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Cory Monteith, Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale on "Glee"

Cory Monteith, Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale on "Glee"

Credit: Fox

'Glee' recap: 'Glee, Actually'

'Glee's' third attempt at a Christmas episode is not quite a charm

Holiday episodes should be a cinch for "Glee." It's the perfect time of year to get all sentimental and romantic and musical.

But "Glee" never needs an excuse to celebrate great songs, the bonds of friendship and family, and warm and fuzzy feelings, and maybe that's why the show has paradoxically never produced a great Christmas episode. How do you make something seem special when it's what you do all the time?

"Glee, Actually" represents the third stab at a Christmas episode following Season 2's "A Very Glee Christmas" (with the sweet revelation that Brittany still believes in Santa and the infamous Sue Sylvester as the Grinch parody) and Season 3's "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" (which had some clever moments lost amidst an overall mess of an episode).

"Actually" is a definite improvement on "Extraordinary," if not quite a match for "Very." But I liked the idea and wish someone had thought of it back when the show was still working, and the characters were still worth caring about.

Since the episode was divided into five non-overlapping segments, it didn't feel so much like its supposed inspiration, "Love, Actually," than it did like a collection of short stories from the "Glee" universe. And that approach oddly made for one of "Glee's" more cohesive and consistent hours in quite some time.

Artie's "It's a Wonderful Life"-style dream sequence imagining what would've happened if the glee club never existed was the most fun the show has had since the whole cast swapped characters when Tina knocked herself out in "Props." I never thought we'd see Jessalyn Gilsig again, but there she was, nailing her cameo and clutching a fake baby as Terri Schuester. And Damian McGinty's return as Rory was an even more welcome sight -- he's an actor and singer with greater natural charm than anyone "Glee" has added to the show since.

It's too bad that director Adam Shankman couldn't figure out a way to give Kevin McHale's "Feliz Navidad" solo at least half the creativity and energy of Artie's unforgettable "Safety Dance" from Season 1, but at least we got to see McHale perform *something* on his own for the first time this season. And let's just skip over the fact that this sequence totally ignored Santana ever existed (was Naya Rivera busy this week?) and totally went *there* with Quinn (you know if the writers knew Dianna Agron was never coming back they'd love to kill Quinn off for real, just to put a period on an endlessly tortured character arc).

Meanwhile, in New York, Rachel made a brief appearance in a ridiculous outfit to say a few lines and then disappear for the rest of the hour. (Remember when Rachel and Finn were the stars of "Glee," and some fans complained about how much screen time they had even though Lea Michele and Cory Monteith were never less than completely reliable and interesting to watch?)

The real focus in New York was on Kurt and his relationships with Burt and Blaine. This is the second time Mike O'Malley has appeared this season, and the second time the show has used him to try to manufacture the sort of tear-jerking emotion that used to flow naturally from Kurt and Burt's touching father-son bond.

Burt has cancer now! Sad! But he invited Blaine to see Kurt in New York! Sweet!

The only reason the silly storyline works at all is because O'Malley, Chris Colfer and Darren Criss play it completely real. Even in its best days, "Glee" often relied on talented actors to overcome sloppy writing, and this segment stayed true to that spirit. Colfer was especially good at silently conveying Kurt's mixed emotions at seeing Blaine again, and the conflicted feelings Kurt still has about their relationship. Colfer and Criss' "White Christmas" duet was a'ight, I guess, but there was nothing in the episode that came anywhere close to Rachel's "O Holy Night" in last week's not-Christmas episode.

What else?

Oh yeah, Sam and Brittany got married. In the episode's goofiest thread, the dim-witted "soulmates" decided to make the most of the few days they had left before the inevitable 2012 apocalypse and got hitched (by Coach Bieste!). Sadly, it turned out to be a ruse. No apocalypse. No wedding.

I have to admit, I was disappointed. Since "Glee" insists on forcing these two together -- and I can't complain about any screen time for Chord Overstreet and/or Heather Morris -- why not just go totally cuckoo in classic "Glee" style and get them involved in some kind of "What Happens in Vegas" rom-com mix-up where they get married first and fall in love later? At least it would give them a believable excuse to spend time together.

Also, there was another terrible subplot for Sue (I'm really losing patience waiting for the announcement that Jane Lynch is ditching this sinking ship for good) and believable enough bonding between the Puckerman half-brothers, which ended with the promise we'll be seeing more of Mark Salling in the future. (Yay? I guess? I've always liked Salling, and the show has generally done right by Puck, even when he's involved in stupid things like sleeping with Shelby, but is he really the character most in need of extra screen time at this point?)

We also met Aisha Tyler as Jake's mom and saw more of Puck's mom (Gina Hecht) than in her previous two appearances ("Mash-Up" and "Goodbye") combined. Both actresses were perfectly fine. Maybe we'll see them again. Maybe they'll vanish. You never know with "Glee."

