Mary McNamara, Television Critic
7:00 AM PDT, September 17, 2013
Here's the highest praise I can pay a three-part, six-hour documentary series on anything: I sat down to watch "Latino Americans," which premieres Tuesday on PBS, in its entirety with grim determination. When I was done, I couldn't stop talking about it.
5:00 AM PDT, September 16, 2013
A resurrected Revolutionary War hero, a double-ax-wielding horseman (headless), ghost trees, Colonial witches, horned beasts, ancient priests, a sassy female cop and at least one Starbucks joke?
10:00 AM PDT, September 13, 2013
The Berlin Wall was a thing of chicken wire and Kleenex compared with the barrier that once stood between film and television in America.
5:38 PM PDT, September 9, 2013
Forty years ago, Billie Jean King played Bobby Riggs in the most famous tennis match in American history. Dubbed "The Battle of the Sexes," it was as much a contest of ideologies as athleticism.
7:00 AM PDT, September 12, 2013
While television pundits work themselves into an honors-English lather deconstructing the minutiae of "Breaking Bad's" final episodes, let us pause for a moment, crack a window and possibly a beer, and consider Thursday's final episode of USA's "Burn Notice," a show that had profoundly altered the television landscape before Walter White was barely a mad gleam in Vince Gilligan's eye.
6:00 AM PDT, September 12, 2013
With each new member of its inaugural rollout, Netflix continues its creative course of conservative innovation.
6:30 AM PDT, September 7, 2013
I have written exactly one fan letter in my life and that was to Derek Jacobi.
7:30 AM PDT, September 3, 2013
TNT is positioning the real-life investigative procedural "Cold Justice" as reality TV's version of "Rizzoli & Isles." But the first and perhaps most significant thing Dick Wolf's new true-crime show does is remind us how overly groomed, politically correct and inevitably romantic most scripted crime dramas are, even the good ones, even the gritty ones.
6:00 AM PDT, September 7, 2013
Oh, to live in a world where "Last Tango in Halifax" becomes as crazy-popular as "Downton Abbey."
7:00 AM PDT, August 22, 2013
Reality TV is experiencing something of a "Mad Men" moment, with bandannas and iced tea in place of fedoras and highballs.
6:30 AM PDT, August 31, 2013
Fires may rage and the U.N. roil, but let's scratch one hot-button concern off the national agenda: Al Jazeera America will not be overthrowing the American way of life any time soon.
7:00 AM PDT, August 24, 2013
"The Good Wife" meets "Law and Order: U.K." in "Silk," a six-hour, three-episode series premiering on PBS' "Masterpiece Mystery!" on Sunday night.
6:30 AM PDT, August 21, 2013
Ever since "Three Men and a Baby" hit the big screen in 1987, scripted shows have been exploring the hilarious aspects of bumbling men as primary caregivers. What seemed fresh, perhaps, when "Full House" debuted, now has very mixed results — though ABC Family's lame to middling "Baby Daddy" was recently given a third season, NBC's higher profile "Guys With Kids" was swiftly canceled and I don't even want to talk about what happened to "Up All Night."
10:00 AM PDT, August 16, 2013
The marketing of AMC's new drama, "Low Winter Sun," revolves around a moody black-and-white photo of lead actor Mark Strong and the show's tagline: "Good Man. Cop. Killer."
7:30 AM PDT, August 20, 2013
Whether a case of divine intervention or just fortuitous programming, PBS begins airing "The Life of Muhammad," a three-part explanation of the history of Islam, on Tuesday, the same day Al Jazeera America makes its debut on the channel formerly known as Current TV. It's a coincidence that only intensifies the PBS series' air of demystification.
6:30 AM PDT, August 10, 2013
"The White Queen," a co-production of the BBC and Starz, debuted in Britain this summer to mostly scathing reviews. Critics objected especially to a few glaring anachronisms — no zippers in the 15th century, nor tourist-friendly castle handrails — and a general lack of the slop-pots-'n'-rotten-teeth realism that has marked period dramas ever since HBO's "John Adams" showcased the horror of early smallpox vaccines.
7:00 AM PDT, August 8, 2013
Emmy voters can't get enough of "Downton Abbey," having just added another dozen nominations to the tony soap's already towering haul. "The Walking Dead," meanwhile, may be a hit with viewers, but it's dead to the academy, receiving but a single nomination for ... makeup. Time to protest or perhaps applaud a showing of good taste. Times television critic Mary McNamara and Times awards writer Glenn Whipp draw the battle lines.
