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<p>A scene from the finale of ABC's &quot;Pan Am&quot;</p>
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A scene from the finale of ABC's "Pan Am"

Credit: ABC

ABC's 'Pan Am' finale looks to a future that may never come

Will 1964 be a good year for these fictional stewardesses? Probably not.
Because of Kurt Cobain's suicide note, "It's better to burn out/Than to fade away" is the most remembered line of of Neil Young's "Hey, Hey, My, My (Out of the Blue)," but the variation "It's better to burn out/ Than it is to rust" is every bit as evocative.
 
My favorite network pilot of the fall of 2010 was FOX's "Lone Star." It died spectacularly after only two airings, doing the sort of inconceivably low ratings that have taken their place as the stuff of industry legend.
 
On one hand, that failure was a TV-level tragedy (not to be confused with actual tragedy) because I like to see good things succeed, especially when those good things suggest different storytelling avenues from the ones normally followed on network primetime.
 
On the other hand, I'll always have a pristine memory of the "Lone Star" pilot, which I loved, and the second episode, which I quite enjoyed. I never had to worry about the predictable, hypothetical lag from episodes four through six. I never had to twiddle my thumbs through hypothetical episodes seven though 10 as the producers responded to low ratings by tinkering and stunt-casting. I never had to sit through the desperation of episode 13 with its hypothetical absurd cliffhanger to try to force FOX into renewal.
 
"Lone Star" burnt out, but it did so with authority. Kyle Killen lit the match and America and FOX licked their collective fingers and snuffed it out.
 
Poof.
 
My favorite network pilot of last fall was ABC's "Pan Am." I didn't love it, but I marveled at its high production values, stellar direction and charismatic cast and perhaps because I was comparing it directly to NBC's "Playboy Club" and indirectly to a lackluster crop of new fall shows, I admired its aspirations and its potential scope.
 
Unlike "Lone Star," "Pan Am" didn't instantly burn out. In fact, it premiered to nearly 11 million viewers and a robust 18-49 rating. It wasn't an instant hit, but ABC got people in the door, which seemed like a minor miracle.
 
Instead, "Pan Am" rusted. The show changed. Viewers tuned out. ABC kept airing the show opposite powerhouse dramas and major events and it kept getting clobbered.
 
Five months later, "Pan Am" is probably done. Sunday (Feb. 19) night's episode was only the season finale, but barring some sort of overhaul of what constitutes "success" and "failure" on network TV, it will also be its series finale.
 
Given what "Pan Am" has been for most of its truncated season, I'm not going to mourn the show's passing for very long. The cast never ceased to be charismatic and talented and the production values remained pretty admirable, but "Pan Am" lost any sense of its identity many months ago. The jumble of half-hearted Season 2 pitches in Sunday's finale only confirmed that lack of direction moving forward. 
 
Neither "Lone Star" nor "Pan Am" will see a back-nine, much less a second season, but with "Lone Star" we saw only the fall, but with "Pan Am," there was a complete decline and fall, all in accelerated motion.
 
More on the "Pan Am" finale after the break...
 
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"The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

 "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' - 'No Bones About It'

The brief peace treaty is broken when Kandi decides to stir things up

Remember last week, when our refined, cultured ladies took a trip to an orphanage and felt humbled and grateful to have such bounty in their lives? And how they then vowed to behave themselves after they left Africa, as they had now seen the big picture and realized their quibbles were nothing more than petty and ridiculous? Remember that? Yeah, don't bother, because that vow lasted a shorter length of time than most New Year's resolutions or Kardashian marriages. Heck, Marlo couldn't even dwell on her blessings long enough to get past dinner, because she was simply too incensed that her shrimp was RAW. "Waiter! Get me properly cooked shrimp so that I might be able to feel gratitude for my privileged life! Pronto!"

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<p>Ana Moreira and Carloto Cotta in &quot;Tabu.&quot;</p>

Ana Moreira and Carloto Cotta in "Tabu."

Credit: O Som e a Furia

Berlinale Diary: 'Tabu,' 'Barbara,' 'Sister'

Wrapping up Berlin with the three best films of the fest

BERLIN - After having spent the bulk of my Berlinale awards report complaining about the jury's curious choice of Golden Bear winner, I'm more pleased than ever that I waited until my final dispatch to dig into my three favorite films of the festival. For this year's fest, despite what you may have heard from grumpier attendees, was not one that deserved to be sent off with a sneer.

Typically uneven, but inventively programmed and shrewdly paced, it seemed less than usual like a lineup feeding off Cannes and Venice's scraps than one built to its own smaller, funkier agenda. (Yes, at least one Competition entry, Brillante Mendoza's excitingly divisive "Captive," was turned down by both Croisette and Lido selectors last year -- but more fool them, I say.) When one smart UK critic tweeted yesterday that he clearly hadn't missed anything by not attending the Berlinale this year, I couldn't resist replying, "Well, except for a number of excellent films." The success stories of Berlin this year may not have been audible from a distance, but the festival will quietly claim delayed credit as they slowly trickle through to international arthouses.

