Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ignore this headline; blog is updated

Monday, September 08, 2008

New Site Now Working

OK, it's finally working now.

Say good-bye to this site and go to for all the new posts.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

'Blood'-y Good Fun

I'm reposting this here, because the new blog isn't working yet.

Anyway, one of the most interesting new shows on TV kicks off Sunday night with the debut of "True Blood" (HBO, 9 p.m.), the new series from "Six Feet Under" creator Alan Ball.

Based on the series of Southern Gothic vampire novels by Charlaine Harris, "True Blood" posits what would happen if a new synthetic form of blood was developed and vampires decided to come "out of the coffin." Ball isn't particularly subtle about having the attitudes toward vampires reflect real-life attitudes towards gays, such as having a vampire advocate debate a Jerry Falwell-type minister on a "Nightline"-style show.

The plot centers around Sookie (Anna Paquin), a waitress born with the ability to hear everyone's thoughts. This isn't as cool an ability as one might think, since it drives her batty (so to speak). Her life is turned upside down when she saves the life of a vampire (Stephen Moyer), who is being drained of his blood. (Vamp blood is a very valuable narcotic on the black market).

Sookie becomes fascinated with the vampire and his lifestyle as her small, Louisiana town becomes more divided over the bloodsuckers. Are they evil or just misunderstood?

"True Blood" isn't "Buffy," "Angel," "Moonlight" or any of the other recent vampire shows on TV; while there is action on the show, it's not an action-adventure every week of people fighting each other and facing monsters.

It's more of a social commentary, mixed in with a lot of humor (mostly from a scene-stealing Rutina Wesley, who plays Sookie's BFF Tara). Being an HBO series, there's also quite a lot of sex.

Is "True Blood" the next "Sopranos" for HBO? Probably not. But it does compare pretty favorably with "Six Feet Under," and that isn't bad.

Also of note: Macon actress Carrie Preston is a series regular, playing a waitress at the same bar that Sookie works at. Also, Chris Offutt, a writer who taught a semester at Mercer University, is one of the show's writers, as is Oscar nominee Nancy Oliver.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Normally, I don't promote game shows. But tonight's installment of "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?" (Fox, 8 p.m.) should be a lot of fun, since the contestant is Georgia Secretary of Education Kathy Cox. Considering the state of Georgia's public schools right now and the controversy Cox has brought with her to the job, this could be pretty interesting.

Time flies when you are having fun: "Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) celebrates its 100th episode with a lot of returning guest stars, including John Turturro as Monk's brother and Sarah Silverman as his No. 1 fan. Interestingly, they didn't bring back Sharona (Bitty Schram) as film producers do a documentary about Monk's life. It's followed by a new "Psych" at 10 p.m.

ABC Family is getting into the action-adventure gig with the six-part miniseries "Samurai Girl," which runs each of the next three nights from 8-10 p.m. This comes on the heels of "The Middleman," it's well-regarded superhero/spy show.

All of the Big 3 networks are running "Stand Up To Cancer" at 8 p.m. On CBS, the network is airing a preview show of its new fall series at 9 p.m., followed by a new "Swingtown" at 10 p.m. Having seen some of CBS' new offerings, it's a bit of a mixed bag.

Saturday features a new episode of "Primeval" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) as well as college football. Georgia faces Central Michigan (Fox SportsNet, 3:30 p.m.), and Georgia Tech visits Boston College (12 p.m., WPGA), while Morehouse visits Fort Valley State on Sunday (ESPNU, 2 p.m.)

On Sunday, there's a new "Mad Men" (AMC, 10 p.m.) while the season premiere of "Entourage" (HBO, 10 p.m.) follows "True Blood."

The new Fox game show, "Hole In The Wall" (Fox, 8 p.m.) debuts. It involves people jumping through a weird-shaped hole in a wall that is moving towards them. I'm not making this up.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Aloha, Blogger

The transition I mentioned a couple of weeks ago from Blogger to is complete.

This is my last post on Blogger, though the site will still be active for a while should anyone want to look through any of the other 529 posts I've put up.

Anyway, the new blog is, so make that your new bookmark and please continue to check in and leave your comments.

The first post is already online, previewing the HBO show "True Blood," (though the link still has a bug or two to be worked out; it may not be viewable until this afternoon).

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Still A Letterman Fan

David Letterman sometimes comes off as acerbic on his "Late Show," but I've always been struck by his graciousness.

Some examples:

-The way he celebrated his medical team after his heart surgery.

-His standing up for Ted Koppel and "Nightline," even though the show appeared on a rival network during the same timeslot.

-His loyalty to sportscaster Marv Albert, a longtime Letterman friend who was involved in a humiliating sexual harrassment case several years ago. While other comics took plenty of shots at Albert, Letterman never did once and later had Albert on as a guest.

-His post 9/11 show celebrating New York's cops and firefighters is still one of the great moments in TV.

-Inviting Conan O'Brien on shortly before he took over "Late Night," and appearing as one of Conan's early guests.

I bring this up because in the newest issue of "Rolling Stone," Letterman has taken the NBC brass to task for their treatment of "Tonight Show" host and longtime rival Jay Leno.

In the interview, Letterman said: "Unless I’m misunderstanding something, I don’t know why, after the job Jay has done for them, why they would relinquish that. ... I guess empathy is the right word. It’s hard to know what he felt about it. I have to believe he was not happy about it."

Letterman said he would love to have Leno as a guest after his stint on "The Tonight Show" is over.

Letterman also had kind words for Conan, who will be taking over "The Tonight Show" for Leno and be Letterman's new competition.

"It will be weird to see Conan at 11:30, don’t you think?" he said in the interview. "Which is not to say he can’t succeed, but, no, I don’t know what the competition will be like. I hope we’re able to do OK."

Letterman was less clear about his own future about whether he will continue to do "The Late Show" after his contract is up in 2010.

"The way I feel now, I would like to go beyond 2010, not much beyond, but you know, enough to go beyond. You always like to be able to excuse yourself on your own terms," Letterman said. "If the network is happy with that, great. If they wanna make a change in 2010, you know, I’m fine with that, too."

Here's one fan hoping he sticks around a while longer.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Wow, you TV viewers really, really liked the next generation of "90210," didn't you? It became the highest-rated series debut ever for The CW, and set records for several key demographic groups. Of course, if the same numbers were on, say, ABC, we wouldn't be writing about this, but CW is so happy that it will repeat the two-hour pilot tonight at 8 p.m.

Giving equal time to both conventions, tonight marks Republican presidential hopeful John McCain's keynote speech at the convention tonight. Coverage of the convention begins at 8 p.m. on PBS and on cable, but you can catch his speech on any of the networks when their coverage picks up at 10 p.m.

The NFL kicks off tonight with a matchup of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants hosting the Washington Redskins (7 p.m., NBC) On the college side, you have the classic SEC matchup of Vanderbilt and South Carolina (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

'Anarchy' Is A Good Thing

FX has been pretty hit-and-miss with its series over the years. For every "Rescue Me" or "The Shield," you also get the likes of "Dirt" and "The Riches."

Fortunately, "Sons of Anarchy" (FX, 10 p.m.) is in the former category. In fact, comparisons to "The Shield" and "The Sopranos" are pretty apt. Though "Sons" doesn't rank yet with those two series - two of the best ever on TV, IMHO - it does show a lot of potential early on.

Think "Sopranos" redone as a biker gang, shot in a style reminiscent of "The Shield." (Not surprising, since the show was created by "The Shield's" producer, Kurt Sutter.)

Ron Perlman ("Hellboy") leads a biker gang that runs the crime in a Southern California town. With snitches among local law enforcement and dealing with all the rival gangs, the Sons of Anarchy are kind of the flip side of the coin to the strike team on The Shield.

In tonight's episode, the Sons must get back a warehouse full of guns stolen from them by a rival gang in order to fulfill the terms of a contract with a third group. Meanwhile, Jackson (Charlie Hunnam), the gang's annointed leader-to-be and son of the gang's founder, must deal with his ex-wife's (Drea De Matteo) drug habit that has put the life of their unborn son in danger.

The standout here is Katey Sagal ("Married With Children"), Perlman's wife and Hunnam's mother. As the matriarch of the gang, she channels both Carmela and Livia Soprano and is a forced to be reckoned with.

As FX series goes, "Sons" lacks the wit and emotional impact of "Rescue Me" and the adrenaline-induced shock value of "The Shield," but with the latter's exit at the end of this season, "Sons" has shown the potential to be a worthy replacement.

Note that the pilot runs 78 minutes, so like every other FX show, set your recording device of choice to run long.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) returns for Season 4 with a two-hour premiere that finds Bones (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz) lecturing in London, only to be drawn into a case.

"Bones" has a lot to make up for with last season's less-than-stellar finale, in which team member Zach was shown to be the ally for the serial killer Gormogon. Though some of the blame lays with the WGA strike that shortened the season, the storyline was borderline ludicrous. In fact, "Bones" in general is plagued by somewhat silly weekly plots; what makes it worthwhile is the chemistry within the cast, especially the Deschanel-Boreanaz dynamic, one of TV's best non-couples.

"America's Next Top Model" (CW, 8 p.m.) kicks off a new seasons, while "Greatest American Dog" (CBS, 8 p.m.) continues to wind down.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Return Of 'The Shield'

Just before "The Shield" (FX, 10 p.m.) debuted in 2002, I saw the promos for it on FX. While they looked interesting, I was worried this would just be another "cop on the edge"-type series.

Then I watched the pilot. In that first episode, creator Shawn Ryan created an unforgetable character in Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), the very definition of an anti-hero.

Mackey has done virtually anything and everything you can think of on both sides of the law, taking gangs down when he needs to but more often than not using them to try to keep the peace on the streets. While taking money, he still works to enforce the law. While he loves his family, he has no qualms about cheating on his wife.

When we last left Mackey, he had just come into possession of a load of blackmail material being used by Mexican gang members to pressure public officials. Facing losing his badge, Mackey now had an arsenal of weapons that should help him keep it.

If he can use it. His partner, councilman David Aceveda, his former captain who tried to get him fired, has forged an uneasy alliance between the two, and doesn't want to use the blackmail material.

Meanwhile, Mackey must deal with a renewed threat from the Armenian mob, from whom he and his strike team stole $2 million.

Having watched the first eight episodes of "The Shield's" final season, the producers are throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. Mackey and his partner, Ronnie (David Rees Snell), must deal with team member Shane (Walton Goggins), who killed the fourth member of their team.

Meanwhile, Mackey is continuing to have problems with his daughter, growing more rebellious by the day.

