Friday, August 31, 2007

Curb My Enthusiasm? Heck No!

The 21 months or so it's been since the last new "Curb Your Enthusiasm" aired may have seemed interminable, but it will be worth the wait.

I watched the first three episodes of the new season (OK, more like 2 1/2 since the sound on Ep. 3 was wonky) and Larry David hasn't missed a step.

David, of course, has already given us nearly a decade of comedy gold ("It's gold, Jerry! Gold!") as co-creator of "Seinfeld." "Curb" has picked up the baton of "Seinfeld" since it started airing on HBO several years ago and has been one of the most creative sitcoms on TV.

But David's humor goes back further than "Seinfeld." You catch glimpses of everything from "Fawlty Towers" to the yesteryear of vaudeville in an episode of "Curb."

The new season kicks off with Larry and Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) taking in a family of hurricane victims. Predictably, this doesn't go smoothly as Larry continues to outsmart himself, making every wrong decision possible from trying to skip a couple of parties to not paying for flowers. And, Larry should keep a better watch on his Joe Pepitone jersey.

In the first three episodes alone, "Curb" has a great group of guest stars like Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and Sen. Barbara Boxer portraying themselves, and Vivica A. Fox as one of the hurricane refugees.

It may have been a long wait, but "Curb" will prove worth waiting for.

24 ADDS TWO MORE: Perhaps copying the trend of large ensemble shows adding cast members at a seeming exponential rate, "24" announced it is adding John Billingslea ("The Nine") and Jeffrey Nordling ("Once and Again"), joining the likes of Janeane Garofalo and others. Which show will end up with the largest cast on TV? Cast your vote now!

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: With the holiday weekend and the U.S. Open going on, everything is pretty much repeats. Other than the Falcons' final preseason game tonight (Fox, 7:30 p.m.) against the Baltimore Ravens, my advice would be to get out and enjoy the final weekend of summer.

See you Tuesday!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

O-K Ville

I finally got around to watching the pilot for Fox's "K-Ville" online. Despite having some high hopes for this series, which stars Anthony Anderson and Cole Hauser as a pair of cops in post-Katrina New Orleans, the pilot was mostly flat and predictable.

I think the idea of the series is a pretty sound one, since I would think the chaos in the gulf would provide a lot of material for the show's writers.

But there wasn't much to it for the pilot. Anderson plays Marlin Boulet, a veteran New Orleans cop who was there in the aftermath of the storm when his former partner wigged out and deserted him.

Flash forward two years, and Boulet has a new partner in Cobb (Hauser), a former soldier who has joined the force. The two are assigned to protect a charity dedicated to rebuilding part of the city, but are quickly shot at when the event comes under gunfire.

The problem is, the whole investigation is a little too pat and predictable. I pretty much knew who did what and why halfway through. There was a lot of shooting and car chases as well, giving the show an '80s feel.

There's a little twist in the end that will undoubtedly be a factor in future episodes, but it was introduced a little out of the blue.

I'll probably give the show another chance when it airs, since Anderson was so fantastic in "The Shield" and Hauser is solid as his partner, but I'm hoping for a little more from the producers.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: I kind of wonder how thrilled USA is to be broadcasting the U.S. Open these days. Tennis continues to be a poor TV draw, especially since you know Roger Federer is going to win the men's draw and Serena Williams is a fairly safe bet for the women.

Meanwhile, the two-week hiatus that tennis is putting in USA's regular schedule is taking a lot of momentum away from "Burn Notice," which has improved both dramatically and ratings-wise every week. (Shows like "Monk" and "Psych" are also off for a couple of weeks).

Still, all is not bad, since AMC airs no sporting events at all, meaning we get a new "Mad Men" (AMC, 10 p.m.) tonight. You can also catch a new "Who Wants To Be A Superhero" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.), though this group really isn't as fun as the first one. But hey, it's pretty difficult when you don't have Fat Momma this time around.

While college football has already started in some places, it really kicks off tonight as LSU visits Mississippi State (ESPN, 8 p.m.), while Tulsa battles Louisiana-Monroe (ESPN2, 7 p.m.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

'Tell Me You Love Me'; Um, Not So Much

I remember when "NYPD Blue" came out in the early '90s, the show immediately drew a lot of buzz because it was going to air nudity and strong language on a network.

The buzz drew a lot of people in, and "NYPD Blue" became one of the most successful cop dramas of all time.

I'm not sure if the frank level of sex is a way of attracting viewers to the upcoming HBO series "Tell Me You Love Me," but I can almost guarantee viewers won't be sticking with it, even though the depictions of sex are so graphic, it makes something like "NYPD Blue" look like "Mr. Rogers."

I mean, there's literally nothing you don't see the characters doing. The problem is, once you get past the shock value of the sex, there's really nothing to draw you to the show.

The characters tend to whine a lot, but never develop. The show follows three couples — a 40-something couple (Ally Walker, Tim DeKay) who have an idyllic life but no sex life; 30-somethings (Sonya Walger, Adam Scott) who are having trouble conceiving a baby; and 20-somethings (Michelle Borth, Luke Farrell Kirby) who are engaged but can't seem to fully commit. They all end up going to the same therapist (Jane Alexander).

But all the characters seem to do is talk, grumble, have sex, whine some, have some more sex, talk, then grumble. There's no character development here. And despite the shock value of the sex, it doesn't help that director Patricia Rozema swings the camera all over the place.

I commend HBO for trying to do different things than what is the norm for TV, and the network has produced great series over the years. But the creative slump that led to fiascos like "John From Cincinnati" continues with "Tell Me."

If you want your sex fix from HBO, stick with the "Real Sex" documentaries. They are a lot more fun than this. But if you are caught up in the buzz, "Tell Me" debuts Sept. 9.

FNL NOT SO ROSIE: Proving once again there really is a God,'s Michael Ausiello reports that Rosie O'Donnell will not be portraying the school soccer coach on "Friday Night Lights." Though the stunt casting might have given the show a shot in the ratings, I'd prefer it maintain the high standards it has set for itself.

BYE-BYE, ANCHORWOMAN: For anyone who caught the premiere of Fox's "Anchorwoman" last week, both of you will be disappointed to learn it's been yanked after one episode. Chalk this one up to one of the biggest disasters for Fox reality guru Mike Darnell, but I'm sure he's already got six equally mortifying ideas on the drawing board.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Mea culpa on listing a new "Damages" last night. I had no idea FX was going to torture its viewers for four hours with "The Aviator."

I have double-checked my FX schedule tonight, and "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.) is all-new. After an extended slump for the first part of the season, the show has hit all the right notes the past two weeks, and with the return of guest star Amy Sedaris tonight, I'm expecting more great things.

I don't often promote reruns here, but tonight's "Bones" (Fox, 9 p.m.) repeat features the first appearance of Stephen Fry as Booth's shrink while Bones gets a new partner that marked a major story arc for the season.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Bronx Is Sizzling

Tonight wraps up what has been my favorite miniseries of the summer, "The Bronx Is Burning" (ESPN, 10 p.m.) OK, maybe it's tied with BBC America's "Jekyll," but "Bronx" has been a tremendous amount of fun.

I've sung the praises of lead actors John Turturro (Billy Martin), Oliver Platt (George Steinbrenner) and Daniel Sunjata (Reggie Jackson) often enough here, so it's time to give props to the supporting cast, which has been fantastic. Kevin Conway (Gabe Paul), Erik Jensen (Thurman Munson), Alex Cranmer (Graig Nettles), Leonard Armond Robinson (a hilarious Mickey Rivers), Loren Dean (Fran Healy) and others not only look like the real-life guys, but really capture their personalities.

