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TV Notes
Maya Angelou, Ryan Seacrest, Rand Paul are Sunday guests
By Hal Boedeker, Orlando Sentinel's 'TV Guy' Blog - Dec. 6, 2013

Maya Angelou will offer salutes to the late Nelson Mandela on CBS' "Face the Nation" and NBC's "Meet the Press" this weekend.

Angelou will share her Mandela memories with Harry Smith on "Meet the Press" at 9 a.m. Sunday on WESH-Channel 2. The program offers two panel discussions on Mandela. Assessing his long-term impact will be NBC's Tom Brokaw, journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Professor Charles Ogletree of Harvard and Richard Stengel, author of "Mandela's Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love and Courage." A look at Mandela's influence on U.S politics features Brokaw, Paul Gigot of The Wall Street Journal, Katty Kay of BBC World News America and the Rev. Al Sharpton of MSNBC. The same panel will discuss the latest U.S. unemployment numbers.

"Face the Nation" starts at 10:30 a.m. on WKMG-Channel 6. Angelou will be part of a panel with former Secretary of State James Baker and Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica. A second Mandela panel features author Stengel, interim NAACP President Lorraine Miller, Michele Norris of NPR, Gwen Ifill of "PBS NewsHour" and Gayle King of "CBS This Morning."

In other Sunday programming:

ABC's "This Week" offers a Mandela panel with Bill Keller of The New York Times, pollster Stan Greenberg, Jendayi Frazer of Carnegie Mellon University and Dr. Gay McDougall, former member of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa. The program starts at 11 a.m. on WFTV-Channel 9. The headline guests are Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. A political panel brings together ABC's Matthew Dowd, James Carville, Mary Matalin and Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will be a guest on "Fox News Sunday" at 10 a.m. on WOFL-Channel 35. Other guests will be Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, former adviser to President Obama, and Pik Botha, former foreign minister in South Africa. The panel will be Brit Hume, Juan Williams, George Will and Julie Pace of The Associated Press. Chris Wallace will mark 10 years as the program's host.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald will be a guest on "MediaBuzz" at 11 a.m. on Fox News Channel. Other guests are Lauren Ashburn, Richard Grenell, Keli Goff of The Daily Beast and Peter Baker, author of "Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House."

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., will be guests on "State of the Union" at 9 a.m. and noon on CNN.

Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, will be a guest on "Fareed Zakaria GPS" at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on CNN. Other guests are Tom Donilon, former national security adviser to Obama, and Peter Godwin of the BBC.

Ryan Seacrest and Keller of The New York Times are guests on "Reliable Sources" at 11 a.m. on CNN. Other guests include Eric Deggans of NPR, Paul Farhi of The Washington Post and Jane Hall of American University.

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TV Sports
Working to Keep the Lights On at This Season’s Super Bowl
By Ken Belson and Richard Sandomir, The New York Times - Dec. 8, 2013

Al Kelly, the head of the host committee for this season’s Super Bowl, was with Woody Johnson, the Jets’ owner, when the lights went out at the Super Bowl in New Orleans in February. As they struggled in Johnson’s dimly lit suite to comprehend what had happened, Kelly had an additional thought.

“Now there’s something else people will want to talk about besides the weather,” said Kelly, referring to the possibility of snow and a freezing temperature at the Super Bowl in New Jersey on Feb. 2.

Another power failure, though, would be no joke. Last year’s 34-minute failure stopped the game early in the third quarter, confused players and fans at the Superdome and left hundreds of millions of television viewers fumbling for the remote. CBS, which broadcast the game, had one of its worst days. Some of its cameras went dark, and the announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were all but speechless. “Saturday Night Live” later parodied the network’s jumbled performance.

As a result, avoiding another embarrassing and potentially dangerous power failure has been a priority as the N.F.L. and the host committee race to prepare for the game. Armies of network engineers, consultants and security experts have been checking and double checking substations, transformers, switches, circuit breakers and other gear at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, of which MetLife Stadium is a part.

Crews have trimmed tree branches and bolstered telephone poles to secure overhead lines. Tests have been done to simulate peak demand on game day, when the stadium and adjacent racetrack and arena will be used. Consultants from around the country are providing analysis to the league, the host committee, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and PSE&G, the local utility that provides power to the 750-acre sports complex.

“I joke that we could probably make some extra money by selling sponsorships to our power meetings,” Kelly said.

Keeping the power flowing is just one item in a long list of challenges facing the organizers of the Super Bowl, the first to be held outdoors in a northern city. The weather is beyond their control, but they must figure out how to efficiently shuttle tens of thousands of fans between New York and New Jersey, many of them by bus and train, to avoid gridlock.

In the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April, security will be tighter than usual. In addition to a 10-mile no-fly zone around the stadium, two sets of fences will be built around parts of the stadium.

But far more fans watch the game on television around the world, and that requires an uninterrupted flow of electricity. Up to 18 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 12,000 homes — will be available on game day, with two-thirds provided by PSE&G and the rest produced by diesel generators that will be brought in to power specific things, like the halftime show, and to ensure there is sufficient backup.

Engineers simulated game-day conditions at a WrestleMania event in April and held a separate test in September that produced some minor glitches, according to Wayne Hasenbalg, the chief executive of the authority, which spent almost $2 million improving equipment. The engineers also used Jets and Giants home games, which typically require only 10 megawatts, to iron out any kinks.

“We’ve been working on these solutions to the problem since 35 minutes after the lights went out in New Orleans,” said Frank Supovitz, the senior vice president for special events at the N.F.L. “Through all that recognition, I’m very confident that if anything except something incredibly extraordinary happens, we will be able to respond to it.”

The N.F.L. and others involved have also studied a power failure in 2010 at a game between the Giants and the Cowboys in the Meadowlands. Similar to the Super Bowl in New Orleans, power was interrupted on one of the two feeder cables to the stadium, and then the second one designed to take over also failed.

There were actually two power failures at the Giants-Cowboys game. The first lasted three minutes and knocked out several lighting banks at the top of the stadium. Eight minutes later, all the lights went out. It took about 20 minutes before all the lighting returned to normal.

Ralph LaRossa, the president of PSE&G, who grew up nearby in Rutherford, N.J., and used to sell hot dogs and sodas at the old Giants Stadium, was at the game that night and recognized that, as in New Orleans a little more than two years later, the high-wattage bulbs that light the field had to cool down before they could be turned back on.

Supovitz said that any delay at MetLife Stadium would be shorter than at the Superdome because some key switches are automated. He added that power was restored in 24 minutes in New Orleans, but the league took an extra 10 minutes to ensure that all its game equipment, like instant-replay systems, was functioning properly before the game was restarted.

Most of those systems will run on independent generators this time, he said. If the stadium lights go out, they would still have to cool before being turned back on. Because they are outdoors, they should cool faster.

“Is there a possibility of a power interruption causing us to lose some time? Sure there is,” Supovitz said. But, he added, “in this case, it might only be a few minutes.”

LaRossa said that PSE&G has improved some of the transmission lines and circuits that serve the sports complex. The overhead lines that feed the complex, however, could be vulnerable in a storm. (Some of them were felled by Hurricane Sandy.)

“God forbid we’re hit with something of that magnitude, all bets are off,” he said. “An ice storm is probably the worst case.”

Still, LaRossa said that even if two lines to the stadium were knocked out, power could still be supplied. The diesel generators and a mobile transformer would provide additional backup.

“Trying to identify contingencies, the more you get into them, the more it never ends,” Hasenbalg said. But, he added, “I’m very confident that we’ve done everything we could to make sure we can deliver the electric service that is needed.”

The real threat, though, may come far from the stadium in the form of a cyberattack or a hiccup in the power supply that ripples through the network.

“It could last for half a second, and that could be enough to trip the lighting system,” said Mark McGranaghan, the vice president of power delivery and utilization research at the Electric Power Research Institute. “There are emergency lights, but you just wouldn’t be able to play football.”

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TV Notes
Miniseries, similar formats return to TV
By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's 'Tuned In' Blog

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Sunday night a four-hour, two-part "Bonnie & Clyde" miniseries debuts on Lifetime, History and A&E -- read more about it in Sunday's Post-Gazette TV Week -- and it's the latest evidence that the success of "Hatfields & McCoys," which drew more than 14 million viewers in 2012, has helped spur a miniseries revival.

Several similar, but not identical, formats are also getting ready to make an impact in the television landscape, but good luck trying to identify their defining characteristics. Even network executives are using the terms "miniseries," "event series" and "limited series" somewhat interchangeably.

"There's some crossover, but the miniseries is a shorter number of hours," said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt. "A limited series is usually 10-13 hours [and it] could continue. Miniseries usually have a finite ending. I always thought 'Under the Dome' was a miniseries, but when you get those [big] ratings, it's suddenly a series."

Miniseries have generally been considered close-ended, short-term stories running from four to 30 hours if you think back to 1980s extravaganzas like "War and Remembrance." Today "War and Remembrance" would not be considered a miniseries; it would be labeled an event series or a limited series.

