The made-for-TV movie/miniseries would be an almost completely lost art if it weren't for HBO and the British imports served up by PBS' various Masterpiece franchises. Already this year, we have a deliciously strong contender for best-of-year (and, one imagines, Emmy) honors with Masterpiece Classic's over-too-quickly Downton Abbey.
The Defenders (Friday, 8/7c, CBS)
Now here's some stunt casting to get your nostalgic juices flowing. The guest judge in this week's episode of the breezy Vegas courtroom drama is Dan Aykroyd, who clashes with Jim Belushi's Nick Morelli during a court hearing. (Aykroyd's first blast of fame came while playing alongside Jim's legendary brother John in the original Saturday Night Live cast — and later as Blues Brothers.) Even better news: ...
Matthew Perry, Timothy Olyphant
Some very significant Wednesday night comings and goings in what has turned out to be an incredibly busy TV week. We welcome back an old sitcom Friend with conflicted emotions, but there's no doubting our enthusiasm for the return of a certain soft-talking, fast-shooting U.S. Marshal, and there's no hiding our sorrow as we bid farewell to a modern classic about small-town Americana and the game of life (also: football).
What a week for fans of crime dramas that try to raise the bar. Two winners premiering this week are set in USA's midsection — one rural, one urban (which I'm thinking you might have heard about on Super Bowl Sunday) — and they're so good it makes you wonder why Law & Order never took its act to the heartland.
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We'll be discussing the second season of FX's spectacularly entertaining Justified (returns Wednesday, 10/9c) later this week. Inspired by an Elmore Leonard character, this Kentucky-fried caper sneaks up on you, its laid-back attitude punctuated by shocks of grisly mayhem.
By contrast, Fox's muscular new The Chicago Code — from The Shield's Shawn Ryan — grabs you by the collar as it plunges headlong into a treacherous labyrinth of big-city corruption...
Law & Order: Los Angeles
Question: I thought Law & Order: Los Angeles was a fairly good replacement of the legacy L&O franchise. Recently, I read that it was changing gears and removing Skeet Ulrich's character and moving Alfred Molina's ADA back to being a cop and Terrence Howard's character as the full time ADA. What are your thoughts as to why this is? And isn't it a bit odd that a Senior ADA like Alfred Molina's character would be "demoted" back to being a cop? — Teresa
Matt Roush: Have you ever heard the phrase "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?" That's how these desperation moves look to me....
The Black Eyed Pea
At least the Packers and Steelers brought it. If only the advertisers had fought as hard to be worthy of the Super Bowl hype.
In recent years, the cliché of saying "I only watch for the ads" has been supplanted by a new Super Bowl truism: The game on the field somehow upstaged the jousting from Madison Avenue. Even this year's most memorable and charming ad — a bit of wordless magic involving a child in a Darth Vader outfit tricked into thinking he had self-started the family Volkswagen — stole some of its own thunder by being leaked and disseminated online days before Sunday's showcase. For Volkswagen, this extra exposure is likely considered a win. It's the sort of ad you're happy to watch and re-watch — and online it even runs longer. But the surprise factor was gone by Sunday night, robbing the ad of its "event" status...
Michael J. Fox
The Chicago Code (Monday, 9/8c, Fox)
Perking up what has been a pretty dismal midseason so far, this tough, brisk police drama from The Shield's Shawn Ryan is set and filmed in Chicago, where the city's brash first female police superintendent (Jennifer Beals, cast against type) clashes with a corrupt alderman (Delroy Lindo, savoring his smooth villainy) who holds her department's purse strings. Colvin's eyes and ears on the mean streets is reckless local-legend detective Jarek Wysocki (Brotherhood's Jason Clarke), who's just been saddled with a young, earnest partner (Friday Night Lights' Matt Lauria) who's not as green as he looks. The show weaves each of their points-of-view into a compelling, muscular narrative. Please watch...
This was a week where history played out before our eyes, with revolution in Egypt catching journalists — including several of TV's biggest news stars (Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour among others) — in the dangerous crossfire. Another colossal winter storm cutting a swath of snowy and icy peril across the country kept millions glued to the Weather Channel (if the elements didn't knock out your cable). And Charlie Sheen's epic real-time E True Hollywood Story continues, shutting down TV's most popular sitcom and challenging Hollywood's priorities in the process.
But hey, what else was on?
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HUZZAH! The greatest compliment you can pay any TV show is to want to watch it again the second it's over. And once the February sweeps calms down, that's my plan with this week's delightfully inventive instant-classic episode of...
Grease Sing-A-Long (Friday, 7/6c, Oxygen)
You can do the hand jive and croon along to "Summer Nights," turning your TV room into a karaoke parlor, as Oxygen kicks off a "Gleek-end" of musical programming with a sing-a-long version of the hit musical movie. While you ask yourself how long it will be before Glee devotes an entire episode to this teen favorite, buckle up for a 12-hour Glee marathon on Saturday, starting at 11/10c in the morning, featuring episodes from the first two seasons (including the tributes to Madonna, Britney Spears and The Rocky Horror Picture Show)...
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Question: I enjoy a good soap, which is probably why I've always liked Grey's Anatomy. However, I'm really questioning this whole baby plot. From what I've gathered online, a lot of the lesbian community appears to be truly offended by a storyline that they feel would never be imposed on a straight couple and I can definitely see their point. I've never seen a primetime TV show force a man to deal with a former/current girlfriend having someone else's baby. That tends to be a deal breaker. But my understanding is that Grey's isn't the first show to use this plot with a female couple. I think Shonda Rhimes has done a great job showcasing a diverse cast and attempting to be sensitive to all communities, which is why I'd love to know exactly why she's chosen to tell this particular story, with a man smack in the middle of the only gay couple on the show forever and ever if they're going to share custody of a child. — Jen
Matt Roush: Diversity works both ways on a show like Grey's Anatomy. No matter the gender, race or sexual orientation, everyone's an aggravating mess on this show, and no one is spared the contrivances of this brand of storytelling....