It's one week until the season finale of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," and all of the major continuing story lines seem to be reaching a boil. Interestingly, though, only one of them seems to involve a conflict between two of the ladies. No, the rest of the gang has bigger problems, like foreclosures, clothing lines, and a dead dog. Even that one interpersonal conflict isn't just a silly argument about who said what and whose feelings were hurt. If I didn't know better, I might think our Housewives were all grown up!
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Let no one say Mike Judge doesn't have it in for The Man. As in "Office Space," the new HBO series "Silicon Valley" follows the trials of a group of under-appreciated ham-and-eggers hoping to break free of the bottom rung. Unlike "Office Space," the plan here is to do it honestly.
"Game of Thrones" is back for a fourth season. I posted interviews all week, with Benioff & Weiss, Alfie Allen, Gwendoline Christie, Sophie Turner, and Maisie Williams and Isaac Hempstead Wright. Now I have a review of the season premiere coming up just as soon as I get a shaved goat...
7:50 p.m.: Hello from the 49th annual ACM Awards in Las Vegas. We'll be blogging live from the press room, which means we'll be commenting on the action you're seeing on TV, but also on what's going on backstage as the artists come back to talk to the press. The Band Perry are opening the show with an explosive version of "Chainsaw," and the performers' list is a virtual who's who of country: Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, Florida Georgia Line, George Strait, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley and more. There are 25 performances in all. Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan are co-hosting for the second year, so there should be plenty of laughs.
8:04 p.m.: The Band Perry opens the show with a midtempo tune called "Chainsaw." It's all sizzle and very little steak, with Kimberly Perry stomping around, confetti flying, and Reid Perry tossing his hair and his body around as if he's a member of AC/DC. At least they're playing live. Very tepid audience response. I run hot and cold on TBP, and I'm definitely feeling cold about that one... am I wrong? Maybe it played better on TV than on the press room feed.
8:05: Blake Shelton lays down the gauntlet. Luke Bryan stresses that everyone is playing live and Shelton adds, "If you don't want to hear love music, go down the Strip and go see Britney Spears"... Bryan then calls out Carrie Underwood in the audience and commends her on "The Sound of Music" ratings. Give it a rest... yes, she got panned by some critics, but the ratings soared, so she's a winner in the poll that really matters and she's probably ready to move on... OK, we just lost the house feed. It's back now as Bryan makes a joke about Shelton not being Entertainer of the Year, but maybe Entertainer of the Minute... "and I'm spotting you 30 seconds." Their bromance is alive and well...
8:12 p.m. Florida Georgia Line perform "Stay," or as I like to call it, "What if I wrote you a love song... " However, as you may not know, artists are now trying to make song titles one word because it's better for social media when it comes to tweeting, etc... Can you imagine if "Stairway to Heaven" come out now? It would be called "Stairway," or, to keep it country, "Friends in Low Places" would be called "Friends." But I digress, which I guess is my commentary on how non-compelling I'm finding FGL's performance...though it's nice to just see them standing and singing. Too harsh?
8:15: Brad Paisley debuts new song, "Riverbank," poolside surrounded by lovely looking men and women in bathing suits. It's one of those fun-timing, easy going kinds of songs that Paisley excels at and the timing is perfect for it to break as we head into warmer weather. It's a fun, laid back performance.
8:23: Blake Shelton performs "My Eyes," the 4,325th single from "Based on a True Story," with Gwen Sebastian, while his wife Miranda Lambert sings along in the audience. It's a fine, sexy, mid-tempo song, but the show is in need of some uptempo, rocking performance about right now... and we're almost 30 minutes in without an award being presented. They're still going to hand some out, right?
8:27: Brett Eldredge, one of the three male nominees up for new artist of the year, performs a snippet of "Beat of the Music" from the Mandalay Bay. The ACMs have apparently taken over every MGM-owned property in Las Vegas (and note that Spears is not at an MGM property or I'm pretty sure that joke would have gotten cut).