But pinning down programmers on how they differentiate those terms is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. CBS's fall show "Hostages" was variously called an event series and a limited series, but CBS CEO Leslie Moonves clarified the networks' intention for both "Hostages" and "Under the Dome."

"With 'Hostages,' if you watched the whole thing and then the end, you sort of saw where it could lead, where this show could lead. We didn't put it on just to have 15 episodes. We put it on to have multiple seasons of it," he said in July, before turning to "Under the Dome." "And why can't they be under the dome for a long period of time? This is television. This is science fiction. They're up on some planet somewhere for many years. 'Under the Dome,' in a lot of ways, is a soap opera. It's 'Dallas' in the future."

So sometimes a "limited" or "event" series is only truly limited in duration if it fails; in success, it would return for another season.

The notion of limited series came about because broadcast channels see cable networks -- and streaming services such as Netflix -- having success with serialized shows that run for a season of just 13 episodes each. The broadcasters want in on that format.

"The world has certainly changed because of Netflix and Amazon and all the players that are in that space," Mr. Moonves said. "We've generally avoided serialized shows in those shortened orders, although we watched with great interest the success of, obviously, a '24.' 'The Following' did very well. ... And it's a new world. Look, every model that we're doing is somewhat different than it was before."

CBS's experiment with the 15-episode "Hostages" failed to pan out -- ratings have been terrible, and the series finale will air Jan. 6; there will not be a second season -- but the network will get another opportunity with "Intelligence," a modern take on "The Six Million Dollar Man" that stars Josh Holloway and debuts Jan. 7.

ABC has announced several limited series -- including the canceled "Betrayal" and the upcoming "Resurrection" -- and NBC hired away ABC's longtime miniseries guru, Quinn Taylor, to develop several miniseries, including a sequel to "The Bible," "A.D.: After the Bible," a Cleopatra miniseries and remakes of "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Tommyknockers."

But Fox is furthest ahead in this short-duration series race with next year's "24" limited series, "24: Live Another Day," M. Night Shyamalan's "Wayward Pines" and a remake of BBC America's "Broadchurch."

"The one size fits all business to me is over," said Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly. "And that's one of the things I love about the event series, is that we will have them in the can in advance. There's a beginning, middle and an end, and we can program that in the way that would be best for the network and best for that show. So we're going to have some more flexibility with those."

These close-ended, limited series are not exclusive to broadcasters. Cable's FX is getting into this programming, too. FX CEO John Landgraf avoids using the term event series ("That just seems bombastic," he said), but he's bullish on limited series, ordering several for the coming years, including a 10-hour TV version of the Coen Brothers' movie "Fargo" for 2014.

"The reason I use the word limited series is I think of miniseries mostly as four and six hours," he said. "When we're making a limited series, it's usually 10 to 13 episodes, but it's close-ended. Limited series to me evokes better what it is. It's not a two-night event. It's gonna be a 10-week thing."

Mr. Landgraf was definitive that "the story of 'Fargo' ends at the end at the 10th episode of 'Fargo.' Those characters don't continue. Just like 'American Horror Story' the characters don't continue from one season to the next."

Mr. Landgraf said it's possible "Fargo" could return for subsequent installments with new characters, similar to what "AHS" does, but that remains to be seen.

"One of the reasons that we're in the limited series business is we feel like there are dozens and dozens of great 90-hour movies to be made, that is to say, seven season arcs of shows," he said. "But what if a television show could be just the length that is optimal for that story, six hours, eight hours, 10 hours, 12, 26, 39, 65? So you didn't have to compact it any more than you wanted to and you didn't have to extend it any more than you wanted to. You could make it optimal."

'Daniel Tiger' on DVD

PBS's "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," produced by the South Side's Fred Rogers Company, will make its DVD debut on Feb. 25 with two titles: "Daniel's Big Feelings" and "Life's Little Lessons."

"Daniel's Big Feelings" will have 10 episodes and "Life's Little Lessons" will contain eight episodes, an improvement from the paltry two episodes on each "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" DVD release from 2005.

Channel surfing

"Turbo FAST," a spinoff TV series from this summer's animated movie "Turbo," will debut on Netflix Dec. 24. ... The sixth and final episode of WQED's "iQ: smartmedia" airs at 8 p.m. Thursday and explores what it means to be a "good digital citizen" and the future impact of a child's online identity. ... This week NBC renewed freshman hit "The Blacklist" for a 22-episode second season to air during the 2014-15 TV season. ... TV Land renewed "The Soul Man" for a third season to premiere in spring 2014. ... The second season of Netflix streaming series "House of Cards" will become available Feb. 14. ... A one-hour holiday-themed "Duck Dynasty" special debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday. ... The first season of 1980s NBC hit "L.A. Law" comes to DVD for the first time on Feb. 25. ... Former MTV VJ Kennedy (aka Lisa Kennedy Montgomery) will host "The Independents," airing Monday through Wednesday and Friday night at 9 on Fox Business Network beginning next week. ... Pittsburgher Mary Swick will appear on CBS's "Let's Make a Deal" (10 a.m. weekdays, KDKA-TV) Thursday.

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Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Dec. 8, 2013

Sundance, 2:30 p.m. ET
Parts 1 – 6.
Here’s another opportunity to catch up with a quality TV miniseries tonight. Sundance is presenting, in one handy and giant gulp, the first six episodes of this gripping, quietly intense miniseries import. And if you’ve yet to watch, I’ll keep its secrets – but sooner or later, I have to talk about how creepy and moody this series is, and why.

PBS, 9:00 p.m. ET

Want to get primed for next month’s Season 4? PBS is making it easy, by starting a repeat run of Season 3 beginning tonight. Check local listings.

A&E, Lifetime, History, 9:00 p.m. ET
This two-night, four-hour telemovie, the latest Hollywood remake of the Bonnie Parker-Clyde Barrow story, is being papered all over sister cable stations tonight and tomorrow, being simulcast by A&E, History and Lifetime. Ratings will be high, but quality is medium. The leads, Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger, generate less heat than William Hurt, as their lawman adversary, and too much of the drama feels like dress-up, make-believe cops-and-robbers.

HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET

Real estate scams. Restaurant openings. Musical explosions in late-night local jazz clubs. It could be anywhere, any time – but since it’s New Orleans, a few years post-Katrina, the highs, the lows, the politics, the food and the music is all very specific, and very memorable.

Showtime, 9:00 p.m. ET

Last week’s episode was pivotal, and not just in placing Brody (Damian Lewis) in yet another potential assassination plot. It also injected the series with an intensity that’s been missing of late, except in spurts. And with two episodes left, and with Brody on a seemingly suicide mission in Iran, only Carrie (Claire Danes) can manage an extraction plan – but even that’s far from a sure thing.


* * * *

TV Review
Bonnie & Clyde Ride Again -- with Some Purdy Images
By Ed Bark, TVWorthWatching.com - Dec. 7, 2013

NBC once remade Casablanca into a weekly 1983 series starring David Soul. In that context, reprising the story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker is barely a hand-slap misdemeanor.

Besides, it’s been done before. The landmark 1967 Bonnie and Clyde, ranked 27th on the American Film Institute’s 100 greatest movies, came a decade after 1957’s The Bonnie Parker Story (“Cigar Smoking Hellcat of the Roaring Thirties”). And in 1992 Fox followed up on the famed Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway version with Bonnie and Clyde: The True Story, starring Dana Ashbrook and Tracey Needham. It wasn’t very good.

Now it’s three networks’ turn -- and at twice the length. Bonnie & Clyde, being simulcast Sunday and Monday nights on Lifetime, A&E and History, premiering Sunday, Dec. 8 and concluding Dec. 9 at 9 p.m. ET, is four hours worth of factual and fabricated history. But its predecessors also played around with the “real truth,” which has been highly elusive ever since the title characters met their ends on May 23, 1934.

Bonnie & Clyde is directed by the still well-regarded Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant, Tender Mercies, Driving Miss Daisy). And its producers are Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, whose credits range from TV’s Smash and Life with Judy Garland to the big screen’s Chicago and The Bucket List.

They’ve combined forces to portray Bonnie Parker (Holliday Grainger) as a vainglorious instigator and Clyde Barrow (Emile Hirsch) as the man she both loved and manipulated. Ergo, the official publicity tag for this capably made miniseries is “He Held the Gun. She Called the Shots.”

Bonnie & Clyde begins at the end -- which is the usual approach in contemporary docudramas. “I’ve always loved you, Bonnie,” says Clyde before their last roadster is riddled with dozens if not hundreds of bullets. Soon comes the narrative flashback, which in this case goes quite a ways back. Clyde was a sickly little boy who almost died from a fever at age 9. His older brother Buck (played as an adult by Lane Garrison) is the architect of their early crimes, beginning with chicken-stealing. But momma Cummie Barrow (Dale Dickey) has faith in her youngest son’s basic goodness. “You ain’t just smart. You got a good heart,” she tells Clyde. Hey, Gummie made a rhyme.

