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Deborah Ann Woll in 'True Blood'

Everything's changing for Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) on "True Blood"

Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO

'True Blood' recap: Someone says goodbye in 'Gone, Gone, Gone'

Eric makes a choice between Godric and Lilith and there's a whole lotta stakin' goin' on

Here's something different: an unusually focused hour of "True Blood" that connected the dots between (almost) all of its various storylines.

No Ifrit. No hate group. No wolf pack. While the result was still of a piece with the disappointing season overall, it was less of a headache than usual. So let's get this over with, quick...

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"Big Brother"

"Big Brother"

Credit: CBS

'Big Brother' recap: What's next for the Silent Six?

Frank is in control again -- and is he gunning for a coach?

So, Janelle is gone, Frank is in the catbird seat, and Boogie is on top of the world. Of course Boogie's on top of the world. My frustration with that decrepit little Burgess Meredith wannabe is that he's so darn cocky -- and then, that same blazing egotism seems to be reinforced by the weak, lemming-like hamsters left in the house. Of course everyone (except for clueless, friendless Joe) voted for Janelle to go home. Was it good for everyone's game? Of course not! But gee whiz, Frank is so charming and Boogie is soooo good at this game, why not do their bidding?

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<p>Kym Whitley, JoAnna Garcia Swisher and Justin Kirk are some of the humans in &quot;Animal Practice.&quot;</p>

Kym Whitley, JoAnna Garcia Swisher and Justin Kirk are some of the humans in "Animal Practice."

Credit: NBC

Series premiere review: 'Animal Practice' - 'Pilot'

What did everybody think of the new NBC sitcom?

I posted my review of NBC's "Animal Practiceyesterday. Now it's your turn. What did everybody else think of the sitcom? Were you able to forget about Annie's Boobs while watching Crystal the Monkey play Dr. Rizzo? Did you find any of the human characters a tenth as interesting as the monkey or the python?

 

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<p>Jesse (Aaron Paul)&nbsp;has a plan on &quot;Breaking Bad.&quot;</p>

Jesse (Aaron Paul) has a plan on "Breaking Bad."

Credit: AMC

Review: 'Breaking Bad' - 'Dead Freight'

Jesse masterminds a plan to steal more chemicals in a beautiful hour

A review of tonight's "Breaking Bad" coming up just as soon as my niece's first words are "ASAC"...

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<p>Christopher Heyerdahl as The Swede on &quot;Hell on Wheels.&quot;</p>

Christopher Heyerdahl as The Swede on "Hell on Wheels."

Credit: AMC

Season premiere review: 'Hell on Wheels' - 'Viva La Mexico'

What did everybody think of the AMC Western's return?

reviewed the start of "Hell on Wheelsseason 2 this morning. Now it's your turn. For those of you who came back, what did you think of the season premiere? Did it feel like any kind of significant leap forward? Could you see the influence of new producer (and "Breaking Bad" alum) John Shiban? (Shiban, by the way, wrote next week's episode, while the premiere was written by the Gayton brothers.) Do you like the new roles many of the characters find themselves in, or would you rather The Swede was still The Swede? (For that matter, are you with me that a Christopher Heyerdahl-centered version of this show would be a vast improvement?) 

The sense I got before I stopped doing weekly talkbacks in season 1 (I won't be doing them this season, by the way) was that the people who were still watching genuinely enjoyed the show, but I'm curious if that affection survived the hiatus — and also whether anyone who gave up earlier in the run came back to see what was happening here.

Have at it.

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<p>Hayden Panettiere of &quot;Nashville&quot;</p>

Hayden Panettiere of "Nashville"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'

Music-themed soap is full of terrific elements, but will they gel?

