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"True Blood"

 "True Blood"

Credit: HBO

'True Blood': Has Warlow been found 'At Last'?

Sookie makes a discovery, Bill doesn't, and Sam is on the run

While this week's episode of "True Blood" wasn't quite as gripping as last week's, the good news is that storylines were moved forward, Jason determined he wasn't gay (like that was ever a question for anyone but him), and crucial details were revealed. More importantly, though this episode was definitely about laying down groundwork for the future instead of big blow-ups, I think (or at least hope) that what we know thus far indicates some mighty challenges and emotional turmoil ahead if the odds are ever in our favor (or the writers don't dodge some potentially tricky material). Spoilers ahead, so stop reading right about... now if you haven't seen it. 

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<p>Michael C. Hall and Charlotte Rampling in &quot;Dexter.&quot;</p>

Michael C. Hall and Charlotte Rampling in "Dexter."

Credit: Showtime

Review: 'Dexter' - 'Every Silver Lining...'

Dexter gets to know Dr. Vogel, while Deb goes to another dark place

A quick review of tonight's "Dexter" coming up just as soon as I give you an electrolyte replenishment formula...

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"Big Brother"

 "Big Brother"

Credit: CBS

'Big Brother' recap: Racism is revealed and two go on the block

CBS airs footage of one of the hamsters making crude jokes

I was initially reluctant to jump on the "Big Brother" hater train. When cameras are following you around 24/7, it's almost guaranteed you're going to be caught saying something stupid. When you're under constant stress and your "job" is essentially stabbing other people in the back, you're also likely to say something stupid and possibly hateful. I can even see how something said sarcastically could be taken literally. Given that the hamsters are mostly stupid kids, I hate to judge too quickly (reality TV housewives, though, are a different matter). 

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"Naked & Afraid"

 "Naked & Afraid"

Credit: Discovery

'Naked & Afraid': The wildest new reality show you need to watch

No clothes, no food, no water, no shoes - and no escape

When I heard the premise of "Naked & Afraid" (Sun. at 10:00 p.m. on Discovery), I thought it was just an extreme take on "Survivor." Each week, two people (a man and a woman) are shipped off to an exotic locale. Once there, they strip down, meet one another for the first time, and try to survive without food, water, tools, fire or anything useful (with the exception of one personal item each) for 21 days. Sort of like Adam and Eve if there were no apples, the snakes were poisonous and the Garden of Eden was filled with thorns and hungry hyenas. 

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<p>CBS' &quot;Hostages&quot;</p>

CBS' "Hostages"

Credit: CBS

Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages'

Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott can't make this seem fresh

[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:"Hostages" (CBS)
Airs:Mondays at 10 p.m.
The Pitch:It's "The Mob Doctor" with slightly higher stakes!
Quick Response: Leave aside the higher production values and more prestigious cast that come with the CBS pedigree and all "Hostages" is is a glorified version of FOX's "The Mob Doctor," only with a better title and uppity claims of being a "limited" series or somesuch. ["Mob Doctor" was pretty limited itself. FOX should have advertised it that way.] Doctor with high-profile patient is squeezed to violate that whole "Do no harm" ethos [Minus the NBC split-personality thing], only to respond with stubbornness and morality or whatever. The presumption is that you'll actually care about the doctor's dilemma in this case both because she's played by Toni Collette and because her patient is the President of the United States rather than some mob stooge. It's a big assumption, because other than casting Tony winner (and Nate Archibald grandfather) James Naughton, no effort was put into making the President even a semi-character, so it merely theoretically seems like it'd be better not to kill him. In any case, every second of the "Hostages" pilot is familiar and the execution is proficient, but perfunctory. Writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff keeps the pilot chugging along, but you can almost sense him checking off boxes as he goes along: Opening action! Hostage situation! Twist! Demand! Daughter's got a secret! Son's got a secret! Husband's got a secret! Twist! Elongating cliffhanger! There's no room for anything to breathe and the only reason you're going to care about anything is, "Because you're inherently supposed to." Yes, it's bad to take a family hostage and it's bad to plot to kill the president, but nothing in the "Hostages" pilot makes me invest in the characters or situations beyond that. I vaguely care about the doctor because Toni Collette makes me vaguely care about things. I'm vaguely interested in what Dylan McDermott is doing, because Dylan McDermott makes me vaguely interested in things (even "Dark Blue" for a couple minutes). I don't care about either of the teenage characters, because "Hostages" has doubled down on its obligatorily annoying teenage characters whose whining may or may not be designed to make you sympathize with the hostage takers. And the end of the episode just screams "24"-style wheel-spinning. CBS is treating this like some sort of programming revolution, but I watched "The Nine" and "Vanished" and "Kidnapped." It's easy to do the pilot for this kind of thing. It's harder to make it a network series. And I'd say this is worse than the pilot for "The Nine" and "Kidnapped" at the very least. [And that's not getting into comparable new shows like "Crisis" and "The Blacklist" yet.]
Desire To Watch Again: I have enough curiosity for one more episode. Either it breaks out of its programmatic rut and gives me something to care about or I check out. Fast I'm content to watch a Toni Collette/Dylan McDermott thriller. But I'm also content to skip it entirely, especially since it's "limited." Nothing in the destination promised by the pilot is mandatory enough for me to lock in for three episodes yet, much less 13 or 15.