Publicity materials say that Clyde was “rumored to have the power of second sight to see events before they really happened.” Some flimsy newspaper accounts from those times speculated on such powers. But Bonnie & Clyde takes them to the bank, repeatedly infusing these proceedings with ominous flash-forwards while also enabling Clyde to see Bonnie loping toward him in a shimmering white dress well before they hook up. It does make for some purdy images.

The young gun stars of Bonnie & Clyde, which also include Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland as Buck’s dipsy bride Blanche, are aided by two ring-wise vets with Oscars under their belts. Holly Hunter doesn’t make all that much of an impression as Bonnie’s doting mother, Emma. But William Hurt instantly resonates as flinty, retired Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, who’s taken down a lot of bad guys in his day and is rejuvenated by the challenge of catching Bonnie and Clyde.

Hurt’s Hamer, who comes to the fore in Monday’s Part 2, has a way with words and glowers. Nothing’s more gratifying, he tells fellow lawman Ted Hinton (Austin Hebert), than putting bullets in the heads of those who deserve 'em. He also enjoys upbraiding “Fort Worth Herald” reporter P.J. Lane (Elizabeth Reaser), who’s made a name for herself by glamorizing the bank-robbing exploits of Bonnie and Clyde during the Depression era.

Perhaps informants would be more willing to step forward if Lane hadn’t turned her subjects into “Garbo and Gable,” Hamer growls before producing a warrant requiring her to turn over some publicity photos sent directly her way by Bonnie and Clyde.

The Beatty/Dunaway Bonnie and Clyde strongly implied that he fired blanks in the bedroom. In this remake, Bonnie wears the pants when it comes to egging Clyde on to bigger and better-publicized robberies, a number of which occurred in Texas. But Clyde is no slouch in the sack, even after being raped by a male inmate and then viciously beaten by guards during his incarceration in a very down and dirty Texas prison.

Bonnie & Clyde does not scrimp on violence. Nor, in the end, does it lionize the perpetrators. The demythologizing takes firm root after a husband and father of three children is murdered on Christmas Day by the Barrow/Parker gang. Even reporter Lane is aghast, fretting about “aiding and abetting” their crimes with her gilded accounts. But her wizened editor has a simple solution: “Turn it. Bonnie and Clyde are the bad guys. Make ‘em the bad guys.”

Grainger’s willful Bonnie, invariably in full makeup and resembling a younger Drew Barrymore, gets the better of co-star Hirsch in terms of selling her character.

Her dragon lady cred begins kicking in near the start of Part 2, when she lobbies for showier exploits. After all, she’s always wanted to be a star, at least for the purposes of this re-telling.

“If we pull big guns on people, they’re gonna do exactly what we tell ‘em, to,” Bonnie reasons.

Clyde retorts that “it’s all up to me. I make the decisions.”

OK, she says. “Just a thought. Sorry I had one.” He laughs agreeably, and in the next scene they’re amassing bigger guns. But in the end, are we to believe that Clyde had a death wish for the both of them -- and acted on it?

Although it’s now the heart of TV’s fluff-filled Christmas season, this is all likely to play quite well in terms of ratings success for Lifetime, A&E and History. The latter network scored big last year with its Hatfields & McCoys miniseries. And the combined audience for Bonnie & Clyde may well approach the average of nearly 14 million viewers for the three-part H&McC.

Part 2 of Bonnie & Clyde, with its blood-soaked death scene played out at full length, almost assuredly will be the bigger draw. Better yet, Hurt becomes an equal partner in the proceedings. Or to put it another way, his standout take-no-prisoners performance reduces the younger cast members to comparative kids in a playpen. Hirsch and particularly Grainger are gamers, though, even if they’re not in the same league.

The Beatty/Dunaway pairing remains enshrined, of course. Still, this elongated version makes its own mark, although certainly not an indelible one. To which Bonnie supposedly would say, “More, more!” And surely there will be.


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Nielsen Overnights
‘Saturday Night Live’ Ratings Rebound With Paul Rudd
By Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times ' 'Company Town' Blog - Dec. 5, 2013

After hitting a season low among adults 18-49 (2.0) in the people meter markets and posting the second lowest result of the season in the metered markets households with its most recent original hosted by Josh Hutcherson, Saturday Night Live rebounded last night. The show hosted by Paul Rudd, with musical guest One Direction and a ton of unannounced guest stars, averaged a 4.9/12 in metered market households, up 20% vs. the last original and matching SNL‘s season high logged by the shows hosted by Lady Gaga and Kerry Washington.

In 18-49, last night’s episode drew a 2.5 in the 25 markets with Local People Meters, up 25% from the Josh Hutcherson show and two tenths below the season high posted by by the season premiere hosted by Tina Fey and the Miley Cyrus episode.

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SATURDAY's fast affiliate overnight prime-time ratings -and what they mean- have been posted on Analyst Marc Berman's Media Insight's Blog
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Critic's Notes
Send in the Cameras: Sondheim on TV
By Robin Pogrebin, The New York Times - Dec. 7, 2013

Even Stephen Sondheim’s die-hard fans may not know that he considers “Opening Doors,” from “Merrily We Roll Along,” his most autobiographical song.

That his defiant lyrics for “I’m Still Here,” in “Follies,” were inspired by Joan Crawford.

Or that to write “Being Alive,” for “Company,” Mr. Sondheim interviewed a friend about what it was like to be married, because he himself was so solitary.

These are just some of the revelations in HBO’s documentary “Six by Sondheim,” about the composer and lyricist, to be broadcast on Monday at 9:00 p.m. The film, directed by James Lapine, explores Mr. Sondheim’s development as a songwriter by focusing on six of his most pivotal songs; the other three are “Something’s Coming,” from “West Side Story” (which he wrote with the composer Leonard Bernstein); “Send In the Clowns,” from “A Little Night Music”; and “Sunday,” from “Sunday in the Park With George.”

The songs were chosen because each offered a window into Mr. Sondheim’s creative process, Mr. Lapine said (and because they had the most footage available). “It really came down to telling the story,” he said, “to be able to explore how this artist came up with this work.”

“We didn’t choose the most famous songs,” Mr. Lapine added. “We chose the ones that had an interesting story behind them and also fit into the linear storytelling of Steve’s life.”

Originally, he planned to feature new stagings of the songs, each directed by a different person, but this proved too costly and cumbersome, so Mr. Lapine ended up using just three new segments and directing one of them himself — “Opening Doors,” which is performed by Jeremy Jordan, Darren Criss, America Ferrera, Jackie Hoffman and Laura Osnes — and features Mr. Sondheim in a rare singing appearance.

For the other two segments, Mr. Lapine enlisted the director Todd Haynes, who chose Jarvis Cocker of the rock band Pulp to interpret “I’m Still Here,” and Autumn de Wilde to oversee “Send In the Clowns,” performed by Audra McDonald and Will Swenson. “I thought it would be good to have people riff on the songs and not do them in a traditional way,” Mr. Lapine said.

Mr. Cocker’s “I’m Still Here” is decidedly unorthodox: a song typically performed by an elegant woman as a showstopping anthem of staying power is rendered instead by a scruffy man as a smoky bar ballad.

“I’m sure it will be controversial — people are used to having it done by a mature show business singer — an Elaine Stritch or a Carol Burnett or a Debbie Reynolds,” said Frank Rich, who, along with Mr. Lapine, serves as an executive producer. “But that serves exactly the purpose we wanted, which is to look at the song differently again.”

The documentary is told primarily in Mr. Sondheim’s own words, weaving together interviews with him from the last 50 years, footage from original productions (including a newly discovered excerpt from Ethel Merman’s performance in “Gypsy,” for which he wrote the lyrics) and the song segments.

“We loved the idea of Steve telling his own story,” Mr. Lapine said.

But Mr. Sondheim, now 83, largely stayed out of the production process because he was so familiar with the people making the film.

Mr. Lapine — who has directed features before but not a documentary — knew the material intimately, having directed and written the book for three Sondheim shows: “Sunday in the Park With George,” “Into The Woods” and “Passion.” He also conceived and directed the 2010 biographical revue “Sondheim on Sondheim,” which incorporated interviews with Mr. Sondheim.

Mr. Rich, who reviewed Sondheim productions in his days as the chief drama critic for The New York Times, has become friends with Mr. Sondheim over the last 20 years and interviewed him often in front of an audience.

“We wanted to do something that would convey to the world the Steve that we see as a person, not just as a great artist,” Mr. Rich said.

They did show Mr. Sondheim a final edit of the film, and he said he was surprised by how he sounded in an interview from 1973. “I was so sour during that period,” he said. “I’d forgotten.”

Mr. Sondheim speaks in the documentary about the importance of education, and the film itself is, in many ways, a master class in how to write. But Mr. Sondheim said he didn’t see the documentary as a way to be remembered. “Any kind of legacy — that’s the shows,” he said, “not this movie.”