But I do know this: This is my last "Glee" recap for HitFix. If you've been following along with me this season, I appreciate it and I feel your pain. I didn't want to take on the task of writing about "Glee" on a weekly basis just to complain about how terrible it is. The Internet has enough of that. But I had no idea what was in store for me this season. I've lost my connection with the show, and I need to reclaim the recapping time for other endeavors. I'm thrilled I had this opportunity, and I'm sure HitFix will have someone great to pick it up in 2013.

Assuming the world doesn't end next week.

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<p>Josh and Brent deliver pizzas on &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>

Josh and Brent deliver pizzas on "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Beekman Boys Josh & Brent discuss their 'The Amazing Race' win

Million dollar winners discuss their unlikely Race triump
Over the past three nights, HitFix's "Amazing Race" exit interviews have covered the 4th Place Twinies, the 3rd Place Longhorns and the 2nd Place Chippendales, but we've finally reached the winners of this season's million dollar prize.
 
And, to hear many fans discuss it, Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell were the most surprising winners in the show's history. The goat farmers and stars of Planet Green's "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" (now airing in repeats on Cooking Channel) were saved by at least one Non-Elimination Leg and by near-countless examples of the fickle finger of "Amazing Race" fate. They won exactly one Leg during the entire season.
 
Of course, the Leg they won was the only Leg that counted and even that didn't come easy as Josh's confusion with pizza toppings nearly doomed The Beekmans early in the finale, only to open the door for Josh's redemption on the season-closing Roadblock.
 
In their exit interview, Josh & Brent discuss their capacity to overcome adversity both in life and on "The Amazing Race," particular as it relates to pizza delivery. They discuss their relationships with Natalie & Nadiya and also with unlikely airport allies Abbie & Ryan. And while Cooking Channel has yet to formally order a third season of "The Fabulous Beekman Boys," they make their pitch for what that season would include.
 
Click through for the full interview...
 
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"The Vampire Diaries"

 "The Vampire Diaries"

Credit: The CW

'The Vampire Diaries' recap: 'O Come All Ye Faithful'

Delena faces a major obstacle, and so does the quest to find the vampire cure

Not everyone loves the holidays. There's a reason why suicides spike at this time of year; the lonely feel a little lonelier, fragile relationships crumble. While they may be vampires and hybrids and witches (oh my!), in many ways our Mystic Falls residents are all too human, their problems played out on a larger-than-life scale. This week, more than a few of our intrepid immortals are going to be feeling a lot more isolated and alone, and another relationship is going to hit the skids. Worst of all, we have to wait until Jan. 17 to find out what happens next. Bah, humbug.

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"Project Runway All Stars"

 "Project Runway All Stars"

Credit: Lifetime

'Project Runway: All Stars' recap: 'An Unconventional Nightmare Before Christmas'

The designers struggle to make outfits from Christmas store finds

Another week, another wacky challenge, and this week is poised to be one of the wackier ones. The designers meet Carolyn at the South Street seaport "Hey, it could be a pirate challenge," thinks Josh as he observes all the ships in the dock. Oh, that would be too easy, too fun. No, it's time for the unconventional challenge, and they will be shopping at one dreadful little mall store that is not Mood. It's not even Michael's. Suffer, minions, suffer!

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<p>Jessy Schram and Scott Speedman in &quot;Last Resort.&quot;</p>

Jessy Schram and Scott Speedman in "Last Resort."

Credit: ABC

Review: 'Last Resort' - 'Blue Water'

Sam and James go to Manila, while the Chinese make Marcus an offer

A quick review of tonight's "Last Resort" coming up just s soon as we're wearing matching gasmasks...

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2013 Golden Globe Awards nominations winners and losers: 'Mad Men,' Tom Hooper, 'Django Unchained'

2013 Golden Globe Awards nominations winners and losers: 'Mad Men,' Tom Hooper, 'Django Unchained'

Plus: 'Lincoln,' Robert DeNiro, Jack Black and more.

Oh, HFPA.  It's Golden Globes time again and how we've missed your questionable taste.  You're the only group of approximately 80 something journalists (cough) that can collectively find a way to make almost all the studios and networks happy year after year.  It's really quite remarkable and comical at the same time.  This year, however, on the TV side you didn't completely play the game.  You stuck by your stated rules and really ruffled some feathers with an embarrassing "Mad Men" diss and a sigh worthy decision to anoint "Smash" as something of a critical player (well, at least its not "Revenge").  On the other hand, the movie nods looked as if they were practically copied out of the contenders list every awards season pundit has published for weeks (the page views are appreciated).  Except for your comedy or musical categories, of course. We can't help you there. And if you think "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is worthy of a nomination of any kind I've got some extra DVD copies of "The Tourist" you might be interested in too.

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<p>&quot;X Factor&quot; guest performer Bruno Mars</p>

"X Factor" guest performer Bruno Mars

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Final 4 - Results and Bruno Mars performs

Would news of L.A. Reid's departure be mentioned on-air?

We're eliminating one "X Factor" contestant tonight, but all of the news on the Interwebs is surrounding the loss of one of the "X Factor" judges.

Per media reports, L.A. Reid won't be back next season

All together now: So what?!?

Will the other judges be wearing black tonight?

