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TV Notes (Broadcast)
Bob Kushell Out As Exec Producer of ABC’s ‘The Muppets’
by Cynthia Littleton, Variety.com - Nov. 4, 2015

Bob Kushell is exiting as exec producer and co-showrunner of ABC’s “The Muppets.”

Kushell’s departure comes amid reports that he had been clashing over the creative direction of the series with co-showrunner Bill Prady.

Though no replacement has officially been appointed, insiders tell Variety ABC is in talks with comedy producer Kristin Newman to step in for Kushell. Newman already has a standing relationship with the network, as she’s a co-exec producer on “Galavant” and held the same position on the alien family laffer “The Neighbors.” Her other major credits include “How I Met Your Mother,” “That ’70s Show,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Chuck.”

ABC last week ordered three more episodes of the ABC Studios comedy, bringing its first-season total to 16 episodes. But the show’s take on the beloved Muppet characters has had a mixed reception. Some critics have complained that the characters have become too shrill in the mockumentary format set behind the scenes of a late-night talk show hosted by Miss Piggy and produced by Kermit the Frog.

Prady, co-creator and exec producer of “The Big Bang Theory,” and Kushell teamed for the primetime revival of “The Muppets” last spring when the project came together late during pilot season and fast-tracked on the strength of a presentation reel.

Kushell is a sitcom vet who came to “Muppets” after most recently working on FX’s “Anger Management.” His other credits include “3rd Rock from the Sun,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “The Simpsons.”

http://deadline.com/2015/11/recall-cbs-mark-goffman-cia-drama-1201604232/
 

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Maybe they could talk Eliza Dushku into starring in this. #TruCalling :rolleyes:
Good memory - but wasn't First Edition also the same premise? Tomorrow's headlines today, so 24 hours to prevent a tragedy?
 

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TV Notes (Broadcast)
Leslie Moonves Explains Why 'Star Trek' Went to CBS All Access
By Lesley Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Access' - Nov. 3, 2015
What Leslie might have wanted to say.

"Look, Star Trek is a stale franchise, but don't tell that to the crazies. I mean we milked the **** out of it. We're going to squeeze the last remaining drops out of it, but I won't put on real TV. We're playing it safe. When this thing tanks and it can't help but tank, do you think I want to be chased down every damn street in New York and La by a bunch of crazy Trekkie's with flame and pitchfork in hand?
No way, I'm getting too old for some guy painted blue to have stare down contest with me every time I go to eat at a crowed restaurant downtown! No way, we have to send it to twilight zone of television were it can finally die in peace for a long while."
 

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Good memory - but wasn't First Edition also the same premise? Tomorrow's headlines today, so 24 hours to prevent a tragedy?
Pretty much. Tru went back in time and re-lived the whole day. Gary Hobson lived in a linear world, but received the next day's newspaper. But, yeah, it's kind of the same premise. We know what happened, now let's re-write history.

I'm working up a story that borrows from this premise, but goes in an entirely different direction. If I'm lucky, it'll get picked up for the 2018 season :D LOL.
 

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What Leslie might have wanted to say.

"Look, Star Trek is a stale franchise, but don't tell that to the crazies. I mean we milked the **** out of it. We're going to squeeze the last remaining drops out of it, but I won't put on real TV. We're playing it safe. When this thing tanks and it can't help but tank, do you think I want to be chased down every damn street in New York and La by a bunch of crazy Trekkie's with flame and pitchfork in hand?
No way, I'm getting too old for some guy painted blue to have stare down contest with me every time I go to eat at a crowed restaurant downtown! No way, we have to send it to twilight zone of television were is can finally die in peace for a long while."
Maybe, but what Yogi Berra might have wanted to say is that nobody goes to that restaurant anymore - it's too crowed!
 

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Pretty much. Tru went back in time and re-lived the whole day. Gary Hobson lived in a linear world, but received the next day's newspaper. But, yeah, it's kind of the same premise. We know what happened, now let's re-write history.

I'm working up a story that borrows from this premise, but goes in an entirely different direction. If I'm lucky, it'll get picked up for the 2018 season :D LOL.
Yes, another adaptation needs at least a touch of originality - Maybe only go back 23 hours so 4% less time to avert disaster - that would increase the tension by - uh, well, about 4% I guess, everything else being equal...
 

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There are certain things that do not belong on TV. This is one of them...

Honey Boo Boo And Co. Will Return To Television To Make Us All A Little Dumber

Mama June promises the new show will be "real and unscripted."

Break out the Go Go juice because Honey Boo Boo is back.

Former "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" star Mama June Shannon revealed on Sunday that her family will be returning to the small screen. In a post on her daughter Alana Thompson's (aka Honey Boo Boo) Facebook Page, Shannon announced that fans can expect the family back on television starting in December.

The mother of four (Anna, Lauryn, Jessica and Alana) didn't give many details about the project, other than to say that the new reality show won't be like the family's previous TLC program. However, she did promise it will be "real and unscripted," which is the "only kind of TV [they] believe in."

While Shannon didn't reveal which network is responsible for the family's comeback, she noted that it will not be airing on TLC, which isn't surprising since the network canceled the series in October 2014 following allegations that Mama June was dating a convicted child molester named Mark McDaniel.

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" premiered in 2012 after Alana caught the world's attention on an episode of "Toddlers and Tiaras."

