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September 1, 2014

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Whoops! Changing My Tune on Fall's 'Best' and 'Worst' New Shows

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 23rd 2011 10:00AM
Reviewing television isn't like reviewing any other form of entertainment: Every show on the air is a work in progress and can go from good to bad (and vice versa) in a matter of weeks.

Assessing debut episodes is especially tricky, given that they have so much to accomplish and not a lot of time for all that set-up. Still, earlier this year, I felt confident enough about what I'd seen to make lists of the season's most promising and least promising new shows.

Did those judgments hold up? Did those shows fall on their faces after promising debuts, or get a lot better after wobbly pilots? Both things happened, as you might have guessed.

Below, I take a second look 'Grimm,' 'Ringer' and 'Once Upon a Time,' in addition to several other new shows, and I pay special attention to the ABC comedy 'Suburgatory,' the most improved program of fall's freshman class.

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'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4, Episode 12 Recap (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 22nd 2011 11:00PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'Burnt and Purged Away']

Well, that had to happen.

The pace of the generally compelling hour was excellent and though there were developments in quite a few story threads, they all had room to breathe. It was executive producer Paris Barclay's last time in the director's chair this season, and you could tell that his steady hand was on the tiller.

Still, I'm betting all you want to talk about is what happened in the gripping closing seconds of the hour. I know I have a lot to say on the matter, in the post below and in this week's 'Sons of Anarchy' podcast (which you can find here and here).

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'Smash' Exclusive First Look: Is This the Show That Will Save NBC?

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 21st 2011 10:00AM
It's no secret that things have been tricky lately for the Peacock Network. Some of its returning shows have been struggling in the ratings and none of its new fall offerings have been breakout hits.

That may be about to change: NBC debuts 'Smash' Feb. 6, and many critics who've seen it (including me) think it's one of the strongest new shows of the season. Below, Aol TV has an exclusive first look at the 'Smash' key art, which features former 'American Idol' contestant Katharine McPhee atop a pile of scheming Broadway strivers.

You're probably wondering if 'Smash' is merely a 'Glee' ripoff set on Broadway. Of course, it makes sense for 'Glee' to come up when discussing 'Smash,' but the latter show is different (and possibly better) in several respects.

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'The Good Wife' Season 3, Episode 9 Recap (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 21st 2011 2:45AM
['The Good Wife' - 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot']

It was old home week on 'The Good Wife' last night. I don't know about you, but I did a little jig of glee when I saw that Patrick Breen and Linda Emond were back as Capt. Terrence Hicks and Judge Loera Kuhn. When they appeared in a crackling season 2 episode, I wrote at the time that I'd happily watch a military-law spin-off starring those two characters.

(By the way, I just want to say hello to all our 'Good Wife' regulars. I'm filling in as Lockhart Gardner recapper for my co-worker Chris Harnick, who will be back on the case next week. I hope I do as good a job as Chris does at chronicling the weekly 'Good Wife' maneuvers, legal and otherwise).

I woudn't say that 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot's' case was quite as gripping as the firm's last military trial -- there was so much going on in this week's episode that the main case felt a little undercooked, as it were, and we barely got to know the young woman at the center of it.

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'Game of Thrones' Season 2 Preview Airs on HBO (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 20th 2011 9:00PM
In a new behind-the-scenes video that aired on HBO Sunday night, we got our first glimpses of the second season of 'Game of Thrones.'

The show doesn't return until April, but we're sure this is the first of many preview tidbits designed to whet our interest for the next round of machinations in Westeros and beyond. What do you think, 'Game of Thrones' fans -- did it work?

What am I saying? Of course those of us who became entranced by the first season of the show are counting the days until Tyrion, Cersei, Arya, Jon Snow and all the rest return -- not just those characters, of course, but the dozens of new players who will join the game in 2012.

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Talking TV Podcast Talks 'Community' and 'Sons of Anarchy' with Critic Alan Sepinwall

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 16th 2011 3:45PM
We're working overtime here at Talking TV headquarters to double your pleasure this week. We've got two podcasts for you, and both of them feature special guests.

