotable) as Inigo, he's quickly becoming as recognizable. "I had to change my jury duty date and everybody in the courtroom's 'Hey Saul! Hi Saul!' when I was down there on Centre Street," he says. "I'm getting an awful lot of it. I couldn't be happier."

For "Homeland" co-creator Alex Gansa, collaborating with Patinkin is the realization of a dream that began nearly 30 years ago when, as a senior in college, a girlfriend dragged him to see the actor in Stephen Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park With George." By the end of the first act, the cynical Gansa was reduced to tears by Patinkin's performance.

"He is a man and an actor of intensely deep feeling," says Gansa, who devised the role of Saul Berenson with Patinkin in mind. "There's a gravitas about him and an empathy and a deepness and a richness of character, both as a man and a performer."

"Intense" is the word that inevitably seems to pop up in conversations about Patinkin, but unlike other performers for whom the word is used as code for "crazy," Patinkin's fervor is infectious rather than off-putting. He is a consummate storyteller who can't seem to help turning a mundane conversation into an impromptu performance.

"Homeland" is Patinkin's most unqualified television success to date. Although he won an Emmy for his role in the '90s medical drama "Chicago Hope," he eventually left the show because it kept him away from his family. He similarly walked away from the CBS procedural "Criminal Minds" because of objections to the show's violent content.

Patinkin has found more reliable satisfaction on the stage, starting with a Tony for his work as Che in the original 1979 Broadway production of "Evita" and through a long and thriving career as a live concert performer.

By his own account, Patinkin's experience on "Homeland" has been enriching personally and professionally. "Most of our company is much younger than me so I'm in a fountain of youth and I'm their age, as long as I don't go pee and look in the mirror," he says and chuckles.

Patinkin has grown particularly close to Danes who, he says, "taught me grace in a way that I just didn't see coming." His "biggest hope" is that he and Grody will be regular baby sitters for the actress, who's currently expecting her first child with husband Hugh Dancy. "I will campaign for that big time."

He may not have to. According to Gansa, the Mandy love is reciprocated not just by Danes, but by the entire cast. "Anybody who steps onto the set and plays a scene with him elevates their game," Gansa says, citing Patinkin's "herculean" preparation.

Before going on set, Patinkin — a self-described "American Disneyland Jew" informed as much by literature and the theater as religion — performs a meditation pulled together from Hebrew prayers, Shakespeare and Sondheim. He also recites the names of everyone he's ever known who's passed away, because "as long as there's one person on earth who remembers you, it isn't over."

Raised in an observant Jewish household in Chicago, Patinkin was encouraged by his mother to pursue the theater as a disgruntled teenager. Initially skeptical, Patinkin was won over when, during rehearsal for a community production of "Carousel," the director summed up the musical's message in beautifully simple terms: "If you love someone, tell them."

"A light bulb went on in my head. I was in the synagogue seven days a week practically, I heard the rabbi give a sermon every Friday and Saturday, but somehow I never heard something like that," Patinkin recalls. "And I went, 'Huh, if this theater stuff talks like this, I'm going to hang out.'"

Patinkin, who turns 60 on Friday, has been hanging out for more than four decades now and has only picked up the pace with age. He just filmed a part in Fisher Stevens' adaptation of "American Pastoral," and is currently in rehearsals for two projects he'll stage between now and May, when he returns to Charlotte, N.C., to film Season 3 of "Homeland": "The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville," a collaboration with performance artist Taylor Mac, and "Intercultural Journeys," a concert where he'll perform Arabic and Hebrew songs backed by a Syrian percussionist and an Israeli violinist.

"If I have an idea, I need it to happen now because I may get lucky and live to 90 or 100," he says. "Or it might be over this evening, and I don't want to miss a day."

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-mandy-patinkin-homeland-20121124,0,1397852.story
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dad1153 View Post