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TV/Business Notes
NBCU's Esquire Network Hones In on Guys
Original series supplanting programming placeholders
By Anthony Crupi, AdWeek.com - Dec. 8, 2013

For a lifestyle network that’s being positioned as a destination for what David Granger calls “the high normal American male,” a port of call for well turned-out gents who take their bourbon neat and have strong opinions about Jonathan Franzen, NBCUniversal’s Esquire Network at first blush seemed to be weirdly obsessed with Louboutins and brunch.

Since launching on Sept. 23, the startup channel has aired repeats of Sex and the City no fewer than 151 times. A holdover from Esquire predecessor Style Network, Sex occupied a chunk of weekday morning hours, as well as some little-trafficked insomniac slots.

If the incongruity of Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals rubbing elbows with the bros of White Collar Brawlers and Brew Dogs wasn’t lost on media buyers, the show was never designed to be anything more than a placeholder. (As of last week, Esquire net had sworn off Sex altogether, dropping the show from the schedule in favor of repeats of original series like Knife Fight and The Getaway.)

Such are the realities of converting a female-centric cable (women accounted for 84 percent of Style’s deliveries) into a competitive outlet for upscale men in their 30s and 40s. “You can’t just flip a switch and see your demos change overnight,” said one national TV buyer. “It’s hard enough as it is to reach men without sports, but to get them to come to a network that was once basically Kryptonite is something else altogether.”

While Esquire Net president Adam Stotsky has said that he’d like to program an all-original lineup in five years’ time, the initial game plan is to air all home-grown series on Tuesday and Wednesday nights in prime time. Currently, Esquire is leveraging the former USA Network hit Burn Notice in fringe as an on-ramp into new shows like the nightlife real estate series Risky Listing, the self-explanatory White Collar Brawlers and the travel opus Alternate Route.

Esquire Net has already cycled through four of its first eight originals, of which the top-rated Brew Dogs seems the most likely to earn a renewal. (First-run episodes of the antic and bibulous beer-buddy series averaged 64,000 total viewers.) Meanwhile, there are what one network exec characterized as “a ton” of shows in development, including an upcoming docuseries about 8- and 9-year-old football players (Friday Night Tykes, Jan. 14) and a seven-part strip about the pro handicappers who haunt thoroughbred temples like Churchill Downs and Saratoga (Horse Players, Jan. 21).

While Esquire magazine has gamely promoted the channel, running six full-page ads in both the October and December issues—a hypothetical $1.41 million write-off, per the 2013 rate card—it will still be a matter of time before the new property really takes off. In its first months of operation, overall deliveries are down 62 percent when compared to Style Network’s year-ago performance (69,000 total viewers vs. 182,000). That said, prime-time ratings for the dollar demo (men 18-49) improved 27 percent between October and November.

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TV Sports
Orel Hershiser Joining Dodgers TV Broadcast Team (Report)
By Todd Cunningham, TheWrap.com - Dec. 8, 2013

Orel Hershiser was always around home as an All-Star pitcher and World Series hero for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he’ll be there again as part of the team’s broadcast unit.

The former pitcher and current ESPN baseball commentator will be joining the Dodgers’ new regional sports network, SportsNet LA., the L.A. Times reported Sunday. Last week the Dodgers added former team infielder Nomar Garciaparra as a commentator, and are also adding Alanna Rizzo from MLB Network to their pre- and post-game shows.

During his playing days Hershiser, now 55, was known as “Bulldog,” owing to the competitive nature he showed during 18 Major League Baseball seasons, 13 of which he spent with the Dodgers.

After retiring as a player in 2000, he briefly worked as a coach and team executive for the Texas Rangers before beginning his current job with ESPN.

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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 - Santa Claus is Comin' To Town (Special)
(R - Dec. 14, 1970)
9PM - The Great Christmas Light Fight (Series Premiere)
10PM - Castle
(R - Apr. 29)
* * * *
11:35PM - Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Queen Latifah; Cage the Elephant performs)
12:37AM - Nightline

8PM - How I Met Your Mother
(R - Sep. 23)
8:30PM - 2 Broke Girls
(R - Sep. 30)
9PM - Mike & Molly
9:30PM - Mom
(R - Oct. 7)
10PM - Hostages
* * * *
11:35PM - Late Show with David Letterman (Stephen Colbert; actor Ian McKellan; Chvrches performs)
12:37AM - The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (Singer Demi Lovato; comic Louie Anderson)

8PM - The Voice (LIVE)
9:01PM - The Sing-Off (Season Premiere, 120 min.)
* * * *
11:34PM - The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (Simon Cowell; news anchor Megyn Kelly; MS MR performs)
12:36AM - Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (Amy Adams; Oscar Isaac; Jack Johnson performs)
1:36AM - Last Call with Carson Daly (Soko performs; artist Rebecca Sugar)

8PM - Almost Human
9PM - Sleepy Hollow

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Antiques Roadshow: Des Moines (R - Feb. 21, 2011)
9PM - Antiques Roadshow: Des Moines
(R - Feb. 28, 2011)
10PM - Independent Lens: Beauty Is Embarrassing (90 min.)
(R - Jan. 21)

8PM - Por Siempre Mi Amor
9PM - Lo Que la Vida Me Robó
10PM - Mentir Para Vivir

8PM - Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special
(R - Nov. 24, 2010)
8:30PM - Merry Madagascar (Special)
(R - Nov. 17, 2009)
9PM - One Direction iHeartRadio Album Release Party (Special)

8PM - Marido en Alquiler
9PM - La Reina del Sur
10PM - Santa Diabla

11PM - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Idris Elba)
11:31PM - The Colbert Report (Author David Keith)

11PM - Conan (Snoop Dogg; June Diane Raphael; 7 Days of Funk featuring Snoopzilla and Dam Funk)
Midnight - Pete Holmes Show (Schoolboy Q and Gabe Liedman)

11PM - Chelsea Lately (Author Jesse Bering; comic James Davis; comic Jen Kirkman; writer Brad Wollack)

Check Local Listings - Arsenio (Donald Faison; Tiffany Haddish)
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Critic's Notes
We Interrupt This TV Show for a Musical
Using Song to Break the TV Episodic Monotony
By Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times - Dec. 9, 2013

Whatever you thought of NBC’s live “Sound of Music” last week, it was not television’s musical event of the season. The forthcoming finals of “The Voice”? Also not. Last month’s Country Music Awards, Tuesday’s American Country Awards or the recent “Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn”? Not, not, not.

The winner is Sunday’s hilarious musical episode of the USA series “Psych,” one of television’s most consistently smart and amusing shows. Promotional spots for the two-hour special episode have been running seemingly all year, and the payoff is pretty sweet.

Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dulé Hill) investigate a crime that involves a psychiatric ward, the theater, a bad review and an old friendly nemesis.

The guest stars include Anthony Rapp, who logged time in “Rent.” Mr. Hill, who added his latest Broadway credit last month when he opened in the jazz revue “After Midnight,” gets to poke fun at himself as his character becomes stage-struck. Steve Franks, the series’ creator, and the composer Adam Cohen wrote the songs, and practically no theatrical convention escapes skewering.

For shows that don’t normally have music (as opposed to, say, “Glee”) and achieve a certain longevity, the musical episode is something of a television tradition. These episodes no doubt give the cast a way to shake off the doldrums, and they tend to make a big impression on fans. Who among those who saw it can forget the song “Everything Comes Down to Poo” from the 2007 musical installment of “Scrubs”?

So “Psych the Musical” inevitably leads us to ponder: What other shows should be working on musical episodes, if they aren’t already? Here are a few:

‘NCIS’ Fans of this CBS hit have been talking about this possibility for years, since almost everyone in the cast has a musical background. Michael Weatherly (DiNozzo) has recorded songs for “NCIS” soundtrack albums. Pauley Perrette (Abby) was in a punk band called Lo-Ball. For a comedy, musical episodes come easily, but a drama like “NCIS” might have a harder time finding a plot that makes sense. Maybe the return of Ziva, the character played by Cote de Pablo, who left the show this season and who studied musical theater in college? The hook: Everyone is so confused and conflicted about her reappearance that the only way to communicate about it is to sing. LL Cool J slides over from “NCIS: Los Angeles” to help people work through their emotions.

‘THE CRAZY ONES’ It’s a little early for this new CBS comedy to be playing the musical-episode card, but if it hangs around, destiny calls. One of its stars, Robin Williams, is known to children and former children everywhere for his bombastic singing on “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” from the animated film “Aladdin.” The other, Sarah Michelle Gellar, was at the center of one of the best musical offerings ever, “Once More, With Feeling,” a 2001 episode of her series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The two are father-and-daughter advertising executives on “The Crazy Ones.” Mr. Williams gets a patter song consisting entirely of advertising catchphrases. Ms. Gellar sings a lament about having a borderline-bonkers dad.

‘60 MINUTES’ Obviously, this boring crew would need help pulling off a musical episode. The solution would be to recruit as collaborators some performers Morley Safer interviewed more than 30 years ago: the Muppets. Because “Fozzie” is practically the only thing that rhymes with “Benghazi.”