Before its cancellation last year, the show was almost universally panned by critics. After its premiere, the AV Club dubbed it a "horror story posing as a reality television program," while The Hollywood Reporter described it as "peculiarly reprehensible."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/honey-boo-boo-returns-tv_563a483ce4b0411d306f2840?ir=Entertainment&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000024
 

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TV Notes (Production)
‘America’s Next Top Model’ To Live On? Show Eyes New Season On Cable Or SVOD
By Nellie Andreeva, Deadline.com - Nov. 4, 2015

EXCLUSIVE: America’s Next Top Model’s current 22nd cycle may not be its final runway bow. While the reality veteran is ending its run on the CW with a series finale on Dec. 4, I hear there is a possibility for a 23rd cycle elsewhere. I’ve learned that a new Top Model installment is currently being pitched to cable and streaming outlets. It is being shepherded by Top Model executive producer/showrunner Ken Mok. I hear the potential reboot is being done with co-creator/star Tyra Banks’ support. She is expected to continue as an executive producer, should Top Model find a new home. Her potential on-screen involvement is unclear at this time. (“I truly believe it’s time,” she wrote in reaction to the announcement of the show’s end on the CW last month.)

I hear the idea for a new Top Model installment came out of incoming interest the series’ producers fielded following the Oct. 14 series finale announcement by the CW. Top Model is a rare reality series with strong repeatability. It has done well in its off-network runs on cable networks VH1, Bravo and Oxygen. Additionally, because of its serialized nature, it also has fared well on the top streaming platforms, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. With incoming calls from cable and streaming players inquiring about new episodes, Mok started working on a pitch. I hear he is making formal presentations to potential buyers this week, joined by Scott Koondel, who oversees licensing to cable and domestic SVOD for CBS. (CBS TV Distribution is distributing Top Model, which originated on CBS-owned UPN)

Top Model premiered May 20, 2003 on UPN, and was the first series to debut on The CW on Sept 20, 2006. Top Model, which is slated for a retrospective special on the CW next year, has been the most successful reality series on the network and the longest-running series currently on the CW. Additionally, it launched a very successful format that has been produced in over 30 countries.

http://deadline.com/2015/11/americas-next-top-model-revived-season-23-cable-svod-1201607572/
 

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TV Notes (Cable)
Queen Latifah, Jermaine Dupri to Search for Next Hip-Hop Star With Lifetime Series
By Leslie Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter's 'Live Feed' Blog - Nov. 4, 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Lifetime is getting into the hip-hop game.

Following the success of Fox's Empire, the female-skewing cable network is teaming with Queen Latifah and Jermaine Dupri for a new unscripted series called The Rap Game.

The eight-episode unscripted series, set to premiere on New Year's Day, follows five emerging artists ages 12-16 who will be immersed in the Atlanta hip-hop scene in a quest to become the next big rap star.

Producer Dupri will be joined every week by such guests as Usher, Ludacris, Da Brat, T.I. and Silento to help mold the kids into the next big young rapper and earn a record contract with their mentor's So So Def Recordings label.

During his more than 30-year career, Dupri has worked with young talents including Bow Wow, Da Brat, Kris Kross and TLC. Dupri will exec produce alongside Latifah and her Flavor Unit partner Shakim Compere. The Rap Game is additionally produced by Intuitive Entertainment, Mechelle Collins and Kevin Dill (The Millionaire Matchmaker), showrunner Sean Rankine (Basketball Wives), Laura Fuest Silva (America's Next Top Model) and Chris Deaux (Rods and Wheels). Lifetime’s Eli Lehrer, Mary Donahue and Mariana Flynn oversee in for Lifetime. Filmed in Atlanta, the series will air Fridays at 10 p.m.

"Hip-hop is where Latifah and I came from so it’s great to be able to produce a television show that is derived from our roots. The show is going to be a lot of fun," Compere said.

For Lifetime, The Rap Game comes as both broadcast and cable networks alike are looking to tap into the success of Fox's hip-hop soap Empire. VH1 on Jan. 4 will premiere The Breaks, a TV movie based on Dan Charnas' best-selling book The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop, which is considered one of the most comprehensive accounts of hip-hop; while Starz has found ratings success with its 50 Cent-produced hip-hop drama Power. On the unscripted side, WE tv has picked up an Empire-like docuseries Growing Up Hip Hop, featuring the aspiring offspring of music legends Damon Dash, Rev. Run, Russell Simmons and more.

Here's a look at the aspiring hip-hop stars set to participate in The Rap Game:

Lil’ Niqo, 15, San Diego, CA

Lil’ Niqo has been making music history since he was 10. He was the youngest rapper signed to Island Def Jams and was a correspondent for BET and MTV’s red carpets. Lil' Nigo also appeared on the drama The Finder, working alongside 50 Cent, Michael Clarke Duncan and Jacob Latimore. With his "momager" Nique by his side, there’s no stopping Lil’ Niqo’s path to success.

Lil’ Poopy, 12, Brockton, MA

The youngest in the group, Lil’ Poopy has made more than 200 videos, writes his own songs and has performed with Puff Daddy, Rick Ross and French Montana. His father and mentor, Luis Rivera Sr. will do anything to see his son rise to the top — including hiring the hottest models and renting out Ferraris for his son’s music videos.

Miss Mulatto, 16, Atlanta, GA

Miss Mulatto began her career performing at birthday parties and has since made a name for herself in the Atlanta music scene. Her mom, Misti, is always by her side at competitions, despite finding it difficult to infiltrate the tight-knit social circle.

Supa Peach, 12, Atlanta, GA

With a unique style highlighted by her signature cape, Supa Peach raps, sings, dances and models. Sure of her daughter’s profound talent, Josetta has moved her family from the Virgin Islands to give her daughter everything she needs to launch her rap career.

Young Lyric, 15, Houston, TX

Young Lyric’s hip-hop career began when a video of her rapping went viral. She recorded her first song at 7 and was named the "Best 14-Year-Old Rapper" by WorldStarHipHop.com viewers. Her parents, Olivia and Mitchell, will do whatever it takes to get her to the next level and believe she’s on the brink of superstardom.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/queen-latifah-jermaine-dupri-search-836756
 

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TV Review (Broadcast)
It's 'Elementary:' Jonny Lee Miller beguiles as quirky Sherlock hero
By Robert Bianco, USA Today - Nov. 4, 2015

Whatever it is Jonny Lee Miller is doing in Elementary (Thursday, 10 p.m. ET/PT, ★★★ out of four), here's hoping he keeps doing it for years to come.

