Monday, March 31, 2008

When Old Becomes New Again

NBC made it official over the weekend when it announced it would be picking up "Knight Rider" as a full-time series once more.

The TV-movie garnered big ratings during a time when the strike had knocked out original programming, and at this point, NBC needs a hit. I'm guessing, though, that people watched the movie because of a sense of nostalgia, heavy promotion and the lack of anything better on. I'm guessing a weekly version of "Knight Rider" probably won't do as well.

But it does underscore the notion that the networks are running out of ideas, between sequels, remakes and grabbing ideas off foreign TV. For every "Battlestar Galactica" that is remade and done better than the original version, you get many more "Bionic Woman"-type failures. (Ironically, both shows were recreated in part by David Eick.)

Newsday's Diane Werts writes about the phenomenon here:,0,3166293.column.

BRAVES ON TV: A regular reader of this column e-mailed me a while ago, asking me where the Braves games would be shown in Macon when they were scheduled for the new Peachtree TV. The answer? Cox Cable Channel 15.

The games will be split between Peachtree TV and Fox SportsSouth, but the Braves will also take part in the national game of the week on both Fox and ESPN. On the radio, Maconites can listen to the team on ESPN 105.5 FM.

When I worked in The Telegraph's sports department, one of my biggest pet peeves was people calling and asking where the Braves' game was that night. It's pretty simple; check Channel 15 or Fox Sports South (Channel 64 on Cox Cable) first; if it's a Wednesday night or a Saturday afternoon, check ESPN or Fox, respectively.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Jason Alexander makes for a mini-"Seinfeld" reunion as Julia Louis-Dreyfus' physician on the season finale of "Old Christine" (CBS, 9:30 p.m.), part of a night of all-new CBS sitcoms, followed by a new "CSI: Miami." (BTW, anyone catch the David Caruso glasses takeoff on "The Simpsons" last night?)

Viewers meet another of John's many kids on "New Amsterdam" (Fox, 9 p.m.), while "Medium" (NBC, 10 p.m.) wraps up a two-parter.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Other Boleyn Biopic

While "The Other Boleyn Girl" is currently on the big screens in theatres around the country, I've been catching up with "The Tudors" on Showtime. As a history buff, it's nice to see series like "The Tudors" and HBO's "John Adams" receive such lavish treatments. (Maybe someone could something on the Norman invasion of England; hm, that'd be a thought).

"The Tudors" (Showtime, Sun., 9 p.m.) returns to the air this Sunday with its second season. It's an interesting series, to be sure, though it moves a tad slowly for me. Also, the writers take some liberties with actual history, which I'm never a fan of.

But what makes "The Tudors" worth watching is the performances. Jonathan Rhys-Myers is solid as the young Henry VIII, and Natalie Dormer is a rising star as the conniving Anne Boleyn. The supporting cast is very strong, with Sam Neill (not back for Season 2), Jeremy Northam, and others, plus is adding Peter O'Toole. But for me, the real revelation has been Maria Doyle Kennedy as Catherine of Aragon, an Emmy-worthy performance if I've ever seen one.

"The Tudors" does a good job of trying to explain the complicated politics of dealing with both the church and the state, and Season 2 will deal with the fallout of Henry's divorce in Season 1.

Meanwhile, I've found "John Adams" (HBO, Sun., 9 p.m.) to be pretty satisfying, thanks to its terrific cast of Paul Giamatti in the title role, the always-terrific Laura Linney as Abigail Adams, and a scene-stealing Tom Wilkinson as Ben Franklin. I confess I haven't read the biography that the series is based upon, but the miniseries is a good insight into the formation of this country.

WHY CAN'T DEAD PEOPLE JUST STAY DEAD?: As I've stated in this blog a lot, my biggest pet peeve is when writers and directors insult the intelligence of viewers by basing plots around the implausible.

Hence, I bring you "Prison Break," a Fox show that was exciting for its first season, had wasted potential in its second, and is now just a caricature. How can I say that after I stopped watching two episodes into Season 3? I can because of the news that Sarah Wayne Callies, whose character was FRAKKIN' DECAPITATED this season, is back. Full-time. Not in a flashback. I'm not making this up.

You can read's Michael Ausiello's interview with PB's showrunner here:

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: OK, so the mystery of "Canterbury's Law" has been solved. It's been moved to Friday's at 9 p.m. on Fox, not a good sign for any series in terms of survival. But tonight's episode should be new.

Stoked for next week's "Battlestar Galactica" season premiere? (If you aren't, you're probably reading the wrong blog.) Anyway, Sci-Fi is airing a half-hour recap of the first three seasons tonight at 10 p.m., followed by a behind-the-scenes special at 10:30 p.m.

On Saturday, "Torchwood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.) is all-new.

On Sunday, if you aren't into historical drama (and why aren't you?), there's a new "Simpsons" (Fox, 8 p.m.) and "King of the Hill," while CBS delivers its first new post-strike "Cold Case" at 9 p.m., followed by "Dexter" at 10 p.m.