6:00 AM PDT, August 9, 2013
When AMC and Vince Gilligan introduced us to mild-mannered chemistry teacher Walter White five years ago, we literally did not know what we were seeing.
5:00 AM PDT, July 17, 2013
Last year, TLC invited America into the railroad-track adjacent three bedroom-one bath home of 7-year-old Alana Thompson, her mother June, her father Sugar Bear and her three teenage half-sisters located in McIntyre, Ga., population 642.
8:00 AM PDT, July 13, 2013
Egypt roils with revolution, Edward Snowden has become the Scarlet Pimpernel of privacy and a new study reveals that, even though Americans are exercising more, we're still fat, which is really unfair. Yet for weeks we've been bombarded with minute-by-minute televised coverage of the George Zimmerman trial.
7:00 AM PDT, July 13, 2013
Like many of his characters, Aaron Sorkin has a thick-skinned, tough-talking, "that large rectangle to your left is the door" attitude toward public opinion.
4:25 PM PDT, July 23, 2013
If ABC Family executives had known their new game show "Spell-Mageddon" would be premiering in the social media vacuum left by "Sharknado," they might have considered throwing a few piranhas into the mix. As it is, the film and the series share little beyond titular portmanteau (blending two words to make one) and the attempt to blend two big ideas into an unexpected hybrid.
5:00 AM PDT, August 7, 2013
It's tough to beat a good crime drama for many reasons, only some of which have to do with guns, car chases and wise but weary men saying things like "I'm too old for this."
1:40 PM PDT, July 18, 2013
This year's Emmy nominations reflected a lot of change in TV. Netflix got creative validation; there are more female-led dramas than ever. But one rule has become calcified: No zombies need apply.
6:00 AM PDT, July 10, 2013
Most comedy writers prefer the confines of the set, or at least the city, for reasons both fiscal and creative. A crucible cooks up laughs as quickly as it heats up drama.
5:00 AM PDT, July 2, 2013
BET is having a very good week. On Sunday its annual awards ceremony blew out the Nokia Theatre and Tuesday night the network premieres "Being Mary Jane," a movie-length pilot for its first scripted series, which will debut in January.
12:49 PM PDT, July 19, 2013
The latest network to enlist big-screen talent and muscle its way into the original scripted-series business, Hallmark Channel premieres on Saturday its adaptation of Debbie Macomber's bestselling Cedar Cove novels. It's called "Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove," presumably to avoid any confusion among the author's built-in fan base.
1:35 PM PDT, July 10, 2013
As the fourth series in Netflix's attempt to change television and the world as we know it, "Orange Is the New Black" may feel a bit like the last bridesmaid, trailing in the petal-strewn wake of "House of Cards" and "Arrested Development." But as any rom-com addict knows, it's precisely that gal, the one bringing up the rear with the broken heel and the tilted headdress, who winds up stealing the show.
10:20 AM PDT, June 26, 2013
Did no one pay attention when David Letterman, forced by a blackmailer to make an adulterous affair public, revealed the secret to handling a personal scandal? You show up, own up and shut up.
5:00 AM PDT, July 1, 2013
When "Survivor" debuted in 2000, it seemed such a dangerous and unpredictable experiment — dumping strangers into a remote locale where they would have to struggle to survive. "Lord of the Flies" came easily to mind; the prospect of watching human beings both learn to live off the land and wrestle with their primitive inclinations was thrilling and disturbing.
1:30 PM PDT, June 27, 2013
The unexpected death of James Gandolfini, who was best known for his work on the series "The Sopranos," recently re-ignited the conversation over How Much Television has Changed, which has become so intense and widespread in the last few years that books are now being written about it.
5:00 AM PDT, June 21, 2013
After the news broke that actor James Gandolfini had died, media outlets everywhere scrambled to put him, and his beloved character Tony Soprano, into cultural context. But if you wanted to understand the importance of the man and the show, all you had to do was listen to sports radio.
7:30 AM PDT, June 24, 2013
You'd think it would be easy to adapt Stephen King to film or television, but history has proven otherwise. King's work is as much about mood as it is monsters, and that's a tough combo. For every masterpiece ("The Shining," "Carrie," "Misery"), there's a mess ("Christine," "Children of the Corn," "Bag of Bones").
