Monday, December 30, 2013

New shows in January

Carmel Valley's Angelique Cabral
in "Enlisted." (Tommy Garcia/Fox)
Some of your fall shows may be taking a break, some may be over. Either way, there's room for more.

Below is a list of new shows (and returning favorites) premiering in January. One new show I'd like to single out is "Enlisted," a sitcom premiering Friday, Jan. 10 on Fox and starring Angelique Cabral, who grew up in Carmel Valley. (Read my interview with her here.) The show surrounds three brothers in a unit of misfits at a Florida Army base; Cabral plays Sgt. Jill Perez, leader of another unit on the base. The pilot has a few chuckles but a lot of heart, and the cast chemistry is solid. In other words, give it a try.

Now, to the rest!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"The Good Wife" is on fire

Will (Josh Charles) is not happy -- at all -- that Alicia (Julianna Margulies)
is leaving the firm. (David M. Russell/CBS)
This Sunday's episode of "The Good Wife," "Hitting the Fan," was billed as the series' Red Wedding, a reference to a particularly decimating and heart-wrenching event in "Game of Thrones." Though it didn't pack the same emotional punch (for me at least), it certainly lived up to the body count.

And it continued a string of stellar episodes that have been as perfectly orchestrated as the show's score.

In many ways, the first five episodes have functioned as their own sort of mini-season, with the one from two weeks ago, "Outside the Bubble," acting as the finale and "Hitting the Fan" as the premiere of something new. I was more emotionally torn by "Outside the Bubble," with so many feelings of betrayal surrounding Will pushing out Diane (I hate it when mom and dad fight) and both of them learning of Alicia's plans to jump ship. And while this week's Will/Alicia confrontation stung a bit -- does any show do a better job of the hallway walk? -- Sunday's episode as a whole was more of a fun look at what's to come in the Great Death Match of Florrick-Agos vs. Lockhart-Gardner.

Sunday's episode showed the new firm's lawyers are still on a learning curve but not necessarily outmatched, having picked up a fair amount of trickery from Will and Diane. Plus, they've got the heft of the governorship on their side. It's going to be a pleasure watching them go toe-to-toe.

There are a lot of big questions going forward, but the biggest to me is what all these characters are going to think/feel once they finally take a moment to breathe. The events of the past few episodes happened at a break-neck pace, and Will especially has been acting in knee-jerk fashion. (Though we did start to see him take stock in his sit-down with Kalinda -- an ever-growing friendship I can't wait to see more of.) Will Alicia have a "Holy crap, what have I done" moment? How long will it take for Peter's interference to bite him in the ass?

If Diane loses her judgeship, which seems likely (damn you, Peter), will Will take her back? Would she join Florrick-Agos if he doesn't? And will Lockhart-Gardner crumble as Kalinda predicted?

The only storyline I'm not looking forward to is whatever happens with Peter and Ms. Ethics (Melissa George) -- I'm even interested in Grace this year -- but everything else has been so ridiculously fun that I have little room to complain.

Keep it up, "Good Wife." You're on fire.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Food Network looking for home cooks

The Food Network is holding an open casting call in San Francisco this Saturday, Oct. 12, for a new competition series, "America's Greatest Home Cook."

The open call is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Jordan's Kitchen, 3210 22nd St. (inside the Mission Market).

Get cookin'! And if you or someone you know (from Monterey County) plans to go for it, email me at


Friday, September 13, 2013

Figuring out Fall TV - Fridays and Saturdays

It's fall TV season again, which means decisions! How ever will you keep up with your old favorites while packing in a bunch of new shows that may or may not have a chance of making it? I'm here to help, breaking down each day hour by hour, letting you know what you should watch, what you should avoid, and how exactly you're going to fit it all in.

In general, I'm focusing on the four main broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) as well as HBO, Showtime and a few other pay cablers. New shows are in bold.

It's Friday and Saturday. If you're not out for a night on the town, you've got a couple of new things to choose from. Or, you can use this time to catch up on what you couldn't get to the rest of the week.

8 p.m.
Last Man Standing/The Neighbors (Sept. 20, ABC)
Undercover Boss (Sept. 27, CBS)
Masterchef Junior (Sept. 27, Fox)

Regarding "Masterchef Junior": Who doesn't want to see Gordon Ramsay yell at kids?

"The Neighbors" starts its sophomore season on a new night. It picked up steam with critics last year.

9 p.m.
Hawaii Five-O (Sept. 27, CBS)
Grimm (Oct. 25, NBC)

10 p.m.
Blue Bloods (Sept. 27, CBS)
Dracula (Oct. 25, NBC)

"Dracula" stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("The Tudors") as the vampire, here posing as an American entrepreneur with revenge on his mind.

11:30 p.m.
Saturday Night Live (Sept. 28, NBC)

The sketch show adds five new cast members, including that guy who interviews kids in the AT&T commercials. Tina Fey is host and Arcade Fire is the musical guest for the season premiere.

Fall TV Sundays
Fall TV Mondays
Fall TV Tuesdays
Fall TV Wednesdays
Fall TV Thursdays

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Figuring out Fall TV - Thursdays

It's fall TV season again, which means decisions! How ever will you keep up with your old favorites while packing in a bunch of new shows that may or may not have a chance of making it? I'm here to help, breaking down each day hour by hour, letting you know what you should watch, what you should avoid, and how exactly you're going to fit it all in.

In general, I'm focusing on the four main broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) as well as HBO, Showtime and a few other pay cablers. New shows are in bold.

Thursdays offer another packed night, mostly with new comedies.

8 p.m.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Oct. 10, ABC)
Big Bang Theory/The Millers (Sept. 26, CBS)
Parks and Rec (Sept. 26)/Welcome to the Family (Oct. 3, NBC)
The X Factor results (Sept. 12, Fox)

If you watch "Once Upon a Time," chances are you'll watch the spinoff. As for the comedies, I have no sixth sense about either "The Millers" or "Welcome to the Family." Reviews for both seem to be all over the map. "The Millers," about a guy whose recent divorce inspires his parents to do the same, has a solid cast in Will Arnett, Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges. The premiere is full of fart jokes, but that doesn't seem to deter a lot of critics. "Welcome to the Family," available now on Hulu, is about two disparate families who have to learn to get along after they find out their kids are having a baby. It features Mike O'Malley, who's always good for something. This bloc is going to be trial and error.

9 p.m.
Grey's Anatomy (Sept. 26, ABC)
The Crazy Ones/Two and a Half Men (Sept. 26, CBS)
Sean Saves the World (Oct. 3)/The Michael J. Fox Show (Sept. 26, NBC)
Glee (Sept. 26, Fox)
White Collar (Oct. 17, USA)

Big-name actors vying for your attention. "Sean Saves the World," with Sean Hayes, is getting the least love. "The Michael J. Fox Show" will be hard to say no to, because it's Michael J. Fox. Plus, it's already guaranteed a full season. "The Crazy Ones" sees Robin Williams' return to television as an ad man teamed with his ad-woman daughter Sarah Michelle Gellar. This one will depend entirely on your Williams threshold -- i.e., how well you can handle mania. (Times two, actually, because the show is created by David E. Kelley.)

"Grey's Anatomy" fans: It's Sandra Oh's last year. Soak it up.

10 p.m.
Scandal (Oct. 3, ABC)
Elementary (Sept. 26, CBS)
Parenthood (Sept. 26, NBC)
Covert Affairs (Oct. 17, USA)

You should watch "Parenthood." That is all.

Fall TV Sundays
Fall TV Mondays
Fall TV Tuesdays
Fall TV Wednesdays
Fall TV Fridays and Saturdays

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Figuring out Fall TV - Wednesdays

It's fall TV season again, which means decisions! How ever will you keep up with your old favorites while packing in a bunch of new shows that may or may not have a chance of making it? I'm here to help, breaking down each day hour by hour, letting you know what you should watch, what you should avoid, and how exactly you're going to fit it all in.

