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Hot Off The Press: The Latest TV News and Information - Page 2938

post #88111 of 93720
TV Notes
Matt Groening's 'Futurama' is ready for its intergalactic send-off
The show is no stranger to final acts, but this time creator Matt Groening is set for an ending worthy of Bender, Fry and the rest of the sci-fi cartoon crew
By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times - Jul. 5, 2013

"Futurama," the other cartoon series created by Matt Groening, is nearing the end. Now in its final 13-episode half-season, it was born on Fox in 1999, canceled in 2003 and revived from its state of suspended animation by Comedy Central in 2008.

Given that it has come to this point once already, and given that the cartoon characters look just as good, or just as bad, after even a long hiatus as they did before, something about this finale seems less than final. "There is a last even of last times," wrote Samuel Beckett; perhaps this is only the next-to-the-last of last times.

"We're resting on our laurels and getting ready for a Comicon 'perhaps farewell,'" Groening told me recently. "We always say, 'Futurama' lives, and so far we haven't been lying."

We were in a Oaxacan restaurant, where some months before we had met to discuss "The Simpsons," his previous cartoon series, then reaching its 500th episode. (I should point out that I have known Groening since the early-late 20th century, in light of which you are free to regard everything I write here as biased.) Like Philip J. Fry, his "Futurama" protagonist, Groening himself is living in the future, production on the series having already wrapped.

Though "The Simpsons" is a global brand and cultural landmark where the less-watched "Futurama" is simply a cartoon, I wouldn't care to say which of the series is the better one. There are visual similarities, of course, both shows being predicated upon Groening's own drawing style, which favors goggle-eyes and overbites, and similar rhythms to the jokes and asides and cutaways. But they are different beasts, and given the choice at any moment between watching one or the other, I'd be more liable to choose "Futurama."

Where "The Simpsons" exists out of time and has moved past or above narrative consistency to stand for whatever the moment demands, the characters of "Futurama" stand only for themselves, in more or less real time; they have hopes and feelings and intertwined fates, and you care what happens to them. And where "The Simpsons" took a shotgun to the sitcom family ideal, "Futurama" is about community and teamwork and an intergalactic multiculturalism — in which respect it also resembles, say, "Star Trek." It's about the family you make rather than the family you're stuck with.

Groening put it this way: "I always say that 'Futurama' is real, and 'The Simpsons' is fiction."

It began as the story of Fry (voiced by Billy West), a dimwitted, good-hearted 20th-century pizza boy who falls into a cryogenic pod on the eve of the 21st century and awakens at the start of the 30th; he winds up working for an interplanetary delivery service run by his distant nephew, a cranky mad-scientist type (West); co-workers include an extraterrestrial lobsteresque physician (West, again); a Chinese intern raised on Mars (Lauren Tom); a Jamaican accountant (Phil LaMarr); a reprobate robot, Bender (John DiMaggio), who becomes his roommate; and Leela (Katey Sagal), the cyclops pilot he loves.

"I learned that the animators could draw women in the 'Simpsons' style who looked beautiful," Groening said, "which was a great surprise to me! So I wanted to see if I could create a science-fiction heroine — except I wanted to mess with the fanboys, so I gave her one eye."

Of Fry, he said, "We thought we had to have a representative from our time to explain things to the audience; it turned out that was not necessary at all. I do like the construct. H.G. Wells has a story called 'When the Sleeper Awakes,' and it got used over and over again, memorably by Woody Allen in 'Sleeper.' So we didn't rip off 'Sleeper,' we ripped off H.G. Wells. Just for the record.

"I loved literary science fiction. In fact, as a kid, when I was reading science fiction, I thought 'I can't wait for the future when the special effects are good' to represent what was in these books by Arthur C. Clarke, Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, Jack Vance."

Groening developed the series with show runner David X. Cohen, who had been a writer on "The Simpsons" and had "a great deal of enthusiasm for science fiction; he would go on about Stanislaw Lem and Olaf Stapledon. He and I talked about 'Futurama' for two years before we pitched it. So when we finally sat down with Fox and told them the idea for the show, we exhausted them; they picked it up in that meeting. But it was partly because we could answer all their questions. We knew things we wouldn't be introducing until Season 5.

"And from then on, it was a battle, because they thought it was going to be bland and peppy like 'The Jetsons.' 'The Simpsons' in the future, that's what they thought they were going to get. But I didn't want to be accused of ripping myself off. We wanted to do a workplace comedy. 'The Simpsons' was about children and married parents; 'Futurama' is about people in between, they're growing up and haven't settled down. Every other cartoon show seemed to be, you know, dumb dad, bratty kids.

"We set ourselves the double challenge that we wanted to be funny first, but we also wanted to have interesting science-fiction ideas. With a writing staff as over-educated as ours, it led us down some really strange ... tunnels. They would debate abstract mathematics for long periods of time." In one episode, characters switched brains but "had to switch to another character before they could get back to their own brain, and Ken Keeler, one of the original writers on 'The Simpsons,' wrote a complicated theorem to show the minimum amount of moves it would take to get back your own brain."

Inevitably, there is a movement to keep the show alive. An online Save Futurama — Again petition has more than 23,000 signatures, from all over the world.

"Oh man, I damn like 'Futurama' so much!" wrote petitioner Dmitrii Shetnikov from Russia. "This is the cartoon of my childhood, guys, please do not close the show!" Faisal Sawalmah, United Arab Emirates, agreed: "'Futurama' is one of the greatest shows alive. If crap like 'The Cleveland Show' can survive, then 'Futurama' deserves a shot!"

Groening is more sanguine. "We certainly feel creatively fulfilled. In the past, we felt like we were canceled before our time, but this time we feel like we had a really good run, and this is a great last season and builds to a great final episode, which I'm very proud of. David Cohen describes it as a very romantic war-fest, and he's absolutely right. You see all of your favorite characters die, and some of your favorite characters find love. And as alarming as that might sound, it's very sweet."


"Well, when I say 'die' — there is such a thing as time travel, you know."

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Nielsen Notes (Late Night)
Leno, Fallon Score Best 18-49 and Total Viewer Numbers in 5 Quarters
By Tim Molloy, TheWrap.com - Jul. 5, 2013

NBC's plan to replace Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon may be drawing viewers to both: From April to June, the two hosts scored their best ratings and total viewers in at least five quarters, while winning their time slots.

In the second quarter of the year, Leno's "Tonight Show" remained the top-rated late night series with a .9 rating in the key 18-49 demo and the most-watched overall with 3.6 million total viewers. ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" was second in the demo with a .7 and third in total viewers with 2.5 million. CBS' "The Late Show With David Letterman" was third in the ratings with a .6 and second in total viewers with 2.8 million.

Kimmel improved on his slight lead over Letterman among 18-49-year-olds: From April to June, Kimmel had 886,000 adults under 50 compared to Letterman's 777,000. That gave Kimmel a 14 percent advantage over his hero, compared to the 7 percent advantage he had in the first three months of the year.

At 12:35, "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," was first in the key demo with a .6 and tops in total viewers with 1.8 million. ABC's "Nightline" and CBS's "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" both had a .4, and "Nightline" had 1.6 million total viewers to Ferguson's 1.4 million.

Leno and Fallon both had their biggest 18-49 audiences and most total viewers since the first quarter of 2012. Leno averaged 1.08 million adults under 50, while Fallon averaged 701,000. Leno's total viewers were the best since the first quarter of 2012 and Fallon's were his best since the fourth quarter of 2011.

Fallon is replacing Leno as the host of "The Tonight Show" in February.

For the season to date, Leno has averaged a .8 in the key demo, while Letterman and Kimmel both have a .7 rating. Leno averages 3.6 million total viewers, while Letterman has 3 million and Kimmel 2.6 million. (Kimmel's numbers only reflect his performance since moving to 11:35 p.m. in January.)

Season to date, Fallon leads at 12:35 with a .5 rating in the key demo compared to a .4 for both Ferguson and "Nightline." Fallon also leads in total viewers with 1.7 million compared to 1.6 million for "Nightline" and 1.5 million for Ferguson.

post #88113 of 93720
Business Notes
Hulu's Final 3 Bidders: Analyzing the Pros and Cons of Each
By Paul Bond and Georg Szalai, The Hollywood Reporter - Jul. 5, 2013

Heading into the final stretch of bidding, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Hulu has narrowed down the list of prospective bidders to three major suitors: DirecTV, The Chernin Group and Guggenheim Digital Media. The streaming-media company owned by Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast collected $695 million in revenue in 2012 via advertising and 4 million premium subscribers, and the company could fetch more than $1 billion in the auction. Bidding was set to end at 2 PM PST on Friday. Here’s how the asset would fit with each of the potential new owners.


With DirecTV service available nationwide, Hulu is a better fit with the deep-pocketed satellite provider of television than it would be with a more localized cable service, like Time Warner Cable, which also had courted Hulu, says Steve Birenberg of Northlake Capital Management. “They could use it with their own business and develop it nationally as a stand-alone business,” he says. “It provides access to a customer segment they probably weren't servicing,” adds Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group. And analyst Richard Greenfield says that DirecTV could use Hulu “to build the best TV everywhere app,” thus gaining a bargaining chip in future retransmission and programming negotiations. And too, it already pays content providers billions of dollars — experience that would be valuable in managing Hulu.

DirecTV also could use Hulu as a retention tool to keep its 20 million subscribers on board. If one-third of those subscribers signed on to Hulu after an acquisition, DirecTV revenue could increase by 3 percent, says Amy Yong of Macquarie Capital. “They need to get into the Internet, and Hulu would do it,” says Tom Taulli, author of High-Profit IPO Strategies: Finding Breakout IPOs for Investors and Traders. “The company has also reached the saturation point of its core business. So it really needs to look at acquisitions for growth,” he says.

One downside, says Yong, is that an acquisition of Hulu would send mixed signals about DirecTV’s core business, and even highlight the need for consumers to have access to a robust broadband connection, something DirecTV lacks as a service offering. “Strategically, it’s a double-edged sword,” says Yong.

An interesting twist: DirecTV already competes against Comcast, the owner of NBCU, and while Comcast might not want Hulu to go to a competitor, it won't have a say in who buys Hulu. As a condition of its acquisition of NBCU, Comcast relinquished all managerial oversight of Hulu to satisfy anti-trust concerns.