‘THE GOOD WIFE’ AND ‘MODERN FAMILY’ Who knows what the excuse would be for a crossover episode between these two, or what creative and bureaucratic red tape would have to be cut, since one is a CBS drama and the other an ABC comedy. But the pairing of Alan Cumming from “The Good Wife,” who has a Tony Award for “Cabaret,” and Jesse Tyler Ferguson from “Modern Family,” whose stage credits include the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” would be something to see.

‘SURVIVOR’ If “Lost” were still around it would get this honor, but CBS’s “Survivor” will have to do. Someone needs to remake the classic musical “Hamlet” episode of “Gilligan’s Island” from 1966, and how many current shows feature castaways? In the original, Phil Silvers was a producer who ended up on the island, and the castaways tried to impress him with Ginger’s acting talents by staging “Hamlet” as a musical. “From Ophelia no one can steal ya,” Ginger-as-Ophelia sings to Gilligan, who is playing Hamlet. Yes, it’s dicey introducing rehearsed songs to a reality show, but with its treachery, hallucinations and ever-shrinking cast of characters, “Hamlet” actually makes perfect “Survivor” sense.

‘DUCK DYNASTY’ Speaking of reality shows, a musical version of this A&E series about a duck-call-making family is a no-brainer. Especially since the show’s Robertson clan recently released a holiday album. Which is called, of course, “Duck the Halls.”

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Critic's Notes
Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Dec. 8, 2013

A&E, Lifetime, History, 9:00 p.m. ET
Part 2:
The drama concludes, culminating in the climax that’s not so much a shoot-out as a shoot-at. And, all things considered, still packs less punch than the 1967 Warren Beatty movie. But here it is, if you’re interested.

HBO, 9:00 p.m. ET

A wonderful new special, celebrating and exploring the music and lyrics of Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. See below for more.

Flix, 10:05 p.m. ET

Made in 1977, this is one of the best sports movies ever made – and in no small part because of Paul Newman’s smash-to-the-glass, enjoyably profane performance.

CBS, 11:35 p.m. ET

Here’s a new show with a very smart guest list: Visiting Letterman tonight are Sir Ian McKellen and Stephen Colbert.

TCM, 2:00 a.m. ET

The 15-part documentary series import concludes tonight, with a look at world cinema produced after 9/11. The content, as always, is a lot more captivating than its title, which, for this installment, is subtitled 2000 Onwards – Film Moves Full Circle and the Future of Movies. TCM’s complementary lineup tonight includes a lot of film rarities, at least on U.S. network schedules, beginning at 8 p.m. ET with 2002’s To Be and To Have, about a one-room French schoolhouse. [EDIT. And at 10 p.m. ET "Russian Ark," a full-length feature done in one uninterrupted shot.]


* * * *

TV Review
HBO's 'Six by Sondheim' Is So Good, It Cries Out for More
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com - Dec. 9, 2013

HBO’s Six by Sondheim special, premiering Monday night at 9 ET, tells the story of Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim while looking closely at six of his songs. Why stop there?...

It’s a smart, superbly researched and edited artistic biography, one with enough breadth and detail to satisfy two audiences at once. It should please those with only a passing knowledge of Sondheim and his landmark musical shows, from Company and Follies to Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George, because it explains and samples so much, so quickly. And for those who have had a long-time love affair with the works of Sondheim, Six by Sondheim provides more than nuggets of new information – and even a few rich veins – to please them as well.

The completeness and insight regarding the way the stories are told in Six by Sondheim are due, in what I’m sure is a very large part, to its two primary collaborators, because both can claim to know more about Sondheim, and to have had a longer association with him, than many others.

James Lapine, who wrote the book for and directed Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, Passion and Sondheim on Sondheim (which this new HBO program resembles, in part, in both structure and content), is director and executive producer.

And Lapine’s fellow executive producer is Frank Rich, the former New York Times drama critic who, in recent years, has hit the lecture tour with Sondheim, asking questions of the composer and fielding them from the audience.

One of the delights of Six by Sondheim is how it focuses on six songs in particular and, in some cases, restages them particularly for this telecast. It leads to some unusual tricks, and treats. In one, Sondheim himself makes a musical cameo appearance to play the part of the Broadway producer, in “Opening Doors” from Merrily We Roll Along, and complain, quite wickedly, about the absence of “a tune you can hum.” In another, a cabaret-performance staging of “I’m Still Here” from Follies, the part usually sung by a veteran diva is given instead to a young male singer. All the regret and memories and pride and other emotions are reflected on the faces of the women in the audience – a unique approach, to say the least.

For a full review of Six by Sondheim, check out my report, which aired last Friday, for NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. That day’s show also featured Terry’s 2010 interviews with Sondheim. Like Six by Sondheim, it’s all worth hearing, or seeing, to appreciate the most innovative artist in musical theater for the past 50 years.

Attention must be paid – and with Six by Sondheim, it is. Now, how about Six More?

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SUNDAY's fast affiliate overnight prime-time ratings -and what they mean- have been posted on Analyst Marc Berman's Media Insight's Blog
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Nielsen Overnights (18-49)
Football lifts Fox’s animated lineup
'Simpsons' finishes as night's top show with a 3.0 in 18-49s
By Toni Fitzgerald, Media Life Magazine - Dec. 9, 2013

A big lead-in from the NFL boosted Fox’s animation domination block to a nearly one-year high last night.

The network’s four cartoons drew a 2.5 rating among adults 18-49, according to Nielsen, its best since Jan. 13 of this year.

“The Simpsons,” which aired at 8, right after the 5.1 for NFL overrun at 7 p.m., provided the spark, finishing as the night’s No. 1 scripted show with a 3.0 rating. It was even to its most recent original two weeks ago.

The long-running cartoon easily outdrew ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” and the first hour of CBS’s “The Amazing Race” finale in the hour.

“Bob’s Burgers” drew a 2.1 at 8:30, up 31 percent from last week, when it aired after a “Simpsons” repeat. “Family Guy” grew 18 percent, to a 2.6, at 9 p.m., and lead-out “American Dad” was up 24 percent, to a 2.1.

“Time” also saw big gains from last week, up 16 percent, as did lead-in “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” which grew 25 percent from last week to a 1.5.

CBS’s “Race” posted a 2.1 from 8 to 10 p.m., off 19 percent from last fall’s finale and its lowest-rated season ender ever.

NBC was first for the night among 18-49s with a 4.9 average overnight rating and a 12 share. Fox was second at 3.3/8, CBS third at 2.0/5, ABC fourth at 1.5/4, Univision fifth at 0.8/2 and Telemundo sixth at 0.5/1.

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

Also, ratings for Fox’s and NBC’s NFL coverage are approximate as fast nationals measure timeslot and not actual program data.

At 7 p.m. Fox led with a 5.1 for NFL overrun and “The OT,” followed by NBC with a 2.4 for “Football Night in America.” CBS was third with a 2.2 for “60 Minutes,” ABC fourth with a 1.5 for “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” Univision fifth with a 0.8 for the end of a Mexican league soccer match, and Telemundo sixth with a 0.5 for the end of the movie “El Tradpatio.”

NBC took the lead at 8 p.m. with a 5.4 for NFL pregame and the start of “SNF,” while Fox moved to second with a 2.6 for “Simpsons” (3.0) and “Bob’s” (2.1). ABC was third with a 2.2 for “Time,” CBS fourth with a 2.1 for the first hour of “Race,” Univision fifth with a 0.9 for “Aqui y Ahora” and Telemundo sixth with a 0.6 for “Jennie: Siempre Vivira.”

At 9 p.m. NBC was first with a 6.3 for football, with Fox second with a 2.3 for “Guy” (2.6) and “Dad” (2.1). CBS was third with a 2.1 for the second hour of “Race,” ABC fourth with a 1.5 for “Revenge,” Univision fifth with a 0.8 for “Jenni Rivera: Joyas Prestadas” and Telemundo sixth with a 0.6 for “Jenni Rivera: La Misma Gran Señora.”

At 10 p.m. NBC finished first again with a 5.6 for football, followed by CBS with a 1.7 for “The Mentalist.” ABC and Univision tied for third at 0.8, ABC for “Betrayal” and Univision for its Rivera special, and Telemundo was fifth with a 0.5 for its Rivera special.

NBC was first for the night among households with an 8.3 average overnight rating and a 13 share. CBS was second at 6.0/9, Fox third at 5.0/7, ABC fourth at 3.6/5, Univision fifth at 1.2/2 and Telemundo sixth at 0.7/1.


* * * *

TV Notes
Hey, it’s on again for ‘The Sing Off’
NBC revives the holiday singing competition for a short stint
By Louisa Ada Seltzer, Media Life Magazine - Dec. 9, 2013

Like a fruitcake from your Aunt Mabel that no one wants to eat, NBC’s “The Sing Off” just keeps coming back.

The program gets resurrected again tonight at 9 p.m., when it makes its fourth-season premiere.

The NBC singing competition first premiered as a holiday filler in 2009, running every weeknight for two weeks. It drew okay ratings and returned for another holiday run in 2010.