In general, I'm focusing on the four main broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) as well as HBO, Showtime and a few other pay cablers. New shows are in bold.

There's nothing really exciting on Wednesdays until "Ironside" premieres in October. Catch-up night?

8 p.m.
The Middle/Back in the Game (Sept. 25, ABC)
Survivor (Sept. 18, CBS)
Revolution (Sept. 25, NBC)
The X Factor (Sept. 11, Fox)

The "Bad News Bears"-esque "Back in the Game" didn't make much of an impression, though it did get a few chuckles out of me. It stars Maggie Lawson ("Psych") as a divorced mom who becomes the reluctant coach for a baseball team of misfits, including her son. James Caan is her father who tells her how she's doing it wrong. If you don't like the competition at 8, it's worth a watch. It's also on Hulu and elsewhere right now.

9 p.m.
Criminal Minds (Sept. 25, CBS)
Law & Order: SVU (Sept. 25, NBC)
Modern Family/Super Fun Night (Oct. 2)

"Super Fun Night" is being called a super dud, in part because star Rebel Wilson, who's Australian, adopts an American accent, which takes away half of the funny. Best stick to what you know.

10 p.m.
CSI (Sept. 25, CBS)
Nashville (Sept. 25, ABC)
Ironside (Oct. 2, NBC)
Top Chef (Oct. 2, Bravo)
American Horror Story (Oct. 9, FX)

(Sexy) Blair Underwood is getting good reviews as the wheelchair-bound detective in the "Ironside" remake, but the show as a whole is reportedly lacking. The premiere is available online now, so give it an early try to see if you'd rather spend time with the other shows in this time slot. "CSI" is hitting a milestone 300 episodes this season (and Marg Helgenberger is coming back for it).

Fall TV Sundays
Fall TV Mondays
Fall TV Tuesdays
Fall TV Thursdays
Fall TV Fridays and Saturdays

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Figuring out Fall TV - Tuesdays

It's fall TV season again, which means decisions! How ever will you keep up with your old favorites while packing in a bunch of new shows that may or may not have a chance of making it? I'm here to help, breaking down each day hour by hour, letting you know what you should watch, what you should avoid, and how exactly you're going to fit it all in.

In general, I'm focusing on the four main broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) as well as HBO, Showtime and a few other pay cablers. New shows are in bold.

Tuesdays, like Sundays, are going to be brutal. For starters, ABC has scheduled a full night of new shows.

8 p.m.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Sept. 24, ABC)
NCIS (Sept. 24, CBS)
The Biggest Loser (Oct. 8, NBC)
Dads/Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Sept. 17, Fox)

If you're a superhero geek, or even a casual fan like yours truly, "Agents of SHIELD" is a no-brainer. For the Fox comedies, Seth MacFarlane's "Dads" is being lambasted for being racist, sexist, ageist and generally not funny, while "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (a cop comedy with Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher) is catching many critics by surprise, in a good way. "NCIS" is about to have a big year with the departure of Cote de Pablo after the first two episodes of the season.

This is a classic case of watch one and record the others. And I do mean record. You won't be able to catch "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" online or On Demand until eight days later.

9 p.m.
The Goldbergs/Trophy Wife (Sept. 24, ABC)
NCIS Los Angeles (Sept. 24, CBS)
The Voice results show (Sept. 24, NBC)
New Girl/Mindy Project (Sept. 17, Fox)

ABC has made the first episodes of its sitcoms available online (on the network site and on Hulu). "The Goldbergs" -- a "Wonder Years"-esque take on an angry family in the 1980s -- was so painful I couldn't even make it halfway through. On the flipside, I really enjoyed "Trophy Wife," which stars Bradley Whitford as a guy with a new wife (Malin Akerman, getting a great reception from critics) and two exes (Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins) who are very much still a part of his life.

10 p.m.
Lucky 7 (Sept. 24, ABC)
Person of Interest (Sept. 24, CBS)
Chicago Fire (Sept. 24, NBC)
Sons of Anarchy (Sept. 10, FX)

I haven't seen much about "Lucky 7," about lottery winning co-workers who learn mo' money means mo' problems, but the trailer doesn't make much of a case for it. You could roll the dice, or just stick with what you know. Tuesday is a new night for both "Chicago Fire" and "Person of Interest."

Fall TV Sundays
Fall TV Mondays
Fall TV Wednesdays
Fall TV Thursdays
Fall TV Fridays and Saturdays

Monday, September 9, 2013

Figuring out Fall TV - Mondays

It's fall TV season again, which means decisions! How ever will you keep up with your old favorites while packing in a bunch of new shows that may or may not have a chance of making it? I'm here to help, breaking down each day hour by hour, letting you know what you should watch, what you should avoid, and how exactly you're going to fit it all in.

In general, I'm focusing on the four main broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) as well as HBO, Showtime and a few other pay cablers. New shows are in bold.

Mondays are pretty light, although you're going to run into trouble at 10 p.m.

8 p.m.
How I Met Your Mother (Sept. 23)/We Are Men (Sept. 30, CBS)
Dancing with the Stars (Sept. 16, ABC)
The Voice (Sept. 23, NBC)
Bones (Sept. 16, Fox)

In "We Are Men," Tony Shalhoub, Jerry O'Connell, Kal Penn and Chris Smith are four guys in various states of broken relationships who all live in the same apartment complex. If you're a dude, this one's for you. Be warned, though: Early reviews have not been great.

9 p.m.
2 Broke Girls/Mom (Sept. 23, CBS)
Sleepy Hollow (Sept. 16, Fox)

"Mom" stars Allison Janney, which earns it an automatic try. But the sitcom from comedy vet Chuck Lorre -- about a newly sober single mom (Anna Faris) who blames her problems on her formerly estranged mother (Janney) -- is getting lukewarm reviews. A common theme is that the pilot isn't great, but there's potential. So give it a few episodes.

The word on "Sleepy Hollow" -- about a resurrected Ichabod Crane teaming up with a modern-day police officer to fight the Headless Horseman -- is that it's so bonkers it just might work.

10 p.m. (All shows premiere Sept. 23)
Hostages (CBS)
Castle (ABC)
The Blacklist (NBC)

Given the gusto with which NBC is promoting its James Spader-starring "Blacklist," I'm going to assume you already know what's what and will plan accordingly. You may be less familiar with "Hostages," starring Toni Collette (!) as a doctor whose family is held hostage by Dylan McDermott to try to force her to kill the U.S. president. I'll definitely try out both; "The Blacklist" is likely to be more of a talker, so watch that one first.

Fall TV Sundays
Fall TV Tuesdays
Fall TV Wednesdays
Fall TV Thursdays
Fall TV Fridays and Saturdays

Figuring out Fall TV - Sundays

It's fall TV season again, which means decisions! How ever will you keep up with your old favorites while packing in a bunch of new shows that may or may not have a chance of making it? I'm here to help, breaking down each day hour by hour, letting you know what you should watch, what you should avoid, and how exactly you're going to fit it all in.

In general, I'm focusing on the four main broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) as well as HBO, Showtime and a few other pay cablers. New shows are in bold.

Let's start this soiree with Sunday. Most shows are premiering Sept. 29, the same day as the "Breaking Bad" finale. If you're not watching football (go Broncos!), this is what you have to look forward to:

8 p.m.
Once Upon a Time (ABC)
The Amazing Race (CBS)
The Simpsons/Bob's Burgers (Fox)

All of these are established, so you're going to watch the one you've been watching. There's unlikely to be any overlap in tastes anyway.

