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<p>&quot;Utopia&quot; host Dan Piraro</p>

"Utopia" host Dan Piraro

Credit: FOX

Interview: 'Utopia' narrator Dan Piraro explains his bizarro journey to FOX reality

The syndicated cartoonist explains how he's a different sort of FOX host

After Sunday night's premiere of FOX's "Utopia" much of the conversation was about embarrassingly alcoholic contestants, poorly concealed pregnancies and pixelated nudity.

But garnering nearly as much conversation as Huntress Hex, Drunken Buffoon Josh and Polyamorous Dedeker was the show's on-screen narrator, the immaculately dressed, carefully mustachioed Dan Piraro.

I chatted with Piraro on Sunday afternoon after seeing only a few early minutes of footage, which was enough to know that he could hardly be more different from FOX's legacy of reality hosts ranging from Ryan Seacrest to Mario Lopez to Monica Lewinsky to Cat Deeley.

It isn't just the infinitely twirlable facial hair or the fact that "Utopia" enlisted a frontman who has passed out of FOX's coveted 18-49 demographic. 

Piraro arrives on "Utopia" with an established career in a field rarely mined for reality hosting gigs. Since 1985, Piraro's single-panel comic "Bizarro" has been syndicated in hundreds of newspapers, offering a wry, absurdist and often politicized glimpse at contemporary life. "Bizarro" has been reprinted in 16 collections, while Piraro has also written books of prose and traveled the country with a one-man comedy show. So even if aspects of "Utopia" feel like a marginally less raunchy "Paradise Hotel," Dan Piraro is no Amanda Byram.

In this Q&A, Piraro discusses the strange journey that brought him to "Utopia" and what he hopes to convey as the show's narrator and how he's different from Ryan Seacrest.

Click through before tonight's new "Utopia."

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Album review: U2's 'Songs of Innocence'

Band moves forward by looking back

Taking a trick from Beyonce’s playbook, U2 dropped its 13th studio album, “Songs of Innocence,” today without warning. The Irish band made the announcement at Apple’s event in Cupertino, Calif.

The aptly named “Songs of Innocence,” produced by Danger Mouse, with additional production by Ryan Tedder, Paul Epworth, Flood, and Declan Gaffney, is a song cycle that draws on the band members’ past— a time when they first met and everything was possible. It pays tribute to their influences (The Ramones, The Clash, The Beach Boys), first loves, growing up in the shadow of IRA violence, and the fallout of tough economic times. Bono’s vocals sound fresh and invigorated and the production sparkles. It’s a lovely album that is sentimental without ever losing its edge.

Below is a first-listen review: my take on each song by only listening to it once as I play the album straight through.

“The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”: A chugging, mid-tempo track that recalls the moment that the members of U2 first heard and saw The Ramones and how it opened up the world to them. “I woke up at the moment the miracle occurred/I get so many things I don’t deserve,” Bono sings. It’s an intensely personal track. Musically, it’s not an homage to punk pioneers, but it captures the innocence of musical discovery. GRADE: B

“Every Breaking Wave”:  Gentle, mid-tempo track anchored by Larry Mullen’s steady drum beat then breaks open to a more expansive tune about chasing things we know will beat up.  The refrain echoes OneRepublic, which is not surprising given that Ryan Tedder produced the track with Danger Mouse. A very radio friendly effort. GRADE: B

“California (There is No End to Love)” The track opens with Bono chanting “Barbara Santa Barbara” in both a tribute to the city and the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann,” before giving way to a synth and beat-laden echo-y, propulsive track about how California/Hollywood dims your light if you let it. Written about the band’s first trip to SoCal, it sounds like it could have been on “No Line on the Horizon.” GRADE: B

“Song for Someone”: Sounds like another love letter from  Bono to his wife, Ali, whom he met when he was 14. “You’re got eyes that can see right through me/You’re not afraid of anything they’ve seen…I don’t know how these cuts heal/but in you I found a rhyme.” The Edge gets some nice restrained solos in here. Deeply romantic. GRADE: B+

“Iris (Hold Me Close)”: Staccato, trademark playing by The Edge serves as the bed for this track about Iris, Bono’s mom, who died when he was 14.  She collapsed at her own father's funeral, only to die herself a few days later. It’s extremely personal, yet the love expressed is universal in its appeal. GRADE: A