Other storylines include precinct Capt. Wyms (CCH Pounder) dealing with lupus; officer Danny Sofer (Catherine Dent) dealing with being a single mom after a fling with Vic; a detective (David Marciano) suing the precinct; and a federal agent (Laurie Holden), who might be playing both sides of the fence.

While consistently one of TV's best shows, "The Shield" has often been overlooked by the Emmys despite Chiklis winning Best Actor during the first season. Former guest star/cast members Glenn Close, Anthony Anderson and Forest Whitaker turned in fantastic performances that were ignored by the Academy. The turns by regulars such as Goggins and Pounder have been equally overlooked.

The fact is, "The Shield" is still one of TV's top 10 programs, essentially "The Sopranos" told from the law & order point of view.

Fans of the series will be happy to learn that the quality that was present during the first six seasons is there in abundance during the final year.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: I don't think a single new show has been as hyped as much as the next generation of "Beverly Hills, 90210" (CW, 8 p.m.) I was never a fan of the original, and to me it's only noteworthy because it's being produced by Rob Thomas ("Veronica Mars"). I'd love to be able to tell you it's worth the hype, but the CW refused to send out screeners to the critics, which tends to be a bad sign. On the bright side, in keeping with the CW tradition, everybody on the show seems to be really, really pretty.

"House" (Fox, 8 p.m.) repeats last season's stellar two-hour season finale, as House (Hugh Laurie) himself is the mystery - after hitting his head during a bus crash, he can't remember why he was meeting Wilson's girlfriend Cutthroat Bitch at a bar. Though some criticized the show as being uneven last season, the finale was definitely one of the high points.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Welcome To The New Stuff

It's appropriate that with Labor Day marking the end of summer and the beginning of fall, several new and returning shows are hitting the air tonight.

Perhaps the most intriguing is "Raising the Bar," (TNT, 10 p.m.), which will be taking over "Saving Grace's" timeslot for a few weeks.

It stars Mark-Paul Gosselar ("NYPD Blue") as a public defender and Gloria Reuben ("ER") as his boss. Jane Kaczmarek ("Malcolm In The Middle") plays a judge.

The series was created by Steven Bochco, who has produced some of the great TV of our time ("NYPD Blue," "Hill Street Blues") as well as some of the most forgettable ("Cop Rock"). Where will "Raising The Bar" fall on the Bochco scale? Early reviews have been mixed, so we'll wait and see.

COMING TUESDAY: The Telegraph's Charles E. Richardson reunites with Kenny Burgamy for the debut of the "Kenny B. and Charles E. Show" on WPGA-FM 100.9 from 6 a.m.-9 a.m., with the first hour of the show being aired live on WPGA-TV.

The talk show will provide a contrast to WMAC-AM 940's recently debuted talk radio program, hosted by Chris Krok.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: I gave up on "Prison Break" (Fox, 8 p.m.) at the beginning of last season as the show went ridiculous beyond even its own standards, but evidently someone is still watching it, so he or she will be up for tonight's two-hour debut. I'm still wondering how they will explain away how Michael's decapitated girlfriend is back to being a series regular.

A new "Saving Grace" (TNT, 9 p.m.) leads into "Raising The Bar."

To give equal time, I should note that the Republican National Convention kicks off tonight. You can catch the action at 8 p.m. on PBS and cable, or the key speeches at 10 p.m. on the networks.

Check last week's postings for "Reel Fanatic's" review of the season premiere of "Gossip Girl" (CW, 8 p.m.), followed by the season premiere of "One Tree Hill" (CW, 9 p.m.) as the network looks to get out of the gates early.

Finally, CNBC didn't do a good job of promoting it when it debuted last week, but "The Apprentice UK" (CNBC, 8 p.m.) airs its second episode as contestants face off for the opportunity to get a job with British tycoon Sir Alan Sugar. If you want a better version of "The Apprentice" franchise, check out the BBC America series "Dragon's Den" on Thursdays, in which would-be entrepreneurs seek backing for their projects from five UK millionaires. It's a much more interesting format than the artificial tasks contestants are given on "The Apprentice."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Clever Promo

There's a new series on the UK's ITV that looks pretty good, call "No Heroics." It's about four rather lame superheroes and the regular lives they lead (very reminiscent of the live-action version of "The Tick" on Fox.)

It debuts in September, though I have no idea when it is coming across the pond. Here's the clip:

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Sorry for the short postings this week, but with the holiday weekend, I have a lot of work to do in a very short time. Besides, there's really nothing new on, thanks to the holiday. Shows like "Monk" are being pre-empted for the US Open, while AMC is re-running the first few episodes of Season 2 of "Mad Men" Sunday night.

On the bright side, I'm finally getting my screeners from the networks. I'll have reviews of "Sons of Anarchy" from FX and "Privileged" from the CW for the new shows, and hopefully "The Shield" and other returning shows, depending on the mail service. I'll also have a posting on Monday.

In the meantime, go to your favorite sports bar to catch Georgia-Georgia Southern on satellite or on the radio this Saturday and have a safe holiday weekend.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama's Big Night

Just a brief update today, since there is little else on ("Burn Notice" is on hiatus for three weeks, unfortunately).

Not playing partisan politics at all, but tonight marks Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democrat National Convention. Along with John McCain's speech next Thursday, this is usually the only interesting parts of the conventions for me, regardless of party.

The networks, once again, are downplaying the conventions as a whole, beginning their coverage at 10 p.m. on the East Coast. You can catch the entire night's coverage if you wish on PBS beginning at 8 p.m. or on cable.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sports And TV Continue To Mix

Thursday marks (potentially) one of the most important dates in baseball history, as Major League Baseball begins the use of instant replay during games. The new rules allow umpires to check on a TV monitor whether a ball was a home run or not as opposed to a foul ball or a ball that didn't clear the fence.

The rules' proponents argue that it will help ensure accuracy by clearing up any disputes over balls that are too close to call, and will help out umpires who have to make a call in a fraction of a second about a ball that is several hundred feet away.

People opposing the rule argue that the beauty of baseball factors in human error, that instant replay will slow the game and that the process is a slippery slope. Whose to say MLB won't enact replays for balls and strikes or close plays at first base?

As much as I am a baseball purist, I have to say that while I don't think replay is necessary, I don't think it will harm the game, either. How many balls are really that close where replay is necessary? A few, but not that many. The one thing I oppose is making the change during the season. Baseball has been around more than a century; we could have waited until next spring training to make the switch.

In a completely unrelated story, the SEC and ESPN signed a mega-deal earlier this week for a 15-year partnership that begins in 2009. Every SEC football game (except for those that fall under the CBS deal) will be broadcast on an ESPN network, such as ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.

In addition, the deal allows for ESPN to carry men's and women's basketball games, as well as other, non-revenue sports.

Considering the athletics success in various sports that Georgia, Florida, LSU and others have enjoyed over recent years, this should be a sports fan's dream. Of course, if it turns out to be bad somehow, we're stuck with it until 2024.

ABC PICKS UP PILOTS: According to various media outlets, ABC has ordered five pilots (three dramas and two sitcoms) for next year.

Among them:

—"Cupid," re-introduced by creator Rob Thomas with actors Bobby Cannavale and Sarah Paulson taking over the original roles of Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall. Sorry, but this one is going to have a hard time living up to the '90s version, one of the most original TV shows ever produced.

—"Castle," starring the always-fun Nathan Fillion ("Firefly"), about a novelist who assists the NYPD. It's from Andrew Marlowe ("Air Force One").

—"The Unusuals," a cop drama produced by Peter Tolan ("Rescue Me") and Noah Hawley ("Bones"). Included in the cast are Amber Tamblyn, Harold Perrineau and Adam Goldberg.

—"Better Off Ted," produced by Victor Fresco ("Andy Richter Controls the Universe"). No idea what this one is about.

—"Single With Parents," starring Alyssa Milano, about a single career-girl. It's produced by Kristin Newman ("How I Met Your Mother").

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: The penultimate night of the Democratic National Convention features speakers Bill Clinton and VP candidate Sen. Joe Biden (PBS, 8 p.m.).

"Mythbusters" (Discovery, 9 p.m.) tackles the myth that the 1969 lunar landing was a hoax.

I caught "Greatest American Dog" (CBS, 8 p.m.) last week for the first time. It's not bad and easy to get into even at this late stage.

Finally, the US Open (USA, 7 p.m.) continues for all you tennis nuts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Psst...'Gossip' Back Next Week

With all of the new shows about to hit the air beginning next week, I'm trying to pack in a few reviews early.

The first is "Gossip Girl," which returns to the CW on Monday.

Because I don't watch this show, I asked Keith Demko, The Reel Fanatic, to review the first three episodes of Season 2. Here's what Keith had to say:

"For the record, I do realize I'm far too old, male and, well, straight to be in the target audience for the CW's "Gossip Girl," but I just can't help it. The show is just the most addictive kind of trash.

When these teen shows work for anyone who hasn't seen a high school hallway in many years, they have to play out almost like a really dishy Jane Austen novel, a comedy of manners starring kids so bratty-but-perfect-looking you just want to sock them in the nose. "Gossip Girl" achieved this mix in season one by being just tawdry but also witty enough to keep viewers coming back, and judging from the first three episodes of season two that isn't going to change.

So, where are we when season two begins? For Serena (Blake Lively), of course, summer means the Hamptons, and we find she's still broken up with Dan (Penn Badgley), though not completely. Blair (Leighton Meester) returns from her summer in Europe with a new "boyfriend" in tow whose main job is to make Chuck (Ed Westwick) insanely jealous, but of course brings his own baggage across the pond to liven things up. And Jenny (Taylor Momsen) finds that working as an intern for Blair's mother's fashion house isn't as rewarding or fun as she had imagined.

The only difference you'll notice is that Georgina, played by a woefully miscast Michelle Trachtenberg, doesn't make an apperance in the first three episodes, but I understand she will be back soon and possibly become a regular. Even if she can't really manage to play the bad girl the role demands, it's just nice to see anyone from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" getting steady work.

The bottom line: If you liked season one of "Gossip Girl," tune in when it returns at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 1, because it's still just the nearly perfect kind of trashy fun you've come to expect."

It will be interesting to see how the CW's strategy of "Gossip Girl" and "Beverly Hills, 90210" - unavailable for preview - pays off. The guy caught in the middle is "GG" creator Josh Schwartz, whose show "Chuck" will also air Mondays at 8 p.m.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: More political coverage from the Democratic National Convention, airing on PBS, MSNBC and CNN beginning at 8 p.m. and the networks at 10 p.m.

Also new is one of the minisodes of "The Shield" (FX, 10 p.m.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Political Convention Season: Celebration Of Democracy Or Boring TV?