8:35 p.m.: George Strait, that's King George to you, does what he always does, stands there and sings and make it look totally effortless. He's on a victory lap as he completes his last tour. "I Got A Car" is a bit of a strange song about a couple meeting and having their first baby... he's north of 60, so it's a big of a strange fit, but if there's one thing I've learned in my years of covering country music, Strait is unassailable. See...he just got the first standing ovation of the night just for being himself. Not that I can think of a better reason for someone to get one.
8:38: Confession time... I am the last possible person that would ever drive a truck, and yet Lee Brice's "I Drive Your Truck" gets to me every time. It's killing me that he's not getting to sing the whole song. It's a killer song and is understandably up for single record of the year and song of the year. Guy Fieri is now introducing a segment on Party for a Cause, but he's really here to plug his new restaurant at one of MGM's properties, let's not kid ourselves. 8:40 and still no awards have been handed out...
8:45: Eric Church performs "Give Me Back My Hometown." I'm a latecomer to join the Church of Eric and I like this song, but I'm going to fall asleep if there's one more mid-tempo tune... The performances have all been perfectly fine (although I thought TBP was weak) but nothing special. Can someone please do something uptempo? I've now placed a bet with myself on whether any awards will be presented within the first hour. I don't know what I get if I win... this hour of my life back?
8:57: Blake Shelton and Skaira perform "Medicine" Their voices have a bit of a leather and lace appeal. A little surprised that NBC let two of "The Voice" coaches debut a song on a rival network.
9: Taylor Swift, who looks classy and beautiful, presents Vocal Duo of the Year to Florida Georgia Line-- the first award of the night. There was no way they weren't winning that. It was one of the weaker categories with no real competition for them. They, of course, thank God, for their award.
9:09: After Shelton and Bryan do a funny skit about trying to replicate Ellen DeGeneres' Oscar selfie that broke the internet (their chemistry is the highlight of the show so far), Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks to a mash-up of "Golden" and "Rihannon." Their harmonies are spot on and I have to give Hilary Scott points that she can sing with Stevie NIcks, looks right in her face, and not stop and scream, "Can you believe I'm signing with Stevie Frigging Nicks" right now!"
9:13: God bless Keith Urban. I adore him anyway, but he just saved the show with "Even The Stars Fall 4 U," tonight's first full-on uptempo track and he kills it. Between the three drummers, his guitar playing and the overall performance, the show is back on track. Should definitely be a single for Urban.
9:14: Kip Moore is singing "Somethin' About a Truck," but I'm not listening. I'm too busy enjoying the gun show. Good God almighty...
9:24: Luke Bryan's new single, "This Is My Song" is one of those tunes that makes an emotional connection with people because we've all said that line about a million times throughout our lives when a favorite came on the radio, but it just feels like sloppy writing to me, though as usual, he's able to completely sell it.
9:26: Justin Moore wins new artist of the year. The weird thing is he's not really a new artist, but of the three, he's the most deserving. He's also a fun spark plug of a guy and it's sweet that he gets a little choked up as he's accepting.
9:34:Now Bryan and Shelton are spoofing on Daft Punk's helmets. I'm digging the two of the them together.
9:37: Miranda Lambert wins single record of the year for "Mama's Broken Heart." She thanks the producers and songwriters, but seems more focused on her upcoming performance. I would say that's a mild upset over "Cruise," which was No. 1 for 22 weeks or something insane like that.
9:46: Lambert is performing "Automatic," another mid-tempo track, in a sparkly statement necklace and a wifebeater... it's a look that I don't think is going to catch on (Plus, after Louis C.K.'s great "SNL" monologue last week, I think we need to come up with another name for a sleeveless white tank top...) As you may have noticed, i've reported no backstage action yet because there hasn't been any...no winners or presenters have made it back here yet.
9:49: Olivia Munn, her breasts, and Aaron Rogers are presenting song of the year, an award that goes to the songwriters. I'm rooting for Bob Dylan to win for "Wagon Wheel." Wouldn't it be hilarious if he were there? The award goes to "I Drive Your Truck," which, as you know from what I wrote earlier, makes me very happy. The song is based on a true story. Yikes, co-writer Connie Harrington gets played off before either of her two co-writers can say anything.