Critic's Notes
My Life as a Television Throwback
By Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The New York Times - Nov. 25, 2012
Los Angeles.- In 2009 my husband and I dropped our cable carrier, feeling we were paying too much. Before we could find a new one, my husband was laid off, and we decided that our money was best spent on food and rent, especially when Netflix was streaming, and most shows were available online. We’d find a carrier when our future wasn’t so unpredictable.
I’m not being dramatic when I say this was devastating. Television has been the one stable thing throughout my life. It drowned out the sounds of my parents’ impending divorce; it muffled roommates’ romantic escapades. But, more important, it was a crucial tool of escape and catharsis, exactly what I needed when our financial future was at risk.
Our options narrowed from a world of entertainment to the whims of the few channels that would deign to come clearly through what are essentially newfangled rabbit ears: a high-definition digital antenna intended to capture the over-the-air signal, which was once how everyone watched TV. Sure, some shows were online, but in the beginning the number of commercials in them seemed prohibitive. We’d just come from a paradise of DVR fast-forwarding. Now we had to sit through the same ad over and over? We also had only one computer; with two writers in the family, it wasn’t available for TV watching.
We quickly learned some lessons. Would “Mad Men” still run if we couldn’t watch it? (Yes.) Would people refrain from spoilers while “Breaking Bad” made its way to streaming? (No, they would not.) What was this “Walking Dead” everyone was talking about? (Still not sure, but apparently it’s a big deal.)
When the weather is right, we get most of the channels. Sometimes. CBS is the only network that shows up consistently and pristinely, and one day I’ll be old enough to enjoy its fare. There is also a channel that doesn’t seem to have a name but broadcasts reruns of “Three’s Company” or “Sanford and Son,” which is not so bad in the beggars/choosers category.
Yet what initially seemed like a torture we’d simply have to endure became a surprising reminder of the simple pleasures of simple TV.
Call it Slow TV. I had never stopped loving TV, but I had stopped appreciating it. Entire seasons of shows had piled up on the DVR, on the theory that they might be interesting someday. TV was everywhere now — on the phone, on the computer. It was on while I wrote, did taxes, folded laundry. It was background noise. When I really had to make choices about what to watch, and then pay attention with no rewind to fall back on, TV became absorbing again, an activity in itself, as it had been when I was younger. And I watched much less, if only for logistical reasons.
As it turns out, I unintentionally had become part of a growing group of Americans giving up wired cable and even televisions. Nielsen recently reported that TV set ownership has dropped to 96.7 percent of American households from 98.9 percent, and it isn’t because we’re reading more. Instead we’re cobbling together new ways of digesting programming. We watch on iPhones, computers, Rokus, other people’s HBO Go accounts, and yes, a digital antenna; one-size-fits-all TV is over.
Still, analog watching isn’t without its inconveniences. Even in the heady days of cable service, the DVR was overwhelmed by the choices on some nights. The answer should have been simple: Watch some shows online when the computer is available. But “Gossip Girl,” for instance, had so many unforwardable commercials on Hulu that it’s clear who the real demographic for those shows are: people who don’t yet believe that they have the right to not be advertised to for 30 minutes of a 60-minute show. When the ads became burdensome, the series had to do some mighty things to stay on the list. Blair’s marrying a prince, then leaving him for Chuck, simply didn’t qualify.
A return to as-it-happens TV is also a reminder of the annoyance of learning that there’s a rerun when you didn’t expect it. The monthlong wait for a new “Revenge,” which was delivering fresh installments in the fall but grew spotty as the season wore on, seemed interminable. There was the sinking realization that, sigh, this wasn’t a new one, or worse, that there was some kind of news or reality special in its place.
And in this online-watching, DVR-heavy, pause-happy culture, the phone always seemed to ring during pivotal scenes.
Worst of all was arranging my schedule around TV. There once was a time when no one would ask you to do anything on a Thursday night. “Seinfeld” was on! Now, with the timetable made so irrelevant by digital recording, it was hard to explain why a book club on Monday nights wouldn’t work. Not while “Smash” was still on the air, no sirree, Bob.
But slowly the advantages of Slow TV began to outweigh these problems. First, while swallowing a season whole is a lot of fun — as with Showtime’s “Homeland,” which I did because I got a press screener — some shows (and maybe even “Homeland”) benefit from a weeklong wait. The anxiety of a cliffhanger could have me reeling for days. It might be that these shows are best watched with breaks between episodes to build suspense. Think back to the six-week arc of Bobby Simone’s slow and awful death on “NYPD Blue” in 1998. That was six weeks of gloom in which you could get so enmeshed in a character’s fate that it began to affect your soul.
And there is nothing to make a person focus like knowing there’s no pause or repeat. Yes, a DVR can reduce an hourlong show to 40 minutes, but mostly it lets the show linger for hours, or days. Pausing to get something to eat or to remind your spouse about a bill isn’t how the writers want you to watch their work; it also isn’t how to get the most out of it. What is so interesting about Slow TV, in the end, is that the screen that we so often accuse of outsourcing our mindfulness became a source of actual mindfulness.
We have two computers at home now, one easily hooked up to the TV monitor. (Note to Netflix: Exactly when is the fifth season of “Mad Men” going to start streaming? Tick tock.) But I am still lost in the sweet haze of intimacy I have found again with television. So maybe we’ll keep ourselves cable free.
Or maybe not. We’re both gainfully employed now, and there are a million reasons to get cable again, along with a DVR. Maybe three years is long enough.
And God, I do miss “Gossip Girl.” I was flipping through the channels the other day, and Dan was kissing Blair. Dan and Blair! Can you imagine?
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/arts/television/life-without-cable-tv-not-such-a-tragedy.html?ref=television