With its fun, ’70s-style theme music and credits, "Bronx" has done a good job in really capturing the New York of 1977.

Oh, and thanks for the Ramones joining the soundtrack over the past two weeks.

I usually criticize ESPN for their made-for-TV movies, but "Bronx" has been a grand slam. I'm sorry to see it end, but hey, 1978 was a pretty eventful year for the Yankees as well....

WARNER ROBINS LITTLE LEAGUE: Dalton Carriker, who hit the game-winning home run for Warner Robins on Sunday, will be one of the guests tonight on "The Late Show With David Letterman," (CBS, 11:35 p.m.).

AROUND THE DIAL: Some have criticized "Heroes" for adding too many cast members to what is already one of TV's largest ensembles, but "Lost" is trying to one-up that show.

Jeff Fahey becomes the fifth new addition to the "Lost" cast, joining Jeremy Davies, Lance Reddick, Ken Leung and Rebecca Mader. While I trust the producers of the show, "Lost" cast additions tend to be a hit-or-miss affair. For every great addition like TVGuy fave Michael Emerson, you also get Michelle Rodriguez. But Fahey is a very likeable actor, so I'm staying positive. ...

Kevin Smith ("Clerks," "Dogma" et. al.), already signed up to direct an episode of "Heroes: Origins," will also direct an episode of "Battlestar Galactica" later this year. ...

Fox has announced the hosts for the tentatively titled "Next Great American Band," which takes the "American Idol" format and applies it to bands. (Why it took anyone five-plus years to come up with this concept after "AI's" success is the true mystery. I mean, it seems fairly obvious.) John Rzeznik of the Goo-Goo Dolls, Sheila E. and "Australian Idol" host Ian Dickson make up the triumverate of judges. ...

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: On "Eureka," (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) someone apparently comes close to wiping out the universe by recreating the Big Bang. I don't know about you, but considering how wonky these science experiments go every week on this show, I think someone really needs to shut the town down. I'm just saying....

Also, a new episode of "Damages" (FX, 10 p.m.), which I have enjoyed but apparently others haven't.

Monday, August 27, 2007

HBO, Showing Me The Love

HBO is rapidly working on bumping off NBC as my favorite network publicity department, sending me a whole bunch of goodies today, including two episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." I plan on going through this as quickly as possible so I can give you an update by the end of the week.

That's about it for today; Mondays are extremely busy since I am the temporary cops reporter for The Telegraph.

MONDAY'S BEST BET: If you don't know what is new on Mondays, then you pretty much aren't watching those shows anyway, so you don't really need my updates.

I will say, though, that after a rare misstep last week, "My Boys" (TBS, 10 p.m.) comes roaring back with one of its cleverest episodes ever. "My Boys" has often been called a "Sex & The City" for men, and tonight's episode takes that to heart. Also, the subplot involving Brendan's increasing egotism and how the gang resolves it is extremely well-done.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Web Of Goodies

More and more, the broadcast networks are making the Internet a powerful tool in their marketing of programs.

In spite of some flubs along the way - such as Fox not having its online voting working for the final "On The Lot" vote (No, Fox, I'm not letting this go) - it's the viewer who wins out, getting to see previews of shows that won't air for another month and other goodies.

Fox, perhaps making up for its "On The Lot" flub, is giving viewers a chance to see the pilot for the new series "K-Ville," starring Anthony Anderson and Cole Hauser as cops in post-Katrina New Orleans. It's one of Fox's biggest hopes for the fall season. In addition, viewers can also see the first 17 minutes of "Prison Break's" Season 3 premiere. You can check these out at, as well as, Yahoo!, and

NBC, which used the Web very effectively with last year's hit, "Heroes," is also giving viewers a treat with one of the best dramas on the air, "Friday Night Lights."

You can register today at to win a "FNL" house party, which includes:

A custom DVD with Producer's Choice Episodes from Season 1, greetings from the cast and an exclusive sneak peek of the first episode of Season 2

A bonus DVD, with the first 4 episodes of Season 1 plus a sneak peak of the new NBC show, Bionic Woman

Great collectibles for you and your guests, including rally towels, stadium seat cushions, stadium cups, megaphones, beverage koozies... even FNL microwave popcorn.

I'll mention as many of these Web promotions as I can find, so stay tuned.

WARNER ROBINS LITTLE LEAGUE: Lord, have mercy! Or at least, invoke the mercy rule as Warner Robins pounded Arizona 16-6 in five innings. That means the local baseballers will face Lubbock, Texas in the U.S. semifinals (ABC, Sat., 3:30 p.m.) for a chance at Sunday's World Series title against the international champion.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: While Little League baseball is all the rage around these parts these days, the TV viewer still has a few dramatic options as well.

On the networks, viewers can follow along with "Miss Teen USA," (NBC, 8 p.m.), the beauty queen equivalent of Little League, I guess. Or they can follow a new game show, "Set For Life," (ABC, 8 p.m.) No idea how this one is played.

The Doctor and Martha try to escape one of the Doctor's old enemies on the first of a two-part "Doctor Who" (Sci-Fi, 8 p.m.), which is followed by a slightly funny jaunt of "Flash Gordon" at 9 p.m. Also new are "Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) and "Psych" (USA, 10 p.m.)

On Saturday, I've been praising "Jekyll" as one of the best miniseries in a summer of great miniseries. Now is your chance to catch up, as BBC America begins a marathon of the whole thing beginning at 4 p.m. leading into the two-hour finale that begins at 8 p.m.

Also for Brit-philes, the highly touted TV movie "The Murder of Princess Diana" (Lifetime, Sat., 8 p.m.) airs, starring Jennifer Morrison ("House") as someone investigating the crash.

On Sunday is the finale of "Kill Point" (Spike, Sun., 9 p.m.) concludes a miniseries that was about two hours too long. Also, there are new episodes of "The 4400" (USA, 9 p.m.) and "Dead Zone" (USA, 10 p.m.) On HBO, "Big Love" (HBO, 9 p.m.) wraps up Season 2, followed by new episodes of "Entourage" and "Flight of the Conchords."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More Quick Hits

A very busy Thursday, so just a few casting updates for the upcoming fall season:

--Aidan Quinn has joined the cast of "Canterbury's Law," the Juliana Margulies legal drama for Fox that is produced by the same team that makes "Rescue Me." I continue to look forward to this one.

--John Francis Daley, late of "Freaks & Geeks," will appear in a multi-episode arc of "Bones," playing a therapist. He'll have a tough time topping Stephen Fry's therapist from last season, but "Bones" has been pretty good in its casting thus far.

--I know it's hard to process in the wake of K-Fed joining the cast of "One Tree Hill," but Daphne Zuniga and Torrey DeVitto, both late of ABC Family's "Beautiful People," have also signed on. Perhaps they will play K-Fed groupies.

WARNER ROBINS LITTLE LEAGUE: The kids came roaring back yesterday morning with an 8-1 win over New England. Today, they battle Chandler, Ariz. (ESPN, 7:30 p.m.)

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Regular blog responder Zodin2008 got into it with me yesterday about what has been the best shows of the summer, but two of the very best, as witnessed by both critics and viewers alike, continue to make the 10 p.m. viewing slot on Thursday's the best of the week.

"Mad Men" (AMC, 10 p.m.) is brand-new as we continue to learn more details about Don Draper's mysterious past. Airing at the same time is "Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.), a wonderfully witty show that continues to improve each week.

And while I rarely promote reruns, tonight is a chance to catch the pilot once more of "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.) It's a good opportunity to sample the show from the beginning. If you like it, you can then go out and get the just-released first season on DVD with plenty of time to catch up before the new season starts in mid-September.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

America Has Taste - Or Does It?