Guggenheim Digital Media

If Hulu’s current owners, all of whom license content for Internet streaming, sell to Guggenheim, it could establish for all of Hollywood a new content buyer that would provide increased competition to Netflix and Amazon.com and possibly drive up the value of content. "Selling Hulu to private equity buyers ... or an Internet company that plays no major role in the current multi-channel video distribution ecosystem,” says Greenfield, “adds to points of distribution for Disney, Comcast/NBC and [21st Century Fox] and could actually add to their leverage with the current class of multi-channel video programming distributors." Says Taulli: “They are savvy with media plays and have extensive relationships. They would be able to run the operation, although not for the long term. They will probably try for an IPO at some point to get a payback.” Birenberg adds that Guggenheim’s endgame might be simply to grow the operation and resell it for a profit.

Another advantage to going with Guggenheim (the parent company of The Hollywood Reporter) is that its CEO Ross Levinsohn, who served as interim CEO of Yahoo!, has a lengthy digital track record. He also was one of the original architects of Hulu during his time as president of Fox Interactive Media. Some observers say Hulu could best retain its entrepreneurial spirit if it goes to a company like Guggenheim, which isn't encumbered by legacy relationships. The lack of a significant corporate bureaucracy likely makes it more attractive to Hulu's top executives.
But the fact that Guggenheim is an unproven player in the space occupied by Hulu, however, is one of the chief arguments against it. It lacks the experience of the other two bidders, and it can't bundle programming or existing subscriptions. Its pockets also may not be as deep as its competitors. “It is simply about investing in a business which would need to be capable of producing cash flows on its own," Weiser says, "or potentially serving as a platform around which to build a stand-alone business.”

The Chernin Group

Contrary to most reports, telecom giant AT&T is the money behind the bid fronted by Peter Chernin, a former president and COO of the old News Corp., whose self-named company has garnered most of the headlines. The pros of an AT&T deal are fairly clear: As with DirecTV, AT&T could use the video site as its own TV everywhere platform. And AT&T, as the provider of the U-Verse television service and and broadband services to homes nationwide, brings not only more cash to the deal but also the potential for much wider distribution for Hulu, says Taulli. Adds Birenberg: “If they can use a two- or three-year window for more exclusive broadcast content, maybe they can grow large enough that the next content deal will be affordable for Hulu and impossible for the broadcast networks to decline.”

Another factor in the group's favor: Chernin is well liked in Hollywood and has existing relationships with many content players, and he also has a bit of an inside-track advantage in the overall auction for Hulu, given he is a former board member who helped create the company in 2007. “Peter knows the asset extremely well and probably knows where to take it to get more value,” says Taulli.

The argument against AT&T? The Dallas-based company isn't known for innovation, and it might be difficult to retain employees of the more entrepreneurial Hulu. Also, if the current owners choose AT&T and Chernin, it could create friction with DirecTV, which already pays Fox, Disney and NBCU billions of dollars for content.

Chernin also may have hurt himself Monday when 20th Century Fox Television signed a multiyear exclusive agreement allowing Netflix subscribers to stream New Girl, the Fox comedy co-produced by Chernin Entertainment. That can't have gone down well inside Hulu's L.A. headquarters.

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TV Notes
Reading His Suspect to Sleep
By Mike Hale, The New York Times - Jul. 5, 2013

As “Endeavour” begins Sunday night on PBS’s “Masterpiece Mystery!,” we first glimpse the young Detective Constable Endeavour Morse singing in a choir. Those with the Morse bug, or the British mystery bug in general, will remember that the first episode of “Inspector Morse” back in 1987 began with the middle-aged detective inspector’s rushing from a crime scene to a choir rehearsal. Mission accomplished.

Having started last year with a single episode, the prequel series “Endeavour” is now starting fresh with a four-episode first season. Given another opportunity to wallow, tastefully, in nostalgia for its predecessor, the new show doesn’t miss a beat. A substantial audience — more than seven million viewers in Britain — is happy with that, and “Endeavour” has already been renewed for a second season.

Other viewers — those who watch mysteries for the mystery — may lose patience as the episode’s overly complicated plot, involving a dead secretary, a doctor murdered in a public restroom, a series of post office robberies and a love child, is resolved haphazardly and implausibly.

So if you’re looking for a solid British detective yarn, check out “DCI Banks” (Season 1 is in reruns on PBS stations, including Channel 13 in New York) or wait for “Case Histories” to return. “Endeavour” offers a different and not negligible set of pleasures: it’s like a table perfectly set for afternoon tea, cress sandwiches here, clotted cream there. Sit for 90 minutes, have a cup of orange pekoe and feel satisfied.

Having just joined the Oxford police, Morse immediately makes enemies when the astute inspector Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) chooses him as bagman, a position that should have gone to a sergeant. The references to bagman, meaning chief assistant, are part of a self-conscious effort to use language to remind us that the action is set in the early 1960s: A constable discovers a French letter (condom), and Morse remarks on a vicar’s interest in cruciverbalism (crossword puzzles).

The tastes for puzzles, opera, poetry and flashy cars that the novelist Colin Dexter originally gave Morse have become an orthodoxy after nearly 40 years of books and television shows, and they’re reverently invoked here. Morse reads a troubled suspect to sleep with Tennyson’s poem “Lady of Shalott,” best known for giving Agatha Christie the title for “The Mirror Crack’d.” A larcenous character is referred to as la gazza ladra, Rossini’s thieving magpie. Morse’s red Jaguar Mark 2 is in the future, but he gets to drive the police force’s black Mark 1’s.

The lead actors do good work, even though their job, to some extent, is to make themselves part of the period décor. Shaun Evans makes Morse appealing, despite his twitchy pride, and Sean Rigby brings a vulpine grace to Constable Strange, Morse’s current subordinate and future boss. Best is Mr. Allam (the original Javert in the London production of “Les Misérables”) as the heroically reserved Thursday, alternately flashing his affection for, and exasperation with, Morse.

In the course of Sunday’s episode Morse develops one of his patented hopeless crushes on a suspect, and it gets him busted down from bagman to general duty. You’re a good detective but a poor policeman, Thursday tells him, and something similar could be said of “Endeavour”: it’s a poor mystery, but it’s not a bad meal.

Masterpiece Mystery! Endeavour, Series I
On PBS stations on Sunday night (check local listings).

post #88115 of 93720
Business Notes
Les Moonves Unloads $22.1M Of CBS Stock As Part Of Estate Plan
By David Lieberman, Deadline.com - Jul. 5, 2013

Does this mean that the CBS chief believes that his stock has topped out, and it’s time to bail? Not according to a CBS rep: Les Moonves‘ estate plan — it’s called a 10b51 –provides for stock purchases and sales to automatically take place at set times, and this happens to be one of those times. According to an SEC filing, this week Moonves acquired 450,000 shares from options at $23.19 a share (or $10.4M), and sold 675,000 for prices ranging from $49.02 to $49.51 a share (for $22.1M).

No matter what motivated the sale, that’s a tidy profit with CBS — which closed today at $50.06 — hovering around its all time high (measured since 2006 when it was spun off from Viacom). But many prominent execs use automatic triggers for their estate trading to avoid sending an unintended signal to investors who keep an eagle eye on insider trades to see when the people who know a company best believe that the stock price is about to change its trajectory. Moonves can’t avoid the spotlight when it comes to financial affairs: His $62.2M compensation package for 2012 made him one of corporate America’s highest paid execs.

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TV Notes
NBC's 'Camp' dramedy aims for summer fun in the Midwest
The hour-long dramedy about a cash-strapped lakeside getaway in the Midwest stars Australian actress Rachel Griffiths.
By Alan Eyerly, Los Angeles Times

Summer is the main inspiration for NBC's "Camp," a dramatic comedy created by Liz Heldens ("Friday Night Lights") and Peter Elkoff ("Gossip Girl").

The hour-long show, which premieres Wednesday, July 10, is set in the American Midwest but was filmed inland from Australia's famed Gold Coast. The 10 episodes unfold from July to September at fictional Little Otter Family Camp.

"The thing we got to, and that took my breath away, is summer and what that means — particularly when you're a teenager — and how your life can change over the course of one summer," Heldens says. "It's a chance to tell some goofy stories and hit nice moments of poignancy."

"Most of the significant events in people's lives happen over the summer," Elkoff adds. "You can be someone else for this very brief, wonderful period."

"Camp" stars award-winning Australian actress Rachel Griffiths ("Six Feet Under," "Muriel's Wedding"), who describes the dramedy as "smart and good-hearted." She portrays Mackenzie Greenfield, owner and director of her family's bustling yet cash-strapped lakeside getaway.
Mackenzie faces "the biggest crossroads of her life," Griffiths explains, when she struggles to cope with a messy divorce, a brash son on the verge of manhood, the complexities of new romantic possibilities and the headaches of keeping her beloved business afloat.

Despite the challenges, Mackenzie remains "super positive and slightly naïve," Griffiths says.

"This girl doesn't let life knock her down. She's a bouncer back," according to Griffiths. "The world is kind of opening up now, and she has to redefine who she is. There's some fun stuff to explore there."

The men in Mackenzie's life include Cole (Nikolai Nikolaeff, "Sea Patrol"), a young handyman who might have romantic designs on his much older boss; and Roger Shepard (Rodger Corser, "Underbelly"), the sexy but arrogant owner of a nearby upscale camp.

Counselors-in-training at Little Otter include Mackenzie's teenage son Buzz (Charles Grounds), who fancies himself a ladies' man destined to lose his virginity before autumn; Kip Wampler (Thom Green, "Dance Academy"), a quiet adolescent with a secret; and pretty Marina Barker (Lily Sullivan, "Mental"), a misunderstood girl seeking a fresh start in life.

The camp head counselors are Robbie Matthews (Tim Pocock, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine") and Sara Brennen (Dena Kaplan, "Dance Academy"), who fell in love during a previous summer at Little Otter. But their relationship is tested when Sara is attracted to an older writer who takes up residence across the lake and when cute young camper Grace (Charlotte Nicdao) develops a crush on Robbie.

After shooting most of her projects inside studios over the past decade, Griffiths said she enjoys working outside "where we're breathing real oxygen and looking at a real lake and dealing with the physical environment and organizing 100 extras."

"It's super refreshing and fun," Griffiths says. "And the kids are just unbelievable. I feel the show is going to be a nursery for another generation of stars."

Launching over the summer — a traditionally slow time for television — could be seen as problematic for many new programs. But in the case of "Camp," with its tales of summer romance and lakeside antics, a July premiere seems appropriate.

"TV is changing so quickly," co-show runner Heldens says. "This is the perfect time to launch a show about summer."

