Kristin Lehman, Billy Campbell and Eric Ladin
Not since the fall TV onslaught has there been a weekend this cluttered with high-profile new premieres, including network and cable (though mostly cable), running the gamut from lavish costume drama to spy spoof to haunting mystery. And there's a really lousy, old-school Kennedy miniseries in the mix you might have heard about. Something for everyone, you might say...
Dana Delany doesn't have to prove to anyone that she's a TV star of the highest caliber. Her body of work, starting with the indelible Vietnam War classic China Beach, speaks for itself.
But not since China's Colleen McMurphy has Delany had a role so well suited for her foxy, sardonic magnetism as Dr. Megan Hunt, neurosurgeon-turned-medical examiner/crime solver in the new Body of Proof. It's ABC's latest attempt to launch a crime drama to compete with the hit procedurals on other networks; only the more comedic Castle has had any traction in recent years. (ABC's latest casualty: the underrated Detroit 1-8-7.)
Holt McCallany and Catherine McCormack
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Question: I was saddened to learn of the cancellation of Lights Out. It has been a great show with great performances. If I had any complaint about this outstanding series, it would be that there could have been more boxing, especially early on in the series. Do you think that was a contributing factor, or is it just another case of a good show not finding its audience in a competitive time slot? This has also made me concerned about my favorite prime-time sitcom, Archer. The writing and voice acting are insanely brilliant. (For me, I rate it a hair above Community.) Do you think it will come back for a third season? Will we need to let slip the ...
Nurse Jackie (Monday, 10/9c, Showtime)
Premium cable's finest (dark) comedy returns for a third season, with the pill-addicted nurse (Edie Falco) as stubbornly defiant as ever, even as the fabric of lies she has constructed between her family life and the hospital continues to shred. Jackie's desperation is as harrowing as it amusing, but there's plenty more going on as...
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
Sometimes it's not just about the ratings. And sometimes it is. That's the takeaway from an eventful week in the win-some/lose-some sweepstakes we call TV programming.
On the plus side: TNT's renewal of Southland, the latest lifeline for the gritty police drama that NBC ditched during that misbegotten period when Jay Leno put the 10 pm drama on the endangered species list. It will never be as popular as the network's signature shows like The Closer and Rizzoli & Isles (which got a funny shout out from 30 Rock's Liz Lemon this week), but Southland's uncompromising integrity helps give credence to TNT's "We Know Drama" credo.
Evan Rachel Wood and Kate Winslet
It's the kind of role an actress would kill for — it won Joan Crawford a 1945 Oscar and is likely to reap Emmy and other honors for Kate Winslet — but I wish I could say HBO's deluxe but draggy miniseries redo of Mildred Pierce was to die for.
"From now on, honey, you're fast." So says a jaded neighbor lady (newly minted Oscar winner Melissa Leo) to Mildred, left by her failure of a husband to raise two girls alone in the Depression, as the unhappy Mrs. Pierce considers taking her hubby's lumpy business partner as a lover.
Mildred begs to differ. She's desperate, but not...
Fringe (Friday, 9/8c, Fox)
This entire season has been a tour de force for Anna Torv. Doing double duty as dueling Olivias from parallel warring universes, she most recently spent an episode channeling her inner Spock — aka Leonard Nimoy — as the ghostly soul of William Bell inhabited her body for a very clever outing. (In the climax, the dormant Olivia resurfaced briefly, freaking out Peter and the viewing audience.) This week, we're back in alt-world, as the pregnant Alt-livia faces mortal danger from several fronts. It's a very harrowing hour, deserving a far larger audience than it's likely to get, tucked away on Fridays. Fox, stand by this show!
Norm Macdonald: Me Doing Stand-Up (Saturday, 11:30/10:30c, Comedy Central)
The sardonic comic...
If HBO were to do a sequel to Big Love, it would have to be called something like The Three Sister-Wives. Not exactly Chekhov, but I'd probably watch. Barb, Margene and Nicki carrying on without Bill: That's already a home plus.
I had drifted a while ago from the flock of followers of this weird and lately quite preachy series about polygamy and family and faith, but did a marathon catch-up over the last week in time to watch the final chapter, which aimed for transcendence and at times achieved it. The hour-plus finale thankfully shucked much of the grotesque Utah-Mormon-Gothic melodrama (murderously mad prophet Alby was taken care of last week, shot down but not killed when he tried to storm the statehouse with the Henricksons inside) and stressed the themes of an unorthodox family and marriage unit fighting for acceptance and survival in a judgmental and often violently unforgiving world. (If you want to see this as a metaphor for the ongoing fight for gay marriage equality, I won't stop you.)
Dancing With the Stars (Monday, 8/7c, ABC)
Here we go again. Time to strap on the heels, attach the sequins and apply the spray tan. TV's giddiest dance competition returns for a new season, with the outrageous Kirstie Alley (paired with fan fave Maks) the highest-profile celeb in the cast. Her competition includes the usual suspects: athletes (Hines Ward, Sugar Ray Leonard), C-list performers (Ralph Macchio) a rapper (Romeo), a reality "star" (Kendra Wilkinson), a flamboyant talk-show host (Wendy Williams), a supermodel (Petra Nemcova) and a Disney personality few of the target audience will ever have heard of (Chelsea Kane). The mirrorball isn't the real prize for most of the contestants. Instant (if sometimes fleeting) stardom comes with the flashy territory.
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Question: What is up with Saturday Night Live? Who are all these people?? There are so many people in the cast that I simply can't connect to them. Back when SNL started, the Not Ready For Prime Time Players was a cast of 7 and you really "knew" them. You knew their characters, their skits, you looked forward to Roseanne Roseannadanna and Belushi's Samurai. Now with a cast of thousands (it seems), no one really cares. I, like so many others, watch the opening, fast-forward to the musical guest (maybe), watch the news, then erase. The best thing the PTB could do would be to trim the cast, keep the ones we really like (Wiig, Kenan, Samberg, Hader, Meyers) and start writing for them, not just writing to fill the time. — Deb