6:00 AM PDT, June 11, 2013
So many shows begin with the death of a young person that it seems only fair one should turn the conceit on its head. "Twisted," which premieres Tuesday on ABC Family, attempts to discover what might happen if a young man who murdered his aunt returns to his idyllic hometown after five years in juvenile detention.
6:00 AM PDT, June 6, 2013
USA might want to consider changing its tag line from "Characters Welcome" to "Welcome to Summer."
5:16 PM PDT, June 21, 2013
The classic manor house murder mystery would seem a no-brainer for reality TV, but somehow we got "Cupcake Wars" before "Whodunnit?" which premieres Sunday on ABC.
6:00 AM PDT, June 3, 2013
The Writers Guild announced its 101 best-written TV series on Sunday night, and it will surprise exactly no one to learn that David Chase and "The Sopranos" topped the list, followed closely by "Seinfeld" (Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, creators) at No. 2.
7:00 AM PDT, June 6, 2013
Comedy is hard, in large part because it's supposed to look easy. Carefully crafted sentences must be delivered with both precision timing and a sense of spontaneity; a double-take that looks rehearsed is just embarrassing. The performers who joined The Envelope's comedy panel this year represent the ever-widening range of the genre — from the indestructible "Two and a Half Men" to the darkly R-rated "House of Lies" — but all are masters of comedic effortlessness.
7:00 AM PDT, June 22, 2013
In a perfect world, "Devious Maids," a new drama written by Marc Cherry and produced by Eva Longoria, both late of "Desperate Housewives," could be judged simply by its own merits, as an attempt to translate a popular telenovela to American television, in this case Lifetime.
5:30 AM PDT, June 17, 2013
Watching "Love, Marilyn," Liz Garbus' pointed, poetic and occasionally overwrought documentary about the life of Marilyn Monroe, I kept thinking about "The Great Gatsby," another tragedy in two acts recently resurrected for our viewing pleasure.
7:20 PM PDT, June 2, 2013
ABC's new nighttime soap "Mistresses," which premieres Monday, is pretty much what we've come to expect from any Americanized version of a British television show that isn't "The Office": lame.
7:00 AM PDT, May 24, 2013
Steven Soderbergh's "Behind the Candelabra" was preceded by so much fuss over the casting of Michael Douglas as bedazzled pianist icon Liberace and Matt Damon as the entertainer's young lover Scott Thorson, that you'd have thought the duo did something other than act for a living.
6:00 AM PDT, June 1, 2013
"Love Thy Neighbor," Tyler Perry's second contribution to the oeuvre of OWN this week, revolves around a shrill, invective-spewing elderly woman and the family she delights in abusing.
11:00 AM PDT, May 24, 2013
When Showtime debuted "Dexter" way back in 2006, people couldn't quite grasp what they were seeing. A serial killer? As a sympathetic leading man? Were those the flames of Sodom burning distantly behind us?
5:00 AM PDT, May 20, 2013
There is really only one reason to watch ABC's Canadian-import place-holder crime drama "Motive" — Kristin Lehman.
6:00 AM PDT, May 20, 2013
"The Goodwin Games" is family comedy debuting as a late midseason replacement with only a seven-episode order.
5:00 AM PDT, May 23, 2013
If there were an Emmy for Most Disturbingly Apt Title of Series, NBC's new comedy "Save Me" would win hands down. It just works on so many levels.
8:30 AM PDT, May 1, 2013
How many films about the search for and killing of Osama bin Laden can the market bear? The answer appears to be three — a bad one, a good one and now, a messy but provocative one.
6:00 AM PDT, April 27, 2013
If "House of Cards" were an actual television show, this would be the day after its finale — a time to analyze the cultural impact of the E-ticket D.C. thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and to painstakingly mine the end of the first season for clues to the second. There would be hashtags and recaps, heated discussions and lists of things to love and hate.
6:00 AM PDT, May 11, 2013
ABC's "Scandal" revolves around a beautiful, law-breaking Washington power-fixer with killer instincts and a matching wardrobe. She's madly in love with the very flawed president of the United States, who, among other things, recently murdered a Supreme Court justice. And they're the good guys.
6:30 AM PDT, April 20, 2013
A ruthlessly self-aware political wife reconsidering her choices. A sensual socialite facing down an oppressive age with informed good humor. A group of young women so busy defying social expectations they've forgotten to have any of their own. A working mother with a gift for passionate stillness. A recently recovered drama addict determined to save the world. A bipolar CIA operative, an optimistic bureaucrat, a frightened sex slave turned canny warrior.
