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<p>Marcus and Amani of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>
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Marcus and Amani of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' - 'It's Speedo Time'

In honor of Jean-Claude Van Damme, teams get greased up in Belgium
Whatever.
 
I dunno what to say about Sunday (November 20) night's "Amazing Race."
 
Every week I sit down to recap this show and every week, I write a full recap. Sometimes the recaps are poorly edited. Sorry. Some weeks the recaps are less inspired. Sorry for that as well. But a full recap gets posted every week, complete with a beginning -- intro and lead-up to the break -- a middle -- description of various challenges and whatnot -- and an end -- a few random observations and a bolded question asking what you thought of the episode.
 
Somehow, this season of "The Amazing Race" has lost all grasp on the beginning-middle-and-end narrative. After delivering the season's best episode last week, "The Amazing Race" limped back into its season-average form with the fourth time in nine episodes that the credits have rolled without a team going home. This week's episode -- not a Non-Elimination Leg, but one of the equally frustrating "Welcome to the Pit Stop, now continue with the Race" non-results -- ended the season's longest streak of episodes featuring an elimination at TWO.
 
That's just stupid and it has prevented me from getting any sort of emotional momentum in watching the Race. You should be watching every episode going "I hope my favorite teams don't get eliminated this week!" rather than "I wonder if anybody's going to be eliminated at all."
 
And Sunday's episode felt like an elimination-free Leg from very early on when it quickly became clear that too much time was being spent on too many things that weren't really placement factors, as the hour-mark got closer and closer and closer. I knew with 15 or 20 minutes left that there was no way the teams were all going to reach the Pit Stop by the end of the hour, so I had lots of time to marinate in frustrated anticipation. 
 
[I'll say this again: In isolation, an elimination-free Leg or two might tick me off a little, but my increased ire at this season has been the distribution of such legs. There has to be a better way to do it, because this season's structure has been the worst way to do it. So there's no need to tell me "But they have to do elimination-free episodes to stretch out the season." I know this. Previous seasons have had different scatter patterns for NELs and whatnot. All have been better than this season in that particular respect.]
 
Click through for my recap of Sunday's "The Amazing Race"...
 
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<p>Shane (Jon Bernthal) teaches Andrea (Laurie Holden)&nbsp;how to shoot on &quot;The Walking Dead.&quot;</p>

Shane (Jon Bernthal) teaches Andrea (Laurie Holden) how to shoot on "The Walking Dead."

Credit: AMC

'The Walking Dead' - 'Secrets': Target practice

Rick and Lori have a talk, and Shane teaches Andrea how to shoot

A quick review of tonight's "The Walking Dead" coming up just as soon as I buy your silence with fruit and jerky...

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<p>Owen Sleater (Charlie&nbsp;Cox)&nbsp;returned to his native Ireland on &quot;Boardwalk Empire.&quot;</p>

Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox) returned to his native Ireland on "Boardwalk Empire."

Credit: HBO

'Boardwalk Empire' - 'Battle of the Century': This is spinal tap

Nucky heads to Ireland, Jimmy enjoys the throne, and Margaret endures a medical crisis

A review of tonight's "Boardwalk Empire" coming up just as soon as Sepinwall reviews this show...

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<p>Bruce Springsteen performs at Carnegie Hall with Kate Hudson for some reason.</p>

Bruce Springsteen performs at Carnegie Hall with Kate Hudson for some reason.

Credit: AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

UPDATED: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band confirm 2012 tour and album

European dates start in May. When are the U.S. dates?

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will hit the road in 2012, the Boss announced on his website Sunday night.

European dates will start in the middle of May, according to the missive, which promises info on the U.S. and rest of the world dates coming soon. That means we don’t know if the U.S. dates will happen before or after, but most likely after. The European dates will be announced this week.

