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Hot Off The Press: The Latest TV News and Information - Page 2856

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THURSDAY'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 (18-49)
Night of season lows on broadcast
TV usage among 18-49s falls as top shows slide
By Toni Fitzgerald, Media Life Magazine - Mar. 15, 2013

A number of broadcast shows fell to season lows last night, including “American Idol,” which also hit a series low, as daylight saving time continued to take its toll on television.

“Idol” averaged a 3.0 adults 18-49 rating at 8 p.m., according to Nielsen overnights, the lowest-rated regularly scheduled edition of the program ever.

“Idol” was off 6 percent from last week and finished as the night’s No. 3 show behind CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men.”

Those programs also fell to season lows, with “Bang” drawing a 4.5 at 8 p.m., still easily the top program on broadcast, and “Men” dipping to a 3.3.

Both were down double-digit percentages from last week, though part of that was attributable to preemptions in 3 percent of the country for ACC and SEC men’s basketball tournament coverage.

ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” the network’s only original on the night, also dipped to a season-low 2.6.

TV usage among 18-49s was off 9 percent from last week at 8 p.m. and down 6 percent at 9 p.m. With the daylight saving time change over the weekend, many people stay out later and don’t start watching television until later in the night.

There were a couple of shows that bucked the downward ratings trend. NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” grew 14 percent from its most recent outing two weeks ago, the network’s “1600 Penn” was up 11 percent to a still-anemic 1.0, and CBS’s “Person of Interest” increased 4 percent from last week.

CBS was first for the night among 18-49s with a 3.1 average overnight rating and a 9 share. Fox was second at 2.5/7, ABC third at 1.7/5, Univision fourth at 1.5/4, NBC fifth at 1.2/4, CW sixth at 0.8/3 and Telemundo seventh at 0.5/1.

As a reminder, all ratings are based on live-plus-same-day DVR playback, which includes shows replayed before 3 a.m. the night before. Seven-day DVR data won’t be available for several weeks. Forty-seven percent of Nielsen households have DVRs.

At 8 p.m. CBS led with a 3.9 for “Bang” (4.5) and “Men” (3.3), followed by Fox with a 3.0 for “Idol.” ABC and NBC tied for third at 1.3, ABC for a repeat of “Shark Tank” and NBC for “Community” (1.0) and “Parks and Recreation” (1.6). Univision was fifth with a 1.2 for “Porque el Amor Manda,” CW sixth with a 1.1 for “The Vampire Diaries” and Telemundo seventh with a 0.4 for “Pasion Prohibida.”

CBS was first again at 9 p.m. with a 2.9 for “Person,” while ABC moved to second with a 2.6 for “Grey’s.” Fox was third with a 2.0 for “Glee,” Univision fourth with a 1.6 for “Amores Verdaderos,” NBC fifth with a 1.4 for “The Office” (1.9) and “1600 Penn” (1.0), Telemundo sixth with a 0.7 for “La Patrona” and CW seventh with a 0.5 for “Beauty and the Beast.”

At 10 p.m. CBS was first with a 2.4 for “Elementary,” with Univision second with a 1.5 for “Amor Bravio.” ABC was third with a 1.2 for a repeat of “Scandal,” NBC fourth with a 0.9 for a “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” rerun and Telemundo fifth with a 0.4 for “El Rostro de la Venganza.”

CBS also finished first for the night among households with an 8.3 average overnight rating and a 14 share. Fox was second at 5.2/8, ABC third at 3.8/6, NBC fourth at 2.1/3, Univision fifth at 1.8/3, CW sixth at 1.2/2 and Telemundo seventh at 0.7/1.


* * * *

TV Notes
Best tube bets this weekend
The top draws on broadcast and cable and in sports
By Louisa Ada Seltzer, Media Life Magazine - Mar. 15, 2013


Best bet on broadcast
: CBS, “Late Show with David Letterman,” 11:35 p.m.
Seth Meyers and Demetri Martin both guest, and the Dropkick Murphys perform.

Best bet on cable: Showtime, “The World According to Dick Cheney,” 9 p.m. A profile of the former vice president.

Top sporting event: WGN, “NBA Basketball,” 10:30 p.m. Two likely playoff teams, the Bulls and the Warriors, face off in Oakland.


Best bet on broadcast
: Univision, “Sabado Gigante,” 9 p.m.
The long-running variety show should perform decently with the rest of broadcast airing mainly reruns.

Best bet on cable: Hallmark Channel, “Tom Dick & Harriet,” 9 p.m. A fired ad executive uses a con-man to continue to generate his ad campaigns. It goes smoothly until their personal lives complicate things.

Top sporting event: ESPN, “College Basketball,” 8:30 p.m. The Big East tournament championship game, won last year by Louisville.


Best bet on broadcast
: ABC, “Once Upon a Time,” 8 p.m.
Emma, David and Mr. Gold try to stop Regina from killing Mary Margaret.

Best bet on cable: E!, “Playing With Fire,” 10 p.m. Series premiere. New reality series following a group of people in the culinary world in New York.

Top sporting event: CBS, “NCAA Basketball Championship Selection Show,” 6 p.m. Millions of office pools across the country get underway as the 68-team field is revealed.

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TV Notes
'Bates Motel' opens for business on A&E
The series, about a younger Norman Bates of Hitchcock's 'Psycho,' stars Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga. Its producers are aware of the risks.
By Yvonne Villareal, Los Angeles Times - Mar. 14, 2013

The big screen's most formidable mama's boy is coming to TV.

Norman Bates, the deranged character of "Psycho" fame, is proving movie stars aren't the only ones hunkering down to the small screen — some of cinema's fictional personas are also making the move. "Bates Motel" is a sort-of prequel to Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 standard set to roll out Monday at 10 p.m. on A&E.

The new series, from Carlton Cuse ("Lost") and Kerry Ehrin ("Friday Night Lights"), tracks the notorious psychopath during his adolescent years in the present day. (Cue the violin screeches.) The contemporary rebooting of the genre-defining film accompanies renewed attention over the Master of Suspense as evidenced by HBO's "The Girl," and last year's big-screen feature "Hitchcock."

The TV series lands at a pivotal time for the network, which normally has been associated with very successful middlebrow reality programming like "Storage Wars" and "Duck Dynasty." The latter reality series drew a whopping 8.6 million viewers for its third season premiere last month.

The question is whether "Bates Motel" — in a time of cable ratings powerhouses like AMC's "The Walking Dead" and even History's recent "Vikings" — can hold its own.

"This is a show we hope lots of people will be jealous that they don't have on their cable channels," Cuse said. "It's better to be one of the first shows of a network. You're much better off being 'Mad Men' on AMC than a new show that's trying to come out in the wake of 'Mad Men,' 'Breaking Bad' and 'The Walking Dead.'"

The dark drama, which was filmed in Vancouver, introduces viewers to the future murderer as a shy teen, played by Freddie Highmore ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"), and explores the back story of his twisted relationship with his enigmatic mother Norma, played by Vera Farmiga ("Up in the Air"). The pair move to a new town for a fresh start after the death of Norman's father and launch a new business: the Bates Motel. And things, naturally, get a bit eerie from there.

"I feel incredibly lucky to take on such an iconic character," said Highmore, 21, who plays the role made infamous by Anthony Perkins. "We know where Norman Bates is going to arrive and it's interesting to see how he arrives there."

The iconic film has weathered its share of sequels and remakes, even a failed '80s TV movie spinoff called "Bates Motel." The cast and creators of the new series are well aware of the challenges ahead.

"It's very much a high degree difficulty dive," Cuse said of adapting a classic. "There are a million ways you can belly flop."

"Look, it's a great hook," added Farmiga. "For me, yeah, I kind of groan at remakes and the like. But, hey, theater is the gathering of shoplifters. Hitchcock has stolen from Shakespeare. Shakespeare borrowed from Plutarch. Stories are recycled constantly. That's not to say initially when I heard the title, I didn't roll my eyes. But with the first flip of the script, I was just lost in it."

But can Cuse and Ehrin curb eye rolling from others, particularly die-hard "Psycho" enthusiasts? First things first, they say: "Bates Motel" is not meant to be a homage to the classic.

"We didn't want to be beholden to the mythology," Cuse said. "If we made it a period drama, we'd instantly feel all sorts of obligations. Look at what Quentin Tarantino did with 'Inglourious Basterds' — he killed Hitler in a movie theater. He was liberated from the mythology. And what Chris Nolan did with the Batman franchise. He made three wholly original stories within the context of that franchise. That's what we wanted to do here."

