Entries in TV (24)


'Dexter' Critics, Viewers Need to Chill Out

TV REVIEW: The relentless Dexter moaning is getting suffocating, so maybe audiences need to just relax and let themselves, and the show, breathe.


By Kenny Herzog

"The audience has its dark passenger, and it's forgotten I'm entertainment." (Credit: Showtime)

It's the old Howard Stern axiom: If you don't like it, turn the dial. Or in the case of Dexter, flip your remote to one of the 875 other original dramas and comedies airing on Sunday night. When Showtime's Michael C. Hall-led grim procedural hits the wrong note, as with much of last week's "Nebraska," we don't turn the other cheek. But, to paraphrase big-brother Brian, we don't slice it either. We review because we love, and we watch because Dexter and Sunday night have always married as ideal escapist entertainment.

And last night's "Sin of Omission" was awesome. It had suspense, ghastly deaths, heartbreaking moments and some really juicy sibling tension. It was also cliched, exhausting and silly at times, which the series has also always been. Still, the general feedback from critics and viewers to both "Sin" and Season 6 continues ranging from insulting to hateful, with a required dash of smartass pretension. It's a privileged scorn that's unique among Dexter followers, and underscores some of the ugliest and most cynical strains in the current relationship between TV and its audience. And the climate of online criticism might just be its mistress. 

Whether it's Dexter or fodder from an entirely different medium, bloggers and their readership seem more engaged with each other than what's on a screen or in a stereo in front of them. It's almost as if once the platform of instant-user feedback became mainstreamed, popular culture was just an excuse to get two sides who'd previously avoided confrontation in the same virtual room.

Except they're not used to communicating directly, and it's become a defensive and tangential dialogue, and there's no judge or jury to restore order and remind both parties that they're theoretically in session to discuss an episode of ultimately meaningless television. Or that it's essentially a mock trial, so neither critic nor reader needs to come prepared post-episode with reams of historical evidence and persuasive speculation. Not to mention, as self-appointed juries of their peers and points of view, they will remain inexorably deadlocked.

When what's up for debate is Dexter or "Sin of Omission," wouldn't it be easier to either stop playing know-it-all and suspend disbelief, or just come to terms with expectations versus potential and divorce oneself from the matter entirely (i.e. don't watch the friggin' thing!)? Audiences need to stop trying to outsmart entertainment that's doing nothing but offering itself as an option, and relax and realize that as it grows more lucrative, it's only going to become more accessible. And some TV critics should begin encouraging their readers to love TV and have fun with TV rather than use recurring site visitors as a focus group for their own intelligence.

Dexter isn't always good, but who ever said it needs to be great? And "Sin of Omission" did a terrific job of occupying 60 minutes on a Sunday night that would have otherwise been filled with the white noise of upcoming work-week obligations.


IN OTHER WORDS: New, genuine network-slogan suggestion: "It's not Showtime, it's TV."




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Amazing Rachel Crow Stuns on 'X Factor' 



TV REVIEW: On the third live performance show of X-Factor, 13-year-old Rachel Crow performed a stunning rendition of the Etta James' blues classic, "I'd Rather Go Blind," and brought down the house.

By Robbie Woliver

Rachel Crow just slays it with her soulful, soaring version of "I'd Rather Go Blind" on X-Factor. (Credit: FOX)

For weeks, young Rachel Crow, one of the most likeable contestants on X-Factor, or any other singing competition show for that matter, has been saddled with the misguided perceptions of her mentor Simon Cowell. He tried to package the little powerhouse as a perky little teenybopper, dressed like a Disney kid star and coiffed like an '80s MTV video background singer. But this week, with the help of a Nicole Scherzinger suggestion to return the teen to her roof-raising roots, Rachel picked her own song, and most likely her own styling. She looked absolutely beautiful, and just soared with the Etta James' classic, "I'd Rather Go Blind," which Beyonce performed in Cadillac Records (the episode's theme was songs from movies).

The response from the audience was understandably explosive. Prior to the preceding two weeks of silly light pop tunes that Simon provided her with ("Walking on Sunshine), she performed Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy" with a mature fervor that propelled the little dickens straight to the finals.

