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'Luck,' Dustin Hoffman and Horses: A Few Thoughts on David Milch's New HBO Drama

by Maureen Ryan, posted Dec 12th 2011 1:50AM
Though it doesn't officially premiere until Jan. 29, the pilot for 'Luck,' David Milch's new drama, debuted Sunday on HBO, and if you caught it, I'm betting it made you want to go to the racetrack.

Twice in the course of 'Luck's' first hour, we got heart-stopping glimpses of what it's like to be inside a horse race; director Michael Mann gave us a jockey's view of pounding hooves, straining muscles and dangerous maneuvers. How glorious those scenes were.

Who knows how Mann put his cameras in the center of the action, but his doing so was essential to 'Luck's' success. We got to see the poetry that draws people to this often brutal world; we got to see why they can't leave it, no matter how much time and money they've lost to it.

(Warning: I'll be discussing details of the pilot in the first impressions below; jump out now if you don't want to know what transpired in 'Luck's' first hour.)

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Your Burning 'Revenge' Questions Answered by Creator Mike Kelley

by Maureen Ryan, posted Dec 7th 2011 11:00PM
Mike Kelley truly understood that his show was a hit when people began arguing about it at a Los Angeles hair salon.

All Kelley wanted was a trim, but when he mentioned that he created 'Revenge,' his stylist began raving about how he loved the high-end fashion on the show, which was his favorite new soap opera. Another customer corrected the stylist and said that the show was really a murder mystery. A third salon patron chimed in with yet another interpretation of the show.

"If you've hit the salon in L.A., you've become a success," Kelley said with a laugh. But the spontaneous debate about the show, which has been a breakout hit for ABC, made him realize "that people can get whatever they want out of this show," whether that's schadenfreude regarding the wealthy, a soapy slice of escapism or a well-paced serial drama with a clue-laden mythology.

For those who have already become addicted to "Revenge," Kelley promised lots of exciting new developments in 2012: At least three new characters, including a love interest for Victoria (Madeleine Stowe), will arrive in the second half of the season, which will also reveal who died on the beach at the engagement party in the series premiere.

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Talking TV Podcast Riffs on 'Sons of Anarchy,' 'Homeland,' 'Revenge' and 'State of Play'

by Maureen Ryan, posted Dec 7th 2011 11:45AM
There's lots of TV to discuss before the cable and broadcast networks begin their holiday-season hibernation periods, and Ryan McGee and I tried to get to as much of it as we could in this week's Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan podcasts.

First up, we devote more than 30 minutes to the 'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4 finale, which I also wrote about here. In the second podcast, we briefly discussed several projects debuting this week and then talked in more depth about 'Revenge' (expect more on that topic late Wednesday, which is when I'll publish an interview with creator Mike Kelley), 'State of Play' (a truly great 2003 British miniseries that BBC America is re-airing starting Wednesday; read more about it here), and 'Homeland,' a very good Showtime program that is heading into the home stretch of its first season.

Running times are below.

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'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4 Finale Recap (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Dec 6th 2011 11:00PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'To Be, Act 2']

I've been saying for weeks now that the Season 4 finale of 'Sons of Anarchy' would be a pivotal episode of the show. It was clear that the way that the current series of events resolved would influence the show for some time to come, and give us a big clue as to what creative directions the show would follow and what kind of risks it would be willing to embrace.

You can find the audio version of my reaction to the finale in this week's 'SOA' Talking TV podcast, which is live now here and here. Or you can read on for my thoughts on how things worked out for Jax, Clay, Gemma, Tara and the rest of these Charming men.

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'Supernatural' Farewell: Thoughts on 'Death's Door,' the Road So Far and Where I Stop Off

by Maureen Ryan, posted Dec 6th 2011 10:00AM
['Supernatural' - 'Death's Door']

Hello 'Supernatural' fans! Long time no see.

There's obviously been some recent news about Castiel's upcoming return (and you can read Misha Collins' reaction to that here), but today's piece was in the works before that development came to light. I wanted to offer a few thoughts on the Dec. 2 episode of the CW show, which was a terrific showcase for Jim Beaver, among other things. I bet I'm not alone in thinking it was one of the best Bobby-oriented episodes the show has ever done or in thinking it's among the best 'Supernatural' outings of 2011.

It feels good to be going out on a high. Me, that is. Not the show. This will be my last weekly review of 'Supernatural.' But this is not a farewell to the fandom -- merely an au revoir.

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Castiel Returns to 'Supernatural': Your Angelic Prayers Were Heard

by Maureen Ryan, posted Dec 5th 2011 6:45PM
'Supernatural' fans, Castiel is coming back to the show for at least three episodes in 2012.