 

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>Justin Timberlake</p>

Justin Timberlake

Credit: Frank Micelotta/AP

Music Power Rankings: Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift lead this week's tally

Jay-Z and Macklemore also make the list

1. Justin Timberlake: “The 20/20 Experience” is the top-selling album of 2013. In hindsight, it’s sold more than 2.3 million copies.

2. Taylor Swift:
Swift dominated Billboard’s fan-voted mid-year music awards poll, with fans awarding her First-Half MVP, favorite Billboard 200 No. 1 album and favorite live show. John Mayer, Joe Jonas, and Harry Styles abstained from voting.

3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: “Thrift Shop” is the best-selling single of 2013. TIme to go pop some tags.

4. Jay-Z: Billboard decides not to count sales of the Samsung-distributed “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” but the RIAA has no such issue, declaring the title platinum the day of its release.

5. Rolling Stones: The veteran group’s Glastonbury Festival set drew a record-setting 100,000, and another 2.5 million viewers on BBC. Just think how they’ll celebrate their 100th anniversary!

6. Jennifer Lopez: The diva comes under fire after playing for the head of Turkmenistan, whose record on human rights is a bit dubious. Let’s hope she cashed the check already.

7. Wale: The rapper scores his first No. 1 album. And no, his name is not pronounced “whale.”

8. Kanye West: Sales of  “Yeezus” drop 80% in its first week, giving the album the second largest drop for a No. 1 album in more than a year. Hey, at least Lou Reed likes it.

9. Apple: The company patents the name iWatch and, boy, does it look good. You don’t have to wear your heart on your sleeve, but be prepared to wear your music on your wrist. 

10. Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger: Those crazy Canadians tie the knot. Can little Sk8ter bois be far behind? 




 

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"The Bachelorette"

 "The Bachelorette"

Credit: ABC

Reality TV Roundup: 'Big Brother,' 'SYTYCD,' 'Real Housewives' and more

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 any competition shows, the latest elimination for each show is probably 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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<p>I&nbsp;have never worked harder to keep eye contact with an interview subject than I did with the uber-charming Rinko Kikuchi</p>

I have never worked harder to keep eye contact with an interview subject than I did with the uber-charming Rinko Kikuchi

Credit: HitFix

Rinko Kikuchi on how trauma forms character in 'Pacific Rim'

Plus she talks about her collaboration with Guillermo Del Toro

Rinko Kikuchi has now been directed by two of the Three Amigos, and both times, she's done wonderful work.

Innaritu's "Babel" is one of those films where, even if you don't love every part of it, there are so many things going on in it that it's worth your attention. In particular, the work of Rinko Kikuchi in the film is so raw, so real, so exposed and vulnerable, that it transcends language. You can watch her work in the movie without subtitles and even if you don't speak a single word of Japanese, her entire performance comes through, loud and clear.

In Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim," Rinko is once again a key piece of the puzzle, and once again, her ability to open up a character and lay their most private thoughts bare is essential for making something work. Del Toro makes full and canny use of her as a visual element and also as an emotional heavyweight. When she has to land the movie's biggest punches, she does, and she makes you believe that Mako could indeed by the thing that would bring Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) back to life enough to step back into the fray.

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<p>Jafar Panahi in &quot;This is Not a Film.&quot;</p>

Jafar Panahi in "This is Not a Film."

Credit: Palisades Tartan

Jafar Panahi accepts Academy membership 'on behalf of Iranian filmmakers'

A heartfelt statement of acceptance from the embattled Iranian director

Among the 276 artists invited to join their ranks this year, the Academy including a pleasing selection of world cinema luminaries, ranging from recent first-time Oscar nominee Emmanuelle Riva to Romanian New Wave cinematographer Oleg Mutu. One name, however, that was particularly applauded from all sides was trailblazing Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi.

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<p>Guillermo Del Toro is hoping his robots vs monsters epic 'Pacific Rim' creates plenty of new monster fans.</p>

Guillermo Del Toro is hoping his robots vs monsters epic 'Pacific Rim' creates plenty of new monster fans.