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<p>The Academy of Motion Picture Arts of Sciences hardly represents the demographics of the moviegoing public.</p>

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts of Sciences hardly represents the demographics of the moviegoing public.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris PIzzello

Surprise: The Academy is more white, more male and even older than you probably thought

New report is fuel for Academy's critics

This has not been a good year for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak.

Less than a year ago the Academy put on one of the most critically lambasted Oscar shows in memory.  That was followed by the controversial decision to change the best picture rules after only two years of a 10 nominees system. Next came the eyebrow raising decision to hire industry infant terrible Brett Ratner as the co-executive producer of the this year's 84th Academy Awards along with the bizarre return of previous producer Don Misher.  Things actually got worse after Ratner's resignation following insensitive comments at a public screening.  At that point, having initially agreed to host way to quickly (at least in his own mind), Eddie Murphy saw the out he'd been looking for and ran out of Dodge. Things seemed to have calmed down once Brian Grazer replaced Ratner and old favorite Billy Crystal agreed to host the big show for the ninth time.  Unfortunately, rumblings started about AMPAS opting out of their Kodak Theater contract which would find them leaving Hollywood for the more generic confines of the Nokia Theater at LA Live (shudder).  Today Sherak and the Academy found themselves the subject of a major investigative article from the Los Angeles Times breaking down the organization's usually private membership details.  Sherak and the Academy spoke to the paper about the findings, but this isn't the sort of story they'd like spreading through the media the week before the big show. Yep, it's been one of those years.

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<p>The cast of &quot;Downton Abbey&quot;&nbsp;in the Christmas finale.</p>

The cast of "Downton Abbey" in the Christmas finale.

Credit: ITV

Season finale review: 'Downton Abbey': Christmas in February

Some happier endings in the season-ending Christmas special, but was it good as a whole?

PBS just finished showing the second season of "Downton Abbey" (U.K. viewers saw the finale back at Christmas). I reviewed most of the season in non-specific terms in early January, and promised to weigh in with more details — and an opportunity for you to discuss the same — after it had all finished airing here in the States. That time has come, and I have various thoughts on both the finale and the season coming up  just as soon as I have a loader...

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<p>Steven Yeun in &quot;The Walking Dead.&quot;</p>

Steven Yeun in "The Walking Dead."

Credit: AMC

'The Walking Dead' - 'Triggerfinger': We need to talk about Shane

Some strong thriller scenes at the start, but when are the people going to become interesting?

A review of tonight's "The Walking Dead" coming up just as soon as I go get some flowers and candy for my prisoner...

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<p>Kerry Condon as Rosie in &quot;Luck.&quot;</p>

Kerry Condon as Rosie in "Luck."

Credit: HBO

'Luck' - 'Episode 4': The father, the son and the holy goat?

A transcendent racing sequence takes the drama to another level

A review of tonight's "Luck" coming up just as soon as I call eight hours ahead to push 15 minutes...

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<p>Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson and Woody Allen on the set of &quot;Midnight in Paris.&quot;</p>

Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson and Woody Allen on the set of "Midnight in Paris."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

'Midnight in Paris,' 'Descendants' take WGA Awards

Guild ineligibility of 'The Artist' complicates Oscar picture

Well, were you honestly expecting anything else? Thanks to a slew of WGA ineligibilities -- notably that of Best Picture Oscar frontrunner "The Artist" -- the competition for these particular Guild awards had already been considerably narrowed, and true enough, the winners were precisely the two films that been set up to triumph here all season long. Only in one of the two screenplay categories can tonight's result be seriously considered as a bellwether for Oscar night; the other remains a virtual toss-up.

In a season heavy on veteran nominees, the Guild played along by adding to the laurels to two multiple previous honorees: Woody Allen took his fifth WGA award in the Best Original Screenplay category for "Midnight in Paris," while Alexander Payne took his third Best Adapted Screenplay gong for "The Descendants," sharing the prize with fellow writers (if not collaborators) Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

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<p>Kerri and Stacy of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>
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Kerri and Stacy of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' Season 20 Premiere - 'Tears of a Clown'

The teams head to Argentina to begin the race and to start making mistakes
This recap initially began with a celebration of the fact that Sunday (Feb. 19) night's premiere of Season 20 of "The Amazing Race" began promptly at 8 p.m. ET. It was pre-written and I made the assumption that after a fall of remaining glued to the vagaries of a dreadfully played NFL game that just happens to have remained close deep enough into the fourth quarter for time outs and passing plays to elongate the action, the relief of spring would be that you could set your clock by the starting time for CBS' primetime.
 