Originally, the project was conceived as a period prequel in a miniseries format. But when it was presented to A&E, the network wasn't keen on the idea of a miniseries or a period yarn. But once Cuse and Ehrin came onboard and envisioned it as a modern-day prequel, the network bypassed the traditional pilot process and ordered straight to series with 10 episodes.

"We wanted to strive to get the absolute best cast," said Bob DeBitetto, president and general manager of the network. "And we felt going to the community and saying, look, 'We're not casting a pilot, we're casting a go-series for Carlton Cuse on A&E, are you interested?' would be a big help."

"Bates Motel" is one of two prequels following the formative years of famous fictional serial killers — NBC's upcoming Bryan Fuller drama, "Hannibal," centers on a young Hannibal Lecter of "The Silence of the Lambs." Both series arrive amid new concerns about the level of violence on television in the wake of recent shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.

While intense and provocative, Cuse and Ehrin promise the show isn't a violent-to-be-violent, murder-of-the-week type of show.

"At its heart, it's about a mother and son's relationship," said Ehrin, who brings her familial know-how accrued on family-heavy dramas "Friday Night Lights" and "Parenthood." "The show offered this opportunity to tell this story of a mother and her son and their incredibly complex relationship that we know is going to go someplace that's tragic, but we don't know how it gets there."

And while that relationship borders on incestuous at times, Farmiga insists the show won't be looking to push boundaries to that end.

"All I can tell you is, that so far on this show, Norma has not kissed Norman any different than I kiss my own babies, I can promise you that," she said.

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Nielsen Notes (Cable)
Cable News Ratings: Fox News Tops Pope Coverage
By Andrea Morabito, Broadcasting and Cable - Mar. 14, 2013

Fox News was the most-watched cable news network for Wednesday's coverage of the announcement of a new pope, according to Nielsen data.

FNC averaged 2.22 million total viewers from 2-4 p.m. ET ahead of second place CNN which drew 1.5 million viewers. HLN, which split coverage of the papal announcement with that of the Jodi Arias trial, ranked third with 913,000 total viewers with MSNBC coming in fourth with 596,000 viewers.

In the key adults 25-54 demo, the rankings were the same from 2-4 p.m., with Fox News drawing 443,000 viewers , CNN averaging 419,000, HLN posting 316,000 viewers and MSNBC's 142,000 viewers. From 3-4 p.m. when Pope Francis I was introduced to the crowd in Vatican City, CNN moved ahead of Fox News with 513,000 adults 25-54 compared to 495,000 viewers.

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"Bates Motel" is not meant to be a homage to the classic.

"We didn't want to be beholden to the mythology," Cuse said. "If we made it a period drama, we'd instantly feel all sorts of obligations. Look at what Quentin Tarantino did with 'Inglourious Basterds' — he killed Hitler in a movie theater.

Ok, I get your point, but make it better. The death of Hitler is not mythology. Tarantino didn't want to be beholden to the truth, so he created a fiction. That's OK, but it is not like changing a myth. It is changing the truth.
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Originally Posted by dad1153 View Post

TV Notes
'Bates Motel' opens for business on A&E
The series, about a younger Norman Bates of Hitchcock's 'Psycho,' stars Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga. Its producers are aware of the risks.
By Yvonne Villareal, Los Angeles Times - Mar. 14, 2013

"This is a show we hope lots of people will be jealous that they don't have on their cable channels," Cuse said. "It's better to be one of the first shows of a network. You're much better off being 'Mad Men' on AMC than a new show that's trying to come out in the wake of 'Mad Men,' 'Breaking Bad' and 'The Walking Dead.'"
That's a silly statement, since all those shows came out in the wake of each other - on the same network - several years apart. Also, seeing as they're all successful, it stands to reason a network can bring out shows in the wake of other shows and have people embrace them all - despite being completely different genres.

Plus, being first doesn't always yield success. Being appealing to people does.
The dark drama, which was filmed in Vancouver, introduces viewers to the future murderer as a shy teen, played by Freddie Highmore ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"), and explores the back story of his twisted relationship with his enigmatic mother Norma, played by Vera Farmiga ("Up in the Air"). The pair move to a new town for a fresh start after the death of Norman's father and launch a new business: the Bates Motel. And things, naturally, get a bit eerie from there.
I'm not sure why they felt it was so necessary to film this in Vancouver. I mean, surely there must be a place that could stand in for the Bates house and motel somewhere already that's set up perfectly for TV shooting....I don't know...maybe right on...say... the Universal backlot...
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My understanding is that, in general, Canadian production costs are substantially less than LA's. Productions have also been known to migrate from one location to another as circumstances change.
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Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post

My understanding is that, in general, Canadian production costs are substantially less than LA's. Productions have also been known to migrate from one location to another as circumstances change.
Yeah, but this isn't the same animal is most other productions.

This sounds like it could be largely a "standing set" production that could be done cheaply from what already exists. You have to figure, if cost is an issue, location shooting would be minimal since it's a "period piece" so to speak, being a prequal. So, unless they want to set the events of Psycho in the future, the TV show isn't going to be in the present. That means dressing locations to look like the are from the past, and that's costly.

If shooting on the existing backlot exteriors along with interiors on soundstage or two on the Universal lot is really that much more costly, then I would suspect Hollywood is officially doomed. After all, if Universal is charging that much that they'd rather let a standing set go unused except for tour tram drivebys, then they really have their priorities screwed up.

I mean, The Mentalist constantly shoots in the "Hazzard / Stars Hollow" area of Warner Brothers on a regular basis. How can they afford it?
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Originally Posted by kjpjr View Post

I watch a lot of sports -- a lot! I generally watch with the sound off unless it is my local announcers or something happens that needs a voice to explain. So I really don't care who is announcing what. The only non locals I listen to are Doc Emerick doing hockey or Vince Sculley with the Dodgers. Turn the sound off it makes the games much more enjoyable.
Turning off the center channel speaker allows you to hear the crowd noise without the announcer "noise"
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Originally Posted by NetworkTV View Post

Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post

My understanding is that, in general, Canadian production costs are substantially less than LA's. Productions have also been known to migrate from one location to another as circumstances change.
Yeah, but this isn't the same animal is most other productions.

This sounds like it could be largely a "standing set" production that could be done cheaply from what already exists. You have to figure, if cost is an issue, location shooting would be minimal since it's a "period piece" so to speak, being a prequal. So, unless they want to set the events of Psycho in the future, the TV show isn't going to be in the present. That means dressing locations to look like the are from the past, and that's costly.

If shooting on the existing backlot exteriors along with interiors on soundstage or two on the Universal lot is really that much more costly, then I would suspect Hollywood is officially doomed. After all, if Universal is charging that much that they'd rather let a standing set go unused except for tour tram drivebys, then they really have their priorities screwed up.

I mean, The Mentalist constantly shoots in the "Hazzard / Stars Hollow" area of Warner Brothers on a regular basis. How can they afford it?
Quoting from the article above:
Cuse and Ehrin came onboard and envisioned it as a modern-day prequel
so there's no need to use any existing sets.

Many "U.S." TV programs and movies have been shot in Canada since at least the '70s. Vancouver and Toronto seem to be the primary locations. Vancouver's popular because it's in the same time zone as L.A.
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Originally Posted by kjpjr View Post

I watch a lot of sports -- a lot! I generally watch with the sound off unless it is my local announcers or something happens that needs a voice to explain. So I really don't care who is announcing what. The only non locals I listen to are Doc Emerick doing hockey or Vince Sculley with the Dodgers. Turn the sound off it makes the games much more enjoyable.

Vin Scully.
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TV Notes
Brian Williams & Dan Patrick Considered For Alex Trebek Replacement On ‘Jeopardy’, Matt Lauer & Anderson Cooper Also In Mix
By Nellie Andreeva, Deadline.com - Mar. 15, 2013

Sony Pictures TV is casting a wide net in its search for a successor to Alex Trebek as host of one of the studio’s top properties, veteran game show Jeopardy!. I have learned that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams and NBC Sports personality Dan Patrick are among those approached by the studio, along with embattled Today show co-host Matt Lauer and CNN’s Anderson Cooper. I hear all four have had exploratory conversations with Sony TV, though the studio is not actively pursuing anyone at the moment.

Sony TV’s succession plan for Jeopardy! became a hot topic today after the NY Post reported on Lauer and Cooper being in the mix for the job. With the exception of Patrick, who has presented at the Super Bowl and during the Summer Olympics, Jeopardy! would mark a step up in the ratings department for any of the candidates. Yesterday, Jeopardy! was the No. 1 program on any network among households in the nation’s top market, New York, where Williams, Lauer and Cooper are based. Jeopardy! averaged a 10.0 household rating, edging CBS’ primetime blockbuster The Big Bang Theory (9.1). Lauer’s Today drew less that a third of that, a 2.9 rating. Of course, hosting a syndicated game show, which often films a whole season worth of episodes in a stretch of a couple of months, could be a second job for a top anchor as proven by Meredith Vieira, who juggled hosting Who Wants To Be A Millionaire with her duties on The View and then Today.