Despite the name of his character and the premise of this CBS drama, he's not exactly playing Sherlock Holmes, at least not as the character is usually portrayed. Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock, after all, was not a heroin addict, did not work in New York and did not have a female Watson (the exquisite Lucy Liu) who was every bit his equal. Nor did he have such an openly (and often humorously) expressed sexual appetite, or as open a heart -— as evidenced by his willingness in tonight's fourth season premiere to express his need for his newfound friends and colleagues.

But the curiosities about Elementary go well beyond its modern twists on the text, a device it shares with Britain's Sherlock. It's just hard to name a star turn in a big broadcast show that is as beguilingly idiosyncratic as Miller's. Everything he does seems somehow odd and yet completely right: the sly, sometimes sped-up line readings; the bowed-backwards stance reminiscent of Stan Laurel; the haircut; the head-bobs — even the way he keeps his shirts buttoned at the neck, as if to emphasize how buttoned-up and yet eccentric his character is.

In short, like his show, Miller overdelivers. You go in expecting a standard network murder-of-the-week mystery, and you get something much more — maybe not from the crime, but certainly from the ongoing story of the crime solver and his battle to maintain his sobriety and sanity.

When we last saw Sherlock, he seemed to be losing that battle. After beating a man close to death and suffering a heroin relapse, he faces the possibility of jail time and the certainty of unemployment.

Luckily, unlike last season's opener, he's facing his problems with Watson, who has become an increasingly formidable force. When some Brit snob insults Sherlock, she answers with "What's the hardest you've ever been hit?" — a line Liu makes both amusing and threatening.

Sherlock also gets another possible ally: His father, Morland, played to the hilt by John Noble. And it doesn't take long before Morland proves his worth as a story device and Noble proves his worth as a scene partner.

The cases Sherlock and Watson solve in these first two outings don't amount to much, but their relationship does. Watson's bond with Sherlock is personal and professional, but not sexual — which makes for a nice change. Perhaps someday the show will give in to will-they/won't-they flirtation, but so far it has largely resisted, and is all the better for it.

Great work. Keep it up.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/columnist/2015/11/04/cbs-elementary-jonny-lee-miller-review/75105242/
 

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Technology Notes/Review (Streaming)
Apple TV's Bid To Fix Television Strong, Despite Flaws
By Jason Cipriani, Fortune.com - Nov. 4, 2015

Apple has placed high expectations on its latest product, the fourth-generation Apple TV. The streaming media device provides users with a means to play movies and TV shows from the likes of Netflix and Hulu, much in the same way previous iterations have done.

With this release, however, Apple has added an App Store and provided developers with tools to create applications. Apple has also added its personal assistant, Siri, into the mix via a dedicated button on a redesigned remote that features a trackpad instead of directional buttons for navigation.

The new Apple TV comes in two configurations, $149 for 32 gigabytes of storage, doubling to 64 gigabytes for $199. Inside the box you’ll find the Apple TV, a Siri remote, a Lightning cable (to charge the remote), and power cable.

Unlike recent updates by Roku and Amazon to their respective streaming devices, Apple opted to not include 4K streaming capabilities, sticking with 1080p high definition video instead. For those with 4K TV’s, this will be a disappointment. But for the vast majority who don’t yet own a 4K TV, it’s a non-issue.

New and improved setup

Initial setup was a breeze. After first powering on the Apple TV, I was instructed to unlock my iPhone and place it close to the unit. Doing so allowed my phone and the Apple TV to begin the setup process, first transferring my Wi-Fi network’s credentials to the set-top box.

A few seconds later, my phone prompted me to enter my iCloud credentials and verify my Apple ID. I then had to indicate whether or not I wanted to use Siri, and answer a few more standard setup questions. All in all, total time from unboxing to installing apps from the App Store was less than five minutes.

On previous generation Apple TVs, users were forced to wade through a grid of app icons and streaming services by default. As Apple added new services to those Apple TV models, it would litter users’ home screen with app icons, regardless of whether or not the user wanted them.

Thankfully, Apple changed this approach with the latest device, allowing users to pick and choose which service providers are installed on each device, by downloading the apps from the App Store. The only software installed upon initial boot up of the Apple TV are Apple’s own apps.

Finally, universal search

Navigating the interface with the new Siri Remote involves a trackpad located atop the remote that responds to gestures. For example, swiping your thumb across the pad will highlight various elements such as buttons or movie posters.

A dedicated button on the remote activates Siri. Using your voice, you can ask Siri to search for movies or TV shows based on genres, actors, or specifically by name. A command of “Show me Nicolas Cage movies” returns a list of movies featuring the actor.

Selecting a movie will open its detail screen, providing a synopsis and various tidbits of information about the movie. More importantly, however, is that Apple TV will now display a list of service providers where you can find the movie instead of forcing you to search Netflix, then Hulu, then HBO, and so on, in order to find what you want to watch. For example, searching for The Wolf on Wall Street gave me the option to watch it on Hulu or purchase it from iTunes. The feature is called universal search, and is something Apple’s competitors have long offered.

Currently iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Showtime are compatible with the new universal search feature.

As far as Siri’s accuracy is concerned, I’d put the experience on par with that found on the iPhone. The vast majority of the time Siri properly dictated my requests, struggling the most when I used the nickname “Avs” to refer to NHL team Colorado Avalanche, returning score updates for the Cleveland Cavaliers (aka, the Cavs) instead.

Games get truly social

Games will end up being a cornerstone of the new Apple TV experience. In the past five days, I’ve spent as much time playing games as I have watching TV, which almost never happens. The reason? Playing games on your TV turns what would normally be a singular experience into a social activity.

For instance, instead of sitting on the couch with each person in the room playing a game like Crossyroad on his or her smartphone (and then comparing scores), you find yourself cheering (or jeering) one another as each person attempts to one-up the high score.