[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: "Nashville" (ABC)
The Pitch:"Take 'Dallas,' replace oil with country music, transplant it to Nashville and... BAM!" Or, if you prefer... "You know how NOBODY saw 'Country Strong'? We could ditch the title, turn it into a TV show and nobody would ever know."
Quick Response: ABC's "Nashville" has every element in place to be a potentially great show. Or at least it has every element in place to be a fun primetime soap in an underutilized location with perhaps a little extra substance. And maybe the problem that I have with this pilot, which is solidly written by Callie Khouri and solidly directed by R.J. Cutler, is that it just has too many elements in place and no way to do justice to all of those elements in 42 minutes. Every time I got into one plotline or another, I was abruptly yanked out and forced into another and just when I settled in and decided I was interested in that plotline, it was off to something else. I got no cumulative impact out of the pilot at all, but I could see how I'd happily watch a series that ACTUALLY focused on Connie Britton's Reba-esque Raya (kinda an inverted Mrs Coach, as a woman whose long overshadowed husband decides he wants his own profile) or Hayden Panettiere's Taylor Swift-esque Juliette (kinda an emotionally wounded, sexually voracious singing dwarf) or Powers Boothe's Lamar (kinda JR Ewing, only played by Powers Boothe) or the sweet dynamic between Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen (like a country-tinged "Once"). What I didn't buy was the attempt, at least in the pilot, to pretend like all of the storylines had equal value, when they clearly don't. Boothe and Britton are, of course, two actors who I'd watch do just about anything and this has the potential to be the best project for Britton since "Friday Night Lights" and for Boothe since "Hatfields & McCoys" (yes, I'm well aware that those projects were two years and one year ago). Panettiere doesn't have their chops, but she's actually perfectly cast in this role and I love the visual dexterity required to frame her in a way in which she looks full-sized. Credit to Khouri and Cutler for their treatment of the eponymous city, which gets to be the only character in every scene and therefore the only character I fully bought. And credit to T-Bone Burnett for a few original country songs that, without question, could be hits in the hands of the right artists. This is just a hard sort of sprawling epic to get right in a network TV hour. "Nashville" could be the sort of show that works best cumulatively, rather than one episode at a time. Then again, I have colleagues who loved this one, so they obviously connected in a way I did not.
Desire To Watch Again: Fairly strong. I watched a full season of "Revenge" in this time period and I didn't like "Revenge" and "Revenge" didn't have nearly the number of quality elements that "Nashville" has already, or the grasp on a grounded and interesting reality that "Nashville" may aspire to. In a perfect world, I'd have one or two additional "Nashville" episodes to see before writing a review, just to have a better idea of the focus moving forward.

 

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>2 Chainz and Nicki Minaj in &quot;I Love Dem Strippers&quot;</p>

2 Chainz and Nicki Minaj in "I Love Dem Strippers"

Watch: Nicki Minaj and 2 Chainz reunite on 'I Love Dem Strippers,' with strippers

NSFW clip features Minaj fierce and Chainz one-noting

It's not a stretch to say that 2 Chainz "I Love Dem Strippers" featuring Nicki Minaj doesn't sound like anything new. The video looks exactly like you think it would, with the Atlanta rhymer buttressed by butts and dollar bills raining from this hands. The hook is just the song title repeated over and over with Chainz bumpy slow flow oozing with the usual boasts.

The big question for MInaj: will she work the pole or is she asserting her breadwinner status on the couch with the rest of the dude bros? Because that's what this is: Dude-broage. Minaj -- whose rhymes come off way hotter -- opts to uptake the traditional male role in rap: rappers are paid to rap, and they use that money to pay women to take off their clothes. Grass is green, sky is blue.

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<p>Anson Mount and Common in &quot;Hell on Wheels.&quot;</p>

Anson Mount and Common in "Hell on Wheels."

Credit: AMC

Review: AMC's 'Hell on Wheels' returns for season 2

Western drama still not up to level of 'Mad Men' or 'Breaking Bad,' but does it need to be?

It has been five years since AMC's introduced the world to "Mad Men," and more than four since the channel debuted "Breaking Bad." That is arguably the greatest one-two punch ever from a TV network just getting into the drama game (HBO has "The Sopranos" on its side, but the two AMC dramas are close enough to that, and easily ahead of "Oz"), and it's set the bar absurdly — and probably unfairly — high for the AMC original dramas that have followed it.

Since we first met Don Draper and Walter White, AMC has had a noble failure in the spy thriller "Rubicon," a huge commercial success but uneven artistic one in "The Walking Dead, a show that invited an enormous backlash in "The Killing" and, most recently, "Hell on Wheels," which was greeted last summer by many critics (myself included) as, at best, "Deadwood" Lite.

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<p>Justin Kirk of &quot;Animal Practice&quot;</p>

Justin Kirk of "Animal Practice"

Credit: NBC

Monkey business reigns on the set of NBC's 'Animal Practice'

Can Justin Kirk and JoAnna Garcia Swisher avoid being upstaged by Crystal?
HOLLYWOOD - For new network TV shows, August is a period of exploration. Actors and producers get together for the first time since the pilot and try to establish a creative rapport. 
 
There's a lot of sniffing around and marking territory. 
 
For one new NBC show, that process is being taken to an extreme. On a hot August day on a frantic stage on the Paramount Lot, the actors are jumping through hoops to impress the producers, they're being reassured at how cute they are by total strangers, they're sniffing the butts of their new co-stars and, in case anybody gets too excited, there are conveniently located hydrants and waste receptacles.
 
This might be hard to imagine, but in a city where a Charlie Sheen sitcom is currently in production, no set in town is a bigger zoo than the one housing NBC's "Animal Practice."
 
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<p>Carly Rae Jepsen</p>

Carly Rae Jepsen

Credit: Jonathan Short/AP

Music Power Rankings: Carly Rae Jepsen, Madonna and Lady Gaga vie for No. 1

'American Idol's' Phllip Phillips also makes this week's list

1. Carly Rae Jepsen: She’s never going away...or at least “Call Me Maybe” isn’t: the song spends its 9th week at No. 1, making it officially the longest reign at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2012.

2. Phillip Phillips: The “American Idol” champ sees his coronation song, “Home,” triple somersault its way from No. 84 to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 following its usage as the US Olympic women’s gymnastics team theme. Just one more thing to thank Gabby Douglas for.