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TV Review
‘The Bridge,’ borderline police story
From FX, another quirky cop procedural--she's got Asperger's
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine - Jul. 3, 2013

In the last decade or so, TV procedurals have often featured crime fighters who seem to be a little off. To cite only a few examples, the lead characters in “Monk,” “Perception,” “Numb3rs” and “Homeland” have mental quirks that would normally be handicaps but may actually help them be brilliant sleuths.

FX’s ambitious new crime drama “The Bridge” has a novel take on this cliché. Its main character, an El Paso police detective, Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), has what appears to be a severe case of Asperger’s syndrome, but her disability actually makes her less effective in her work. In fact, nothing she does in the series’ first three episodes reveals extraordinary brilliance.

If that’s a joke, it’s too subtle. More likely, the show’s creators simply forgot to include the requisite scenes of Holmesian ingenuity.

In fact, many aspects of “The Bridge” are just a little off. Fortunately, most of the show is close enough to keep us engrossed and entertained, if not enthralled. The cast’s talent and star power carry us over the bumps and dips.

The premiere episode, airing next Wednesday, July 10, at 10 p.m., opens with a confrontation between Sonya and a Mexican state police detective, Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir), when a female corpse is found straddling the borderline on the bridge that runs from El Paso to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, just after a mysterious blackout. A stickler for the rules, Sonya refuses to wave through a car carrying an American who just suffered a heart attack. Both more volatile and more easy-going, Marco lets the car pass.

When the police try to move the corpse, it splits in two. It turns out that the top half is that of a Texas judge who is strongly anti-immigration; the bottom half belonged to one of the hundreds of young Mexican women who have died or gone missing in recent years in Juárez.

Soon Sonya and Marco are working together on the case, which gets bigger. (Spoiler alerts!) A burned-out newspaper reporter, Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard), is held hostage remotely by the killer, who reveals political motives that go beyond immigration.

An eccentric social worker, Steven Linder (Thomas M. Wright), is seen transporting a Mexican prostitute across the border and later turns up near the scene of a mass murder of Mexicans who were entering the U.S. illegally. And Charlotte Millwright (Annabeth Gish), the wealthy widow of the man who was having the heart attack on the bridge, learns that her husband was involved in some shady cross-border activities.

Although the scripts keep the expanding story followable, some aspects are, as mentioned above, a little off. The serial killer reveals technical and logistical skills that would seem to require a team of sociopaths. If he’s working with a group, one of them would probably point out that you shouldn’t fight for the oppressed by killing them.

Sometimes Marco and Sonya’s relationship recalls the mismatched buddy cops so popular in movies and on TV. But their clashes provide little in the way of either comedy or drama, so the writers probably should have toned this motif down.

Sonya has been given a textbook case of Asperger’s that is sometimes played for comedy, if not for outright laughs. She’s so insensitive to people’s emotions that she can’t understand why Marco’s wife calls him while he’s at work. We can believe that Sonya can’t grasp other people’s need to reach out, but the script makes it sounds as if this were the first time she’d ever seen or heard of such behavior.

We wait in vain for the writers to give us an example of Sonya’s disorder working to her professional advantage, not only because we expect it from other “defective detective” shows but also because we need to see some reason for her boss, Lt. Hank Wade (Ted Levine), to keep her on the force despite her penchant for antagonizing witnesses and colleagues and upsetting the families of victims. (Nonetheless, fans of “Monk” will be pleased to see Ted Levine back supervising a detective with psychological issues.)

It’s a credit to the principal actors’ convincing performances that these questions probably won’t occur to most viewers.

Although the scripts in later episodes will need some ingenuity to explain the murderer’s activities, the first three episodes of “The Bridge” make us care who he is and what he’s really up to. We only hope that the writers have a good idea where they’re going and aren’t saying that they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it.

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Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Jul. 6, 2013

ESPN, 9:00 a.m. ET

The opponents in this year’s women’s final at Wimbledon have gotten there through very different paths. Marion Bartoli (seeded No. 15) has had a relatively easy time of it, getting to the finals without losing a set. On the other hand, and on the other side of the net, Sabine Lisicki, seeded No. 23, has battled hard to make it this far, coming back after being down 0-3 in the third and deciding set to beat both Serena Williams (the No. 1 seed) and, on Thursday, Agnieszka Radwanska (No. 4). Whichever woman prevails, it will be her first major championship win.

AMC, 1:00 p.m. ET

The Fourth of July weekend marathon continues. And today, beginning at 1 p.m. ET, AMC repeats Season 3, the shows in which the band of hardy survivors prepares to take to the road again – shifting from the farm to a potential new haven, a local prison.

Sundance, 8:00 p.m. ET

It’s been 20 years since Steven Spielberg made this 1993 movie about Oskar Schindler – winning himself an Oskar (well, an Oscar) as Best Director in the process. Liam Neeson stars in the role of the man who, despite his close association with Nazis, saved an estimated 1000 Jews from extermination during the Holocaust.

ABC, 9:00 p.m. ET

As this series scrambles to write its way to oblivion, wrapping up as many plot threads as possible before its swift cancellation, it makes so little sense that it seems like Zero Hour – another ABC series overloaded with conspiracies, coincidences and contrived characters. The supernatural underpinnings of 666 Park Avenue have given way to some Da Vinci Code-like revelations about a mysterious group known as the “illuminati.” Ironic, since the series itself is about to go dark.

NBC, 10:00 p.m. ET

This series, too, was canceled and yanked quickly by its network, then brought back for a summer burn-off of episodes that were produced but not televised. This series, at least, is more interesting than convoluted – though, tonight, its plot has the hero getting involved in an uncomfortable romantic triangle. Why so uncomfortable? Because it’s with his girlfriend and his own sinister alter ego. Two's company and three's a crowd, all at once...

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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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Technology Notes
Rediscovering Radio Through Apps
By Jenna Wortham, The New York Times' 'Bits' Blog - Jul. 5, 2013

Growing up, the radio provided the soundtrack for doing my hair in the morning and the ride to school. It kept me company during late nights while I finished my homework and entertained during long summer road trips with my family.

Fast forward a few years. I got a CD player for my car and cycled through a series of portable music devices, from hand-me-down Walkmans to MiniDisc players, iPod Nanos and finally, an iPhone with Spotify. And it was great. My music life got more efficient. I could listen to exactly what I wanted, anytime, without having to suffer through annoying D.J. interludes and commercials.

But earlier this year, work sent me to Los Angeles. Sitting in my rental car in traffic, I turned on Hot 92.3 and made my way across the city, singing along to the Top 40 hits and laughing at the cheesy banter of the radio jockeys. During dinner, I bonded with a friend who had listened to the same segments on the same station that morning. It was a throwback to my teen years, hauling friends around in my Volvo station wagon. It was fun and communal in a way that streaming music hasn’t been in years.

Back in New York, I gushed to a friend about my radio revelations and he suggested I check out some of the newer radio applications. I’ve been hooked ever since.

These apps let you listen to nearly any radio station around the United States. I listen to local morning shows for their reality-show recaps, ticket giveaways and celebrity gossip; then later in the day, switch over to radio stations in California or Houston to check out what the D.J.s are throwing on in those cities to hype people up for the night out.

And as it turns out, TuneIn, the app I use the most, is actually quite popular. The company said it has more than 40 million monthly users and more than 1 billion hours listened in total through the service, which is free. In May, TuneIn raised $25 million from Institutional Venture Partners (the same firm that just funded Snapchat), Sequoia, Google and General Catalyst.

The appeal of the radio isn’t the music selection — I often hear the same annoying Drake or Taylor Swift song before I get something fresh. And the commercials are just as annoying and jarring as traditional radio.

It’s the human element that draws me in, knowing that someone is selecting songs for you. Remember Turntable? We didn’t love it because it was cutting edge or worked perfectly — we loved it because the online app mimics the communal experience of listening to music together during a concert or in someone’s basement.

That’s something that often feels missing from our digital interactions and lives. Maybe that’s why the visual vernacular of images, emoji, those cartoons text characters, and GIFs are all so popular. They’re more evocative of a mood or emotion and let you feel more of the person behind the interaction. It also might be one of the reasons podcasts still find dedicated listeners in an age where talk radio often feels so outdated.

And there’s something lovely about the way radio apps let you tune in to any station you want, instead of just whatever is within range. I like listening to KCRW and KMEL when I’m nostalgic for the Bay Area, where I lived for a few years. It’s in those moments that I’m transported back to a time or a place — a college house party or high school trips to the mall — and I’m reminded that a person, not a machine, picked it. It’s the same reason I love typos in my text messages, and often don’t mind when I misspell something on Twitter.

You can feel the humanness in those imperfections. They remind you that you aren’t alone, something that can be hard to remember when you spend so much time interacting with everyone and everything through a screen.

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TV Notes
George W. Bush on 'This Week'; Rick Perry on 'Fox News Sunday'
By Hal Boedeker, Orlando Sentinel's 'TV Guy' Blog - Jul. 5, 2013

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be a guest this weekend on CNN's "State of the Union."

The main topic will be Egypt. Other guests will be Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour; and CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria of Time magazine. The program starts at 9 a.m. and noon Sunday.

Other guests Sunday morning:

Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush will be guests on ABC's "This Week" at 11 a.m. on WFTV-Channel 9. Another guest is Mohamed Tawfik, Egypt's ambassador to the United States. A panel on Egypt brings together George Will, ABC's Martha Raddatz, David Ignatius of The Washington Post and Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute. A roundtable discussion brings together Will, Cokie Roberts of ABC, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Rick Klein, political director for ABC News.

Egyptian opposition leader Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei will be a guest on NBC's "Meet the Press" at 9 a.m. on WESH-Channel 2. Other guests are Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho. The panel will be Tom Friedman of The New York Times, Robin Wright of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg View, Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, David Brooks of The New York Times, NBC's Andrea Mitchell and NBC's Chuck Todd.

Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, will be a guest on "Fox News Sunday" at 10 a.m. on WOFL-Channel 35. Other guests are Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. The panel will be Brit Hume, Juan Williams, Nina Easton of Fortune magazine and former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, a Fox News contributor.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will be a guest on CBS' "Face the Nation" at 10:30 a.m. on WKMG-Channel 6. Other guests are CBS' Clarissa Ward; Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.; and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas. One panel will feature Janet Murguia, president and CEO of National Council of La Raza, and Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Another panel offers Amy Walter of Cook Political Report, David Rohde of Reuters, Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings Institution and John Dickerson of CBS. Harold Holzer discusses his book "The Civil War in 50 Objects."