“Volcano”: One of the most distinctive tunes on the track starts with a wicked bass line from Adam Clayton. It turns into U2 crossed with Oingo Boingo as Bono’s voice bounces all over the place in the electronic-fueled cautionary tale. Fun and quirky, especially as the voices rise in the background like ghosts of tunes past. New Wave is alive and well. GRADE: B

“Raised By Wolves”: Driving track framed around a 1974 car bombing that killed 33 people in Dublin. “I’m in a white van as a red sea covers/metal crash I can’t tell what it is,” Bono sings. “The worst things in the world are justified by belief,” he adds, a very strong statement for someone who has always worn his religious convictions on his sleeve. The skittering track is propelled by sharp keyboards and Mullen’s relentless beat. GRADE: B+

“Cedarwood Road”: About as hard rock/metal an intro as U2 has ever recorded, “Cedarwood Road” then transforms into one of its more traditional mid-tempo tracks (it’s a shame…it would have been interesting to see where they’d gone with the song if they’d kept the metal edge consistently instead of referencing it only occasionally as the song proceeds). The song, dedicated to Bono's childhood friend, Guggi, is about the street he grew up on and the tumult both out in the open and behind closed doors.  “And friendship once it’s won/It’s won…it’s one… A heart that is broken/is a heart that is open.”  GRADE: B-

“Sleep Like A Baby Tonight”: U2 switches it up again on this slinky, electronic track that starts out with a hypnotic, programmed loop and benefits from a distorted, fuzzy switch up. “Tomorrow dawns like a suicide/ But you’re gonna sleep like a baby tonight,” Bono sings. Then he surprises again by going into a ragged falsetto. Probably the album’s most adventurous track musically. GRADE: B

This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now”: Dedicated to The Clash’s Joe Strummer, the standout on the track is Edge’s piquant guitar work. Just as “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” pays homage to the Ramones, this track is a tribute to The Clash guitarist-- a soldier, in Bono's eyes-- and, more specifically, the group’s classic, “Sandinista!” GRADE: B

“The Troubles”:  The title, of course, refers to what the fighting between the English and IRA was called, but this dreamy track refers to more than that. The lyrics address that issue obliquely but the song is more about how we give away our soul without even realizing it. Interesting choice to have backing vocals/refrain sung by a chorus reminiscent of Duran Duran’s “Come Undone.” GRADE: B





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Zachary Quinto returning to NBC to star in 'The Slap'
Credit: NBC

Zachary Quinto returning to NBC to star in 'The Slap'

Zachary Quinto returning to NBC to star in “The Slap”
The former “Heroes” star has signed on to play the slapper in the Australian-inspired NBC miniseries about the ramifications of a parent slapping somebody else's misbehaving child.

‘Scandal” cast members are dressed to the nines in Season 4 cast shot
Are they getting ready for Fitz’s re-inauguration?

OWN orders food truck reality show “2 Fat 2 Fly”
Cameras will follow a food truck devoted to chicken wings.

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<p>Volleyball star Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) on Friday Night Lights</p>

Volleyball star Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) on Friday Night Lights

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 245: 'The Leftovers,' 'Utopia' & more

Dan and Alan also review the 'New Girl' & 'Mindy Project' premieres and talk some 'FNL' volleyball


Happy Tuesday, boys and girls! Buckle up for a very long Firewall & Iceberg Podcast that runs the gamut, from our attempt to find anything redeeming in FOX's "Utopia," through some discussion of the "New Girl" & "Mindy Project" premieres, then into some important listener questions before we jump into "The Leftovers" finale and the start of the all-important "Friday Night Lights" volleyball arc. Only two episodes to go. Sigh.

The rundown:

"Utopia" (00:00:50 - 00:12:40)
"New Girl" Season 4 (00:12:45 - 00:22:40)
"Mindy Project" Season 3 (00:22:45 - 00:30:45)
Listener Mail: "Veronica Mars" viewing and TV paintball (00:30:50 - 00:41:30)
"The Leftovers" finale including Listener Mail (00:41:40 - 01:07:30)
"Friday Night Lights" Season 2, episodes 12 & 13 (01:07:55 - 01:44:20)

As always, send questions to You can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file, subscribe on IHeartRadio or stream it on Dan's blog.