I'll be coming up on my seventh year without Cable this January. I don't see myself returning anytime soon. The quality of what's being shown continues to head south. Several channels that were once devoted to one niche now show nothing but "Reality" shows, and the commercials are worse than ever. I have better things to do than watch these kinds of programming, and I have better things to do than watch 20+ minutes of offensive commercials each hour. Since switching over to DVDs, I have amassed a library so huge that at the rate of four hours a night, it will take me over 20 years to watch them all! From 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM I get away from the real world and relax with my favorite shows, and nobody butts in to hawk something I don't desire to purchase. If the phone rings, I glance at the Caller ID, Telemarketing Calls are ignored. Otherwise, I pause the program and talk to whoever is calling me. Yes, from time to time I watch "Reruns", occaisionally a friend will come over and I get asked if I have a certain TV Show or Movie, and I'll get it off the shelf and play it for old time's sake. Right now we are in the Holiday Season, and I have my Holiday-Themed TV Shows, Movies and Specials lined up between now and December 25. When I was a child, I dreamed what it would be like to run a TV Network. Guess what? I Got My Wish! Fed up with what was being shown on all the other networks, I CREATED MY OWN NETWORK!
post #83533 of 93719
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDon View Post

Uhm.. wrong RedZone, fellas. The NFL RedZone in the article is not the one on DirecTV. D* produces their own RedZone with Andrew Siciliano.. which is where the NFL got the idea, I'm guessing. AFAIK, NFL's RedZone isn't on DirecTV.

From the author of the article:

I am only now seeing what the article looked like in print and was unaware that a box with the DirecTV channel was there with the articled. That was not my fault. It was an editing error.

Best,

Joe Flint
Staff Reporter
Los Angeles Times
post #83534 of 93719
ESPN is 1 game away from having the most watched game in their history with the ratings goldmine of an Alabama/Notre Dame BCS Championship game.
ESPN yay for cable tv !!
post #83535 of 93719
Quote:
Originally Posted by borntocoast View Post

The quality of what's being shown continues to head south. Several channels that were once devoted to one niche now show nothing but "Reality" shows, and the commercials are worse than ever.
On some channels sure, they've lost their way to the maw of 'reality' TV, but on others this is the golden age of TV.

It's all in what you like but it is a gross overgeneralization to say that the quality is going south. And DVDs or reruns only? Please. I'm not sure why you bother to post in this thread, because little of it is relevant - this is Hot off the Press and you're living in the past.
post #83536 of 93719
Quote:
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

On some channels sure, they've lost their way to the maw of 'reality' TV, but on others this is the golden age of TV.
It's all in what you like but it is a gross overgeneralization to say that the quality is going south. And DVDs or reruns only? Please. I'm not sure why you bother to post in this thread, because little of it is relevant - this is Hot off the Press and you're living in the past.
I think he's trying to convince himself of something , while thinking he's convincing us that he's beter off . smile.gif
To me the post comes off as rambling self justification on a his desired intent to not spend money .
DVD's & Blu-Rays are fine but I myself can't keep up with my DVR recordings on "Current" non-reality content that comes down from my DirecTV signal , most of those are from the "Cable " companies that the poster says he escaped from .
L O L that post is about as funny as the guy who gets his cable sports from a sports bar nursing a lone beer all night biggrin.gif

eek.gif OMG it's the SAME GUY ! eek.gif
post #83537 of 93719
Hey! I'm not saying I've achieved perfection, but I found a system, AND IT WORKS! biggrin.gif
post #83538 of 93719
No more Dirty Jobs? I'm sad. frown.gif
post #83539 of 93719
Quote:
Originally Posted by borntocoast View Post

Hey! I'm not saying I've achieved perfection, but I found a system, AND IT WORKS! biggrin.gif

For you, it works. For many of us though, we like our cable/sat. That's my system biggrin.gif.
post #83540 of 93719
Quote:
Originally Posted by borntocoast View Post

Hey! I'm not saying I've achieved perfection, but I found a system, AND IT WORKS! biggrin.gif

 

Wrong thread, though. Your comments really belong in that other, "broken record" one that's down a little further.

post #83541 of 93719
Whats a dvd ?
post #83542 of 93719
Quote:
Originally Posted by dcowboy7 View Post

Whats a dvd ?

a dadgummed varmint dropping... eek.gifbiggrin.gif
post #83543 of 93719
Quote:
Originally Posted by dcowboy7 View Post

ESPN is 1 game away from having the most watched game in their history with the ratings goldmine of an Alabama/Notre Dame BCS Championship game.
ESPN yay for cable tv !!