Huzzah, American TV viewer, I didn't think you had it in you.

After sitting through the first 45 excruciatingly boring minutes of "On The Lot," in which all was accomplished was eliminating the most talented filmmaker left in the competition in Adam, I assumed it meant we were being set for a Jason victory.

But despite Fox's screwing up the Internet voting, America came through, giving it to the guy I was pulling for all along in Will Bigham. Although I don't think Will was the best filmmaker in the competition, he was awfully good and a genuinely nice guy who you wanted to root for. Had he not won, he likely would have given up filmmaking in order to support his family.

As for Jason, here's a note that the judges never gave: Dress like a grown-up, already. Yeah, we get it - you think you are cool with your hip-hop bling and sideways cap. But if you are trying to convince a producer to give you millions of bucks to make a movie, you may want to give the impression that you are the slightest bit responsible by not wearing the haute couture of a 13-year-old.

But back to Will, who I think has much more game than any of the "Project Greenlight" winners. In fact, I'd love to see a PGL-styled show in which we follow Will on the set as he makes his movie for Dreamworks.

Of course, "On The Lot" was kind of the exception to the rule for reality programming on Fox. Tonight's offering of "Anchorwoman" (Fox, 8 p.m.) is more in tune with the tastes of reality czar Mike Darnell with its "Simple Life" tone.

Former swimsuit model/WWE diva Lauren Jones is hired to jack up the ratings to a Texas TV news station, and I'm betting it has little to do with her skills as a journalist (considering she has no background in journalism). The series follows her efforts to make it in front of the camera while her colleagues debate whether she is worthy of her assignment.

Actually, I'm not even mad at Fox at this point, because its reality TV philosophy has become white noise at this point. No, in a time when quality journalism is under siege from all sides with the struggles of the newspaper industry and the decline of TV news in favor of the average blogger (ahem) who can pretty much post anything he or she wants about anything.

I do find it interesting that in a summer of fantastic new cable fare ("Mad Men," "Burn Notice," "Damages," "The Bronx Is Burning" et. al.) that the only thing the regular networks can come up with to counter it is so-called reality programming.

WARNER ROBINS LITTLE LEAGUE: Our plucky area baseballers are making up their rainout at 11 a.m. this morning on ESPN. With all of the schedule up there screwed up because of the weather, I'll update later if they win as to when they play again.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BET: I had generally been disappointed with "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.) this summer, but last week's was a return to glory, IMO. The Gavin family intervention, the parts with Gina Gershon, Lou and Franco's brief conversation with the chief - all were inspired. So here's hoping the show continues on track the rest of the season.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Starting With A Bang, Ending With A Whimper

As much as I've enjoyed "On The Lot" (Fox, 8 p.m.) this season, I'm curiously indifferent to tonight's finale. Maybe it has something to do with all of the season finales to Mark Burnett-produced shows.

When "Survivor" became a cultural phenomenon years ago, the finales would run three hours long and include live interviews with the people who got knocked off the first few weeks. As if anyone cared.

When "The Apprentice" had its three-hour live finale at the end of Season 2, it served as little more than long stretches of bashing a former schoolmate of mine, because for whatever reason she was less popular than the guy who won.

The point I'm making is that Burnett's finales are little more than lovefests for the cast and crew that seem to do nothing but kill time toward the final five minutes of the show when the winner is announced.

Is that the fate of "On The Lot" as well? I hope not, but I can't honestly imagine what they are going to do tonight for an hour. They had an opportunity last week to have these guys make one final film for the audiences to vote on; instead, they had the directors select two of their old films, which is what the audiences voted for. They could have easily filled this week's episode with the "Best of" bit, leading to the announcement of the final winner.

Anyway, the prediction for tonight is that even though Adam is the strongest filmmaker left, Jason is going to win, particularly after fouled up the online voting last week. While it's a shame there won't be a Season 2 of "On The Lot," Season 1 won't be ending on the strongest footing.

CASTING NEWS: My disappointment with "On The Lot" is tempered by wild enthusiasm at the news that Kristen Bell ("Veronica Mars") will be joining the cast of "Heroes" for a 13-episode arc. While there is virtually no word as to her role on the show, you can read a great interview with her from's Michael Ausiello here:

It makes up for the disappointment that Bell won't be joining the cast of "Lost." I think Bell's addition to "Heroes" means, however, that this show will now have the largest ensemble cast in the history of TV. They've added several actors, while it's looking as if the entire cast of Season 1 will be back for Season 2.

While "Lost" didn't get Kristen Bell, it did get Ken Leung, best known as Uncle Junior's poker buddy from the final season of "The Sopranos." Not much word on what Leung will be doing on the island, but I'm betting he has a mysterious past. Just a hunch.

Lest I forget, Mr. Ex-Britney Spears himself, Kevin Federline, will guest star this season on "One Tree Hill." As if I needed another reason NOT to watch this show...

Finally, as much as I bash "24" on here, I have to say I'm intrigued as the hiring of Janeane Garofalo as an FBI agent this season. I could definitely see her in a battle of acerbic wits against Chloe.

WARNER ROBINS LITTLE LEAGUE: With the entire Little League slate being rained out last night, Warner Robins will make up its game tonight against Walpole, Mass. (ESPN2, 6 p.m.) in a must-win contest. If the kids are sent home, however, maybe they can bring some of that rain back with them.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Should Jason end up winning "On The Lot," at least my disappointment will be tempered with what is arguably the best night of TV.

Not only do I get a new episode of "Damages" (FX, 10 p.m.), but the ever-enjoyable "The Bronx Is Burning" (ESPN, 10 p.m.) continues with the 1977 Yankees heading into the World Series. (Just a hunch, but I'm betting Reggie Jackson steps up big during the Series.)

There is also a new episode of "Eureka" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) Less exciting for me, but not for the rest of the country judging by the ratings, is the finale of "America's Got Talent" (NBC, 8 p.m.)

Finally, I won't get a chance to review it before it airs tonight, but William Shakespeare's "As You Like It" (HBO, 9 p.m.) gets a new telling, this time at the hands of masterful director Kenneth Branagh, who does the Bard better than anyone. Bryce Dallas Howard is already earning raves as Rosalind, with David Bianculli of the New York Daily News saying her performance in the role is comparable quality-wise to that of Helen Mirren's in the 1970s. Also among the stellar cast is Kevin Kline, Alfred Molina, David Oyelowo, Adrian Lester and Brian Blessed.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Write Stuff

One of my life's ambitions as a writer is to write for the BBC, which for my money produces more great drama than anyone.

As it happens, I have a brilliant way of reviving a long-defunct BBC series, which I won't mention here because of certain copyright delicacies. (But make note, BBC, it's really cool, so give me a call.)

Since I have dual US/UK citizenship, thanks to my dad being clever enough to be born in England 70 years ago, it's an ambition I hope to realize one day.

But thanks to a new program, you may be able to realize it, too.

Unlike Hollywood, which makes it virtually impossible to break into the world of TV production, BBC is actually putting the call out to new talent, and doing so in an exceptionally easy manner. Not only does it provide you information as to what it is looking for in new writers at its Web site, but it also provides you free screenwriting software and script templates from many of its great series.

Not only that, but it links you to a screenwriting contest run by the great TV producer, Tony Jordan ("Life On Mars," "Hustle").

In an era when it's more difficult than ever for baby writers to break into the business, this is a great opportunity for newbies to make their mark.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: I saw the first "Californication" (Showtime, 10:30 p.m.) last week, and I was pretty underwhelmed. It seemed to be an exercise in how much sex they can pack into a half-hour. Anyway, Episode 2 follows a new "Weeds."