My talk with 'Burn Notice' creator Matt Nix is here, and if you don't have time to listen to the whole thing, I excerpted some highlights from our chat on that post.

Ryan McGee and I also recorded a podcast with special guest Alan Sepinwall, TV critic for Hitfix.com. Talking TV: Part Deux finds us analyzing NBC's reasons for benching 'Community' and discussing what that means for the future of the show and the network. Alan also joined us for our weekly chat about 'Sons of Anarchy.'

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EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: William Shatner Shakes Up the Team on 'Psych'

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 16th 2011 3:30PM
When I heard that William Shatner was going to be guesting on 'Psych,' I did a little nerd jig of joy, and not just because I'm a 'Star Trek' nut. 'Psych' is one of my turn-my-brain-off, escapist pleasures, and seeing the Shat bring his inimitable brand of ham to the proceedings sounded like an excellent idea.

The episode itself, which airs Nov. 30 and has Shatner playing Jules' con-man father, is a solidly enjoyable outing. But one question sprang to mind as I watched it: Why aren't there any 'Star Trek' shout-outs in the episode? On a show as pop-culture obsessed as 'Pysch,' not even one Tribble or red-shirt reference? What gives?

Here's what the show's creator and executive producer, Steve Franks, had to say when I asked him about that.

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'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4, Episode 11 Recap (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 15th 2011 11:30PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'Call of Duty']

Last week's 'Sons of Anarchy' was an intense and often gripping hour, and there's no way this week's episode could have matched it. Given that many final showdowns are no doubt being saved for the last couple of episodes of the season, the number of confrontations was certainly way down this week.

This episode offered a variety of amplifications and diversions, some of them superfluous. 'Call of Duty' wasn't better than last week's hour, I imagine we can all agree on that.

But it sure was longer.

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Save Greendale! An Open Letter to the Head of NBC Regarding 'Community's' Future

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 15th 2011 12:40PM
The news that 'Community' has been benched for an indeterminate amount of time came like a punch in the gut on Monday.

Wait, what? Why am I, of all people, lamenting this very dark timeline for the low-rated NBC comedy? I'm not known to be one of 'Community's' most vociferous advocates.

Because the best part of this job is tapping into people's passions, and when I wrote about how much I loved 'Remedial Chaos Theory,' a wildly inventive and fantastically fun October episode of the show, I got a ton of feedback from 'Community' fans who were excited to share lists of their favorite episodes of the show.

Maybe 'Community' hasn't been my cup of tea every single week, but I absolutely love how much people adore it, and in a perfect world, the TV landscape offers range of shows that a wide variety of people wholeheartedly love, whatever those show's occasional wobbles.

That's why we need a Save Greendale campaign, which should not only involve felt beards but also letters to NBC (and if you have further ideas on how to save the show, please share them below). Here's my open letter to Robert Greenblatt, the chairman of NBC Entertainment:

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'Burn Notice' Creator Matt Nix Talks Game-Changing Season Finale and More

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 15th 2011 10:15AM
This week's Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan podcast has a different format: Ryan was out of town, so, on my own, I spoke to 'Burn Notice' creator and executive producer Matt Nix for over an hour. (Don't worry, we'll have a regular podcast, probably with a different special guest, later in the week.)

Forgive me for my enthusiasm, but I really think parts of this podcast could be of interest to wide variety of TV fans, even those who don't necessarily watch the USA Network show.

Toward the end of the podcast, at about the 55-minute mark, I asked Nix to do something writer/creator Shawn Ryan ('The Shield,' 'Terriers') has done in previous Talking TV podcasts: I asked him to talk about his "beefs" with TV or the making of it. That got Nix started on a self-deprecating riff about those who take to the Internet to critique episodic problems that occasionally afflict his show.

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Thoughts on 'Homeland's' Stellar Sunday Episode and Terrific Debut Season

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 14th 2011 12:00PM
My colleague Mike Hogan wrote about last night's 'Homeland' here and I recommend his weekly review, but I couldn't resist adding a few comments about the Showtime drama's outstanding Sunday episode.