After The Tudors, Showtime is also debuting Tracey Ullman's "State of the Union" at 10 p.m.

Finally, the NCAA basketball tournament is running throughout the weekend on CBS, while the Braves and the Nationals kick off Sunday Night baseball on ESPN, beginning at 8 p.m.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Admitting I Was Wrong

I'm a big enough person to admit when I am wrong (rare though that is).

When "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 9 p.m.) first debuted a couple of months ago, I was pretty derisive and snickering in my comments. Usually, "all-star" versions of so-called reality shows are among the worst installments.

But you know what? "Celebrity Apprentice" has been pretty entertaining this season. Somehow, the producers have made it all work.

Sure, it does seem fixed somewhat in that Omarosa should have been fired the first week but somehow made it to the final six, despite complete incompentance and obnoxiousness. Sure, some of the "celebrity" picks (Nadia Comenchi anyone?) were pretty lame.

But Piers Morgan has been a star, Carol Alt still lights up any room she's in, and people like Trace Adkins and Stephen Baldwin have been entertaining. The boardroom sessions, in which Donald Trump fires a candidate, have been some of the best in the entire series.

In fact, other than keeping Omarosa around for way too long, my lone regret was Gene Simmons essentially quitting the show in the first few episodes. Simmons was hilarious and the one person on the planet whose ego trumped Trump's. (Seeing Trump practically beg Simmons to reconsider his actions made for one of the best boardrooms ever).

"Celebrity Apprentice" wraps up tonight with a two-hour finale as Morgan and Adkins square off for their respective charities. It should be a fun ride.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Oy, what am I going to do with "Lost" for the next few weeks? ABC is re-airing the season premiere tonight, sandwiched by new two new episodes of "Miss Guided" at 8 p.m. and "Eli Stone" at 10 p.m.

"Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) and "Reaper" (CW, 9 p.m.) are both new.

Finally, the NCAA basketball tournament (CBS, 7 p.m.), or what I like to term, a waste of $5, resumes tonight and runs through the weekend before next weekend's Final Four.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Silencing The Peanut Gallery

No amount of nuts you may want to send to CBS will save "Jericho" (CBS, 10 p.m.) this time around.

Last year, when the series was seemingly cancelled, an impassioned campaign in which fans of the series sent thousands of packages of nuts to the network (echoing the final line of last season's finale from series star Skeet Ulrich) as a sign they wanted the show, about how a small midwestern town copes after a nuclear attack on the U.S., to continue.

In a rare bit of grace, CBS listened to the fans and brought the series back for seven episodes this season. Unfortunately for the network and the show, that didn't translate into any more viewers.

But at least "Jericho" fans won't be facing cancellation with a cliffhanger, which is what happened last year. Producers, fearing a repeat of leaving the fans hanging, filmed two versions of tonight's finale - one for if the series was renewed, and one if it wasn't. The second ending won't wrap up all the storylines, but it will give fans some sense of closure, which is probably the most important thing a drama can do.

Over at Fox, things are also a bit hit-and-miss with the schedule. The network has already officially cancelled "The Return of Jezebel James," Amy Sherman-Palladino's (Gilmore Girls) return to TV. The show was a big misfire with both critics and viewers. Unknown is the fate of the Julianna Margulies series, "Canterbury's Law," which was yanked last night for a "House" rerun.

Yet, incredibly, the network announced that "Prison Break" would be back for a fourth season and will have a spinoff set in a women's prison (unfortunately, not the sort of women's prison you see late at night on Cinemax).

It just goes to show you that network programming isn't much more random than a game of darts.

MONDAY RECAP: "How I Met Your Mother" survived Britney Spears and doesn't seem the worse for wear. The main focus was on Ted (Josh Radnor) and his dermatologist (guest star Sarah Chalke, one of the best pure comedic actresses working on TV right now). Spears had a small role as Chalke's receptionist who develops a crush on Ted. Spears wasn't a train wreck, and maybe all the promotion CBS did helped bring viewers to the show. But it's kind of a shame that Spears got all the promotion when Chalke, still a regular on "Scrubs," was the real star.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Autism is becoming one of the most important health issues in the U.S., affecting about one in every 150 American children. HBO puts a new face on the problem with "Autism: The Musical" (HBO, 8 p.m.), a documentary about trying to stage a musical presentation featuring a cast of autistic children. The documentary has gotten raves from the critics, so this might be worth checking out.

On the other hand, obesity is also a problem among Americans, but I don't recommend "The Biggest Loser" (NBC, 8 p.m.), which seems generally exploitive about the subject, at least the way NBC promotes it.

Also on this so-called reality-filled night are "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) and "Dancing With The Stars" (ABC, 8 p.m.)

Finally, "The Riches" (FX, 10 p.m.) adds insult to injury with an episode entitled "Friday Night Lights."