Jeremy Sisto guest stars as P.J.'s old flame on "My Boys" (TBS, 10 p.m.), although the subplot in which we get to see Andy's "skills" as a lawyer is much better.

Finally, Warner Robins Little Leaguers need a win tonight (ESPN, 6 p.m.) against a team from Massachusetts to keep going in the World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

'HSM 2' Breaks Records

If there were any doubt that there would be more sequels in the "High School Musical" franchise, those were eclipsed by about 8:01 p.m. Friday night.

"High School Musical 2" didn't just surpass its predecessor; the Disney Channel phenom shattered a bunch of cable TV records in the process with a whopping 17.2 million viewers last night. That's 10 million MORE than the original, folks.

"HSM 2" not only became the highest-rated cable movie ever, it was the most-watched program in basic cable history, according to "Access Hollywood." It was also the most-watched program of all time in the 6-11 and 9-14 age groups.

Knowing the Mouse's penchant for marketing a brand, we might be seeing "HSM 15" soon enough.

WR LITTLE LEAGUE: After their big win Friday night, the Warner Robins Little Leaguers take on Hamilton, Ohio (ESPN, 8 p.m.) in a key matchup in Williamsport, Pa.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Going Back To 'High School'

As much as I criticize ABC's programming department (and I do so quite a lot), it seems that most of the boardroom talent works for the network's family-oriented cable arms.

Witness the phenomenon that is "High School Musical 2" (Disney Channel, 8 p.m.) arguably one of the most anticipated programs of the season among the teen audience.

With the original "HSM" and shows like "Hannah Montana," ABC/Disney has tapped into a lucrative teen market and has done a brilliant job in developing it. Ditto for ABC Family, which is appealing to a slightly older market with shows like "Kyle XY" and "Greek."

The original, Emmy-award winning "HSM" drew 7.7 million viewers and was the most-watched show on the UK Disney Channel last year. But it's grown far beyond that, as the soundtrack from the series hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts twice and the DVD broke records for a TV movie. Also springing from the original movie are a stage show and a nationwide tour featuring nearly all of the original cast. It's also made lead Zac Efron the newest teen heartthrob.

There's even a Disney On Ice version, as well as books, toys and a video game.

So, it stands to reason that tonight's debut of the sequel should be among the biggest TV events of the summer, so much so that "HSM 3" is already in development.

Tonight's movie revolves around scheming Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and her efforts to have Efron's Troy all to herself.

"HSM" is a force of nature that isn't going away any time soon, but if you have teenagers in your household, you are pretty much aware of this.

WR LITTLE LEAGUE: As promised, we're keeping track of the local kids. The Warner Robins All-Stars face a squad from Oregon tonight at 8 p.m. on ESPN in their first contest in Williamsport, Pa.

AROUND THE DIAL: I often criticize David E. Kelley for being the bane of my existence as the world's most overrated writer, but I do have to praise the news that he's casting Colm Meaney (Star Trek: DS9) in the Philip Glenister role in the American version of "Life On Mars." I have no doubt Kelley will butcher this version for ABC, but Meaney is a great choice for the role. ...

Speaking of actors from "Star Trek," Nichelle Nichols will have a recurring role on "Heroes" this season, joining pretty much every actor in the known universe in what appears to be a cast of thousands for Season 2. ...

HBO has cancelled "John From Cincinnati" and Sci-Fi axed "Painkiller Jane," though it will air the remaining episodes, including tonight's at 10 p.m. ...

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: "Doctor Who" (Sci-Fi, 8 p.m.) meets "24" in an episode set in real time as the Doctor and Martha have exactly 43 minutes to save a sabotaged spaceship. Hopefully, there isn't a mole among the spaceship's crew. It is followed by a new "Flash Gordon" at 9 p.m. Episodes 2 and 3 are slightly better than the pilot, as the actors appear much more comfortable in their roles. But this series really could have used the Queen theme song.

"Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) searches for buried treasure and gets buried himself, while John Amos guest stars on "Psych" (USA, 10 p.m.)

On Saturday, the miniseries "Jekyll" (BBC America, Sat., 8 p.m.) continues, joining a summer that has been full of terrific miniseries such as "The Bronx Is Burning" and "The Company" (TNT, Sun., 8 p.m.) which wraps up this weekend.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

NBC: The Good News And The Bad

I finally got through four of NBC's most prominent pilots for the upcoming season - "The Bionic Woman," "Journeyman," "Life" and "Chuck" — and I have to say, there's enough there that made me want to continue watching.

Of course, last year NBC produced more quality than any network with the likes of "Heroes," "Kidnapped," "Friday Night Lights" and "Studio 60," and network still remained in fourth place, with only "Heroes" being a bona fide hit.

So, while NBC still produces quality, it must find a way of bringing aboard the American public, no easy task to be sure.

Since these are the original, not-intended-to-air pilots, I'm not giving them full reviews, but I can tell you what's in store should you choose to turn the dial back to NBC:

--"Bionic Woman": This was the pilot I was most looking forward to, since it was co-created by David Eick, one of the brillliant minds behind the "Battlestar Galactica" remake. It shows, too, because three "BSG" alumns, including Katee Sackhoff, are key figures in "Bionic" as well. It's a tough pilot to discuss, because I know they are doing extensive reshoots on it.

The show revolves around Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan), a bartender who is essentially rebuilt by her scientist boyfriend after a car crash. But Jamie isn't the first to undergo this procedure, and let's just say the original bionic woman (Sackhoff) isn't too pleased with the powers that created her.

The show is pretty fast paced once it gets going, and Ryan and Sackhoff are both strong in their roles as these superwomen. Like "BSG," there's an overarching theme to the season, so it's hard to judge the show dramatically based on one episode.

--"Chuck": I didn't know what to expect of this series, but it's delightfully quirky. Chuck (Zachary Levi) reminds you of a nerdier version of Tom Cavanaugh's "Ed." He's a techie for a Best Buy-type store who receives a mysterious e-mail from an old college friend. It turns out the e-mail contains the sum total knowledge of the U.S. Intelligence community, making Chuck one very valuable commodity among the various spy agencies. Chuck tries to deal with this while dealing with the mundane activities of his life. With its tongue-in-cheek style, "Chuck" could be one of the more fun shows of the new season.

--"Journeyman": People have accused this new drama, starring Kevin McKidd ("Rome") as a "Quantum Leap" ripoff, but I wouldn't say that's completely accurate. McKidd stars as a news reporter in San Francisco who suddenly finds himself leaping about in time with no explanation. His leaps are centered around the life of a stranger whose life he saves. While the story gets a bit too bogged down in McKidd's personal problems, the ending has a clever twist that gives the pilot a worthwhile payoff.

"Journeyman" is as much "Tru Calling" as it is "Quantum Leap," and if you're going to borrow ideas from other shows, those are two pretty good ones to borrow from.

--"Life": The premise of this show - Damian Lewis ("Band of Brothers") is a cop who was wrongly imprisoned for 12 years and is now back on the force - didn't excite me too much, but "Life" was probably the best among the pilots I was sent. Lewis is outstanding as the cop who takes a Zen-like approach to his life as a way of coping during his time in prison. The pilot is presented as both a regular drama of a crime to be solved with elements of a documentary as various people from Lewis' life are interviewed.

The show also promises an interesting arc for the season centered around why Lewis was imprisoned in the first place.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: God, I love cable programming. Not only has it easily given us the best dramas of the summer, but they also repeat episodes a dozen times a week, very valuable when Cox Cable can't be bothered to come out and fix the cable for two days.