9 p.m.
Revenge (ABC)
The Good Wife (CBS)
Family Guy/American Dad (Fox)
Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Homeland (Showtime)
The Walking Dead (AMC, season premiere Oct. 13)

Good luck guys! This is the moment you fire up your DVR or hang tight till after midnight to watch online or On Demand. My advice: Watch the talkers live -- the shows you like to gab with your friends about the next day, or the ones that get the most play in the media (most likely "Homeland" and "The Walking Dead.") Record the rest and save them for down times throughout the week.

If your DVR runs into conflict issues, it's better to record the network shows, where you'll want to fast-forward through commercials, and save the premium cable ones for online or On Demand, where that's not a problem.

10 p.m.
Betrayal (ABC)
The Mentalist (CBS)
Eastbound and Down/Hello Ladies (HBO)
Masters of Sex (Showtime)

I haven't seen many reviews yet of "Betrayal," targeted toward the "Revenge" folks, but what I have seen is not positive. "Masters of Sex," on the other hand -- starring Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as pioneering sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson -- is being almost universally praised.  And you probably can't go wrong with "Hello Ladies," a half-hour comedy from Stephen Merchant (i.e., the tall half of Ricky Gervais) about a bloke just looking for love in L.A.

Wild card
The last couple of years have seen a steady stream of big-name movie actors coming to play leads on the small screen, and at 10 p.m. on Sundays, Julia Ormond joins their ranks -- on, of all networks, Lifetime. She's starring in "Witches of East End" (premiering Oct. 6) as the head of a family of witches. Even if it's not your batch of brew, aren't you at least just a little curious?

Fall TV Mondays
Fall TV Tuesdays
Fall TV Wednesdays
Fall TV Thursdays
Fall TV Fridays and Saturdays

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Is "The Bridge" tumbling down?

Demian Bichir and Diane Kruger in "The Bridge" episode "Vendetta." (Credit: Byron Cohen/FX Network)

A few weeks ago, TV critic Alyssa Rosenberg wrote a post about "The Bridge" in which she said the FX drama had earned her trust. The episode that sealed it, "The Beast," featured a seemingly disconnected storyline about a young white girl being stupid in Juarez, just sort of wandering about and going up alone to a stranger's apartment. But by the end of the episode, she was connected to the main story in a big way, when her therapist father was murdered by the cross-border serial killer known as "The Beast" -- a name appearing for the first time in that episode.

Like Rosenberg, I've been watching from week to week confident that whatever random stuff gets brought up in the beginning of an episode will pay off by the end. But as "The Bridge" builds more and more connections, my long-term trust is starting to wane.

There are an insane amount of threads weaving through "The Bridge." There's the main serial killer mystery, the journalists writing about it, the drug/human trafficking/gun tunnel, the creepy smuggler, the Mexican drug lords, the weirdness going on with Marco's son, the thing with Marco's wife, and a number of smaller subplots that no doubt will end up important to everything. Each of these threads shares at least one character with another, in a very "Lost"-ian way. The problem is that the tapestry is getting so thick that every connection is starting to feel like a convenience -- less part of a master plan and more like, "You know what would be cool..." (Example: The creepy smuggler's newest assignment, the daughter of his Mexican connection who also happens to be the girlfriend of the drug lord who just beat the crap out of him.)

Part of my feeling stems from the revelation in the most recent episode, "Vendetta," that the whole serial killer thing is not about making a political and social statement, as the show up till now has been built around (and which set it apart from other serial killer dramas), but about an old colleague exacting revenge on Marco for a) having an affair with his wife and b) being the reason his wife was crossing the bridge when she and her daughter were killed in a car accident.

There are at least two possible ways this can play out:

1) The colleague, a former FBI agent named David Tate, is responsible for some, but not all, of the murders. In which case, shame on "The Bridge" for creating such a big red herring.

2) Tate is the serial killer. In which case, the killings are a bit of an overreaction.

Let's think about all the things Tate had to go through to get his revenge. He faked his suicide, killed a guy to steal his identity, buried him on the land of a crazy person whose writings he then stole to fan this goose chase, set up shop at the school where Marco's wife works and got started on a long con to woo her. He decapitated his former partner, killed his therapist (the father of the girl in "The Beast") and slit the throat of the guy driving the car that hit his wife and daughter (the guy who was partying with reporter Daniel Frye before the accident). He also for some reason killed a judge and poisoned a bunch of migrants.

To be fair, all this points to motives other than getting back at Marco for sleeping with his wife. But I'm not confident it will all make sense, at least not in a satisfying way. Even if Tate brings social issues into it -- the hypocrisy of his old partner using underage Mexican prostitutes, for example -- the statement is still all about him. Making it personal shrinks the world. And it undercuts what the show has so far been about -- shining a light on the cross-border divide.

Another effect the revenge revelation had on me was that, fairly or not, I blame Marco for the murders. He's not carrying them out, obviously, but he's part of the reason for it. (Can't you keep it in your pants, man?) After one early episode, two fellow watchers used the word "disappointed" to describe how they felt about seeing seemingly upstanding Marco cheat on his wife. Well, I too now feel that disappointment. And I don't like it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Catching up with summer TV

What, you forgot about me already? Fair. Nothing has graced this fine blog since mid-July. I'm calling the hiatus a summer vacation, though that's a bit of a euphemism. The Herald is a busy beast these days, and I haven't found much extra time for this endeavor.

But I've sorta been keeping up with summer TV.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Video: "Arrested Development" season 4 review

Having season 4 of "Arrested Development" on Netflix should have been a beautiful thing. The streaming service resurrected one of my favorite all-time sitcoms, and made it so I could binge watch the heck out of it. So I knew something was off when I stopped after a few episodes, then begrudgingly, over a span of weeks, picked off the rest one by one.

In the video below, where I'm joined by Herald sports reporter and fellow "AD" fan Tommy Wright, I talk about why the season disappointed me so. The highlights:

-- It's clever, but not funny. One way to explain this is to say that the payoffs were not worth the setup. Mitch Hurwitz did a fine job of writing to the Netflix format -- where shows are meant to be watched in quick succession -- but seeing George Sr. act weird in episode X, then understanding why he acted that way is episode Y, does not retroactively make X's events funny.

-- Maybe the characters aren't likable enough to have a whole episode to themselves.

-- Longer episodes = more unnecessary stuff.

-- Too much narration.

It's nice that Jason Bateman was nominated for an Emmy, but this was not the season for it.

Jump to 13:14 below for more of my thoughts.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Big week for new shows

A week before our Big Week in Monterey County, summer TV is having a big week of its own. New series/movies/seasons to watch out for (check your listings for times):

Series premiere of "Camp" on NBC, a comedy-drama about life at a family summer camp starring Rachel Griffiths of "Six Feet Under." In general, reviews have been pretty lukewarm, so your better bet would be for ...

The series premiere of FX's "The Bridge," a serial killer thriller that spans the U.S.-Mexico border and digs into bigger issues like immigration, human trafficking and the drug war. Starring Demian Bichir ("A Better Life") and Diane Kruger ("Inglorious Basterds").

Series premiere of NBC's "Hollywood Game Night," the celeb-filled fun-fest that I initially scoffed at but am now excited for. Hosted by Jane Lynch.

"Orange is the New Black," the women's prison dramedy from "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan, drops on Netflix.

And Syfy presents its original movie "Sharknado." No explanation needed.

"The Newsroom" starts its second season on HBO. Though its fluffery and needless love pentagons drove me to eye-rolling at times, Aaron Sorkin made some changes -- including hiring consultants and writing a season-long storyline that doesn't have to do with two-year-old news -- that make me optimistic for a better year.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

ABC's "Whodunnit?" ridiculous, but fun

You know those people in the '90s who totally got into those "How to Host a Mystery" dinner games? They're the contestants on ABC's new reality competition show "Whodunnit?" which premieres tonight.