After posting stronger numbers in its second season, “Sing” got a major upgrade. The network ordered a full season of the show and put it on the fall schedule.

What had been a fun holiday distraction, however, turned into a drag as a drawn-out show. The program no longer had the lure of Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah music, which was so integral to its appeal at the holidays, and ratings plunged.

It was such a disappointment that NBC didn’t even bring it back during last year’s holiday season, but this year the network pulled the program off the bench, hoping to keep up fall’s ratings momentum with fresh content while the other networks segue into repeats.

“Sing” will bow behind “The Voice,” NBC’s top-rated non-sports show, which should give it a strong launch. “Voice” averaged a 3.4 adults 18-49 rating in its most recent episode.

“Sing” will then air six additional episodes, including a two-hour show Wednesday and a one-hour episode Thursday, leading up to its finale on Dec. 23.

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Critic's Notes
Matt Zoller Seitz’s 10 Best TV Shows of 2013
By Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture.com (New York Magazine) - Dec. 9, 2013

1. Arrested Development (Netflix)
Fans of Fox’s beloved cult comedy series had good reason to fear that this oft-delayed fourth season would be a case of trying to recapture the magic of past triumphs long after the artists (and the world) had moved on. Delightfully, though, creator Mitch Hurwitz rose to the challenge, taking advantage of Netflix’s all-at-once viewing option to create the most formally ambitious season of Arrested Development yet, and turning a major casting headache—figuring out how to get so many sought-after and overscheduled comic actors into the same universe again—into a creative strength. Unlike previous seasons, which jam-packed most of the noteworthy incidents into half-hour blocks, season four plays like a collection of parallel yet interwoven short stories that, when watched in succession, keep revealing new bits of comic business. Varying in length from 28 to 37 minutes, the chapters replay events from different vantage points, with new information that changes their meaning, revealing that certain characters were in the same space at the same time and didn’t know it, or that an action that one character thought had been carried out in secret was in fact witnessed by someone else. When critics write that the streaming model of scripted TV offers new creative opportunities for writers, it’s this kind of storytelling that they’re talking about: a comic epic made of intricately crafted mosaic tiles that reveal a big picture as you binge-watch.

2. Hannibal (NBC)
Just when you thought you’d had enough of serial-killer stories—and Thomas Harris’s Ayn Randian super-cannibal in particular—along came this unusually daring network series, a dreamspace horror drama comprising painterly tableaux that suggested art installations or Renaissance visions of hell. This is the most visually and atmospherically striking network series since Twin Peaks, maybe since Miami Vice, and co-stars Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen reinvent tortured profiler Will Graham and bloodthirsty psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter as flesh-and-blood individuals journeying through a landscape of signs and symbols.

3. Breaking Bad (AMC)
The searing final stretch of Vince Gilligan’s drug drama did not disappoint. It would have been assured a spot on this list just for its final three episodes—particularly “Ozymandias,” which sparked furious debates about character motivation and the moral responsibility of storytellers to their audiences—but the other five episodes were keepers, too. Not since the final season of The Sopranos has a cable drama been scrutinized so closely, deservedly so. And on top of all that, it was funny.

4. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
After three seasons of close-but-no-cigar, Terence Winter’s Prohibition-era gangster saga finally smoked that baby. The Chalky White story line dominated, but there was rich material for Gillian Darmody, Richard Harrow, and Eli Thompson as well, and the decision to fix most of the show’s energy on a handful of characters and let everyone else play glorified backup allowed a smoky, bluesy undertone to seep out, giving what had previously been an entertaining period drama a tragic weight.

5. Game of Thrones (HBO)
Although it’s one of the most expensive dramas in TV history, this adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novels is never content to rest on spectacle. It’s a character-driven series that always moves inexorably forward, observing its characters’ power plays with wisdom and empathy. The third season’s bloody showpiece chapter, “The Rains of Castamere,” is assured a spot on any list of the most horrifying hours of TV ever.

6. Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)
A structural triumph in the same vein as season four of Arrested Development, this white-collar prison comedy from Jenji Kohan (Weeds) was also one of the most forward-thinking shows of recent years, presenting a complex gallery of characters whose stories cut across racial, class, gender, and national lines, revealing a shared humanity.

7. Girls (HBO)
Season two of Lena Dunham’s comedy series went deeper and darker, revealing the heroine’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, airing a dreamy and unnerving stand-alone episode that charted the complete arc of a relationship in just two days (“One Man’s Trash”), and building toward a finale that felt like a traditional rom-com climax until you thought about it for a second and realized just how utterly perverse it was.

8. Justified (FX)
This Kentucky-set crime drama is one of the greatest adaptations of the work of Elmore Leonard—who died this year at 87—because it so effortlessly captures the master’s tone of wry amusement at how people deceive each other and themselves. This season’s D. B. Cooper–inspired story line drew career-best performances from the show’s recurring cast, some of whom tragically did not make it to the end.

9. Scandal (ABC)
At some point near the end of season one, Shonda Rhimes’s series about a PR wizard secretly knocking boots with the president took off into a realm of delirious nuttiness, like The Good Wife by way of 24, and in pumps. Yet no matter how cruelly and duplicitously the characters double-cross each other, they remain grounded in emotional reality, a neat trick.

10. The Americans (FX)
Easily the best new drama of 2013, this series about two Reagan-era Soviet spies posing as married suburban D.C. travel agents mixed espionage action with astute observations about domestic life. And the sexy was really sexy.

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Critic's Notes
The Best New TV Shows of 2013
In a banner year for both new and returning series, some love for the next generation of great TV.
By James Poniewozik, Time.com

I’ve been a broken record lately about what a bumper crop of good TV we’ve had in 2013, something the process of winnowing down my annual Top 10 TV Shows list really drove home.

So I decided to do something I haven’t done in several years: a list of the year’s 10 best new shows. In any year, no matter how good the new talent is, it’s hard for brand-new shows to find space among all the returning shows that are at their peak. This year, I had only four new shows on my 10 Best list. (Before 2007, TIME’s TV best lists included only new shows, which allowed more variety but didn’t really offer a true picture of the year in TV either.)

This list recognizes the banner year we had for premiering series and miniseries–and even at that, I had to leave plenty off. Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Trophy Wife are my favorite new fall sitcoms, and they may make my overall best lists some year if they stick around and grow–but they didn’t make the cut this time out. NBC’s Hannibal was a stylistically gorgeous adaptation (and I expect to see it on plenty of other lists), but it also left me cold, in a year already overloaded with stories about wicked criminal masterminds. Inside Amy Schumer was a fun surprise with voice to spare, but I don’t have room to spare. See also Broadchurch, The Bridge…

(Why keep this list to 10, then? Because I think that if a “best” list is to mean anything, it has to acknowledge that not everything can be best; that is, it has to involve tough omissions. That, and the HitFix critic’s poll asked me for my top 10 new shows, and I wasn’t about to come up with yet one more list.)

Anyway, to repeat myself from my earlier lists, there’s only one real answer to the question, “Why isn’t ______ on the list?”: Because I couldn’t bring myself to take any of the other 10 shows off to make room for it. In other words, it’s not about what was wrong with everything else, but what was right with these 10–in a year when there was a hell of a lot that was right with TV.

Now, in alphabetical order, The 10 Best New TV Shows of 2013:

The Americans (FX)
An emotional Cold War thriller about Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, KGB spies, wig wearers, and wed menace

Masters of Sex (Showtime)
A 1950s period piece in which science is the weapon and the workings of sex are the mystery

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)
This darkly ensemble drama set in a women’s prison took a confined environment and found worlds within worlds

Orphan Black (BBC America)
The performances(s) of the year by Tatiana Maslany in a suspenseful, surprise-filled gift of smart sci-fi

Please Like Me (Pivot)
Australian comic Josh Thomas’ endearingly funny story of coming out and living out gave voice to a brand-new channel

Rectify (Sundance)
A mesmerizing, slow-burning, graceful drama about an ex-convict sprung from jail, neither fully exonerated nor forgiven

The Returned (Sundance)
In this atmospheric French import, the dead return, not to gnaw your brains but to eat at your heart

Sleepy Hollow (Fox)
What do you get when the American Revolution meets The Book of Revelation? A crazy good time.

Time of Death (Showtime)
A painful, indelibly moving (and strangely uplifting) documentary series about the one ending that needs no spoiler alert.

Top of the Lake (Sundance)
Elizabeth Moss was the detective of the year in this miniseries about crime and secrets in remote New Zealand.

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TV Review
‘The Great Christmas Light Fight’
By Brian Lowry, Variety.com - Dec. 9, 2013

What “War on Christmas?” As holiday stocking stuffers go, “The Great Christmas Light Fight” is about as inoffensive and low-wattage as reality-TV gets, which isn’t necessarily bad, except the whole exercise could easily be dispatched as a weeklong segment on “Good Morning America.” As is, this five-part series (after the premiere, back-to-back hours will run the next two Mondays) features four families in each episode, with members of the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” team deciding who claims the $50,000 prize. In practical terms, consider it a festive way for ABC to try keeping the lights on ratings-wise while waiting for “The Bachelor.”

