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<p>Claire Danes in the &quot;Homeland&quot;&nbsp;season premiere.</p>

Claire Danes in the "Homeland" season premiere.

Credit: Showtime

Season premiere review: 'Homeland' - 'The Smile'

The Emmy-winning drama returns with Carrie and Brody in very different places

"Homeland" is back for a new season, and I have a review of the premiere — plus a few thoughts from producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon — coming up just as soon as I love Julia Roberts...

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<p>Rachael Taylor in &quot;666 Park Avenue.&quot;</p>

Rachael Taylor in "666 Park Avenue."

Credit: ABC

Series premiere review: '666 Park Avenue'

What did everybody think of the new ABC drama?

"666 Park Avenue" is one of this week's new shows I didn't write a review of. As I said on Thursday's podcast, campy gothic horror/soap opera isn't generally my kind of show, and this one's not so well-done to transcend my disinterest. Of course, I'm also not a fan of either "Once Upon a Time" or "Revenge," the two ABC shows this one is kind of mashing up, but I know many of you are. (And FWIW, Fienberg liked "666 Park," while Liane was mixed.)

So for those of you who tuned into "666 Park," what did you think? Were Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams chewing up enough scenery for you? Did you like Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable, or find them too naive to care about?  Did you find the show creepy or just goofy? And will you watch again?

Have at it.

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<p>Jaymes and James of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>

Jaymes and James of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' Premiere - 'Double Your Money'

Which team earned the chance to hypothetically win $2 million?
If you're a regular reader of my "Amazing Race" recaps, I bet you think you can predict the first thing I'm going to say about Sunday (September 30) night's premiere.
 
Wrong!
 
I want to talk about the fact that Team Monster Truck -- Rob & Kelley -- seems to be using rollaboard luggage rather than traditional backpacks. My knowledge of "Amazing Race" isn't as encyclopedic as for some of the shows I recap, but I can't remember this ever being done previously. Was there a rule change? Or do Rob and/or Kelley have back problems of some sort that require a luggage alternative? It's not like backpacks with wheels are a new invention. Is the theory that rollies are actually slower than backpacks? They obviously are slower when you're in a crowded area and you have to navigate quickly. But they're easier if you happen to be weaker. 
 
These are the questions I pondered as I saw Team Monster Truck navigating around the Bund in Shanghai. It struck me as weird. And so I wanted to bring it up.
 
[Buddy Andy from RealityBlurred notes that flight attendants Jodi & Christie from S. 14 had rollaboards.]
 
Bet you didn't expect that to be the first thing discussed in my recap tonight.
 
I bet you expected me to go on my traditional jeremiad about how it's absolutely asinine to premiere seasons of "The Amazing Race" or "Survivor" with hour-long episodes. 
 
And guess what? It's true, darnit!
 
Normally, I just use my premiere week recaps to go through each of the teams, listing the teams that I'm liking and the teams I'm disliking, which tends to be a good way for me to keep the teams straight in my head and break down the initial impressions they left. 
 
Guess what? After one hour? I'm really not liking or disliking anybody. I'm impressed by Monster Truck Rob and his eating prowess (more on that in a bit). It's absolutely impossible not to be impressed by Amy with her two artificial legs. I've decided that Nadiya is The Annoy Twin. I find Beekman Boys Josh and Brent to be amusing, but they're professional reality show stars, so of course they are. But, in the balance after one hour, I have no rooting interest, positive or negative, towards any team. And that's the kind of thing you avoid by doing an extended premiere for competition series that have to introduce 22 new people. Look at "Survivor," which premiered its Philippines season with a 90-minute episode. After 90 minutes, I had vague awareness of all 18 contestants (albeit a group that included three returning players and two pseudo-stars). 
 
After 60 minutes tonight? Whatever. 
 
And what's worse: Of the 11 "Amazing Race" teams this season, at least four of the teams are same-gender pairings in which I will NEVER be able to properly distinguish between players, at least not on my tiny Slingbox screen. Team White Lion and Team Sri Lankan Twins were always going to be a struggle. If Natalie wears her hair down and Naiya always wears a scrunchie, I might occasionally make a correct ID. Ditto if James (he of White Lion and Megadeath) always wears dark shades and Abba (formerly "Mark") wears clear glasses. James and Abba aren't brothers and they don't look that much alike, but in the "Amazing Race" chaos (and, again, on my Slingbox), there're close enough. 
 
I have the same issue with Team Chippendale. Jaymes (blonde and scruffy) and James (brunette and scruffy) have similar stature and different features, but recognizing those differences while also retaining which is "James" and which is "Jaymes" is a lost cause.
 
And finally, Caitlin and Brittany? One played soccer and one played volleyball, but otherwise? they're both tall, slender blondes with REALLY white teeth. Staring at headshots for a couple seconds, I think Brittany is the one I find cuter, but that's not useful on the fly.
 
[More after the break...
 
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<p>Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall in &quot;Dexter.&quot;</p>

Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall in "Dexter."

Credit: Showtime

Season premiere review: 'Dexter' - 'Are You?'

What did everybody think of the Showtime drama's return?

