October 23, 2011 |
'How can anyone retire from the 'job' of watching and writing about TV?" you might ask, as you see that this is my farewell column as The Inquirer's TV critic. Not easily. I've been doing it for more than 22 years, and it has generally been a joy, but the pressure of change in television and in the newspaper business was getting intense. Maybe not for an air traffic controller or a crime-beat reporter, but for a person whose primary work garb is plaid pajamas, the pressure gauge is set a little lower.
October 16, 2011 |
The Peacock is looking like a bedraggled starling at the start of its first fall TV season in Comcast's nest. Three weeks in, overall viewership, according to the Nielsen Co., is up at CBS and Fox, and down less than 1 percent at ABC, vs. year-ago numbers. But at NBC, it's down 6 percent. More ominous: Despite a new entertainment boss and a large bump in spending on program development, NBC has seen the average viewership of its five new series drop a stunning 28 percent from levels achieved by last year's five new series in the first three weeks of the season.
October 11, 2011 |
It started with the item's appearance on Antiques Roadshow. The little tintype doesn't look like much: a white man and a black man in Confederate Army garb sitting next to each other, armed to the teeth. Viewers fell off their Queen Anne settees and Kmart couches alike when appraiser Wes Cowan said the picture was "breathtakingly rare," and set the insurance value in 2009 at $30,000 to $40,000. There are many shots from the era showing black men standing, removed from the white soldiers, usually in the background, Cowan explained.
October 4, 2011 |
You've never seen anything like American Horror Story on TV before. And you may not want to see it now. But fans of the horror genre - not the splatter trash of the Saw or Chainsaw Massacre series, but the creepy, psychological, and, yes, sexy, gory stuff of classics like Rosemary's Baby or The Shining - won't be disappointed. FX, still No. 1 on basic cable for challenging, edgy material, has teamed up again with Nip/Tuck's Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck on Horror Story, which premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. The pair, also responsible for Fox's Glee, have a tendency to start strongly and then get a little lost, but that needn't concern us here, since we're at the beginning, and Horror Story is as gripping as anything on TV. You may find yourself looking for something to grip when the doll (or are they real?
October 1, 2011 |
Let's raise a toast to Ken Burns, and not just any old swill. How about a sidecar? Or an aviation? Or a clover club? Or any of dozens of elegant cocktails that were popular and widely consumed in the 1920s, when alcohol was illegal in the United States and the country, nevertheless, became the biggest importer of cocktail shakers in the world. Burns and his collaborator, Lynn Novick, have held the reins taut and produced a rarity for them - a historical documentary that sticks to the point and runs at a reasonable length.
September 29, 2011 |
'Life is a big jerk," says the big jerk in How to Be a Gentleman. "It punches you in the face over and over again. You gotta fight back, or it will knock you out. " CBS's new Thursday night sitcom needs to start fighting fast. It has a fabulous supporting cast, but the two lead characters have big problems. One, Jason Hornsby, who hilariously played Rickety Cricket on FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is flat. The other, Kevin Dillon, who was less impressive as Johnny Drama on HBO's Entourage, is, well, a big jerk.
September 27, 2011 |
Suburgatory 's version of suburbia might be somewhat unfamiliar. "It's like the Million Mom March," says 16-year-old Tessa Altman. "They're shuffling out of the tanning salons in their mani-pedi flip-flops, with their ever-present daughters and enormous frozen coffee drinks. " Realism is not the issue. Just as Desperate Housewives (before it got desperate) made up a place and stuck with it consistently and believably, so does the sublime Suburgatory. It transplants Tessa and her father to a funny fantasyland in a hilarious family fish-out-of-water tale that fits seamlessly Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. on 6ABC between The Middle and Modern Family.
September 25, 2011 |
Bad omen for Fox's monster Mesozoic melodrama Terra Nova : It starts going downhill when the dinosaurs show up. A long time coming (it was supposed to bow in May), the show, which has a special two-hour premiere Monday at 8 p.m., is unquestionably a triumph of modern computing, populated with head-thwacking, cutting-edge electronic imagery. "It probably wasn't possible, totally, until we got a visual-effects team together that has literally created new technologies to make it possible," Brannon Braga, one of the show's 13 producers - another is Steven Spielberg - told TV critics at their summer meeting last month in Los Angeles.
September 24, 2011 |
CBS recruiter Bryn Berglund had some internship advice for the 100-or-so eager Penn undergrads in the Wharton School auditorium: "You need to work hard, and you need to be nice. " Jobs may be Job 1 at Wharton, where the event took place Wednesday evening, but students had also come to see a new TV show and its star. She was living proof that the recruiter's advice was solid. "Be a fighter. Don't take no for an answer," Beth Behrs told the students. "You have to work it. " She didn't have to confirm the nice advice.