Monday, March 24, 2008

All Things Britney

In case you have missed the 8,000 promos for it, tonight is the guest appearance from Britney Spears on "How I Met Your Mother." (CBS, 8:30 p.m.)

It's a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand, HIMYM is always one of those bubble shows, and anything that helps improve the ratings for what I consider to be the best sitcom on the air right now is a good thing.

But, geez, do I hate stunt casting at the best of times, and to do it with the world's most over-exposed (in many different ways) schizophrenic is not really the direction I want to see HIMYM go.

At least in the snippets they are showing as promos, Brit seems to be mostly sane-looking. And in a side note, they are auctioning off her wardrobe from the episode for charity. You have to wonder who would bid on it.

All of the rest of the CBS sitcoms - "Big Bang Theory," "Two & A Half Men" and "Old Christine" - are also new, though Spears-less. "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 10 p.m.) joins them with its first new episode since the strike.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: "Canterbury's Law" (Fox, 8 p.m.) is following the "Rescue Me" format of mixing individual cases with a season-long arc, not really a surprise since both shows are produced by Denis Leary and Jim Serpico. It's followed by a new "New Amsterdam," which has surprised me by already getting the two main characters together in a romance just four episodes in.

ABC airs its monster reality lineup of "Dancing With the Stars" (ABC, 8 p.m.), followed by "The Bachelor" at 10 p.m. That runs against a new "Medium" (NBC, 10 p.m.)

The second season of "Greek" (ABC Family, 8 p.m.) kicks off tonight.

Finally, PBS' "Frontline" examines the Iraq war, beginning at 9 p.m.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Oh, Buffy, How I Miss You

The highlight of the Paley Fest no doubt had to have been the "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer" reunion held last night.

Bloggers galore have been writing enthusiastically about it.

You can read about what went on here:

and here:

and here:

It's a testament to the quality of the show that nearly five years after it ended people are still jazzed to get any Buffy discussion going. Don't forget, both "Buffy" and "Angel" still live on in comic book form, with series creator Joss Whedon writing or approving the scripts that form the hypothetical next seasons of each series. ("Angel," in particular, has had some really great twists to it).

It only gets my juices going even more when Whedon's new series "Dollhouse," starring "Buffy" alum Eliza Dushku, will hit the airwaves next season on Fox.

MY BAD: The big "Lost" ending Michael Emerson alluded to will be in the first episode when the series returns in a few weeks.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: I always like it when I find little nuggets on cable. "Futurama" never got as much ink as other adult-oriented animated series out there, but I enjoyed it just as much as "The Simpsons" or "Family Guy." I never got the chance to catch the direct-to-DVD "Futurama" movie, "Bender's Big Score," when it came out, but now I can see it with everyone else when it debuts this Sunday on Comedy Central at 8 p.m.

The very-disappointing "Return of Jezebel James" (Fox, 8:30 p.m.) is new tonight, disappointing in that it's really not good, surprising with all the talent attached to it.

"Torchwood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.) is all new, heading toward the end of its second season.

On Sunday, the miniseries "John Adams" (HBO, 9 p.m.) continues as Adams and Ben Franklin head to France.

And finally, the NCAA tournament will be running all weekend on CBS. Hopefully, your brackets aren't too busted.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

'All Hell Breaks Loose'

Dear "Lost," how do I love thee?

Let me count the ways:

--You are perhaps the last true watercooler show on TV right now.
--You have TV's best villain in Ben Linus (Michael Emerson).
--You've taken the practical means of storytelling to a new level with the combination of flashbacks (which many screenwriting teachers snicker at as a cop-out technique) and flashforwards.
--When you add to the cast, generally it is an improvement (Ben, Juliet, Mr. Eko, Desmond, and now the boat people)
--When a character sucks (Ana Lucia, Boone, Shannon, Nikki, Paolo) you kill them off in really cool ways.
--In a show about mystery, suspense and action, you tell some of the best love stories around (Jin-Sun, Desmond-Penny, etc.)
--You almost never telegraph your punches, meaning there are genuine surprises every week.

Oh, I could go on and on, but I'm sure there are 10,000 reasons and counting as to the greatness of this show. Tonight is the eighth episode (ABC, 9 p.m.), the last filmed before the strike. When I interviewed Emerson a few months ago, he said No. 8 could serve as a great season finale had the strike not been resolved, and that all hell breaks loose in the final moments of the episode. We'll see. Meanwhile, tonight's Michael-centric story focuses on why he has returned to the island after betraying the castaways two seasons ago and murdering two of them.

The show then airs reruns for the next two or three weeks, to make up for the gap caused by the strike. It's going to be the longest two or three weeks ever.

AROUND THE DIAL: I hope you caught last night's "Late Show With David Letterman," in which the cast of "Battlestar Galactica" came on as their characters to present the Top 10 list. On that note, Sci-Fi made it official and will pick up the "BSG" prequel called "Caprica" after BSG ends. ...