The show, from "CSI" creator Anthony Zuiker, is essentially a mix of those games with a dash of "Clue." It's hammy and campy, and more staged than most reality shows. But it's also surprisingly fun.

Thirteen people arrive at a mansion called Rue Manor knowing only that they're there to play a game for a chance to win $250,000. Little do they know that the game is -- BUM Bum bummm -- murder! Not long after their arrival, one of their group "dies," and their job is to piece together a string of clues to solve the murder. He who doesn't will meet his own demise, and fuel the investigation in the next episode. Throughout, the contestants are ushered along by their host, a slow-talking, twinkle-eyed, uber-dramatic butler named Giles, played by British actor Gildart Jackson. (Fun fact! He's married to "The Office's" Melora Hardin.)

The contestants seem a little too into it -- they act like their lives literally depend on staying in the game -- but then again, who wouldn't be excited to put those years of watching "CSI" to use? In fact, we get a lot more information than the contestants do, because they get to choose just one of three areas to investigate and hope their peers will share the rest. When some of them are left in the dark, it makes for an entertaining "Murder, She Wrote" moment where people lay out their theories for their mysterious killer -- and some of them are way, way off base.

Should you watch "Whodunnit?" Absolutely. Accept the ridiculousness and play along. It's the perfect light summer fare.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Belated thoughts on the Game of Thrones finale

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister. (Helen Sloan/HBO)
Still riding the emotional wave of the Red Wedding, I went into the "Game of Thrones" season finale with a fair amount of anxiety. I came out of it feeling not much of anything -- not even a burning eagerness for season 4. Part of the reason is that the finale had no hope of matching the visceral impact of "The Rains of Castamere." And part of it is that two of the stories the show wants us to anticipate most -- Theon's and Stannis' -- have been the season's most troublesome.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Game of Thrones review: The Rains of Castamere

Richard Madden and Michelle Fairley as Robb and Catelyn Stark. (Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

If there's one thing we should already know about George R.R. Martin's world, it's that anyone can be killed. But that doesn't make last night's events any less shocking.

The final 15 minutes -- like the massacre itself -- was masterfully executed. All was well. Catelyn's brother got a beautiful bride. Walder Frey seemed satisfied. Catelyn and Robb were in good graces again. Robb and Talisa were imagining their future with baby Ned.

As Catelyn watched her brother and his bride get carried off for the bedding ceremony, she reminisced about her own wedding night with Ned, who refused the same ceremony because he didn't want to mar their special day by punching someone in the face. That story was greeted with, in retrospect, a tell-tale smirk from Roose Bolton, who no doubt was thinking, "How quaint." Because then came the solitary guard to close the hall's massive doors, and bit by maddeningly suspenseful bit, the pieces of the ambush fell into place until it was too late to be stopped.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Amazon picks its original series

Start thinking about whether you want to sign up for another online streaming service, because Amazon has picked its original series. It chose only two of its eight comedy pilots -- "Alpha House" and "Betas" -- and three of its kids pilots. The shows were chosen based on feedback from customers, among other factors.

Strangely, the two Greek-letter comedies were my favorite and least favorite of the bunch. I quite enjoyed "Betas," about four Silicon Valley guys looking to make it big with their new app. On the flip side, I really did not like "Alpha House," which stars John Goodman as one of four Republican senator house-mates in Washington.

The kids shows are "Annebots," about a girl scientist and her robots; "Creative Galaxy," about an alien artist; and "Tumbleleaf," about an adventure-seeking fox. I didn't check out any of these, seeing as I have no children, but their existence in Amazon's crowd-sourcing scheme commanded my thoughts for a while.

If you're going to pick shows based on the opinions of viewers, children's shows make way more sense than comedies, whose success can be reliant on taste and other intangibles. But from what I gather from friends and family who have kids, parents seem to want more specific things -- educational, moral, age-appropriate -- from the shows they allow their children to watch. They put a lot of thought into this kind of stuff. My dog-sitter recently told me about the trail of movies he and his wife were going through trying to find a replacement for some sort of mildly violent penguin show that their daughter loved. Is it the penguins she likes, or the movement on screen? "Happy Feet" fell flat; let's try "Wall-E."

Which is all to say, crowd-sourcing kids shows is a fantastic idea. Parents are picky, so let them choose.

The shows will be available on Prime Instant Video starting later this year and in early 2014.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A look at the new fall schedule

The broadcast networks recently unveiled their fall lineups. Here are some things I noticed:

1. There are a ridiculous number of stars. Many of them are TV staples, like James Spader (NBC's "Blacklist"), Sean Hayes (NBC's "Sean Saves the World"), Michael J. Fox (NBC's "The Michael J. Fox Show"), Sarah Michelle Gellar (CBS's "The Crazy Ones"), Bradley Whitford (ABC's "Trophy Wife") and Andre Braugher (Fox's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine).

There are some typically movie-types, like Greg Kinnear (Fox's midseason drama "Rake"), Toni Colette (CBS's "Hostages"), Durmot Mulroney (NBC's "Crisis") and Giovanni Ribisi (Fox's "Dads").

And finally, some prodigal sons/daughters, like Robin Williams ("The Crazy Ones") and Gillian Anderson ("Crisis").

My memory is terrible and I haven't always been paying attention, but it seems to me the star power for the 2013-14 season is unprecedented. It means the to-watch calendar is going to be much fuller than usual.

2. If shows look familiar, it's because they are. TV is no stranger to remakes, which is why many critics were shocked that CBS passed on a new "Beverly Hills Cop." But there are still plenty of remakes/reimaginings on the way.

NBC is remaking "Ironside" with Blair Underwood as the wheelchair-bound cop played in the 1960s-70s by Raymond Burr. It's also got "Dracula," in which everyone's favorite vampire (played by "The Tudors'" Jonathan Rhys Meyers) turns up in 19th century London to take revenge on those who made him the way he is.

Over at Fox, "Sleepy Hollow" is being adapted with a resurrected Ichabod Crane teaming up with a modern-day police officer.

ABC has "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D," self-explanatory (and title unwieldy), plus the spinoff "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland."

Also at ABC are two shows that aren't straight remakes, but still feel familiar. They are "Back in the Game," with James Caan and Maggie Lawson, which has a "Bad News Bears" vibe to it, and "The Goldbergs," which has been described as a "Wonder Years" set in the 1980s.

3. Parents are all the rage. Sitcoms about families will outnumber sitcoms about swinging singles. And many of the family sitcoms are parent-centric.

In "Sean Saves the World," Hayes plays a divorced gay dad whose daughter moves in with him. In "Dads," Ribisi and Seth Green are two successful guys whose dads (Martin Mull and Peter Riegert) move in with them.

On NBC, "Welcome to the Family" seems to focus on two dads who dislike each other but have to deal with it because their young kids are getting married.

On CBS: In "The Crazy Ones," Williams and Gellar are a father-daughter ad team. "The Millers" features Will Arnett as a man whose parents (Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges) split up after they learn he's had a divorce. And "Mom" is about a newly sober single mom (Anna Faris) who's trying to regroup while her formerly estranged mother (Allison Janney) is back in her life.

Get a look
Three of the networks have previews for many of their fall shows for you to check out.
Fox just has a calendar:

I'll leave you with a preview for "The Michael J. Fox Show," which I'm most looking forward to.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Game of Thrones review: Second Sons

Peter Dinklage and Sophie Turner. (Photo by Helen Sloan, HBO)
"Second Sons" opens on Arya's eye, a fitting image for an episode largely playing to the adage that seeing is believing. It's also fitting for an episode that, after weeks of packed-in storylines, set its sights mainly on just three of them.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Video: "Office" talk

"The Office" is ending its nine-year run tonight on NBC, which is making my heart sink a little. To mark its end, I talked to Herald sports writer and fan Tommy Wright about the brief struggle after Steve Carell left, the joy of other characters, and the fate of Jim and Pam. Skip to 8:20.

