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<p>&nbsp;Whitney Houston</p>

 Whitney Houston

Credit: AP Photo

Whitney Houston and Madonna surge on Billboard's Hot 100

Kelly Clarkson makes it two in a row at the top with 'Stronger'

As crass as it sounds, death has a way of igniting sales for an artist. As we’ve all too recently seen with Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, her Feb. 11 passing is doing the same for Whitney Houston.

Houston's albums surged back up the Billboard 200. Not surprisingly,  her biggest hit, “I Will Always Love You” also zooms back onto the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 7. The song spent 14 weeks at No. 1 in 1992.  Two other Houston hits, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” and “Greatest Love of All” came back onto the big chart as well at No. 35 and No. 41 respectively, according to Billboard.

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<p>Jason Isaacs in &quot;Awake.&quot;</p>

Jason Isaacs in "Awake."

Credit: NBC

NBC gives 'Awake' an early-rising preview

Jason Isaacs drama's pilot available weeks before its broadcast debut

For the second time in about a month, NBC has decided to make the entire pilot episode for one of its new dramas available through non-traditional means weeks in advance of its broadcast debut. In mid-January, it was "Smash." Now, it's "Awake," which won't air on NBC until Thursday, March 1 at 10 p.m., but is up on, Hulu (as embedded below) and at least some cable On Demand systems. (Though it is not, as of this writing, up on iTunes the way the "Smash" pilot was.) 

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<p>&quot;Breaking Bad&quot;&nbsp;alum will be appearing on &quot;Community&quot;&nbsp;sometime later this season.</p>

"Breaking Bad" alum will be appearing on "Community" sometime later this season.

Credit: NBC

'Community' gets 'Breaking Bad' alum Giancarlo Esposito to guest star

What plan does the former Gus Fring have in mind for the study group?

I'll have the latest installment in my Why I Miss "Community" series up tonight at 8 (hint: there's a song involved), but while we still wait for news on when and where the Greendale gang will be making their return to NBC, I have a bit of news about one of the episodes we will eventually get to see, someday, somewhere.

As first reported by Vulture's Joe Adalian, the show has cast Giancarlo Esposito — aka Gustavo "The Chicken Man" Fring from the last few seasons of "Breaking Bad" — in an upcoming episode.

The show is, understandably, trying to keep details tight about the story Esposito is involved in, but I can tell you that he plays Gilbert, a long-time employee of Pierce's late, very racist father Cornelius Hawthorne, and that he presents Pierce and the rest of the study group with a challenge related to Cornelius' inheritance.

Esposito (who's also made some guest appearances this year on "Once Upon a Time") joins a very interesting guest star roster this season that's already featured Michael Kenneth Williams, John Goodman and (as himself) Luis Guzman.

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<p>Mark Ronson, Erykah Badu and Ziggy Modeliste</p>

Mark Ronson, Erykah Badu and Ziggy Modeliste

Credit: HitFix

Mark Ronson and Erykah Badu talk 'Gumbo' and creation for 'Re:Generation'

The music documentary shows music built from the ground up

“Searching for a satellite signal.” That’s how Erykah Badu describes her writing process as she was penning lyrics for “Gumbo,” the tune written by Mark Ronson, Meters’ drummer extraordinaire Ziggy Modeliste and others  for “Re:Generation.”  

The film, which opens Feb. 16 in a limited run, takes five top DJ/producers—Ronson, DJ Premier, newly-minted Grammy winner  Skrillex, Pretty Lights  and The Crystal Method— and pairs them with artists from another genre to create something new. In the case of Ronson, he paired with jazz artists to come up with a new track. Skrillex partnered with The Doors. The tracks were created within days and really threw the musicians into the fire quickly.

In each case, the idea was to break down barriers. For Ronson, traveling to New Orleans to create the jazz track, was a great experience, especially getting to create with Modeliste. “Zigaboo laid the blueprint for all of us. The beats that he played are pretty much the DNA and back bone of hip hop.”   Endearlingly,  in the clip below, both Modeliste and Badu admit that they had the jitters on stretching themselves this way and making sure that they were able to please Ronson.