So I'm not too worried that I may miss two of my favorite summer shows tonight, "Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.) and "Mad Men" (AMC, 10 p.m.), because I should be able to catch them at some point this weekend.

Still, I'd much rather be catching them tonight. "Mad Men" is considered by many to be the summer's best show, while "Burn Notice" continues to get better and more fun every week.

I tend not to promote reruns too often, but two of the cleverest episodes of their respective series air tonight. "My Name Is Earl" (NBC, 8 p.m.) is showing the takeoff of "Cops," while "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.) is re-airing the episode in which the Winchesters visit a movie set.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Lot: A Rant

I've made no secret that I've enjoyed "On The Lot" during it's one-and-done run this summer, so much so that I'm disappointed that it won't be renewed.

But last night's episode was pretty frustrating on a couple of counts.

First off, they couldn't get the three remaining directors to make one more film and save the director's choice for next week? What in the world are they going to do for next week's finale? It isn't going to take an hour to announce the winner. One of the biggest problems co-producer Mark Burnett has had with all his reality shows is that he always drags out the endings.

By having one more original film last night, they could have saved having the director's choice for the final episode, then announce the winner, since people were voting on films they had already seen.

That is, when they were able to vote. You'd think that for the final vote, Fox would have someone to check to make sure the online voting actually worked. But, no, that seemed to involve too much effort.

I dutifully logged in to "The Lot's" Web site and tried half-a-dozen times to vote, only to have the box pop up and say it wasn't the regularly scheduled time to vote. Finally, with about 10 minutes left in the voting window, they hadn't fixed the problem, but did put the phone numbers to call for the favorite directors. By that time, there wasn't much you could do to call in.

And, for some incomprehensible reason, Jason continues to be the most popular guy, even though he's inconsistent at best. I also thought Will had done better stuff than the guy-in-a-dress short, and that it wasn't his best choice. But then, I think Jason made a big mistake going with his horror short rather than the old men break-dancing short.

Anyway, if Fox mis-handled the penultimate episode of this series, one wonders what will happen in the finale.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Well, last week's installment of "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.) was pretty disappointing, but I'm hoping this week's installment with Gina Gershon gets the show back on track.

I'm guessing the reruns of "The Nine" didn't take, because ABC is running "NASCAR in Primetime" in its place at 10 p.m.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Can't This Country Build A Voting Machine That Works?

As Macon voters head to the polls today for the city council runoff elections, it's great timing that HDNet is airing a special tonight called “The Trouble with Touch Screens” at 8 p.m.

As local voters are aware, Bibb County as well as the state of Georgia uses electronic machines for its elections, though these machines are non-networked to prevent hacking. But perhaps after tonight's report, that will be re-examined.

Veteran newsman Dan Rather takes a look during this hour-long special about various faults that occur within these machines, everything from being improperly calibrated to substandard parts in the factories they are built.

In addition, Rather revisits the controversial paper ballots from the 2000 election, including a discussion with the workers from the company that made the ballots. One worker points out that for that election, the company switched to a cheaper, inferior paper to save money which led to the dangling chads controversy.

This isn't the first report on the subject - HBO did the excellent "Hacking Democracy" a couple of years ago - but it's an important subject to remain vigilant about.

For areas that don't get HDNet, the program will also air online at

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: If you can't get enough Mandy Moore - and really, who can? - you are in luck. You can catch the one-hour special "I Am Mandy Moore" (Oxygen, 10:30 p.m.) tonight following a marathon of "Tori and Dean." Hey, don't accuse of not being equal opportunity here.

I, of course, will be tuned into "On The Lot," (Fox, 8 p.m.) as the final semifinalist is eliminated and we are left with the final three. I wrote extensively about this last week, but I'm betting Sam gets the boot. The judges were most critical of his film. Adam's film was utterly fantastic (though it turns out, my parents didn't get his film - hey, everyone's entitled to their opinion) and Will was very solid. Jason continues to have his fans that don't include me. The winner will be announced next week.

The mis-named "America's Got Talent" (NBC, 8 p.m.) also narrows down its field, followed by "The Singing Bee" at 9:30 p.m. Just being equal opportunity, again.

The wonderfully addicting "The Bronx Is Burning" (ESPN, 10 p.m.) continues tonight. I'm a bit disappointed that the only New York cultural event they haven't mentioned yet from 1977 was the debut of The Ramones. (Plus, it was the summer of "Star Wars.")

And "Damages" (FX, 10 p.m.) continues. Some people haven't liked this show, but I'm digging it, especially the always-reliable Glenn Close.

Finally, I'm guessing the ratings haven't been good, because "Murder" (Spike, Midnight) has been pushed back from it's normal timeslot. I still find this show pretty interesting, though the cases haven't been the most challenging and the teams can be quite frustrating in the choices they make.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Showtime - The New HBO?

A couple of years ago, the most telling promotional tool on the tube was the phrase, "It's not TV; it's HBO."

And with the lineup of shows HBO had, that promotion was pretty accurate. "The Sopranos," "Deadwood," "Rome," "Six Feet Under," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Larry Sanders," "The Wire," et. al. were some of the best offerings anywhere on the dial. Indeed, you look at the anticipation and reaction of the finale to "The Sopranos," and there's no arguing the cultural impact the network has had.

But all those shows, save "Curb" and "The Wire" are gone, and HBO hasn't come up with much in terms of replacement. "Big Love" has gotten some critical praise, but that's about it. Shows like "John From Cincinnati" have been a bust, both in the ratings and among critics.

Meanwhile, Showtime has stepped up and is looking to fill the void of having the best and most original shows on pay-TV.

I recently switched from HBO to Showtime (I'd have both, but The Telegraph doesn't pay me enough to do so) basically because I wanted to catch "Dexter" on reruns, to see if the show was worth the hype.

Good choice on my part. Michael C. Hall may have been the performer most robbed by being left off the Emmy nominees.

I am also hoping to catch "The Tudors" when Showtime decides to rerun it.

Meanwhile, Showtime is airing a lot of its original new stuff, including "Brotherhood," "Weeds" and "Californication." "Weeds" (Showtime, 10 p.m.), which had a strong Emmy presence, begins its third season tonight, followed by "Californication," which follows at 10:30 p.m.

Since I haven't had Showtime in the past, I haven't caught "Weeds" before, though it's enjoyed a lot of commercial and critical success. Meanwhile, the network seems to have high hopes for "Californication," starring David Duchovny as an alcoholic, divorced writer. The network seems to be promoting a lot of sex in the show, for what it's worth.

Not everything Showtime has done of late has turned to gold. I watched the pilot for "Meadowlands," and it was awful. But with its other offerings, and a lack of compelling stuff by HBO, Showtime may soon start becoming the viewers' pay-TV of choice.

R.I.P. MERV GRIFFIN: The TV icon and businessman died Sunday at 82. Though well-known as both a singer and talk show host, Griffin's lasting legacy was the creation of "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!"

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: For those of you who haven't ordered Showtime, there are still options on regular old cable. TNT's strong lineup includes "Heartland" at 8 p.m., followed by "The Closer" and "Saving Grace," which got an order for 15 additional episodes over the weekend.

TV Guide's Matt Roush discusses on his site today how ABC Family is becoming the new CW with shows like "Kyle XY" (ABC Fam., 8 p.m.) and "Greek," so if you like teen-oriented dramas, you may want to check them out.

"My Boys" (TBS, 10 p.m.) is also new, and after three episodes, is as strong as it was at the end of its first season.