There will also be a new album to promote. Springsteen says. “We want you to know that the music is almost done (but still untitled), we have almost settled on the release date (but not quite yet), and that we are all incredibly excited about everything that we're planning for 2012. That's all the info we have for right now, but we'll get back to you--real soon.”

Ron Aniello supposedly produced the new album or at least part of it.. Aniello is best known for his work with Lifehouse, Barenaked Ladies, Days of the New, Gavin DeGraw and Guster. He also produced  the last album from Patti Scialfa (i.e. Mrs. Springsteen), 2007's "Play It As It Lays."

This, of course, marks the first tour since the “Working on a Dream” tour ended in November 2009, and, more significantly, since saxophonist Clarence Clemons died this summer. Read my appreciation here.

UPDATED: The following dates were posted on Springsteen's website Monday.

           
21 June    Sunderland, England    Stadium of Light       
22 June    Manchester, England    Etihad Stadium       
24 June    Isle of Wight, England    Isle of Wight Festival   
14 July      London, England           Hard Rock Calling        

Plus, Rolling Stone, which has always had a direct line to the Springsteen camp, hints that there may be a run of U.S. arena dates in May prior to the European leg.


 

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<p>If you just sent a video tribute and didn't show up in person to shake her hand and congratulate her, Amy Poehler says you're &quot;dead&quot;&nbsp;to her.&nbsp; </p>

If you just sent a video tribute and didn't show up in person to shake her hand and congratulate her, Amy Poehler says you're "dead" to her. 

Credit: AP Photo/Brad Barket

Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph and friends salute Amy Poehler at Variety's Power of Comedy event

Did some forget to tell David Cross 'Arrested Development' was returning?

If it's a Saturday in November there were likely numerous guild and Academy screenings today for all the major contenders who haven't hit theaters yet.  And while many Los Angelenos were home watching the USC/Oregon game or wandering out of a "Breaking Dawn" screening somewhere in the Southland.  But, at the legendary Palladium Theater, Variety's 2nd Annual Power of Comedy was underway and this year's recipient was none other than one and only Amy Poehler.

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<p>&quot;Saturday Night Live&quot; host Jason Segel</p>
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"Saturday Night Live" host Jason Segel

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Jason Segel and Florence and the Machine

Would the Muppets make an 'SNL' cameo? Of course they would!
OK, I’m abnormally excited about tonight’s “Saturday Night Live.” Am I looking forward to Jason Segel? You betcha. Florence + The Machine? Sure. But what I am really jazzed for? MUPPETS, people. Given that Segel is the writer/star of the “The Muppets,” and given the Muppets’ own history with SNL, it’s only logical that they show up in some form tonight. (If you’re as into The Muppets as I am, you owe it to yourself to check out this Film Nerd 2.0 interview over on Drew McWeeney’s Motion/Captured blog here at HitFix.)
 
It’s gonna take a lot to bring me down tonight. Which probably means “SNL” will bust out “Secret Word,” “The Manuel Ortiz Talk Show,” then feature Fozzie Bear with Anthony Crispino on “Weekend Update” just to break my spirit. Only one way to find out. Onto the recap!
 
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<p>Taylor Swift</p>
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Taylor Swift

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

Music Power Rankings: Google, Drake, Van Halen, Taylor Swift and more

Avril Lavigne and Tim McGraw make the list for the first time

1) Google Music: Despite a decidedly middling reaction, Google serves up the first true online music store that could possibly compete with iTunes....or not.

2) Drake: His second album, “Take Care” will land atop the Billboard 200 with sales of more than 700,000, the third highest debut of 2012.  That should make some “Headlines.”

3) Mac Miller: The indie rapper goes from mainstream obscurity to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 200. This could be the start of something big.

4) Van Halen
: Venerable rock band reunites to sign with Interscope Records, after rumored deal with Columbia goes away. What does it say about the status of current rock acts that the most hotly sought-after rock act is a group that last appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1995?