Sketchparty TV is another app I’ve grown fond of. It’s like Pictionary, only instead of using a whiteboard, players can privately read the word on an Apple TV-linked iOS device, which then doubles as a handheld drawing surface. Connecting the Apple TV to the iOS device only takes a few seconds. The iOS Sketchparty app looks for Apple TVs on the same network running the Sketchparty companion app. Once they find each other, the game is on. One evening, I spent three hours with a large group of friends drawing and laughing the night away. It was a blast.

The Apple TV may not be able to compete with Microsoft’s Xbox or Sony’s Playstation as a dedicated gaming console, but it does provide an exceptional casual—and very entertaining—gaming experience.

App discovery is nonexistent

There’s no other way to say it: Finding and installing apps on the Apple TV is a mess. In its current state, the App Store has two main categories: games and entertainment. The addition of categories occurred late Wednesday, some five days after the device launched. The ability to add categories and aide in app discoverability without requiring a software update is promising, and something Apple needs to continue doing.

You’re able to search for apps, but that is assuming you know what you’re looking for. If an app isn’t featured by Apple or successful enough to be placed on the top charts, odds are you won’t have any clue it exists.

Further complicating the problem is that developers cannot link to their Apple TV apps. When a company announces an app built for the iPhone, you can click on a link and view details in iTunes or the App Store. Apple TV apps have no such option, with developers having to instruct potential users to search the App Store for the app’s name.

Ideally, iTunes would give users the option to remotely install any compatible apps on the Apple TV. This is something Google has done with the Play Store for Android devices for years—and it’s time that Apple follows suit.

Text entry is a hassle

While we’re on the subject of the App Store’s shortcomings, let’s talk about the biggest issue with the Apple TV in its current state: text entry.

Entering user names and passwords is downright tedious. So much so, in fact, I’ve declined to completely set up some apps, in order to avoid it.

Right now, you have to scroll through a horizontal list of letters and numbers and select each one individually using the Siri remote when signing into apps or searching the App store. In other words, if a text field requires input (outside of the initial setup process), you’re going to have to suffer through filling it out.

Adding to the frustration, Apple has yet to update its companion iOS Remote app for the Apple TV. With previous generation units, the Remote app lets you use the keyboard on your iPhone or iPad to input text. Considering the amount of time I’ve wasted entering passwords over the past few days, that update cannot come fast enough.

In conclusion

In its current from, the Apple TV is far from perfect. The App Store is in disarray, and having to enter passwords using the Siri remote is an exercise in frustration. Even if a developer has figured out what the next big thing will be on our TV’s, odds are we’d have no idea it existed in the App Store.

Yet despite its flaws, the new Apple TV is a respectable upgrade from older generation units. The addition of the App Store, current limitations notwithstanding, has already added to the overall experience and will continue to add value over time.

Siri’s presence on the big screen isn’t an earth shattering revelation. But it is one that helps streamline the process of finding something to watch across multiple services much easier than on previous Apple TVs.

Apple’s vision of the future of TV, one that’s powered by apps and empowering users through choice, is far from being realized—if it ever is.

Right now, the new Apple TV has added an element of fun, mixed with entertainment to my living room. And that’s all I can ask for.

For more about Apple TV, watch this Fortune video:

http://fortune.com/2015/11/04/apple-tv-review-2/
 

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TV Notes (Streaming)
Bryan Cranston's Sneaky Pete gets series order from Amazon
by Megan Daley, EW.com - Nov. 4, 2015

Bryan Cranston’s Sneaky Pete has been given a series order by Amazon, the streaming service announced on Wednesday.

Originally developed for CBS, Amazon picked up the hour-long pilot – which was directed by executive producer Seth Gordon – earlier this summer, and debuted it on Aug. 7.

Sneaky Pete follows a con man (played by Giovanni Ribisi) who, after being released from prison, steals the identity of his cellmate, Pete, in order to start a new life. He soon begins living and working with Pete’s family, helping out with their bail bond business.

“We are excited to bring to Amazon’s customers a new compelling series headlined by Giovanni Ribisi from the minds of David Shore and Bryan Cranston,” Amazon Studios vice president, Roy Price, said in a statement. “Sneaky Pete is an incredible addition to Amazon’s expanding drama slate and we are eager for its premiere in 2016.”

Cranston created the series alongside David Shore (House), who also penned the pilot. The new Amazon Original Series is a co-production with Sony Pictures Television, and costars Margo Martindale, Marin Ireland, Libe Barer, Peter Gerety, and Shane McRae.

Sneaky Pete is set to premiere on Prime Video in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Austria, and Japan in 2016.

http://www.ew.com/article/2015/11/04/sneaky-pete-amazon-series
 

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TV Review (Streaming)
Master of None Is Your Next Great TV Love
by Margaret Lyons, Vulture.com (New York Magazine) - Nov. 4, 2015

Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang's new Netflix comedy Master of None, premiering Friday, comes out of the gate strong, with a few terrific episodes that set the tone and pace and vision for the show. It's naturalistic, with conversational dialogue and a casual vibe; its aesthetic is totally unfussy but highly urbane. The show sees its characters with extremely tender regard, holding up each one gingerly to the light and saying, Look at this person, doing the best he or she can; sometimes that is enough, and sometimes not. Over the course of ten episodes, Master grows beyond just solid comedy into a show that synthesizes ideas about romance, internet culture, entertainment, food hobbyism, gender, race, ethnicity, camaraderie, decency, tidiness, and the scepter of ostensible maturity into a thrillingly assured, engrossing, effective series. Let the Louis C.K.–ing of television continue.

