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<p>&quot;Back in the Game&quot;</p>

"Back in the Game"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Back in the Game'

Maggie Lawson and James Caan make this one to check out

[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:"Back in the Game" (ABC)
Airs:Wednesdays at 8:30
The Pitch: It's "Bad News Bears," only with a father-daughter story at the core.
Quick Response: There are five or six new network comedies that I like because I have immediate warmth for the characters and the overall worlds. There are zero new network comedies that I find genuinely and consistently funny. But "Back in the Game" is certainly in that high-ish tier of amiable-but-maybe-not-yet-hilarious pilots. It all starts with Maggie Lawson, who is tremendously appealing as a former softball star forced by circumstance to move back in with the hyper-competitive father who maybe pushed her too hard. Lawson anchors the show entirely and more than anything, she deserves credit for holding her own against James Caan, who is playing his gruff-and-boorish character at a very high volume. Rarely an actor to hold back, Caan has gone big here, but Mark and Robb Cullen's script gives him just enough humanity that he avoids entirely seeming like a sitcom character. The same can't necessarily be said for Ben Koldyke, who sometimes favors punchlines over looking like an actual person. Since Koldyke's last ABC comedy was "Work It," though, I'm definitely willing to give the guy credit for improvement. Koldyke isn't the only one just a bit confused on how broadly to be treating the script. Directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra give "Back in the Game" ample zip, but somebody down the road will have to help this show settle on a more consistent tone. It's not oppressive or anything. You just have naturalistic kids acting with mugging sitcom kids and underplaying adults acting with overplaying adults and it's a mish-mash. Griffin Gluck, playing Lawson's son, is among the better young actors on ABC's kid-heavy slate and I think that he, Lawson and Caan work well together. That's the core of a decent show and, by the time Lawson gives an obligatory inspirational speech to the rag-tag Little League team she ends up coaching, I was willing to sign on for a while. How is "Back in the Game" going to handle the many months of the year in which nobody plays Little League? Dunno, but they can easily decide that Caan's character used to push his daughter in youth basketball as well, but nobody felt the need to immediately mention it. "Back in the Game" is a solid match with "The Middle" and also could have paired reasonably well with "Modern Family." It's one of at least three ABC comedies that would have been better after "Modern Family" than the one ABC programmed there.
Desire To Watch Again: This is a bad time slot for me and it's going to take an effort to figure out which shows get DVR space and which have to be Hulued later. I'll definitely give "Back in the Game" a few more episodes, but I'm not sure when/where/how. With a little mellowing, Caan and Lawson could settle into one of TV's better father-daughter dynamics, which would be worth seeing.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

 

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<p>John Gallagher Jr. and Emily Mortimer in &quot;The Newsroom.&quot;</p>

John Gallagher Jr. and Emily Mortimer in "The Newsroom."

Credit: HBO

Season premiere review: 'The Newsroom'

A new credits sequence, a muted framing device, and 'News Night' in trouble as season 2 begins

"The Newsroom" is back for a new season. I published an advance review earlier in the week, and I have some specific thoughts on the season premiere coming up just as soon as I have the confidence of a tall man...

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"Big Brother"

 "Big Brother"

Credit: CBS

'Big Brother' recap: Racist hatred reaches a new level in the house

The losers can't contain their malice as mattresses and hamsters flip

Holy crap -- did they actually put up a disclaimer before the show started? "Just FYI, we at CBS aren't racist, homophobic pigs, even though we cast people who are for our TV show! Sorry!" Maybe Aaryn goes on yet another tear, or maybe the nasty comments of the other racist/homophobic hamsters are included in this episode. Really, they could create a voting block. It's what, five hamsters who've said utterly disgusting things? While I'm glad CBS is  no longer ignoring the issue in the primetime show (it would be hard to do at this point), it does make this show a lot less fun than it's been in previous seasons. 

But let's move on. Although "Big Brother" is housing scumbags on the CBS lot, I still regret having lost faith in the show. It really seemed that the Moving Company was on a path of total domination, so can you blame me? Even though the girls in the house had started to catch on, offing Nick required breaking that secret alliance. It was certainly too strong (until it wasn't), right?  But I repent, "Big Brother." I will forevermore trust Julie Chen when she says I must expect the unexpected. Well, until "the unexpected" is a new way to splatter paint and goo on the hamsters. 

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<p>&quot;True Blood&quot;</p>

"True Blood"

Credit: HBO

'True Blood' recap: '***** the Pain Away' reveals a royally ticked Sookie

Eric takes a big risk, but is he up against a tougher adversary?

This week's episode takes us in some unexpected directions, which is never a bad thing in and of itself on "True Blood." Most importantly, we get a plotline for Sookie that reflects some of the mixed feelings I've had about her character lately (yes, faeries and half-faeries are delicious, but she always seems to be knee deep in one-note hot-guy adoration). A few of our favorites were put into physical danger (and one seems to be in the process of losing her mind), and it made for a tense episode with sometimes unbelievable moments, and it stirred up some potential plotlines that could be fabulous or less-so. Let's hope for the former.  This season holds plenty of promise, and with the vampire-human war afoot, it's anyone's game. 

