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August 23, 2014

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Save Our Stars: Actors We Want to Rescue from Bad or Blah Shows

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 8th 2011 1:30PM
SOS ListIt happens every year: Disappointing new shows arrive on our TV screens, and they not only leave us cold, they also drag some of our favorite performers down into the muck of mediocrity. If only we could wave a magic wand and free these actors from disappointing or inconsistent vehicles!

As it stands, however, the majority of the shows listed below -- from 'Ringer' to 'American Horror Story' -- have been picked up for full seasons or given additional seasons. As you might imagine, this is not news that fills me with joy. I'd love to see the performers below released from their current gigs one way or another. I say this from love: If 'Ringer' killed off Nestor Carbonell's cop character, I wouldn't shed a tear. Rather, I'd rejoice at the idea that the actor would be free to be awesome on another (ideally excellent) program.

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'Spartacus' Gets a Third Season (Before the Second Even Airs)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 7th 2011 2:45PM
This is the kind of vote of confidence that warms the heart: Starz has given 'Spartacus' a third season before the second season of the show arrives on Jan. 27.

Executives at Starz apparently felt so positively about the second season, 'Spartacus: Vengeance,' and new star Liam McIntyre's performance in the title role that they've told executive producer/creator Steven DeKnight and his writers to get straight to work on Season 3.

"Many surprises are in store for 'Vengeance' viewers this year, but rest assured, the multi-layered plot and richly developed characters will continue to be a trademark of this series," executive producer Rob Tapert said in a statement from the network. "It's incredibly gratifying to see how the story has resonated so well with viewers worldwide."

"The executives at Starz have been extremely supportive in giving us creative freedom and allowing us to tell the story in a rich, yet bold way that leaves an indelible mark on its fans," DeKnight added.

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'Sons of Anarchy' Gets an Extra Episode, Revs Up to 14 Hours

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 7th 2011 1:50PM
There's so much going on in the current season of 'Sons of Anarchy' that some fans have wondered whether the show would be able to wrap everything up in 13 episodes.

The good news is, 'SOA' won't have to tie everything up in that time span. FX executives have decided to give the fourth season an extra episode; the season will now consist a total of 14 hours.

"Creatively, this has been Sons' best and biggest season ever," Nick Grad, the network's executive vice president of original programming, said in a press release. The show's creator "Kurt [Sutter] asked us to consider adding an extra episode to fully close this current chapter of the Sons saga. By adding the extra episode, it wraps up a magnificent season in extraordinary fashion. This is a real bonus for fans of the series."

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'Supernatural,' Season 7, Episode 7 Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 5th 2011 5:15PM
['Supernatural' - 'The Mentalists']

I'm not sure whether 'The Mentalists' will provoke the same furor that 'The Girl Next Door' did a few weeks ago, but this week's episode dwelled on a lot of the same story elements, so I'm betting it'll stir up a few of those hornet's nests again.

In any event, some of the same writing issues that affected 'Girl' were on display here, and those problems have made the season as a whole frustrating and inconsistent. I don't know about you, but the mid-episode confrontation between Sam and Dean in 'The Mentalists' made me almost as angry as the what Dean did at the end of 'The Girl Next Door.'

Man, I'm really tired of this show making me dislike Dean.

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Fans of 'Homeland' Won't Want to Miss the Star-Filled British Drama 'Page Eight'

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 4th 2011 1:30PM
'Homeland' is certainly the year's best new show, but fans of that Showtime drama will want to make time Sunday night for a British import that explores neighboring territory.

Speaking of imports, Masterpiece's bracing British fare -- 'Downton Abbey,' 'Case Histories,' 'Page Eight' and 'The Song of Lunch,' which arrives Nov. 13 -- isn't just enjoyable on its own terms; it proves HBO doesn't have a monopoly on handsomely crafted movies and miniseries.