Sony TV is not expected to move to serious discussions with potential new Jeopardy! hosts until given an indication by Trebek that he is ready to step down — the studio had made it clear to him that he will be the host for as long as he wants to. But Trebek, who has been emceeing Jeopardy! since its current version launched in 1984, is 72, and last summer suffered a second heart attack. His current contract expires in 2016, and with the show being such a ratings powerhouse, Sony wants to ensure a smooth transition for whenever Trebek asks his final question.

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TV Notes
Jay Leno Angers NBC's Robert Greenblatt With Ratings Jabs (Report)
By Aaron Couch, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Feed' Blog - Mar. 15, 2013

Jay Leno may have found himself in hot water with NBC entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt after using The Tonight Show stage to mock the network’s ratings troubles.

Greenblatt fired off an email to the comedian after a Feb. 28 episode in which Leno skewered the network's falling to fifth place during sweeps month, the New York Times reports.

During the episode's opening monologue, Leno joked about NBC’s fifth-place status: "We are behind the Spanish-language network Univision -- or, as we call it here in Los Angeles, Cinco de Ratings." Other jokes included: "It’s so bad, The Biggest Loser isn’t just a TV show anymore; it’s our new motto" and "It’s so bad, NBC called Manti Te’o and asked him to bring in some imaginary viewers."

The exchange between Greenblatt and Leno is said to have occurred before The Hollywood Reporter reported March 1 that NBC was discussing an exit plan for Leno, which would see him cede his 11:35 p.m. timeslot in 2014, possibly to be replaced by Jimmy Fallon. NBC has denied the report, but two high-level industry sources told THR the network was considering making an announcement in May.

The sources indicated NBC was concerned about ABC moving its younger-skewing Jimmy Kimmel Live! to 11:35 p.m. in January. Leno remains dominant in most ratings categories, including the 18-49 demo, though Jimmy Kimmel bested Leno in his first week in the 11:35 timeslot.

"Kimmel has done extremely well," a network veteran told THR for the March 1 story. "Jay wins overall, but on any given night, it's neck-and-neck in 18-49. I understand where they might have fear and also feel that they own the solution [in Fallon]."

Leno’s rep told the Times there would be no comment on the report.

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TV Notes
On The Air Tonight
SATURDAY Network Primetime/Late Night Options
(All shows are in HD unless noted; start times are ET. Late night shows are preceded by late local news)

8PM - Celebrity Wife Swap: Kate Gosselin/Kendra Wilkinson
(R - Feb. 26)
9PM - 20/20: The Camera Never Lies (120 min.)

8PM - CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
(R - Oct. 24)
9PM - Criminal Intent
(R - Dec. 12)
10PM - 48 Hours

8PM - American Ninja Warrior
9PM - Chicago Fire
(R - Feb. 27)
10PM - Saturday Night Live
(R - Mar. 9)
* * * *
11:29PM - Saturday Night Live (Jennifer Lawrence hosts; The Lumineers performs; 93 min.)
(R - Jan. 19)

(R - Feb. 9)
9PM - The Following
(R - Mar. 11)
* * * *
11PM - Hell's Kitchen
(R - Jun. 19)
Midnight - Minute to Win It
(R - Aug. 7, 2002) SD

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Austin City Limits: The National; Band of Horses (R - Jan. 15, 2011)

7PM - Fútbol Mexicano Primera División: Club América vs. San Luis FC (LIVE)
9PM - Sábado Gigante (3 hrs.)

7PM - Movie: Gridiron Gang (2006)
9PM - Movie: The Fourth Kind (2009)
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TV Notes
Comedy Undercard: Murphy Brown vs. NewsRadio
By Bob Sassone, Vulture.com - Mar. 15, 2013

Today's Contenders: NewsRadio (1995–1999) vs. Murphy Brown (1988–1998)

Sure, these two nineties comedies are similar in the most obvious way: They both have similar settings (NewsRadio at an AM news station, Murphy Brown a network TV news show), but they have similarities even beyond that. Both feature a tight ensemble cast, both were filmed in front of a studio audience (in a time before single-camera comedies became an obsession), and some of each show’s characters have a lot in common with the other’s. And while the tones of the shows aren't the same — NewsRadio ran with irreverence and craziness more than Murphy Brown did — they're more alike than many fans might think at first glance.

The Deep-Voiced, Confident Anchor: Both NewsRadio's Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman, still deeply missed) and Murphy Brown's Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough) seem to be graduates of Ted Baxter's Famous Broadcasters' School, commanding a strong anchorman-ish voice. However, Jim’s voice is the same both on air and off, while Bill only goes full baritone when he's in the booth. But oh, he is a pro when the “on air” light goes on; in the episode "Bitch Session," we find out he can even replicate the reverb you get from talking into a mike, using his skull as an echo chamber. But it gives him headaches, and he can't do it for long.

The Geeky Spaz: NewsRadio reporter Matthew Brock (Andy Dick) is called a geek and a spaz at various times during the show (in "Negotiation," Bill even tapes cards to Matthew's back that spell out SPAZ), and Murphy Brown wunderkind executive producer Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud) is a short, glasses-wearing bundle of nerves. But they're different subspecies of spaz. Matthew is the classic variety, a mostly harmless weirdo with often inexplicable behavior. Miles isn't inherently weird, but he is prone to freak-outs, especially if something on the show isn’t going right or he fears his bosses are mad at him; he’s geeky by way of yuppie.

Office Love: Both Murphy Brown and NewsRadio had their bosses romantically involved with an underling. On Murphy Brown, Miles gets together with fluff-news correspondent Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford). On NewsRadio, boss Dave Nelson (Dave Foley) is involved with type A producer Lisa (Maura Tierney). Dave and Lisa's romance begins really early in the show, while Miles's and Corky's takes longer to form. And while Dave and Lisa have an on-again, off-again relationship during the show's run, Miles and Corky end up getting married after Corky divorces Will Forrest (yes, at one point her married name was Corky Sherwood-Forrest).

Real-Life Controversies Affecting the Show: While we can look back and laugh and roll our eyes at the Murphy Brown controversy, when in a 1992 speech Vice-President Dan Quayle criticized the show for glorifying single motherhood (Murphy Brown even addressed the real-life comment on the show, asking, "What planet is he on?"), we can't laugh at what happened to Phil Hartman. The star was shot to death in his bed by his wife in May of 1998, at the end of the fourth season. We can argue as to whether or not there should have even been a fifth season: I say Lovitz was an unfunny, awkward replacement for Hartman, and the fifth season includes only a few episodes that match anything from the first four years (even if Lovitz did make a terrific guest appearance in a season-four episode as a different character who threatened to jump off the ledge outside of Dave's office). One of those stand-out episodes is the season-five opener, where Bill has died and the rest of the team has to deal with the loss, each in their own way (Khandi Alexander's departed Catherine character came back to the show for the episode). It was that rare moment when a sitcom has to deal with a real-life tragedy on the air. Watch the episode again. I'm pretty sure the tears you see onscreen are real.

Are the shows any good? Oh, they're more than good; they're both models as to how a sitcom should be cast, written, directed, and stuctured. And while it's too bad the networks didn't treat the shows the same (Murphy Brown was a Monday night staple on CBS for years, while you often needed a detective to find out what night NewsRadio was on NBC), they both remain great, classic network sitcoms, from the same basic mold but ultimately very different.

The Moment of Truth: You don't hear many people talking about Murphy Brown anymore, even if it is appreciated for what it was. Maybe it premiered too many years ago, maybe it's too tied into the politics and culture of the time, and maybe too many great sitcoms have come along since then, inevitably pushing Murphy Brown further down on the sitcom totem pole. NewsRadio is still loved and missed and discussed and endlessly quoted. Go on Twitter any day of the week and you'll see someone referencing something from the show. You can imagine another season of NewsRadio (maybe on Netflix!), with the entire gang up in New Hampshire working with Jimmy James (or maybe they all decided to come back to NYC to the station). I don't think anyone wonders what the characters of Murphy Brown are up to in 2013 (even if creator Diane English and CBS were toying with the idea of bringing the show back in time for the 2012 election).

How loved is NewsRadio? It's the type of show where you can even forgive Dick's personal transgressions (the arrests, the drunken stupors, that weird battle with Lovitz) because he was on this show (and if Hartman loved the guy, we certainly can, right?). And Dick was rather brilliant in the role, combining strangeness with a lot of heart better than even the writers imagined. Honestly, even if Dick ends up out of control on Dancing with the Stars and vomits on Tom Bergeron, we're still going to have a special place in our hearts for him just for NewsRadio.