I posted my review of the new season of "Dexteryesterday. Now it's your turn. Given the unhappiness so many "Dexter" fans had with the last season (if not the last two, or even three of the last four), were you satisfied enough with how the show dealt with the Deb/Dexter cliffhanger to put those bad feelings aside? Or are you always going to feel skeptical about the show from here until the end? Is anyone done with the show now, and/or has anyone been roped back in after giving up, like I was? Have at it.

My Sunday plate's too full to put "Dexter" back into the rotation, but I'll definitely be back to discuss the season after the finale, and possibly once or twice in between if something notable happens.

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<p>Charlie Cox and Bobby Cannavale in &quot;Boardwalk Empire.&quot;</p>

Charlie Cox and Bobby Cannavale in "Boardwalk Empire."

Credit: HBO

Review: 'Boardwalk Empire' - 'Bone For Tuna'

Nucky tries to make peace with Gyp, Margaret hatches a plan and Richard takes offense

A review of tonight's "Boardwalk Empire" coming up just as soon as I can find an insult in a bed of roses...

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"Once Upon A Time"

 "Once Upon A Time"

Credit: ABC

Recap: 'Once Upon A Time' delivers justice to the evil queen - or does it?

The curse is broken on Storybrooke, but will there be consequences?

So, after waiting all summer for "Once Upon A Time" to return to the air, fans of the show were rubbing their hands together in glee at what seemed like an inevitable plot payoff on tonight's season premiere. When we left the show, the curse over Storybrooke had been lifted, and all our fairy tale favorites were no longer blinded to their true selves -- or evil queen Regina (Lana Parrilla)'s role in that unpleasantness. So yeah, she's gonna get her what for and how, right? Well, kind of. 

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"666 Park Avenue"

 "666 Park Avenue"

Credit: ABC

Review: '666 Park Avenue' looks posh but might be a fixer-upper

Though 2 stars are villainous fun, the promise of future plotlines is unclear

Given that “666 Park Avenue” is centered on such a fundamentally monochrome battle of good versus evil (The demon’s sneaky emissaries! Pitiful, weak-willed humans!), it seems downright wrong to feel wishy-washy about the show. In the pilot, it doesn’t seem as if our main foursome has much tolerance for shades of grey, and I’m not talking about the book.

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Watch: 'The Simpsons' producer Al Jean talks Season 24

Watch: 'The Simpsons' producer Al Jean talks Season 24

Longtime showrunner teases guest voices and more
"The Simpsons" kicks off its 24th season on Sunday (September 30) night.
 
Long-time showrunner and writer and executive producer Al Jean hasn't been there for all 24 seasons, but it certainly seems like he has been. One of the original "Simpsons" writers and in the midst of a showrunning tenure that has dated back to 2001, Jean has been one of the show's key media presences, responding to every milestone, development and controversy, every innovation or wrinkle in the show's venerable formula, every guest star and every programming stunt. 
 
That means that I've chatted with Al Jean with a regularity that's almost like clockwork. Here, for example, are our conversations before the start of Season 21, Season 22 and Season 23. If you look at the publication dates for those interviews, you'll see that it's almost eerie.
 
That means that this year's Al Jean interview is a few days late, but I think it's the best we've done together. In the conversation, we talk about  Sunday's premieres, about Season 24 guest stars and about the show's ongoing ability to stir up controversy for the oddest of reasons. 
 
It's kinda long, so the first part is above and the second part is embedded below.
 
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<p>Lil Wayne</p>

Lil Wayne

Credit: Gerald Herbert/AP

Music Power Rankings: Lil Wayne leads Mumford and Katy Perry

Country royalty George Strait and Reba McEntire make the list too


1.  Lil Wayne:
Weezy surpasses Elvis Presley for the most appearances by any artist on the Billboard Hot 100 (there are caveats galore here). We can’t wait to hear Lil Wayne’s version of “Love Me Tender.” 

2. Mumford & Sons: The British folk rock group will take “Babel” to the top of the Billboard 200 next week with the highest first-week sales of the year. If you stacked up 600,000 CDs, would they be as high as the Tower of Babel?

3. Katy Perry: Billboard names the California Gurl its Woman of the Year.

4. George Strait:  Country’s King George announces that he will retire from touring in 2014. He’ll always be king of our hearts, just no longer king of the road.

5. Reba McEntire: After hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards consecutively since 1999 (and for the last two with Blake Shelton), the legendary country artist hangs up her hosting shingle.

6. Sony /ATV:  Apple may seem unstoppable, but it would appear that’s not the case: According to several published reports, the world’s largest music publisher, Sony/ATV, halted Apple in its tracks from introducing its streaming service via the iPhone 5 after they couldn’t agree on a rate schedule.

7. Lyor Cohen:
Warner Music Group’s gruff and tough chairman/CEO steps down to reportedly start his own talent management firm. Good luck to the labels who will now deal with him on the opposite side of the negotiations table.

8. Universal Music Group:
  UMG completes its $1.9 billion purchase of EMI after more than a year vetting by various territory’s regulatory commissions.  Wait... we’re still haven’t heard from Lichtenstein.