Will Tate Stevens be wracked with guilt wondering if he caused L.A. Reid to give up on "X Factor"? 

Will Mario and Khloe follow him out the door? 

Will this all set up another "X Factor" overhaul in an attempt to lower ratings for next season?

And who's going home tonight? 

Click through for the full recap...

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 160

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 160

Dan and Alan talk Golden Globe nominations, 'Sons of Anarchy' and more

Happy Thursday, Boys & Girls!

Have you been up since 4:45 awaiting Golden Globe nominations only to find out that "Mad Men" isn't one of the five best dramas on TV? We have! And that's why it's time for an occasionally grumpy installment of The Firewall & Iceberg postcast.
 
In this week's podcast, we chatter about SAG Awards and Golden Globe nominations. We also discuss the finale and full season of "Sons of Anarchy" and then our ongoing disillusion with "Homeland" reaches its penultimate week.
 
And get ready for a multi-podcast week next week. Because we love you!
 
Here's today's breakdown:
Golden Globes/SAG blather (00:01:30 - 23:00)
Listener Mail - Toupee Fallacy and Bad Actors or Bad Writing? (00:23:40 -
Listener Mail - The future of "Parks & Recreation" (00:30:45 - 35:45)
Listener Mail - "The Shield" and "Sons of Anarchy" into finale discussion (00:36:20 - 00:53:55)
"Homeland" - (00:53:55 - 01:12:10)
 
 

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 160: SAG & Golden Globe noms, 'Sons of Anarchy,' 'Homeland' & more

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 160: SAG & Golden Globe noms, 'Sons of Anarchy,' 'Homeland' & more

Dan and Alan also answer mail about 'Parks and Recreation' and when bad writing happens to good acting

The

It's a slightly delayed episode of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, as Dan and I were both busy on Monday, and then decided we might as well wait until today so we could make fun of the Golden Globe nominations. Which we did. For a while. We also did our usual "Homeland" discussion, reviewed the latest season of "Sons of Anarchy," answered your mail and more.

The line-up: 

Golden Globes/SAG blather (00:01:30 - 23:00)
Listener Mail - Toupee Fallacy and Bad Actors or Bad Writing? (00:23:40 -
Listener Mail - The future of "Parks & Recreation" (00:30:45 - 35:45)
Listener Mail - "The Shield" and "Sons of Anarchy" into finale discussion (00:36:20 - 00:53:55)
"Homeland" - (00:53:55 - 01:12:10)
 
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
 
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
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Dylan McDermott in "American Horror Story"

 Dylan McDermottDylan McDermott in "American Horror Story"

Credit: FX

'American Horror Story''s Dylan McDermott says Bloody Face has 'gotten under my skin'

'The Practice' star says the role came to him 'very naturally'

Fans of the last season's installment of "American Horror Story" may have had to take a moment to recognize returning cast member Dylan McDermott this time around. No longer playing the yuppie therapist Ben Harmon, McDermott goes blue collar to portray the tattooed son of Bloody Face (Zachary Quinto) this season. In a conference call with reporters, McDermott, who says his character is in "the next three of four episodes" and comes face-to-face with his serial killer dad, talked about playing a serial killer, why he doesn't remove his character's tattoos when he goes home, and why he loves "Rosemary's Baby" -- but would never do a remake.

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Watch: Taylor Swift gets led astray in new video for 'I Knew You Were Trouble'

Watch: Taylor Swift gets led astray in new video for 'I Knew You Were Trouble'

Reeve Carney takes our golden girl down a dark path

Taylor Swift’s a good girl led astray in her edgy new video for “I Knew You Were Trouble,” which debuted on MTV today.  It’s her 23rd video and she’s releasing it on her 23rd birthday. Yay synchronicity! The song is on "Red," her new album which leapt back to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week.

The video opens as Swift wakes up in the morning on the littered ground, (“the cold hard ground” of the song’s lyrics), seemingly the only one left over from a hell of a rave the night before. The memories start to come back in flashes as New Wave/Post Punk Swift, in skinny jeans, a wig with pink highlights, and a torn t-shirt, tries to reconstruct the past 24 hours. Or she’s figuring out how the hell everyone else left and now she doesn’t have a ride home.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Judd Apatow and Mike Nichols at MoMa</p>

Judd Apatow and Mike Nichols at MoMa

Credit: MoMa

Exclusive: Judd Apatow asks Mike Nichols for advice

The 'This is 40' director sat down with his idol for a MoMA discussion recently

Last month, "This is 40" director Judd Apatow and legendary filmmaker Mike Nichols ("The Graduate," "Primary Colors") sat down for a discussion at the Museum of Modern Art here in New York cheekily titled "Judd Apatow asks Mike Nichols for Advice."

It was a sober and thoughtful chat about varying philosophies on this and that. Apatow is a huge fan of Nichols and looks up to him as a mentor. He spoke early in the talk about how he and friend Owen Wilson first set out to write a script once upon a time by studying the structure and characters of "The Graduate," but the conversation soon led to comedy, naturally, and I thought Nichols had some particularly profound things to offer.

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