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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 - Jan. 20)
8PM - Celebrity Wife Swap: Nia Peeples/Tiffany
9PM - Whodunnit?
10PM - Castle
(R - Jan. 7)

7PM - 60 Minutes
8PM - Big Brother SD
9PM - Under the Dome
(R - Jul. 1)
10PM - The Mentalist
(R - Jan. 13)

7PM - America's Got Talent (120 min.)
(R - Jul. 2)
9PM - Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
(R - Apr. 24)
10PM - Crossing Line

7PM - The Cleveland Show
(R - Apr. 7)
7:30PM - The Simpsons
(R - Mar. 17)
8PM - The Simpsons
(R - Apr. 14)
8:30PM - Bob's Burgers
(R - May 16)
9PM - Family Guy
(R - Mar. 24)
9:30PM - American Dad
(R - Jan. 27)

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Secrets of Althorp -- The Spencers
9PM - Masterpiece Mystery! - Endeavour, Series 1: Girl (90 min.)
10:30PM - Call the Midwife
(R - Feb. 10)

5:25PM - Fútbol - CONCACAF Copa de Oro: Canadá vs. Martinica (LIVE)
7:30PM - Fútbol Central
7:55PM - Fútbol - CONCACAF Copa de Oro: México vs. Panamá (LIVE)
10PM - Parodiando (120 min.)

6PM - Movie - Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009)
8PM - La Voz Kids (2 1/2 hrs.)
10:30PM - Acceso Total: La Voz Kids
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Critic's Notes
My Encounter with 'The Lone Ranger'
By Bill Brioux, TVWorthWatching.com - Jul. 7, 2013

"Are ya grindin'?" the Loan Ranger said to me. "Shut 'er down."

Thus began my interview with Clayton Moore, the actor who played TV's The Lone Ranger from 1949 to 1957. The series, which ran for years on radio, was the first made-for-TV western.

I met Moore at a press event in Los Angeles in 1985 when he was still making public appearances in his powder blue cowboy suit and white Stetson. Then in his early seventies, Moore seemed convinced he was the Lone Ranger and you didn't dare question him on it.

Friday's release of Johnny Depp's new Disney feature, The Lone Ranger, brings back memories of coming face to face with Moore, who was not wearing his mask at the time I met him. Instead, he had on a pair of those wraparound Cito Gaston shades. If memory serves, he was legally prohibited from wearing the mask. Seems the movie studio behind the really bad early '80s remake The Legend of the Lone Ranger wanted to make sure nobody confused Moore with their star, Klinton Spilsbury.

Moore's legend is almost as epic as his alter ego's. There's that great story Jay Thomas tells on Letterman every Christmas involving Moore in the back of a car, coming to the rescue at just the right moment. Watch Thomas tell the story here in this 2009 Letterman clip.

Then there's the time Moore fired his six-shooter at a TCA event. I wasn't there, but The Toronto Sun's Jim Slotek was at the Nashville Network press conference in 1985 when Moore walked in, aimed at the ceiling and fired a blank to get everyone's attention. It worked!

Read Slotek's ear-splitting account of his showdown with Moore here.

No guns were drawn when I spoke with Moore, although he demanded I shut off my tape recorder. I asked about Jay Silverheels, the Canadian Mohawk First Nations actor who played Tonto in the series. Silverheels hailed from Brantford, Ont.

Moore spoke warmly about his "kemosabe," who died in 1980. "He has gone to the Happy Hunting Ground," said Moore, who went there himself in 1999.

Silverheels' original name was Harold J. Smith. He was a boxer and a lacrosse player as a young man in Upstate New York, and took his stage name from his nickname on the lacrosse field -- Jay Silverheels.

Moore started his showbiz career as a circus acrobat and later worked as a model and a stuntman. After starring in his second Lone Ranger movie in 1958, he pretty much devoted the rest of his life to making personal appearances as the noble cowboy hero -- paving the way for Adam West, William Shatner and others who eventually embraced, rather than fought, being typecast on TV.

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TV Notes
The MacFarlane-Simpsons Bet
By Jon Caramanica, The New York Times - Jul. 7, 2013

Perhaps no broadcast network has bet as aggressively and as successfully on animation as Fox, which for more than two decades has used it to anchor its Sunday night schedule.

“We have a 25-year multibillion-dollar prime-time monopoly in animation that has worked great,” said Fox’s chairman for entertainment, Kevin Reilly. But, he noted, “It’s very low percentage. The Seth MacFarlanes are one of a kind, virtually.”

For the last decade or so, Fox has relied heavily on Mr. MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show,” to fill out its Sunday-night Animation Domination lineup. And all those shows live in the long shadow cast by “The Simpsons,” now 24 seasons strong on Fox.

But there’s a big gap between “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” and what gets adjacent airtime. Despite devoted followings, neither “Futurama” nor “King of the Hill” survived. (“Futurama” was reborn on Comedy Central.) Now “Bob’s Burgers” is the lone non-MacFarlane, non-”Simpsons” show in the Sunday lineup.

Fox hopes that down the line, other shows might make the jump up from the Animation Domination High-Def Saturday-night minor leagues. With a series on Saturday night, a creator “can make a decent living,” said Nick Weidenfeld, who’s in charge of the Saturday-night animated shows. “And if it goes to Sunday night, you could be rich.”


* * * *

TV Notes
Fox’s Experiment in Animated Living

LOS ANGELES — You can’t be totally sure which room in the rambling office space on Sunset Boulevard here might be cooking up the future of network prime-time animation, so Nick Weidenfeld does his best to be in them all.

One morning in April, he started by bouncing ideas back and forth with Dino Stamatopoulos, a stringy misanthrope with stringier hair — you may know him as Star-Burns on “Community.” They were working on ideas for episodes of his show “High School USA!”

Later, Mr. Weidenfeld shotgunned cans of La Croix sparkling water and mused over how difficult it might be to acquire the rights to “Living Single,” the 1990s sitcom that the Lucas Brothers, inspirations for and stars of “Lucas Bros. Moving Co.,” want to be watching in one episode of their show.

In the afternoon, Mr. Weidenfeld was in the recording studio, shepherding a bug-eyed and foul-mouthed Jay Johnston (of “Mr. Show” fame) as he did an endless stream of line readings for “High School USA!” with slightly different inflections each time.

Mr. Weidenfeld is the executive in charge of Fox’s Animation Domination High-Def — a play off its Animation Domination Sunday-night lineup, so let’s call it High-Def for short — a new animation programming block consisting primarily of quarter-hour episodes drawn from a roster of shows. It will make its debut July 27, a Saturday, from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Eastern and Pacific times (10 p.m. Central), a time slot that is more or less overlooked by all networks that don’t broadcast “Saturday Night Live.” With some inspiration from Adult Swim, the longtime block of nighttime young-adult programming on the Cartoon Network where Mr. Weidenfeld got his start in television, High-Def is seeking to redo not only Fox’s Saturday-night programming, but also the mechanics of American animation, producing locally and more cost effectively.

Depending on how you look at it, High-Def is either a low-stakes experiment in Internet-inspired content development, or one of the highest-profile rethinks by a major network of a chunk of its airtime in recent memory.

The block will have its debut with two new shows: “Axe Cop,” an anime-influenced series based on a Web comic written primarily by an elementary-school-age boy (with his older brother’s assistance), and “High School USA!,” which takes an Archie Comics-esque exterior and infuses it with dark, dirty humor. (The first episodes of each will be broadcast the Sunday before, July 21.)

The shows are the first elements of a long-term strategy to create something of a farm team for Fox’s long-dominant Sunday-night animation lineup, which, anchored by “The Simpsons,” has been the genre’s juggernaut.

Fox’s chairman for entertainment, Kevin Reilly, has committed to providing financing for three and a half years — one year of development and two and a half years of programming. In addition to the shows that make it to air, High-Def is trying to build a robust Web presence, with animated shorts and topical daily video snippets called GIFs.

“I don’t want it running through these halls — that’s a disaster,” Mr. Reilly said in his office on the Fox lot about seven miles from the High-Def office. “It’s got to have its own ethos.”

He added, “It’s the most fun I’m having, just because it is so unfettered, and everything else I do is like turning a barge.”

Mr. Reilly has given a long leash to Mr. Weidenfeld, formerly head of development for Adult Swim. He and his team moved into the office on Sunset in January, and it houses an incredibly young staff. Mr. Weidenfeld said he had tried not to hire anyone who’d ever paid to consume television, preferring to understand his employees’ generational viewing habits as a means of learning how better to promote his shows.

Another morning, Ben Jones, the creative director, was leading a class on the graphics editing program Pixen for the young artists who work on shorts in the office annex next door. Every now and again, he’d make a 1990s reference — say, “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” — and it was generally lost on them. Still, so far the artists have proved quick studies; several were already promoted from the shorts team to the main shows.

High-Def can be thought of as a quick-strike response to the molasses-slow process of traditional animation, in which episodes are storyboarded more than a year before their air date. “That’s a long time to wait to see if your show is funny or not,” said Matt Silverstein, one of the in-house show runners. “Chances are it’s not. Then what do you do?”

Often, Mr. Reilly said, a second season has to be picked up before the first one even has its premiere. What’s more, most of the actual animating is outsourced, typically to South Korea, and in a scene out of “Das Kapital,” there is little collaboration among writers, storyboard artists and the animators.

“It’s incredible to be doing all the animation under one roof,” said Rich Arons, key animator for “Axe Cop.” “That really hasn’t happened, I’d say, in about 25 years in the U.S.”

In contrast to typical network series, Fox owns this content, which also means it free to distribute it however it like, or to let viewers do so. A signature of the High-Def Web site will be a simple GIF maker so fans can put together their own clips of the shows and share them on social media. Plenty of television shows do well in the GIF ecosystem, but generally those GIFs are made illegally.

But High-Def writers and animators are working with these sorts of sharing opportunities in mind — “moments inside the shows that become GIF-able moments,” Mr. Weidenfeld said. He speaks about the form like a zealot (“I have a vision for how our audience can engage with our content”) as well as an industrialist (“Especially because there’s no audio, it’s just an ad — all it is, is a promotional tool”).

To execute his vision, Mr. Weidenfeld assembled a team with flexible skills.

It includes Mr. Jones, the creative director, who got his start as part of the Paper Rad art collective, and a pair of show runners, Mr. Silverstein and Dave Jeser, veterans of “The Cleveland Show” and “Drawn Together,” who serve as utility players, patching holes, sometimes punching up scripts, sometimes guiding young talent through formulating plot.