As for 'Page Eight' (PBS Masterpiece Sunday, check local listings), this enjoyable Bill Nighy espionage movie should also be on the radar of people who enjoyed AMC's 'Rubicon' or the previous Nighy vehicle 'State of Play' (a great 2003 miniseries that BBC America will re-air Dec. 7). Then again, you don't have to be a particular fan of spy fare or Nighy to enjoy 'Page Eight,' which is full of the kind of proven British acting talent that makes the whole venture worthwhile.

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EXCLUSIVE: Jenna Elfman to Guest on 'Shameless' Finale

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 4th 2011 12:30PM
Jenna Elfman, best known as half of 'Dharma and Greg's' title couple, will guest star in the second season finale of Showtime's 'Shameless.'

The drama, which stars William H. Macy as the patriarch of a struggling Chicago family and Emmy Rossum as his eldest child, returns Jan. 8, but we'll have to wait until the twelfth episode of the season to meet Elfman's character.

The actress plays Jill, "a woman with a dangerous past and an awkward present," according to the network.

When the new season of the show begins, the Gallagher clan is sweltering through a hot Chicago summer and Fiona, Rossum's character, is working at a trendy nightclub while her siblings Carl (Ethan Cutkoski) and Debbie (Emma Kenny) run a day-care center out of the family home. (That sounds like a terrific idea for the chaotic Gallagher household, right? More people on the premises?)

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After a String of Gems, AMC's First Truly Terrible Drama Is...

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 4th 2011 11:30AM
It was bound to happen sooner or later: AMC has a dud on its hands.

The network's track record thus far has been enviable, but 'Hell on Wheels' (10PM Sunday, AMC) is disappointing on any number of levels. I certainly wasn't a fan of how 'The Killing' ended its debut season, but at least that show started out strong, and the rest of the network's programs offer compelling characters, distinctive aesthetics or solid takes on conventional premises. In some cases, AMC's dramas excel in all of those arenas and many more.

'Hell on Wheels' does one thing well: It's good at being tedious.

There is a truly compelling performance in the early going, but that doesn't come from star Anson Mount, who is glumly competent at best.

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Good Show! 'Downton Abbey' Gets a Third Season

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 3rd 2011 12:15PM
Here in the U.S., we haven't even seen the second season of 'Downton Abbey' yet (it arrived in the U.K. weeks ago but doesn't air here until Jan. 8), but it's good to know that there will be a third season of the acclaimed period drama.

A U.K. newspaper announced the news today, as did Newsweek/Daily Beast writer Jace Lacob (update: PBS confirmed the third season via email as well). Julian Fellowes, who created the drama, will continue to write the saga of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants, and the third season will follow the characters into the 1920s.

"I have grown very fond of my Downton family and I certainly do not want to say goodbye to them quite yet," Fellowes told the Mirror.

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Talking TV Takes on 'Hell on Wheels,' 'Sons of Anarchy,' Fall TV Winners and Losers

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 2nd 2011 2:20PM
This week on the Talking TV podcast, Ryan McGee and I discuss AMC's new Western drama, 'Hell on Wheels,' we gab about this week's episode of 'Sons of Anarchy,' and we delve into some of the fall season's winners and losers.

Ryan and I each picked two winners and two losers: One of my winners was 'Revenge,' and one of my losers was fall's other woman-with-a-secret drama, the CW's 'Revenge.' Ryan chose ABC's Wednesday comedy block as a winner and 'Terra Nova' as a loser.

To find out what our other winner and loser choices were, grab the podcast and enjoy!

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'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4, Episode 9 Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 1st 2011 11:00PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'Kiss']

Oh, Jax. You stepped up and showed some very savvy leadership in this episode. Much of what was good about 'Kiss' stemmed from Charlie Hunnam's terrific performance and from the ways in which the episode showed that Clay isn't just reckless these days, he's also not a good leader for the club. Jax is clearly the right man for these troubled times.

But does Jax really think a sitdown with the Irish, the cartel and the club is just one of "a few details" he has to take care of, a simple errand to be disposed of quickly? Has he learned nothing from being involved in the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club since he was knee-high to a Harley?