A spokesperson for Warner Bros., which makes the CW show, said that Misha Collins, who plays the fan-favorite character Castiel, will return in the current season's episode 17. Depending on how many breaks the show takes before it airs the seventeenth episode of season 7, Castiel could be back on our screens by February or March.

Castiel will also appear in two subsequent episodes, but the spokesperson did not say which episodes those would be.

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'New Girl' Stars Dish on Jess' Love Life and the Roommates' Future (EXCLUSIVE CLIP)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Dec 5th 2011 12:30PM
It didn't take long for 'New Girl' to establish itself as the fall's most solid (and charming) hit, and Zooey Deschanel's lead character, Jess, also wasted no time in finding herself an equally dorky love interest.

In Tuesday's episode of the Fox comedy, Jess has decided to sleep with her new boyfriend, Paul (Justin Long), but she's worried that, having just emerged from a long relationship, her skills will be rusty.

"Jess gets really insecure and she's afraid she's not going to know what to do," said Jake Johnson, who recently spoke about the show in a dual interview with co-star Lamorne Morris. The actors, who play Nick and Winston on the show, were back in Chicago (where I live) to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I spoke to them in a Michigan Avenue coffee shop about what the future holds for their characters and for Jess, who doesn't want to mess up her still-new relationship with Paul.

Naturally she goes to her male roommates for advice.

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EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: 'Wire' Star Dominic West on the Killer 'Adult' Role That Could Have Wrecked His Career

by Maureen Ryan, posted Dec 2nd 2011 10:00AM
'Appropriate Adult,' a British film airing Dec. 10 on Sundance Channel, is a fascinating and tremendously well-acted look into the heart of darkness. It features Dominic West and Emily Watson doing some of the best work of their careers, and it was well received when it aired in the U.K. earlier this year (the Guardian called it "mesmerizing").

But for a number of understandable reasons, West, who is best known for his leading roles in 'The Hour' and 'The Wire,' thought the role might capsize his career.

"It was something everybody advised me not to do -- certainly my wife didn't want me to do it," West said in a recent phone interview from his home in London. "It was not a popular decision in the press here until people had seen the film."

In 'Appropriate Adult,' the actor plays notorious serial killer Fred West, who, with his wife, Rosemary, murdered more than a dozen young women, including members of their own family, during the '60s and '70s. Many feared a film about Fred West would somehow glamorize the couple or otherwise minimize the damage they did to the victims and their families.

But West said the script by Neil McKay convinced him that the film offered him "a very well-written, very challenging role that I felt I couldn't give up even if it was to ruin my career, which I don't think it has yet." [See West's performance for yourself in the exclusive clip below.]

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Talking TV Podcast Talks 'Walking Dead,' 'Terra Nova,' 'Sons of Anarchy' and More

by Maureen Ryan, posted Dec 1st 2011 3:45PM
It's mostly zombies, dinosaurs and bikers in the latest edition of the Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan podcast.

Ryan McGee and I kicked things off by mentioning a few shows that premiere this week ('The Take,' 'Trek Nation' and 'Weed Wars'). By the way, you can find plenty of other notable December specials and such in this post.

We also talked a little about 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter,' but in a much longer section of the podcast, we discussed the state of genre television and in particular the disappointing first season of 'Terra Nova' and the very uneven second season of 'The Walking Dead.'

Then it was all 'Sons of Anarchy' all the time, as we discussed the latest installment of FX's biker drama. Running times are below.

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Ho ho ho! Behold Our List of December TV Treats

by Maureen Ryan, posted Dec 1st 2011 10:30AM
community christmas episode If you wanted to give your DVR a break during the holiday season, it'll have to wait.

The first few weeks of December are jam-packed with finales, specials and mid-season cliffhangers, and there's even a bow-tie clad treat on Christmas Day. In an effort to help you keep track of what's to come and shine a light on some hidden gems, I've come up with a list of notable December TV events.

So grab your eggnog and peruse the following roster, which features appearances from Dominic West, James McAvoy, Emily Watson, Dustin Hoffman, Anna Friel, Pierce Brosnan as well as the 'Sons of Anarchy' crew, the former Saul Tigh and the 'Revenge' divas. It's quite an array of stocking stuffers, no?

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Review: What 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter' Says About the State of TV Comedy

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 30th 2011 11:30AM
A lot has been written this fall about female-centric comedy. A number of new sitcoms have been created or co-created by women and the fall's biggest comedy hit, 'New Girl,' was written by Elizabeth Meriwether and stars Zooey Deschanel.