9. The Beatles:  The newly remastered Beatles albums will come out on vinyl for their first time in November. Let the magical mystery tour begin anew.

10. Jay-Z:
He kicked off the first of his 8-night residency at Brooklyn’s brand new Barclays Center on Friday night. SInce he’s a minority investor in the arena, it’s the same thing as a house gig, right?

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<p>Rory (Arthur Darvill)&nbsp;and Amy (Karen Gillan)&nbsp;in their &quot;Doctor Who&quot; farewell.</p>

Rory (Arthur Darvill) and Amy (Karen Gillan) in their "Doctor Who" farewell.

Credit: BBC

Review: 'Doctor Who' - 'The Angels Take Manhattan'

The Doctor, Amy and Rory run into Steven Moffat's favorite villains

"Doctor Who" has just concluded its five episode fall mini-season (next up: the Christmas special), and I have a review coming up just as soon as I specifically remember not noticing the lines on your eyes...

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<p>Anne Heche of &quot;Save Me&quot;</p>

Anne Heche of "Save Me"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Save Me'

Anne Heche stars in a Showtime half-hour misplaced on NBC

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Save Me" (NBC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: "What would happen if we did a Showtime half-hour on NBC?" "It would probably do Showtime ratings." "I'm OK with that if you are."
Quick Response: A few years ago, there was a rush of "Women who may or may not be prophets" dramas. I'm thinking "Wonderfalls" and "Joan of Arcadia," though if you expand gender boundaries and your definition of "prophet," you might include "Book of Daniel" or "Dead Like Me." After letting the genre lay fallow for a while, NBC is jumping back into the fray (after, possibly, HBO's "Enlightened," which has similar underpinnings without needing to be so darned overt) with John Scott Shepherd's "Save Me," in which Anne Heche plays an awful woman who has a near-death experience and begins to think that she's a prophet. Or maybe she is. One thing she certainly is is a Showtime-style comedy leading lady, in that she's quirky, flawed, prickly and only occasionally [rarely, even] funny. And when you look at the director and producers on "Save Me," it isn't even slightly surprising to see that their credits include "Californication," "The Big C," "The United States of Tara." And, heck, NBC's entertainment operation is overseen by former Showtime boss Robert Greenblatt, so really none of the Showtime-ness of "Save Me" is surprising. And if "Save Me" were, indeed, on Showtime, we'd probably be talking about Anne Heche as a possible Emmy contender, because she's got her best part in years and she embraces every peculiar, not-entirely-likabe aspect of this character. Figuring out the exact point of "Save Me" is a bit more complicated. It either has a very superficial theme regarding faith and spirituality in the Midwest and in the suburbs, or else it's eventually going to make a bigger point that hasn't even been approached yet. And beyond Heche and Alexandra Breckenridge as the main character's husband's mistress, none of the actors or characters in the pilot make even the slightest impression. And, performance-wise, nobody seems to know exactly what the tone of the show is supposed to be, so some actors are playing it as a "Desperate Housewives" style comedic soap, some are thinking it's a sitcom and some are playing straight drama. It's confusing. [I'd point to Michael Landes in the "most confused" category. And I don't know which version of the show Landes would really succeed in.] Some of those Showtime "comedies" have also struggled to find their subtext and tone in the early-goings and have eventually become quite solid. But those shows have had the ability to produce in a vacuum and premiere without worrying about ratings. "Save Me" won't be able to do that and it is, like "Red Widow," another midseason show that isn't a fabulous match with its future home.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate. I liked Heche and I was perplexed, but interested by "Save Me." I want to see what an episode or two of "Save Me" sausage will look like after it goes through NBC's development meat grinder. Or maybe I'm just perversely fascinated to see where NBC intends to schedule this show and how they intend on promoting it without raising an uproar from special interest groups that often take exception when a TV character talks to God. 

 

That's it for the 2012-2013 installment of Take Me To The Pilots...What a crazy journey it's been...

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Red Widow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Cult'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Next Caller'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Following'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Family Tools'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Infamous'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's '1600 Penn'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Zero Hour'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

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<p>Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck in &quot;To the Wonder.&quot;</p>

Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck in "To the Wonder."

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Magnolia to release Malick's 'To the Wonder' in 2013

The film has had a rocky reception since premiering earlier this month

Arguably no film has suffered a steeper fall on the autumn festival circuit than Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder." The usually slow-working director's unexpectedly prompt follow-up to last year's Palme d'Or winner "The Tree of Life" entered the Venice Film Festival, together with Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," as its prime attraction. By the time it moved on to Toronto, however, many critics seemed to be wishing he'd taken a little more time. 

The Venice premiere was by no means disastrous. Inevitably, as with "The Tree of Life" at Cannes, some boos greeted the closing credits at its morning press screening, and were swiftly, even gleefully blown out of proportion by the media, but it had its fair share of admirers, too -- of which I was one. (Indeed, I'm one of the very few who thinks the film a step up from "Tree.") The Toronto reception, however, was rockier: with expectations already dampened by the mixed advance word from Europe, a lot of critics positively seemed to revel in sticking the boot in, while claims to the effect of "Malick's worst film" rapidly became consensus.

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