Ansari stars as Dev, a New York–based commercial actor who likes scouring the internet to find the best taco trucks. He suffers from FOMO, as we all do from time to time, though he suffers more from structural racism. Ansari's actual parents play his parents, to charming effect. In fact, it's hard to find a part of the show that isn't charming, from its funky '70s opening titles to an endearing subplot about a Paro, the robotic seal therapy doll. About half the episodes are stand-alone, and half involve Dev's budding romance with Rebecca (Noël Wells), a relationship notable for how often it hits those very sweet rom-com-y notes and how often it rejects them completely. (Many times for both.) Dev's defining characteristic is his enthusiasm; he's prone to stopping everything to exclaim how great it all is, how cool. He's onboard to hang out with grandmas. He's open to advice from a wide variety of sources, including his BFFs (Kelvin Yu, Eric Wareheim, and Lena Waithe, all terrific). Dev can also be a jerk, but only here and there, and only as much as any of the rest of us.

There's a long history of comedians writing their own tickets in TV, stand-ups, especially. It's less common now than it was in the ’90s, but it's still present. Louis C.K. transformed that genre with Louie, a show that transformed auteur television, period. While Louie feels more strongly autobiographical, Master is less so, though, certainly, if you like Ansari's stand-up, you'll like the show. Liking the show is possible without liking the stand-up, though, since Master is lower-energy and less tightly wound. There's a gentler ambiance, a little less of a hard sell. Ansari's most recent tour morphed his stand-up into fascinating social science, and while Master of None isn't as educational as all that, it does take a more zoomed-out look at the world, one of the things that distinguishes the series from Girls or Louie. (While Master has a lot in common with both those shows, it's not driven by misery, self-recrimination, awkwardness, cringe humor, or generalized anxiety or depression — not that there's anything wrong with that.) Dev's our main character, and we understand his worldview the most clearly, but the show labors to give everyone a fleshed-out story, a clear identity, some depth and quirk.

Despite the show's overall strengths, there are a few hiccups. Occasionally it feels a little underacted, and when guest stars like Claire Danes show up and shine, those missed opportunities seem even more glaring. A few moments feel a little too pat, and occasionally scenes have slightly clunky setup dialogue at the top — more forgivable in sketch comedy, when establishing a premise is urgent, less forgivable in this longer form. And every once in a while the show drifts a little far from its overall grounding in reality.

But if Master of None isn't perfect, it's awfully damn close. Along with recent shows like Catastrophe, Transparent, and Broad City, Master feels like the point of contemporary half-hour narrative television. They're shows with something to say, with characters and stories that are otherwise either ignored completely or maligned and misunderstood. There's an emotional vividness to the shows, a kind of electricity that requires the audience's empathy to complete the circuit. Each show has its unique voice and drive, an idea that's theirs. This is what TV can be! How exciting. As Dev himself squeals while hooking up with a fancy-schmancy food critic, This is so cool. I like all of this.

http://www.vulture.com/2015/11/master-of-none-aziz-ansari-review.html
 

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TV Notes (Broadcast)
For Series Orders, 13 Is No Longer Lucky Number
by Elizabeth Wagmeister and Cynthia Littleton, Variety.com - Nov. 4, 2015

Add inventory management to the ever-lengthening list of challenges that broadcast networks are facing this season. In recent weeks, ABC, NBC and Fox have cut back on the number of episodes in initial orders for new series — the TV equivalent of calling an audible that is likely to shake up the order patterns for next season’s development crop.

“The TV season is dynamic and more unpredictable than ever,” Jeff Bader, NBC’s president of program planning, strategy and research, tells Variety. “The episodes that you ordered before the start of the season aren’t necessarily in line with what you need as the season goes on.”

NBC has trimmed episodes from three comedies, two of which haven’t premiered yet (“Truth Be Told” and the upcoming “Hot & Bothered” and “Superstore”), and the struggling drama “The Player.” Fox cut its investment in the flagging “Minority Report” and shaved two episodes from the midseason entry “Lookinglass.” ABC pared down on drama “Blood & Oil” after an underwhelming premiere.

Network execs have cited scheduling crunches as the reason for most of the cuts, rather than lack of faith in the shows. As the nets offer up more programs overall and far fewer repeats in the regular season, juggling the scheduling of so many of them can be tricky. More series worked into the schedule throughout the year means there’s less need for as many episodes of each — unless a show turns out to be a massive hit like “Empire,” of course.

For decades, 13 episodes have been the standard order for new series. But execs now say that has become an arbitrary number that is costly at a time when production and marketing resources need to stretch across more programs than ever before.

For a new series, six to 10 episodes is sufficient to evaluate performance, creative merits and the all-important social-media buzz factor.

NBC’s Bader adds that the push to shorter episode orders is fueled by the extremely competitive TV landscape and ever-evolving viewing habits.

“Because of the way that people are now watching TV, all of the networks have to put more originals on, not less -— so we have to be very judicious with our budgets to allow us to have as many originals as we can,” he says.

Based on this year’s experience, networks are likely to become more conservative in making episode orders for new shows next season, because eleventh-hour decisions to cut episodes do not come cheaply.

When a network cuts back on an order, a negotiation ensues with the studio to cover the amortization costs that the studio was expecting to allocate to the terminated episodes.

In addition, the network is typically on the hook to cover any talent obligations that the studio had lined up — such as directors or stars with the clout to command a guarantee for 13 episodes up front. In the case of NBC’s “Hot & Bothered,” which dropped to 11 episodes, star Eva Longoria was guaranteed paychecks for all 13.

There’s also a potential ripple effect overseas, as studios generally get higher fees from international buyers for shows that have at least 13 episodes. However, industry sources note this protocol has become more flexible in recent years because of all the cable series that have eight- to 10-episode seasons as the norm.

“Thirteen just isn’t the magic number anymore,” an exec notes. “You can learn in eight or 10 weeks what you need to know.”

http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/series-orders-abc-nbc-fox-1201631737/
 

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TV Sports/Business Notes (Baseball)
Extra Innings Helped Fox in Short Series
By Jon Lafayette, Broadcasting & Cable - Nov. 3, 2015

While Fox would have liked the Mets and Royals to have played a few more games, the extra revenue brought in by two long extra-inning games probably produced a profitable World Series for the network.