At Adult Swim, Mr. Weidenfeld’s first responsibility was to reach out to developers outside the traditional animation pipelines. Here, he’s working with untested talent as well: Joshua Miller, creator of “Golan the Insatiable,” about a warlord from another dimension who ends up exiled in Minnesota, had never worked in a writers’ room before, and the comically lethargic Lucas brothers (Kenny and Keith), despite some work on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” still come off as if they’re just talking to one another, not for public consumption.

“Animation was better for us” than a live-action show, said Kenny, the talkier of the twins, though not by much. “We just have a lot of bizarre ideas.”

What the Lucas brothers’ show has in common with the rest of the High-Def programming is, Mr. Weidenfeld insists, a lack of cynicism. By contrast, Adult Swim was “not an optimistic channel,” he said.

High-Def will celebrate, he said, “the paramount importance of youth and love and friendship and hanging out and being awesome — not ironically awesome, just awesome.”

High-Def still works with Fox oversight — the GIFs and shorts are still subject to vetting by the legal and standards and practices departments. But plenty of randy things make it through, an indication that Fox is willing to test boundaries for now.

Mr. Weidenfeld said, “You have a TV network saying, ‘We recognize not that television is dying but there’s a change, and we are investing in figuring out how to succeed in the new era.’ ”

Mr. Reilly is also rolling out a similar plan for live-action comedy development, and Fox recently announced a partnership with the YouTube channel Wigs, as part of a live-action drama development plan.

Even on the less-scrutinized real estate of Saturday nights — previous Fox programming has included “MADtv,” a direct “Saturday Night Live” competitor, and two talk shows, “The Wanda Sykes Show” and “Talkshow With Spike Feresten” — High-Def will have to contend with the usual pesky metrics: advertising dollars and ratings. Viewership, at first, is “not going to statistically look very big,” Mr. Reilly said.

Hend Baghdady, High-Def’s executive in charge of production, said: “It’s going to take at least a year for people to understand that they can tune in on Saturday nights. The majority of our audience on a Saturday night is, like, playing Xbox, partying with their friends.”

But advertisers will be there from the beginning, and not in the usual ways. As opposed to relying on 30-second spots, Fox hopes to sell the block as a whole via partnerships that include High-Def-created ads that will be stylistically consistent with the rest of the programming.

After Mr. Weidenfeld was finished recording Mr. Johnston, he headed back to his modest office for a meeting with representatives of a well-regarded podcast. They were pitching a show that had all the mature-animation hallmarks — adult-aimed content, well-known guest stars doing voice roles.

Mr. Weidenfeld was polite, said he’d read the proposal more closely. By old measurements, it felt like a sure thing, but it was hard not to feel that given what else had been happening in the building that day, it was in no way the future.

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Critic's Notes
Hotel Television: The Final Frontier for Minimalism in TV
By AJ Marechal, Variety.com - Jul. 5, 2013

When I grabbed the TV remote in my Las Vegas hotel room Wednesday night, I was surprised by how lightweight it was. A simple, sleek remote with the bare minimum buttons, it felt starkly different from my bulky Time Warner Cable-issued remote back in Los Angeles, littered with DVR options, a flurry of arrows and a hodgepodge of colors, most of which I don’t even use.

The minimalistic remote I’ve been using during my stay in Vegas is just a microcosmic example of hotel TV’s overall simplicity. Hotels feel, in a way, like the last frontier when it comes to truly basic television viewing experiences, given the endless packages and niche tiers and color-coordinated channel blocks in today’s era of TWC and Dish cable systems. And maybe it’s the recirculated casino air that’s warping my perspective, but I realized during this trip to Sin City that I actually like this TV viewing experience more than the one I’m immersed in at home.

Now, I will admit hotel television comes with its slew of frustrations, including glossy HD-capable TV sets that aren’t bestowed with high definition services (worst tease ever, and also optically painful during hangovers), or cheap, decrepit units that struggle to break through the onscreen fuzz (ironic to experience while in Gotham for the TV biz’s granddaddy of all money-flow events, the Upfronts).

But the meager lineup on most hotel TVs encourages a viewing behavior I rarely engage in anymore: channel surfing. With no massive, rainbow-colored channel guide to wrestle with, I find myself flipping through the two dozen or so stations, discovering cable nets like Bio that are buried deep in an unknown specialty tier back at home. I watch Conan O’Brien’s latenight talkshow for the first time, and realize I like it (and guest Russell Brand). I hop from NBC to TNT in fewer clicks than it takes to cancel a DVR recording on Time Warner Cable. I find a show I’m just a notch above indifferent towards, and fall asleep with the TV on for the first time in months.

It was this kind of channel surfing that led me to fall in love with television in the first place. It reminds me of when it was easy to head from one cable net to the next without marching through countless pay TV nets that I’m not subscribed to. This simpler TV experience allowed me to not only discover new networks with ease, but also new programming. I found quirky reality fare and syndicated comedy marathons, niche networks and oddball gameshows, all on my own — these shows weren’t promoted to me, I simply stumbled upon them and enjoyed. What’s more, no channels had cumbersome triple digit IDs.

“Put it on 67,” I’d say to my brother when MTV’s “Real World” would be on, or “Flip over to 56″ for “Law and Order” reruns.

I’m surprised I still remember the channel numbers from my teenage days, yet couldn’t tell you any of the numbers for my favorite cable nets on my uber-dense TWC package. I have hundreds upon hundreds of channels now, and I don’t know what many of them are. Maybe I’ve just grown lazy, but it does feel overwhelming at times. And, given the nature of my job, that overwhelming quality to my channel lineup casts a haze of guilt upon me as I chide myself: You should know more about these channels. Come on. You do this for a living.

Minimalism in TV viewing eventually hits its wall, much in the same way that staying in a hotel does. There comes a point where you miss having more choice — be it sports nets, Logo and more cable news, or a full-sized kitchen and all your toiletries — and eventually long for the complete setup you have back at home. But what I didn’t realize as I commuted out to the desert for a brief escape from Los Angeles was that I’d also be escaping from the mind numbing television experience I’ve gotten used to back at home (though the cable bill I can never escape).

It could be the room service I’ve been ordering, but TV feels more relaxing with this setup. And in an era where seemingly every exec on every panel is touting the importance of choice, I can’t help but hear in the back of my head as I flip channels with this unadorned remote, less really is more.

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Washington/Technology Notes
FCC clears way for SoftBank-Sprint merger
By Mike Snider and Roger Yu, USA Today - Jul. 5, 2013

Sprint Nextel cleared its last hurdle in being acquired by Japan's SoftBank.

The Federal Communications Commission approved SoftBank's $21.6 billion merger with Sprint Nextel and paved the way for the new entity to challenge wireless giants AT&T and Verizon.

The decision, issued Friday, also allows Sprint to purchase the remaining $3.7 billion in shares of Clearwire, which owns a large amount of wireless spectrum that the new Sprint needs to expand and improve its data network in the U.S. Sprint already owns a majority stake in the company.

"After thorough review, the Commission has found that the proposed SoftBank-Sprint-Clearwire transactions would serve the public interest," said acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn in a statement. "The increased investment in Sprint's and Clearwire's networks is likely to accelerate deployment of mobile broadband services and enhance competition in the mobile marketplace, promoting customer choice, innovation and lower prices."

SoftBank, a Japanese holding company with investments in Internet and wireless carrier businesses, initially offered to buy Sprint in October with a proposal to buy 70% of Sprint for $20 billion. But it was forced to raise its offer price after running into a competing bid from Dish Network, a U.S. satellite TV service provider that wants to enter the wireless business to diversify its offerings.

On June 18, Dish dropped its bid for Sprint after SoftBank raised its offer. Dish also dropped its separate pursuit of Clearwire on June 26.

The FCC's approval was widely expected as the deal doesn't consolidate the domestic market yet injects Sprint with more resources from an overseas parent with deep pockets and wireless experience.

The Treasury Department also reviewed national security implications of SoftBank owning U.S. airwaves, or spectrum, but cleared the bid in May. There also were concerns that SoftBank's use of Chinese networking equipment could open up U.S. networks to snooping by China, but SoftBank agreed to stop buying from one of its top Chinese suppliers, Huawei.

Sprint, Clearwire and SoftBank expected the transactions to become final this month, according to Sprint. Clearwire's shareholders are scheduled to vote July 8 on Sprint's purchase, a move already recommended by Clearwire's board of directors.

In a statement, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse thanked the FCC for its review and said that "just two years ago, the wireless industry was at the doorstep of duopoly, but with these transformative transactions, we are one step closer to a stronger Sprint which will better serve consumers, challenge the market share leaders and drive innovation in the American economy."

The merger could result in Sprint becoming "a more aggressive provider in the market with a better network" that will likely result in lower prices and differentiated services, said Roger Entner, an industry analyst at Recon Analytics.

"Sprint has to get into gear fast as its competitors are currently significantly more successful than they are. At this time, Sprint's biggest challenge is a resurgent T-Mobile with a new service offer that appeals to new customers," he said.

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Critic's Notes
The shorter seasons on cable have been influencing more shows on TV to follow suit
By David Hinckley, New York Daily News - Jul. 7, 2013

A few weeks before ABC renewed its guilty-pleasure prime-time soap “Revenge” this spring for a third season, the guy who created it quit.

Widespread and not-denied reports said showrunner Mike Kelley had been trying to persuade ABC that “Revenge” needed to shrink to the “cable model” of a 13-episode season rather than the 22 episodes that’s long been the broadcast network standard.

Coming up with 22 episodes a season, Kelley reportedly argued, was exhausting to everyone and diluted the show. If that was the argument, ABC won. This time.

But if that’s how Kelley feels, he’s part of a growing chorus of voices in television’s creative community.

And why does this matter to you? Because more and more, we’re going to get our favorite TV shows in chunks of 10 to 13 episodes, even on broadcast.

“I see both sides,” says Marc Cherry, who wrote 180 episodes of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” in eight seasons and now writes Lifetime’s “Devious Maids,” with a 13-episode season. “If viewers like a show, they want more,” he says. “Networks want more. But for a writer, the pressure can be overwhelming. At the end of ‘Desperate,’ I felt completely wrung out.”

“Thirteen is enough,” says Dana Delany, who’s starred in several hit broadcast shows. Her most recent, “Body of Proof,” finished its run with a 13-episode season that she calls “just right.”