For those of you in the record audience that watched the 2008 Olympics that are already in withdrawal, fear not - there is plenty of spectacle left on the tube.

Tonight marks the four-day commercial for the Democratic Party, to be followed by next week's advertisement for the Republicans.

Once upon a time, the conventions were vaguely important because of all the backroom deals to pick a candidate, but with the candidates already picked and Barack Obama having announced his running mate over the weekend, there's not a whole lot of suspense. I'm guessing we'll know John McCain's VP pick before the Republican Convention begins next week.

So it becomes four days of speeches, speeches and more speeches, followed by endless analysis and spin doctoring.

In the UK, of which I'm also a citizen, the conventions actually decide the party's stand on a variety of issues and they set their annual agenda, so the conventions mean something. Here, not so much.

My colleague, Travis Fain, has pointed out that both parties would do better to donate half the $100 million or so it costs to put on a convention to the city that would be hosting it, which would still be a boost for the local economy, and donate the other half to some worthy cause.

But the networks are finally fixing something that I've been complaining about for years - giving the viewers other options. This year, the conventions will be shown live and in full on CNN, MSNBC and PBS, while the networks will only broadcast an hour of highlights and commentary at 10 p.m. each night.

Really, this is how it should be. We don't need every dial on the tube broadcasting the same speech. It's overkill. Ditto for things like the State of the Union. I'm not against broadcasting these speeches - on the contrary, it's very important - but really, this is what PBS is for. It's public television that's available to everyone.

So please, feel free to watch either convention or both, or neither. Now you have that choice.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: OK, admittedly, not a whole lot on the tube, so you may as well watch the convention, since everything is pretty much repeats. (That won't be the case next week during the Republican Convention).

Still, one can catch new episodes of "The Closer" and "Saving Grace" on TNT, beginning at 9 p.m.

HBO is premiering the documentary "The Black List: Vol. 1" at 9 p.m., profiling the lives of notable African-Americans. "Weeds" (Showtime, 10 p.m.) is also new.

Finally, the US Open (USA, 7 p.m.) runs virtually ad nauseum beginning tonight.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Olympics Close Out

It seems like the Olympics just started, and yet the Games will be finishing up with the closing ceremonies Sunday night.

Generally, the closings have as much, if not more, fanfare than the openings, and considering the visual spectacle China put on two weeks ago, expect a good show.

NBC has done a fairly solid job with its coverage, though it could have used some more variety. If you wanted to watch something other than volleyball, track, swimming, gymanstics or men's basketball, you were pretty much out of luck. And if you wanted to watch some of the great athletes from around the world, you needed to hope they were facing a highly rated American.

Considering all of the buildup heading into the Games, the events themselves seemed a bit anticlimactic, save for the swimming, of course.

But if you haven't gotten your fill of spectacles yet, fear not - the Democratic National Convention kicks off Monday.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Monk finally begins to show interest in another woman besides his late wife as he tries to prove guest star Joanna Pacula innocent on "Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.), followed by a new "Psych" at 10 p.m. "Stargate: Atlantis" (Sci-Fi, 10 p.m.) is also new.

On Saturday, catch a new "Primeval" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) and last week's at 8 p.m., always useful if you are like me and accidentally erased it before watching it on tape.

On Sunday, tear yourself away from the Olympics for an hour to catch an all-new "Mad Men" (AMC, 10 p.m.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Still On Blogger...

It looks like we'll be here for a few more days, but I'll let you know when you can switch over to the new site.

Meanwhile, check out our redesign on

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Sorry, just a quick update today.

The Olympics, of course, are still going, though I have to admit everything else seems like a bit of a letdown post-Phelps.

Thursday's top pick, as always, is "Burn Notice," (USA, 10 p.m.) which is all new. Also new is "Flashpoint" (CBS, 10 p.m.), though why anyone would watch this over "Burn Notice" is a bit of a puzzle.

Finally, football fans can catch what is sure to be thriller (note the sarcasm) with the preseason matchup of the 49ers and the Bears (Fox, 8 p.m.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


In the next day or so, you'll be noticing a new look to this and the other Telegraph blogs as we move off Blogger and onto the main site at In TV parlance, think of it as us getting a new timeslot.

I'm not quite sure how this is going to work - I leave all the technical stuff to our Webmaster - but it should only affect you in the sense that you may have to put in a new address for your bookmark and homepage. (What?!? This site isn't your homepage? What is wrong with you?)

The switch will allow us to better manage the blogs and log the incoming traffic (who knows, I might be getting loyal baker's dozens of Web surfers) and give all of our blogs a more uniform look.

This specific Web page on Blogger will still be good for a while as the Web people try to figure out how to transfer the other 500-plus previous posts to the new site, so you will still be able to go through and peruse my previous postings at your leisure (which I know all of you do regularly).

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Just a few bits of TV news today.

Laurence Fishburne made it official this week and will be stepping into the lead role of "CSI," sort of replacing William Petersen, who will still appear in a recurring basis.

Speaking of changes, Annabelle Wallis has replaced Anita Briem in the Jane Seymour role on "The Tudors" for Season 3. The two actresses look a lot alike (and both are drop-dead gorgeous) so it shouldn't be too much of a distraction.

Speaking of gorgeous, Charlotte Sullivan ("MVP") has been cast as Maxima on "Smallville." If the writes do the character any justice and write her the way she was in the comics and on the Superman animated series, she should be a fun addition to the series.

Also, Courtney B. Vance ("L&O: CI") will join his real-life wife, Angela Bassett, for a multi-episode arc on the final season of "ER."

Finally, a get well shout out to Christina Applegate ("Samantha Who?"), who had a double mastectomy to treat her breast cancer. Applegate said doctors were able to get all of the cancer, which hopefully means a good prognosis. This should serve as a reminder to all women about the importance of breast exams each year.

90210 SURPRISE: We're supposed to not take this as a bad sign, but the CW is not sending out an advance copy of the new "Beverly Hills, 90210" pilot to critics.

In a statement released to critics this week, the CW said: "The CW and our studio partner CBS Paramount Network Television have made the strategic marketing decision not to screen "90210" for any media in advance of its premiere. We're not hiding anything . . . simply keeping a lid on 90210 until 9.02, riding the curiosity and anticipation into premiere night, and letting all our constituents see it at the same time."

Um, yeah. I suppose it's a smart move strategically - critics are more likely to be unkind in talking about the BH revival, which should draw pretty ratings for the network built around marketing very pretty people.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: We used to have a reporter at The Telegraph who was obsessed with Ninjas. I don't know if he's reading this, but tonight's "Mythbusters" (Discovery, 9 p.m.) explores the legends of the Japanese assassins, such as the ability to catch an arrow in mid-flight. I can do that, but I choose not to.

"Greatest American Dog" (CBS, 8 p.m.) continues on CBS, while the Olympics continue on NBC.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


A couple of quick items from the world of the World Wide Web today that may be of interest.

First, has posted its Fall preview online. It's your one-stop shop for all things TV for the upcoming season, including a calendar listing of debuts, a daily schedule grid and photos from your favorite shows.

You can find it here:

Also, the Emmys are letting people vote for their favorite TV moments ever. Go to and vote for which shows you want to see have clips presented during the Sept. 21 broadcast.

CBS FOOTBALL: CBS has apparently accidentally leaked its SEC/college football schedule this season. According to Web sources, here it is:
09/13 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Georgia @ South Carolina (CBS HD)
09/20 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Florida @ Tennessee (CBS HD)
09/27 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Tennessee @ Auburn (CBS HD)
10/04 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Florida @ Arkansas or Kentucky @ Alabama (CBS HD)
10/11 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Tennessee @ Georgia (CBS HD)
10/11 - 7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. LSU @ Florida (CBS HD)
10/18 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. LSU @ South Carolina (CBS HD)
10/25 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Georgia @ LSU (CBS HD)
11/01 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Georgia-Florida (CBS HD)
11/08 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Alabama @ LSU or Georgia @ Kentucky (CBS HD)
11/15 - 11:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Notre Dame @ Navy (CBS HD)
11/15 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. South Carolina @ Florida or Georgia @ Auburn (CBS HD)
11/22 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Ole Miss @ LSU or Tennessee @ Vanderbilt or Arkansas @ Mississippi St. (CBS HD)
11/28 - 1:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m. LSU @ Arkansas (CBS HD)
11/29 - 11:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Georgia Tech @ Georgia (CBS HD)
11/29 - 2:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Auburn @ Alabama (CBS HD)
12/06 - 11:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Army @ Navy (CBS HD)
12/06 - 3:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. SEC Championship

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: More Beijing Olympics goodness (NBC, 8 p.m.) and another "Rescue Me" minisode (FX, 10 p.m.)

Monday, August 18, 2008


More and more, TV networks are looking to come up with Web-specific content. Sometimes, it's to augment shows currently on the air, such as the mini-sodes of "Heroes" and "The Office" that are used to bridge the gap into the upcoming seasons.

But there's also original content being done, Web-only shows that are designed to run in two- or three-minute bits, about the average attention span for the average Web user.

Much in the tradition of "Quarterlife," which ran disastrously on NBC for one episode after building itself up on the Web, the Peacock is having a go online again with "Gemini Division," about a NYPD undercover cop, Anna Diaz (Rosario Dawson).

The comparison to "Quarterlife" is deliberate on my part, because both that and "Gemini" bored me to tears, a remarkable feat considering the installments last about three minutes.

"Gemini" is told through a series of Web phone calls from Dawson to an unknown friend, detailing about her romantic getaway with her boyfriend Nick (Justin Hartley, "Smallville") and the mysterious guy following them (Kevin Alejandro, "Shark"). Unfortunately, the plot device is more annoying than informative, shot this way no doubt as a budget saving measure.

Anyway, the press notes lead me to believe that Anna's personal and professional lives will intersect, causing all sorts of mayhem. Where is this series going? Don't know, don't care.

I'm all for alternative forms of entertainment, and obviously the influence of the Web is only going to continue to grow, but the shows have to be good, at least. Maybe the networks should stick to the Webisodes from series that are already established, like "The Office," where we know the characters already and the plots aren't especially complex.

OLYMPICS RATINGS: It's not all bad news for NBC, which got 31.1 million viewers for Michael Phelps' record-breaking eighth gold medal Saturday night. So far, the Games have gotten 191 million viewers through the first nine days, more than the totals for the previous two Games' entire runs.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Kevin Bacon directs his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, in tonight's "The Closer" (TNT, 9 p.m.), no doubt helping all those "Six Degree" players out there. It's followed by a new "Saving Grace" at 10 p.m.