6:00 AM PST, February 25, 2013
Well, that didn't work.
7:30 AM PDT, March 16, 2013
Once upon a time not so very long ago I was a young woman living a writerly life of working poverty in New York City, which, for better or worse, engendered certain expectations from HBO's "Girls."
October 21, 2011
There is something essentially likable about Kelsey Grammer as a performer. That broad scholar-like forehead, the strong jaw and mild blue eyes all conspire to create the image of a sometimes bumbling but still powerful guy, best embodied by his most lasting character, Frasier Crane. This ability to project opposing forces is one reason Grammer has been so successful in comedy — he can play the fool and still remain an alpha male. It's also why he is now able to breathe life into Frasier Crane's hard-hearted doppelganger, Chicago Mayor Tom Kane, who is the centerpiece of Starz's new political drama "Boss."
8:00 AM PST, December 14, 2012
For the generations of men who have wondered what it is women want, this year has made it fairly obvious. We want a man of devastating intelligence, cerebrally and physically nimble, whose vast store of arcane knowledge is foundation for a super-human ability to solve problems and the fascinating, frustrating wall that protects a tender heart.
8:49 AM PST, November 17, 2012
It's "Homeland" meets "The Real Housewives" — and it's hands down the best serialized show on TV.
November 19, 2011
It was always the fragile balance of opposing forces that made Diane Keaton's face so remarkable — those tilted melancholy eyes above that frequent and infectious smile. She seemed in a perpetual state of emotional contradiction, which is one of the things that made her such a perfect match, at least on film, for Woody Allen, who as history's most hopeful pessimist is a master juggler himself.
6:00 AM PST, November 24, 2012
An epic love story, like a good horror movie, relies more on possibility than actuality. Surprise and anticipation, of what is to come and what it might mean, are what draw viewers in, binding them in fetters of pleasure and pain. Subtlety and nuance create the space between word and glance, between shadow and revelation, where imagination digs in and magnificence blooms.
October 1, 2012
7:00 AM PDT, June 14, 2012
When "Damages"premiered on FX five years ago, it blew everyone's minds for a glistening stack of reasons. The star power (Glenn Close! Ted Danson!), the writing, the crazy two-stepping flashback story line, the hypnotic Evil Queen brutality of Close's lead, attorney Patty Hewes. As the first and subsequent seasons unfurled, and then made its way over to DirecTV, another rare quality emerged: the relationship between Patty and her former acolyte Ellen Parsons, played by Rose Byrne. A wide-eyed baby lawyer who thinks her gravest sin and greatest peril is "selling out" her ideals when she accepts a job with Patty, Ellen soon realizes what she knows about sin and peril could fit on the nail of Patty's little finger.
April 10, 2009
" Hannah Montana: The Movie" is not so much a movie as it is a trial balloon to see if Miley Cyrus, with her big blue eyes, exceptionally white teeth and increasingly long limbs, can hold the big screen as effectively as she has the small screen. The answer is yes.
November 2, 2011
Seven years ago, I was asked to cover the Academy Awards from backstage. To get the necessary credentials, I had to be personally vetted by producer Gil Cates. As I made my way along the shiny floor of the Oscar production offices, I was prepared for Oz, the great and terrible — at this point, having produced the show 11 times, Cates was the Oscars. Instead, I met a man who wore blue jeans and cowboy boots, who twinkled when he smiled and even when he swore.
November 27, 2011
Last summer, while browsing in a used bookstore in San Luis Obispo, I discovered something I thought no longer existed — an Agatha Christie novel I had not read. Anyone monitoring my vital signs would have thought I had discovered the next Gnostic gospel or a lost play of Shakespeare's. Clutching it tightly as if someone might snatch it from me, I quickly bought it. I promised myself I would take my time, savor the experience and read only a few pages at a time. Instead, I finished it the next day.
May 23, 2011
Despite its fresh-faced cast, G-rating and untainted, unapologetic air of jubilance (see, please, the two exclamation points, both of which are quite sincere), "Glee Live! In Concert!" seemed very much at home in Las Vegas, where the stars of Fox's hit show kicked off their second live tour.
January 17, 2011
The opposite of dull and deferential is not snotty and abusive.