For starters, a 22-episode season means 8-9 months of filming. A season or two of that and a 10- to 13-episode season, with 5-6 months of filming, sounds very appealing.
“When I was doing ‘ER,’ we’d joke about the ‘episode 13 to 17 malaise’,” says Noah Wyle. “You’d feel like you were sleepwalking and repeating a lot of what you’d already done.”

Wyle now stars in TNT’s “Falling Skies,” where seasons last 10 episodes. “We could push to 12, maybe,” says Wyle. “But if we went beyond that, we’d start having storylines where I find someone’s wallet and try to figure out how to return it.”

Eric McCormack, who starred on NBC’s “Will and Grace,” now plays a schizophrenic professor on TNT’s “Perception,” Season: 14 episodes. “If we did more, I really would go crazy,” jokes McCormack.

Charlotte Ross, who did several seasons on “NYPD Blue” and now stars on VH1’s “Hit the Floor,” says she turned down an offer to do “Lost” because filming it meant too many months on the Hawaii set. “Crazy, right?” she says. “All that time in paradise. But it would have been the wrong decision for everything else in my life.”

Writers and actors aren’t the deciders here. Networks make that call. Their thinking has always been that more episodes of a hit show means more money. That’s why, in TV’s early days, networks wanted prime-time shows on the air for 39 weeks, taking a break only in the low-viewership summer. Then as costs rose, networks started cutting back, until a few years ago the standard hit 22.

This cut costs and created other problems — like how to stretch 22 episodes over 39 weeks. Solution: Either run a few at a time or run a big chunk and then take a long break.
Either way, some viewers never return. The cable model solves some of that problem. Ten to 13 episodes can be run consecutively, letting viewers get into a groove.

Elwood Reid, who has written broadcast shows and now writes FX’s “The Bridge,” thinks viewers like fewer episodes. “With 22, you get fatigue,” he says. “Because inevitably they’re seeing a lot of repetition.”

With cable, season length was never an issue because cable budgets rarely allow for more than 13 episodes. Even if a cable season runs 20, it’s broken into two blocs with a long hiatus.

The new wild card here is shows from Hulu, Netflix and WIGS, which are released in multiple batches. Where broadcast networks could once dictate all the rules, because they were the only distribution game in town, today there are lots of smaller games, and they keep getting bigger.

That’s presumably one reason why several broadcast networks have been trying out cable-style scheduling with select shows. Fox scored by starting “24” midseason and running episodes consecutively. This year it ran “The Following” as a 15-episode show, and Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said he expects that won’t be the last one.

CBS will have a 15-episode drama next season, “Hostages.” The network also airs short-run dramas in the “off-season,” including “Under the Dome” right now and “Unforgettable” later this month.

NBC put its serialized “Revolution” on a quasi-cable schedule last year, running two blocs of consecutive episodes with a long break in the middle.

Shorter seasons mean everyone makes less money from a show, from CEOs to caterers. But as the TV world keeps fragmenting, all indications say that’s where we’re going.

No one’s going to be chopping “The Big Bang Theory” or “Modern Family” down to 10 episodes any time soon. But shows from “The Sopranos” to “Downton Abbey” have proven that if we like something, we’ll be there when it returns.

The only thing that won’t get shorter is that waiting time.

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Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Jul. 7, 2013

ESPN, 9:00 a.m. ET

In yesterday’s women’s final, poor Sabine Lisinki, after playing so brilliantly, and with such heart, to reach the finals, had little left in the tank, and lost in straight sets to Marion Bartoli, coming alive only in the last few games. What that may mean for today’s men’s final is uncertain. Novak Djokovic (pictured), ranked No. 1, may be drained a bit after playing the longest men’s semifinal in Wimbledon history, and prevailing over Juan Martin del Potro in a thrilling match. Murray, trying to be the first Brit male tennis player to win Wimbledon in three-fourths of a century, will have the crowd almost completely on his side – but so did Lisinki. Either way, a final to make a point to watch. ABC repeats the match at 3 p.m. ET – but if you aren’t enjoying “breakfast at Wimbledon” by watching live, what’s the point?

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

TCM already had scheduled an Essentials, Jr. night devoted to “Down to Size” before the recent death of writer Richard Matheson, whose imagination spawned an astounding list of beloved movies and TV shows. (For my list of his TV greats, see Bianculli’s Blog.) Even so, the night begins with his seminal contribution to the “shrunken drama” genre: 1957’s The Incredible Shrinking Man, starring Grant Williams as a man who finds himself getting smaller and smaller, and facing danger and death from formerly benign objects and pets. Williams’ fine performance in this movie that proves the adage that there are no small parts, only small actors.

Showtime, 9:00 p.m. ET

Last week’s Season 8 premiere ended with a stunner – Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
with a visiting police psychologist, played by Charlotte Rampling, casually mentioning to Michael C. Hall’s Dexter that she knows about “Harry’s code” – the rules by which Dexter’s father taught and allowed him to kill. How is that possible?
In tonight’s episode, we find out, and the answer makes Rampling’s character even more mysterious and unpredictable.

HBO, 10:00 p.m. ET
In California, Tom (Chris O’Dowd) continues to uncover more, increasingly unsettling information about his ancestors. And while he’s finding loved ones, Bea (Nina Conti) is losing them – at least one, when her beloved Monkey hand puppet vanishes around Venice Beach.

Showtime, 10:00 p.m. ET

In this second episode, Liev Schreiber, as Ray, has to contend with his ex-con father, just released from prison, who embarks on a determined campaign to undermine his son’s wishes by getting closer to Ray’s wife and children. It leads to one of the most friction-filled father-son dynamics on TV in years, and one definitely worth watching – especially with Jon Voight doing such great work as Ray’s loose-cannon dad.

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TV Review
'Endeavour' and its younger Morse are welcome company
By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times - Jul. 7, 2013

Having last year put a toe in the water with an exploratory pilot and found it fine, "Endeavour" returns to the PBS series "Masterpiece Mystery" Sunday with four new episodes. They are excellent company, even if they sometimes feel too coincidental, complicated, clever or corpse-strewn to be true.

The series is a prequel to the beloved "Inspector Morse" (1987-2000), which starred the late John Thaw as an Oxford-based police detective. (The character's first name provides the new show's title.) While Kevin Whately, who played his old number two, mans the ongoing timeline in the sequel "Inspector Lewis," "Endeavour" jumps back to the mid-'60s, when the future chief inspector was yet a mere detective constable; it keeps the character alive at the same time it feeds our not wholly exhausted taste for midcentury period drama.

As in the pilot, the backbone of the series is the relationship between young Morse (Shaun Evans) and his immediate superior, Detective Inspector Fred Thursday, wonderfully played by Roger Allam, whose manner, shape and dark-stout voice (the series' pedal tone, to venture a musical metaphor) recall Michael Gambon in both "The Singing Detective" and "Maigret." And like Maigret, he has a pipe.

We get to know Thursday better this year: In one lovely scene, Morse sits down with the family at breakfast, which makes him a little uncomfortable and a little happy; we know that his own life will never look like this.

Like a milder, slightly more flexible version of his irascible later self, Morse is socially awkward and sometimes abrasive — "a bloody misfit," someone calls him. Fortunately, the character exists in a time when no one diagnoses him as "a little autistic."

He is already addicted to puzzles and opera and displaying a signature weakness for distressed damsels: "When it comes to a bird with a wing down," observes Thursday, "you've got a blind spot a mile wide." But he is also chivalrous (or shy): When one mixed-up young woman implores him, "Take me to bed," he reads her to sleep with poetry instead. (He is literary as well as musical.)

Morse knows that he's the smartest young buck in the herd, which naturally irritates his co-workers, of whom Det. Sgt. Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) is his most immediate and vocal rival. At the same time, there is a moment in each film where he smacks his forehead and calls himself an idiot, having missed some crucial clue that has been staring him in the face all along.

Russell Lewis, who also developed "Inspector Lewis," wrote all four episodes, though different directors bring different quirks to the material. Some get a little too fancy with the framing and focus, and the staging of some Tense Moments relied more on movie convention than the show's own aesthetic logic. (They struck me as funny in a way I am sure was not intended.) The unfussy approach that worked for "Morse" also works best for "Endeavour." Still, if there is more action than in the parent series, "more" in this case does not mean "much," and things stay mostly slow, quiet and a little mournful. Evans does not attempt a John Thaw imitation, but he sits deep in the part.

The new season adds Anton Lesser as a flinty new boss for both Thursday and Morse, who warns the station house against "breaches of procedure or Spanish practices" (a now-controversial term for workplace customs that cut labor a break); he bumps Morse back from the head of the class, to which Thursday has skipped him. Also new is Sean Rigby as friendly Police Constable Strange, who will have made chief superintendent by the time of "Inspector Morse."

Where: KOCE (PBS)
When: 9 p.m. Sunday

Edited by dad1153 - 7/7/13 at 3:09am
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TV Review
She Has a Badge; She Wants a Baby
By Mike Hale, The New York Times - Jul. 7, 2013

If you look past the singularly uninspiring title, there are a few things about “King” that set it apart from the summer’s other lightweight, paint-by-numbers police dramas.

It has a sense of place: “King” is more closely tied to the culture and the not-so-mean streets of Toronto than earlier Canadian shows like “Flashpoint” and “Rookie Blue.” Scenes are shot at landmarks like New Sky Restaurant, Paramount Fine Foods and Honest Ed’s Alley. Cottages are called chalets, being in agreement means being onside (rather than on board) and if you physically intimidate someone, you’ve gone all George Chuvalo on him.

The other distinguishing attribute of the series, which began Friday on Reelz, is best summed up by a moment in the second episode that we’ve never seen before in a cop show: a nurse pulling a condom onto a transducer so that she can give the main character a transvaginal ultrasound.

Plenty of crime dramas focus on the private lives of their characters, especially now that practically every show depends on serialized story lines. But “King” takes a very particular focus, building much of its eight-episode first season around the efforts of its heroine, Detective Sgt. Jessica King, to become pregnant.

Themes of motherhood and work-life balance are built into cases involving missing children, a married sexual predator and a thief who beats up one of King’s detectives, forcing King and her husband to take charge of the woman’s antagonistic teenage daughter.

The show’s creators, Greg Spottiswood and Bernard Zukerman, appear to be trying for something that has the breezy jokiness of the summer crime dramas on TNT and USA but with a little more substance and grit. They make a good-faith effort to avoid one-dimensional characters and pat, sentimental conclusions, and “King” is slightly wittier and more interesting than shows like “White Collar” or “Rizzoli & Isles.” That isn’t saying a whole lot, though, and the final result is just about as formulaic as those American counterparts.