3. Lady Gaga: She confirms that the title of her fourth studio album will be “ARTPOP,” and tweets that all caps must be used. Can you spell PRETENTIOUS?

4. Rick Ross: “God Forgives, I Don’t” gives the rapper his fourth No. 1 album.  God politely asks if he can have the top spot back when Ross is done with it.

5. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw: The country superstars become the latest act to sign on for a stint in Las Vegas. Guess she really meant in when she sang, “Let’s Go To Vegas” all those years ago.

6. Madonna: Tacky antics like flashing her audience have dogged Madge this tour, but she put her power to good in Russia when she pledged her support to jailed female rock band Pussy Riot one night and spoke out for gay rights the next.

7. The Monkees: Following Davy Jones’ death, the remaining three members decide to go on tour to perform their first concerts with Michael Nesmith in 15 years.

8. Adam Yauch: Among his final wishes, he stipulated in his will that none of the music he created with the Beastie Boys and separately may be used in advertising.  How 1990s of him.

9. 50 Shades of Grey:
It had to happen. The cottage industry surrounding the top seller now has a classical music soundtrack, brought to you by Mommy Porn Records.

10. Marvin Hamlisch:
The composer enjoyed a 45-year life span on the Billboard 100 with his music recorded or sampled by everyone from Barbra Streisand to Wu-Tang Clan. R.I.P.
 

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<p>Janet Montgomery of &quot;Made in Jersey&quot;</p>

Janet Montgomery of "Made in Jersey"

Credit: CBS

Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'

Janet Montgomery has star potential, even in a bland vehicle

[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: "Made in Jersey" (CBS)
The Pitch: "My Cousin Vinnie," if you got rid of Joe Pesci and it just turned out that Marisa Tomei was a talented lawyer, in addition to being a hilarious ethnic stereotype.
Quick Response: There was a period a few summers ago when kept looking up an attractive, vivid supporting actress who I couldn't immediately identify and it turned out to be Janet Montgomery each time, even though the parts were as different as a British Hollywood secretary and a fantasy football advice-dispensing Las Vegas stripper. After two IMDB searches and one casting announcement, I finally got her name locked in, which isn't bad by my standards. Janet Montgomery *is* a star. I agree with FOX, which brought her in in an unsuccessful attempt to goose ratings for "Human Target" and I agree with CBS, which cast Montgomery in a show called "Made in Jersey," despite a natural accent that's distinctly from the wrong side of The Pond. I don't really know what to make of "Made in Jersey," unfortunately. CBS has been running trailers which focus more on Fish Out of Water humor than the actual tone of the show, which is closer to a straight-forward character-driven legal procedural with hints of cartoony local color. Montgomery, whose Jersey accent is acceptable, if not flawless, is very good playing a woman who comes off as kinda a Sherlock Holmes for trashy, blue collar details. She's sexy and straight-forward and Montgomery really isn't mugging or over-relying on stereotypes. The same cannot be said of Donna Murphy and Erin Cummings as two members of the main character's Big Stereotypical Italian Family, an element that the producers said at TCA press tour that they intend to play up. Ugh. Bad idea. I'm also concerned by Stephanie March, whose character only exists to waltz in and out of scenes underestimating our heroine and spitting out WASP-y condemnations of Jersey. I sense that creator Dana Calvo is using March as the one-dimensional embodiment of all of the people who underestimated her, but when half of the cast seems to be living down to Jersey stereotypes, it's tough to know what to take seriously. Coming out of the pilot, I think I have a good sense of what Felix Solis and Toni Trucks are going to contribute to this show, but I don't have a clue why Kyle MacLachlan is here.
Desire To Watch Again: I think I'm curious to see what show "Made in Jersey" actually ends up being. The more serious version of the show could live up to Montgomery's talent and could make an appropriate hammock show between "CSI: NY" and "Blue Bloods" in CBS' schedule. The hammier, more gag-driven version of the show will stick out like a sore thumb in CBS' Friday lineup and will likely be gone by midseason, setting Montgomery up for better and maybe bigger things down the road. I'll give this one another week or two to see which show it becomes. Watching CBS meddle "A Gifted Man" into an early grave last year didn't give me confidence.

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>There may be human actors on &quot;Animal Practice,&quot;&nbsp;but you'll probably only care about the monkey.</p>

There may be human actors on "Animal Practice," but you'll probably only care about the monkey.

Credit: NBC

Review: NBC's 'Animal Practice' better with monkeys than people

Everyone loves Annie's Boobs, but will they love Justin Kirk and friends?

NBC has four new sitcoms debuting this fall, and has chosen two of them to sneak preview during its Olympic coverage — a glorious two-week stretch where people are actually watching NBC again. One of those sitcoms is "Go On," which aired last night; the other is "Animal Practice," which will air a commercial-free version of its pilot episode tomorrow night in the odd timeslot of 10:38 p.m.

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