Also new is "The Middleman" (ABC Family, 10 p.m.), plus more Olympics, but no more Michael Phelps.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Send In The Clones

With the good TV still weeks away, I'm probably going to be taking in some of the big releases this weekend at the cinema (though not "Vicky Christina Barcelona," which isn't coming to Macon yet).

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" is a continuation of the animated series of shorts that ran on The Cartoon Network a couple of years ago, and tells the story of the years between the second and third prequels. The animation of the shorts was done in traditional, 2-D animation but this new version is CGI 3-D.

Though I'm curious about the project, I've heard enough negative reviews of it (and no positive ones) that I'll wait for it to be re-run on TV — which will be in only a few weeks. In this rather unique deal, the movie gets a cinema release first before debuting on TV.

The other big movie that opens this week is "Tropic Thunder." Earlier this week, I covered protests from people representing groups such as the Special Olympics, who are protesting nationwide the movie's excessive use of the word "retard."

It's tough to judge something to be offensive without having seen it, but from what I can gather, the movie uses the word in a satirical sense and is making fun of the actors who play physically or mentally challenged individuals in order to win Oscars, not those individuals themselves.

Does that make it right? It's hard to say. I remember when "Pulp Fiction" came out and blacks were incensed at the frequent use of the n-word by both black and white characters. And though I enjoyed "Pulp," it did seem use of the word was gratuitous, whereas in a movie such as "Mississippi Burning," for example, the word is used to provide historical context.

I asked one of the demonstrators if she thought that by protesting "Tropic," it would actually bring more people to the film by raising their curiosity. She said that while that is a possibility, the movie could also serve as a forum to teach people that use of language can be hurtful, which may be the most important part of the controversy.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: If you are staying in and not watching the Olympics, you still have some choices of new stuff.

"Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) must solve a mystery while trapped on a Navy submarine; it's followed by a new "Psych" at 10 p.m. "Stargate: Atlantis" (Sci-Fi, 10 p.m.) is also new, as is "Swingtown" (CBS, 10 p.m.)

On Saturday, I was a little underwhelmed by the premiere of "Primeval" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) The premise is pretty interesting, but the rather poor CGI effects of the dinosaurs proved to be a distraction. Still, there's enough there that I'm going to give the show another chance.

On Sunday, it's a night of endings. Chris Noth departs another "Law & Order" franchise with his final "Criminal Intent" (USA, 9 p.m.), which is followed by the season finale of "In Plain Sight" (USA, 10 p.m.)

On PBS, the last-ever "Inspector Lynley Mysteries" airs on "Masterpiece Mystery" (PBS, 9 p.m.)

On the bright side, we've got a whole lot of season left on the superb "Mad Men," (AMC, 10 p.m.), which has somehow managed to raise its game to an even higher level.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Radio Wars

Hopefully, you've been reading The Telegraph for the past couple of days and have been following the news about the local radio waves.

My story today, about WMAC-AM 940's hire of Chris Krok to replace the morning spot vacated by Shayne McBride a couple of months ago comes on the heels of business writer Linda Morris' piece Wednesday about WPGA-FM 100.9 and The Telegraph partnering up to re-unite former morning talk show hosts Kenny Burgamy and Charles Richardson.

The radio war heating up shouldn't be dull. Krok, in a brief tryout in late July with WMAC, already has made a mark by getting into it with city councilwoman Elaine Lucas. Say what you will about Krok, who previously worked for WSB in Atlanta, but no one is going to accuse him of being shy.

You can hear some of the Krok-Lucas exchange on this audio file:

Already, he has fired the first shot across the bow of his competitors and hopes to use his two-week headstart to get the jump on Burgamy and Richardson. Noting that Burgamy is the vice president of Atlantic Southern Bank and Richardson is The Telegraph's editorial page editor, Krok said he will be living his talk-radio job 24/7.

"This isn't a second job for me," he said. "I believe the people deserve better. I think it's an insult to the people to say this is a second job."

Richardson and Kenny B, as he is known around these parts, took Krok's comments in stride. They both noted their long experience in the Middle Georgia market and the listeners' familiarity with their previous show, which ran on WMAC from 1997-2000, before Richardson left to become the metro editor for The Telegraph and was replaced by Jami Gaudet.

"I wish him nothing but success," Burgamy said. "I hope he gets to the point where he can take on two jobs and do them well."

The formats of the show will likely be pretty different, though both will be oriented around news and issues important to Middle Georgians. Krok will work solo, having only the occasional guest but mostly relying on callers. He describes himself as more of a conservative than a Republican, and noted times when he was in Atlanta when he challenged Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., on the recent immigration bill, and supporting Hank Johnson against Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary last year for the Congressional seat in Georgia's 4th District.

Richardson and Burgamy said they will likely return to their familiar pattern of talking about issues from their respective left and right points of view, mixing in guests with callers. They should have a more low-key approach than Krok.

"We can disagree with our guests without being disagreeable," Richardson said.

Richardson said in addition to people already knowing him and Burgamy, their show will enjoy other advantages, such as a more-powerful FM signal in the mornings as well as the fact they will be simulcast on and (for the first hour of each day) on WPGA-TV, leading into "Good Morning America."

With our local political entities seemingly never short of material to provide the talk radio hosts, this should be an interesting battle in the mornings. Stay tuned.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Sorry for not posting yesterday; as I explained to my father, I'm occasionally too busy.

With the Olympics (NBC, 8 p.m.) still going strong, not too many options. Not to worry, the first new shows will be hitting the air in early September, and I hope to be able to review as many as possible beforehand.

Still, you can treat yourself to one of the summer's most fun shows with "Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.)

A much lesser choice, but also new, is "Flashpoint" (CBS, 10 p.m.)

And if you are a sports fans not into the Olympics, you can catch the NFL Preseason when Carolina faces Philadelphia (Fox, 8 p.m.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Old Is New

Who says there are no new ideas in Hollywood?

From varying sources such as The Hollywood Reporter and Variety...

CBS is set to make a remake/sequel to the 1960s hit "Hawaii Five-O." The new series would pick up with Steve McGarrett's (Jack Lord) son running the 5-0 unit in our 50th state. No word if this new McGarrett will say "Book him, Dano Jr."

Meanwhile, ABC is developing a TV version of "The Witches of Eastwick," based on the book by John Updike and the movie that starred the likes of Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer. NBC had tried to pull it off in the early 1990s, making an unaired pilot produced by Carlton Cuse ("Lost") and the late Jeffrey Boam ("Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"), the pair that made "The Adventures of Brisco County Jr," one of my all-time favorite shows.

No word when either series will get things going, but they join the likes of the remake of "Cupid" and the next generation of "Beverly Hills, 90210" as shows getting a new life because the networks apparently believe in recycling. And they wonder why they are losing their audiences to cable.

CASTING NEWS: According to the trades, Kim Dickens ("Deadwood") will appear on "Friday Night Lights" this season as the estranged mom of quarterback Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford).

Meanwhile, on "Heroes," the ever-growing cast adds two more with Breckin Meyer and Seth Green. That's in addition to the new cast members being added through the webisodes on

Speaking of "Heroes," you can now see the series' alternate ending for Season 2 - in which the Shanti Virus is unleashed - (albeit without sound) here:

Without the sound, it's not really worth watching, but they also do show a separate clip in which we see Hiro's dad's (George Takei) power - and it's a pretty cool one. That clip also doesn't have sound, but because the scene is between him and Ando, it's done with subtitles. Both clips and more (presumably with sound) are supposed to be on the "Heroes" DVD set to be released next month.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Olympics, of course (NBC, 8 p.m.), though nothing during the rest of the Games will compare to kicking French butt Sunday night.

The rest of the night is mostly reruns, perhaps most notably "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (Fox, 9 p.m.) as the network tries to catch people up before the series returns. If you missed it the first time around, I recommend it.

"Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.) follows up with another new mini-episode, though I'm not sure they can top last week's, and it's followed by a new "30 Days" at 10:06 p.m.

Finally, "Nova" (PBS, 8 p.m.) discusses the history and significance of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, my personal favorite in terms of scientific theories.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Just Another Manic Monday

Man, you know I must be operating on no sleep if I'm quoting the Bangles.

After the opening weekend of the Olympics, I have to say the coverage has been a mixed bag. As always, there's way too much face time given to the so-called "Redeem Team," especially when they blew out China yesterday (though it was the most watched basketball game world-wide in the history of the sport.) But really, during the parade of nations Friday, did we need constant shots of Kobe and LeBron waving? How about shots of the badminton team or the rowers, athletes who don't get that same sort of coverage year-round as the average NBA superstar?

The coverage of the individual events has been decent, though. NBC's coverage of the swimming, including last night's spectacular relay event, has been top-notch. The boxing coverage, though, was dismal. All this talk about how controversial the US coach is, yet they never bothered to tell us why, even during a 1-on-1 interview. The rest of it has been in-between, though I always welcome the presence of Melissa Stark to my TV.

R.I.P. BERNIE MAC, ISAAC HAYES AND BERNIE BRILLSTEIN: It was a bad weekend in Hollywood as a trio of personalities passed away. Mac, who died after a bout of pneumonia, was best known for his Emmy-nominated sitcom on Fox and his role in the "Ocean's 11" series of movies.

Hayes won an Oscar for his theme song to "Shaft" and was the voice of Chef on "South Park," until a fall-out with the show's producers over their poking fun at Scientology.

Brillstein was a well-known Hollywood power player who helped launch the careers of everyone from Lorne Michaels to Jim Henson to Garry Shandling.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: You know, one thing I hate about so-called reality TV is the way they drag it out. I was perfectly ready for "The Mole" (ABC, 10 p.m.) to be revealed last week. Instead, they drag it out for one more episode in which they put in mostly filler because the actual revealing of the mole and the show's winner will take about a minute. I really don't need these "reunion" shows where they bring back all of the eliminated players to give commentary.

Getting ready for the new season to start in a few weeks, the networks are running reruns for a change, so if you want to catch up with CBS' comedy lineup or shows like "Prison Break" and "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" on Fox, now's your chance.

If you aren't watching the Olympics, your options for new episodes include "The Closer" (TNT, 9 p.m.) and "Saving Grace" (TNT, 10 p.m.), "Weeds" (Showtime, 10 p.m.) and "The Middleman" (ABC Family, 10 p.m.)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Simon Back With HBO

"The Wire" may not have gotten a lot of love from the Emmys over the years, but that hasn't stopped series creator David Simon from teaming up with HBO once again for a new series, to be called "Treme."

Simon also produces the current new HBO miniseries "Generation Kill."

And, in a case of putting the band back together, Simon has signed Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters from "The Wire" to play the leads in the new series, about New Orleans residents struggling to put their lives back together post-Katrina. Also in the cast is Khandi Alexander ("NewsRadio," "CSI: Miami").