With New York represented in baseball’s Fall Classic, ratings were strong. The final game on Sunday, with the Royals winning the Commissioner’s Trophy in 12 innings, was the most-watched since 2003 and contributed to a five game series beating 2014’s seven-game edition. Normally, the longer a series goes, the higher the ratings as interest and suspense builds.

But from a financial point of view, the key was getting extra commercials—at about $500,000 a pop—in during extra innings and pitching changes.

In game 1, which was won by the Royals in 14 innings, Fox aired 125 spots, according to iSpotTV. In Games 2, 3 and 4, which all went the regulation nine innings, Fox got in 102, 90 and 105 spots, respectively. In Game 5, Fox was able to air 100 spots.

That’s a total of 532 spots across 5 games, or considerably more than would normally air in a five game series.

At that rate, had the World Series gone six or seven games, Fox would have had a windfall.

The top advertisers in terms of spending during the World Series according to iSpot were Chevrolet, which aired 4 commercials 28 times; Geico which aired 5 spots 18 times; Samsung Mobile, which aired 4 spots 15 times; T-Mobile, which had 5 spots it aired 14 times; and Taco Bell, which aired 25 times.

With ratings up 21% from a year ago, those sponsors probably felt they got a pretty good deal.

The series also featured a number of new advertisers, including Esurance, IBM, MetLife, Edward Jones, and the Navy Federal Credit Union.

http://www.broadcastingcable.com/blog/currency/extra-innings-helped-fox-short-series/145527
 

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Critic's Notes (Cable)
Why ‘The Knick’ is TV’s best drama
By Michael Starr, New York Post - Nov. 4, 2015

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Cinemax — and an ever better chance you don’t subscribe to the premium cable channel.

And that’s a shame, because you’re missing “The Knick” — one of the best shows on television, now early into its second season.

With CBS rebooting “Star Trek,” perhaps it’s apropos to paraphrase that show’s iconic intro vis-à-vis “The Knick” — which boldly goes where few TV dramas have gone before. Set in a turn-of-the-(20th) century hospital in New York City, “The Knick” operates in its own dark, languid universe inhabited by characters at turns noble, riveting, repulsive and morally/ethically bankrupt. That they’re all woven into a multi-pronged storyline that’s majestic, evocative and seedy — often simultaneously — is even more impressive.

For the uninitiated, “The Knick” stands for The Knickerbocker, a hospital that’s seen better days. Its brilliant chief surgeon, Dr. John “Thack” Thackeray (Clive Owen), has a manic drive for unorthodox (read: groundbreaking) surgical procedures, vividly enhanced by his drug addiction.

(He’s mostly into cocaine and opium, perhaps explaining his quirky sartorial choices. What’s with those white shoes, anyway?)

Last season, before Thack inevitably spiraled into the abyss, he hired a second-in-command: Dr. Algernon “Algie” Edwards (André Holland), a skilled, innovative African-American surgeon whose skin color doesn’t sit well with either the hospital’s board of directors or most of his colleagues. Algie, of course, is painfully, heartbreakingly aware of this; last season, he literally beat himself up in his pent-up frustration and rage at his situation.

(Don’t be fooled into thinking that New York City in 1900 was much more progressive than any of its Southern counterparts. It wasn’t — at least not in this world.)

Other characters vital to the The Knick’s lifeblood include West Virginia-bred nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson), who idolizes Thackery despite, or maybe because of, his shortcomings; on-the-take hospital administrator Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb); socialite/hospital benefactor Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance), whose family employs Algie’s parents (forging a strong bond between them); Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan), The Knick’s ambulance driver with a heart of gold buried beneath his thick Irish brogue; and WASP-y surgeon Dr. Bertram “Bertie” Chickering Jr. (Michael Angarano), who’s got eyes for Nurse Elkins.

The series was created by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler and is directed by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh (“Erin Brockovich,” “Traffic,” “Side Effects,” to name a few) — which explains its almost tangible atmospheric feel (many dimly lit scenes from that era of low-wattage electricity and leftover gas lamps).

I like the way in which “The Knick” takes its sweet time in telling the multi-layered stories in its checkerboard mosaic — without the in-your-face pacing that permeates just about every prime-time drama.

Perhaps that’s a luxury of airing on (pay) cable, with no advertisers (and/or ratings expectations) to worry about.

Or perhaps it’s just plain old damn good TV.

“The Knick” airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Cinemax.

http://nypost.com/2015/11/04/why-the-knick-is-tvs-best-drama/
 

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Technology Notes (Study)
Gaming Consoles Still Top OTT Video Conduit
by Jeff Baumgartner, Multichannel News - Nov. 4, 2015

Gaming consoles remained the top CE device used to access online video content as of the first quarter of 2015, followed by smart TVs, streaming media players, connected DVRs and Blu-ray players, Parks Associates found in a new study.

But keep an eye out for a potential shift in the months and years ahead. The research firm said about 21% of U.S. broadband homes with at least one Internet-connected CE device use streaming media players as the “primary” platform for online video, up from 12% a year ago.

Of the platforms, Roku, which just launched a 4K-capable model, is now the third-most commonly used connected CE device for video streaming (10%), behind Microsoft’s Xbox (14%) and Sony’s PlayStation consoles (13%), Parks Associates said, noting that usage declined for both connected gaming consoles and DVRs, paired with a modest increase for smart TVs (see chart).

“Streaming media players continue to stake out a growing portion of the connected home,” said Barbara Kraus, director of research at Parks Associates, in a statement about the report -- The Streaming Media Device Landscape. “It is a rapid ascendance for streaming media players, and Roku in particular, especially considering the broad base of gaming console ownership compared to the lower penetration of streaming media devices.”