Both shows are good in their own way, but it comes down to this: NewsRadio is a show that sticks in my head longer, is funnier, and I just deep-down love more. Murphy Brown may have lasted a lot longer in years, but NewsRadio lasts longer in my mind. There's nothing "bad" about Murphy Brown. It's a solid, well-done, smart show. But it was good for it's time. NewsRadio is good for all time.

Winner: NewsRadio.

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Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Mar. 16, 2013

HBO, 8:00 p.m. ET

The plot of this 2012 movie is thin as onionskin typing paper, a simile that ought to baffle an entire generation of film fans – but that generation, most likely, wouldn’t have seen this movie anyway. It’s about a group of British tourists who travel to India to stay at a resort that doesn’t exactly live up to the brochure. But the cast makes this movie a pleasure: Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy, just for starters.

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

It’s Dustin Hoffman night on TCM: five movies in a row, starting with this brave, touching character study from 1982. Hoffman gets due credit for transforming himself into the titular character, but I’ve always been equally impressed by how committed he is to portraying a committed actor, determined to remain true to his craft as he sees it. Also noteworthy in this movie, of course: Jessica Lange as the love interest, and Bill Murray as the comical best friend.

Starz!, 9:00 p.m. ET

Yes, Starz tonight presents the TV premiere of the 2012 Men in Black 3, which teams a time-traveling Agent J (Will Smith) with a younger version of Agent K (played by Josh Brolin). But Starz does more than that. It prefaces that premiere with the two previous films in the series, beginning at 5:50 p.m. ET.

NBC, 10:00 p.m. ET

Last week’s Saturday Night Live, with Justin Timberlake making his fifth appearance as host, easily was the best installment of the season – and this cut-down, prime-time "instant" rerun ought to be even better, if NBC cuts the weakest two skits. But boy, did the show start strong, with Timberlake joining the ultra-exclusive “Five-timers” club – and sharing drinks with Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, and others. Later tonight, in the regular SNL time sot, there’s another rerun: of the show hosted by Jennifer Lawrence.

TCM, 10:00 p.m. ET

From 1970, this Dustin Hoffman movie is an acting triumph, and an underrated gem — an epic character study of a young man (Hoffman) raised by Indians and managing to be present for many key events in American history, including Little Big Horn. Oh, and Faye Dunaway is memorable as well — especially in the bathtub scene. Later tonight, as part of TCM’s five-film Hoffman tribute: John and Mary at 12:30 a.m. ET, The Graduate at 2:15 a.m. ET and Kramer vs. Kramer at 4:15 a.m. ET.

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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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Originally Posted by dad1153 View Post

TV Notes
Brian Williams & Dan Patrick Considered For Alex Trebek Replacement On ‘Jeopardy’, Matt Lauer & Anderson Cooper Also In Mix
By Nellie Andreeva, Deadline.com - Mar. 15, 2013

I don't see Matt as host. Either Brian or Anderson would make good hosts imo.
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TV Review
'Survive and Advance' follows the moving Wolfpack
The ESPN '30 for 30' documentary directed by Jonathan Hock effectively tells the story of the 1983 N.C. State men's basketball team and Coach Jim Valvano.
By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times - Mar. 16, 2013

"Survive and Advance," which premieres Sunday on ESPN as part of its excellent "30 for 30" series of sports documentaries, is a sweet and moving depiction of the sweet and moving story of the 1983 North Carolina State men's basketball team, the Wolfpack, and its colorful coach, Jim Valvano. You will need a handkerchief or two to get through it, unless you are some sort of soulless, inhuman monster.

Directed by Jonathan Hock ("Unguarded"), it is a tale of great deeds, inspiring speeches, comical sound bites and big, long hugs in what was a legendary time for college basketball — the days when Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing were still in school and players tended to stick around for three or even four years of play rather than taking off early for the pros: "The games were better," says University of North Carolina Coach Roy Williams. "The players were better."

The film begins in summer 2011, with the accidental death, at age 47, of former Wolfpack forward Lorenzo Charles, who scored the dramatic final point in the team's improbable drive to the NCAA title, prompting teammate Dereck Whittenburg, whose short shot Charles made good, to reflect, "There's a saying, as athletes get older their accomplishments get greater and greater as the years pass by. But the truth is they just get further and further away."

Says Whittenburg, on whose shoulder we ride into the film, "After the funeral, I told my team, I said, 'Guys, if we don't get together at least once a year we will only be coming back to each other's funerals.'"

And so there is a lunch, and former teammates of various shapes and sizes, who seemed to have aged all at different speeds, sit down to remember events and thoughts three decades old, moving in great detail and as if in slow motion from play to play.

Though not expected to get anywhere near the Final Four, that year's team made defying expectations a habit, with a knack for coming from behind in the last minutes, even seconds of a game, which earned them nicknames the Team of Destiny and the Cardiac Pack. As pictured here, they were fueled by good spirits, affectionate teamwork and a coach who was not afraid of a risky move or the word "love."

Valvano, who died in 1993, less than a year after being diagnosed with bone cancer, was a voluble Italian out of the Northeast, whose cheery brashness did not at first sit well with his Southern rivals. He could seem as much comic as coach: "For the first time in 16 years we had a bed check," he said on the eve of the Final Four adventure that would pit his team against the dunking machine that was the University of Houston Cougars, "and I want everyone to know, all the beds were there." And later: "My mother … she took Houston and gave eight points. I'm telling you, very disappointing."

Hock threads Valvano's own story with that of his winning team. It comes to a head at ESPN's first ESPY Awards, less than two months before his death, with an address as famous in its way as his team's great victory:

"There are three things we all should do every day," he said there. "Number one is laugh; you should laugh every day. Number two is think — you should spend some time in thought. And number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. Think about it: If you laugh, you think and you cry that's a full day, that's a heck of a day. "

This film will take care of that.

'30 for 30: Survive and Advance'
Where: ESPN
When: 6 and 9 p.m. Sunday

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TV Review
‘Tom Dick and Harriet’
Deceit and a lost job can't derail a warm Hallmark message, with Steven Weber and Michelle Harrison
By David Hinckley, New York Daily News - Mar. 16, 2013

Pretending to be someone else may not be a viable long-term employment strategy, but it has produced some pretty decent television drama in shows like “Mad Men” and “Suits.”

The fake-identity gambit limps along with a slightly shakier stride in “Tom Dick & Harriet,” a perfectly likable new Hallmark movie where both the setup and the ending feel a bit contrived.

But then, Hallmark isn’t making movies to explore angst. It’s making movies that cruise along with just enough ripples to maintain gentle motion for an audience that gets happy when the characters it has come to like also get happy.

That’s the standard and the goal for Hallmark movies.

This go-round, Steven Weber plays Tom Burns, an ad executive whose company is bought by Reese Danzinger (Michael Eklund). Reese is a jargon-spitting young hotshot who thinks everyone should be like him and therefore has no use for anyone who doesn’t have “attitude.”

Even though he’s more jerk than villain, Reese fires Tom — though not before Tom has met Reese’s art director, Harriet (Michelle Harrison).

“Dick” is Dick Sweeney (Andrew Francis), a two-bit con man who swindles Tom out of 20 bucks. Tom then runs into him again and, instead of busting him, coaches him into a job with Reese, where he sells Tom’s ideas.

And there’s a fourth major character: Kelly (MacKenzie Porter), the daughter with whom Tom is trying to reconnect.

It’s not too much of a brain-tease to guess where all this could be going, and since it’s Hallmark, that’s exactly where it does go.

But we like Tom, Dick, Harriet and Kelly. We understand their problems and we want them solved. Hallmark is here to help.

Network / Air Date: Saturday at 9 p.m., Hallmark
Rating: ★★ (out of five)

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TV Review
‘Wicked Single,’ yep, pretty bad
Drunken twentysomethings try to find love in Boston
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine - Mar. 16, 2013

If “Jersey Shore” had never existed, Snooki and Pauly and JWoww and the rest would probably have turned into average twenty-somethings with undemanding jobs that would have allowed them to drink and sleep around as much as they wanted in their off hours.

Except for a change of venue, that alternative reality is basically the subject of VH1′s new series “Wicked Single.” A run-of-the-mill reality show following the dating lives of a group of unmarried Bostonians between the ages of 24 and 30, it presents the usual mixed bag of random flirtation, exhibitionism, drunkenness and unmotivated chick fights.

