Mary McNamara, Television Critic

Review: 'Latino Americans' is a stirring history lesson

Television Review: The PBS documentary series 'Latino Americans' covers nearly 500 years in its six hours. It's a fascinating take on a diverse population.

Review: 'Sleepy Hollow' a zany spook-fest of a police procedural

Review: A Revolutionary War hero wakes up in 21st century 'Sleepy Hollow,' where he's paired with a female cop, and creepy story lines abound. It's all great fun.

Movie stars happily flocking to TV

Critic's Notebook: Once, movie stars rarely did TV. Not anymore. Filmdom's finest are flocking to the small screen these days, thanks to the quality work.

Review: Billie Jean King's story is about much more than tennis

TV review: Tennis legend Billie Jean King has a far-reaching influence and is the first athlete profiled in 'American Masters.'

Review: 'Burn Notice' served notice and, in the end, still roars

'Burn Notice': television review. The USA series about an out-of-favor spy, marking its finale, helped to redefine TV's leading men. A review by Mary McNamara.

Review: Ricky Gervais' 'Derek' on Netflix is funny but frustrating

Ricky Gervais plays Derek, a mentally challenged man in a retirement home. It's about being nice, but may try your patience.

A 'Tango' with Derek Jacobi is something not to be missed

Critic's Notebook: To see and listen to Derek Jacobi, starring in PBS' 'Last Tango in Halifax,' is a sublime affair indeed.

Review: Solving the unsolvable on TNT's 'Cold Justice'

Television review: In TNT's fascinating real-life 'Cold Justice,' crime fighters help re-investigate small town homicide cases and hopefully bring closure to the victims' families.

Review: 'Last Tango in Halifax' on PBS is the fall's best new show

'Last Tango in Halifax' stars Anne Reid, Derek Jacobi as former flames, now a widow and widower with adult children, who reconnect.

Critic's Notebook: 'Duck Dynasty' is a canny curation of cultures

Critic's Notebook: The A&E series has found a family-values sweet spot in blending backwoods high jinks with swampy sophistication while ducking divisive issues.

So far, there's nothing revolutionary about Al Jazeera America

Al Jazeera America has shown an even reporting hand but has hardly proved it could be a solution to the woes of American journalism.

Review: 'Silk' renders British court drama with conviction

Review: 'Silk,' a refined three-episode series on PBS, weaves archaic tradition with complex characters coping with sexism, classism and crime.

Review: These 'Modern Dads' are far from clueless about child care

Television review: On 'Modern Dads,' A&E's stay-at-home dads reality show, they know what they're doing, making this a fun watch, a change of pace from the clueless-parent shows.

Can women break the antihero's hold on TV?

Critic's Notebook: Comedies like 'Orange is the New Black' show there's more to TV than the troubled-man template, and women can lead the way.

Review: PBS' 'Life of Muhammad' an earnest effort to enlighten

PBS takes on Islam's revered prophet in 'Life of Muhammad,' a heartfelt attempt to separate his beliefs from today's extremists.

Television review: 'The White Queen' courts confusion

Television review: Some great moments crown 'The White Queen,' but series courts confusion in condensing three novels and 30 years of history.

Why 'Downton Abbey' drama trumps 'Walking Dead' zombies at Emmys

Emmy nominations: The debate over why "Downton Abbey's" period drama seems to always trump the zombies of "The Walking Dead."

Review: What will 'Breaking Bad's' story mean?

Television Review: 'Breaking Bad,' starring Bryan Cranston as chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-lord Walter White, begins its final eight episodes.

The family on 'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo' is the real deal

Critic's Notebook: Love them or hate them, you can't deny that the family on TLC's 'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,' is true to itself.

Current events put the N-word — and U.S. history — on trial

Critic's notebook: As the George Zimmerman trial, Paula Deen, CNN's 'The N-word' and the film '42' have shown, the present is inexorably linked to the past.