Hopefully, it will do better than Fox's "K-Ville," which fizzled earlier this year following two cops who tried to keep the peace in New Orleans after the floods.

8-8-08: People keep saying the convergence of eights will make this a lucky day. I hope so; Happy Anniversary to my brother, whom I guess you can call the "DVR Guy," and my sister-in-law.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: With the Olympics running the next two weeks, I won't be offering too many highlights. You can refer to the schedule I posted the link for on Thursday to find out when your favorite events are running. Odds are, it will mostly be the so-called "Redeem Team" anyway as NBC short-shrifts the other, less glamorous sports. Tonight's opening ceremony starts at 7:30 p.m. and will run the rest of the night.

If the Olympics aren't your cup of tea, there are a few options. "Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) and "Psych" (USA, 10 p.m.) are new, as is "Swingtown" (CBS, 10 p.m.)

On Saturday, BBC America kicks off a new series called "Primeval," (BBC America, 9 p.m.), a fantasy series in which dinosaurs mysteriously start popping up in modern-day England. I don't know much about "Primeval," but given the network's recent history with fantasy-oriented shows - "Torchwood," "Life on Mars," "Jekyll" - this series deserves at least a look.

In case you missed it the first time around, FX is re-running the entire season of "Damages," starring Glenn Close and Ted Danson" in a marathon from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. "Damages" picked up 16 Emmy nominations, tying it with "Mad Men" for most nominations.

On Sunday, "Masterpiece: Mystery" (PBS, 9 p.m.) kicks off a new series of "Inspector Lynley Mysteries" as the title hero is arrested for murder.

USA offers new episodes of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" at 9 p.m. and the penultimate episode this season of "In Plain Sight" at 10 p.m.

Finally, the pick of the night is, of course, "Mad Men" (AMC, 10 p.m.)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Five-Ring Circus

Tomorrow night marks the beginning of the 2008 Summer Olympics (NBC, Friday, 7:30 p.m.) in Beijing, games that have already been marked by their fair share of controversies.

Doping, Beijing's pollution, China's abysmal record on human rights - these aren't shaping up to be the happy fun games.

Still, there's something about the Olympics that are unmatched in sports. When a record in track or swimming falls, it still seems to mean something. When you see someone like Kerri Strug perform a vault in gymnastics on a busted ankle to capture a gold medal, you still get chills.

So many great stories usually come out of the Olympics that they are worth watching, especially when all they are up against is so-called reality TV. The Olympics are the genuine deal.

Though NBC will have a small army descend upon China for the games, it's a little disappointing to see the other networks not take advantage of this rare opportunity to report from that country; most are only sending a few reporters. It's a rare opportunity for access to a country that, otherwise, rarely grants it.

Still, there are some problems with the Olympics coverage. For me, most notably, American coverage of the Games usually revolves around Americans, so if an American athlete doesn't have a decent shot at medalling in an event, that event rarely gets shown. In addition, the coverage tends to focus on U.S. athletes who finish in sixth place while some foreign athlete sets a record and barely gets noticed.

And, the Olympics have never quite been the same since ABC stopped covering them, which meant no Jim McKay serving as host. McKay died earlier this year, and no studio host will ever match him in the booth.

NBC has provided a complete schedule of what it is televising: In addition, networks like Telemundo are also providing coverage, and satellite and internet owners should be able to pick up all sorts of broadcasts.

So, let the Games begin.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: The quirky and charming "My Boys" wraps up its second season at a special time (TBS, 10 p.m.) as the gang gets ready for Bobby's wedding and PJ tries to reunite him with his squabbling brother. It follows two new episodes of the "Bill Engvall Show," beginning at 9 p.m.

One of the best shows of the summer, "Burn Notice," (USA, 10 p.m.) is brand-new. It's opposite new episodes of the docu-drama "Hopkins" (ABC, 10 p.m.) and "Flashpoint" (CBS, 10 p.m.)

On the so-called reality front, both "So You Think You Can Dance" (Fox, 8 p.m.) and "Last Comic Standing" (NBC, 8 p.m.) announce their winners.

Finally, I saw the first episode of the HBO vampire series "True Blood," created by Alan Ball ("Six Feet Under") and it's pretty good. I'm going to review it in detail just before it debuts in September (and, I've also interviewed one of show's stars, Macon native Carrie Preston), but you can catch a sneak peek of what it's about with a 15-minute special (HBO, 8:15 p.m.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My Kingdom For A Horse

Car aggravation is forcing to make today's entry real brief, so just some casting news:

--Laurence Fishburne is reportedly in line to replace William Petersen as the lead on "CSI," according to No word on who will be replacing other departed CSIers Gary Dourdan and Jorja Fox.

--Joss Stone has been cast as Anne of Cleves for the next season of "The Tudors." The real Anne was supposed to have been rather unattractive, and while Stone isn't in the class of the actresses who play Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, Stone is more attractive than her historical counterpart.

--Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Robert Forster ("Jackie Brown") will be cast as the father of Nathan and Peter Petrelli on "Heroes," a pretty cool bit of casting, actually. The series producers said Season 3 will be a great improvement over Season 2, and judging by the reported reaction at Comic Con to the first episode of the new season, they've taken a step in the right direction.

--AMC's next new series will be a political thriller, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The show centers on one of those pesky secret societies that tries to control the world. Considering how good AMC's other two original series - "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" - are, I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of this one.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Just another month until all the good TV returns. In the meantime, the so-called reality shows will have to do.

"Greatest American Dog" (CBS, 8 p.m.) continues on its new night, while "The Baby Borrowers" (NBC, 9 p.m.) has a town hall reunion with guest Dr. Drew Pinsky.

Bravo continues its reality run with new installments of "Project Runway" at 9 p.m. and "Shear Genius" at 10 p.m.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Supersize Me

OK, I'm going to admit to be a bit of a hypocrite.

I've often criticized NBC for its "supersized" episodes of its various Thursday sitcoms over the years. Usually, they've been little more than a ratings stunt that began when the NBC brass was looking for a way to counteract the popularity of CBS' "Survivor" by extended "Friends" from 30 minutes to about 42.

With NBC's ratings constantly in flux, it's a trend they continued with shows like "The Office," "30 Rock" and "My Name Is Earl."

Generally, the extra material written and produced for these episodes haven't been anything special or memorable, and much of it has been, and will continue to be, excised when these series hit syndication.

However, the producers of "Battlestar Galactica" announced last week at Comic-Con that they had too much material to try to squeeze into the show's final 10 episodes. The finale had already been extended, but apparently, this means that there will be even more stuffed into the final season.

So, at the risk of hypocrisy, I say Bravo! In this case, you can't have too much of a good thing (well, at least I can't.) "BSG" producer David Eick didn't say how the extra material was going to be added - if this meant more two-hour episodes or just more episodes than the 10 that are planned - but that there was more story to tell than minutes that were being alotted.

It's a nice thing for the fans, who might have had to wait for DVD releases to get "bonus material" of extra scenes. "BSG" was already shooting more than it was using, having the "secret, extra, online" scene it would promote each week at the Sci Fi Channel's Web site. I'm guessing this is more than that.

ONE TO MISS: As a nation, we seem to be obsessed with beauty pageants for little girls. For me, I tend to see these things more at the JonBenet Ramsey end of the scale rather than the "Little Miss Sunshine" source for humor. But that hasn't stopped We TV from announcing a six-episode run for a new series called "Little Miss Perfect," in which 5- to 11-year-old girls compete for a crown, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Personally, I can't think of anything more horrific, but I'm sure it will end up being a ratings grabber for the network. Yeesh.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Tonight marks the finale of "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" (ABC, 9 p.m.) I can't say I survived making it through this series, but I'm sure there's a segment by the image of adults wearing diapers competing for a lot of money.

"Eureka" (Sci Fi, 9 p.m.) is brand new, and I keep forgetting to plug the "Rescue Me" minisodes (FX, 10 p.m.) that lead into "30 Days."

Monday, August 04, 2008

R.I.P. Skip Caray

By now you've probably heard the sad news that longtime Atlanta Braves radio/TV announcer Skip Caray died Sunday at age 68.

Unfortunately, I can't say I was too surprised when I heard the news. Caray had been ill for a while, and I could definitely tell listening to him this year that he wasn't his old self; the vibrance in his voice was gone.

Much like his dad, the late Harry Caray, Skip was oft-imitated and much beloved by the hometown fans. Skip often brought his wry, unique wit to telecasts and made the games fun to watch even when the Braves weren't very good.

I think my fondest moment with Skip came one night in the late 1980s when the Braves, in the midst of another terrible season, were getting pounded in Pittsburgh. Coming back from a commercial break, Skip said, "Well, the bases are loaded, and right now, I wish I was, too." He'd use that line a few more times.

Most Braves fans will likely remember his call of Sid Bream's mad dash in the 1992 NLCS to beat the Pirates and win the pennant.

I was lucky enough to meet Skip a few times back when I covered the Braves, and he was always a decent guy.

The Caray legacy lives on with Skip's son, Chip, a broadcaster with TBS. His younger son, Josh, broadcasts the games for the Class A Rome Braves.

A lot of non-Braves fans would often classify Skip as a "homer," but I think it's a bit of an unfair generalization. (And I'm a non-Braves fan). Skip recognized that he was a Braves employee, so he broadcast the games from their perspective, something pretty much all broadcasters do for the teams' flagship stations.

But he was hardly John Sterling when it came to homer-ism. Caray would often criticize the Braves if they made a bad play or Bobby Cox made a questionable managerial decision. When the Braves were a last-place team in the '80s, Caray's good-natured poking fun at them was often what made the games tolerable to watch.

Caray represents a dying breed of baseball broadcaster. Today's guys are a bit too homogenized for the most part, lacking the distinctiveness that made broadcasters like Caray so memorable. He will be missed.

GET WELL, KELLY BUNDY: is reporting actress Christina Applegate, nominated for an Emmy for "Samantha Who?" has been detected with an early form of breast cancer. The report says it's been caught early and the prognosis is very good, but hopefully, it will serve as a reminder to women out there that early detection is the key and to get yourselves checked.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: OK, enough with the sad news. On a happier note, the scrappy bunch of Little Leaguers from Warner Robins continue their march back to Williamsport, Pa. with another regional game tonight in Florida. You can listen to the broadcast of the game via (See, there are other good things on the site besides this blog.)

The force of nature known as Miley Cyrus hosts the "Teen Choice Awards" (Fox, 8 p.m.), so odds are, you'll know where your 11-15 year old daughter is tonight.

"The Mole" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is revealed tonight. If they show it to be Mark the teacher, well, he was a terrible mole because he won the team more money than anyone. But he's also the least suspicious.