The closest comparison is to TNT’s former hit “The Closer.” King, like Brenda Leigh Johnson, is given a job — leader of a major-crimes task force — that a veteran male officer feels should be his. Just as the tough boss’s femininity had to be signaled in “The Closer” by a fetish for handbags and a drawer full of junk food, in “King” it’s marked by high heels and tight skirts.

Amy Price-Francis, who has deployed her strong chin and flame-red hair to play combative wives in “The Chicago Code” and “The Cleaner,” is even more striking as King, shot so that she towers over the other characters. Ms. Price-Francis has no problem convincing us that King is the smartest cop in the room, and she easily dispatches the squad-room repartee, which strains for screwball but mostly lands on sitcom.

She’s not as successful, though, at making sense of a character who alternates between agonizing about cases and agonizing about ovulation and hormone injections. Alan Van Sprang (“The Tudors”) fares better as Spears, the detective who loses his position to King and, in an amusing twist, embraces his demotion. “I was lost and now I’m found,” he says before leaning in to give her an awkward kiss on the cheek.

The cases, meanwhile, go by in the usual blur of stakeouts, turf battles and astonishing leaps of logic. The show is less interested in them than in the gender politics of policing, which leads to scenes like the one in which a female detective who lost a battle to King reappears at the end of the episode to announce that she’s seen the light. King did her a favor, she’s realized, and her earlier anger wasn’t really about the job: “Luke’s colicky, and I’ve been totally out of it.”

Reelz, Friday nights at 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.

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Jane Lynch Brings Old-School Hosting Vibe to NBC's 'Hollywood Game Night'
By Lesley Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Feed' Blog - Jul. 5, 2013

Jane Lynch knows her TV game shows.

The Glee star, currently starring in Annie on Broadway, will look to the game show hosts of yesteryear as she hosts NBC's Hollywood Game Night, a competition series featuring teams of celebrities and contestants competing for prizes and bragging rights. Whether it was the wit with which Bert Convy hosted game shows including The Match Game, Password or even Win, Lose or Draw or the snark that made Hollywood Squares' Paul Lynde so amusing, Lynch remembers watching her predecessors walk the fine line between letting the players shine and maintaining order.

Here, the former host of the Emmys and Do Something Awards talks with The Hollywood Reporter about bringing a bit of the past -- and Glee's Sue Sylvester -- to the game show based on Sean Hayes' popular game nights.

The Hollywood Reporter: What have you learned from your previous hosting gigs at the Emmys and Do Something Awards that you've brought to this?
Jane Lynch:
They're different animals, but hosting is incumbent on you to allow everybody to have the freedom to express themselves and have a good time, just like you would do at a party. This is a party atmosphere, so really all I'm in charge of is making sure that the rules are followed and moving the games along and allowing those wonderful moments of the life of the party, but not me explaining the rules but what happens between the contestants and the celebrities. Letting them have their way with the game and staying the course within the bounds of the rules. Which I enforce.

THR: We'd expect no less from someone who plays Sue Sylvester.
(Laughs) Exactly! I'm not blowing whistles, and although it doesn't look like I'm in control, I am in control of all of it.

THR: What cues have you taken from other TV game show hosts?
I remember Gene Rayburn on Match Game, Bert Convy on Tattletales, Super Password and Win, Lose or Draw being very appealing people who really allowed the celebrity players to have fun. Match Game's Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Riley and Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares and when you have your host who is the person who makes sure the game doesn't get too off the rails but allows everybody to have their comic moments and great interaction between the funny people. That's what my job is. I'm the game show's Bert Convy.

THR: Have you participated in Sean's game night before?
I have. It was a blast and I loved being a contestant, but I liked hosting even more. I'd go to his parties and Sean would be the host and it was always meticulously controlled and the movement of the night was very choreographed; he left nothing to chance. All that planning made it one of the most fun game nights I've ever gone to. He's really good at being a host and very charming, so when he told me he was doing this, I asked, "Think I could be you?" And before you knew it, I was hosting Hollywood Game Night.

THR: Which celebrity surprised you the most?
Martin Short's flouting of the rules was fun. He always said something crazy no matter what the rules were, and he always made up his own. Jason Alexander and Josh Gad were rather spirited and together were crazy. Fred Armisen was very quiet and didn't compete for any attention and just sat in the back and would just out of nowhere say something hilarious. He's wicked smart and knew the answers to everything. The most gratifying was how everyone showed up to win. No one wanted to lose, no one was a good sport (laughs). Everyone was jumping up and down and high-fiving and throwing failures into the face of their opponents. There is real booze in those drinks of theirs!

THR: Who was the most competitive?
The first show we shot was with Dax Shepard, Amy Poehler, Armisen, Jason Sudeikis, Maya Rudolph and Sean Hayes -- the veterans all came together, and it was hilarious and high-spirited and a great way to kick this off. There was a little bit of Parks and Recreation vs. The Office with Angela Kinsey, and Ellie Kemper had a little good-natured run with Amy about how many seasons the shows have had.

THR: Of the games featured, which is the one you wished you could play?
I love the game "Do-Do," where you're only allowed to use the lyrics "do" in a song and have to guess it based on that. I'm a big "Celebrity" fan and player and am quite good and aggressive, so I get very excited when we play Celebrity, and wish I was playing.

THR: Of your recent work -- hosting Hollywood Game Night, doing Annie on Broadway and Glee -- which has been the most challenging? Most rewarding?
It's hard to say; they're all different animals. Hollywood Game Night was such a joy to do, it was easy and ran itself; it was an exercise in surrender and trust, everything just worked beautifully. Annie, on the opposite end of the spectrum, was laid at my feet to rehearse, figure it out so I could just be plugged in without disrupting the whole show. That was really gratifying that I was able to hopefully, seamlessly get into that show and bring something to it and be part of a wonderful ensemble.

THR: How big of a presence will Sue have during season five of Glee? What have you heard about her arc for next season?
No idea. We never know anything. We all just either got our contracts modified or picked up. I'm still a regular, yes.

THR: Have you heard from Michael Bolton about what he thinks about being Sue's baby daddy?
I haven't! I'm not sure he even knows about Glee, but who knows. I hope he's flattered because that's what it was meant to be.

Check out an exclusive clip from Hollywood Game Night, below. [CLICK LINK]

Series Premiere Thursday, July 11 at 10 p.m. on NBC

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Originally Posted by dad1153 View Post

TV Review
'Endeavour' and its younger Morse are welcome company
By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times - Jul. 7, 2013

Having last year put a toe in the water with an exploratory pilot and found it fine, "Endeavour" returns to the PBS series "Masterpiece Mystery" Sunday with four new episodes. They are excellent company, even if they sometimes feel too coincidental, complicated, clever or corpse-strewn to be true.

The series is a prequel to the beloved "Inspector Morse" (1987-2000), which starred the late John Thaw as an Oxford-based police detective. (The character's first name provides the new show's title.) While Kevin Whately, who played his old number two, mans the ongoing timeline in the sequel "Inspector Lewis," "Endeavour" jumps back to the mid-'60s, when the future chief inspector was yet a mere detective constable; it keeps the character alive at the same time it feeds our not wholly exhausted taste for midcentury period drama.


So, is this series gonna be set in the early to mid 80's? I hate that Lewis is ending. I was hoping that maybe Hathaway would carry on like Lewis carried on the Morse series.
post #88133 of 93720
^^^It's set in the mid-60s
post #88134 of 93720
SATURDAY'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

Critic's Notes
Hotel Television: The Final Frontier for Minimalism in TV
By AJ Marechal, Variety.com - Jul. 5, 2013

It reminds me of when it was easy to head from one cable net to the next without marching through countless pay TV nets that I’m not subscribed to.

Again who watches like that just setup a favorite channels list in the guide is it really that difficult ?
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Originally Posted by Steve S View Post

^^^It's set in the mid-60s

That's pretty good, I enjoy the period pieces, I especially enjoyed 'Call the Midwife' which was set in the mid to late 50's.
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TV Review
'Drunk History'
By Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Bastard Machine' Blog - Jul. 7, 2013

The web series Drunk History has been around for roughly six years now, delighting people who know when a truly great idea has been executed to near perfection. In this instance, it was really hard to go wrong: Get someone drunk -- no, really drunk -- and have them recount a moment in history. Something very big -- an event that’s probably quite familiar in the history books. Next, film said drunk person reciting this history as best he or she can remember. And then have celebrities act out the roles, complete with slurring voices, weird detours and hysterical visual emphasis on the words you’re hearing.

No doubt Derek Waters (co-creator, host) and Jeremy Konner (co-creator, director) knew all too well that done right this bit of absurd theater would appeal to the kind of person who delights in bacchanalian excess and ridiculous humor.

They were right. And after a lengthy stint on Funny or Die, Drunk History is now a full-blown show on Comedy Central, premiering Tuesday at 10 p.m. Jamming in several sketches not only proves that Drunk History appeals to pretty much every funny actor in Hollywood, but that the material is limitless. Comedy Central has signed on for eight episodes in this first season and right out of the gate, the show looks to be a success.

The first show centers on a trio of sketches looking at Washington D.C. First up, drunk narrator Matt Gourley (most of the inebriated storytellers won’t be immediately recognizable, but the A-list talent acting out their stories sure are). In any case, Gourley starts talking about Watergate. He’s been drinking for a very long time that day (pretty much the modus operandi of the show).

The first sketch gives us Nathan Fielder as Bob Woodward, Fred Willard as Deep Throat, Jack McBrayer as H.R. Haldeman and Bob Odenkirk as President Nixon. As Gourley is telling the story, slurs and asides in abundance, Willard proves to be a pro at nailing all these details.

And when Gourley feels sick and vomits -- yes, he really does -- the portrayal of that in the fictional meeting between Woodward and Deep Throat is a lovely little touch. Lovely as in comically ridiculous. The beauty of the show, if you haven’t seen the online versions yet, is that the actors can truly mimic the vocal intonations of the drunk storyteller. Odenkirk as Nixon is something special, as you might guess.

The second sketch features John Wilkes Booth (Adam Scott, who looks like he was born to do this) and Edwin Booth (Will Forte), battling brothers whose competition -- and John Wilkes’ losing end of it -- results in J.W. Booth deciding to be a radical and shoot Abraham Lincoln (played hilariously, albeit briefly, by Stephen Merchant).