"Friday Night Lights" is very close to being official renewed now. For more on that, check out's Michael Ausiello's report from PaleyFest at

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: One of the best times of the year for sports fans tips off this afternoon with the NCAA basketball tournament. Of course, the only team worth watching, the Cinderella Georgia Bulldogs, battle Xavier at noon today on CBS. Check local listings for other games in the tournament.

Surrounding "Lost" is more ABC newness, with two episodes of the promising Judy Greer comedy "Miss Guided" at 8 p.m., including one with guest star Ashton Kutcher, and "Eli Stone" at 10 p.m.

"Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 9 p.m.) narrows it down to two finalists. If I have to lay odds, I'm guessing Piers Morgan and Carol Alt reach the finals. It's followed by a new "Lipstick Jungle" at 10 p.m.

Hopefully, "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) can rebound from last week's 42-minute gum commercial. It's followed by a new "Reaper" at 9 p.m.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Do You Hulu?

It's been a week since NBC and Fox launched their online video-on-demand site, (Sounds like the love child of "Star Trek's" Mr. Sulu and Lt. Uhura.)

So far, the choices are pretty eclectic. You get the first season of "Buffy," for example, but only the first season. There is the lone season of "John Doe" on the site, but three or four episodes are missing.

The good news for viewers is that the networks will be adding more and more to the site, especially newer shows like "The Office" that were previously only offered on iTunes. (The venture grew out of NBC's falling out with Apple over the price of downloads on that platform).

Now viewers are getting these shows for free. There are still some kinks to be worked out - I tried downloading an episode on my Mac at work and could only get audio, not video. (I have a really sucky Mac). I haven't tried Hulu yet on my PC at home.

If you want to understand what the writers' strike was all about, it's that video downloads off the Internet are an ever-growing part of the TV culture, and now the writers will get a small slice of that pie, something they weren't getting before the strike.

R.I.P. ANTHONY MINGHELLA: The Oscar winning writer-director of "The English Patient," "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and others died yesterday at age 54 of a hemorrage after surgery.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PATRICK MCGOOHAN: The star of my favorite series, "The Prisoner" turns 80 today. McGoohan starred in, helped conceive, wrote and directed much of the classic series, which was the "Lost" of its day.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: I'm kind of ready for the networks to return with their regular Wednesday lineups already, because Wednesday's are far and away the weakest nights of the week. From the drama perspective, only "Men In Trees" (ABC, 10 p.m.) and "Law & Order" (NBC, 10 p.m.) are new. Everything else is so-called reality.

"Survivor" (CBS, 8 p.m.) fans, take note of the special Wednesday edition, since CBS will be airing the NCAA basketball tournament on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An ABC Comedy Worth Watching?

You may not know the name Judy Greer, but it's a fair bet you've seen this talented actress/comedienne in something. From things like "Arrested Development" to "13 Going On 30" to the recent "27 Dresses," Greer is often cast as the scene-stealing best friend.

Tonight, Greer moves into the spotlight as the lead on "Miss Guided" (ABC, 10:30 p.m.), a new single-camera comedy in the vein of "Malcolm In The Middle." Greer plays a guidance counselor at the school she once attended as a high school geek. To her dismay, her teenage rival from those days (Brooke Burns) is now a super-hot member of the faculty.

Though ABC didn't send me an advance copy, and given its dreadful sitcom record over the past few years - "Cavemen" and "Carpoolers" this year alone - those elements might spell trouble, but "Miss Guided" has generated some positive buzz, and the presence of Greer makes it worth checking out. Though debuting tonight after a 90-minute "Dancing With The Stars," its regular timeslot will be Thursdays.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: I had high hopes for FX's "The Riches" (FX, 10 p.m.) last season when it debuted, because it took an interesting concept (a family of traveling con artists who assume the identities of a wealthy family) and had a big name cast, including Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver. Plus, it was coming from the same network that gave us "Rescue Me" and "The Shield."

I gave up after about three episodes. With the exception of Izzard, who was terrific as the clan's patriarch, the characters were too annoying to root for and the pacing of the plotlines was terrible. But "The Riches" has built up its own cult following, and Season 2 kicks off tonight, for better or worse.

"Jericho" (CBS, 10 p.m.) continues to wind down with its penultimate episode, if my math is right. And "Project Runway's" Tim Gunn makes a special appearance on "The Biggest Loser" (NBC, 8 p.m.) Of course, the ratings grabber of the night will be "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Paley Fest

If I were one of the cool TV critics...

Wait, let me back up. I AM one of the cool TV critics. However, by the nature of this position at The Telegraph, I don't actually cover TV fulltime like critics do at other papers. Nor do I have any sort of budget. Nor do I even get paid, or many perks, or... (why do I do this again?)

Anyway, many of the critics who do get the above perks have all been in L.A., attending the Paley Fest. Each year, the festival celebrates the best of TV, both current and past, by getting many stars and creators of various shows (most of them really good) together and let them talk about their series and field questions from audience members. With the exception of Comic Con, this might be the festival I'd like to attend most.