Review: A return to a more likable 'Newsroom' on HBO

Television review: Aaron Sorkin has dialed down the speechifying in what looks to be a more satisfying season of 'Newsroom.'

TV review: ABC Family's 'Spell-Mageddon' appears d-u-l-l

ABC Family's 'Spell-Mageddon,' which blends a spelling bee with obstacle courses, appears more annoying than compelling.

Television review: 'Broadchurch's' power lies in death's aftermath

Television review: The moody and emotionally unsettling eight-part murder mystery series 'Broadchurch' starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman starts Wednesday on BBC America.

Emmys 2013: 'Walking Dead's' zombies are beneath snobbish academy

Emmys 2013: 'The Walking Dead's' zombies are beneath the snobbish television academy.

Review: NBC's 'Camp' not much to write home about yet

Despite the versatile Rachel Griffiths heading an able cast, NBC's new comedy 'Camp' rarely rises above sentiment and stereotype.

Review: Ambition, talent drive 'Being Mary Jane' with Gabrielle Union

A strong supporting cast, featuring Gabrielle Union as a TV anchor, makes for a promising two-hour pilot in BET's 'Being Mary Jane.'

Television review: Small-town life has its moments in 'Cedar Cove'

Review: 'Cedar Cove,' the Hallmark Channel adaptation of Debbie Macomber's novels, stars a radiant Andie MacDowell in a placid but hopeful drama series.

Review: Lock yourself up with 'Orange Is the New Black'

Netflix's comedy 'Orange Is the New Black,' starring Taylor Schilling, features an impressive group of female characters.

Paula Deen burns herself again

Defensive, rambling and downright odd with Matt Lauer on 'Today,' Paula Deen fails to clean up her mess

Review: 'Siberia' full of thrills, chills and scare tactics

NBC's scripted drama about a reality series is more fright-night than satire, but it does have fun playing with the tropes of the genre.

Brett Martin and Alan Sepinwall look at the TV revolution

'Difficult Men' by Brett Martin and 'The Revolution Was Televised' by Alan Sepinwall opine on shows and creators that changed TV.

James Gandolfini dies: Why men had a love affair with Tony Soprano

James Gandolfini's death recalls the sensation his character Tony Soprano created among a male audience.

Review: 'Under the Dome' seems in a rush to tell a good story

'Under the Dome,' the CBS adaptation of Stephen King's tale of a small town mysteriously trapped looks promising, if only it would slow down.

Review: ABC Family's 'Twisted' might be a killer teen drama

The dreamy young guy with a troubled past makes for a promising setup in ABC Family's new show 'Twisted,' debuting right after 'Pretty Little Liars.'

Television review: 'Graceland' catches a wave of crime fighters

'Graceland,' the new USA series starring Aaron Tveit and Daniel Sunjata, evolves around a beachfront condo in Southern California that is home to FBI, DEA and U.S. Customs agents. It's a darker version of the network's bright fare, but not too dark.

Review: 'Whodunnit?' reality TV 'murder' mystery off to slow start

ABC's 'Whodunnit' doesn't yet have the pace of a thriller. And shouldn't the audience be able to play along more?

The best-written TV show? 'The Sopranos,' of course

Critic's Notebook: The Writers Guild list will delight and appall. It's real value comes in reminding us of all the wonderful stories that have been told over the years. Oh, Netflix ...

'House of Lies' to 'New Girl': Comedy is seriously complicated

Review: 'Devious Maids' are sexy, scheming and stereotypical

Aside from producer Eva Longoria's aim to bring talented Latinos to the screen, there's little else to applaud about Lifetime's cliche-ridden 'Devious Maids.'

Review: 'Love, Marilyn' is a love letter to Marilyn Monroe

Liz Garbus takes a pointed, poetic and occasionally overwrought look at the life of Marilyn Monroe. The star's own words form the heart of the film.