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<p>Jennifer Carpenter and Sean Patrick Flanery in &quot;Dexter.&quot;</p>

Jennifer Carpenter and Sean Patrick Flanery in "Dexter."

Credit: Showtime

Review: 'Dexter' - 'What's Eating Dexter Morgan?'

Dexter looks into another of Vogel's patients, while the guilt consumes Deb

A quick review of tonight's "Dexter" coming up just as soon as I eat a whole box of popsicles...

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<p>JK&nbsp;Rowling, seen here at a 'Harry Potter' event in 2011, managed to have a commercial and critical hit this spring under the fake name 'Robert Galbraith'</p>

JK Rowling, seen here at a 'Harry Potter' event in 2011, managed to have a commercial and critical hit this spring under the fake name 'Robert Galbraith'

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

JK Rowling publishes acclaimed mystery 'The Cuckoo's Calling' under a pseudonym

Now that the secret's out, what will her next fake name be?

At the start of this summer, I decided to finally read "The Casual Vacancy" by JK Rowling, and I burned through it quickly.

I think it's a great read, a very angry book about the definition of community in today's England. It's well-observed, it's adult, and it doesn't pull any punches as it barrels towards a painful, upsetting finish. It is not what you would expect from her, and it suggests that the England of her Potter books is even more of a fantasy construct than one might think.

After all, she wrote a series of books about the coming of age of a powerful boy wizard and, just as importantly, the generation of magicians his own age, all of them shaped by the events of all seven of the books. She did so without ever suggesting more explicit relationships as the kids grew older, hormones kicked in, and they got ready to graduate from Hogwart's.

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'Fruitvale Station' has superb $53,857 per screen opening

'Fruitvale Station' has superb $53,857 per screen opening

Plus: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer talk from...Cannes

After conquering the Sundance Film Festival this past January, Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station" dominated the art house circuit this weekend grossing a very impressive $53,857 per screen in just 7 theaters. Based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a Bay Area man who was shot by a BART transit officer during the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009, the film did especially well in Oakland selling out numerous screenings. "Fruitvale's" per screen is one of the biggest for a limited release this year beating tough competition including "The Bling Ring" and "Before Midnight."& Only "Spring Breakers" ($87,667) had a higher per screen. 

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<p>Michael B. Jordan and Ariana Neal in &quot;Fruitvale Station.&quot;</p>

Michael B. Jordan and Ariana Neal in "Fruitvale Station."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Tell us what you thought of 'Fruitvale Station'

The big Sundance winner opened on Friday... does it live up to expectations?

While the triple terrors of robots, sea monsters and Adam Sandler fight for box office glory, the arthouse talking point of this weekend is Ryan Coogler's debut feature "Fruitvale Station." This critically acclaimed anatomy of a true-life tragedy won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance, played Cannes and will be one of several titles The Weinstein Company pitches to Oscar voters at the year's end -- but do you think it's worth the hype? I've already had my say with an against-consensus review, while Kris gave his thoughts at Sundance. The film certainly offers many interesting points of discussion and/or argument, so the floor is yours. Share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to vote in the poll after the jump.  

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<p>&quot;Sean Saves the World&quot;</p>

"Sean Saves the World"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World'

If Thomas Lennon and Echo Kellum were the stars this might work

[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:"Sean Saves The World" (NBC)
Airs:Thursdays at 9 p.m.
The Pitch:"Sean Hayes is back!" "In Pog form?" "No. In schlocky sitcom form." "Even better!"
Quick Response: Look, I get that Sean Hayes is a talented man. He sings. He dances. He acts. That "Martin and Lewis" TV movie? He wasn't bad. I just don't find him all that funny. Not on "Will & Grace." Not on "Smash." Etc. But lots of people do. So I can't say how "Sean Saves The World" will play for you if you love Hayes' brand of desperate, eager-to-please comedic mugging. Perhaps you'll love it? Me, I could only sit back in some agony as I watched one of the most exposition-y comedy pilots in recent memory. Everybody in the pilot feels the need to constantly be establishing the premise, like when Sean observes to his daughter, "Your mom just moved away. I just got a new and very weird boss" or when his mother (Linda Lavin, matching Hayes ham-for-ham) walks in and announces "You have so much on your plate: A teenage daughter, a terrible new boss, that fantastic, gorgeous man you finally found who dumped you..." Why should anything happen in a pilot when you can have characters tell us all of the big things that happened before we arrived? And why should we have the pilot's theme illustrated for us when Sean can moan, "I don't know anything about parenting" and another character can helpfully respond, "Nobody does." That's the entire first half of the pilot. The second half is limp farce in which Sean tries to escape from his office early because he promised to be home for dinner. Yawn. I really don't expect better from Hayes, who does all of his Sean Hayes things, but to say that I expect sharper writing from "Better Off Ted" and "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" creator Victor Fresco would be an understatement. This is a poorly written pilot and the direction, courtesy of legend James Burrows, who I couldn't respect more if I tried, is as boxy and lifeless as so many of Burrows' recent pilots. And YET. Yup. "And yet..." I could have disliked this pilot a lot more. Really. As the "terrible new boss," Thomas Lennon made me laugh a couple times, which is more than I can say for several comedy pilots I actually liked this year. And the marvelous Echo Kellum, who really deserves a starring vehicle and soon, made me laugh once or twice. In fact, were it not for the exhausting efforts of Hayes and Lavin, I might feel this pilot had potential. Unfortunately, they're the show. [Note that Lindsay Sloane, who appeared in the original pilot, was replaced by Megan Hilty. I like Megan Hilty. I also like Lindsay Sloane. Neither will make or break this show.]
Desire To Watch Again: I'll watched the revised pilot to see how Megan Hilty fits. I'll watch a couple more episodes to see if Victor Fresco can stealthily make this a show about Lennon and Kellum's characters. Then I'll probably move on.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife' 
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show' 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries

 

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<p>I hope the sequel is just three solid hours of this and fart sounds.</p>

I hope the sequel is just three solid hours of this and fart sounds.

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Because absolutely no one asked, Johnny Depp signs to make 'Alice In Wonderland 2'

But at least he'll be able to buy another island

One of the worst things about the miserable "Alice In Wonderland" was the way it served as a needless sequel to the original story, casting Alice as a warrior who was part of some ancient prophecy, returning to "Underland" after a long absence. Because of that structure, the notion of a sequel to that film becomes even more narratively useless than normal.

But, hey, at least Johnny Depp can count on another $50 million or so.

I wouldn't care as much if it seemed like Depp was still doing a "one for them, one for me" sort of thing, but it's been a while since he's been that guy. Sure, he helped Bruce Robinson finally get a film made again with "The Rum Diary," but part of that is the debt that he felt like he owed Hunter S. Thompson, who always wanted a film version made from that book. Most of his credits for the last few years have been brutally mainstream, and it's getting harder and harder to remain a fan of the guy's work when they announce a fifth "Pirates" movie or a wildly unwanted "Wonderland" sequel.

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'Glee's" Cory Monteith is dead at 31


'Glee's" Cory Monteith is dead at 31
Vancouver police found Monteith, who played Finn Hudson, dated co-star Lea Michele and who had been struggling with substance abuse problems, dead in his hotel room on Saturday. On Twitter, Mark Salling responded to the news with "no." Monteith's final tweets on Friday were about "Sharknado." PLUS: "Glee" stars react, read a timeline of Monteith's struggles, and here is Monteith's pic from the June 28 "Glee" cast shoot for Season 5.


Jimmy Kimmel weds his co-head writer
Kimmel and his "Jimmy Kimmel Live" colleague, Molly McNearney tied the knot Saturday before a star-studded crowd that included Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. See their official photo.

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<p>Jay-Z</p>

Jay-Z

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

Music Power Rankings: Lady Gaga and Jay-Z top the list

Daft Punk, Pearl Jam and Psy also make the list

1. Lady Gaga: "ArtPop" is coming, "ArtPop" is coming! We’ll get Momma Monster’s new album, Nov. 11., but first we’ll get a new single in September. Paws up!!

2. Jay-Z: Yes, it was messy, but his Samsung partnership led the way for a new distribution model AND he still will sell more than half a million albums through traditional retail this week.

3. Daft Punk: In a deal that’s too perfect, the French pair inks a deal with Trojan for “Get Lucky” condoms  Plus, the band plans to work with “Random Access Memories” producer Nile Rodgers on some unfinished Chic material.

4. Pearl JamExpect to get hit with a “Lightning Bolt” in October.

5. Rap Music: The genre pulls off a hat trick for the first time. Thanks to Kanye West, Wale, J. Cole and Mac Miller, rap music had the top 3 spots on the Billboard 200 for three weeks running.

6. Psy: He’s only really known in the U.S. for two hits, “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman,” but the South Korean rapper has joined Rihanna and Justin Bieber as the only three artists to surpass 3 billion views on YouTube. And, as far as we know, he hasn’t urinated in a janitor’s bucket or posted pictures of himself scantily-clad, rolling a joint.

7. Steve Grand: Gay unsigned, pop/country artist’s sweet song/video about unrequited love goes viral, passing the 1 million views mark  on YouTube.

8. “Cups”:
Almost a year after the movie came out and more than six months after the song first debuted on the chart, Anna Kendrick’s “Cups,” from “Pitch Perfect” hits the Top 10. Please do not let this be a trend.

9. Justin Bieber: Footage of the teen star urinating in a janitor’s bucket and cursing out a picture of President Clinton surfaces.  Someone needs to start telling his friends to stop filming his every move. Or here’s an idea: Stop acting like a twerp.

10. Randy Travis: The country music legend remains in the hospital following a heart virus and subsequent stroke. Wishing him a speedy recovery.

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