January 29, 2012
In recent months the name Mary Tyler Moore has been bandied about with unexpected regularity bordering on reckless abandon. This is not just because she recently made her first TV appearance in many moons on pal Betty White's show "Hot in Cleveland" or because she proved at last month's televised fete for White's 90th birthday that she can still rock a white pantsuit or even because she is receiving this year's Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award on Sunday.
September 18, 2011
For a television critic, the Emmys are always a mixed bag. It's always great when shows and performances we have supported from the beginning are recognized, but sometimes — if you can believe it — the shows and people we believe deserve to win don't. But there is one consistent bright spot in the process — when people whose work has been consistently terrific over the years are recognized for the first time. This year saw quite a few accomplished performers get their first Emmy nomination.
April 4, 2011
Ever since Vanity Fair put her on its January 2010 cover in what looked like a Wonder Woman costume, Tina Fey has seemed in danger of falling for the very canard she has spent a career satirizing: that a woman can "have it all" if she's willing to lose 20 pounds, show her breasts and regularly remind everyone that, although she writes and stars in an Emmy-winning TV show, she is still essentially a loser who eats a lot of cupcakes. (Just like, you know, Larry David does.) An excerpt from her new book in a recent New Yorker didn't help, with Fey assuming the position of agonized career mommy — why do so many people keep asking her if she is going to have another baby when having one is so hard? Fey wonders hysterically, never once considering that these people are Just Making Polite Conversation.
February 27, 2009
While most crime series today rely on some sort of technical or psychological twist -- the wonders of forensics, the special knowledge of a reformed fake psychic or a good-guy serial killer, “Jesse Stone: Thin Ice," which debuts on Sunday, sticks with the fundamentals.
July 15, 2011
How do you argue with any master list that includes Jane Lynch, Kathy Bates, Margo Martindale, Melissa McCarthy, Martha Plimpton, Kelly MacDonald, Betty White, Kristen Wiig and Joan Cusack?
September 26, 2010
A dozen years ago, my editor at the Los Angeles Times asked if I wanted to interview novelist Mary Gordon, who was in Los Angeles on a book tour. Enormously pregnant, I said yes, partly because I love Mary Gordon and partly because her hotel was two blocks away from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center — if I went into labor during the interview, I figured I could just walk.
May 1, 2011
I've outgrown J.D. Salinger, and I don't know where that leaves me.
December 19, 2010
For years, my husband and I had wanted to take our children to London before the magic of "Peter Pan" and "Mary Poppins" wore off, before the older two became too jaded for the Changing of the Guard and double-decker buses, before they would rather hang out with their friends than go anywhere with their family. But the pound, at $2 a pop, was just too strong.
August 18, 2008
"One world, one dream" may be the official motto of the Summer Olympics, but the Americans have been running more with "The power and politics of mellow."
April 6, 2009
This is the first chapter in an experiment in serial storytelling called "Money Walks" that we will publish in Calendar during the next three weeks. Every weekday and Saturday between now and April 24, we will bring you another installment, first by our own Mary McNamara, and then by Los Angeles fiction writers including, among others, Seth Greenland, Marisa Silver, Aimee Bender, Denise Hamilton and Jerry Stahl.
February 23, 2009
Somewhere in New York, a huge weight has been lifted from David Letterman's shoulders. As Sunday night's Academy Awards began, Hugh Jackman's opening number (pardon me, but did he sing the words "pubic hair"? At the Oscars?) has surely obliterated all memory of the Uma-Oprah thing. Not to mention taking years off the lives of the poor folks preparing to launch publicity for "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." They can only hope those teenage boys were too miffed that "Iron Man" wasn't nominated to watch.
November 14, 2010
I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections
May 24, 2010
Well, it could have been worse. It could have all been a dream.
June 26, 2009
The slightly soft-porn Wella Balsam ads notwithstanding, the infamous appearance on "Late Show With David Letterman" aside, it is impossible to overstate Farrah Fawcett's cultural influence.
September 17, 2008
THE WATER COOLER
" LOST" IS the only nominee for this year's Emmy for dramatic series that doesn't have a corresponding nomination in the lead actor or actress category. Michael Emerson, who plays the chillingly deadpan Ben, is up for supporting actor but that's it for the acting categories. Which is a little strange considering that "Lost" is pretty much crawling with actors.
February 28, 2011
They played it safe, and who could blame them?