Then the Northern Trust Open went into a sudden-death playoff and suddenly it was yet another night of delays for the right side of the country.
 
Ugh. Sorry about that.
 
Of course, if I'm being honest, I didn't tune in for the "Amazing Race" premiere live (via Slingbox), as I do most weeks, but I would have appreciated the prompt start-time on all of your behalf. No, I watched the premiere -- titled "Tears of a Clown" -- on a screener, which is always a pleasure for a premiere, since it's virtually impossible for me to learn the identities of 11 teams and 22 players, while also keeping up with the in-game action and keeping track of the twists of fate that lead to the typical Race elimination. 
 
That's why I need a screener for "Amazing Race" premiere recaps (my Slingbox lacks rewinding capabilities, I should add), but more importantly -- and regular readers know where I'm going with this -- that's why "Amazing Race" premieres should always be two-hour premieres. I know I say this every season, but if you only give us 44 minutes of TV time for a "Race" premieres, there's a strong chance you're going to eliminate a team featuring two players viewers I never bothered to learn to tell apart and therefore a team that viewers never invested in for a second. That leaves us -- or me at least -- yelling and screaming at the TV and ultimately disappointed by one team of icky caricatures that *didn't* get eliminated, but not caring about the duo that went home. 
 
As with all things that I'll complain about all season long, it's a matter of Race architecture: Elongate things on the first Leg however you have to. Make sure there's a Roadblock plus a Detour plus two or three or four team challenges if necessary. Just stretch it to two hours so that the editors can give time to all teams and I can more accurately compile my list of Teams I Like, Teams I Hate and Teams in the Middle, which I do every season in my premiere recaps and which proved rather difficult this season.
 
But hey, at least a team went home on Sunday and after the Non-Elimination-heavy start of the fall cycle, that's a huge relief.
 
Click through for my recap of Sunday's episode, which'll begin with a breakdown of the episode and then continue with my usual early impressions of the teams, however nebulous those impressions are thus far...
 
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<p>&quot;The Simpsons&quot;&nbsp;500th episode.</p>

"The Simpsons" 500th episode.

Credit: FOX

'The Simpsons' - 'At Long Last Leave': Here's to 500 episodes!

Will the Simpsons have to leave Springfield forever?

We've had a lot of fun preparing for "The Simpsons" 500th episode over the last few days, with you guys choosing your favorite episodes, quotes and (non-Simpson family) characters. Now it's time to discuss episode 500 itself, with a quick review coming up just as soon as I spend $800 on dragon insurance...

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<p>Lionel Hutz, one of the many men and women who made &quot;The Simpsons&quot;&nbsp;great.</p>

Lionel Hutz, one of the many men and women who made "The Simpsons" great.

Credit: FOX

People of Springfield: Who's your favorite non-Simpson 'Simpsons' character?

Can you pick one and only one citizen of America's greatest city?

On Friday, I asked you to pick one — and only one — episode of "The Simpsons" as your favorite ever. Yesterday, the challenge was to pick one — and only one — "Simpsons" quote as your favorite.

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<p>Madonna</p>
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Madonna

Credit: Mark Humphrey/AP

Music Power Rankings: Whitney Houston, Adele and Madonna

Plus, the Grammy Awards rule

1) Whitney Houston. Listen to this and try not to cry over what we’ve lost.

2) Adele:
Really? You have to ask? We have six, shiny gold reasons.

3) Madonna:
Madge lands her 38th  Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, widening her margin over the Beatles by four. Any other week that would definitely get her the top spot.

4) Grammy Awards: The Feb. 12 ceremony drew more than 41 million viewers, making it the second-most watched Grammy ceremony, ever only behind the 1984 show.

5) Dave Grohl: This rock and roll true believer gets to the heart of the matter with the Foo Fighters’ Grammy acceptance speech: “Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that's the most important thing for people to do” We're embroidering it on a pillow.

6) Nicki Minaj
Almost a week after her Grammy performance, I have only one question: What was that?

7) Chris Brown: Love him, hate him, we’re all talking about him this week, aren’t we?

8) Columbia Records: The label is rolling in the dough, as Adele continues her winning ways: Next week “21”  will surpass 7 million copies in the U.S., making it the best-selling album in nearly seven years (since Carrie Underwood’s “Some Hearts”). 

9) Skrillex:
He's gone from who? to Mr. Three-time Grammy winner  in a beat--or two. 

10) Katy Perry:
Her new single “Part of Me,” which she debuted on the Grammy Awards, will sell more than 400,000 in its first week of digital release, making it  her biggest download week  yet. But you know what really makes her a winner? She had pledged her portion of the proceeds to MusiCares, the Recording Academy’s charity that aids musicians in need. Baby, she's a firework.


 

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