But since the participants are both more self-aware and less self-absorbed than the “Jersey Shore” cast and since the Boston accent is easier to take than the New York one, “Wicked Single” is less painful to watch. It won’t become a pop-cultural phenomenon, but that means it will do less damage to the culture at large.

In the premiere episode, airing this Sunday, March 17, at 11 p.m., we’re introduced to the cast and follow them as they drink at home and then go out to bars and clubs. The cast members who get the most face time in the premiere are Rachel, 28, and James, a.k.a. Chubs, 30.

Rachel, a petite blonde who works in medical-device sales, is somewhat obsessed with getting married — we see her trying on a bridesmaid dress for her sister’s wedding — but has a backup plan: She tells the camera, “I have realized that I need to either freeze my eggs or find a professional sports player to have a one-night stand with and then have a baby with.”

Chubs, who also works in sales, says that he is known for being the guy who will always go out to party. Although he says that many women have come to “the green curtain room” — he has a green bath towel covering his bedroom window — they tend to eat some of his snack food, listen to music and then pass out with their clothes on.

“I should try to be a bigger d—head sometimes,” he tells us. “I definitely jump into the friend zone too quickly.”

Rachel’s best friend is Nikki, who says she’s 30 and then changes that to 28. Recently laid off from a law firm, she dresses to feature her chest and enjoys drinking too much. Heading out for the night, she trips while getting into a cab. Later, she stumbles in a nightclub and breaks her wrist.

Chubs shares his apartment with Joe, 29, an IT guy who is known for his success with women, either despite or because of his geeky demeanor. Somewhat out of the blue, Rachel expresses some interest in him late in the episode.

The youngest member of the circle is Chelsi, 24, who says she works “in the pharmaceutical world” and “should be going back to med school.” Probably the most appealing cast member — if only because her behavior is more age-appropriate — she’s known for being able to party as hard as Chubs.

Besides Rachel’s unconvincing decision to make a play for Joe, the only plotline in the premiere is her confrontation with a former friend named Jaime, who Rachel says got involved in a fight Rachel was having with a third woman. Their clash is the usual reality-show exchange of incoherent obscenities.

The next night out, everyone is planning to gather at Chubs and Joe’s apartment, which the guys call Club Med because it’s like a club and it’s located in Medford. Joe has invited a new girl, named Renee. No one will be surprised when Renee shows up with Jaime. So Jaime and Rachel treat us to a second night of incoherence and obscenities.

“Friendship and loyalty mean something,” Rachel says to Jaime at the club, “and you need to learn the meaningship of it.” This time, however, Rachel doesn’t even have the excuse of being extremely drunk.

Meanwhile, Chubs bumps and grinds with a tall woman but then gets distracted by, he says, “shiny objects.” Seeing Joe with Renee, Rachel decides he’s a jerk.

None of these people are as freakishly colorful as the “Jersey Shore” housemates, but they do have the Boston accent going for them. It’s like special comedy sauce that turns lines like “We work hard but party harder” into the much funnier “We wehk hahd but pahty hahda.”

If the show were going for essential Boston, the cast would be largely Irish Catholic, but their ethnicity is a mystery. Perhaps the producers are trying to avoid the stink raised when “Jersey Shore” described its cast members as “guidos.”

But ethnicity isn’t the only thing about the show that is generic. Relatively early in the two-decade-long run of “The Real World,” MTV decided to turn it into a show about excessive drinking and the poor romantic choices that entails. “Jersey Shore” simply gave that formula an ethnic and regional twist. The main novelty in “Wicked Single” is the location.

A slight novelty is that the cast members realize they may be getting too old for this kind of behavior. Chubs’ defense is that people live longer than they used to, so he still has 30 years of partying in him.

Rachel and Nikki, however, think they’re running out of time. Although they’ve read “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “The Rules,” they appear to have no clue how to find true love. At ages 28 or 30, the odds that they’ll find a husband soon are pretty bad. Sadly, given this show’s weaknesses, the odds are even worse that they’ll get their own spinoff.

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Maybe the most valuable service of HOTP is to save us from wasting our time on trashy new shows.

Thanks to Dad, and the other regulars.
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They should have considered (maybe they did) Louisiana; ranked three in domestic production behind LA and NY.
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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)

7PM - America's Funniest Home Videos
(R - Nov. 4)
8PM - Once Upon A Time
9PM - Revenge
10:01PM - Red Widow

7PM - 60 Minutes
8PM - The Amazing Race
9PM - The Good Wife
10PM - The Mentalist

7PM - Dateline NBC (120 min.)
9PM - All-Star Celebrity Apprentice (120 min.)

7PM - Bob's Burgers
(R - Oct. 7)
7:30PM - The Cleveland Show
8PM - The Simpsons
8:30PM - The Cleveland Show
9PM - Family Guy
9:30PM - Bob's Burgers

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Call the Midwife
(R - Feb. 5)
9PM - Call the Midwife
(R - Feb. 12)
10PM - Call the Midwife
(R - Feb. 19)

7PM - Aquí y Ahora
8PM - Nuestra Belleza Latina (120 min.)
10PM - Sal y Pimienta

6:30PM - Movie: Baby Geniuses (1999)
8:30PM - Movie: Con Air (1997)
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TV Notes
John Boehner on ‘This Week’; Paul Ryan on ‘Face the Nation’
By Hal Boedeker, Orlando Sentinel's 'TV Guy' Blog

The Sunday morning guest list:

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, talks to Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week,” which airs at 11 a.m. on WFTV-Channel 9. The program features two panels. One brings together George Will and Matthew Dowd of ABC; Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.; and Audie Cornish, co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” A panel on foreign policy features former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley; and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chair Gen. James Cartwright (USMC, Ret.). ABC’s Bob Woodruff looks back at the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., talks to CBS’ “Face the Nation,” which starts at 10:30 a.m. on WKMG-Channel 6. Other guests are Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. A panel on foreign policy offers Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, David Rohde of The Atlantic and David Sanger of The New York Times.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., talk to “State of the Union,” which starts at 9 a.m. and noon on CNN. Looking back at the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War are Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Texas. A panel on the future of the Republican Party features Al Cardenas of the American Conservative Union; Democratic strategist Kiki McLean; Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.; and Dr. Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins University and a speaker at CPAC.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., talk to “Fox News Sunday,” which starts at 10 a.m. on WOFL-Channel 35. The panel will be Bill Kristol, Nina Easton of Fortune magazine, Karl Rove and Joe Trippi. Discussing the divide in the GOP will be Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks, and former U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette, president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership.

Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., talks about the future of the GOP on NBC”s “Meet the Press,” starting at 9 a.m. on WESH-Channel 2. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., discuss the budget, debt and President Obama’s visits to Capitol Hill. A panel on church and state features MSNBC’s Chris Matthews; former Gov. Frank Keating, R-Okla.; former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, D-Md; and Republican strategist Ana Navarro.

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TV Notes
Before 'Psycho' and Agony in Paradise
By Nancy DeWolf Smith, Wall Street Journal - Mar. 15, 2013

What makes a good crime drama? "Bates Motel" is a prequel of sorts to Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 thriller, "Psycho," so we know from the beginning how it will end. The bigger challenge for the makers of this new A&E show is that many of the cinematic and social conventions that Hitchcock shredded in order to shock his audience no longer exist.

"Bates Motel" gets around this in two ways. First, the story of a socially awkward boy and his possessive mother is set in the present, which makes the gothic setting and melodrama stand out in sharp, scary relief. The heavy Victorian furniture of Norman's new home, the dim light, the forgotten town nobody ever seems to leave: All this contributes to an atmosphere so smothering, so claustrophobic, that the sound of a ringing cellphone pierces it like a poison arrow.

One taboo which has survived from the 1960s—the suggestion of incest—is as unsettling today as it ever was. The inspiration of the television show is to set mother and son in a town so full of secrets, scandals and freaks that we end up rooting for this peculiar pair.

That's an achievement, for as the series opens young Norman (Freddie Highmore) awakes to find his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) crouched by the bloody body of his father and our instant instinct says she did it. The next thing we know, however, Norma and Norman, having collected some insurance money, are driving up the coast to their new home and business running the Seafairer (sic) Motel.

Although Norman—against all odds—instantly attracts the attention of some popular girls at school, his mother has a less pleasant encounter with an angry man whose family once owned the motel. The consequences of that confrontation will run through the series like a rip tide, pulling the Bates family ever further away from any chance of living in peace.

That family includes Norman's older half-brother Dylan (Max Thieriot), who has a criminal past but may be the sanest person here. Norman's new friend Emma (Olivia Cooke) is not in the in-crowd at school, perhaps because she has cystic fibrosis and is burdened with a breathing tube in her nose and a rolling oxygen tank. The tough and suspicious Sheriff Romero is played by Nestor Carbonell, who bears an amusing resemblance to Anthony Perkins, the original Norman. The handsome Deputy Shelby (Mike Vogel) is friendly but not necessarily nice.