ESPN making the BCS title game cable only is costing it ratings. It is not logical to think you can cut off a portion of your viewers and have the ratings go up. Last years game had the worst ratings in the history of the BC$.

Look at the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. They are on the broadcast networks and the ratings blow away the BCS games on cable.
Edited by Jedi Master - 11/26/12 at 2:51am
post #83544 of 93719
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fastslappy View Post

I think he's trying to convince himself of something , while thinking he's convincing us that he's beter off . smile.gif
To me the post comes off as rambling self justification on a his desired intent to not spend money .
DVD's & Blu-Rays are fine but I myself can't keep up with my DVR recordings on "Current" non-reality content that comes down from my DirecTV signal , most of those are from the "Cable " companies that the poster says he escaped from .
L O L that post is about as funny as the guy who gets his cable sports from a sports bar nursing a lone beer all night biggrin.gif
eek.gif OMG it's the SAME GUY ! eek.gif

These are cable's top rated shows. Its far from a golden age of TV. I am better off by not paying $100 month for this poor lineup.

Rank Shows Net Day Time Viewers Live+SD (000)
1 NFL REGULAR SEASON L ESPN Mon 08:30P-11:33P 10721
2 Walking Dead AMC Sun 09:00P-10:01P 9270
3 NBA Basketball TNT Tue 08:04P-10:48P 5371
4 NFL REGULAR SEASON GAME NFLN Thu 08:31P-11:23P 4795
5 Sons Of Anarchy FX Tue 10:00P-11:05P 4585
6 THE OREILLY FACTOR FOXN Wed 08:00P-09:00P 4469
7 Gold Rush DISC Fri 09:00P-10:01P 4406
8 WWE Entertainment USA Mon 08:00P-09:00P 4306
9 NBA Basketball TNT Tue 10:48P-01:25A 4298
10 WWE Entertainment USA Mon 09:00P-10:00P 4217
11 SpongeBob NICK Sat 10:30A-11:00A 4207
12 SpongeBob NICK Sat 10:00A-10:30A 4084
13 THE OREILLY FACTOR FOXN Tue 08:00P-09:00P 4054
14 THE OREILLY FACTOR FOXN Thu 08:00P-09:00P 4042
15 Hannity FOXN Wed 09:00P-10:00P 3981
16 THE OREILLY FACTOR FOXN Fri 08:00P-09:00P 3977
17 NASCAR SPRINT CUP L ESPN Sun 03:00P-07:10P 3943
18 The Fox Report W/S.SMITH FOXN Mon 08:00P-09:00P 3940
19 The Fox Report W/S.SMITH FOXN Mon 07:00P-08:00P 3876
20 WWE Entertainment USA Mon 10:00P-11:09P 3783
21 SpongeBob NICK Sat 09:30A-10:00A 3767
22 TEENAGE MUTAN NINJA TRT12 NICK Sat 11:00A-11:30A 3691
23 Hannity FOXN Thu 09:00P-10:00P 3684
24 Hannity FOXN Mon 09:00P-10:00P 3581
25 iCarly NICK Sat 08:00P-08:30P 3527
post #83545 of 93719
Walking Dead is an awesome show. I love sports, which I need cable for since I want to see my local teams and other offerings which they don't show OTA. I really don't watch anything else on that list, but I do watch a lot of Science, Nat Geo, History, Ovation, BBC America, CNBC and a smattering of guilty pleasure programming. So if not having cable works great for you, fantastic. For me and my needs, I love my cable.
post #83546 of 93719
Top rated shows have nothing to do with quality shows, because most of the quality is on cable.
post #83547 of 93719
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nayan View Post

Walking Dead is an awesome show. I love sports, which I need cable for since I want to see my local teams and other offerings which they don't show OTA. I really don't watch anything else on that list, but I do watch a lot of Science, Nat Geo, History, Ovation, BBC America, CNBC and a smattering of guilty pleasure programming. So if not having cable works great for you, fantastic. For me and my needs, I love my cable.
borntocoast and the Jedi will need to split a pitcher of beer somewhere to watch a BCS bowl game when ESPN takes over. The rest of us crank up the HDTV and AVR, and yes, pay the freight to enable that and all the great cable shows that come with it.