The report also found that two-thirds of U.S. broadband households connect at least one device to the Internet. About 20% of those homes own at least one streaming media “cube” player and 8% own at least one streaming stick.

http://www.multichannel.com/news/content/gaming-consoles-still-top-ott-video-conduit/395088
 

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TV Review (Broadcast)
‘Agent X,’ a big X marks the plot
Just where this new TNT spy drama is headed is a mystery
By Tom Conroy, Media Life Magazine - Nov. 4, 2015

If a TV show starts out with a lighthearted treatment of a silly premise, it probably shouldn’t veer quickly into grim violence and menacing conspiracy theories.

But if it does, its main character needs to start acting accordingly.

TNT’s new spy drama “Agent X” violates both of those sensible guidelines. The plots take an unexpectedly heavy turn, but its hero keeps playing an average nice guy. Viewers will probably have no idea how to react.

But the action sequences are well done, with occasional bursts of suspense, so spy fans could enjoy the show with their brains switched off.

Premiering with two episodes this Sunday, Nov. 8, at 9 p.m., “Agent X” starts out seeming a lot like the “National Treasure” movies.

When Vice President Natalie Maccabee (Sharon Stone) moves into her official residence, she is given a key marked with that odd eye-pyramid symbol from the dollar bill.

The key leads her to a secret chamber that holds the one true copy of the U.S. Constitution. The house’s chief steward, Malcolm Millar (Gerald McRaney), tells Natalie that it’s the only copy that contains Section 5 of Article 2, which says that an agent of unknown identity will serve at the discretion of the vice president in times of dire peril.

The agent, whom we’ve already seen in action against the henchmen and –women– of an international arms dealer, is John Case (Jeff Hephner). He has arrested Olga (Olga Fonda), a sexy Russian assassin.

In order to get Olga released, her boss kidnaps and threatens to kill the daughter of the FBI director, Edwin Stanton (Jamey Sheridan). So Natalie and Malcolm send John to rescue the girl. He has to maintain his anonymity while leaving no traces to anyone in the government.

Olga is a standard-issue Russian femme fatale — she has mastered the trick of choking men with her legs while handcuffed — and she and John have some fun, flirty scenes in both of Sunday’s episodes.

But the second one, which involves stolen nuclear warheads and a murderous Chechen warlord, is both too heavy and too light. References to massacres of Afghani villagers jostle uncomfortably with scenes of rich men and their dolled-up paramours at a champagne-soaked auction for the warheads.

The third and fourth episodes lurch into “24” territory.

Powerful men in suits, both inside and outside the government, are conspiring against the interests of the United States. The fourth actually features a Mexican cartel leader named El Diablo.

The show’s creator, William Blake Herron, may have had some idea of what the show was supposed to be like, but it seems to be escaping his control.

Like many TV shows with complicated plots but only an hour of airtime, “Agent X” has to cut corners with twists whose absurdity isn’t meant to be noticed.

John Case, meanwhile, is no James Bond, and he’s no Jack Bauer. He lacks the former’s grace under pressure and the latter’s scary intensity.

The introduction of a former girlfriend may be intended to give the character some depth, but John seems to be dealing with her loss just fine. In fact, he seems to miss their dog more than he misses her.

Jeff Hephner handles the physical action believably, but he never shows the emotional scars or loneliness that John’s life would presumably entail.

Gerald McRaney achieves just the right tone for the seriocomic premise, but he seems to be enjoying himself less as the show grows darker.

The presence of Sharon Stone, Jamey Sheridan and other fine actors is a reminder that even in today’s multichannel world, there’s more talent than there are good parts.

The actors would be better if “Agent X” weren’t suffering from its own identity crisis.

http://www.medialifemagazine.com/agent-x-a-big-x-marks-the-plot/
 

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TV Notes (Cable)
In ‘Flesh and Bone,’ Moira Walley-Beckett Leaps Darkly Into Ballet
By Gia Kourlas, The New York Times

As first episodes go, it’s creepy: An aspiring ballerina who has just run away from home to New York gets a phone call. It’s her brother, Bryan, stretched out on her childhood bed in Pittsburgh. “You forgot your ballerina,” he says. “You just left it here.” In one hand, he holds the clear figurine; the other is shoved down the front of his jeans.

“I miss you,” he whispers. “Tell me where you are.” She doesn’t reply; instead, sitting barefoot on her fire escape, she pounds a battered toenail with her fist.

Moira Walley-Beckett, the creator and an executive producer of “Flesh and Bone,” has an affinity for the dark side, and it is on full display in this eight-episode series, which begins Sunday, Nov. 8, on Starz. It’s a sensibility that has served her well. As a writer on “Breaking Bad,” she won an Emmy for the devastating and arguably best episode, “Ozymandias.”

Now she brings her grim imagination to ballet, which she grew up studying in Vancouver, British Columbia, before switching over to musical theater. As Ms. Walley-Beckett, seemingly an innocent blonde, noted at an open casting call for “Flesh and Bone” in New York two years ago: “In my last show I was in Albuquerque casting meth addicts. It’s so nice to get back to my roots.”

The focus of “Flesh and Bone” is Claire Robbins, an emotionally ravaged ballet dancer portrayed by the American dancer Sarah Hay, a soloist at Dresden Semperoper Ballett in Germany. Despite her vulnerability, Claire is ambitious. Upon her arrival in New York, she auditions at the fictional American Ballet Company, impressing its bipolar, bisexual artistic director, Paul Grayson (Ben Daniels), enough to nail the job. Then, as the talented newcomer, she is quickly despised by her fellow dancers, as predicted by her roommate, Mia (Emily Tyra): “Let’s start with the fact that everyone’s going to hate you.”

Making new friends is the least of Claire’s problems as the series progresses. Early on, we learn that she has been sexually scarred and that self-inflicted pain is a survival mechanism. (Of course, this being a ballet drama, it involves toenails.) At night, she covers her body with books, including “The Velveteen Rabbit” and “Charlotte’s Web.” It’s a haunting sight.