Finally, NBC is re-airing the cast's choice for the best of "Heroes," (NBC, 9 p.m.), with each episode hosted by actors from the series. Tonight, Ali Larter and Adrian Pasdar are the hosts.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Saviour Of The Universe

When I was 8, what was the latest incarnation of the "Flash Gordon" character came out as a big screen movie. With my tastes a bit less sophisticated than today and in that "Star Wars"-"Superman"-"Star Trek" movie phase of my youth, I thought it was the coolest thing imaginable.

Then I grew up. Watching the film a few years later on cable, I saw how awful and campy the movie really was.

Then I saw it a few years after that, and came to appreciate the absolute cheese-fest that was the 1980 version of "Flash Gordon" for sheer virtue of its campiness.

So when Sci-Fi announced a new "Flash Gordon" TV series, I was at least curious to see what they would come up with. After all, Sci-Fi turned the cheesy '70s hit "Battlestar Galactica" into one of the best and most critically acclaimed shows on TV.

Alas, having watched the first two episodes of "Flash Gordon" last night, I am sad to report that the network has not caught lightning in a bottle once more.

First off, unless there's a drastic change from the DVD I was sent (and I must point out the DVD was lacking most of the sound, music and visual FX tonight's pilot will have), the new TV series (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) does NOT use the great Queen theme song from the movie, despite all the promos which have the song.

Second, the series tries to be "Buffy"-like in an attempt to blend humor with action, but fails to live up to the challenge. The dialogue comes off as pretty flat, and there isn't a terrible amount of action in the first two episodes.

Flash (Eric Johnson) is a marathon champion whose scientist father seemingly died many years ago during an experiment. His ex-girlfriend, reporter Dale Arden (Gina Holden) is engaged to a cop. Meanwhile, mysterious alien sightings are popping up everywhere, and Flash meets his father's former assistant, Zarkoff (Jody Racicot), who tells him that his father didn't necessarily die, but instead fell into a spatial rift.

Soon, Flash and Dale find themselves falling through one of the rifts and are transported to the alien world of Mongo, ruled by Ming the Merciless (John Ralston), obsessed with finding something called "The Imex." Flash and Dale barely escape Mongo, but are trailed by a variety of alien bounty hunters in search of The Imex.

I didn't care for Ming at all. Instead of being Ming the Merciless, he comes off as Ming the Really Big Jerk. All of the actors are extremely good looking, but none gives any sort of depth to their character.

I haven't given up on Flash Gordon yet - after all, the 1930s version starring Buster Crabbe inspired a young George Lucas to write "Star Wars" - but I don't see this series being more than a Flash in the pan.

CONGRATS, LITTLE LEAGUERS: In case you missed it, Warner Robins captured the Southeast Regional last night to earn a spot in the Little League World Series. While I'm certain our sports staff will enthusiastically report on their exploits, I'll also continue to list their various TV appearances on ESPN and ABC here.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Before the 90-minute debut of "Flash Gordon," "Doctor Who" (Sci-Fi, 8 p.m.) moves into a new time slot, one hour earlier.

I did you loyal dozens a grave disservice by failing to mention a great new miniseries on BBC America, a modern update of the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde story called "Jekyll." James Nesbitt ("Murphy's Law") stars in the dual role of a desperate scientist and his alter ego, definitely a guy to steer clear of.

Nesbitt is amazing in how he creates two separate characters, even altering his physical look when he switches. So for those who didn't catch the debut last week, the good news is that it's being repeated Saturday at 2 p.m., with the newest installment starting at 8 p.m. If nothing else, you need to catch the scene where Jekyll/Hyde go to the zoo.

Speaking of great miniseries, "The Company" (TNT, Sunday, 8 p.m.) continues this weekend. Hopefully, you caught Part I. The series stars Michael Keaton, Chris O'Donnell and Alfred Molina (or, Batman, Robin and Doc Ock as I like to think of them).

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Contrast In Sports

Sports fans have potentially a busy night tonight.

On the local front, the Warner Robins Little Leaguers battle a team from Mobile, Ala. (ESPN, 8 p.m.) in Florida for the Southeast regional title. The winner gets a trip to compete in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

In general, I usually find the Little League World Series a lot of fun. Back in the days when I was a sports writer, it was one of those events I wanted to say I covered one time. It's infectious when you see kids actually playing for the love of the game. (Little League parents in general, however, are another story.)

Also, you can catch the rubber game of the big series between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets this afternoon (TBS, 12 p.m.).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the NFL preseason gets going tonight as the defending champion Indianapolis Colts visit the Dallas Cowboys (Fox, 8 p.m.) Rather, I should say that the Colts' scrubs face the Cowboys' scrubs. Is there anything more overrated in sports than the NFL preseason?

You see the big names for about a series, then they hit the showers. The NFL preseason is all about corporate greed, since they charge an arm and a leg for fans to attend these games. Still, if people are willing to pay the ticket prices, then the joke's on them.

The lone exception to my loathing of the NFL preseason was in 1996, when I got to cover the Carolina Panthers' first-ever game when they hosted the Denver Broncos at Clemson. There was a general air of excitement seeing these guys play for the first time. (Carolina finished 7-9 that year, the best-ever start for an expansion team).

Finally, golf's final major tees off with the PGA Championship (TNT, 2 p.m.)

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: "Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.) continues to get more enjoyable every week, and apparently the suits at the network have noticed. is reporting that USA has renewed the show for a second season.

One of the summer's top dramas, "Mad Men," (AMC, 10 p.m.) is also new this week. See how I managed to list it on the correct night this time around?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

In Need Of Rescue?

Long-time blog contributer Zodin2008 posted here yesterday feeling that "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.) has passed its prime.

I'm not willing to write off the show quite yet, because even when "Rescue Me" is off its game, it's still better than most of the standard fare currently on TV, even with the terrific summer cable has given us with the likes of "Mad Men," "My Boys," "Damages," "Burn Notice," et. al.

The Zodster took a page out of the TV Guy's book of pet peeves, calling the scene about Sean burning down Mike's house unrealistic, and I'd probably have to agree with him on that.

"Rescue Me" has been pretty up and down all season, especially after last year's dark, but riveting, run. The chief was killed off by suicide, and except for one scene at the beginning of the next week's show, was barely touched upon. The show seems to be trying to lighten up, perhaps a bit too much. While there have been some very funny bits regarding Tommy's daughter and the new chief (Jerry Adler), the season overall has been pretty uneven.

But "Rescue Me" can still be riveting, as shown by the fire sequence at the beginning of last week's broadcast. And Denis Leary has still crafted one of the most fascinating lead characters on TV.

So here's hoping "Rescue Me" finds its sea legs and returns to its status as one of TV's best shows.

THE LOT, REVISITED: America, what were you thinking? Voting Zach off with a couple of weeks to go? Seriously?

On the other hand, this is the same society that has made the likes of Tom Green and Pauly Shore stars, so maybe my expectations are a bit too much.

Anyway, with my No. 1 guy gone, it was great to see my 1A guy, Adam, come through with the absolutely best film of the entire competition. Adam's Fellini-esque (great comparison by awesome guest judge F. Gary Gray) dollhouse not just blew me away, but the judges as well. It's the first time all three judges picked the same guy at the end of the show.

The only thing I worry about is whether enough intelligent people recognized Adam's grand slam for what it was and will give him the votes to carry on. But if last night's effort (catch it on if you haven't seen it) doesn't get Adam top representation, then the whole system needs to be reworked.

As for the others, another top-flight effort from Will, which will go unnoticed because Adam just blew away the field; and Sam and Jason both had the same problem, which was a lack of development in their respective second acts. Both of them had viable ideas, but not enough meat in the middle. But since Jason seems to have a lovefest among the show's fans, I'm betting Sam is the one to go next week.