This year's Paley Fest includes a "Buffy" reunion among other things, and TVGuide's Michael Ausiello has been blogging about it. You can catch his review of the session involving the "Pushing Daisies" cast here:

HOW 'BOUT THEM DAWGS?: Just a quick shout out to Dennis Felton and the lads for their amazing run during the SEC tournament. They'll in Washington, D.C. Thursday taking on Xavier in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (CBS, 12:20 p.m.) I'm sure many people are already filling out their brackets.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Holy Moly! What's that I sense? New offerings from the networks across the boards, perhaps?

Yes, CBS returns with its comedy lineup of "Big Bang Theory" and "How I Met Your Mother" flip-flopping the 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. timeslots, followed by "Two-and-a-half Men" and "Old Christine." (CSI: Miami is still a rerun).

ABC kicks off its ratings grab with the premieres of new seasons of "Dancing With The Stars" (ABC, 8 p.m.) and "The Bachelor" (ABC, 9:30 p.m.), which features an Englishman this time around. Having seen the promos, yeah, this guy should have a REAL problem finding a wife.

Fox has brand-new episodes of "Canterbury's Law" at 8 p.m. and "New Amsterdam" at 9 p.m., while NBC airs a new "Medium" at 10 p.m.

Cable-wise, "Kyle XY" (ABC Family, 8 p.m.) airs its season finale.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Veronica Mars, 90210

I used to rail against the idea of remakes until the frakkin' greatness that is "Battlestar Galactica" proved you could re-imagine a concept and make it superior to the original. So I'm slightly less ornery to the idea of a remake than I might have been in my old age.


Then I read's report that writer/producer Rob Thomas ("Veronica Mars") has been approached to do a remake of "Beverly Hills, 90210." Geez, of all the shows to consider reviving? How many "90210" clones, such as "One Tree Hill" and "Gossip Girl" are on the air even now? Why is this necessary?

There is a certain cheese factor to the original, and perhaps it deserves its place among the DVD shelves, where one can enjoy the extra bells and whistles that probably include a Tori Spelling running commentary. But in a time when TV as a whole is fighting keep an audience with something other than reality TV, why rehash a worn-out old series that didn't even leave the airwaves all that long ago?

This isn't "BSG," where the storytelling lends itself to post-9/11 style conflicts and paranoia through dark character development. This is freakin' "90210," for Philo T. Farnsworth's sake. Even in Thomas' hands, what new insight can a remake give us?

Perhaps ironically, Thomas is in the midst of working on a remake right now - a retelling of his old series "Cupid," which ran on ABC several years ago for less than one season. As much as I loved the original "Cupid" - one of the most brilliant concepts ever to air, featuring a terrific performance by Jeremy Piven (track down the DVDs if they exist) - it's time for TV to look at new things.

Speaking of remakes, Jason Smilovic, who helped bring the "Bionic Woman" remake to the small screen this season, is close to selling a new series to NBC that would combine "The Bourne Identity" and "Jekyll and Hyde" that would star Christian Slater.

And speaking of "BSG," you need to watch "The Late Show With David Letterman" Wednesday night, where the cast will be presenting the Top 10 List.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: When HBO does a miniseries, it usually does it very well, giving us things like "Band of Brothers" and the like over the years. Sunday night, the newest offering is a bio-miniseries on the life of John Adams, based upon the popular biography available in bookstores. Starring the likes of Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson and others, "John Adams" (HBO, Sun., 8 p.m.) looks to be another winner.

"The Return of Jezebel James" (Fox, 8 p.m.) makes its debut tonight. Critics have been a bit iffy with it, but I'll take a chance on anything with Lauren Ambrose. It's created by "Gilmore Girls" showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino.

"Torchwood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.) is all new and continues to feature Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman).

On Sunday, "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Aliens In America" are both new on the CW, beginning at 8 p.m.

Finally, if you missed it the first time around, AMC is rerunning the brilliant "Breaking Bad" (AMC, Sun., 10 p.m.), featuring an Emmy-worthy Bryan Cranston as a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer who takes to making crystal meth as a means to support his family.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Return Of Lauren Ambrose

I was an eager participant on Fox's conference call Wednesday with "The Return Of Jezebel James" star, Lauren Ambrose. (Someone at the network must know that redheads are my kryptonite.)

The series, which debuts Friday at 8 p.m., marks the return of "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino to network TV and has generated a lot of buzz.

It also marks the return of Ambrose, who earned two Emmy nominations as Claire Fisher on "Six Feet Under."

Ambrose, who spent the summer performing Shakespeare, seems pleased with her new show.

"The project seemed interesting," she said. "I had never done anything like it. When I did (Six Feet Under), that would be a two-week shoot. ... It was like shooting an indy movie. (Jezebel James) is a multi-camera thing. It's a whole different world. You rehearse all week, then you get ready to put a one-act play for an audience. It seemed like an interesting challenge."