“I wanted her to have a special connection with books and with one book in particular,” Ms. Walley-Beckett said in a recent telephone interview, “and then I thought, what perfect armor and what a wonderful and alarming and tragic ritual.”

“The Velveteen Rabbit” mirrors Claire’s journey of finding out how to become real. But one integral part of “Flesh and Bone” has already achieved that: The cast members who play dancers are actually dancers. Ms. Walley-Beckett regards the show, a psychological drama about obsession and worship, as the anti-“Black Swan,” the Natalie Portman thriller that was the last ballet drama to achieve mass success; it relies on neither the fantastic nor body doubles. (Interestingly, Ms. Hay was part of the company in “Black Swan.”)

“It was really important that we show the dancers doing what they do and put the camera anywhere,” she said. “So that we would have the ability to breathe and sweat and bleed and soar with them.”

The cast includes the former American Ballet Theater members Irina Dvorovenko as Kiira, a drug-addicted star, and Sascha Radetsky as Ross, Kiira’s former lover. Ethan Stiefel, another Ballet Theater alumnus, is the show’s choreographer. For the final episode, he created “Dakini,” a four-movement ballet set to a score by Adam Crystal that explores the journey of a young woman from childhood to autonomy.

During an onstage shoot at Purchase College in Westchester last fall, Ms. Walley-Beckett, said there were similarities between “Dakini” and Claire’s tale. “Not too literal,” she said, “but the journey of the story is Claire’s quest for herself: independent, not connected to men, just stepping forward, and she winds up in this brave and transcendent place.”

She laughed. “It’s so funny because the dancers are like, ‘We’re here, we’re performing in the theater!’ ” she said. “Yet we’ve been shooting them in class, at the barre, and it’s all performing — but to them it just feels like every day.”

Mr. Daniels, who said he knew nothing about dance, was drawn to the show because of Ms. Walley-Beckett’s reputation as a writer. “I was bowled over that someone had written this story about what it means to be a woman set in this Petri dish of the extreme ballet world,” he said. “It sort of terrified me.”

And in this normally sealed universe, “Flesh and Bone” doesn’t miss a stereotype, from drug abuse to eating disorders, sexual harassment, body shame and back-stabbing competition. Ms. Walley-Beckett said that “Flesh and Bone,” like “Breaking Bad,” is grounded in reality — with plenty of creative license. “Could a high school chemistry teacher start to cook meth after a terminal cancer diagnosis?” she asked. “Maybe. It’s possible. Has it been implied that it would be appropriate for me to prostitute myself to a person in a position of power in order to get a job? Yeah. Sure. Are there relevant topical issues of feminism and sexuality and power and the balance of power within that? Yep.”

To the willowy Ms. Dvorovenko, the show gets under the skin of each character in a way that feels genuine. “I’ve seen it in my life,” she said recently at a Chelsea cafe. “I know that a lot of artistic directors are hitting on young dancers. I know that there is some involvement with wealthy people. I know that some dancers use drugs. I never tried to use drugs so it was really funny for me.” At her first audition, she recalled, she had to portray sniffing cocaine, “which was hilarious. I said, ‘How the hell should I do this?’ ”

She practiced the gesture with her husband, Maxim Beloserkovsky, also a ballet dancer, who told her that she looked like “a vacuum cleaner.”

But while “Flesh and Bone” features several diverging stories, the soulfulMs. Hay is its throughline. A native of Princeton, N.J., who studied at the School of American Ballet and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theater, she views Claire as the sum of all her professional fears.

“You’re staring in the mirror the whole day, so you can become very insecure, or you can work on yourself and love yourself and get through it,” she said in an interview at the Bowery Hotel. “It’s a very damaging art form to me. I’m very self-critical. All of the fears and rejections and things that I lived in my life through dance, I got to finally express them and use them for some purpose, not just for my own self-loathing but to portray Claire.”

If Walter White in “Breaking Bad” was an anonymous middle-aged man who became a criminal mastermind, Claire is the opposite: an extraordinary young talent dealing with extraordinary obstacles. But her desire is to become ordinary. “She’s also the kind of person who would do anything to get to where she needs to get, but her confidence and her ability to connect with people get in the way,” Ms. Hay said. “Her home environment is not good, and all of a sudden she’s surrounded by these horrible competitive girls. She just has to learn how to fend for herself, to get through every day without cracking.”

The show, whose executive producers include — in addition to Ms. Walley-Beckett — Lawrence Bender, John Melfi and Kevin Kelly Brown, was initially conceived as a continuing series. But the network decided to change it to a limited series given its steep cost. (Starz would not disclose the production budget.) “It was a massively expensive show,” Ms. Walley-Beckett said, adding that she was “proud of it because we had to do everything right.” From the construction of a shock-absorbing sprung floor — necessary for reducing injuries — to fees for physical therapists, keeping dancers safe isn’t cheap.

When she learned of the decision to make “Flesh and Bone” a limited run, she was disappointed. “But only for about 45 minutes,” she said, laughing.

She realized that she’d have more time for editing. “And for better or worse, it was a very complete eight episodes,” she said. “I do want it to feel like a movie, and I think it does. It had the potential to become — I don’t know — weekly? This way, it has its engine and these serious and dire consequences to everything, and hopefully it’s just going to motor along at this intense hurtling speed and then explode. And be a brief shining star of a moment.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/arts/television/in-flesh-and-bone-moira-walley-beckett-leaps-darkly-into-ballet.html?ref=television
 

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WOW, TV is really changing.

In the recent hours we have stories on the new Apple TV device and the new paradigm of networks fiddling with the number of episodes, and then constantly adjusting.

Is this the DVR effect? The bit torrent effect? Cord cutting? Binge watching? Streaming? Or just the fact that the country is changing?

If a really good show, now on OTA (for example, The Good Wife) changes to some Moonves project to increase revenue, would it be OK to stick pins into your Moonves doll? Even if you are not Haitian or from New Orleans?
 
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