About as subtle as a Texas tornado, GCB storms onto ABC with hopes of delivering Sunday-best ratings. While Desperate Housewives limps into the sunset, this gaudy, bawdy send-up of gossipy Dallas church divas has a brash, giddy energy reminiscent of happier times on Wisteria Lane.
The American Experience: The Amish
As modern life keeps accelerating, with everything so fast-paced and high-tech, the Amish quietly adhere to centuries-old traditions, leaving the rest of us wondering whether to admire or pity them.
The Amish, a fascinating and gorgeously photographed two-hour episode of PBS' American Experience that's as much anthropology as history lesson, often feels more like a nature documentary. Because the subjects refuse to talk on camera, believing it violates the Second Commandment, we watch from afar as these devout people go about their daily routine and timeless devotions in insular, unspoiled rural habitats. They do, however, open up in voice-over interviews about their strongly held values and rigidly enforced rules.
February's Big Event Scorecard: The Grammys had Adele. The Super Bowl had Eli Manning. The Oscars, the last and least of these annual TV spectacles, had ... Cirque du Soleil? And endless pointless montages of movie stars gushing about how wonderful the movies are. And Billy Crystal recycling age-old shtick, including the "What are they thinking?" gag that had us squirming along with the celebs in their seats, making for a night that was (to borrow from a nominated title) Extremely Long and Incredibly Dull.
The Walking Dead
So much coming and going in the volatile, fragile world of fantasy/horror TV. Once again, we're bidding adieu to Fox's freaky Fringe (Friday, 9/8c) for a month.
The soundtrack for the last week in TV — and virtually every other medium — was provided by the late and lavishly lamented Whitney Houston. Her sudden, untimely death on the eve of the Grammys helped boost that annual spectacular to its highest ratings since the peak of the Thriller furor (a statistic reminding us of the equally resounding loss of Michael Jackson in 2009). LL Cool J, the Grammys' engaging host, opened the show with a prayer — when's the last time that happened? — as the proceedings took on the feel of a celebration and memorial, when they weren't busy crowning Adele the new Queen of Pop. (And how much fun was she on 60 Minutes?)
Art Velez and JJ Carrell
Where would TV be without The Simpsons? Thankfully, it will still be a while before we'll ever have to find out. With no end in sight, Fox's landmark animated hit celebrates "the most meaningless milestone of all!" — their words — with Sunday's 500th episode (8/7c), a remarkable run by anyone's measure. Even if you've been taking this show for granted the last few years, or possibly decade, you don't want to miss — though you might want to record — the dazzling opening sequence, a kaleidoscopic montage showing the Simpsons' evolution from no-def to Hi-Def, with more couch gags than the eye and brain can process.
Awake, which premieres March 1 on NBC (10/9c), is the sort of show I would happily lose sleep over. Hauntingly, daringly original, a psychological mystery that teases the mind while tugging the heart, this brave new series is so unconventional it feels like a dream. It's the sort of bold experiment you only find on a network that has no choice but to take risks.
The show opens on a nightmare: a terrible car accident with Detective Michael Britten (Harry Potter vet Jason Isaacs) behind the wheel of the family car. In the aftermath, Michael finds himself caught between two realities: one in which his...
Courtney Cox, Josh Hopkins
Now here's about the nicest Valentine's Day present anyone could hope for: the long-awaited return of Cougar Town, a show that's so much fun to love, you can't help but wonder if ABC kept it off the air so long just to make our hearts grow fonder.