For more of my thoughts on the last couple of seasons, click here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A note about this week

For reasons various and sundry, this blog is taking a back seat to my normal duties on the print side this week. That means no "Game of Thrones" recap and a backpedal on my vow to keep up with upfronts week -- although I'll be passing along as much news as I can on Twitter (@emdashje).

Be on the lookout, however, for a roundtable discussion of "The Office" on Thursday as part of our weekly "GO! Live" video.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

NBC orders three comedies, two dramas

Series orders are coming fast and furious now. In addition to announcing the renewal of "Parks and Recreation" and the cancellation of several comedies, NBC on Thursday announced it has picked up three comedies and two dramas for the 2013-14 season.

About a Boy, based on the Nick Hornby novel and 2002 Hugh Grant movie, starring David Walton, Minnie Driver and "1600 Penn's" Benjamin Stockham. From "Parenthood" creator Jason Katims, who will be pulling double duty because "Parenthood" also was renewed for another season.

The Family Guide, starring J.K. Simmons as a blind man who is actively raising his kids with his ex-wife, played by Parker Posey. Jason Bateman narrates.

Sean Saves the World, starring Sean Hayes, about a gay dad whose teenage daughter comes to live with him.

The ambitious Crisis, in which the children of top Washington families, including the president's son, are kidnapped and held for ransom by a "vengeful mastermind." The premise sounds like it'll be a little hard to keep up, but you never know. Starring Gillian Anderson and Dermot Mulroney. From the creator of the too-short-lived "Life."

Believe, about a 10-year-old orphan girl with special powers who is protected by an escaped and wrongly accused death row inmate. From J.J. Abrams, who's a busy guy, and the dark-skewing Alfonso Cuaron.

NBC cancels Pacific Grove actress' show "1600 Penn"

NBC has canceled "1600 Penn," which featured Pacific Grove's Amara Miller as a member of the first family.

Miller, who just turned 13 on Saturday, seemed to take the news in stride. "Onto new projects!" she said on Twitter. "Will miss all the people of 1600 Penn."

She recently wrapped filming on the holiday movie "A Friggin' Christmas Miracle," starring Robin Williams, Joel McHale and Lauren Graham.

Photo by Byron Cohen/NBC
The network also canceled comedies "Guys with Kids," "Up All Night" and "Whitney."

On the super-exciting plus side, it renewed "Parks and Recreation."

YouTube women's channel WIGS worth a look

"Lauren," an original online drama series about rape in the military, is proving to be especially relevant this week, as the Pentagon on Tuesday released a report that shows a rising trend of unreported sexual assaults in the military. The show, which follows a servicewoman wanting to report a rape but learning just how heavily the deck is stacked against her, tracks even more closely to revelations earlier this year that the man who shot and killed two Santa Cruz police officers was twice accused of sexual assault while serving in Hawaii, but was allowed to be discharged in lieu of a court-martial.

The YouTube channel that "Lauren" is a part of, WIGS, is also on the relevance wagon this week. The channel's purpose is to offer original series, short films and documentaries, all with female leads. Although there are a few such shows on network TV -- "The Good Wife" and "Parks and Rec" come immediately to mind -- it's still very much a man's medium. Case in point: Fox just announced eight new shows for the 2013-14 season that skew very heavily male. (Ironically, Fox recently entered into a partnership with WIGS.)

The men (yes, men) who dreamed up WIGS wanted to tap into the growing number of women who are watching online programming. If it sounds like just an online version of Lifetime, at least think of it as more "Army Wives" than "Terrible Movie of the Week."

Fox orders four new dramas, four comedies for next season

Fox on Wednesday announced that it has picked up four new dramas and four new comedies for next year.

Almost Human (working title), starring Karl Urban, Michael Ealy and Lili Taylor, is a police drama set 35 years in the future, when cops pair up with human-like androids. It has uber-producer J.J. Abrams' prints on it.

Gang Related, starring a goatee'd Terry O'Quinn (!), Ramon Rodriguez and RZA, follows a rising star in a Los Angeles gang task force that goes after the city's three most dangerous gangs, including one he has ties to.

In Rake, Greg Kinnear becomes the latest movie star to jump to the small screen, as a self-destructive defense attorney who takes on cases no one else will touch. Based on an Australian series. Sam Raimi directed the pilot.

Sleepy Hollow, proof that adaptations are never as beaten to death as you think they are. From Deadline: "Ichabod Crane is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to find that the world is on the brink of destruction and that he is humanity's last hope, forcing him to team up with a contemporary police officer to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers." So there's that. Stars Tom Milson and Nicole Beharie. Co-created by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Transformers, new Star Trek, Fringe).

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, from "Parks and Rec" producers Dan Goor and Michael Schur and starting Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher. About a detective who doesn't take anything seriously and his new by-the-book boss. Sounds like it's pretty by-the-book itself.

Enlisted, about three brothers getting to know each other again on a small Florida Army base. Starring Geoff Stults, created by Kevin Biegel (Cougar Town, Scrubs).

Rom-com Us & Them, based on the British series "Gavin and Stacey," starring Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel.

Surviving Jack, based on author Justin Halpern's book "I Suck at Girls." Starring Christopher Meloni as a dad to a teenage son in 1990s Southern California.

Plus there's Dads, previously ordered, a live-action, multi-camera show from Seth MacFarlane that stars Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi as two successful guys whose dads (Martin Mull and Peter Riegert) move in with them.

This news comes as a precursor to next week, when the networks hold their "upfront" presentations for advertisers and the media, unveiling new series for the 2013-14 season and announcing renewals and such. I'll do my best to collate the big/important stuff each day. I'll be especially on the lookout for the fate of NBC's "1600 Penn," which stars Pacific Grove's Amara Miller. NBC presents Monday.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Game of Thrones review: "The Climb"

It's good to see The Wall again.

Those final images were stunning, the icy white to the north contrasted against the sun-dappled green to the south. It's crazy to think Ygritte is seeing grass for the first time, and with a top-of-the-world vantage point and Jon beside her, I can imagine she sees a realm of possibilities opening up to her. Jon did as he said he would -- protect her first -- when they were cut free on that harrowing climb up The Wall, a sequence that held up quite well as the episode's only action point. I only wish their relationship got my heart pumping as much as their ascent did. Their chemistry before the climb -- where she told him she knew he was still a crow at heart, and that if he betrayed her she'd cut off his junk and wear it around her neck, fitting with the body-part fashion that's all the rage in Westeros, apparently -- felt comfortable again, and I was ready to re-embrace them as a couple. But when it comes to actual passion, i.e. their kiss atop The Wall? Meh. Can I be the only one who feels this way?

Anyway, at least their coupling is a happy one. While Ygritte sees that grass is greener on the other side, Sansa keeps getting her heart thrown into the icy wastelands.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ranking the Amazon comedy pilots

Amazon is the latest online venture to try its hand at original programming, and it's involving you in the process. Eight comedy pilots are up at for you to watch and rate. Amazon will decide which ones to develop into full series based on the number of views, star rating, comments and a host of other factors. Right now they're free to watch, but once the series are picked up, they will only be available to Amazon Prime subscribers.

The pilots feature some big names (John Goodman, Bebe Neuwirth, Jeffrey Tambour) and two known entities ("Onion News Empire" and "Zombieland"). There are two animated comedies ("Supanatural" and "Dark Minions") and one musical ("Browsers"). And lots of raunchy humor, which -- unless I'm becoming a prude, which is entirely possible -- seems like an easy way to go after laughs these days. But there you have it.