January 23, 2009
Forget boy meets girl, boy loses girl, etc. Knight finds holy relic, knight hides holy relic, modern archaeologist/art historian/guy on the street races Dark Forces to get holy relic --that's the way to go these days. Think "The Da Vinci Code," “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” or even "National Treasure: Book of Secrets."
March 9, 2009
The detective tale is like yellow cake -- at some level everyone likes it, and with a little imagination you can do pretty much anything with it.
December 5, 2010
Every Christmas when I was a child and even as a young adult, I knew which present I would open last. Deep under the tree, covered with fallen needles and those home-made paper ornaments you save for the lowest branches, lay a large box. Originally used for some bulky garment — a really significant cardigan or, pushing further back, one of those inexplicably popular fuzzy ponchos —it was the kind of box one saved, once upon a time, before gift bags were invented and gift wrap was dear, when kids were encouraged to slow down and remove the paper carefully so it could be smoothed, folded and used again. To make this box suitable for easy reuse, only its lid had been wrapped in red paper bedecked with some green figure (wreaths possibly, or just festive bows) that over the years frayed at the corners and had a web of inevitable wrinkles so that it eventually looked like a Christmas present might look on a TV screen full of static.
August 30, 2010
There was a spring in the step of the 62nd Emmys that's been missing from awards shows so generally and for so long that some of us had begun to believe it had been permanently unsprung. Ambitious, energetically hilarious, and, most important, almost seamlessly constructed, this year's telecast actually did what the Emmys are supposed to do — celebrate television.
April 19, 2009
Somewhere, in a prop warehouse owned by HBO, there is a big pile of guns. Dusty, unused, bewildered perhaps by their strange and sudden obsolescence, they can only wait and wonder why premium subscriber television, a business they created, built by God out of nothing, has simply abandoned them.
November 14, 2010
During the last 10 years, I have written about some of the vacations my husband, our three children and I have taken to Ireland, Italy, Paris, Germany, the Netherlands and London. The response has been mixed. Many found inspiration in our tales; others thought my husband and I were crazy for "dragging" our children on trips that were too expensive and arduous for families with young children.
April 24, 2010
Two years ago, HBO took 8 1/2 hours to chronicle the life of John Adams; starting Sunday, History will take us from the colonizing of Jamestown through the millennium in just 12. "America: The Story of Us" is being touted as "the most in-depth television series ever produced by History," which is worrisome considering the hour-to-year ratio, as well as "the broadest educational outreach initiative the network has ever undertaken," which makes a bit more sense.
October 17, 2010
Most people who write fiction have day jobs mainly because writing fiction tends to pay poorly and sporadically. But James Franco, who has written a collection of short stories entitled "Palo Alto" (Scribners) is a movie star. So when he landed one of those stories in Esquire this spring, it was part of a package that included a dapper cover-shot. Obviously, this doesn't happen to most newbie fiction writers, or even award-winning fiction writers unless you are Jonathan Franzen. And perhaps Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult can stop being so mad at Franzen and start being mad at Franco — "Palo Alto" will no doubt get more ink than most first-time short-story collections, including, you know, this review. It isn't Franco's fault, of course — just because he's a handsome young actor doesn't mean he can't write a book if he wants to
March 8, 2010
An hour into the telecast of the 82nd Academy Awards, you couldn't help but hope that somewhere backstage at the Kodak Theatre someone was waving a script and yelling: "Tempo, people, tempo."
January 24, 2009
"The Diplomat," which premieres tonight on Ion, is one of those character-driven, complicated miniseries thrillers the British are so fond of, the kind of story in which a highly significant plot point is revealed by the way a person purses his mouth when he gets off the phone.
February 20, 2009
“Mistresses,” which premieres tonight, takes itself pretty seriously considering its title. Yes, the one-hour BBC drama is a sexual soap opera in which a quartet of lovely and complicated women negotiates alarmingly fraught romantic lives, but honestly, there's not a "mistress" among them.
March 29, 2009
THE EPISODE: LOVE'S LABOR LOST
I remember the moment when I realized film could make horror beautiful and thus even more horrifying ("Apocalypse Now") or a stage actor could be so mesmerizing you forget he's on a stage ( Derek Jacobi in "Breaking the Code"). But not like I remember the moment I understood how powerful and long-lasting an hour of television could be.