This argument is like a time warp - it's getting old to have the same people come back over and over again to tell us how much paying for TV sucks. We get it, move on to your own thread below.
post #83548 of 93719
There are a smattering of decent shows on cable, unfortunately the bad far outweighs the good. Most of them (The Good Shows) will make it to DVD/Blu-Ray eventually, and I can wait. Besides, as Jedi knight Mentioned earlier, I have better things to do than pay $100+ a month to watch these shows INFESTED with 20 or more minutes of commercials per hour. mad.gif
post #83549 of 93719
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedi Master View Post

These are cable's top rated shows. Its far from a golden age of TV. I am better off by not paying $100 month for this poor lineup.
Rank Shows Net Day Time Viewers Live+SD (000)
1 NFL REGULAR SEASON L ESPN Mon 08:30P-11:33P 10721
2 Walking Dead AMC Sun 09:00P-10:01P 9270
3 NBA Basketball TNT Tue 08:04P-10:48P 5371
4 NFL REGULAR SEASON GAME NFLN Thu 08:31P-11:23P 4795
5 Sons Of Anarchy FX Tue 10:00P-11:05P 4585
6 THE OREILLY FACTOR FOXN Wed 08:00P-09:00P 4469
7 Gold Rush DISC Fri 09:00P-10:01P 4406
8 WWE Entertainment USA Mon 08:00P-09:00P 4306
9 NBA Basketball TNT Tue 10:48P-01:25A 4298
10 WWE Entertainment USA Mon 09:00P-10:00P 4217
11 SpongeBob NICK Sat 10:30A-11:00A 4207
12 SpongeBob NICK Sat 10:00A-10:30A 4084
13 THE OREILLY FACTOR FOXN Tue 08:00P-09:00P 4054
14 THE OREILLY FACTOR FOXN Thu 08:00P-09:00P 4042
15 Hannity FOXN Wed 09:00P-10:00P 3981
16 THE OREILLY FACTOR FOXN Fri 08:00P-09:00P 3977
17 NASCAR SPRINT CUP L ESPN Sun 03:00P-07:10P 3943
18 The Fox Report W/S.SMITH FOXN Mon 08:00P-09:00P 3940
19 The Fox Report W/S.SMITH FOXN Mon 07:00P-08:00P 3876
20 WWE Entertainment USA Mon 10:00P-11:09P 3783
21 SpongeBob NICK Sat 09:30A-10:00A 3767
22 TEENAGE MUTAN NINJA TRT12 NICK Sat 11:00A-11:30A 3691
23 Hannity FOXN Thu 09:00P-10:00P 3684
24 Hannity FOXN Mon 09:00P-10:00P 3581
25 iCarly NICK Sat 08:00P-08:30P 3527

While we all have different tastes, for me The Walking Dead and Sons Of Anarchy are far better than most shows from the "Golden Age Of TV" that I've already watched years ago (I'm 56). I tried watching Barney Miller on Crackle a few months ago and I found it boring and it wasn't anywhere near as funny as I remembered it. IMO, any show that worth watching multiple times is worth having on DVD/BD so you can get better pq and aq anyway. If I went back to ota, I would rent/buy more discs and subscribe to another streaming service or two. I certainly wouldn't be totally dependant on the few shows that are worth watching from the ota networks.
post #83550 of 93719
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedi Master View Post

ESPN making the BCS title game cable only is costing it ratings. It is not logical to think you can cut off a portion of your viewers and have the ratings go up. Last years game had the worst ratings in the history of the BC$.
Look at the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. They are on the broadcast networks and the ratings blow away the BCS games on cable.

They knows the bcs game rating wont be as good as if it was on abc but thats not their objective.
Thats like saying the NFL shouldve sold their 13 thursday games to TNT or FX & wouldve gotten more $$ & higher ratings but the NFL didnt cause they have other long run goals in mind like helping NFLN.

- last years bcs champ game was low cause it was a boring game with a matchup peeps didnt want to see....again.
- so as i mentioned an alabama/notre dame would blow away last years game.
- in 2 years an NFL wildcard playoff game will most likely be on cable on ESPN per the new tv contract.
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