Cougar Town (Monday, 9:30/8:30c, ABC)
Don't ever do that to us again, ABC — by which I mean, depriving us of this blissfully daffy comedy for a long mid-season hiatus. After watching tonight's return episode in a special post-Dancing With the Stars time slot, you'll know what I mean when I say Cougar Town's absence kicked "butt". To celebrate its return, everyone get out their Penny Cans as Bobby and Laurie try to make the silly pastime a thriving business ("The game is dumb, but it is so addictive," admits Laurie), while Jules rethinks her...
Susan Lucci, Erika Slezak
There will come a time when we tell future generations about the good old days when serialized soaps blanketed the daytime TV landscape — the way prime time once was overrun with Westerns, variety shows and big-ticket miniseries, among other fondly remembered, now-faded formats. The latest death knell, not unexpected but still a shock when it sounded, came late this week when ABC confirmed that the venerable, iconic All My Children and the similarly long-running One Life to Live had been taken off life support. Word of their demise had circulated for some time — AMC takes its final bow in September, One Life to Life will soldier on until January — but it's still a jolt to the system when confronted with the unmistakable signs than an era is ending. Changing viewing habits and economics have conspired against scripted daytime dramas in favor of cheaper-to-produce talk/lifestyle shows. Just as the remnants of variety TV can be found in the results shows of reality competitions American Idol and Dancing With the Stars, soap intrigues have been upstaged by celeb-reality high jinks: the plastic casts of Bravo's various Real Housewives shows, the debauched antics of Jersey Shore, which is being spun off while the daily soaps dwindle to a mere few...
Everyone keeps warning that "Winter is coming" in Game of Thrones, but I can't remember the last series that packed this much heat. After putting its distinctive stamp on genres as diverse as the mob drama (The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire), the Western (Deadwood), the urban crime saga (The Wire), the period-piece potboiler (Rome), the horror-show bodice-ripper (True Blood), HBO now turns its extravagant attention to adult epic fantasy. HBO has found its answer to Lord of the Rings in adapting George R.R. Martin's enthralling, sprawling, ruthlessly brutal and magnificently entertaining series of page-turners.
Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler
Friday Night Lights (Friday, 8/7c, NBC)
It's never easy to say goodbye to a beloved series — but if you've ever spent time in Dillon, Texas, you'll want to check in for the final season of this marvelous series about big-hearted people in small-town America (previously shown on DirecTV but getting its broadcast premiere this week). Life goes on with poignant realism, which means...
It probably didn't help that I got an advance copy of this week's hilarious episode of Modern Family. But after laughing fairly continuously for an entire half-hour of farcical mayhem (involving Cam staging a middle-school musical), inspired innuendo (involving an ad Phil plasters on the sides of the family mini-van) and snark-tinged sentiment (involving a visit from Jay's brother), it was especially hard to muster much enthusiasm for the latest sitcom ...
Alana De La Garza, Terrence Howard
Used to be you'd have to wait until between seasons for the Law & Order revolving door to claim its victims. LOLA doesn't have that luxury. An ill-conceived and poorly cast clone rushed on the air after NBC unwisely and abruptly scuttled the mothership at the end of last season, Law & Order: Los Angeles substituted sun-splashed sprawl for urban grit. The results were not pretty, or especially interesting.
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Yanked off the air in December after only ...
Hugh Laurie, Amber Tamblyn
House (Monday, 8/7c, Fox)
This homecoming will be a cause either for celebration or lamentation, depending on your affections for Thirteen, the enigma who's been MIA while Olivia Wilde has been off making movies (including the upcoming Cowboys & Aliens). So now we know where Thirteen has ...
Cote de Pablo, Michael Weatherly and Mark Harmon
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Question: Thank you for your recommendation of The Killing, which I found both brutal and fantastic. I remember you saying in response to a previous question some time ago that when you screen a pilot, you wonder if you will see yourself invested in the show ...
It had been a pretty even-keel season of the reborn American Idol — perhaps too much so — until the Pia bubble burst Thursday night. Maybe a shocking elimination like Pia Toscano's way-too-early ouster is just the sort of wake-up call Idol needs to shock some showmanship into the part of the show that needs it the most: the judging. I've enjoyed the raucous goofiness of Steven Tyler and the glowy glamorous warmth that is Jennifer Lopez, but cheerleading has its limits, and when the closest thing to actual criticism from the panel is Randy (of all people) damning with faint praise by merely saying "Good job," it's clear the judges aren't doing a good job. Or much of a job at all.
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I'm not sure we need a clone of Simon Cowell, whose blunt and condescending cruelty in recent seasons teetered on boredom with the process...
Keeley Hawes and Ed Stoppard
"This house is going to see such life!" So declares the new mistress (familiar face Keeley Hawes) of Upstairs Downstairs' 165 Eaton Place, blowing out the cobwebs after years of disuse. This address is so iconic to fans of classic British TV, it's a wonder Masterpiece Classic waited until its 40th anniversary to time-warp us back for more sudsy ups and downs in this fabled London estate. (For those devoted to the original, a deluxe new 21-DVD set of the complete '70s series has been issued by Acorn Media.)