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Five Easy Ways '2 Broke Girls' Could Improve Itself (Step 1: Drop the Racist Character)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 1st 2011 2:45PM
The biggest mystery of the fall season doesn't involve a detective or dead body; the suspects are, in this case, '2 Broke Girls.' Why doesn't the CBS sitcom do a much faster and more efficient job of fixing what's wrong with it? These problems are eminently fixable and they're getting in the way of what's working about the show.

'2 Broke Girls,' you may recall, was one of the best-reviewed pilots of the season, but since then, it's often found itself mired in a morass of cringe-inducing supporting characters, brain-numbing predictability and jokes that feel as though they were exhumed from dead sitcoms of the '80s. What gives? The show is doing well (it got a full-season order from CBS), but I can't escape the feeling that it'd be doing even better if it ditched its more groan-worthy elements.

Given the magical ability to fix '2 Broke Girls,' here's what I'd change right away:

1. Dump the racist caricature.

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'Supernatural' Season 7, Episode 6 Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 29th 2011 7:15PM
['Supernatural' - 'Slash Fiction']

It's been a tempestuous few weeks for 'Supernatural' fans. Well, all right -- for this fan. I can't speak for everyone who watches the show, but I certainly felt many disturbances in the Force as season 7 got underway. It's been a bumpy ride, to say the least, and for me, it led to the writing of last week's 'Tough Love' laundry list of things I think the show needs to fix, address or otherwise improve.

So it comes as a relief to say that I liked 'Slash Fiction' quite a bit, and though it remains to be seen whether the show can fix all of its long-term and big-picture problems, this week's episode was double the fun of anything we've seen in the past month.

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Why Getting Into Business with Charlie Sheen Is a Terrible Idea for FX

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 28th 2011 2:30PM
Television is a business. Some days, it feels like 95 percent of television exists to remind us of that.

Many shows are made for cynical reasons, by cynical people, in order to rake in the cash that props up multinational corporations. So much of the time, making money is the name of the game and creativity and originality are afterthoughts, if that.

But I've staked my career on the idea that television is more than a business, that it can be an art as well. Those of us who approach this gig with that belief -- with anything other than a cynical attitude, that is -- are liable to get blindsided by pointed reminders that cynicism and opportunism are the standard operating modes in Hollywood.

Yesterday, we got one of those reminders. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that FX got into business with Charlie Sheen via his new show, 'Anger Management,' but it was hard not to feel disappointment.

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Reviews: 'Allen Gregory' Disappoints But 'Beavis and Butt-Head' Rock Their Return

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 27th 2011 1:30PM
MTV has produced a lot of iconic images over the years, but when it comes to audio, its finest achievement may be a pair of unmistakable giggles.

'Beavis and Butt-head' (10PM ET Thursday, MTV) and their instantly recognizable "heheh hehehes" are back, but the news that Mike Judge and the network were resuscitating the slacker duo was a little scary when it emerged last year.

I have many fond memories of the way Beavis and Butt-head fearlessly and sophomorically commented on the overblown music videos and pop-culture icons of the '90s, but in a few years, I'll be exiting television's most desirable demographic, and I probably left MTV's a decade or two ago. Would new-school Beavis and Butt-head have relevance for those unfamiliar with their breathy giggles or would the show return as a musty and ultimately irrelevant museum piece aimed at the nostalgia crowd?

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EXCLUSIVE Season 5 Video Preview and Fond Thoughts about 'Chuck's' Final Run

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 27th 2011 9:30AM
The return of 'Chuck' (8PM Friday, NBC) is something to celebrate, but this fall's Nerd Herd party has a bittersweet quality, given that this is the last season of the show.

When season 5 ends, we'll have to say goodbye to the Intersect, say sayonara to Jeffster and swear off John Casey's grunts forever. We'll get no more celebratory Comic-Con love-ins in which the cast and producers tease fans with intel on the next round of espionage antics. No more Castle, no more secret missions, no more touching nerd romances and bromances.

Wait, wait, don't leave! I didn't mean to bring you down. But facts must be faced. Now that we've done the hard part, let's get to the good stuff: In honor of 'Chuck's' Friday return, let's celebrate the things that are most enjoyable about the show's new season.

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