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<p>A scene from &quot;Hell and Back Again&quot;</p>

A scene from "Hell and Back Again"

Credit: New Video

Oscar Guide 2011: Best Documentary Feature

'Hell and Back Again,' 'If a Tree Falls,' 'Paradise Lost 3,' 'Pina' and 'Undefeated' square off

(The Oscar Guide will be your chaperone through the Academy's 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)

I have no idea what's going to win the Best Documentary Feature category. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I might as well get that out of the way right at the top. And I've even seen each film twice. It's a rare year that sees such solid arguments in favor of each and every nominee of the bunch. That's not to say that, personally speaking, each nominee is award-worthy, but I could just see the Academy's doc voters falling for any of them.

It was a typical year where the narrow-down process was concerned. Controversy indeed met the list of finalists that dropped in November, which snubbed critics' favorites "Senna" and "The Interrupters" (the latest smack in the face of filmmaker Steve James), while yet another Werner Herzog entry was ignored completely. Nevertheless, there is a wide cross-section of issues represented here, and that's never a bad thing.

The nominees are…

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<p>A stunning shot from &quot;Undefeated&quot;</p>

A stunning shot from "Undefeated"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'Undefeated' demands a recount on the shots

Oscar-nominated football doc features one of the year's most arresting images

Well. This is a first.

Every year when I wrap up the annual shots column, there are inevitably a few images that linger into my mind and make me wish I had considered them a little more, or make me wish they hadn't hidden from my memory until it was too late. But never has such a shot hit me so hard that I could legitimately say it might have been my top choice.

Yesterday I sat down to watch the documentary "Undefeated" again in preparation for today's Oscar Guide on the doc feature category. I've actually revisited each nominee because, it's such a close race, I felt I needed to dig through each one a second time. In any case, an image in the film's final moments stood up and shouted out to me, demanding retribution.

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<p>New &quot;CSI&quot;&nbsp;cast member Elisabeth Shue.</p>

New "CSI" cast member Elisabeth Shue.

Credit: CBS

The Morning Round-Up (Cop Show Edition): 'CSI' & 'Southland'

Elisabeth Shue joins 'CSI,' while Officer Cooper celebrates a milestone

Morning Round-Up, part 2, with brief thoughts on last night's "CSI" and Tuesday night's "Southland" (which I just watched), coming up just as soon as you squeeze my hand...

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<p>A shirtless James Wolk and Eliza Coupe in &quot;Happy Endings.&quot;</p>

A shirtless James Wolk and Eliza Coupe in "Happy Endings."

Credit: ABC

The Morning Round-Up (Sitcom Edition): 'Suburgatory' & 'Happy Endings'

Both ABC comedies show off their weaker sides

Just to try something slightly different, I'm splitting the morning round-up into a couple of posts today by genre: a couple of cop dramas in a bit, and quick reviews of "Suburgatory" and "Happy Endings" coming up just as soon as I call for an across-the-board chillaxing while wearing an indoor scarf...

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<p>A scene from &quot;Rango,&quot; the all-but-assured winner of this year's Best Animated Feature Oscar.</p>

A scene from "Rango," the all-but-assured winner of this year's Best Animated Feature Oscar.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Round-up: Time to erase the animation Oscar?