9:57: Tim McGraw debuts a new song, 'Meanwhile Back At Mama's," a look at the traditional life that country music so dearly loves to embrace. Supper's cooking on the stove, dad's smoking a cigarette, everyone's watching the game. McGraw is in a tuxedo for a song that's about hanging out on the porch....and his wife, Faith Hill, who's joined him (as we tweeted she would last night), is in formal wear as well... They look fantastic, but it's strange attire for a song about walking around in muddy boots, etc... or maybe the point is about how their lives have gotten so far away from what's going on at Mama's.
10:01: Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan are performing "This Is How we Roll" complete with the motocross team that appears in the video. And here's part of the problem with country music right now... between FLG and Luke Bryan, they are on their third or fourth appearance tonight. Better to make the show shorter than keep going back to the same performers.
10:06: Jason Aldean repeats as male vocalist of the year.
10:08: Toby Keith, who is up for nothing, is performing a song called "Shut Up and Hold On..." Why? I'm really beginning to believe this show needs to go back to two hours. But I feel that way about all award shows. There's no reason for any of them to be three hours... even the Grammys and the Oscars.
10:17: Justin Moore is backstage and he admits he would have been "pissed off" if he'd lost best new artist. I asked him if it felt a little weird that he'd been doing this for six years and he's just winning best new artist now, and he said, "I would have taken it if were for female vocalist of the year." He added that he didn't want to jinx his chances. "I wanted this one, guys, I wanted this one so bad. This wasn't make or break in our career, we've put out two albums...we've had a lot of hit records, we're out headlining arenas, but this was very, very important to me and my team." I felt like a coach who could win games in the regular season, but could never win in the post season."
10:21: Band Perry wins vocalist of the year. Hunter Hayes performs "Invisible." It's not going to be his biggest hit, but for anyone who's been bullied, it will be his most significant one. Hayes is selling the performance, but he's a little pitchy.
10:32: Jason Aldean came backstage and talked about lots of things (we'll put up the video later) but took time to praise Miranda Lambert, who will tour with him when he plays stadiums this summer. "She's a chick that can tear it up with any guy in country music." And cue Lambert winning female vocalist of the year.
10:36: Darius Rucker performs "Wagon Wheel." It must feel strange to sing a song after it's lost two awards.
10:38: Kacey Musgraves' "Same Trailer Different Park" wins album of the year. "I'm really proud to be a woman representing country music," she says. Ain't it the truth. There aren't many of them making it onto the charts right now, including Musgraves. Hopefully, this will help get her some more mainstream airplay.
10:40: The Band Perry comes backstage and Kimberly reveals that band's third album will be "all about feel...it's going to feel good live." As far as the band's show opening performance, they added their motto was "We came, we saw, we confetti'd." They were in the press room during the presentation of the Crystal Award to Merle Haggard, but I caught his acceptance speech, which had to be the shortest one in history. It took him longer to walk to the stage than to accept the award. In all fairness, the 77-year old (today is his birthday) has pneumonia, so it's a miracle that he managed to show up at all. Legend...simply one of the greatest of all time.
10:50: Rascal Flatts and Dierks Bentley with Sheryl Crow are the last two performers of the evening before the big award: Entertainer of the year. It goes to George Strait, who deserves to win, but is also the sentimental favorite. Given that it's a fan-voted award, his win is all the more impressive, given that he was up against acts like Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift, and Blake Shelton, who have younger, more social media savvy fans. "I've always said I had the best fans in the world. I heard this was a fan-voted thing, so I rest my case," Strait says.
11:00 p.m. Shelton and Bryan come back out as Shelton, very gracious in defeat, greets Strait and says, "Our hero won tonight." Damn straight (or should that be 'Strait') he did. And it's a wrap. It felt like a very long show. There were no horrible performances, but there weren't any stand outs either. It was a show that took no risks and played primarily to the mainstream country fans who listen to country radio and don't care much about veering outside the lines.
What did you think?
P.S.: Looking ahead, ACM head Bob Romeo and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came backstage to promote next year's 50th annual ACM Awards, which will take place at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Since the show will honor the current music makers as well as look back, Romeo said he took tonight as a chance to chat with artists about which of their influences they'd love to perform with, such as Strait with Haggard. He added that Shelton talked about loving Earl Thomas Conley and Bellamy Brothers. He also talked to Garth Brooks, who idolizes Strait and Haggard.