There's also now a complete archive of all the podcasts to date.

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 245

Dan and Alan discuss 'Utopia,' 'New Girl,' 'Mindy Project' and the 'Leftovers' finale


Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls!

After a couple weeks of Wednesday podcasts, it's back to Tuesday with a busy show. 

In this installment, we actually remembered to discuss the season's penultimate back of "Friday Night Lights" Season 2 episodes, we discussed the finale of HBO's "The Leftovers," we previewed next week's premieres of FOX's "New Girl" and "The Mindy Project" and we spent as much time on FOX's "Utopia" as Alan could stand.

Here's today's breakdown:
"Utopia" (00:00:50 - 00:12:40)
"New Girl" Season 4 (00:12:45 - 00:22:40)
"Mindy Project" Season 3 (00:22:45 - 00:30:45)
Listener Mail: "Veronica Mars" viewing and TV paintball (00:30:50 - 00:41:30)
"The Leftovers" finale including Listener Mail (00:41:40 - 01:07:30)
"Friday Night Lights" Season 2 (01:07:55 - 01:44:20)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed or subscribe on IHeartRadio.] 


And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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BREAKING: U2's new album, 'Songs of Innocence,' available free on iTunes

Set is free through mid-October

U2 has released its new album, “Songs of Innocence,” on iTunes for free.

The Irish superstars, along with Apple CEO  Tim Cook, made the announcement at the close of today’s Apple event in Cupertino, Calif.

The album, which features production by Danger Mouse, as well as Paul Epworth, Ryan Tedder, Declan Gaffney and Flood, will be free to download to all iTunes account holders until mid-October, according to reports, in all 119 countries where iTunes is available.

“Songs of Innocence” will not be eligible to chart on the Billboard 200 because albums must be priced at no less than $3.49 in their first six weeks of release to be considered for chart inclusion.

In addition to download availability, the album is available for streaming on Beats music.

On Oct. 14, Interscope Records will make the album available to all retailers.

"Songs of Innocence" tracklisting

The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)
Every Breaking Wave
California (There Is No End To Love)
Song For Someone
Iris (Hold Me Close)
Raised By Wolves
Cedarwood Road
Sleep Like A Baby Tonight
This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now
The Troubles

A deluxe edition will include acoustic versions of each song and four additional tracks, "Lucifer’s Hands," "The Crystal Ballroom,"  "The Troubles (Alternative version)," and "Sleep Like A Baby Tonight" (Alternative Perspective Mix by Tchad Blake).


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HBO announces premiere date for 'The Comeback,' 'The Newsroom' and 'Getting On'
Credit: HBO

HBO announces premiere date for 'The Comeback,' 'The Newsroom' and 'Getting On'

HBO announces premiere date for “The Comeback,” “The Newsroom” and “Getting On”
All three return on Nov. 9.

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake lend their voices to Apple’s iPhone ads
At today’s Apple event, the late-night pals were revealed to be singing iPhone 6 promos.

Donald Trump: Joan Rivers will appear on 2 “Celebrity Apprentice” episodes next season
"Joan plays my advisor in two episodes. She was great!” says Trump.

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Review: Simon Pegg has great fun playing slimy in Aussie thriller 'Kill Me Three Times'
Credit: Cargo Entertainment

Review: Simon Pegg has great fun playing slimy in Aussie thriller 'Kill Me Three Times'

Australia's sunshine hides some shadowy hearts in this one

Kriv Stenders is not a filmmaker whose name I knew before this, but "Kill Me Three Times" suggests he has both a slick sense of style and a wicked nasty sense of humor. The film stars Simon Pegg as a slimy hitman named Charlie Wolfe, and it is a sort of sun-drenched round robin of terrible people doing terrible things to one another to largely charming effect.

The script by James McFarland fractures the story into three overlapping chunks of time, doubling back on itself to illuminate why people are behaving certain ways, but it's actually a fairly simple story once it becomes untangled. Someone hires Charlie to kill someone else, and that someone may not be on the level. Charlie may not be on the level, either. Basically, it is a movie of double and triple crosses in which pretty much everyone deserves what they get, all set in the bright and beautiful sunshine of Australia.