5) Taylor Swift: Not only does she get to hang with the Boss at her Raleigh, N.C. concert (and proudly tweets the photo), but she lands three songs in the top 30 of the Hot 100 this week, moving her past such legends as Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson in achieving the feat. 

6) ReDigi: The company, which sells “used digital music,” draws the ire of the RIAA, therefore automatically making hundreds of thousands of people more aware of the service than were before. Nice going.

7) Adele: Following her throat surgery to correct bleeding on her vocal cords that caused her to cancel her remaining 17 U.S. shows, the British singer relieved her millions of fans by blogging that she is “on the mend” and “super happy.”  She is expected to make a full recovery.

8) Laurieann Gibson:
Lady Gaga’s “creative director”  decides to “step away” from her work with Momma Monster. Both sides have their paws firmly over their mouths, so we’ll never know if “step away” = pushed.

9) Avril Lavigne: Can the pop star get her career back on track by shifting to Epic Records and reuniting with L.A. Reid, who initially signed her?

10) Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw: The two superstars reunite for the first announced stadium tour of 2012. Let’s hope this time doesn’t result in hijinks involving a sheriff’s horse and the singers’ arrests.

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"Survivor"

 "Survivor"

Credit: CBS

Reality TV Roundup: 'The Amazing Race' gets fuzzy, 'Survivor' reveals marriage woes and 'The X Factor' reveals a brat

It's been a busy week, so get all your reality news here, now

Welcome to Reality TV Roundup -- a quick look at some of the reality TV-centric stories that have recently popped up across the fine, old Interwebs. Click away, my couch potato friends. But before you do...

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! One more time: SPOILER ALERT. If you watch "The X Factor," "Survivor," "Dancing with the Stars," "Top Chef," "Project Accessory," "Work of Art," "The Biggest Loser" or "America's Next Top Model," the latest elimination for each show is revealed in the text below. The hope is that, if you missed this week's program and would rather clear out your DVR than watch the episode, you can get a quick hit here. But don't come crying to me if you find out something you didn't want to know. You've been warned. Also note: lots of non-competition reality info lurks below, too. 

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"Once Upon A Time" (ABC)

 Raphael Sbarge, Jared Gilmore and Jennifer Morrison on "Once Upon A Time"

Credit: ABC

HitFix Interview: Raphael Sbarge talks about playing Jiminy Cricket on 'Once Upon A Time'

Being a bug isn't as easy or simple as it seems

As an actor, Raphael Sbarge has had plenty of intriguing roles (starting with one on "Sesame Street" when he was four and followed by appearances in everything from "Pearl Harbor" to "Nip/Tuck"). But few could compare to his most recent -- he's the human version of Jiminy Cricket (yes, the little bug in "Pinocchio") on "Once Upon A Time." I talked to Sbarge about what it's like to play a cricket (well, sort of), his big episode this Sunday, and why he's glad this role isn't "clean and sparkly."

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James Cameron (left) talks "Hugo" with Martin Scorsese
James Cameron (left) talks "Hugo" with Martin Scorsese
Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Avatar' director James Cameron talks 'Hugo' and 3D with Martin Scorsese

He calls Scorsese's latest 'a 16-cylinder Bugatti firing on all cylinders'

What do James Cameron, Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson have in common? Well, a number of things, probably, but as of late, they are directors who have moderated Q&As with Martin Scorsese following screenings of his latest film, "Hugo."

Paramount has a history of slotting filmmakers for Q&As. It's something they try to do as often as possible, anyway, and in the case of DGA screenings (one of which Wes Anderson moderated in New York a few weeks back), the requirement is that members serve as moderators. All that aside, it's an interesting accent on a film like "Hugo," which is ultimately about the magic of cinema, from the larger-than-life experience of a movie to the joy of the nuts and bolts of making one.

With that in mind, the studio has made available a featurette with Cameron (who moderated a guild Q&A here in Los Angeles for "Hugo" and called it a "masterpiece") and Scorsese talking about the film, its themes, the 3D technology employed and more.