If you're not watching 'Homeland,' you really need to catch up on this gripping drama (which I reviewed here). I already thought 'Homeland' was the best new show of the year, but Sunday's hour was in a different league from what came before it.

As I said in last week's Talking TV podcast, I was a little alarmed by a development in last week's episode -- I thought what happened between CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and former prisoner of war Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) might have been the kind of mistake that would force this promising show down cliched or unsatisfying paths.

I couldn't have been more wrong, and Sunday's episode proved that 'Homeland' knows exactly what it's doing. Within the context of a complex tale about the challenges of combating terrorism, 'Homeland' has proven it knows how to tell a rich, emotionally nuanced tale about the dangers of connection and the price of loneliness.

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EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Douchebag Morgan Causes Friction on 'Chuck'

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 10th 2011 10:00AM
What the heck is up with Morgan? Why is the 'Chuck' character sporting truly unfortunate hair?

Mysteries abound when it comes to the Bearded One. Ever since the former Buy More clerk had the Intersect downloaded to his brain, he's become more and more of a jerk.

In this clip from 'Chuck Versus the Frosted Tips,' Friday's episode of the show, former Intersect Chuck Bartowski takes his best friend Morgan to task for, well, being a douche.

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'Revenge' on ABC Is Sweet: Let Us Count the Ways

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 9th 2011 5:45PM
The first thing you need to know about 'Revenge' is that it's a verb.

Emily Thorne is in the Hamptons, stirring up trouble by REVENGING all over the place. She is REVENGING her dead father, who died after taking the fall for a bunch of venal rich people who committed a crime. Such infamy must be REVENGED. (Oh, that's another thing -- when you speak of the ABC drama, your tone of voice should indicate that you're speaking in ALL CAPS.)

What else do you need to know about 'Revenge'? Well, I found it a bit stiff and forced when it began -- as I said in my original review -- but I've grown increasingly addicted to it, and last week's episode was the most satisfying and entertaining festival of REVENGING yet. By fine-tuning its tone and its cheeky, brisk approach to the prime-time soap genre, it's become the guilty pleasure I always wanted it to be.

But if you're not up to speed on the show, the following guide should fill you in on what you need to know about Emily's busy schedule of REVENGING.

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Talking TV Podcast Reacts to 'Sons of Anarchy' Madness, Talks 'Fringe,' 'Homeland'

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 9th 2011 4:25PM
Ryan McGee and I had lots to discuss in this week's Talking TV podcast.

As we are doing every week until the end of 'Sons of Anarchy's' fourth season, we discussed the latest developments in Charming and what these shocking events may (or may not) mean for the show's future.

We also delve into the current seasons of two dramas with strong followings: Fox's 'Fringe,' which we're both somewhat disappointed with this season, and Showtime's 'Homeland,' which has had a very strong start to its debut season. Still, being paranoid types (which somehow seems appropriate), we wonder if the show will be able to mix big, suspenseful reveals with character-driven drama all season long, or if one of the other might suffer as the time to supply answers draws near.

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'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4, Episode 10 Recap (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 8th 2011 11:00PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'Hands']

In my years of writing about 'Sons of Anarchy,' I don't think I've had the opportunity to write these words yet: This episode belonged to Maggie Siff.

Don't get me wrong, I've always known what a good actress she is, but 'SOA' is mostly the story of the SAMCRO guys, with a few subsidiary stories for Gemma and, to a lesser extent, Tara. Those stories are usually fit in around the contours of the club stories, and not always elegantly. But Tara's attempt to leave the orbit of the club got the time and attention it deserved in Tuesday's gripping episode. In that hour, Siff got her most challenging scenes to date and absolutely nailed them.

If 'Sons of Anarchy' is roughly following the shape of 'Hamlet,' then Charming's Ophelia just went mad. Or perhaps she began to see things clearly for the first time, and we all know what honesty and clarity get you in the world of SAMCRO: Blood, pain, heartbreak.

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