Ooops. I got busy in the last week and didn't have time to post the rest of my "Masters of Sex" interviews, so you're getting all of the supporting actors in a single post.
You may have already watched my terrific interview with Lizzy Caplan and my conversations with Michael Sheen and creator Michelle Ashford.
“SNL” cut a Nickelodeon-mocking sketch
The dress rehearsal sketch did not make fun of “Sam & Cat,” but “Zap!” is a sketch about a drug-addicted Nick cast starring Nickelodeon alum Kenan Thompson. PLUS: “SNL” ladies sing about “Dongs,” Weekend Update interviews George R. R. Martin, read all the Fox & Friends corrections, and Don Cheadle is tired of hearing “Cheadlejuice."
Rob Lowe: Les Moonves badgered me into turning down “Grey’s Anatomy’s” McDreamy role
As Lowe recounts in his latest memoir, the CBS boss talked Lowe into starring in “Dr. Vegas,” which lasted five episodes in fall 2004. “Let me tell you how it is. ABC is the lowest-rated network. ... At CBS we make hits,” Moonves said, according to Lowe.
Here’s the cast of Vince Gilligan’s “Battle Creek” in a police lineup
Director Bryan Singer tweeted a pic of Josh Duhamel, Kal Penn and Dean Winters from the final day of filming on the CBS pilot.
Chances are good for an aca-awesome episode of “Saturday Night Live”, with host Anna Kendrick appearing for the first time. And since Pharrell Williams is musical guest, there’s an equal likelihood that you might feel “Happy” while watching. But all puns inside, all things are aligned for a fun episode of the show to follow up a strong outing last week. Kendrick has a winning personality, seems game for anything, and can shine equally with both the men and women of the cast.
It’s a big week next week for debuts on The Billboard 200 with at least five new titles bowing in the Top 10.
The big race is between the soundtrack to “Frozen,” which is vying for its 9th week at No. 1, but is facing a big challenge from boy band 5 Seconds of Summer and its EP, “She Looks So Perfect.” Hits Daily Double says the two are too close to call, with “Frozen slated to sell between 140,000-150,000 and “Perfect” between 135,000 and 145,000.
The contenders for No. 3 and 4 are also close, but 100,000 copies separate them from the No. 1 and No. 2 slots. Chevelle’s “La Gargola” and Christina Perri’s “Head Or Heart” are both expected to move around 40,000 units each.
Coming in at No. 5 will likely be country duo Dan + Shay’s “Where It All Began” (read our interview with the pair here).
Shakira’s “Shakira” falls to No. 6 (30,000), Johnny Cash’s “Out Among the Stars” to No. 7 (24,000), Pharrell Williams’ “G I R L” to No. 8, Lorde’s “Pure Heroine” to No. 9 (20,000) and Nickel Creek’s “A Dotted Line” bows at No. 10 (20,000).
The full chart will be released next Wednesday.
Fast National ratings for Friday, April 4, 2014.
The not-especially-huge third season premiere of "Unforgettable" still won its hour overall to help CBS win Friday in total viewers, but it was far less successful among young viewers, where "Shark Tank" led ABC to its usual Friday win.
Because of the weird way CBS has scheduled "Unforgettable," it's impossible to truly compare seasons. Friday's return was up from last season's late-July premiere in total viewers, but it was down in the key demo. Of course, despite the summer slot, the last "Unforgettable" premiere had a strong "Big Brother" lead-in, while the drama had to be a self-starter on Friday.
Last week's "Hannibal" bump proved to be a "Dateline"-fueled illusion as the cult favorite drama drooped again, as did its "Grimm" lead-in. Also way down for the week were The CW's "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and "Hart of Dixie."
The news was a tiny bit better for the series finale of "Raising Hope," which didn't exactly get a "How I Met Your Mother"-sized finale bump, but at least it was up week-to-week.
On to the numbers...
