Rob Lowe, Rashida Jones
Emotions have been running high lately on NBC's best Thursday comedies. Saying goodbye to beloved characters can have that effect. Last week, Community sent Abed's playmate Troy (Donald Glover) off to sail the world with LeVar Burton, but not before staging one last epic stunt that turned Greendale into Lava World. This week, the focus shifts to a more grounded yet fictional Indiana — where, incidentally, there is an actual Greendale (I grew up there) — as Pawnee prepares a going-away bash for Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) and Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) on Parks and Recreation that may not be as surreal as Community's but compensates with a reservoir of genuine emotion and character-rich moments.
Harry Connick Jr.
Who dat? Only the best thing to happen to American Idol in this post—Simon Cowell era.
Harry Connick Jr. may not be as instantly recognizable as his fellow Idol panelists Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban, but in a world where too many reality-show judges act more like cheerleaders (yes, The Voice, this even applies to you), this New Orleans crooner and accomplished cutup has what I'd call (apologies to Cowell) the X — or expert — factor. He's exceptionally entertaining, extremely knowledgeable and expansively personable — even when his explosive opinions earn him the labels "Hatchet Harry" and "Harsh Harry" from the kinder, gentler Lopez and the occasional disgruntled contestant. But how can you not love an Idol judge who hates the word pitchy and refuses to be wowed by caterwauling vocal gymnastics?
It's quite a week for those who enjoy rugged armchair escapism of the historical epic variety. First came the three nights of Discovery's enjoyable gold-rush melodrama Klondike (repeated in its entirety on Saturday, starting at 9:30 am/8:30c), during which Jack London (played by Johnny Simmons) is heard rhapsodizing, "What you're looking at here is a walking, talking novel," as he surveys the squalor and violent desperation teeming throughout Dawson City, the miniseries' Yukon frontier setting.
Fox enjoyed eight seasons of great success with House, a high-concept medical procedural about an incorrigible, deeply flawed medical genius. I'm not sure I could make it through eight episodes (I've seen two so far) of Louse — also known as Rake (Thursday, 9/8c) — which must have been pitched to Fox, via the series' Australian roots, as "House in a courtroom," a high-concept legal dramedy about an incorrigible, deeply flawed law maverick.
Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher
Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter!
Question: Now that the "traditional" network season is about half over, do you have any shows you've found to be either pleasant surprises (those you didn't think much of initially, but improved) or disappointments? I know that for me, the biggest disappointment has been (as it has been for many people) Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is basically just the 21st-century A-Team. It's fairly entertaining enough, but if it were to disappear tomorrow, I wouldn't shed any tears. The two happiest surprises for me have been The Crazy Ones (which didn't sound like it would be good, and I quit watching after the pilot but have caught up and found it quite enjoyable — probably because they keep Robin Williams' zaniness in check and the supporting cast has proven very funny) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I didn't really know much of Andy Samberg so wasn't that interested, but the early reviews had me check it out. I was very glad, too, because that's one new show I look forward to every week. I find it to be a worthy successor to The Office in its heyday. I'm also finding Almost Human to be getting much better from its middling premiere, though it's still not quite appointment TV. — Scott
Three episodes are never enough to satisfy our appetite for the dazzling BBC/Masterpiece Mystery! version of Sherlock, which thanks to its stars' busy movie careers, made us wait two long years for the latest trilogy of 90-minute delights. Was it worth the wait? The answer is (to borrow the title of TV's other enjoyable contemporary Holmes series) elementary: Did you ever doubt it?
"You love it, being Sherlock Holmes," reaffirms the long-suffering Dr. John Watson (the delightful Martin Freeman) to his exasperating mate (an electrifying Benedict Cumberbatch), who returns to the spotlight in Sunday's playfully...
Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards and David Ramsey
Question: I am loving Season 2 of Arrow. It is jam-packed with action and has been really fun lately. I can't believe I am saying it, but I think The CW may have beat a major network in creating a great show within the genre (looking at Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Felicity and Oliver's chemistry is off the chart, and I even like Grant Gustin as Barry Allen. Do you also think Arrow is doing better than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Do you think the ratings of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are enough to qualify for the people at Marvel to plan several rumored spin-offs or new series? — Aadil
Matt Roush: Can't quite tell if your main concern is quality or ratings, but my emphasis is almost always on the former, and by that standard, Arrow is by far the superior and more satisfying show, with a clearer focus, more dynamic action and character development....
Billy Campbell, Hiroyuki Sanada
Made you jump. It's about time a Syfy show had that effect on us again.
Syfy's Helix (Friday, 10/9c) is a chiller in every sense of the word, a welcome return to gripping sci-fi form for a network that has lately ceded bragging rights to AMC (The Walking Dead), FX (American Horror Story) and even The CW (The Vampire Diaries) in the competitive arena of hardcore genre buzz. The spirit of Michael Crichton permeates this claustrophobic exercise in suspenseful paranoia, from Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D. Moore and series creator Cameron Porsandeh, who sets the first season almost entirely at an icy Arctic research compound that's actually a hothouse for mysteriously grisly medical experiments.
Tobey Maguire, Tim Robbins
Here's the thing about satire: Parody has a sharper sting if what's being ridiculed is actually relevant. And while it looks like everyone's having a grand time lampooning the old-school histrionics of the classic TV miniseries "epic" in IFC's elaborate all-star Funny or Die put-on The Spoils of Babylon, I'm afraid the fun isn't all that contagious, in part because the joke is such a stale one to begin with.
The whole enterprise, which consists of six half-hour chapters (the first two airing back-to-back starting Thursday at 10/9c), has the musty whiff of one of those movies derived from so-so Saturday Night Live sketches. Each installment opens with a staged intro, featuring a heavily made-up Will Ferrell as a rotund Orson Welles-like egomaniac impresario (described as "author, producer, actor, writer, director, raconteur, bon vivant, legend, fabulist" — and that's just the first episode's credits) who sinks further and further into his (wine) cups as he reflects on his lost late-'70s "masterpiece," which he self-financed as if he were Scrooge McDuck.