These are just a few people in a large cast, and goings on that include pot farming, teenage Chinese sex slaves, the occasional flaming corpse, and goodness knows what else will turn up. As odd as poor Norman is, there's something about Norma that gives "Bates Motel" its true, and truly frightening, center. Vulnerable and malign, Ms. Farmiga pretty much nails it—smiling sweetly as she is introduced to Norman's friend with cystic fibrosis and asking: "What is your life expectancy, Emma?"

Mondays 10 p.m. A&E

* * * *

"Top of the Lake" is a crime drama that begins with one mystery and unfurls into many more. The seven-part Sundance series revolves around the disappearance of a young girl in a desolate community near Queenstown, New Zealand. But the air—in the mountains around a glacier lake—seems to carry threats to everyone, from every direction. The narrative is so intense and the details are so rich that you can forget to breathe. Writer and director Jane Campion made that happen in "The Piano," too, but on the big canvas of TV she is newly powerful.

Tui Mitcham (Jacqueline Joe) is the 12-year-old daughter of a rustic drug lord, Matt Mitcham (Peter Mullan). He lives with some of his tattooed adult sons and Tui in a cabin in the woods with high gates, a security-camera monitor and big, barking dogs.

One day police realize that Tui, who has been rescued from a lake, is nearly 5 months pregnant. A visiting detective, Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss, of "Mad Men" fame) gently coaxes the girl to write down the name of the person who impregnated her, only to receive a note that reads: "NO ONE."

Sent home to her father, Tui then rides her horse down to an encampment of women who live by the lake, led by their mentor-cum-oracle called GJ (Holly Hunter). GJ, who wears gray hair almost to her waist and has the air of a human being both empowered and erased by trauma, foretells trouble for Tui—who soon disappears.

The hunt for Tui will lead Robin and her police colleague Al Parker (David Wenham) in many directions and to numerous suspects, including an Austrian folk-dancing teacher with a pedophile record and Tui's father, a man filled with rage who is even more menacing when he seems calm.

Yet we soon learn that every character here is damaged in some way. Most of the men are ignorant brutes who act like dogs that have been chained in a yard all their lives. Most of the women are victims, addicted to emotional or physical pain at the hands of men they recklessly pursue. Among those trying to recover at the lake with GJ is a woman still in shock after seeing her beloved chimpanzee kill one of her friends before being killed himself. But wait, says one of the local louts, "Was the chimp your boyfriend or a pet?"

Watching so many people stagger through emotional hell is not pleasant, even when it's exhilarating to see how far they fall, and how hard they try to rebound. The gorgeous scenery around the silvery lake, alpine yet not in a welcoming way, makes all the pools of psychic pain seem even blacker.

It is made bearable, and sometimes even beautiful, by Robin. Ms. Moss and her character look luminous here—especially compared with the vicious and ravaged Mitchams, the tortured wives and the denizens of a local bar who can make the woodsmen of "Deliverance" look benign. It turns out that Robin grew up among them and only recently returned from abroad. She has now found passion with a childhood sweetheart who is Tui's half-brother, Johnno (Thomas M. Wright).

Fairly early on, we find out what Robin has in common with Tui. Yet that secret is only the beginning of a mystery so tightly wound and barbed with hurt and hurtful people that solving it becomes the only way to make the pain go away and the sun shine down on a place some call Paradise.

Monday 9 p.m. Sundance

* * * *

A final note: A nonfiction crime drama unfolds on NBC's "Dateline" at 7 p.m. on Sunday. "Intersection" is the story of an unorthodox campaign that began in 2011 to wrest the town of North Charleston, S.C., away from the hands of drug dealers. The Stop and Take a New Direction program, or Stand, was aimed at locking up hardened criminals while trying to rehabilitate street dealers with education and job skills. The result is revealing, though we may be left with questions about the lessons learned.

Sunday 7 p.m. NBC

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Critic's Notes
TV’s New Wave of Women: Smart, Strong, Borderline Insane
By Heather Havrilesky, The New York Times Sunday Magazine's 'Riff' Column - Mar. 17, 2013

At first glance, this looks like a great moment for women on television. Many smart and confident female characters have paraded onto the small screen over the past few years. But I’m bothered by one persistent caveat: that the more astute and capable many of these women are, the more likely it is that they’re also completely nuts.

I don’t mean complicated, difficult, thorny or complex. I mean that these women are portrayed as volcanoes that could blow at any minute. Worse, the very abilities and skills that make them singular and interesting come coupled with some hideous psychic deficiency.

On “Nurse Jackie,” for example, the main character is an excellent R.N. in part because she’s self-medicated into a state of extreme calm. On “The Killing,” Detective Linden, the world-weary, cold-souled cop, is a tenacious investigator in part because she’s obsessive and damaged and a pretty terrible mother. And then there’s “Homeland,” on which Carrie Mathison, the nearly clairvoyant C.I.A. agent, is bipolar, unhinged and has proved, in her pursuit of an undercover terrorist, to be recklessly promiscuous.

These aren’t just complicating characteristics like, say, Don Draper’s narcissism. The suggestion in all of these shows is that a female character’s flaws are inextricably linked to her strengths. Take away this pill problem or that personality disorder, and the exceptional qualities vanish as well. And this is not always viewed as a tragedy — when Carrie undergoes electroconvulsive therapy, we breathe a sigh of relief and draw closer. Look how restful it is for her, enjoying a nice sandwich and sleeping peacefully in her childhood bed.

You’d think the outlook would be sunnier on some of the lighter TV dramas and comedies, which have also lately offered several strong and inspiring (if neurotic) female protagonists, from Annie Edison of “Community” to Leslie Knope of “Parks and Recreation.” Yet here, too, an alarming number of accomplished women are also portrayed as spending most of their waking hours swooning like lovesick tweens — whether it’s Emily on “Emily Owens, M.D.” (a knowledgeable doctor who loses focus whenever her super-dreamy crush enters the room), the title character of “Whitney” (a garrulous photographer who is nonetheless fixated on her looks and her ability to keep attractive romantic rivals away from her man), or Mindy of “The Mindy Project” (a highly paid ob-gyn who’s obsessed with being too old and not pretty enough to land a husband). Even a classical comedic heroine like Liz Lemon on “30 Rock” is frequently reduced to flailing and squirming like an overcaffeinated adolescent. The moral of many of these shows doesn’t seem so far off from that of those fatalistic female-centric magazine features that seem to run every few months; something along the lines of, “You can’t have it all, ladies, and you’ll run yourself ragged if you even try.”

We could take heart that at least women are depicted as being just as reckless and promiscuous and demanding and intense as their male counterparts, if their bad behavior weren’t so often accompanied by a horror soundtrack and dizzying camera angles that encourage us to view them as unhinged. The crazed antics of male characters like Don Draper, Walter White or Dr. Gregory House are reliably treated as bold, fearless and even ultimately heroic (a daring remark saves the big account; a lunatic gesture scares off a murderous thug; an abrasive approach miraculously yields the answer that saves a young girl’s life). Female characters rarely enjoy such romantic spin.

Their flaws are fatal, or at least obviously self-destructive, and they seem designed to invite censure. Time and again, we, the audience, are cast in the role of morally superior observers to these nut jobs. At times we might relate to a flash of anger, a fit of tears, a sudden urge to seduce a stranger in a bar, but we’re constantly being warned that these behaviors aren’t normal. They render these women out of step with the sane world.

When Nurse Jackie chokes down pills and cavorts with the pharmacist while her perfectly good husband waits around at home with the kids, we can see clearly where too much sass and independence might lead. When Detective Linden dumps her son in a hotel room for the umpteenth time and then he goes missing, or Dr. Yang’s emotional frigidity on “Grey’s Anatomy” leaves her stranded at the altar, or Nancy Botwin of “Weeds” sleeps with (and eventually marries) a Mexican drug boss, thereby endangering her kids, we’re cued to shake our heads at the woeful choices of these otherwise-impressive women. When Carrie on “Homeland” chugs a tumbler of white wine, then fetches one of her black sequined tops out of the closet, we’re meant to lament her knee-jerk lasciviousness. Her mania is something she needs to be cured of, or freed from — unlike, say, Monk, whose psychological tics are portrayed as the adorable kernel of his genius.

So why should instability in men and women be treated so differently? “If you don’t pull it together, no one will ever love you,” a talking Barbie doll tells Mindy during a fantasy on “The Mindy Project,” reminding us exactly what’s on the line here.

Don’t act crazy, Mindy. Men don’t like crazy.