The final sketch sees Jack Black as Elvis Presley meeting Richard Nixon (Odenkirk, again) along with Foo Fighters singer Dave Grohl as one of Presley’s Mafia buddies.

Now, this is the kind of nonsense that someone like Black can really excel at, but there are countless little moments in these drunk vignettes when other actors end up stealing a scene (or at least that quick moment), because they completely nail the slurred speech or just improvise. When a drunk narrator apologizes to the crew for messing up the story, or when said drunk narrator laughs in the wrong scene or breaks out of the narrator role to just talk, this leaves the actors having to go along with it.

Again, you haven’t had this much silly fun over a simple idea in a long time. Comedy Central has been able to take a can’t-miss idea and move it from short online sketches to a series of sketches that fill a half hour of television with a unified theme and increased production value, while bringing the brilliant idea to a wider audience.

You don’t have to be drunk to watch Drunk History, but it certainly helps if you know how drunk people act when they are trying to keep it together. And sure, maybe a glass of something special on your end can’t hurt, either.

The Bottom Line: You haven’t had this much silly fun over a simple idea in a long time.
Airdate: Tuesday, July 9 at 10 p.m. ET/PT (Comedy Central)

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Critic's Notes
How to cut the cable cord
By Jennifer Jolly, USA Today - Jul. 7, 2013

If you've made the decision to join numerous cord cutters and ditch cable TV, congratulations! No one likes huge bills, especially not when you can find most of your favorite content online for a lot less. But once you've made that call, how do you get started — especially if you're not that tech-savvy? We'll walk you through the process from start to finish.


TV antennas have come a long way since wire hangers and tinfoil. Today, a sleek and modern antenna can pick up HD-quality broadcasts from major networks for a fraction of the cable cost. While the quality of the broadcast will depend on where you're located, the price (free after you buy the antenna, which typically cost around $30) can't be beat. If you're interested in watching sports or other live events, broadcast TV is still the most reliable way go.


While watching broadcast television gets you a lot of content, the selection is limited, and you don't have access to cable shows to which you're likely addicted. Luckily, there are a lot of online options that provide on-demand entertainment. The three most well-known are Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Each has strengths and weaknesses:

Netflix has a huge catalog of online movies, as well as television shows and kids entertainment, which you can stream to your computer, television or mobile device for $8 a month.

Hulu provides the best access to TV shows, offering the most shows online the day after they air. Hulu Plus subscribers ($8 a month) get better access to content, as well as the ability to stream to TV or mobile devices.

Amazon Prime subscribers ($79 a year) also get access to Amazon Instant Video, which has a broad selection of movies and television for streaming.

If you're looking for content you can't find on broadcast television or streaming sites — and you can't wait for the end of the season to pick it up on DVD or find it on Netflix — iTunes and Amazon both offer digital video downloads for current television shows (new episodes are typically online the day after they've aired) and new-release movies. Expect to pay $2 to $3 per episode or $30 to $60 for a season of television, with typical DVD or Blu-ray costs for movies.

One word of caution: Keep an eye on how much you're spending per month on this kind of TV and video content. It's easy to tap a few buttons and get instant gratification on a show or two, only to get hit with bill shock when you realize how much you have spent on a few episodes of Game of Thrones and a season of New Girl.

There are also some new names popping up in the streaming TV and movie market, such as M-Go and Vdio.

But the new player getting the most attention right now is Aereo ($1/day or $8-12/month or $80/year). Aereo lets you watch regular TV on any device, and lets you record shows with a DVR. It does it all without any additional cables, set-top boxes or an antenna, because Aereo has created tiny antennas and connected them to the Internet. The downside? Aereo isn't available anywhere on the West Coast … yet. You can check the website for availability.


Now that you have all this entertainment available on your computer, chances are you want to bring that entertainment to your big screen TV. Fortunately, this is easy with set-top media streamers. But before you buy, see if you already have a streaming device in your home: Some televisions, Blu-ray players, and game consoles will also connect to services such as Netflix and Hulu. If you don't already have something, here are a few options that won't break the bank:

Roku: If you want content, Roku offers easy access to more online content than anything else. Set-up is simple: Plug your Roku into your television and connect it to your Wi-Fi network for instant access to streaming media content. The new Roku 3 will cost about $100, while older models start at $50.

Apple TV: Though it doesn't have the variety of Roku, it offers iTunes integration and AirPlay. If you're an Apple fan, both of these are great to have — but if you don't use iTunes or other Apple products, we recommend Roku. Apple TV is priced the same as the Roku 3 at $100.

FanTV: Newly announced Fan TV — expected to launch this fall — is the latest set-top box to get a ton of buzz. It promises to provide streaming, DVR, replace your cable and offer live television in one package. This, plus rumors that both Amazonand Microsoft are launching their own set-top boxes this fall underscore a major trend.


If you've sorted out how to get great digital content, it's time to cut that cable cord. Most providers will require a phone call to cancel.

If you're getting Internet from your cable provider, be aware that the cost for service may go up without a bundle discount, typically between $10 and $20. If you're told that your bill will go up more than that, it may be time to find a different Internet provider, as well. While you're on the phone, find out what exactly your future bill will be and whether you should expect cancellation fees.

Next up in our four-part series — how to find your favorite shows, sports and other entertainment.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY's digital video show TECH NOW.

Edited by dad1153 - 7/7/13 at 7:32pm
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TV Review
Battle Continues in a Documentary Sequel on the Perils of Fracking
By Mike Hale, The New York Times - Jul. 7, 2013

Muckraking documentaries don’t often spawn sequels, but a lot has happened in the world of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, since Josh Fox released “Gasland” in 2010.

The message of Mr. Fox’s “Gasland Part II” is that while the battles over the investigation and regulation of fracking wax and wane — with the anti-regulatory forces currently on top — thousands of additional wells that use this controversial natural-gas drilling technique are being sunk.

“Gasland Part II,” which had its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and is being shown on Monday by HBO, paints a convincing picture: homeowners at the mercy of the oil and gas industry wait while government agencies make tentative moves toward regulation that eventually come to nothing or are reversed.

And this was before the Environmental Protection Agency last month walked away from its promise to investigate water contamination in Pavillion, Wyo., which is shown in the film as one of the most significant victories for aggrieved homeowners.

Mr. Fox works in the first-person style of colorful mudslingers like Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, but his tone is more sad and mordant, his blank face a melancholy emblem of the hopelessness of the situation. He is constantly present in the film, taking on a kind of minstrel’s or bard’s role that’s emphasized by shots of him strumming a banjo in the woods near his Pennsylvania home. At one point he celebrates his own doggedness by beginning to run the closing credits before announcing that no, the story isn’t over yet.

The original “Gasland” grew out of a company’s effort to pay Mr. Fox for exploration rights to his land, which lies above the Marcellus Shale formation and its huge reserves of natural gas. “Part II” briefly recapitulates his personal history and revisits communities that were featured in “Gasland” — where shots of methane-laced water being set on fire are still de rigueur — and traces the legal and political fights of the intervening years, citing studies and statistics attesting to the health dangers of fracking.

Putting all of this material into an economical yet coherent package would be a challenge for any documentarian, and organization is not the specialty of Mr. Fox, who directed, wrote and edited “Gasland Part II.” The film runs to two hours and its anecdotal, hopscotch style starts to wear.

And, as with “Gasland,” there are questions, large and small, that can nag at you. Would it have been a bad idea to include at least one interview with a homeowner who professes to support drilling? Did the dog with the missing leg somehow lose the limb because of fracking, as a dramatic cut would have us believe?

Most of Mr. Fox’s material isn’t open to question, however. Recordings of a gas industry conference at which public relations managers are told to study the Army’s counterinsurgency manual — because “we are dealing with an insurgency” when it comes to protesters and angry homeowners — are both hilarious and horrifying. Mr. Fox’s account of the Pennsylvania government’s hiring of a private company to monitor fracking protesters, an episode not widely covered outside the state, is particularly valuable.

It’s hard to take issue with Mr. Fox’s resigned conclusion that economic and political forces will soon spread fracking around the world, no matter how harmful critics say it may be to the environment and our health.

To provide a glimpse of the hardball tactics he’s talking about, Mr. Fox runs a Google search for his own name and puts the result on screen. There, directly above his Wikipedia entry, we can see who has bought “JoshFox” as a search phrase: a gas-industry trade group offering the “Truth About Gasland.”

HBO, Monday night at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time.

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

8PM - The Bachelorette (120 min.)
10:01PM - Mistresses
* * * *
11:35PM - Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Mary-Louise Parker; Idris Elba; Rhye perform)
12:37AM - Nightline

8PM - How I Met Your Mother
(R - Dec. 17)
8:30PM - 2 Broke Girls
(R - May 7)
9PM - 2 Broke Girls
(R - Apr. 30)
9:30PM - Mike & Molly
(R - Feb. 4)
10PM - Under the Dome
* * * *
11:35PM - Late Show with David Letterman (Michael Cera)
12:37AM - The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (Heather Locklear; comic Louie Anderson)

8PM - America Ninja Warrior
9PM - Get Out Alive With Bear Grylls (Series Premiere)
10PM - Siberia
* * * *
11:35PM - The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (Charlie Day; Jeffrey Dean Morgan; Lionel Richie performs)
12:37AM - Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (Jeff Daniels; Nick Swardson; animal handler Jeff Musial; Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs)
1:37AM - Last Call with Carson Daly (Ludo Lefebvre, Ian Ruhter, SUPERHUMANOIDS)

8PM - Raising Hope
(R - Oct. 23)
8:30PM - Raising Hope
(R - Dec. 4)
9PM - New Girl
(R - Jan. 22)
9:30PM - The Mindy Project
(R - Jan. 8)

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Antiques Roadshow: Vintage Rochester
9PM - Antiques Roadshow: Chattanoga, TN
(R - Apr. 6, 2009)
10PM - POV: Herman's House (90 min.)

8PM - Dama y Obrero
9PM - Amores Verdaderos
10PM - Qué Bonito Amor

8PM - Oh Sit!
(R - May 6)
9PM - The Carrie Diaries
(R - Feb. 18)

8PM - Pasión Prohibida
9PM - La Patrona
10PM - El Señor de los Cielos

11PM - Conan (Armie Hammer; Angie Harmon; Brent Morin)

11PM - Chelsea Lately (Ciara; Dan Levy; Heather McDonald; Kurt Braunohler)
(R - Jul. 2)
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