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<p>The Jaafar family from TLC's &quot;All-American Muslim.&quot;</p>

The Jaafar family from TLC's "All-American Muslim."

Credit: TLC

Review: TLC's 'All-American Muslim'

A well-meaning look at one slice of a misunderstood group

Watching last week's premiere episode of the new TLC reality series "All-American Muslim," I couldn't help noticing that virtually every member of the show's large ensemble introduced themselves by explaining why he or she might not be considered a "typical Muslim." There was Nina, who styled herself as if she was auditioning to be on "The Real Housewives of Dearborn, Michigan." There was tattooed, heavily-pierced Shadia, who explained that while she studied the Koran, "Do I choose to follow all of that? Not so much." Even a relatively traditional couple like expectant parents Nader and Nawal made a big show of explaining that their marriage is much more of an equal partnership than most of the Muslim-American couples they know.

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<p>Marion Cotillard in a scene from Steven Soderbergh's &quot;Contagion.&quot;</p>

Marion Cotillard in a scene from Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion."

Credit: Warner Bros.

'Contagion' crew looking to inject screenwriter Scott Z. Burns into Oscar talk as '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' looms

Steven Soderbergh fetes his behind the scenes collaborator

Steven Soderbergh is no doubt very proud of his work on "Contagion," his biggest non-"Ocean's Eleven" movie hit since 2000's "Traffic," but the Academy Award winning director likely isn't trying to play the Oscar game this season.  Well, at least not for himself. 

On Friday evening, Soderbergh and buddies Jerry Weintraub, Gary Ross and Benecio del Toro hosted a reception and special screening to remind the press about "Contagion" in the context of awards season.  It's unlikely anyone at Warner Bros. seriously believes "Contagion" could land a best picture nomination, but one of the primary focuses of the evening was to focus attention on the screenwriter Scott Z. Burns.  A previous collaborator with Soderbergh on the underrated "The Informant," Burns' script for "Contagion" is easily a contender in the always wide open original screenplay category. 

Introduced to Burns for the first time, he seemed thrilled with the night's event and more than satisfied with "Contagion's" critical reception.  We discussed the fact "Contagion" had a strange release date (effectively the Friday after Labor Day, usually a dump date), but the strategy had worked in the film's favor and it played throughout the fall to a $74 million U.S. gross (strangely the star-studded ensemble didn't play as well overseas).  And we had some interesting words on just whether or not the film was a thriller (as the advertising sold it) or a drama (as most who saw it in theaters would classify it).  Honestly side-stepping the issue, Burns told me with complete sincerity he didn't go to film school so he didn't put labels on his films.  And, hey, it's a great way to leave yourself open creatively from the limitations of a particular genre (my words, not his). 

Whether Burns lands in the Oscar hunt remains to be seen (we're a little skeptical considering a good chunk of Marion Cotillard's storyline got cut out of the final picture), but he did tell me he's hoping Soderbergh isn't retiring so they can work together again.  He's also excited about his finished screenplay for Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" which will be directed by David Fincher.  Burns isn't sure when the film will start exactly because of a non-movie project Fincher is committed to early next year, but surprised by revealing he'd had little interference from Disney execs over his adaptation of the classic Jules Verne tale.   Burns also revealed his version, while period, isn't based on Disney's 1954 film.  Pressing him on Disney's involvement so far, he did admit there was a cute kid in the current script, but it was completely his own idea and the character's fate and/or arc is not what you'd expect.  And, he promises the film will be much darker than what you'd expect for a Disney film (with Fincher we'd actually expect no less).

In the meantime, Burns will see where this awards season run ends up for "Contagion."  He may not find himself in the nominee circle this time around, but based on his work so far he'll get their very soon.

"Contagion" debuts on DVD and Blu-ray on Jan. 12.


For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.
 

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