The TNT duo of "The Closer" and "Saving Grace" air new episodes, beginning tonight at 9 p.m.

"The Middleman" (ABC Family, 10 p.m.) is also new, as are "Weeds" and "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," beginning on Showtime at 10 p.m.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Ready For The Weekend

Another light posting today, guys, because of all the work that has piled up for the job The Telegraph actually pays me for.

But with the slate of TV coming up, the weekend is extra fun.

For those who missed the news, "Mad Men," (AMC, Sun., 10 p.m.) drew a 1.9 rating for its season debut, more than double what it averaged last year, a nice tip of the cap to all of the critical praise, Emmy nominations and word of mouth the series generated.

And, in some quasi-related news, actress Christina Hendricks will return to NBC's "Life" for Season 2 next month when she reprises her role as Charlie's soon-to-be new stepmother.

On that note, here's the rest of the weekend's best bets:

Tonight marks the extra-long, 90-minute season-finale of "Doctor Who" (Sci Fi, 8:30 p.m. - note the special starting time). For some of you who caught Sci Fi's unfortunate decision to put spoilers last week's previews, some of the edge has been taken off the cliffhanger you were left with of the Doctor (David Tennant) regenerating. However, I'm happy to report that there are many surprises and guest characters who have yet to make an appearance in what has been a wicked big finale. It's followed by a new "Stargate: Atlantis" at 10 p.m.

"Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) and "Psych" (USA, 10 p.m.) are also new, as is "Swingtown" (CBS, 10 p.m.)

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) finds the gang heading to the Holy Land to rescue King Richard in the second season finale.

On Sunday, the NFL preseason kicks off with the Colts and Redskins (NBC, 8 p.m.)

On the dramatic side, there's a new episode of "Generation Kill" (HBO, 9 p.m.) and new installments of "In Plain Sight" (USA, 10 p.m.) and "Army Wives" (Lifetime, 10 p.m.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thursday's Best Bets

Just a quick note today because I have a lot of stuff going on:

"My Boys" (TBS, 9:30 p.m.) is close to wrapping up as the gang head's to Bobby's ranch for his upcoming wedding and PJ (Jordana Spiro) decides to go out with his brother, Jack. It follows a new "Bill Engvall Show" at 9 p.m.

"Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.) is all new, as are "Flashpoint" (CBS, 10 p.m.) and "Fear Itself" (NBC, 10 p.m.), which guest stars Doug Jones ("Hellboy 2") as a rancher possessed by an evil spirit.

ABC's docudrama "Hopkins" (ABC, 10 p.m.) continues its six-part run taking a look inside Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Finally, several so-called reality offerings, including the semifinals of "Last Comic Standing" (NBC, 8 p.m.) and "Big Brother" (CBS, 8 p.m.)

Also, if you have a chance to catch it this week, take a look for Bob Costas' weekly sports series on HBO. I caught some of it last night and it was an hour-long interview with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, before a live studio audience that included several Hall of Famers and celebrities. Anyone who loves the game should check it out.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Extreme Home Do-Over

By now, most of you should have heard the news about the Atlanta family who got a new house from the ABC show "Extreme Home Makeover" in 2005.

Some 1,800 people helped rebuild a house that was falling apart into a $450,000 mini-mansion, complete with new furnishings and appliances - the show's largest-ever project to that point. In addition, the family was given enough money to pay taxes on the place for the next 25 years as well as a college scholarship fund for the family's three kids.

But the feel-good story turned into a nightmare earlier this week when Atlanta news organizations found out the family squandered the money and the house on a loan for a construction business that didn't work out. The bank will foreclose on the house next week and put it up for public auction.

The family has been ripped among the message boards and in the press for squandering what should have been a windfall. To many people, this was the equivalent of winning millions in the lottery only to end up destitute a few years later. It was frustrating to the many people who donated time and money to help this particular family out, when many other families might have been more appreciative and smart.

It's frustrating to people who see someone squander a gift, when you think to yourself, "If only something that fortunate would happen for me."

From my point of view, though I don't want any family to lose their home (as millions of Americans are these days), it's a little hard to muster up sympathy for this particular family, which essentially blew the gift they were given.

It would be especially annoying if ABC or someone else bailed the family out at this point so that everyone save's face. The family made a choice and must learn to live with the consequences, IMO.

But I don't think the family should get the blame alone. I think the show's producers should have some fault here as well. Why did the family need a mansion when a new house would simply do? For $450,000, the show could have built four or five fairly nice, dependable homes, which still would have been an upgrade to this particular family, and helped out others.

While the show's producers say they encourage the families to seek out financial counseling, maybe they'd do better to either provide a counselor or make the families sign something that prevents them from using their new homes as collateral for questionable loans.

The show would do better to follow the Habitat for Humanity model of building solid, dependable, no-frills houses and spreading the wealth among many families rather than one specatular house for one.

But then, that doesn't make for exciting TV. However, maybe this will provide a cautionary tale to future home recipients.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Those fans of the new CBS reality show "Greatest American Dog" should take note that it has moved to Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

"NOVA" (PBS, 9 p.m.) has a new "Science Now."

Everything else is pretty much various reality fare, so pick one and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Has Nolan Killed The Bat-Franchise?

As "The Dark Knight" continues to shatter box office records (13 of them as of today), the title might seem like a strange question to ask.

After all, Christopher Nolan's vision of Batman has revived the character several years after director Joel Schumacher nearly killed it with the crapfests "Batman Forever" and "Batman & Robin."

There's no denying that Nolan has made a masterpiece, one that has both comics fans and mainstream media critics alike buzzing with glee and Oscar speculation. While the movie may not be perfect, it's certainly among the best films of the year and perhaps arguably the past several.

And there-in lies the problem. Nolan did such a great job with "The Dark Knight" and got such memorable perfomances out of his cast that clearing such a high bar with future sequels is virtually impossible.

So, one has to ask oneself, what will the expectations be for the next one? Nolan has yet to sign on for it (don't worry, Bat-fans, Christian Bale already has). Even though Nolan can ask and likely receive the moon from Warner Bros. and do whatever he likes, he faces a daunting task in meeting what will be ridiculously high expectations for the next one.

Often, expectations are so high among the viewing public that even good movies can seem like disappointments. For example, I liked "Indy 4" this summer, and it performed well at the box office. While admittedly it wasn't as good as "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (and how many movies are?) or even "Indy 3," it was a satisfying adventure. Yet a lot of the critics and fans lashed out against it, simply because it didn't meet the expectations of a viewing public that had waited 19 years to see Indiana Jones crack his whip one more time.

While perhaps no one is expecting future Batman installments to shatter so many box office records so quickly, from a creative standpoint, where does Nolan go from here? (And, if for some reason Nolan didn't sign on again, I can't imagine too many directors would want to step in and try to follow his success). He's used up all of the best Batman villains (Joker, Scarecrow, Two-Face, Ra's Al-Ghul) and it would be hard to build the same sort of tension with one of the gimmicky villains, such as the Penguin.

Also, there may not want to be a lot of actors who want to sign up to be a Batman villain and face the inevitable comparisons to Heath Ledger's Joker. (And really, though he hasn't gotten the same buzz for obvious reasons, Aaron Eckhart's Two-Face was just as terrifically portrayed).

Me, I try to judge each movie on its own merits and not compare it to other films, but the general public seems to only want to judge a film with comparisons to others.

That makes future installments of Batman a very tricky proposition, and I'm curious to see how Nolan (or whomever) handles it.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: The Sci Fi Channel brings back its original series, "Eureka," tonight at 9 p.m. and allows viewers to catch up by running an all-day marathon of the first two seasons. Hopefully, Sci Fi won't give anything away with spoilers in the promos it runs. Ahem.

The History Channel is running a new series called "Jurassic Fight Club" (History, 9 p.m.), about how dinosaurs battled each other for survival back in the day. I'd tell you more about it, but the first rule of Jurassic Fight Club is you do not talk about Jurassic Fight Club!

Randy Pausch, the cancer-stricken professor who inspired many with his final lecture, died a few days ago, and tonight, "Primetime" celebrates his life with an hour-long special (ABC, 10 p.m.)

Finally, I rarely plug reruns, but one of the top episodes of "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.), in which Mira Sorvino guest stars as an ill scientist trapped in the North Pole, airs tonight.

Monday, July 28, 2008

'Next Week On...'

Jeers to the Sci-Fi Channel.

In Friday's posting, I said that the cliffhanger on "Doctor Who" was one of the best I had ever seen.

I'll do the viewer who may not have seen it yet a service by saying skip down below the asterisks. Also, if you are watching Friday's episode on DVR, hit the stop button right when it says "To Be Continued..." on the screen.



Anyway, so watching the BBC airing through the miracle of the internet, we get the same ending of the Doctor starting to regenerate. With his face obscured by the light, you can't tell if there is a new actor about to step into the role. Then it goes to the "To Be Continued" screen, then the final credits rolled.

No next week's scenes.

On Sci-Fi, however, they fill it up with shots of David Tennant continuing in the role, totally ruining the cliffhanger viewing. All the sense of shock that the Doctor might be replaced by a new actor is completely dissolved after about five seconds.



After watching the BBC version, I was in such shock for not having any spoilers from next week's scenes that I checked around the Web for what the Brits were saying.

It's funny now having seen Part 2 already how wrong the speculation ended up being, but EVERYBODY was buzzing about it and coming up with all sorts of theories.

Which is what a good cliffhanger was supposed to do.

You don't need next week's previews to draw the viewer back; no one was going to not watch the finale after being left hanging like that.

Yet Sci-Fi felt compelled to cut together its own clips of next week's scenes, absolutely taking away any sense of shock from the viewers.

Trailers for TV and movies are kind of a necessary evil. It's fine to tease as to what is coming up with a few clips stitched together, and in the case of movies, give the viewer an idea of what it's all about.

But how many times do you watch a trailer and it's nothing like the movie it's advertising — and not in a good way. (**COUGH, 'Hancock'). Or you see a trailer for a comedy and, after leaving the movie, you say, "They used all the best lines in the trailer."

Look at the campaign for "The Dark Knight." It shows a few moments from a few of the action sequences and gives you some insight into the Joker (which is what everyone was going to be talking about anyway with the death of Heath Ledger). It's just enough to tease without giving anything away, plot-wise. And the movie has done pretty well so far.

Anyway, TV and movie promoters need to do a better job and use a little common sense in not giving away the big reveal, and trust that some people want a little surprise in their lives.

COMIC CON NEWS: Some tidbits gleaned from Comic Con (don't worry, no spoilers).