Some would argue that we’ve come a long way since Desi treated Lucy like a petulant child or June Cleaver smiled beatifically at her plucky spawn. “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Murphy Brown” and “Roseanne” all demonstrated that a smart woman can have a life outside of cooking, cleaning and begging to be put in her husband’s show. They offered us female characters who failed to blend seamlessly with their surroundings — because they were willing to voice their doubts, confess their crushes, seek out sex and openly confront others.

But right around the time “Ally McBeal” hit the air, the attempts to unveil the truth of the female experience started to sail far past the intended mark. The independent woman took on a hysterical edge; she was not only opinionated but also wildly insecure, sexually ravenous or panic-stricken over her waning fertility. Surprising as it was that McBeal was once heralded as a post-feminist hero on the cover of Time in 1998, what’s more surprising is that since then, we haven’t come all that much further, baby.

Sure, there are lots of exceptions, like Tami Taylor, the self-possessed working mom of “Friday Night Lights,” or Hannah Horvath, the outspoken memoirist of “Girls,” or the intelligent women of “Mad Men,” whose struggles and flaws at least parallel those of the men swarming around them. But alongside every coolheaded Peggy Olson, we get hotheaded train-wreck characters like Ivy Lynn of “Smash” — women who, like the ballerinas with lead weights around their ankles in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s short story “Harrison Bergeron,” can show no strength without an accompanying impediment to weigh them down, whether it’s self-destructive urges, tittering self-consciousness or compulsive pill-popping. Where Roseanne and Mary and Murphy matter-of-factly admitted and often even flaunted their flaws, these characters are too ashamed and apologetic (and repeatedly demeaned) to be taken seriously.

“Women have often felt insane when cleaving to the truth of our experience,” Adrienne Rich once wrote. There’s truth in these images of women, from the neurotic ob-gyn fixated on finding Mr. Right to the workaholic C.I.A. agent who feels adrift when she isn’t obsessing about issues of national security 18 hours a day. But why must these characters also be certifiable? Give Mindy a tiny slice of Louis C.K.’s poker-faced smugness. Give Carrie Mathison one-tenth of Jack Bauer’s overconfidence and irreproachability. Where’s the taboo in that?

Women, with their tendency to “ask uncomfortable questions and make uncomfortable connections,” as Rich puts it, are pathologized for the very traits that make them so formidable. Or as Emily Dickinson wrote:

Much Madness is divinest Sense —
To a discerning Eye —
Much Sense — the starkest Madness —
’Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail —
Assent — and you are sane —
Demur — you’re straightway dangerous —
And handled with a Chain —

“All smart women are crazy,” I once told an ex-boyfriend in a heated moment, in an attempt to depict his future options as split down the middle between easygoing dimwits and sharp women who were basically just me with different hairstyles. By “crazy,” I only meant “opinionated” and “moody” and “not always as pliant as one might hope.” I was translating my personality into language he might understand — he who used “psycho-chick” as a stand-in for “noncompliant female” and he whose idea of helpful counsel was “You’re too smart for your own good,” “my own good” presumably being some semivegetative state of acceptance which precluded uncomfortable discussions about our relationship.

Over the years, “crazy” became my own reductive shorthand for every complicated, strong-willed woman I met. “Crazy” summed up the good and the bad in me and in all of my friends. Whereas I might have started to recognize that we were no more crazy than anyone else in the world, instead I simply drew a larger and larger circle of crazy around us, lumping together anyone unafraid of confrontation, anyone who openly admitted her weaknesses, anyone who pursued agendas that might be out of step with the dominant cultural noise of the moment. “Crazy” became code for “interesting” and “courageous” and “worth knowing.” I was trying to have a sense of humor about myself and those around me, trying to make room for stubbornness and vulnerability and uncomfortable questions.

But I realize now, after watching these crazy characters parade across my TV screen, that there’s self-hatred in this act of self-subterfuge. “Our future depends on the sanity of each of us,” Rich writes, “and we have a profound stake, beyond the personal, in the project of describing our reality as candidly and fully as we can to each other.”

Maybe this era of “crazy” women on TV is an unfortunate way-station on the road from placid compliance to something more complex — something more like real life. Many so-called crazy women are just smart, that’s all. They’re not too smart for their own good, or for ours.

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Nielsen Overnights
‘Touch’ & ‘Malibu Country’ Hit Series Lows, ‘Blue Bloods’, Nikita’ ‘Cult’ Up, ‘Fashion Star’ Even
By Dominic Patten, Deadline.com - Mar. 16, 2013

In the weeks since Fox’s Touch (0.6/2) returned for its second season on February 8, the Kiefer Sutherland-led drama has had a rough ratings ride. Last night, that ride hit a new bump. The struggling show fell 14% from its March 8th airing to hit a new series low. Fox’s other Friday primetime outing had a softer landing. Hell’s Kitchen returned for its 11th season this past Wednesday slightly down from its previous season debut. Last night on Gordon Ramsey’s other Fox cooking show Kitchen Nightmares (1.1/4) things also slipped. The reality series was down 8% from its March 8 show. The first Friday of Daylight Savings saw overall TV usage down 5% for the night.

The CW had a very good night Friday with Nikita (0.5/2) up 25% and, in the second week in its new slot, the freshman Cult (0.3/1) surging 50% over its March 8 show. “Sex Sells” was the title last night of the second episode of the second season of NBC’s Fashion Star (0.8/3). The 11 remaining designers were charged with showing their sexiest looks to buyers and judges John Varvatos, Nicole Ritchie and a very pregnant Jessica Simpson. In the end, one contestant went down but Fashion Star’s ratings weren’t. The show was even with last week’s premiere. A week after coming back with its first original since November 16, 2012, Grimm (1.4/5) lost a slight bit of its luster. The procedural fantasy drama dipped 7% from its March 8 show. NBC ended the night with Rock Center With Brian Williams (0.7/2), which was down two tenths from last week’s show.

CBS’ highpoint Friday was Blue Bloods (1.7/5). Rising 22% from last week’ show, the 10 PM family cop drama was both the highest rated show of the night among Adults 18-49 and the most watched show on Friday with 11.01 viewers. CBS kicked off its Friday with an Undercover Boss (1.3/5). It ended it with a Hawaii Five-O (1.1/4) encore also at 9 PM, taking the slot that was supposed to be the home of freshman Golden Boy before it moved back to Tuesdays. Heading towards their season finales on March 22, last night’s Last Man Standing (1.3/5) and Malibu Country (1.0/4) were down 13% and 23% respectively on ABC. That’s a series low for the latter. Shark Tank (1.6/5) was a repeat last night but the entrepreneurial reality series was still the second highest rated show of the night in the key 18-49 demo. With 5.70 million tuned in for Friday’s 20/20 (1.4/5) “Highway Confidential” live saving tips reports. But the news magazine series was down two tenths from last week’s 1.6 rating. CBS won the night in terms of total viewers with 7.960 million watching but the network was tied for the top spot among Adults 18-49 with ABC.


* * * *

Nielsen Notes (Cable)
Disney Channel’s New ‘Wizards Of Waverly Place’ TV Movie Draws 5.9 Million Viewers
By Nellie Andreeva, Deadline.com - Mar. 16, 2013

The Wizards Of Waverly Place and star Selena Gomez couldn’t quite capture the magic of the hit franchise’s heyday. Last night’s Disney Channel original movie The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex, delivered 5.9 million total viewers. That was less than half the audience of the 2009 TV movie Wizards of Waverly Place The Movie (13.5 million), which ranks as the #2 cable TV movie ever (behind High School Musical 2).

Still, Alex vs. Alex did better than recent Disney Channel films like Girl Vs. Monster (4.9 million) and Let It Shine (5.7 million). It delivered 2.9 million Kids 2-11, 2.3 million Kids 6-11 and 2.2 million Tweens 9-14, ranking as the #1 cable TV telecast of 2013 to date in Tweens 9-14, the #2 cable TV telecast in Kids 2-11 and Kids 6-11, and the #1 kids’ cable TV telecast in Total Viewers.

The hourlong special buoyed an all-new episode of Gravity Falls to a series high in Total Viewers (4.5 million). It posted its #2 telecast ever in Tweens 9-14 (1.7 million) and #3 telecast in Kids 2-11 (2.5 million).

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Critic's Notes
How Season Four of Community Reveals a Major Flaw of the First Three Seasons
By Jesse David Fox, Vulture.com (New York Magazine)

Three weeks ago, Vulture’s TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz wrote about his frustrations with the current season of Community: "It’s still a good show, but it doesn’t give me that anticipatory buzz that defines a really great series, that joyous anxiety born from being continually, often delightfully surprised." And after the first five episodes, the prevailing sense is that Seitz is very much correct — the show is not as good as it once was. However, what if this season's fundamental flaws have actually been part of the show’s DNA the entire time but we were too distracted to notice? Are we finally seeing problems that had been there all along?