Review: Little charm in these 'Mistresses'

Despite a promising premise in 'Mistresses' — mature women making the mistakes of youth — this ABC remake of a BBC soap is lame and ridiculous.

Television review: 'Behind the Candelabra' an all-that-glitters caveat

Steven Soderbergh's HBO biopic "Behind the Candelabra" with Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his young lover is a dazzling if superficial tale of star-powered excess.

It's hard to 'Love Thy Neighbor' and the Tyler Perry-Oprah union

There's nothing funny about the shrill 'Love Thy Neighbor,' a Tyler Perry creation that's so at odds with Oprah Winfrey's aim to enhance the TV experience.

'Dexter' enters last season with knife marks all over TV landscape

Critic's Notebook: Showtime's cold-bloodily funny 'Dexter' sparked the rise of the TV serial killer, but it's long past time to stop this sociopath.

Review: A crime drama in search of a 'Motive'

Why tune in for this Canadian import? Kristin Lehman — it's fun to watch her nail her lines on this otherwise ho-hum 'Motive.'

Review: The not-so winning 'Goodwin Games'

Eccentric beyond-the-grave dad Beau Bridges is the best part of the limited-run Fox sitcom "The Goodwin Games."

Television review: 'Save Me,' with Anne Heche, goes unrescued

NBC's comedy "Save Me," which stars Anne Heche as a housewife saved by divine intervention, features ludicrous machinations. Review.

TV review: 'Manhunt' keeps Bin Laden hunt as real as possible

'Manhunt' TV review: Greg Barker's documentary on HBO tells of the actual women and men who gathered the intelligence that led to Osama bin Laden's death.

Netflix's 'House of Cards' looks, but doesn't sound, like a hit

Netflix's 'House of Cards,' starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, was released all at once, creating initial buzz but not keeping it in the cultural conversation.

'Scandal' has become must-tweet TV

The ABC drama 'Scandal' has become a social-media phenomenon and a test case for TV networks trying to navigate new media.

On TV, a new breed of Modern Woman

Critic's Notebook: Addict, political wives, bipolar CIA operative and more: TV's female leads are breaking ground with their unexpected choices. Thanks to the feminist revolution and TV's increasing ascendancy, women are allowed to make mistakes without paying the ultimate price. It's all quite refreshing.

Oscars show review: Despite Adele, Michelle Obama, telecast is dull

Television review: Kelsey Grammer in 'Boss'

TV review: Kelsey Grammer shines in the dramatic antihero role of corrupt Chicago Mayor Tom Kane in the new political drama 'Boss' on Starz.

Best TV shows of 2012: The year of Sherlock Holmes

2012 gave us a double dose of high-quality Sherlock Holmes in BBC America's 'Sherlock' and CBS' 'Elementary.' Be still, fluttering heart.

The Petraeus affair: unscripted and simply scandalous

The David H. Petraeus-Paula Broadwell affair is endlessly fascinating. Why? Because it contains all the tropes of classic romances gone bad. Plus a few twists.

Book review: 'Then Again' by Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton's memoir, 'Then Again,' is elliptical and beautiful, covering her mother, motherhood, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, but not much acting.

Television review: 'Liz & Dick' romance fizzles in graceless biopic

Lindsay Lohan is a bad fit for Elizabeth Taylor's captivating grown-up charms in 'Liz & Dick,' but what really works against the Lifetime movie about Taylor and Richard Burton's relationship is that it tries to cover the whole exhausting decades-long affair.

Women of 'Damages' on ties that bind

On 'Damages,' Glenn Close's and Rose Byrne's attorneys circle each warily. Patty and Ellen can only hope for the sort of closeness the performers share.

'Hannah Montana' takes Miley Cyrus on a (safe) voyage of discovery

Gil Cates: the Wizard of Oscars

Gil Cates an appreciation: When it came to putting on the Academy Awards, Gil Cates had a golden touch.