Below are my thoughts on the pilots, ranked in order from what I most want to see picked up to least.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Game of Thrones review: "Kissed by Fire"

Loyalty is a slippery thing. It shifts with victory, defeat, duty, love, lust, bitterness or any number of other reasons. This week's somewhat dull episode (even with hot tubs and butts) featured various characters grappling with what loyalty -- and trust -- means to them.

Friday, April 26, 2013

NBC renews 'Parenthood,' four other dramas

Photo by Chris Haston/NBC

NBC on Friday announced the renewal of five dramas, including "Parenthood," which bounced back in the ratings last year on a solid, heart-wrenching season. AND, it's been renewed for 22 episodes, seven more than last season. So great news for fans -- and for tissue manufacturers.

Also renewed: Revolution, Chicago Fire, Grimm and Law & Order: SVU.

In other NBC news, an hourlong special celebrating nine years of "The Office" will air before the hourlong series finale May 16.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Video: Go! Live with Marcos Cabrera and Jeannie Evers

Jeannie joins Herald features writer Marcos Cabrera to discuss YAC's Live Art event Saturday, other Best Bets plus "Hannibal" and "Game of Thrones."

'The Million Second Quiz': I hope NBC thought this through

OK, help me understand this.

NBC has ordered a live competition trivia show called "The Million Second Quiz." It goes on 24/7 for 12 days and nights, captured on live stream and also airing live in primetime.

It takes place in a giant hourglass in the middle of Manhattan.


I'm pretty sure NBC has lost its mind.

The basic premise as set out by the network is a bit unclear, but it goes something like this: Contestants compete online for a bit before the show airs, and then the four people who have remained in the game the longest "get" to live in the clear hourglass. In primetime, they go up against other contestants who are trying to unseat them. The prize is $10 million.

What it basically amounts to is digital overreach. Yes, it includes online and interactive elements -- "Look how with it we are!" -- but it MAKES NO SENSE.

A few questions (aside from what exactly the game entails):

How big is the hourglass, and what exactly is going to be in it (besides four people trapped inside like fish in a fishtank)? The four top dogs are supposed to be living there during the show's 12-day run. Presumably, the individual contestants will rotate as people get knocked out of the competition, but what if one of the four is a Ken Jennings type who survives every round? Are there toilets? Showers? Any kind of privacy?

And if people only get unseated during primetime, does that mean this silly experiment is going to be airing every night? In fall, when the network supposedly will have a full slate of scripted dramas and comedies? If it doesn't air every night, that means even without a super genius, some of these people are going to be trapped in the hourglass for more than one day, at least. I hope it's ventilated.

Paul Telegdy, president of alternative and late night programming at NBC Entertainment, describes the show as, in part, "a social experiment." All I can say is, the network better have a good psychologist on hand, because this thing could get Stanford-prison-experiment ugly.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Game of Thrones review: "And Now His Watch is Ended"

"And now his watch is ended" -- the men of the Night's Watch say these words as they watch the body of their fallen brother burn, a necessity north of The Wall to prevent him from rising again as a White Walker. It's a fitting symbol for a superb episode focused on the past being brought back to life, and on those who seek to avenge it.

Daenerys, Varys, Tyrion, Jamie, Brienne, Arya, the Brotherhood Without Banners and the Night's Watch are all seeking revenge for wrongs done in the near and distant past.

Friday, April 19, 2013

On time sensitivity and violence on TV

It was announced Friday that NBC has decided to pull the fourth episode of "Hannibal," which depicts children killing children, from its lineup because of a particularly violent few months in America.

I read that news on Twitter this afternoon after finishing last night's episode, which I was going to lament for its graphic content because the psychological aspect of the show is what makes it so alluring. So my first thought on reading that NBC was pulling next week's episode was: "Well, that's great, but the show is still unnecessarily gruesome."

Variety reported that creator Bryan Fuller called NBC to say that "given the cultural climate right now in the U.S., I think we shouldn't air the episode in its entirety." Instead, clips will be available on He told Variety: "I didn't want to have anyone come to the show and have a negative experience. Whenever you write a story and look at the sensational aspects of storytelling, you think, 'This is interesting metaphorically, and this is interesting as social commentary.' With this episode, it wasn't about the graphic imagery or violence. It was the associations that came with the subject matter that I felt would inhibit the enjoyment of the overall episode."

ABC this week pushed back an episode of "Castle" where detective Kate Beckett steps on a pressure-sensitive bomb. And, Variety notes, Syfy pulled a school violence episode of "Haven" after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings.

Time sensitivity is an understandable concern, but are these associations ever really going to go away? "Hannibal" was filmed before the events at Sandy Hook, but that doesn't mean our world wasn't already filled with countless instances of children being victims of violence, as we're reminded constantly by gang-related deaths in Monterey County.

I've seen a slew of essays from TV critics in recent months about violence fatigue, about degrees of violence, about whether violence truly serves a story or is there as some sort of fad. These are all valid discussions to have; I'm in the camp that believes the depiction of violence can serve a larger purpose. But we should pay attention to what happens when we don't have those elements; in other words, if we as viewers lose nothing by the absence of "Hannibal's" fourth episode or by the absence of an explosion or by the absence of school violence, maybe it's time to rethink their necessity.

The argument here is not for a ban on the depiction of violence, but for a consideration of "excess." I realize that's an elusive term; I have a pretty high threshold when it comes to fictional violence and so haven't become as jaded as many TV watchers in recent months. Last night's "Hannibal," however, was the first time I've started to sidle over into that camp. What intrigues me are the mind games that Dr. Lecter plays with victim/suspect Abigail Hobbs and with Will Graham, and I don't need repeated visual imagery of bodies impaled on antlers or people getting their throats cut to understand it; just a few shots will suffice. The show starts with a "viewer discretion advised" warning of graphic content -- certainly nothing new these days -- but the message is repeated at the bottom of the screen after the return from each commercial break. That's gotta mean something.

And maybe making that warning unnecessary is a worthy goal to shoot for, because it's starting to feel like no amount of time between a real violent act and a fictional one is ever going to be enough.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

'Rawhide' coming to AMC, and other news from the network

Saddle up, Clint Eastwood fans, because "Rawhide" is riding into Saturdays on AMC. (Sorry for all the puns. It's been one of those weeks.) The network will start airing the classic Western TV series this Saturday (April 20) from the very beginning, running them in multi-episode chunks starting in the morning. Check your listings.

"Rawhide," which aired from 1959-66 and launched Eastwood to stardom, follows the challenges of a cattle drive in the 1860s from San Antonio to Missouri. Eastwood played Rowdy Yates, sidekick to a trail boss played by Eric Fleming.

The announcement was made in tandem with news that AMC's original series "Hell on Wheels" will move to Western-themed Saturdays with its third-season premiere Aug. 3.

In other AMC news this week, "Breaking Bad" will start airing its final eight episodes Aug. 11. It will be followed by a half-hour live companion show, "Talking Bad," an after-show in the same vein as "Talking Dead" for "The Walking Dead."

And it announced a slate of new shows for spring and summer. You can read about those here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Game of Thrones review: Walk of Punishment

I hope you'll forgive me, because I need to be an unabashed fan this week. That was probably the most fun I've had watching an episode of this series, from the opening scene of bad marksmanship to the rock song rolling over the final credits.

A rundown:

1) What starts out as a solemn moment -- Catelyn's late father being put out to sea -- turns into farce when her brother fails three times to get his flaming arrow to the body to spark the funeral pyre. The first miss and hollow plunk as the arrow hit the water was classic, because it turns that staple of medieval movies on its head -- those arrows always hit on the first shot. As Robb barely suppresses a laugh, Catelyn's uncle steps up to the plate, aims and fires, then turns away before it hits its mark in that cocky way people have when they know their shot is true. That first scene really set the tone for the rest of the episode.