NBC, I LOVE THEE: The PR people at NBC are working overtime, sending me the pilots for "Chuck," "Journeyman," "Life" and "The Bionic Woman," as well as the first three episodes of "Flash Gordon." (These are the original pilots, not the reshot versions that will air this fall.)

I'll have full reports on the NBC stuff next week, and "Flash Gordon" for Friday. But NBC continues to stay in the TV Guy's good graces.

Are you taking note, other networks? Because I have plenty of love to share.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: ABC, which sends me diddly-squat, continues to burn off two shows that it had thought to be surefire hits. In addition to "The Nine," (ABC, 10 p.m.), the network airs two unaired episodes of "Knights of Prosperity" tonight at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. "Knights" had about as much critical buzz as any show last fall, but thanks to ABC's placing it in one of the worst timeslots imaginable, the show fizzled. It was also pretty overrated; I found it less good than the similarly themed "My Name Is Earl."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A 'Lot' To Root For

Tonight's "On The Lot" (Fox, 8 p.m.) makes the cut to the final four filmmakers, meaning someone with a pretty decent amount of talent is going home.

As I wrote last week, my pick on who I think will win it all would be Zach, an amazing visual filmmaker, with song-and-dance man Adam a close second. However, I'm pulling for Will, because not only does he bring a lot of charm with his films, but he also would likely get the biggest boost career-wise with a win. I have little doubt that Zach and Adam will sign with agents no matter how they finish.

I like Sam OK, but his stuff doesn't quite measure up. I know Jason is very popular among the show's audience, but I find his work to be wildly inconsistent, as evidenced by last week's bomb. Still, Jason has a loyal voting block, so if he can survive the vote tonight, he's got a good shot at the big prize, a $1 million development deal with Dreamworks.

Tonight the filmmakers must all work with the same logline: A guy wakes up in a dress, with no idea how he got into it. As loglines go, it's pretty mundane and narrowly focused, so I'm guessing the films tonight won't really knock anyone's socks off (unless Adam can set the whole thing to music).

I'm pretty bummed that this show never got the big ratings that would have brought a second season, but I'm at least enjoying the episodes we have.

And, no matter which filmmaker you support, I'm sure we can all agree on one thing: hopefully, Penny Marshall won't be back as a judge. While I hated Michael Bay, at least I had already considered him to be a no-talent hack. Marshall has some chops as a filmmaker, but her appearance last week as a judge was embarrassing.

FLIPPING AROUND THE DIAL: "Veronica Mars" creator Rob Thomas didn't stay unemployed for long. One week after leaving the ABC comedy "Miss/Guided" over creative differences, he's back as the showrunner for ABC's "Big Shots." ...

"Smallville" continues to keep things in the Superman family. After mining previous Superman efforts by recruiting the likes of Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Annette O'Toole, Terrence Stamp and Dean Cain as guest stars, "Smallville" has cast the movie version of "Supergirl," Helen Slater, to play Lara, Clark's birth mother, for an episode later this season.

But the franchise has always kept it in the family. In the 1978 version of "Superman," the Superman and Lois of the 1940s, Kirk Alyn and Noelle Neill both had cameos in the scene where the young Clark outruns the train. Neill and her Jimmy Olsen, Jack Larson, appeared last summer in "Superman Returns." And Phyllis Coates, who played Lois before Neill did, appeared on an episode of "Lois & Clark" during it's first season. ...

David Anders has yet to appear on "Heroes," and he's already made an impression. Originally signed to appear as a guest star, the former "Alias" actor has been added to the cast full-time. ...

The CW announced Tuesday that one of its biggest hopes this season, "Gossip Girl," will debut a week earlier than expected. It now airs Sept. 19 at 9 p.m. ...

The latest in the "Highlander" franchise is now a TV movie. "Highlander: The Source," which reunites Adrian Paul, Jim Byrnes and Peter Wingfield from the TV series, will air on the Sci-Fi Channel on Sept. 15. ...

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: I have to say I enjoyed the new reality series "Murder" (Spike, 10 p.m.) a lot more than I thought. Some critics blasted it for being too gory, but I have a feeling the viewer who would turn in for such a series can handle it.

A show that can make an argument for being the best new series of the summer, "Damages" (FX, 10 p.m.), returns tonight with a new episode.

And, making the hour one of the busiest of the week, the miniseries "The Bronx Is Burning" (ESPN, 10 p.m.) is also new tonight.

Making its debut tonight is the newest offering among game show fare, "The Power of 10," (CBS, 8 p.m.), hosted by Drew Carey. Contestants must correctly guess the proper percentage of Americans polled in various categories.

Finally, while I usually don't list repeats in this space, tonight's rerun of "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.) features rock superstar Dave Matthews in a great performance.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Worst Kind Of Reality

A few weeks ago, I praised ABC for one of its newest reality shows which aimed to curb childhood obesity with the help of NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal.

Childhood obesity is one of the biggest health issues facing America today, and using a popular athlete like Shaq to reach kids was, I thought, a smart move.

Now the network is presenting something called "Fat March" (ABC, 9 p.m.), which seems to be less well-intentioned, at least to me.

I'll readily admit, I could stand to lose a pound or 10, so perhaps that makes me a little sensitive to such programming, but when you title a show "Fat March," it does sound more gawkerish than your average fare, much like NBC's "The Biggest Loser," a double-entendre of a title if I've ever heard one.

In "Fat March," the contestants are asked to trek across nine states, where they have the chance to earn $1 million. I don't really understand the whole appeal of these shows, since they feel a bit unseemly in their tone, putting these people on display with the air of a sideshow carnival atmosphere.

But, it's obvious the networks feel there is an audience for these sort of programs, so I guess we are stuck with them for a while longer.

TV SCHEDULE UPDATE: Some good news for Fox's "Bones." The network has decided to shuffle its lineup, moving "Bones" to Tuesdays at 8 p.m. while pushing back the debut of its new series, "New Amsterdam," to winter. It's a good move for "Bones," which has a small but loyal audience, for a couple of reasons. For one, it takes the show out of the ultra-competitive Wednesdays at 9 p.m. lineup. For another, it pairs "Bones" with megahit "House," putting two similarly styled procedurals back-to-back.

On the flip side, Sci-Fi made it official this weekend and canceled "The Dresden Files." It's a shame because the show picked up over its season and had a lot of potential. Fans of star Paul Blackthorne needn't worry, however. is reporting he is joining the cast of ABC's "Big Shots."

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: One of my loyal dozens complained that I don't do anything to promote "Hell's Kitchen" (Fox, 9 p.m.), so here is me letting you know that the final two chefs duke it out tonight. Also ending (thank goodness) is "Age of Love," in which 20-somethings battled 40-somethings to be the next Mrs. Tennis Star.

Your better bets, however, include TNT's all-new lineup of "Heartland," "The Closer," and "Saving Grace," which are killing in the ratings. I tend to prefer FX's offerings to TNT's, but it's hard to argue with the numbers the latter's programs are pulling in.

"My Boys," (TBS, 10 p.m.), my favorite non-network summer comedy (at least until "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" returns) is back with a new episode.

"Big Love" (HBO, 9 p.m.) is also new, as is ABC Family's "Kyle XY" and "Greek."

Friday, August 03, 2007

In Good 'Company'

A few years ago, "Masterpiece Theatre" ran a great series about the so-called Cambridge Spies, about four mates from university who managed to infiltrate the highest levels of the British intelligence community while working as double agents for the Soviet Union. (It's a DVD you should rent by the way, if you love spy thrillers).

The leader of the Cambridge Spies was Kim Philby, who was the No. 2 man in MI-6 for many years while serving as a liason to the CIA.