August 4, 2008
Whatever value there ever was in glimpsing the "real lives" of marginal celebrities was long ago leeched from the likes of the Osbourne family and Anna Nicole Smith. And yet the shows keep coming, one after the other, reality nonchalantly surrendering to banality until the TV grid begins to read like the invitation list to some C-lister bash at the Playboy Mansion.
February 21, 2009
If you want to understand the over-cited concept of the electronic hearth or see proof of the power and significance of television as a medium, then you must watch “Taking Chance,” which debuts tonight on HBO.
September 6, 2008
The title of "The Locator,” which premieres on WE TV tonight, is a bit misleading.
August 18, 2008
Helen Thomas, longtime member of the White House press corps, certainly qualifies for national icon status. For many Americans, she has been a permanent fixture of presidential press conferences, the lady in the front row who not only opened and closed the event but who also often asked the pushiest questions. Not surprisingly, where some see a grand dame, others see a crank -- but no one can deny her significance.
September 21, 2008
It's a race to decide what we value most: the vibrant and new or that which is mellow with experience. Shall we surrender to the seductive nature of callow youth or the guaranteed satisfaction that only maturity can provide?
May 19, 2008
Remember when fishing was television of last resort, revered by dedicated anglers but glimpsed only occasionally by others, perhaps as a joke or during a visit to Grandpa's? These days, fishing is officially hot: Discovery Channel recently announced that men ages 18 to 49 ranked "The Deadliest Catch" No. 3 among all prime-time television on Tuesday night, beating out "Dancing With the Stars" and "Shark" in the demographic. (How hilarious is it that a show called "Deadliest Catch" beat out a show called "Shark"?)
September 23, 2008
The Sherlock Holmes template has worked so well on “House" that really it was only a matter of time before it was reclaimed by a detective show.
September 5, 2008
It has been a summer of awe-inspiring, thought-provoking spectacle on television. First the Summer Olympics, then the Democratic and Republican national conventions and now the return of "DogTown." If that sounds sarcastic or snarky, it isn't meant to. The two-hour season premiere of the popular National Geographic Channel show is titled "Saving the Michael Vick Dogs," and if there were such a thing as an Olympics for animal rescue and rehabilitation, this would be it.
September 22, 2008
SOMEONE at ABC should just cut Ricky Gervais a check. For 35 minutes the 2008 Emmys seemed well on the way to being the Worst Awards Show in the History of Television, including this year's Golden Globes, which happened in the middle of the writers strike and wasn't really a show at all.
May 29, 2008
When you take your kids to a rock concert, it's a good idea to bring cookies. Because kids don't understand about opening acts. So while you are grooving to, say, the aged-in-wood tones of Elvis Costello and the Imposters and remembering that British boyfriend who made all those tapes for you in the late '80s, they are wondering who in the heck this guy in the glasses is and when, exactly, the Police are going to show up.
August 6, 2008
THE WATER COOLER
TOM WILKINSON had better win an Emmy this year. Me, I'd go with the leading role in a miniseries or movie nomination -- his portrayal of James Baker in HBO's "Recount" -- over the supporting one -- as Benjamin Franklin in HBO's " John Adams" -- although there's really no good reason why he couldn't win both. Playing two such disparate Americans (and Wilkinson is British for gosh sakes) should put a person in the running for some sort of congressional medal and heaven knows the man is due.
May 4, 2008
FAMILY & KIDS
After almost 10 years of traveling around the country and to Europe with children, I have learned this: Less is more.
June 16, 2008
When "Weeds" premiered on Showtime, it seemed the quintessential suburban satire: Widowed stay-at-home mom accidentally becomes pot dealer and finds her inner gangsta amid the manicured lawns and granite-countered hypocrisy of a Southern California planned community.
May 5, 2008
It's not often that box office-numbers send such a clear message to the electorate. But last week's top movies -- "Baby Mama" and "Harold and Kumar 2: Escape from Guantanamo Bay" -- make two things perfectly clear: Americans are desperate for a good laugh, and we'd better be very careful about who's running for vice president this year because sidekicks now officially rule the world.
April 4, 2008
The premiere of the fourth and final season of Sci Fi's "Battlestar Galactica" is Friday, and if you think I am going to write anything like a review of it, you are crazy.
July 21, 2008
It's not often a show about modern "dating" brings to mind the quiz-show scandals of the 1950s, but watching Bravo's new reality series "Date My Ex," I found myself inexplicably flashing back to Ralph Fiennes as scholar turned disgraced contestant Charles Van Doren in "."
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