Credit: HitFix

Guillermo Del Toro talks about the optimism of 'Pacific Rim' and making monsters for young fans

One of our favorite filmmakers is finally back at work

It's no secret that Guillermo Del Toro is one of my favorite people in the film industry today.

There are very few filmmakers who adore genre with the same enthusiasm as Del Toro who can also wrestle the images from their heads directly onto the screen. No matter how outrageous or surreal an idea he has, he is great at turning those ideas into actual physical things. Part of that is because he's a gifted artist in his own right, but it's also because he knows how to mobilize the amazing art departments that he puts together for each of his films.

There are talented filmmakers who I don't feel strongly about on a personal level, but Guillermo is as decent as he is gifted, and when you see how many people work with him over and over, that's because he really does create an atmosphere of family on the films he makes.

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<p>Armie Hammer certainly has the jaw to play a hero, and he definitely rocks the mask in 'The Lone Ranger'</p>

Armie Hammer certainly has the jaw to play a hero, and he definitely rocks the mask in 'The Lone Ranger'

Credit: HitFix

Armie Hammer talks about playing the hero in 'The Lone Ranger'

Can you believe this dude is only 26 years old?

When I was twenty-six years old, I was a WGAw member already with a few produced plays, but I feel like I was still very young in many, many ways. Frankly, I'm amazed anyone took me seriously at that age, because I know for a fact I didn't carry myself with the same poise that Armie Hammer does.

I think he was exactly the right choice for Disney to cast as The Lone Ranger, and I think if they'd done something more traditional with the character, he could have absolutely crushed it. If there's anyone who seems stranded by the script, it's him. Obvious attention was paid to making sure that Tonto is given every bit of quirk and character that Johnny Depp requested, but Hammer is often left high and dry by the strange tonal shifts of the film and the completely inconsistent internal logic of his actions.

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<p>FOX's &quot;Sleepy Hollow&quot;</p>

FOX's "Sleepy Hollow"

Credit: FOX

Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow'

Nicole Beharie gives credibility to a nutty FOX drama

[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:"Sleepy Hollow" (FOX)
Airs:Mondays at 9 p.m.
The Pitch:It's "New Amsterdam" meets "Zero Hour." Wait. That doesn't work. It's... "Alcatraz" meets "National Treasure"? Hmmm... "It'll do for Washington Irving what 'The Following' did for Edgar Allen Poe"? Tough pitch, this one.
Quick Response: "Sleepy Hollow" probably should have premiered this past spring when, thanks to "Zero Hour" and "Do No Harm" and "Cult," it would have looked grounded and plausible. On the bright side, for most viewers, there won't be much question as to whether they're in or out. Around two-thirds of the way through the pilot, The Headless Horseman is strutting through a 2013 church graveyard firing a pump-action shotgun at a scruffy, newly resurrected Ichabod Crane and, at that point, you've either signed on for whatever loopy-ass misadventures Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Phillip Iscove have in store, or else you've probably changed the channel to one of the 50 other things airing on Mondays at 9 p.m. This is looney tunes stuff, lifting a couple kernels from Washington Irving's American legend, adding some revisionist American history, bringing it all to the present with a heaping spoonful of magic and then dousing the whole thing in pseudo-Biblical mumbo-jumbo. Thanks to pilot director Len Wiseman, the whole gooftastic affair is delivered with so much style that pausing to ponder the substance is either futile or, more likely, idiotically misapplied. If you've seen "Shame" or her brief "Good Wife" episode (but mostly "Shame"), you know that Nicole Beharie is a heck of an actress and she gives this pilot an almost absurd amount of credibility. It's almost unfair, because with a lesser actress, you could probably pass this off as nonsense and move on. I also think I'm OK with Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane, though that may be the tremendous relief of a British actor on an American series actually getting to do his native accent. The strong backing cast -- Orlando Jones, John Cho and Clancy Brown -- serves no purpose beyond distraction, but it's all part of the sleight-of-hand necessary to pull this nonsense off. I have no clue how this show functions on a week-to-week basis, much less the rather optimistic timetable laid out within the narrative. My initial sense is that the hastily established mythology is preposterous and "Sleepy Hollow" is going to have to make up its rules as it goes along, but... The Headless Horseman shooting a pump-action shotgun in a cemetery? Nobody can accuse these guys of not committing.
Desire To Watch Again: This actually is a light time period, so light that I continue to watch "2 Broke Girls." The availability of DVR space, plus my appreciation for Nicole Beharie could be enough to make me give this one a handful of episodes to either tighten up, sustain or crash entirely. That being said, my amusement with the pilot was hesitant at best and even the slightest decline in quality in Episode 2 and I'll probably check out immediately. I fully expect that a couple million viewers will be pretty culty about this one and nobody else will watch.

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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