Jimmy Fallon pays a Top 10 tribute to Letterman
Fallon, who guest-hosted “The Late Show” in 2000 when Dave hated shingles, also recalled how jealous Letterman was when he visited “Late Night” when Paul Shaffer was host. PLUS: Watch Letterman’s 1993 goodbye to “Late Night,” listen to his 1981 interview with “Fresh Air,” recalling Letterman’s 360-degree episode, and 14 photos of a young Letterman “looking fine as hell."
Stephen Colbert’s contracts were designed for a Letterman opening; Tina Fey would be a home-run hire
That’s what Bill Carter, author of “The Late Shift,” reports of the possibilities to replace David Letterman. He notes that Amy Poehler is another possibility and that Craig Ferguson is likely gone if he doesn’t get the promotion. But it is Colbert, Carter reports, who most intrigues late-night insiders: "Several late-night executives and staff members have ranked Mr. Colbert highest among the potential successors for several reasons: He wields an inventive brand of humor; he has a younger audience, which is highly important for late-night advertisers; and, perhaps most significant, he is in the spot that historically promotes the next late-night star to the top level: second position.” PLUS: The Top 10 things that would happen on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."
Craig Ferguson stands to make an extra $5 million to $12 million if he’s passed over
The amount of money reported varies, but it’s clear the “Late Late Show” host will rake in extra money if he doesn’t get the Letterman timeslot.
CBS needs to hire someone who talks like an adult, the anti-Jimmy Fallon
"I hope that the person who gets his job will, in turn, present a show that looks and feels as if it belongs on CBS,” says Hank Stuever. "That doesn’t mean old, but it does mean something ineffable and increasingly impossible to describe in an era in which all media formats are in a state of reinvention. I’m simply hoping for a “Late Show” host who knows what it means to be a funny adult."
What’ll a retired Letterman do?
Will a retired Dave do anything related to TV?
The case for Conan O’Brien as Letterman’s replacement
Of all the late-night hosts out there, Conan is the most Letterman-like of the bunch — and he’s the only one who could provide real competition to the two Jimmys.
Fox interested in “Couples Retreat,” a partner-swapping reality show
Unlike “Temptation Island,” “Couples Retreat’s” goal is to help couples.
Is there too much rape on prestigious TV shows?
Rape storylines have surfaced on everything from “The Americans” to “House of Cards” to “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones” in recent years.
Cosmo goes to bed with the ladies of “SNL"
Check out the women of “Saturday Night Live” in their nighties.
In praise of “Raising Hope”
As Phil Dyess-Nugent put it, "In an age of ambitious, sometimes pretentious TV, 'Raising Hope’ never made any grand promises, but over the course of four uneven but honorably entertaining seasons, it actually delivered a lot. It’s one of the few contemporary shows that depicts working class people as decent and worthy of an audience’s time without ever getting misty-eyed, and it proved that Garret Dillahunt, previously best known for playing multiple despicable characters on ‘Deadwood' and impersonating Jesus on that “controversial” NBC thing that was canceled during its first commercial break, is one funny son of a bitch.” PLUS: “HIMYM” finale vs. “Raising Hope” finale.
Judd Apatow to release a book of his teenage interviews with comedians
When Apatow was in high school, Apatow got to interview famous comedians like Jay Leno, Howard Stern and Jerry Seinfeld.
“HIMYM” co-creator explains the alternate ending
"We only shot one script, but through edit room magic we had two possible outcomes for the series,” tweeted Carter Bays. "We chose the ending we chose and we stand by it. But we loved the other version too."
In Season 4, “Game of Thrones” proves to be the Best Show Ever
Words like “greatest” and “best” are thrown around a lot these days, notes Mary McNamara. "So to say that 'Game of Thrones,' which returns, roaring and snorting, for its fourth season on Sunday night, is the Best Television Show Ever isn't just thoroughly subjective, it's reductive. Despite our increasingly wearisome penchant for lists, television was never linear enough for meaningful comparisons; it is now so wildly diverse in form and function that any sort of ranking or award is all but meaningless. But you know what? I'm going to say it anyway. 'Game of Thrones' is the Best Television Show Ever.” PLUS: Meet the new Season 4 cast members, the creators explain what’s different in Season 4, how much historical truth is in “Game of Thrones?, readers vs. watchers is “GoT’s” true battle, how cast members handle spoilers, Arya learns “brutality” in Season 4, individual episodes are too unsatisfying, and why King Joffrey must die.