“Makeover’s” Michael Moloney is featured in the premiere (Sabrina Soto is the other judge), crisscrossing the country from California to Georgia, Virginia to New York. Surprisingly, other than a former New York firefighter who survived Sept. 11, the participants don’t come armed with sob stories, beyond a love of Christmas and family and, in one case, a questionable eagerness to dress up in elf costumes.

Each family talks about why they started putting together these elaborate light displays, then Moloney – and of course, the entire community – come out for the big unveiling, designating a winner near the end. And that’s pretty much that.

Admittedly, a cynic might argue the spirit of the holidays would be better served if the cash went toward some charitable endeavor or higher calling, or the families spent a little more time talking about the meaning of the season and less obsessing about whether there might be a dud bulb somewhere. Still, given the genial nature of the enterprise, that’s splitting hairs.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of “Great Christmas Light Fight” is its inherent limitation – namely, even if this works, about the best ABC can hope for is to do the whole thing over again next year right after Thanksgiving. (For what it’s worth, the program does include a pitch for those who’d like to participate in the future to send in their information.)

Then again, fretting about that is a bit like putting the sleigh before the reindeer. Besides, ABC and FremantleMedia should have a pretty good idea by Tuesday morning whether this Christmas bauble will merit a second coming.

ABC, Mon. Dec. 9, 9 p.m.

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Nielsen Notes (Cable)
Big audience for ‘Bonnie,’ but no record
Averages 9.8 million total viewers on three A&E Networks
By Toni Fitzgerald, Media Life Magazine - Dec. 9, 2013

“Bonnie & Clyde” may have broken some laws, but they didn’t break any records.

The miniseries, which debuted across three A&E Networks last night, drew an audience of 9.8 million total viewers, according to Nielsen.

That’s a hearty crowd but it’s a smaller bow than other recent cable miniseries have rustled up.

And no one network drew 4 million for the showing.

History led the bunch with 3.7 million total viewers for part one of the miniseries, which aired from 9 to 11 p.m.

Lifetime was second with 3.1 million viewers, while A&E chipped in another 3 million.

By comparison, “The Bible,” which aired on only History last March, drew 14.3 million viewers in its first episode.

And the network’s “Hatfields & McCoys,” which aired in May 2012, posted 13.1 million viewers in its premiere.

Still, “Bonnie” did well enough to become the third-most-watched opening episode of a cable miniseries since “Broken Trail” on AMC seven years ago.

“Bonnie” also averaged 4.2 million adults 25-54 in its opening episode.

Part two will air tonight at 9 p.m., once again across all three networks.

That sort of multi-network stunt is called a roadblock, and it’s used to funnel people to an event that’s particularly important to a network parent company.

For example, NBCUniversal has aired promotional roadblocks for its Olympic programming, putting a teaser for the upcoming Sochi Olympics on all of its cable and broadcast nets on the 100th day before the Games began.

A&E Networks evidently decided to use this approach for “Bonnie” because of the wide appeal of the program. It fits with the History brand of reexamining historical events and the growing A&E brand of oddball personalities.

And of course Bonnie, one of the gangster era’s most legendary women, adds another dimension to the miniseries that Lifetime’s female audience can appreciate.

The miniseries aired against some tough broadcast competition, including NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and CBS’s season finale of “The Amazing Race.”

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TV Notes
NBC, Emboldened By ‘The Sound of Music’ Success, Launches Annual Franchise
By Lisa De Moraes, Deadline.com - Dec. 9, 2013

To the surprise of no one who saw the ratings and the social stats, NBC announced Monday that it’s turning last week’s live-musical/social media-The Sound of Music NBCpalooza into an annual event. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said today he’s already circling a couple of titles for next year but already has begun managing expectations, telling The New York Times, “There may be a little bit of a phenomenon to the first one of these. Who knows what happens Year 2, 3, or 4?”

NBC clocked an impressive 18.6 million viewers Thursday night with its three-hour broadcast of The Sound of Music, which became a social media phenom, with much of the attention paid by tweeters to star Carrie Underwood’s “thin acting resume” as the NYT put it. Underwood reacted to her professional and amateur critics by tweeting that “mean people need Jesus” and that she would pray for them.

That said, many of those critics cut her — and the broadcast, with its numerous technical NBC_logoglitches — a lot of slack, in an effort to show support for the idea of mounting live TV broadcasts, and family-friendly ones to boot. Here’s maybe the best example, from The Daily Beast (NYT thought so too): “It’s the least we can do to drop any cynicism over the project and harsh reaction to the execution of it and appreciate the huge gamble and undertaking it was to reanimate those mountains, and how fun it was to — even without Julie Andrews and even if it was kind of a mess — be twirling on them again.”

The show’s producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, already have turned a slew of well-known musicals into TV productions – though not live ones. Back in December 1993, they made a lot of noise with their CBS broadcast of Gypsy, starring Bette Midler; it averagedcraig-zadan-and-neil-meron-asked-back-to-produce-the-2014-oscars more than 26 million viewers. They went on to redo The Music Man, Cinderella, and Annie for TV, though interest eventually died down. Not any musical will do for NBC’s new annual holiday franchise: Success, Greenblatt said, hinges on finding a title that can be rated G, as was The Sound of Music, and has loads of very familiar tunes – and on securing the services of another music star with a large fan base, like Underwood, hopefully one with a thicker acting resume, or thicker skin. Biggest news out of NBC’s announcement: Underwood spent 10 months preparing for the role.

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TV Notes
Showtime’s ‘Californication’ Returns for 7th – and Final – Season in April
By Tony Maglio, TheWrap.com - Dec. 9, 2013

“Californication” will return in April 2014 for its seventh — and final — season, Showtime said Monday.

The upcoming 12 episodes will conclude the story of Hank (David Duchovny), Karen (Natascha McElhone), Becca (Madeleine Martin), Charlie (Evan Handler) and Marcy (Pamela Adlon).

The final run finds Hank joining the writer’s room as his “Santa Monica Cop” makes its way to TV. Along the way, the protagonist will feud with his boss — the show’s old-school executive producer Rick Rath (guest star Michael Imperioli) — and his fellow writing team members, including Goldie (guest star Mary Lynn Rajskub) and Alonzo (co-star Alonzo Bodden).

To add more drama to the drama, Hank has to deal with the reemergence of old friend Julia (guest star Heather Graham), whose arrival adds even more chaos, and with his on-off relationship with Karen (McElhone). Meanwhile, Charlie (Handler) and Marcy (Adlon) grapple with the aftermath of their reunion and an enticing offer from her ex-husband, Stu Beggs (guest star Stephen Tobolowsky).

Rob Lowe, Brandon T. Jackson, Oliver Cooper and Mercedes Masohn will guest star in Season 7.

“With its unique blend of lyricism and excess, ‘Californication’ has been one of our groundbreaking signature series,” said David Nevins, president of Entertainment, Showtime Networks. “We will always be indebted to Tom Kapinos for leading the creative charge on this memorable comedy, and to David Duchovny for making us root for an unapologetic hedonist like Hank Moody. Tom has carefully planned the final chapter of Hank’s journey and has brought it to a beautiful and satisfying conclusion for new and long-time fans alike.”

The series has earned five Emmy nominations and two wins for Nevins’ pay-TV network, six Golden Globe nominations and one win, and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination. Last season of “Californication” earned its best ratings to date, averaging 2.9 million weekly viewers across platforms, the network boasted.

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No political comments, please.

TV Notes
Sarah Palin Heads to Sportsman Channel With New Series
By Michael O'Connell, The Hollywood Reporter - Dec. 9, 2013

Sarah Palin is making another play for TV stardom. The Fox News contributor and former vice presidential candidate will host a new show on the Sportsman Channel.

Dubbing her the "First Lady of the Outdoors" in a Monday release, the cable channel is slotting Amazing America With Sarah Palin for April 2014. It's described as an "anthology of stories that explore some of the most original, interesting -- and sometimes inspiring -- people, places and pastimes connected to America's outdoors lifestyle."

"I'm excited to help shine a light on all the great American sportsmen and women in the country who live the outdoors lifestyle," said Palin. "Sportsman Channel is the leader in their industry and I am thrilled to be partnering with them on this show."

An outdoors enthusiast and perhaps Alaska's most famous daughter, the project is not a stretch for Palin -- but it is her most niche TV outing to date. She previously starred in Sarah Palin's Alaska for TLC back in 2010. The show was canceled after one season.

Palin, who briefly exited her role on Fox News in late 2012 only to return as a contributor in June 2013, has been looking for additional opportunities. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter she's been exploring an Internet subscription model, much like Glenn Beck's TheBlaze, but TV has been a priority.

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TV Review
Discovery's ‘Amish Mafia’
Christmas is driving Merlin buggy as Lebanon Levi and his purported gangsters return
By David Hinckley, New York Daily News - Dec. 10, 2013

All you need to know about the “Christmas episode” of Discovery’s bizarre “Amish Mafia” series is they blow up Santa Claus.