Ambrose plays Coco, a free spirit living on someone's couch with no job or prospects. Her sister, Sarah (Parker Posey) is a highly successful New York children's book editor who discovers she can't have children. So she approaches Coco to be her surrogate. And Jezebel James? She was Coco's imaginary childhood friend, who later formed the basis of a successful book Sarah published.

The cast includes Dianne Wiest, Scott Cohen, Ron McLarty and Michael Arden.

Though some might see similarities between Coco and Claire, Ambrose said the two are completely different.

"Similarities? I see a similarity in that I'm playing both characters," she said with a laugh. "I see them as pretty different. Claire was a kid, a teenager trying to figure out who she is. (Coco) is a fully formed adult, even though she is kind of a mess."

Sherman-Palladino became famous for her fast-paced dialogue on "Gilmore Girls," and Ambrose admitted it took some getting used to.

"It was definitely a dense script I was handed," she said. "The pilot was something like 60 pages for a half-hour show. It forced us to act fast and talk quickly and be quite facile. That's (Sherman-Palladino's) whole thing."

Ambrose said the show is shot on the same sound stage as "The Cosby Show" was, and filmed in the same studio as Marx Brothers films. She hopes to tap into that classic appeal.

"It's good, old-fashioned entertainment," she said. "It's old-fashioned show biz. It's a little scary to me, which is something I like."

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: After a brief hiatus, "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) returns by bringing back former co-star Sam Jones III as Pete Ross, Clark's best friend. Pete is addicted to kryptonite-laced chewing gum (stick to redheads, Pete), giving him elastic powers. (In the original comics, Jimmy Olsen was the one who became Elastic Lad.) The CW and Stride Gum are also doing a tie-in in which fans can help create an original "Smallville" comic based upon the episode. Visit for more information. The show is followed by a new episode of "Reaper" at 9 p.m.

Of course, a little gem of a show called "Lost" (ABC, 9 p.m.) is new. Not to spoil anything, but supposedly we learn who the rest of the Oceanic Six are, someone dies and someone else returns. It's followed by a new "Eli Stone."

Did anyone else sing "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead" last week when Omarosa was booted off "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 9 p.m.) after her crushing defeat with the art gallery challenge? That was schadenfreude, folks. It's followed by a new "Lipstick Jungle" at 10 p.m.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cable Fare

With the networks continuing to be relativerly bare in dramatic programming choices, cable is offerning some new fare tonight.

On Bravo, the new season of "Top Chef" (Bravo, 10 p.m.) kicks off tonight (don't worry, Mom and Dad, I'm taping it.)

The "Project Runway"-style show has a group of chefs competing each week to try to avoid getting booted off. It's hosted by Padma Lakshmi, who should make it worth tuning in, all by herself.

Meanwhile, comic Lewis Black debuts his "Root of All Evil," (Comedy Central, 10:30 p.m.) a mock trial show that makes fun of things like "Judge Judy" by pitting celebrities against each other, with comics acting as their lawyers.

NEW HBO FARE: Variety is reporting that HBO has ordered 13 episodes of “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” based upon the best-selling Alexandra McCall Smith novel, about the top detective agency in Botswana. I've never read the book, but the script is by Richard Curtis ("Love Actually") and Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient"), who also directs, so it may be of interest.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Oh, for the love of Philo T. Farnsworth, when is new network stuff coming back already?

It's reality and game shows galore, including a double-shot of "The Moment of Truth" and "American Idol" on Fox and "Deal or No Deal" on NBC. If 10 p.m. isn't past your bedtime, there is a new "Men In Trees" on ABC and "Law & Order" on NBC.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Alicia Silverstone Is No 'Mother'

It was rumored a few months ago that we would finally learn the identity of Ted Moseby's future wife on the CBS sitcom, "How I Met Your Mother."

Now in its third season, the series is essentially a giant flashback in which an older Ted (voiced by Bob Saget) tells his kids the story of how he met their mother. For all of the show's run, however, it's followed the misadventures of the younger Ted (Josh Radnor) and his wacky friends. Often, Ted tells his kids of one fling after another, and how the girl who might be "The One" turns out not to be.

"HIMYM" has been one of the most consistently funny sitcoms since its inception, but also constantly ratings-challenged on Monday nights, often being dwarfed in the Nielsen's by its less-funny CBS brethren (someone please explain to me the appeal of "Big Bang Theory").

So the producers of "HIMYM" have resorted to a bit of stunt casting that should give them a temporary ratings bump, but will probably hurt them in the long run.

The producers cast Alicia Silverstone in multi-episodes as a doctor who becomes Ted's love interest. Some even rumored that she would be revealed as the "Mother" from the title.

This wasn't the problem. I think Silverstone has good comic timing and charm, and might have been an interesting mix to the cast. But you won't be seeing Silverstone in the role.