HBO’s “Silicon Valley” is that rare TV comedy that makes you laugh — laugh for days
"Like all good series,” says Robert Bianco, "this eight-episode paean to techno-geek entrepreneurs is reliably well-acted, and like most HBO comedies, it's extremely well-observed, from its jokes about involuntary/voluntary corporate retreats and "revenge hires" to its main geek character struggling to spit like the tough guys. But the ability it has to make you actually laugh, not just when you watch it, but days later as you recall the jokes — well, that's something very few HBO comedies even attempt, let alone accomplish. And with times as they are, that's something to cherish.” PLUS: “Silicon Valley” is too nice to Silicon Valley, it’s “Office Space” meets “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” it’s more than uproariously funny — it’s consistantly fascinating, it’s a precise, sharply executed sendup of the high-tech billionaire-making culture, it’s the sitcom Silicon Valley deserves, the best take on Silicon Valley ever, inside “Silicon Valley’s” fashion, and the creators respond to Elon Musk jab.
Mike Judge’s evolution: From “Beavis and Butt-head” to “Silicon Valley”
"'Silicon Valley' can be read as a metaphor for Mike Judge's own career,” explains Paul Schrodt. "What happens when one average guy becomes successful beyond his dreams? Does he leave his old bum friends behind? Or does he find a way to incorporate them into his new life? If you're anything like Mike Judge, you don't forget the assholes who made you who you are.
“Veep” hits a higher gear in Season 3, puts “House of Cards” to shame
“Veep,” says David Zurawik, "offers what I believe is the most honest and searing critique anywhere in popular culture of what’s wrong with our civic life these days — and it makes us sometimes even laugh out loud as it delivers that damning indictment.” He adds that in Season 3, Julia Louis-Dreyfus proves she "is the greatest comedic actress in the history of American television.” PLUS: The presidential race has made “Veep” even more cynical, how “Veep” conquered Washington, “Veep” has become a lean, mean apolitical machine, “Veep’s” Jonah has become TV’s most insufferable character, and Tony Hale describes Season 3 as like the Keystone Cops.
AMC’s Revolutionary War drama “Turn” feels small and dull
“Turn,” says Willa Paskin, "suffers from 'Forrest Gump' disease, wherein all of its characters are always, magically, in exactly the right place to affect history. Somehow, everything that Abe—just one guy, in one town—sees and hears is directly relevant to the battle plans of his friends—just a few guys, in one regiment. Turn gives the impression the war was not vast and scattered over the Colonies, or a sweeping geopolitical event, but merely a small series of coincidences.” PLUS: “Turn” is too forgettable despite its cool opening credits, “Turn” struggles to lay out its characters and conflicts in a way that feels instantly addictive, and “Turn” is ambitious, beautifully filmed and exciting to watch.
Sarah Lacina was pretty confident that she was safe on Wednesday (April 2) night's "Survivor: Cagaya."
But Sarah was more than confident that she was staying. She was certain that she was the one deciding who would go home. In the immediate aftermath of the season's Merge, Sarah was positioned as the swing vote between two five-person alliances.
She was the queen.
She was the president.
She was blindsided.
Fed up with Sarah's power and insecure about her own position with her former Brains alliance, Kass was wooed to the dark side and flipped, sending Sarah packing in a shocking Tribal Council that saw two Hidden Immunity Idols get played on castaways who received a combined total of zero votes.
It was a tough moment for Sarah, an Iowa-based police officer who immediately bonded with New Jersey's Tony to form the short-lived Cops -r- Us alliance. Nothing actually came of that alliance, since Tony was lying to Sarah about the forces massing against her, though there was a failed attempt to throw an Immunity challenge.
In this week's exit interview, Sarah discusses why Kass was stupid to flip, why she read Tony so poorly and which aspects of her blindside surprised her most.
Full Q&A below...
A review of tonight's "Hannibal" coming up just as soon as I play "Chopsticks"...