Okay, it’s not the real Santa Claus. It’s not even a person dressed as Santa Claus. It’s a Santa Claus dummy of some sort.

Still, we see Amish preacher Merlin walking toward the camera and behind him, Santa Claus explodes, which immediately makes this Tuesday’s “Amish Mafia” the weirdest “Christmas episode” you’ll see anywhere on TV this year.

And just when you thought a series already full of “Huh?” moments couldn’t find any more envelopes to push.

Merlin, you see, wants to rid Amish culture of Santa, who he feels corrupts the true spirit of Christ and the Christmas season.

He tells a classroom full of young schoolchildren that Santa is a devil who will lead them to hell. Santa wears gloves, Merlin says, because he doesn’t have hands. He has hooves.

Lebanon Levi, however, loves Santa, because Santa helps him make money marketing Amish Christmas stuff to “the English.”

Lebanon Levi, for those who just tuned in, is the “Mafia” guy in the show’s title. Levi bills himself as the protector of other Amish by taking enforcement and policing measures they sometimes won’t.

He and Merlin don’t get along, which leads to this tug-of-war over Santa.

When he’s not sparring with Merlin, Levi presents a goat to his on-and-off girlfriend Esther, who says it’s the best gift she ever got.

“Amish Mafia” isn’t technically a sitcom. But technically, there’s also no Amish Mafia.

Network/Time: Tuesday at 9 p.m., Discovery Channel
Rating: ★★★ (out of five)

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TV Notes
On The Air Tonight
TUESDAY 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 - Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
9:01PM - The Golfbergs
9:31PM - Trophy Wife
10PM - What Would You Do?
* * * *
11:35AM - Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Tom Hanks; TV host Rachael Ray; Childish Gambino performs)
12:37AM - Nightline

9PM - NCIS: Los Angeles
10PM - The Victoria's Secrets Fashion Show (Special)
* * * *
11:35PM - Late Show with David Letterman (Billy Crystal; TV host Julie Chen; ZZ Ward performs)
12:37AM - The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (Paul Giamatti; sports analyst Michael Irvin)

8PM - The Biggest Loser
9PM - The Voice (LIVE)
10PM - Chicago Fire
* * * *
11:34PM - The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (Kirstie Alley; wildlife specialist Ernie Brown Jr.; Switchfoot performs)
12:36AM - Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (John Goodman; Michelle Dockery; a performance from Yo Gabba Gabba)
1:36AM - Last Call with Carson Daly (Director Scott Cooper; Chvrches performs; comic Esther Povitsky)

8PM - American Country Music Awards (120 min., LIVE)

(check your local listing for starting time/programming)
8PM - Christmas With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Featuring Alfie Boe and Tom Brokaw
9PM - Israel: Facing the Future
(R - Aug. 17)
10PM - Frontline: Raising Adam Lanza
(R - Feb. 19)

8PM - Por Siempre Mi Amor
9PM - Lo Que La Vida Me Robo
10PM - Mentir Para Vivir

8PM - The iHeartradio Album Release Party With Katy Perry
(R - Oct. 25)
9PM - The iHeartradio Album Release Party With Lady Gaga
(R - Nov. 19)

8PM - Marido en Alquiler
9PM - La Reina del Sur
10PM - Santa Diabla

11PM - The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Amy Adams)
11:31PM - The Colbert Report (Public radio producer Alex Blumberg)

11PM - Conan (Jason Schwartzman; Columbus Short; Pentatonix)
Midnight - The Pete Holmes Show (Mark-Paul Gosselaar)

11PM - Chelsea Lately (Lizzy Caplan; comic John Caparulo; comic Cameron Esposito; comic Jo Koy)

Check Local Listings - Arsenio (Jim Brown; Toks Olagundoye; Tristan 'Mack' Wilds)
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TV Notes
‘The Eric Andre Show’ Renewed by Adult Swim for Season 3
By AJ Marechal, Variety.com - Dec. 9, 2013

Adult Swim has picked up “The Eric Andre Show” for a third season, the net announced today.

From Abso Lutely Prods., show is hosted by Eric Andre and Hannibal Buress and airs Thursdays at 12:30 a.m.

Program has proven to be a solid draw with men 18-24 in its most recent run, which featured guest appearances from Dominic Monaghan, James Van Der Beek and Henry Rollins, among others.

“The Eric Andre Show” is exec produced by Andre along with Andrew Barchilon, Kitao Sakurai and Dave Kneebone.

post #91105 of 93807
SNF dec 22 flexes in bears/eagles.

Could be a give back to cbs for losing chiefs/broncos earlier this year cause now cbs which has the national doubleheader that day can now feature patriots/ravens @ 4:25 as that had been the snf game.
post #91106 of 93807
Originally Posted by dcowboy7 View Post

SNF dec 22 flexes in bears/eagles.

Could be a give back to cbs for losing chiefs/broncos earlier this year cause now cbs which has the national doubleheader that day can now feature patriots/ravens @ 4:25 as that had been the snf game.
Bears-Eagles flexed into prime time Week 16
Getty Images
Posted by Michael David Smith on December 10, 2013, 1:14 PM EST

After the Eagles and Bears both won games with major NFC playoff implications in Week 14, the NFL decided to give their meeting in Week 16 a prime time audience.

The Bears-Eagles game in Philadelphia has been moved from its previously scheduled 1 p.m. Eastern kickoff on FOX to Sunday Night Football on NBC. Chicago is currently tied with Detroit for NFC North supremacy (though the Lions own the tiebreaker), while Philadelphia is currently one game ahead of Dallas in the NFC East. That makes Bears-Eagles a big game.

The Patriots-Ravens game in Baltimore that had been scheduled for Sunday Night Football on December 22 has now been moved to a 4:25 p.m. kickoff on CBS. Although the Patriots and Ravens are both fighting for playoff spots, Bears-Eagles is the game that will draw the bigger audience.

There’s a good chance that either the Bears or the Eagles will play on Sunday night in Week 17 as well. The NFL tries to put a game with playoff implications for both teams in the final prime time matchup, and the most likely Week 17 candidates are Eagles-Cowboys as a battle for the NFC East or Bears-Packers as a battle for the NFC North. The Week 17 prime time game will be announced after Week 16, when all the playoff scenarios are known.

smile.gif That Sunday looks to be a Great Day 4 Football ! biggrin.gif

MNF : News Flash Romo dislikes the cold tongue.gif
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Romo had nothing to do with why they lost last night, check the score again. My guess is that former Bears starting QB Cutler will never be medically cleared as long as they play like they did last night on offense.
post #91108 of 93807
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

Romo had nothing to do with why they lost last night, check the score .
Yeah they lost tongue.gif

Dallas ..... 1st qt 7 - 2nd qt 07 - 3rd qt 00 - 4th qt 14 F 28
Chicago ... 1st qt 7 - 2nd qt 17 - 3rd qt 11 - 4th qt 10 F 45

Romo leads the Cowboys offense does he not ?
the last 2 Cowboy TD were against the 2nd squad defense for the Bears .
That above shows Romo was ineffective vast majority of the game wink.gif . . . I M O
Edited by Fastslappy - 12/10/13 at 1:22pm
post #91109 of 93807
Originally Posted by Fastslappy View Post

Yeah they lost tongue.gif

Dallas 1st qt 7 - 2nd qt 07 - 3rd qt 00 - 4th qt 14 F 28
Chicago 1st qt 7 - 2nd qt 17 - 3rd qt 11 - 4th qt 10 F 45

Romo leads the Cowboys offense does he not ?
the last 2 Cowboy TD were against the 2nd squad defense for the Bears .
That above shows Romo was ineffective vast majority of the game wink.gif . . . I M O

A lot of the offensive woes had to do with horribly bad pass protection when blitzed (I really don't understand why teams don't just blitz us all the time), and some bad drops, especially on 3rd down. Romo played quite well considering how cold it was. Also, its REALLY hard to win when your defense gives up at least a FG on every single drive, except a kneel down at the end, I read in the paper, did not make it to the 4th Q on TV).
post #91110 of 93807
Originally Posted by lobosrul View Post

A lot of the offensive woes had to do with horribly bad pass protection when blitzed (I really don't understand why teams don't just blitz us all the time), and some bad drops, especially on 3rd down. Romo played quite well considering how cold it was. Also, its REALLY hard to win when your defense gives up at least a FG on every single drive, except a kneel down at the end, I read in the paper, did not make it to the 4th Q on TV).
Yeah , I'd have to agree that all of the Dallas "O" was pretty bad & the Dallas "D" was worse .
I was making light of the Flack that Peyton was getting for his play in the cold this week in the press & he actually was great this weekend ,
Romo is paid allota $$ so I guess my expectations is that IF you get the Payton $$ you should perform at that level .
At least Romo didn't have the chance to throw the game away at the end on his infamous expected choke in the last seconds , like he has many times before .
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