Samantha Isler, Sean Hayes
This fall you can really feel the Modern Family influence in the development of most networks' new comedy slates, and it's especially noticeable on NBC's Thursday lineup. With the exception of the long-running Parks and Recreation, which until the double expectancy whammy of Ann Perkins and Ron's Diane had been curiously child-free for a show supposedly set in America's heartland, NBC's new sitcoms are very much in the family way, for better or worse.
One actually bills itself as Welcome to the Family (8:31/7:31c), and if familiarity is a prerequisite for your viewing patterns, you'll feel right at home here. This innocuous domestic farce pivots on a culture clash between...
Fans often feel burned when the final curtain falls on a favorite show — especially when it happens unexpectedly and without resolution (just ask fans of A&E's The Glades or, even more recently, AMC's The Killing, which at least solved its third-season case before the grim fadeout). This is not the situation with USA's Burn Notice, which has been leading all summer to a calculated big finish (Thursday, 9/8c) after seven seasons of...
If it weren't for Netflix's House of Cards making the drama races a bit more interesting, while opening the door to a brave new world of out-of-the-box content for future years' consideration, this year's list of Emmy contenders (see the major categories here) would be most notable for its numbing lack of imagination and...
Edi Gathegi and Radha Mitchell
It's not much of a spoiler alert to point out that the title character of ABC's Red Widow winds up in (sexy) mourning by the half-hour mark of Sunday's dreary two-hour premiere (9/8c). It's even less of a surprise, given the nature of this most dismal network midseason in recent memory, that these widow's weeds are fashioned from less than sturdy dramatic fabric.
Weeds being among the shows that dealt with this sort of subject with more imaginative verve. The subject: murderous drug intrigue cloaked in...
As I was watching HBO's kids'-eye-view examination of divorce (discussed below), I couldn't help reflect on my own break-ups — TV-related, mind you. Cases in point: I hear Weeds went off the air last weekend, way past its expiration date; I gave up on that one long ago, around the time they were on the lam in the Northwest, unmoored from any sense of reality and continuity or purpose. More to the immediate point, NBC's The Office is returning for its ninth and...
Sigourney Weaver, Bryan Cranston
In the latest head-on collision of top-notch Sunday night cable dramas, the return of TV's most chilling dark parable faces the arrival of an irresistible new potboiler. One you can take to the Emmy bank next week; the other you'll be tempted to take to the beach.
As the first half of the final season gets underway for AMC's masterpiece of intensity Breaking Bad (Sunday, 10/9c), mensch-turned-mastermind Walter White (three-time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston) escalates his criminal ways, and a man who once inspired pity now leaves even loved ones quaking in fear...
Michael Chiklis and David Rees Snell
"I was too good," boasts that brutal bear of a crooked cop Vic Mackey, confessing his multitude of sins, a bloody litany of corrupt bravado that has kept us riveted for seven all-too-brief seasons of The Shield, FX's darker-than-dark breakthrough crime melodrama.
By "good," Vic means bad — to the last drop, the last gripping scene, as The Shield hangs up its tarnished badge forever (Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 10 pm/ET). No Sopranos-style blackout, thankfully. This is how it all really truly ends, not with ...
All is right again in the TV world, because our favorite Jacks are back on the case: Law & Order's crafty DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), who's running for reelection; and 24's tireless Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), who's running from retribution when not saving civilization. Both have been known to bend the rules to win.
And both shows have been sorely missed: 24 postponed a year because of the writers' strike, and a rejuvenated Order inexplicably left off the fall lineup but suddenly restored this month to prop up NBC's ailing schedule ...
Is Chris Lilley the next Ricky Gervais? Or is he the next Tracey Ullman? Would you settle for both?
In HBO's addictive import Summer Heights High (Sundays at 10:30 pm/ET), a funny/sad Office-style mockumentary depicting a year in the life of an Australian public high school, this wildly talented writer-star loves making you squirm (à la Gervais) while submerging himself inside the skin of characters so diverse (à la Ullman) you can hardly believe it's the same guy.
No child is left behind, or teacher spared, in Lilley's outrageously crass classroom ...
Tina Fey and Megan Mullally
As this year's Emmy champs pass like ships in the night — AMC's best-drama winner, Mad Men, wrapping its brilliant second season October 26, less than a week before NBC's best comedy, 30 Rock, launched its wacky third year I can't help reflecting that while more awards surely lie in their future, neither show is likely to win a popularity contest.
Mad Men, which filters its '60s nostalgia through a glass (of scotch) darkly, is seen by many as too subtly ambiguous, too grim: the disturbing rape of sex-bomb secretary Joan by her fiancé one of many examples. It's a show that feels more high art (Don's surreal lost weekend in Palm Springs) than mass-market. Whereas 30 Rock revels in such a twisted world of zany absurdism, it will never be to everyone's taste. Too bad for those unwilling to embrace these shows' strange and wondrous ways.
More on the Mad Men finale and 30 Rock premiere after the jump.