She dropped out when the OTHER guest star for her first episode was announced - none other than Britney Spears, who was going to play her nurse. Yes, the producers have resorted to stunt casting everyone's favorite bipolar tabloid fodder ex-pop queen. Silverstone, meanwhile, will be replaced by the talented Sarah Chalke ("Scrubs"), but the character will only appear in that episode.

In one way, casting Spears could be a ratings coup. After all, you can barely turn the channel anyway and not see her, albeit in usually humiliating circumstances. But I'm guessing the audience that tunes in specificially to catch Spears will not be sticking around for future "HIMYM" installments.

You can read more about the whole fiasco at

Meanwhile, Silverstone may appear as a different character in future installments of the show.

"LOST" MADNESS: My brother forwarded me this little tidbit from The Washington Post. It's a little NCAA-style bracket in which the various characters on "Lost" faceoff in a giant popularity contest. (My money is on Sawyer). You can check it out here:

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Oh, to be in April, when new episodes of dramatic TV will appear.

In the meantime, "House"-less Tuesdays are going to continue to suck, with two-hour blocks of "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) squaring off against the likes of "The Biggest Loser" (NBC, 8 p.m.) The CW kicks off a new season of "Beauty & The Geek" at 8 p.m., but only for an hour.

As for scripted TV, "Jericho" (CBS, 10 p.m.) airs the first of its likely final three episodes, while "One Tree Hill" (CW, 9 p.m.) airs its 99th episode. Oh, and "According To Jim" (ABC, 9 p.m.) is also new.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Laying Down The 'Law'

Juliana Margulies marks her return to TV tonight as the lead in "Canterbury's Law." (Fox, 8 p.m.)

The series is being done by Denis Leary and Jim Serpico of "Rescue Me" fame, and not surprisingly, "Law" focuses on a self-destructive anti-heroine who often travels into legal gray areas to free her clients.

Fox disappointed me again by not sending me a DVD screener, so I can't tell you if it is any good or not, but Margulies is always a reliable actress, and with the "Rescue Me" guys behind it, the show is definitely worth checking out.

The series also fits in to Fox's strategy of backloading everything into the second half of the TV year for overall ratings success. While the other networks, for the most part, have struggled during the strike months and post-strike last few weeks, Fox has been able to launch "American Idol," "New Amsterdam" and "Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles" to keep things fresh. "Canterbury's Law" got delayed in the fall when Margulies became pregnant, but with the strike, it turned out to be serendipitous.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: "Canterbury's Law" will be followed by "New Amsterdam" (Fox, 9 p.m.) as it settles into its regular timeslot. This show has turned out to be a bit better than expected, so do check it out.

If you decide to go against my advice, there's always "The Bachelor: Where Are They Now?" (ABC, 8 p.m.), which traces what has happened to previous contestants. Here's a hint - almost none of the couples have stayed together. It's followed by a doubleshot of "October Road."

Speaking of doubles, CBS gives us a double helping of "Old Christine" at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Anything that gives us more Julia Louis-Dreyfus and less "Welcome To The Captain" is a good trend.

NBC has a new "Medium" at 10 p.m. On cable, both "Kyle XY" and "Wildfire" are new on ABC Family, beginning at 8 p.m.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Some Good TV News (For A Change)

Two good pieces of TV news moved across the internet yesterday.

The first, for those fans of "24" facing the prospect of not seeing the new season until 2009, is that it looks as if the series will return sometime this year - in TV movie form.

Fox will put together a two-hour TV movie, set between the end of last season and the beginning of next year's - the season that was postponed from this year because of the strike.

There have been rumors of a "24" movie for a few years now, and even though it gets away from the show's format - each episode represents an hour of real time - it will probably help the show from a story-telling standpoint. The writers won't be forced to stretch the season-arc over such a long period of time, which should refine the storytelling process.

Meanwhile, things are looking up a third season of "Friday Night Lights." NBC is reportedly close to closing a deal with DirecTV about sharing a new season next year.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Two of TV's most interesting dramas wrap things up Sunday night. The critically acclaimed "The Wire" (HBO, Sun., 9 p.m.) airs its series finale.

In addition, "Breaking Bad" (AMC, Sun., 10 p.m.) wraps up a very strong and interesting freshman season. The only negative about this show is that it may get a whole generation of kids interested in chemistry - for all the wrong reasons.

On Saturday, "Torchwood" is new.

Also, you can check out the state high school basketball playoffs on Georgia Public TV beginning today.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

'Lost' On The Web

Sorry for the delayed post, out sick yesterday and covering a trial today.

My Web master, Ryan Gilchrest, told me he has been catching up with "Lost" (ABC, 9 p.m.) by catching it online at Currently, it's the only show the network is offering in the HD-format.

If you have a fast enough connection, you get the benefit of it being shown full-screen, with terrific clarity and sound. If you don't own a HD television, this is a good way to see what you are missing.