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Review: Ben Stiller and Adam Driver put a stake in hipster culture's heart in 'While We're Young'
Credit: A24

Review: Ben Stiller and Adam Driver put a stake in hipster culture's heart in 'While We're Young'

Plus an unexpected debate about ethics in modern documentary film

While I'm always up for watching a new film by Noah Baumbach, I'm fairly sure I wouldn't want to spend any time in the real world with the characters in his movies.

Take "While We're Young," for example, his latest film which just premiered here at the Toronto Film Festival. In it, Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a couple who have reached that point in life where all of their friends are having babies and they seem fairly sure that's not something they want. Josh is a documentary filmmaker who is coming up on his tenth year of tinkering with the same project, and Cornelia is a producer who works for her father (Charles Grodin), a successful older documentarian who used to be Josh's mentor. If they were the only three main characters in the film, there's still enough angst and tension and underlying pathology in the three of them to make me squirm for two full hours.

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'The Daily Show' is heading to Austin for 'Democalypse 2014: South by South Mess'

'The Daily Show' is heading to Austin for 'Democalypse 2014: South by South Mess'

“The Daily Show” is heading to Austin for "Democalypse 2014: South by South Mess”
Starting Monday Oct. 27, Jon Stewart will spend a week in the capital of Texas covering the midterm election, and indicted Gov. Rick Perry.

Meredith Vieira’s talk show debuts up 41% from the shows it replaced
According to Deadline, "That’s the second-biggest increase over year-ago time periods for a talk-show premiere in nine years, behind only Steve Harvey’s show.”

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<p>Monday&#39;s &quot;MasterChef&quot;</p>

Monday's "MasterChef"

Credit: FOX

TV Ratings: 'MasterChef,' football-skewed 'Bachelor in Paradise' finale lead Monday

NBC's 'Running Wild' and 'American Ninja Warrior' finales are solid

Fast National ratings for Monday, September 8, 2014.

A two-hour block of "MasterChef" led FOX to a Monday night victory among young viewers, while ABC is celebrating series highs for "Bachelor in Paradise," winning the night overall.

ABC is trumpeting those "Bachelor in Paradise" numbers, but also acknowledging that the numbers are fundamentally bunk, with the network no doubt receiving a rather huge boost from NFL preemptions in New York and Detroit. 

In short, don't expect "Bachelor in Paradise" to remain anywhere near these numbers when Final Live+Same Day figures come in. 

When it comes to other, less inflated, numbers, after last week's Labor Day-generated low, CBS' "Under the Dome" bounced back to its regular levels, as did NBC's season finale for "Running Wild with Bear Grylls."

On to the numbers...

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Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys asks the big questions on new song, 'We Are Here': Listen

Singer debuts live version on 'Jimmy Fallon'

Alicia Keys unveiled a new song, “We Are Here,” on Facebook on Monday. The anthem is a socially conscious tune that takes on a laundry list of societal ills and big issues, ranging from the Palestinian/Isreali conflict to violence in Chicago to absentee dads to educational deficits in major cities, and serves as a call to action to do whatever you can to make the world a better place.

“We are here for all of us,” she sings, as she performs the song on keyboards on a New York rooftop. It’s well-meaning and clearly from the heart. Is it one of her catchier tunes? No. However, it’s a statement that she feels passionately about and needed to make.

“I was sitting in a circle of people of all ages and we were asked, ‘Why are you here?’ Why am I here?? This really hit me on a deep level. I realized no one had ever asked me that question before,” Keys said in a statement.

She goes on to add that “I believe in an empowered world community built on the true meaning of equality… I believe our voices should be heard so that our representation reflects our population… I believe in a world where every child born receives a quality education.” Keys states several other beliefs and then calls upon all of us to help “give birth to a kinder and more peaceful world for all children.”

"We Are Here," which she also performed on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" Monday night,  will most likely be on Keys' new album. She's given no release date for the set yet, but told AP,  "What I know for a fact is it's the best music I've ever done in my life." Don't expect an album from her this year since she's working on another production: her second child with husband Swizz Beatz is due in December. She will also appear on a mentor on "The Voice" as part of Pharrell's team. The two paired for the "Spider-Man" tune, "It's On Again,"  and he also worked on her new album.



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