Each of this season’s five episodes has had a big conceptual hook. In order: Hunger Games/multi-cam sitcom/Muppet Babies parody; haunted house movie parody; fan convention parody; war movie parody; Shawshank Redemption parody. Yet none of them really felt as authentic or was as funny as anything from the first three seasons. It all felt like the writers going, "I guess we're supposed to parody something — it's Community, the show that spoofs stuff." You can blame the new showrunners for oversimplifying, but they needed to hook the show onto something, and it turns out that the characters just weren't a viable option. The fact is, as is the nature of the medium, a TV character should be so well defined that multiple writers can write for them effectively each week, and as we've seen this season, Community has failed that test.

"I’m not digging the Britta-Troy relationship," Seitz wrote. "I get the feeling the writers and actors don’t have any particular opinion on it, either." It's an accurate assessment, but it's important to remember that the seeds of this relationship were sown during the Harmon era. A romantic spark between the two would appear periodically, but it was pushed really hard in season three and likely would've existed in season four regardless. And we probably wouldn't have dug it, even if Harmon had remained showrunner. Britta and Troy's relationship feels out of character for both of them. It might've made sense in early season one, when both were partly defined by the front they put on (this peaked at the dance recital episode), but that part of each of their characters basically vanished. Britta is someone who's trying to finally be an adult member of society, while also staying true to her rebelliousness — dating a younger and, let's say, simple guy like Troy doesn't fit into that. (Also, Britta is hypothetically about ten years older than Troy. It's not as creepy as Jeff and Annie, but still.) Maybe it was borne out of that TV trope of putting people together because of proximity and physical attractiveness, but that rings as particularly unambitious for a show that aspired to subvert sitcom convention.

For Troy, this arc feels weird, because it's weird for Troy to have a story of substance at all, especially one that's not just something for Abed to bounce off of. (He had that whole air conditioner thing last year, but it wasn't particularly revealing.) Comedically, Troy's role in the group is obvious: dumb guy. Every ensemble comedy has at least one. Emotionally, Troy is harder to pin down, because it was never a big part of the show. Every once in awhile, we see that Troy wants to be seen as a grown up; however, it's a characterization at odds with Troy accepting his more childlike self. It would change by the episode as was needed, because his character was inherently defined by his relationship with Abed and sometimes Jeff.

Worse yet is Annie. As has become painfully apparent this season, there is nothing to her. Who is she? Intermittently type A, she looks like Alison Brie, and she sometimes has a crush on Jeff. That’s it. And this has been a major problem for the show's entire run. Her pretending to be Jeff's wife in "Conventions of Space and Time" felt like it could've been a C plot in any season, because she hasn't really changed in any substantial way. Her lack of heft is why Jeff's recent dad arc came with him being paired with the more developed Britta. Maybe at one point they wanted to explore Annie coming to terms with her sexuality, but that never manifested itself — instead she was postmodernly sexualized as nerd bait. Sure, Brie has been very good in the role, but it now feels just like "funny sitcom character, female." Harmon did a fantastic job developing Jeff, Britta, and Abed — the three characters he had publically admitted to being most like — and then just coasted with the other four. Things were alluded to and gently hinted at for the rest, but there just wasn't enough time.

That's because the show's most compelling narrative was that of the show itself. Somewhere in the middle of the second season, the idea of how Community was revolutionizing television (which it was) became more important than any of the show’s actual characters. Viewers followed the show to see how it played with the sitcom form each week and less to see what the characters were doing or why they were doing it. This is the "spark" Seitz referred to. The best episodes of season two felt like the concept was in service of the characters, but over time the show felt more like the reverse. With concept trumping everything else, it was Dan Harmon that became the show's most noteworthy character. We were following Harmon's ability to one-up himself. It was hard to see the forest for the trees while it was happening, because as Seitz said, we, the fans, were taken by all the smart things that were happening. But now that the dust has settled on that era, we are stuck with tossed-off parodies and characters (save Jeff and Abed) that feel incredibly underdeveloped for a show that is in its fourth season.

Community's new showrunners were not given an easy task. They were handed a brilliant show that was most defined by its brilliance. No one character was nearly as iconic as the show itself and what it represented. And they've done a solid, if not good, job trying to re-create that show. (They even improved on some small parts, namely Britta's glasses!) It's just without that intangible brilliance, it's less of a desirable show than we might've thought. Somewhere between the shooting of paintballs and the tossing of a Yahtzee die, the show fell into a state of arrested development. And as a result, this season sometimes feels like they're starting over again from scratch. They know how to make these characters funny, but they don't know where they should be going, and maybe that's always been the case with Community.

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TV Review
‘Playing With Fire,’ playing with food
Here's a food show that allows us to sample a stew of celebs
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine

Some people can never make up their mind what they want to order in a restaurant. It can be easier to take them to a buffet so they can have a little bit of everything.

E! has taken the buffet approach with its new food-themed series “Playing With Fire,” which is just like one of those Bravo reality shows about supposedly colorful people working in supposedly glamorous fields. But rather than focusing on one person or a pair of partners, the show has taken a handful and given us small servings of each.

As it turns out, this is a good strategy. Previous shows in this genre — for example, “Kell on Earth,” “The Rachel Zoe Project” and “Dukes of Melrose” — generally prove that supposedly colorful people working in supposedly glamorous fields wear out their welcome quickly. But on “Playing With Fire,” when we start to tire of one star, the show cuts to another one, usually with an intervening beauty shot of a main dish, dessert or cocktail. Like a fast-food meal, these bite-size servings pass quickly and have little nutritional value.

Premiering this Sunday, March 17, at 10 p.m., the show can’t even make up its mind how many people to feature. Of the seven people who share the spotlight in the three episodes provided for review, two — the restaurateur Todd English and the actress and wannabe baker Jennifer Esposito — are listed as guest stars in the press materials.

The subjects are loosely linked. Anna Boiardi, an author and cooking teacher who is descended from the supermarket icon Chef Boyardee, is teaching Esposito how to make gluten-free pastries for the actress’s planned bakery.

Boiardi is also supposedly friends with Candice Kumai, a former model and television personality who is promoting a book called “Cook Yourself Sexy.” Boiardi sets up a blind date for Kumai, who ruins it by talking incessantly about herself.

English is supposedly friends with Daniel and Derek Koch, identical twins and former models who run several restaurants. One of the people attending the opening party for the twins’ restaurant Toy is Julie Elkind, a 25-year-old pastry chef.

Like most of these shows, “Playing With Fire” covers its subjects’ personal and private lives, which tend to overlap. For example, in the premiere episode, Daniel Koch is angry at Derek because Derek wants to skip the opening party so he can take his girlfriend, Molly, to Disney World. Derek is afraid to tell her that they may have to go one day later than planned.

Derek, who is portrayed in the show as the responsible twin, is angry with Daniel because Daniel isn’t working hard enough on their newest restaurant. When Daniel steps up and plans a promotional party at the place, the health department shuts it down just hours before the party.

When Elkind tries to introduce a new dessert at a restaurant for which she consults, she has to risk alienating the chef by going over his head to the owner. She tells the camera, “Sometimes it just takes a b—- to filter through all these people who may have doubts because you have a vagina.”

When Esposito comes to Boiardi’s home for a lesson in wheat-free gnocchi making, Esposito forgets the rice milk. The resulting gnocchi are inedible.

Boiardi is distraught when she has to drop off her two-year-old son at preschool. When her husband asks why she simply doesn’t keep him at home, she says that if he doesn’t get into the right preschool, he won’t get into the right kindergarten and grammar school, and his life will be over. To avoid traumatizing the boy by having him see his mother cry, they decide to have the nanny take him to preschool.

The only person with a relatable problem is Elkind, whose live-in boyfriend, Kyle, is a would-be actor who she thinks is slacking off.

But the stars are attractive, and their professional duties are enviably vague. They spend a lot of time eating and drinking in chic, expensive-looking restaurants or making delicious things themselves.

We see Elkind and her boyfriend checking out a high-rise apartment with views in all directions and a walk-in closet. She says they want to move out of her “dirt-hole apartment,” which is in fact a small Manhattan duplex that would have most 25-year-olds drooling in their actual dirt holes in the outer boroughs or New Jersey.

Those of us with rich fantasy lives will be able to set our envy aside and imagine ourselves with problems like those of these lucky foodies. By the time we realize we wouldn’t want to actually be one of them, “Playing With Fire” has already moved on.

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