Unfortunately for me, my computer is on the slow end, so when I tried watching the download, it came out choppy in full screen mode (but worked great in small-screen mode). The picture was sharp and the sound was excellent.

"Lost" is one of the few shows I have to watch right when it is being aired, both for obsessive enjoyment and fear of spoilers. But I know a lot of people who do download it, and it might be worth a look if you aren't OCD like me.

Of course, as more and more people catch TV online instead of on their sets, you get an idea as to what the WGA strike was about.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: In addition to the Juliet-centric episode of "Lost," ABC also has a new "Eli Stone" at 10 p.m.

"American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) gives us more voting results tonight, followed by a new episode of "New Amsterdam" at 9 p.m., following Tuesday's pilot.

"The Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 9 p.m.) whittles it down to five contestants, followed by "Lipstick Jungle" at 10 p.m.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Going To 'Amsterdam'

Fox disappointed a bit by not sending me a screener for "New Amsterdam" (Fox, 9 p.m.), which makes its debut tonight after "American Idol."

The series should be worth a glance, especially if you a fan of old guys who look young and have difficulty dying, as seen in shows like "Highlander"/"Angel"/"Moonlight" etc.

John Amsterdam (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is the most experienced cop in New York City, due in large part to being 400 years old. Blessed (or cursed) with immortality after saving the life of an Indian girl back during the Dutch settler days, a magic spell will keep him from aging until he finds his true love.

CBS' "Moonlight" has been a minor hit for the network, though it has less to do with the supernatural aspects of the show rather than the huge appeal star Alex O'Laughlin has among female fans. Will "New Amsterdam" strike a similar chord among the public?

As John Amsterdam might say, time will tell, but the series should be worth a look.

RENEWALS: Some good news from the CW, which announced it was renewing several series for next season, including "Smallville," "Supernatural," "Gossip Girl," "One Tree Hill" and "America's Next Top Model."

No word on the various sitcoms from the network, including "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Aliens In America," but "Supernatural" is one of my top 10 series on TV right now, so that's good news at least.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Speaking of renewals, ABC is renewing "According To Jim" (ABC, 9 p.m.) I'll see you in Hell, ABC!

Enjoy "Jericho" (CBS, 10 p.m.) while you can; ratings for the series have been pretty weak, and it doesn't look like a candidate for renewal, no matter how many nuts get sent into the network.

The aforementioned "One Tree Hill" (CW, 9 p.m.) is also new.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Using Your Remote Control

If you check out The Telegraph today, there's an interesting letter to the editor in which a local viewer complains about CBS airing "Dexter" on Sunday nights. The reader said the series carries a TV-14 rating but clearly is not appropriate for 14-year-olds. The reader also accuses CBS of violating the public trust by misusing the airwaves and hopes "Dexter" will be pulled off immediately.

I've written about this before and likely will so again, but my short answer to this is, yes, "Dexter" shouldn't be watched by 14-year-olds, but no, it shouldn't be pulled off the air.

I've never understood why various parents watchdog groups can think they can make the choice for everyone as to what is appropriate and what isn't. Certainly, if I had kids, I wouldn't let them watch "Dexter," which shows a serial killer from the killer's viewpoint. But that shouldn't limit my own enjoyment of it.

It's a fine line as to what is appropriate and what isn't, but certainly there are so many different viewpoints on any series that censorship shouldn't be endorsed as a means of child-rearing. If the parents on these watchdog groups have a problem with their kid watching a certain series, by all means, supervise your own kid and make sure he or she doesn't watch it. But don't try to parent other kids who aren't your own.

Now, more than ever, with the advent of the internet, there are lots of things more harmful than a TV show, but there are also all sorts of parental controls and information out there to help parents combat it. Not to mention the quaint notion of actually sitting down with your kids and discussing what they see on TV as a basis for morality.

There are hardly any shows that don't carry material that someone somewhere might find objectionable. "Dexter" is really no more violent than some of the things seen on "CSI," for example. And is the violence any more or less objectional than all of the sex on "Grey's Anatomy?"

The point is, every household has the ultimate means of making sure their kids don't watch something that's objectionable. It's called the remote control.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: The short season of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (Fox, 8 p.m.), replete with all sorts of violence, wraps up tonight with a two-hour finale. This is kind of a bubble show, with middling ratings compared to a very high budget, but it has grown on me and I hope it's in Fox's lineup next season.

Considering we fought a revolution 200-plus years ago to get away from a monarchy, this country remains awfully fascinated by Britain's royal family. Those people interested will be in for a treat as Barbara Walters examines a year in their life in a two-hour special tonight (ABC, 8 p.m.) It's followed by a new "October Road" at 10 p.m.

CBS airs new episodes of "Welcome To The Captain" and "Old Christine," while NBC has a new "Medium" at 10 p.m.

Finally, ABC Family airs "Kyle XY" and "Wildfire," beginning at 8 p.m. I'm assuming that since they run on a family network, they are appropriate for all audiences.