The Reading Life: 'Agatha Christie: An Autobiography'

The Reading Life: The famed British mystery writer Agatha Christie was a master of succinct storytelling. Her memoir, with a new foreword, tells of a life much larger even than her considerable literary output.

Critic's Notebook: The 'Glee' machine

Critic's Notebook: 'Glee,' which opened its concert tour in Las Vegas, was once an antidote to the sugar rush of 'High School Musical' and 'Hannah Montana.' Now its often inconsistent, repetitive stories appeared constructed simply to accommodate the music.

Golden Globes: Host Ricky Gervais was just too nasty.

Golden Globes: Host Ricky Gervais crossed the line too many times.

Mary Tyler Moore's taboo-breaking shows seen in new light

With Mary Tyler Moore receiving a Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild, the star's groundbreaking work on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' is being compared to new female-centered comedies

The meaning of an Emmy nomination: A round-table discussion

Michelle Forbes, Walton Goggins, Josh Charles and Johnny Galecki talk about the very real honor of being nominated, about the work left at the office and about who'll get a tackle-hug on the red carpet.

Review: 'Bossypants' by Tina Fey is funny and heartfelt

'Bossypants' by Tina Fey is a collection of essays that are funny, truthful and heartfelt. Subjects include Alec Baldwin and '30 Rock,' 'Saturday Night Live' and playing Sarah Palin.

'Jesse Stone: Thin Ice' Sunday on CBS

Critic's Notebook: Emmy nominations' twists and turns

Critic's Notebook: The Emmy nominations take a turn for the unexpected, with 'Game of Thrones' and hard-working and talented performers like Margo Martindale, Kelly MacDonald and Louis C.K. making the list.

A working mother's guide to writing a novel

Novelist and Times critic Mary McNamara offers tips on how to write the book you've had in your head while not losing your mind or forgetting your family's needs.

Getting over J.D. Salinger

Mary McNamara revisits J.D. Salinger's works and finds she's outgrown them.

Christmas in London? Jolly good

Before the kids get too jaded, one L.A. family decides to celebrate Christmas in London. They discover a wonderland of twinkling lights, mini-carnivals and a fab dinosaur exhibit.

Americans sport a laid-back style in Beijing

'Money Walks,' Chapter 1

Book review: 'I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections' by Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron throws together two or three moderately fine pieces with an assortment of lists and previously published mini-rants.

Of love 'Lost'

The ABC series' finale fails to top the six seasons that preceded it. But it was always about the journey.

Fawcett leaves a legacy larger than her roles

Television Review: Anne Hathaway and James Franco play it safe

Young stars Anne Hathaway and James Franco host a professional, predictable Academy Awards telecast.

Review: 'The Last Templar'


A lifetime bond over books

From a box hidden under the Christmas tree each year, a father's love of reading is passed on to his daughter, a gift they share right up to their final day together.

Jimmy Fallon and the Emmys were born to have fun

The award show was a celebration of television, set to an up beat.

Tony Soprano and those other tough guys are muscled out

Disney World: Mad dashes, exhausting schedules and enervating weather

A reporter flies all the way across the country with family in tow only to find that Europe would have been more relaxing.

Television review: 'America: The Story of Us' summarizes hundreds of years in 12 hours

History Channel series works hard to keep viewers caught up in the tension but often slips into tedium.

Book review: 'Palo Alto' by James Franco

The teens in this collection— penned by the actor — are alienated and unsure of themselves. Unless you're a Franco fan, check out 'Catcher in the Rye' or 'The Outsiders' instead.

Oscars show has no sense of timing

'The Diplomat' is on a road less traveled

'Mistresses' on BBC America

Haunting first season show leaves a lasting impact

Luke Campbell's 'Parental Advisory' is too square to shock

Review: HBO's 'Taking Chance'

'The Locator' finds raw human emotions

Emmys race comes down to old or new

Reality TV shows tough people doing the rough jobs

Review: 'The Mentalist'