Philby's story is told once more — again, told very well — with the debut of TNT's miniseries "The Company" (TNT, Sunday, 8 p.m.) Airing over the next three Sundays, "The Company" tells the story of Cold War years from both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. perspectives, and the key role that Philby played in the deadly spy games of the CIA and KGB.

Part I of "The Company" opens in Berlin, where a top U.S. agent codenamed The Sorcerer (Alfred Molina) and his protege (Chris O'Donnell) are trying to get a key asset who is defecting from East to West across the border. When the operation goes bad, The Sorcerer suspects a mole. But a key intelligence analyst, codenamed Mother (Michael Keaton) thinks otherwise.

"The Company" also follows the personal lives of the agents, both how they were recruited and how their lives were affected once they entered the world of espionage.

"The Company" is very similar in tone and themes to last summer's Matt Damon hit, "The Good Shepherd," and O'Donnell's role of a young man recruited by the CIA out of Yale is very reminiscent of Damon's.

While the miniseries drags a bit during the stretches of the characters' personal lives, it still makes some of the best viewing of the summer, particularly if you are a fan of the spy genre.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: The Doctor and Martha try to escape the clutches of the Daleks in the wrapup of a two-parter on "Doctor Who" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.)

Both "Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) and "Psych" (USA, 10 p.m.) are new, though considering how both shows have been even more below par than usual of late, you might find better things to do.

Music fans might enjoy "My Music" (PBS, 9 p.m.) which focuses on the British Invasion.

ABC developed a potentially cool series called "Masters of Science Fiction," then, being ABC, banished it to Saturday nights at 10 p.m. With an array of big-name guest stars, it's still worth checking out when it debuts this weekend.

And, just to show what a fair guy I am, earlier this week, I criticized ESPN for not showing Tom Glavine's first attempt to join the 300-win club. So, I should point out that the network will be broadcasting Glavine's second attempt (hopefully, the Mets bullpen won't blow it this time) as New York visits the Chicago Cubs Sunday night (ESPN, 8 p.m.) More likely, this is just a fortunate happenstance of Glavine just happening to be pitching Sunday night, but at least it will be shown.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Few Tidbits

First off, let me apologize for an error I had in yesterday's post. I'm apparently SO excited about watching "Mad Men" (AMC, 10 p.m.) that I listed it among Wednesday's Best Bets instead of today's. Anyway, you can make a good case for "Mad Men" being the top show of the summer, so I hope you catch it - TONIGHT - when it airs.

Just a few items today:

--Chip Johannessen, a former writer/producer of "Millenium," takes over the showrunner duties on CBS' "Angel" ripoff called "Moonlight." Johannessen replaces David Greenwalt, who actually was the showrunner for "Angel" a few years ago. I haven't heard of a single fall show that's undergone more changes since its original pilot than "Moonlight," yet it still will be a sure bet to air.

--The lovely and talented Julianna Margulies is pregnant, according to, which throws into serious question about when her new series, "Canterbury's Law," will air. I actually was pretty excited when Fox announced the series, because it's being produced by Denis Leary and the same team that puts out "Rescue Me." But apparently, having the lead character being pregnant will change some storylines, so it will be interesting to see how the producers handle it.

--A bunch of "Smallville" tidbits, courtesy of the panel at Comic Con. Dean Cain, who played Clark/Superman in "The Adventures of Lois & Clark," finally makes his long-anticipated appearance on "Smallville," playing an evil scientist. The catch is Cain's character may or may not be DC supervillain Vandal Savage. Also, Green Arrow (Justin Hartley) and Martian Manhunter (Phil Morris) return, as do some other future Justice Leaguers, not to mention the first appearance of Supergirl (Lauren Vandervoort). The season kicks off with the continuation of the Bizarro storyline.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: OK, once again, TONIGHT is Episode 3 of "Mad Men," so forgive my continuing senility.

More would-be superheroes continue to be put through the ringer on "Who Wants To Be A Superhero?" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.)

Finally, if you're as eager for the new Jason Bourne film, "The Bourne Ultimatum," as I am when it opens tomorrow, you can catch the original of the trilogy, "The Bourne Identity," (USA, 7:30 p.m.) followed by an all-new episode of a considerably lighter spy fare, "Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The General Lameness Of ESPN, And Other Musings

Last night, the Mets' Tom Glavine had his first shot at joining the exclusive 300-win club. The former Brave may be the last pitcher in quite a while to reach that mark.

But did ESPN bother to air the game? No. It chose to run a regular-season WNBA game instead. Now, I'm not using this as a forum to bash the WNBA or anything, but while ESPN is making a big deal of Barry Bonds' home run chase (as well it should), Glavine's pursuit of 300 wins was listed behind Alex Rodriguez's quest to reach 500 home runs during last night's SportsCenter. A-Rod isn't even the first guy to reach 500 homers THIS SEASON.

It's just more proof that ESPN has stopped being relevant as a news provider years ago.

GET WELL, ROBIN: Speaking of ESPN, former anchor Robin Roberts, now on "Good Morning America," was just diagnosed with breast cancer this week. Roberts discovered a lump doing a self-exam after reporting on the cancer-related death of "GMA" film critic Joel Siegel.

Here's hoping that the cancer was detected early enough for Roberts to have a complete recovery, but it should also serve as a reminder to women on how important those self-exams are.

PIRATE MASTER DEATH: One of the worst reality shows in recent memory has been CBS' "Pirate Master," a show so bad it got pulled with five episodes left.

Now it borders on the tragic: One of the eliminated contestants, Cheryl Kosewicz, a deputy D.A. in Las Vegas, committed suicide two months after the suicide of her boyfriend. While I don't think her elimination from the show had much to do with it, she did post on another contestant's blog that the show had increased tensions between the couple.

ON THE LOT RECAP: I blundered in a big way in yesterday's posting, forgetting to mention Adam as one of my favorites to win. And Adam showed me up for it by delivering the film of the night, about a radio that seizes control of everyone around it. Adam has been one of the stars of the entire season, particularly with his musically-based films. I'd say Will was second, with his anthropomorphized car that fights its driver, while Zach was a solid third. Jason, with guest actor Jerry O'Connell, bombed.

Of all the contestants, I think Adam and Zach will actually have solid careers even if they don't win the competition, because their stuff has been so much above the rest of the field from a technical sense. That means I'm kind of pulling for Will at this point, who is basically staking his whole future as a filmmaker on how he does in the competition.

Meanwhile, while it was great to see one of Hollywood's best auteurs in Gary Ross as the guest judge last night, what the heck was up with Penny Marshall, who was there filling in for her brother, Garry. I mean, was she blitzed? Every time she spoke, it was a train wreck (not to mention she managed to insult about 2 billion Asians). Penny is a talented filmmaker, but boy, here's hoping her brother returns next week.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: One of the most anticipated shows this fall - and one of the biggest busts - was "The Nine" (ABC, 10 p.m.), a show about the aftermath of a bank robbery gone wrong. ABC yanked the show in the fall, but is now burning off the remaining episodes. I'd probably be more excited, but given "The Nine's" serialized nature, it's hard for me to remember where the show has left off. Also, because they stopped filming episodes long ago, like ABC's "Traveler," the show will end in the middle of the story without any resolution.

Two of TV's very best will again go head-to-head. "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.) continues its run with a darker episode that gets away from the lighter tone the show has had this season. It airs against new hit "Mad Men," (AMC, 10 p.m.) perhaps the most critically acclaimed show of the summer. As I've posted before, cable TV has come through in a big way with its summer offerings, and these two shows are a big reason why.