Also: Brett Ratner's act of apology, and Streep's 2013 Oscar bid

Most agree that this year's Best Animated Feature category is a little lacking: ahead of two bland if technically strong DreamWorks kidpics and two interesting but sketchy Euro-curios, "Rango" will and should cruise to victory. But it's not just this that leads Mark Harris to believe Oscar's youngest category (only a decade old) should be scrapped: for him, now that the expanded Best Picture category has proven itself animation-friendly, a specialized award is now superfluous. (Admittedly, we have yet to see if the adjusted 5-to-10 field can hatch an animated nominee.) I tend to agree with him, not least because even in its better years, the animation award just isn't competitive enough: there hasn't been an actual race for the win since 2006, making it far the Academy's dullest category. Just a nod for the top prize seems more meaningful. [Grantland]

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"Top Chef"

 "Top Chef"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Top Chef' - 'Culinary Games'

The final four face the silliest challenges of the season

So, our final four intrepid chefs must face off in British Columbia, which seems a little random given that the show is called "Top Chef Texas," but I guess Texas was closed that week. Seriously, though, did the show's producers feel they'd exhausted the possibilities of an entire state? Anyway, Sarah is thrilled to be in British Columbia, plus she's a new, nicer Sarah! At least until Bev show up. Sarah, Lindsay and Paul have a bond. Bev, well, Little Weirdo is on her own unless Paul throws her some conversation. Yes, Sarah can tell us she's new and improved, but let's face it -- you can take the mean girl out of Texas, but she's still a petty, backstabbing viper under the parka. Sarah interrupts Bev when Paul asks Bev about Last Chance Kitchen. Sarah rolls her eyes behind Bev's back. Yes, New Sarah is JUST as awful as the old Sarah!

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<p>Colton of &quot;Survivor: One World&quot;</p>
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Colton of "Survivor: One World"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: One World' Premiere - 'Two Tribes, One Camp, No Rules'

Twists involving gender and their camp shake things up for the castaways
Pre-credit sequence. A helicopter soar down upon Samoa, but it's only holding Jeff Probst. The 18 castaways are on a rickety bus, shuttling through the jungle and making broad pronouncements. Colton is quick to observe that girls love him and guys don't see him as a threat. It's possible that he may be gay. Alicia vows to play any dude who dares to crush on her. Jonas boasts about his unusual sushi chef skills. Jay wants to make a female alliance. Michael is ready for a twist. But he doesn't know the twist: The two tribes will live together on the same beach. Crazy, right?
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<p>Kenny Powers has a baby. &nbsp;Does that seem like a good idea to anybody?&nbsp; It terrifies me, and that's only one of the many reasons this final season of 'Eastbound and Down' may be the best of the show's entire run.</p>

Kenny Powers has a baby.  Does that seem like a good idea to anybody?  It terrifies me, and that's only one of the many reasons this final season of 'Eastbound and Down' may be the best of the show's entire run.

Credit: HBO

Review: 'Eastbound & Down' kicks off its new season with three deranged episodes

Kenny Powers has actually gotten crazier, and the results are something special

Kenny Powers is perhaps the single most perfect distillation of what it is that Danny McBride does best as a comic performer, and when "Eastbound and Down" finishes the eight-episode season that it is about to start airing on HBO, I have a feeling we're going to be looking at one long uniquely American comedy epic that stands alone as a singular accomplishment in television.

That's not to say that I think this is the single funniest show ever made, or that I think it innovates in a way no other show does.  It's just that I can't think of any other character who is as morally and intellectually repellant as Kenny Powers who I can't keep my eyes off of.  The first season of "Eastbound and Down" suggested a certain sort of sitcom shape in telling the story of a washed-up major league pitcher who is forced to return to his home town to become a gym teacher.  If this were a standard sitcom, even a very good one, the show would have established that world, a stock set of characters, and then started wringing comedy out of slight variations in storytelling every week.

"Eastbound" is about something larger, though, the overall spiritual journey of a man who shows no outward signs of self-awareness or soul.  Kenny Powers is every terrible part of the American identity turned up and turned loose, and for that reason, his struggle towards self-definition is compelling.  He is a fairly terrible person in the way he treats others and in his sense of entitlement, but he's recognizable.  Kenny is all bluster, a facade he puts on to try to cover for the yawning existential fear that is part of his daily life.  He is what we are most afraid of being, someone who is finished before they even really begin, a waste of the talent he's been given.  He is the curdled American dream, and he knows it deep down inside, which is why he spends every waking second overcompensating like mad.

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