(Bad marksmanship isn't her brother's only blunder. He also botched Robb's plans to bring the ruthless Mountain out into the open so he could be killed, ruining a perfectly good war strategy. And don't worry for poor Catelyn: She got her chance to grieve, in a nice moment with her uncle.)

2) The small council! So much deliciousness was happening in that musical chairs scene, all of it so telling of the characters: Littlefinger rushing to the seat nearest Tywin. Cersei strolling in behind everyone else, then moving her chair to Tywin's other side. Tyrion noisily dragging his chair to the foot of the table, to be on equal ground with his father. Varys poking fun at Littlefinger by rubbing in the fact that Roose Bolton holds Harrenhal, a castle bestowed on Littlefinger last season. Littlefinger's face shifting from amused to crestfallen when Tywin then calls Harrenhal a worthless piece of rubble. I could not stop chuckling. (This show really should be spun off into several two-person series: Littlefinger and Varys, Tyrion and Bronn, Brienne and Jamie...)

3) Whether Tyrion bribed Pod's prostitutes to refuse his money or not (as some theories suggest), I enjoyed watching the young squire return triumphant and somewhat bewildered. Also with that sequence, "Game of Thrones" went from sexing up lineage to sexing up finances -- Tyrion and Bronn were in the middle of a rather droll conversation about how hopelessly in debt King's Landing is. Finally, I'm amused that prostitutes are the only gift Tyrion ever thinks of giving.

4) I cheered a little at this line from Dany, as she walked out of Astapor with the slave she intends to free: "All men must die. But we are not men."

5) I loved the rock version of "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" by The Hold Steady over the end credits -- not so much the song on its own, but its very existence. It was jarring, for sure, but it's not like it came after some solemn event -- it came after an equally jarring behanding. In other words, it fit the moment.

And speaking of that behanding...

Jamie has steadily been growing into a more sympathetic, layered and understandable character, far from the guy who shoved a boy out a window. Though he's been pushing Brienne's buttons, he's come to care for his companion, and genuinely tries to protect her from being raped by their captors, or at least to prepare her for it. (And Brienne got to jab him back, taking aim of his combat skills.) In trying to convince their main captor to back off -- while the assault happened off-screen, with yells from both Brienne and the men, indicating she was putting up a good fight as promised -- Jaime adopted the same conspiratorial tone of voice he used last season when he lured an admiring cellmate to his death in an escape attempt. (Props to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for that choice.) Only this time the person he hoped to sway was not a child, but a man who could see through the bull. While it did seem to work on one level -- Brienne was brought back, apparently unscathed -- Jaime ultimately felt the effects of "no good deed goes unpunished." The loss of his hand isn't a triumph, but a tragedy. And as for the action itself: That's how you end an episode.

Other thoughts:
-- Another shocker was Dany offering up one of her dragons as payment for the Unsullied. But after seeing that hideously long line of strung-up slaves, who look forward to death because at least they would be free, I can understand her motivation. That, plus Jorah's again-sage advice that the Unsullied would not take collateral victims, as a regular army would. Still, I would hope/guess that Dany won't give up her dragon so easily.
-- Amid all the tomfoolery was the nice little moment when Arya and Gendry said goodbye to Hot Pie. It made me sad to see them part, and I wanted to hug Arya for telling Hot Pie that she liked his wolf bread.
-- North of the wall, it feels like people are being situated for something epic.
-- I still have no idea what's going on with Theon.

Did everyone else have fun?

Friday, April 12, 2013

The enigma that is "Go On"

"Go On" ended its first season Thursday. I watched every episode. I'm still not sure why.

In case you missed it, which I think many of you did, "Go On" is an NBC comedy that stars Matthew Perry as Ryan King, a recent widower who joins a grief support group. It's really not as much of a bummer as it sounds. The group is filled with eccentrics, like a woman obsessed with cats and a guy who basically exists to do all kinds of weird stuff (in the season finale alone, for instance, he randomly carried pennies in his hands and ate candles). There's some workplace comedy too, at the sports radio station where Ryan is a host. Most of the show focuses on Ryan's journey of accepting the death of the love of his life, and the group coming together to help him and each other. Lots of warm fuzzies, with the requisite shenanigans.

The thing about "Go On" is that it didn't make me laugh all that much -- the jokes came fast, but often forced and predictable. But something kept bringing me back. More than that, it's a show I tended to watch right away, as opposed to letting the episodes pile up on my DVR like so many others. Why? Is Matthew Perry really that charming? Am I using it to work through some of my own (unknown) issues? Was I just looking for a brain dump at the end of a long Tuesday?

There were aspects of the show I liked: Ryan's friendship with kindred spirit Anne (Julie White), who's adjusting to the death of her own wife; the goofy earnestness of his boss, played by John Cho; even that aforementioned weirdo, Mr. K (Brett Gelman), who started to grow on me. In fact, many of the group members started to grow on me. But again, the laughter...

If you were to ask me if "Go On" is a good show, I would probably hesitate but end up saying yes. It's likely to be renewed, and I'm likely to keep watching. Am I crazy? Can a comedy be good if it's not funny?

Review: NBC's "Hannibal"

I didn't get a chance to review NBC's "Hannibal" from the pilot last week, so I'll pick it up from here and offer my two cents based on two episodes.

I rather like it. It's dark and creepy, and definitely not for the faint of heart. Those images of antler-gorged bodies and mushroom arms are not going to go away anytime soon.

It's also smart, in that it knows it has an established character in Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and doesn't waste any time in telling us who he is as an individual. Instead, it spends that time establishing who he is with FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), and already I'm intrigued by the dynamic of the two of them. The second episode was all about making connections, and while Will was trying to forge a link with a girl in a coma and the Killer of the Week was reaching out through body mushrooms, it was Lecter who got through with a mutual understanding of what it's like to kill someone. And it's fun to know that the bond he's forging with Will is just part of a cat-and-mouse game.

I'm also intrigued that the show seems like it will largely focus on Will and his mental state. Will, who is close to Asperger's on the autism spectrum, has the ability to get into the minds of killers and has a specific process of doing so. The effects for that are cool -- an orange copy-machine-light pendulum that reverses time and allows him to go through the killer's actions and thought processes. It seems like a process he needs to complete uninterrupted from start to finish. And after being stopped mid-process in the pilot, he's been off balance and unsettled, stuck in some sort of middle plane.

Dancy is doing an amazing job so far of showing the darkness creeping into Will and the struggle of someone who has a hard time empathizing coming to terms with how he's feeling. Mikkelsen, who played up the creepy a bit too much in the pilot -- so much so that I was frustrated that other characters couldn't pick up on it -- dialed it back in the second episode and lays on a coolness that works much better. And the man knows how to enjoy a lung. Laurence Fishburne, playing FBI agent Jack Crawford, who recruits Will back into the field to help investigate these murders, so far is just a transplanted Ray Langston from "CSI," but it's early yet.

I have a few small gripes here and there, but "Hannibal" is getting a regular slot on my DVR.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Game of Thrones review: "Dark Wings, Dark Words"

"Dark wings, dark words" is a reference to the ravens that deliver messages across the realm, messages that are sometimes ominous. Robb and Catelyn saw this saying bear fruit with the delivery of two letters to their camp, one about the death of Catelyn's father, the other about the sack of Winterfell and the unknown whereabouts of Bran and Rickon.

But at its heart, "dark wings, dark words" is prophetic, and this episode dumped a heap of prophecy on us along with an overall sense of bad things to come.