Before we all link arms and dance a jig of glee about the number of ladies in the realm of TV comedy, a few reminders are in order: First, this trend is long overdue, given that women have always been funny (yes, even before Tina Fey), and this fall's uptick in female representation doesn't erase the fact that, as I explored in this story, the overall number of female writers in the TV industry is shrinking.

Also, the sad fact is, women are as capable of writing a misogynist, soul-killing TV comedy as anyone else. Exhibit A: 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter,' a shrieky nightmare that premieres 9:30PM ET on Fox.

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'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4, Episode 13 Recap (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 29th 2011 11:00PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'To Be, Act 1']

The shocking ending of last week's 'Sons of Anarchy' episode made me wonder if tonight's hour would be dominated by Clay Morrow; even in absentia, the club president casts a huge shadow.

For the most part, however, this week's gripping hour belonged to two of the people Clay has hurt most -- Tara and Jax. The scenes that featured those two characters talking to each other or to Gemma were flat-out fantastic, and once again demonstrate that the show's secret weapon isn't its crackling action but its top-flight cast. Katey Sagal was terrific this week, as always, but in 'To Be, Act 1,' Charlie Hunnam and Maggie Siff's performances gave me chills.

Many storylines are reaching the boiling point right now, but this terrific hour wisely focused tightly on the couple who have the most reason to despise everything that Clay and Gemma stand for. What made the hour tragic was the fact that Jax and Tara stand on the brink of becoming Clay and Gemma.

And they know it.

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Where Did 'The Walking Dead' Go Wrong? A Few Thoughts on Season 2

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 27th 2011 10:20PM
The Walking Dead Season 2My colleague Mike Ryan is recapping 'The Walking Dead' here, and I highly recommend his weekly reviews, but I thought I'd offer a few thoughts on the show's second season below.

By the second half of 'The Walking Dead's' Sunday mid-season finale, I was actively rooting for the zombies.

Say what you will about the flesh-eaters, they know what they want and they briskly go for it. On an increasingly frustrating show that can't quite decide whether it wants to be a character-driven drama or a well-crafted frightfest, the zombies' lack of ambiguity about what they want has been almost refreshing at times.

I'm guessing it wasn't the intention of the show's writers to make me hope that Rick Grimes' crew would be munched by the undead, but too often this season, the humans on the show have been idiotic, annoying or sanctimonious -- sometimes all three. The time spent on Hershel Greene's farm was often a waste, not just of time but of the relatively sturdy momentum the show had cranked up in its short first season.

It didn't have to be this way. I'm betting the group's rural interlude was, at least in part, supposed to get us to care about the show's characters more deeply. But most of the characters were badly served by increasingly ham-fisted attempts at characterizations that merely repeated information we already had. The final scene of the episode was moving (all hail director Michelle MacLaren), but almost every other development made me want to bite someone myself.

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'Justified' Trailers Are a Tasty Thanksgiving Treat

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 23rd 2011 2:15PM
Use this Thanksgiving break -- and Christmas too -- to rest up. Don't overdo it during the holidays. You'll need to be strong to survive the onslaught of good TV that is coming in the new year.

The trailers below remind us that 'Justified,' the terrific FX drama starring Timothy Olyphant as a U.S. Marshal, comes back in January.

Also returning that month: 'Portlandia' (Jan. 6), 'Downton Abbey' (Jan. 8), 'Shameless' (Jan. 8), 'Spartacus' (Jan. 27), and that's to say nothing of the new shows that'll premiere that month, notably HBO's 'Luck' and Showtime's 'House of Lies.' It's going to be a busy, busy time.

Your next question no doubt is: What day does 'Justified' premiere? Well, we don't have an exact date yet, but I'll keep you posted if one is announced.

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Talking TV Podcast Takes on the 'Sons of Anarchy' and the Ladies of 'The Good Wife,' 'New Girl' and 'Suburgatory'

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 23rd 2011 12:30PM
Once again, Ryan McGee and I have recorded two podcasts for your listening pleasure.

In the first podcast, we talk about what we're digging about three lady-centric shows: 'The Good Wife,' 'New Girl' and 'Suburgatory.' As I said in a piece I posted earlier today, which re-examines several shows that debuted this fall, 'Suburgatory' has taken a big leap forward in quality and tonight's Thanksgiving episode is well worth a look.

We also did a separate podcast delving into Tuesday's shocking episode of 'Sons of Anarchy,' which I wrote about here.

Running times for the first podcast are below.

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