--On "Lost," it's not really a surprise to say we haven't seen the last of Locke or Jin, despite seeing them dead in last season's finale. And, there are rumors of some other dead characters who may yet be seen.

--On "Smallville," expect more Clark-Lois interaction (finally). Also, comics legend Geoff Johns is penning an episode involving the Legion of Super Heroes. Gee, wish I had thought of that; oh, wait, I did.

--On "Chuck," there are going to be a variety of guest stars, including Nicole Richie as an enemy agent. Also, we meet Capt. Awesome's parents.

--On "Pushing Daisies," creator Bryan Fuller is hoping to create a little bit of crossover by using characters from his previous series, "Wonderfalls." Of course, only six people watched that other series, so I don't really know how big that news is.

--Finally, you can catch some video of the panels from "The Office" and "Heroes" over at

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: New episodes of "The Closer" and "Saving Grace," beginning at 9 p.m. on TNT. Ditto for "The Middleman (ABC Family, 10 p.m.)

"The Mole" (ABC, 10 p.m.) also winds down with the final elimination before the season's end.

There's a documentary that looks kind of interesting called "The Recruiter" (HBO, 9 p.m.), about an Army recruiter who tries to bring in new recruits in Louisiana.

Finally, new installments as well from Showtime's "Weeds" and "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," beginning at 10 p.m.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mad About 'Mad Men'

Welcome to Post No. 500!

It's kind of appropriate that we celebrate this milestone with a milestone of television — the debut of Season 2 of "Mad Men" (AMC, Sun., 10 p.m.) this weekend.

"Mad Men" took the TV world by storm last year as AMC's first original drama series. Created by former "Sopranos" writer Matt Weiner, it was a stylish look at the early 1960s, where sexism, prejudice and other vices reigned supreme. It provided star-making turns for most of its cast, including the likes of Jon Hamm (an Emmy nominee), January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser and others.

The series follows the exploits of Don Draper (Hamm), a star in the world of advertising with the seemingly perfect home life. But underneath it all, Don's got a lot of problems. For one thing, he isn't really Don Draper; he took the real Draper's dog tags after getting wounded in Korea in order to get away from his miserable family. He also has a series of mistresses, a pig of a boss (Emmy nominee John Slattery, in the performance of his career) and a young rival desperately trying to steal his job (Kartheiser).

But "Mad Men" is more than Don's story. Each character, from the eager young secretary looking to further her career (Moss) to the quietly frustrated, loyal wife (Jones), it's a richly textured group of characters and subplots. "Mad Men" deftly mixes pathos and humor, and hopefully you caught up on Season 1 during AMC's marathon run last Sunday.

If you didn't, you won't be completely lost. Season 2 begins over a year after Season 1 ended, with the action moving up to 1962 and the height of Camelot in America. Considering Don's firm, Sterling Cooper, ran the Nixon campaign in 1960, that may not be a good thing.

"Mad Men" is likely the leading contender in the Emmys for Best Drama, and after its terrifically executed first season, it's easy to see why. Here's looking forward to more of the same in Season 2.

AROUND THE DIAL: Former Oscar nominee Harvey Keitel has been named the replacement for Colm Meaney on the US version of "Life on Mars." I had low expectations for this version of one of my favorite UK series, but Meaney was the one bright light for me. ... Erika Tamura (the princess on "Heroes") and Sean Patrick Thomas ("Save The Last Dance") are joining the cast of "Reaper" this season. ... "Smallville's" producers told that, in addition to the appearances of Green Arrow, Black Canary and Aquaman this season, familiar DC characters such as Plastique and Maxima will also meet the future Man of Steel.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: One of the best-done cliffhangers I've ever seen takes place tonight on "Doctor Who" (Sci Fi, 9 p.m.), the first of the two-part season finale in which Earth disappears and it's up to the Doctor (David Tennant) and pretty much every other guest star the series has ever had to make sure it gets back. After you see the end of the episode, my advice is to avoid the internet for the next week. It's followed by a new "Stargate: Atlantis" at 10 p.m.

"Monk" (USA, 9 p.m.) has guest star David Strathairn as a chessmaster, followed by a new "Psych" at 10 p.m.

Worried that you missed "Swingtown" last night? Don't be - it's been moved to Fridays at 10 p.m.

Gone into "Lost" withdrawal? (Yeah, me too.) Anyway, a behind-the-scenes special about the series is airing tonight at 10 p.m. on G4.

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) begins part one of the two-part second season finale as Robin and the gang set off to the Holy Land in search of King Richard.

On Sunday, "Masterpiece: Mystery" (PBS, 9 p.m.) wraps things up with the series finale of "Foyle's War."

Mary (Mary McCormick) has a fling with a protectee on "In Plain Sight" (USA, 10 p.m.)

Finally, a new episode of the HBO miniseries "Generation Kill" (HBO, 9 p.m.) airs.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Want To Believe This Movie Will Be Good

Some six years after they signed off the small tube for the final time, Agents Mulder and Scully (David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson) return on the big screen when "X-Files: I Want To Believe" debuts at midnight.

As I noted a few weeks ago, "The X-Files" has been kind of out-of-sight, out-of-mind for me. As much as I enjoyed the series for its first five or six seasons, I haven't been pining away for Mulder or Scully in same way I have for Buffy or Angel, for example.

Part of it has to do with how the series unfolded over the years. When "The X-Files" first debuted, it had this wonderful underlying conspiracy revolving around the government and aliens. As Mulder and Scully uncovered one piece of the puzzle, more questions than answers would arise.

It was great TV - for a while. Eventually, creator Chris Carter felt he had to keep pushing the mystery by leading the viewer around an endless series of plot loopholes and changes that left even the most devout X-Files fan in the dark. The plot twists and conspiracies became white noise after a while because they were so endless.

One of the reasons I love "Lost" so much is that while the creators of the series introduce difficult storylines, sci-fi elements and conspiracies, they do a much better job of giving the viewer resolution to some of the questions they raise. We may not like the answers, but we get them. Knowing that "Lost" only has 48 episodes left, the creators have a definite ending point they can map themselves to; hopefully, this will mean the viewer won't feel cheated when all is said and done.

That wasn't the case with "The X-Files," which got to be meandering after a while. As a friend pointed out to me recently, Carter & Co. didn't seem to get that the heart of the series was the Mulder-Scully relationship, and that the series often worked better with the standalone and humor episodes than it did with all of the conspiracy.

With the exception of "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man," almost all of the episodes I remember fondly were the standalone episodes that displayed a lot of comedy and/or heart: "War of the Carcophages," "The Unnatural" (written by Duchovny), "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," etc. Honestly, I can't remember whose side the government or the aliens were on at this point.

Based on early reviews of the new movie, it comes off more as a standalone bit rather than a continuation of the series. Mulder and Scully, six years after leaving the FBI, are brought in to examine a case in which a defrocked priest (Billy Connolly) seems to have ESP.

Hopefully, Carter and co-writer Frank Spotnitz will focus on what made the series great in the first place: its heart.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Another series in which the relationship among the main characters surpasses the weekly storylines is USA's delightful "Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.), though the weekly plots are often quite witty and clever. Adding the ridiculously gorgeous and talented Tricia Helfer to the mix only makes it that much better.

CBS has flip-flopped "Flashpoint" and "Swingtown" on the schedule, meaning you'll get the SWAT-oriented "Flashpoint" (CBS, 10 p.m.) tonight instead of Friday. It doesn't matter to me - I gave up on both shows after the pilots.

Another show I gave up the ghost on: "Fear Itself" (NBC, 10 p.m.), which never lived up to its promising beginning. Most of the episodes have been plodding, not scary and so predictable that I've usually figured out the twist by the second commercial break. (Oh, for the days when "The X-Files" would scare the socks off you.) Anyway, tonight's installment stars Brandon Routh of "Superman Lives."

"My Boys" (TBS, 9:30 p.m.) winds its season down as PJ (Jordana Spiro) must decide if she will date Bobby's womanizing brother. It follows a new "Bill Engvall Show" at 9 p.m.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

One of the ways I learned how to critique something and love movies of all sorts was watching "Siskel & Ebert At the Movies" growing up.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were two of the most famous film critics in America when someone had the bright idea of pairing them up in the mid-70s on the show "Sneak Previews" and had them argue over films.

Except that they didn't argue; they made arguments. There's a difference. Sometimes they would agree a film was great, sometimes they'd agree that a film sucked, and sometimes they disagreed on a film's merit, but there was always the underlying respect for the other's opinion even if one thought the other was bonkers for liking or disliking a certain movie.

Siskel & Ebert eventually moved on to syndication with their own show and their trademarked "Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down" approval system, and they became joined at the hip. It was impossible to think of one without the other.

And often, when I found myself in the Ebert camp, Siskel would win me over. And vice versa. What I liked about them is that they always talked about a film on its own merits, and tended to give a movie the benefit of the doubt. I try to do the same thing when I review TV shows. It says a lot about both men that each could make a compelling argument over the merits of a movie while taking opposite stances.

Jeffrey Lyons and Michael Medved took over the PBS version of "Sneak Previews," but it was a pale copy, in part because when they argued, it seemed like they were doing it for show. Also, they both seemed to come in with pre-conceived notions for a movie rather than judge it for its own merits. I remember when they panned a movie simply because it carried the words "Star Trek" in the title; Ebert and Siskel split on the same movie, but the thumbs down was a lot more mild and less mocking.

Siskel, of course, died several years ago after a long illness, and the show floundered for a bit as Ebert tried out an endless line of co-hosts before settling on fellow Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper. Roeper turned out to be a good fit filling Siskel's very large shoes.

Then, Ebert got sick a couple of years ago, and because he had surgery to his throat and was unable to speak, stopped appearing. Again, Roeper tried out a large selection of co-hosts. For a while, it seemed that A.O. Scott of the New York Times would get the gig, but eventually, it went to Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune in what has been a very natural pairing.

The "Thumbs Up" rating system quietly vanished a couple of years ago, and has been replaced by "See It/Skip It." But the show was going along smoothly (despite being shown at 4:30 a.m. Sunday mornings on WGXA in the Middle Georgia market - thank God for VCRs).

That changed this week when Roeper announced he wouldn't be renewing his contract at the same time Ebert was pulling his name off the show. Neither could reach a deal with Buena Vista Television, which produces it. So next month, Ebert, Roeper and Phillips will be gone from "At The Movies," replaced by Ben Lyons of "E!News" and Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies.

Lyons is the son of Jeffrey Lyons, who replaced Ebert a couple of decades ago on the PBS show, while Mankiewicz is the grandson of Herman Mankiewicz, who co-wrote "Citizen Kane." No one is questioning their movie pedigrees, but one has to wonder if they can re-capture the same magic Gene and Roger brought all those years ago.