Friday, April 5, 2013

News bits: Jay and Jimmy, the Bluths and that celebrity game show

The Big News this week, obviously, is that Jimmy Fallon will take over for Jay Leno as host of "The Tonight Show" in spring 2014. As part of the handoff, the show will move back to New York.

I don't have a lot to add to all the talk swirling around the transition, partly because it had already been widely reported before this week's announcement, partly because we've seen it all before in the Conan debacle of a few years ago, and partly because I watch neither Leno nor Fallon and frankly don't care that much.

But I can see where Leno's longtime followers -- he's been host of "Tonight" for 22 years, all told -- might feel some sadness. These are folks who watch Leno by actually turning on the TV at 11:35 p.m., as opposed to checking out short, funny and talked-about video clips the next day, as I sometimes do with Fallon -- and as, I suspect, many of Fallon's fans do, since video shorts are part of his shtick. Though it will be interesting to see if Leno's crowd will stick around for the young and hip Fallon, maybe the bigger question on their minds is whether they've seen the last of their favorite big-chinned comic. Several critics who say they have a handle on how Leno thinks suspect he'll find some way to stay in the spotlight.

Read on for some other news of the week:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review: ABC's "How to Live With Your Parents"

I wish TV didn't repeat itself.

The worst elements of "How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)," which premieres tonight on ABC, are recycled: quick flashbacks to punctuate a joke, bleeped out swear words, sentimental summation.

The concept is also familiar: Single mom Polly (Sarah Chalke), recently divorced, returns home and intends to stay with her parents (Brad Garrett and Elizabeth Perkins) for just a short while, but ends up staying indefinitely. Polly is the "normal" one of the family, her parents the eccentric, free-spirited type. Her doofus ex-husband (Jon Dore) is still in the picture. But in a departure from recent trends, her young daughter (Rachel Eggleston) is blissfully non-precocious.

With the recycled elements, "How to Live With Your Parents" simply feels like it's trying too hard. But the show has something in Garrett and Perkins, especially, and it succeeds in moments when it sits back and lets them play off each other. They have an easy relationship, one that comes across as believably long-term: When they talk over each other, as they often do, it's subdued and usually serves to complement what the other is saying. Their hands-off approach differs from Polly's, providing the genesis of most conflict on the show. Chalke does a fine job navigating the waters as Polly tries to figure out how she wants to raise her daughter. Polly can be a little manic sometimes, and her life is not nearly as out of control as she pretends it is, but she's charming.

This is not really a laugh-a-minute show, but it could be. Give it a try.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Game of Thrones Review: Valar Dohaeris

"Game of Thrones" is back and ... underwhelming. But in individual moments, still incredible.

The premiere spent most of its time doing the necessaries: picking up where the characters left off, introducing new ones and laying the groundwork for things to come. Not much room for anything to get the heart pumping.

That said, there were a lot of little things I enjoyed quite a bit. Top of the list were Tyrion's encounters with Cersei and, especially, Tywin. Tyrion is still licking his wounds from the after-effects of the Battle of Blackwater. He's been disfigured by a slash across the face (put there by someone Cersei hired), removed from his position as Hand of the King and longing for a little recognition for the stellar job he did. Though he's a dwarf, he has never really seemed small -- until this episode. He holds his own with Cersei as she gloats over his circumstances and tries to pump him for information, but his usual calm with her is replaced by a jumpy wariness. And he's feeling so vulnerable that he goes to his father and openly asks for what is his by rights -- despite knowing how much Tywin loathes him, and being told so again.

While Tyrion is getting beaten down, Dany's fortunes are looking up as she considers buying an army of 8,000 Unsullied warriors from a slave trader. Though the warriors' show of force was small, their precision was impressive and their backstories horrifying. The books spent a great deal of time on her moral opposition to slavery, and I'm curious how much of that will make it into the show. Jorah seems to have already convinced her that she would be a much nicer slave owner than the other guy.

Meanwhile, Jon is falling in with another army north of the wall led by Mance Rayder, played by Ciaran Hinds. I'm not sure about Hinds yet, but he seems to give Rayder just a touch of levity, which works for me. Elsewhere in the camp, there's a giant doing menial labor. Love it.

Other highlights/lowlights:
-- I was happy to see Davos alive, but unhappy to see him carted off. Also, the Stannis/Red Woman dynamic is rather flat by now.

-- Behind Tyrion's scenes, probably my favorite one was the brief exchange between Ros, the prostitute-turned-brothel manager (or whatever), and Shae, the prostitute-turned-lady's maid. For all the sexposition that goes on, it's nice to be reminded that these two women have become far more complex and interesting characters.

-- Nice touch on the main titles, showing Winterfell now as a smoldering mess.

-- Yeah, the dragons are bigger and badder, but they're also less convincing than when they were smaller. But I won't hold it against you, VFX guys, because the direwolves still look awesome.

-- Looking forward to next week, when we get to check in with Arya, Bran and Jamie.

What did everyone else think?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

An UNO game show? Skip

Is it April 1 already?

It was reported Tuesday that Mattel is teaming up with The Gurin Co., a production and distribution company specializing in "light entertainment," to make a game show based on UNO, that staple of sleepovers and family road trips. They're dreaming up two possibilities: a half-hour show with a $100,000 jackpot, or an hourlong show with a $1 million prize. The French will get to see it first.

They may be on to something. Think of the possibilities for other edge-of-your-seat card games, like Go Fish, in which the terrible guesser would have to go catch an actual fish, or War, where the contestants could beat on each other gladiator-style in between rounds, the winner getting the bigger deck.

Believe it or not, this is not the first ridiculous idea for a game show to crop up this year. In February, NBC announced "Hollywood Game Night," hosted by Jane Lynch and produced by Sean Hayes and Todd Millner ("Grimm"), which would feature "A-list celebrities hanging out and playing games with fun-loving non-celebrity contestants in a cocktail party atmosphere."

I assume they're talking charades or -- meta alert -- Celebrity, but with NBC you never know. We could be watching someone else just jump checkers all night.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Scattered Thoughts on 'The Sopranos'

It's somewhat fitting that I finished "The Sopranos" the same week as the 10-year anniversary of the Iraq War. When I picked up the show for the first time earlier this year, and realized it had started back in 1999 -- when I was but a sophomore in high school -- one of the things I was most curious about was how a show that straddled 9/11 would handle those events.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hey, readers

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

Some of you may have come here via my Rabbit Ears column in The Herald. Some of you may have wandered in from who knows where, looking for snacks and a place to prop up your feet for a while. I accept all comers.

So who the heck am I, and what's this thing going to be about, anyway? By night I'm the assistant city editor at The Herald, a transplant from Colorado by way of Oregon. And this thing is going to be about TV: shows and trends and news and anything else that strikes my fancy in between work-work. (Warning: A fair amount early on will be about Game of Thrones.)

I did not set out in life to write about TV. I didn't even watch it all that heavily until I moved here almost eight years ago and fell in with a TV-watching crowd. Then I started shelling out big money for cable and premium channels, and discovered that people write about this stuff for a living and think about it and have interesting things to say. Pretty soon I was knee deep in it. And now here we are.

I enjoy television, mostly for one simple reason: The stories are seemingly endless. When shows have characters that are well drawn, dialog that's sharp and stories that are complex, I want to spend as much time with them as possible.

If you're reading this, hopefully it means you feel the same. So let's talk.


What am I watching?
The Good Wife, Vikings, Bates Motel, Nashville, Go On (don't ask me why), Modern Family, The Office, Parks and Rec, Community.

What am I looking forward to in the next few months?
GAME OF THRONES, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Arrested Development

What are some of my all-time favorites? (in addition to many mentioned above)
House, In Treatment, early ER, early CSI, The West Wing, Lost, Downton Abbey