If they can't, the good news is Ebert and Roeper are looking at doing a new, similar sort of show (and Ebert owns the "Thumbs Up" copyright). Since Ebert is still too ill to do TV, I'd have to think Phillips is a natural choice to be Roeper's on-screen partner. Nothing has been made official yet, but hopefully the show will live on (and in a better timeslot, WGXA).

With print movie criticism dying off thanks to the struggles of the newspaper industry, it's nice to have an "At The Movies"-type show to fall back upon.

R.I.P. ESTELLE GETTY: The star of the "Golden Girls" was 84 when she died Tuesday of an extended illness. Getty toiled in obscurity for many years before landing a role on the hit series in her 60s, convincingly playing Bea Arthur's mother despite being only a few years older.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: It's all sub-mediocre reality fare tonight. Go out and see "The Dark Knight" instead.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dark Knight: Oscar Worthy?

For all the buzz the late Heath Ledger is generating for his performance as the Joker in the Dark Knight (well-deserved buzz, BTW), it does raise the question: does the movie itself deserve to be nominated for Best Picture?

Some would turn their noses up at the notion of any movie based on a comic book/graphic novel being up for an Oscar, conveniently forgetting that "Road To Perdition" was based upon a graphic novel and turned out pretty well.

Certainly, Oscar seems to overlook many action-oriented films that gross big numbers at the box office, yet will throw practically every gold statue that the committee has at something like "Titanic," which also generated big box office numbers.

If one classifies "Dark Knight" as a fantasy film rather than a comic book movie, it certainly has some good company in the Oscar field, being right up there with the likes of "Star Wars" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Or, look at it another way: compare "Dark Knight" with last year's winner, "No Country For Old Men." Both movies center around a serial killer and the confrontation between the justice and anarchy.

The differences? Well, "No Country" was a snoozefest that robbed the viewer of the final dramatic confrontation that it had spent three hours setting up. In addition, in a film full of moral ambiguity, it doesn't end up making any sort of statement. (And plot-wise, the inciting action to get the whole movie going was so ridiculous that it made the movie pointless.)

Meanwhile, no one can say "Dark Knight" dragged at any point. It sets up perfectly the confrontation between Batman and the Joker, and later, Batman and Two-Face. It raises the questions of moral ambiguity by making us question whether Batman's actions are justifiable, and gives us an ending that attempts to answer the question while leaving the matter open for debate.

Look, in addition to Ledger being a shoo-in for a nomination (and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent could easily have been up for one as well, but no way does the Academy give two acting nominations in the same category to "Dark Knight"), the movie will grab several other ones, most notably Wally Pfister's beautiful cinematography and the film's incredible makeup work. You could easily make a case for Christopher Nolan for Best Director, given the movie's amazing action sequences. (Nolan and his brother, Jonathan, also deserve credit for Best Adapted Screenplay).

And, even though it's July and we haven't gotten to what is considered Oscar season yet, name five films this year that are better than "Dark Knight." Good luck with that.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Now back to the small screen. The Emmy-popular duo of "The Closer" (TNT, 9 p.m.) and "Saving Grace" (TNT, 10 p.m.) offer new episodes.

Speaking of superheroes, "The Middleman" (ABC Family, 10 p.m.) continues its run.

Showtime presents new episodes of "Weeds" and "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" beginning at 10 p.m.

Friday, July 18, 2008

'Monk,' 'Psych' Return

A few weeks ago, I noted the passing of actor Stanley Kamel, who played Monk's shrink Dr. Kroger on "Monk." (USA, 9 p.m.)

Kamel, a veteran character actor, appeared on some of the best episodes of the series and was a delight in the role of Monk's overworked therapist.

Kamel's death from a heart attack brings a note of poignancy to tonight's season premiere, as Monk must deal with the death of the character of Kroger, who often served as Monk's security blanket.

The episode isn't that great, even with guest stars Hector Elizondo as Monk's new shrink and Brad Garrett as the guy fixing up Monk's new house; the mystery is fairly easy to solve and how Monk is rescued in the end is downright silly.

But the final scene (and the underlying theme of much of the episode) is a nice tribute to Kamel, so it's worth checking out.

It's followed by the season premiere of "Psych" (USA, 10 p.m.), which has always been a rather silly show. We meet Shawn's (James Roday) long-lost mother (guest star Cybill Shepherd) tonight, but the "case" is even sillier than usual.

REMINDER: The second part of the three-part "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog" starring Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion hit the Web on Thursday at You can check out the finale on Saturday. After Saturday, you'll have to pay $1.99 to download it off iTunes instead of getting it for free, though it is well worth it.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: "Doctor Who" (Sci Fi, 9 p.m.) meets "It's a Wonderful Life" in the episode "Turn Left," as Donna (Catherine Tate) experiences a world in which she never met the Doctor (David Tennant). Want to see what life on good ole Earth would be like without the Doctor constantly saving us? Tonight provides a great example. It also provides some hints into the two-part finale, in which all of the Doctor's companions play a key role. It's followed by a new "Stargate: Atlantis" at 10 p.m.

With Robin Hood away, Marian (Lucy Griffiths) must intervene to rescue the poorfolk of Nottingham in her guise as the Night Watchman on "Robin Hood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.)

On Sunday, Foyle is back on the job on "Masterpiece: Mystery" in a new "Foyle's War" (PBS, 9 p.m.)

ESPN manages to waste a lot of time with the annual "ESPY Awards" (ESPN, 9 p.m.)

The second installment of "Generation Kill" (HBO, 9 p.m.) debuts Sunday.

Finally, missed "Mad Men" the first time around and want to catch up before Season 2 begins? AMC is running an all-day marathon of the Emmy-nominated series on Sunday beginning at noon. Now is your chance to catch up before Season 2 begins a week from Sunday. This is TV at its absolute best and worth a day of watching or at least Tivo-ing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008 Emmy Nominees

Well, the list is finally out. I'll do predictions and such at a later date:

"Boston Legal," ABC
"Damages," FX
"Dexter," Showtime
"House," Fox
"Lost," ABC
"Mad Men," AMC

Thoughts: I'm glad the Emmy voters bent the rules and expanded the list to six nominees. I'm disappointed that they did so in order to include "Boston Legal." Putting that show in the same group as the other shows listed is downright laughable. It was also surprising that they left the critically acclaimed "The Wire" off this list for its final season.

"Curb Your Enthusiasm," HBO
"Entourage," HBO
"The Office," NBC
"30 Rock," NBC
"Two and a Half Men," CBS

Thoughts: No big surprises here, just disappointment that the voters didn't have the foresight to include "Pushing Daisies."

Gabriel Byrne, "In Treatment"
Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"
Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"
Hugh Laurie, "House"
James Spader, "Boston Legal"

Thoughts: Again, what the hell is this obsession with "Boston Legal?" Great, great list until you get down to James Spader. If you are going to expand the nominees, why not include Kyle Chandler of "Friday Night Lights?" But I'll stomach Spader's inclusion since the voters had the foresight to include Bryan Cranston's remarkable performance.

Glenn Close, "Damages"
Sally Field, "Brothers and Sisters"
Mariska Hargitay, "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit"
Holly Hunter, "Saving Grace"
Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"

Thoughts: Emmy voters nearly had it perfect with "Battlestar Galactica's" Mary McDonnell making the semifinals list. Instead, the voters proffer Mariska Hargitay. Jerks.

Christina Applegate, "Samantha Who?"
America Ferrera, "Ugly Betty"
Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "New Adventures of Old Christine"
Mary-Louise Parker, "Weeds"

Thoughts: Disappointed with the omission of Anna Friel of "Pushing Daisies" and a little surprised at the omission of the "Desperate Housewives" actresses.

Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Steve Carell, "The Office"
Lee Pace, "Pushing Daisies"
Tony Shalhoub, "Monk"
Charlie Sheen, "Two and a Half Men"

Thoughts: No surprises here.

Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men"
Kevin Dillon, "Entourage"
Neil Patrick Harris, "How I Met Your Mother"
Jeremy Piven, "Entourage"
Rainn Wilson, "The Office"

Thoughts: Woo-hoo! Neil Patrick Harris! Unfortunately, Macon's own Jack McBrayer, very deserving on "30 Rock," misses the cut.

Ted Danson, "Damages"
Michael Emerson, "Lost"
Zeljko Ivanek, "Damages"
William Shatner, "Boston Legal"
John Slattery, "Mad Men"

Thoughts: You know, I love William Shatner as Capt. Kirk and in the Priceline commercials as much as the next guy, but seriously, putting him on the list is just about the biggest joke around. Meanwhile, the remaining four-way battle should be one of the most interesting of the awards show. Great list (otherwise!), Emmys.

Candice Bergen, "Boston Legal"
Rachel Griffiths, "Brothers and Sisters"
Sandra Oh, "Grey's Anatomy"
Dianne Wiest, "In Treatment"
Chandra Wilson, "Grey's Anatomy"

Thoughts: Surely the omission of "Mad Men's" Christina Hendricks, one of the breakout stars on TV this year, was a typo.

Kristin Chenoweth, "Pushing Daisies"
Amy Poehler, "Saturday Night Live"
Jean Smart, "Samantha Who?
Holland Taylor, "Two and a Half Men"
Vanessa Williams, "Ugly Betty"

Thoughts: Poehler remains a very interesting nomination choice by the voters, and the delightful Chenoweth ought to be a shoo-in to win, but this being the Emmy voters, who the hell knows?

Gazing the lists of some of the other categories, "John Adams" and "Recount" both got a tremendous amount of Emmy love, which seemed fairly logical. A few disappointments, though: both Sarah Chalke ("How I Met Your Mother") and Amy Ryan ("The Office") were left off the Best Guest Star Actress, Comedy category. And Phil Keoghan ("The Amazing Race") should have been on the list for Best Reality host.

We'll have more as the Emmys draw closer at the end of the summer, including predictions and another online poll. Which were the choices you liked and didn't like? Is there a "Boston Legal" fan out there who can explain its appeal to me?

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Whew, on top of all the Emmy madness is a pretty good night of TV.

Pick of the night is "VH-1 Rock Honors" which pays tribute to one of the greatest bands of all time, The Who. (VH-1, 9 p.m.)

Also highly recommended is the delightful "Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.), in which you actually do get to see Tricia Helfer this time around.

"Swingtown," (CBS, 10 p.m.), which somehow missed out on the Emmys this year, airs a new episode. It's opposite "Fear Itself" (NBC, 10 p.m.), which continues to decline on a weekly basis.

Meanwhile, "My Boys" (TBS, 9:30 p.m.) continues to delight on a weekly basis. It follows a new "Bill Engvall" at 9 p.m.