This week has also had other epiphanies for Rachel's fans and X-Factor viewers. Her mom revealed Rachel's troubled babyhood, a dark past that she has more than overcome. Born to a crack-addicted mother, and living in an abusive environment in homeless shelters and foster homes, Rachel was adopted by the Crow family at 6 months old, and has thrived ever since. The ebullient Rachel says that she hopes her story will inspire others. 

No matter what happens on X-Factor, this yong girl is a singular talent, and will find a very bright career for herself---and she's only 13 years old! She's so talented (vocals, stage presence, personality), it's almost impossible to imagine the artistic heights she will reach five years from now, let alone 10.

Here's her brilliant performance: 






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'House' Star's Mess Salvaged by 'True Blood' Actress on 'Good Wife' 




TV REVIEW: Season 3, Episode 7 of CBS’ The Good Wife brings back a Good Actress.

By Robbie Woliver

Carrie Preston (left) is a truly welcome dose of new blood alongside Julianna Margulies on The Good Wife. (Credit: David M. Russell/CBS)

After a very unsatisfying, anemic arc starring House’s Lisa Edelstein as Will Gardner's scheming old flame, Celeste Serrano (Gardner's now a new flame of the spectacular Julianna Margulies' Alicia Florrick), True Blood’s Carrie Preston has shown up, pumping new blood into The Good Wife. Preston’s (re)turn as Elsbeth Tascioni, the seemingly befuddled but bewitching Colombo-like attorney, has revived the slick procedural after a very disappointing and infuriating couple of episodes featuring an over-acting Edelstein as an obnoxious lawyer in a role that set female TV characters back decades.  

The Good Wife could always pride itself in strong acting, across the board, with characters tending toward the unexpected more so than predictable TV types. But as Serrano, Edelstein was an error all around (I blame the writer and director, more than the actress). Edelstein’s character was so annoyingly brash and intrusive that it made me rethink my TV viewing habits for a few seconds. But Good Wife’s strong, twisty plots and convincing characters played by actors with compelling, laser-focused technique kept me faithful.

In this week’s episode, Alicia needed to hire a lawyer outside of Lockhart-Gardner, to protect her interest against a pushy Department of Justice attorney regarding a highly classified terrorism case her firm was handling. She hires Tascioni, who had once handled work for Alicia’s husband, the philandering district attorney. On first appearance, Tascioni seems like she can barely manipulate a phone, let alone a crafty DOJ counsel, but the sly-as-a-fox redhead proves to be brilliant, with Alicia eventually pleading with her, “I want to learn from you.”

Preston, who plays True Blood’s wild, white-trash waitress Arlene, could use a lawyer of her own on The Good Wife to defend her from theft charges—she stole every scene she was in. (Rim shot.) Here was a performance that was over-the-top but still believable, as opposed to Edelstein’s unredeemable Celeste. Preston is a deft comedienne, pulling pathos and believability in every assertive scene, as well as every subtle, understated moment. Funny, likable and with a hint of evil, fans of Wife can only hope Preston will be brought aboard full-time. She should thrive in Chicago, seeing how it has as many bloodsuckers as Bon Temps.


IN OTHER WORDS: The Good Wife has an incredible collection of strong female characters, and while Lisa Edelstein’s Celeste tried too hard, Carrie Preston’s Elsbeth is easily up there with the best.






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From 'Project Runway' Sex Tapes to 'Boardwalk' Bloodshed: The Week in TV So Far



REVIEWING THE WEEK IN TV (SO FAR): Yeah, it's only Thursday, and there's still a couple nights of network comedies and dramas before the TV gods rest and give way to football and NASCAR. But let's face it: Most of the best small-screen entertainment arrives between Sunday and Wednesday anyway (except, of course, for the wonderful Parks & Rec on Thursdays). More importantly, we want to talk about it. Consider us your ultimate TV GUYdes, and below are our uncensored thoughts on what scripted and reality fare had us riveted since last Thursday, and should be on your DVRs for next week.

By Kenny Herzog and Robbie Woliver (aka TV GUYdes)

Once Upon A Time's Ginnifer Goodwin's new big love is none onther than Prince Charming himself. Seems monogamy is more of a thicket than polygamy. (Credit: ABC/Karen Hill)


ROBBIE: Hey, how was your trip to L.A.? How'd you survive, not watching TV for four days?

KENNY: I don't know. All I know is Ernest Borgnine is on Access Hollywood , he's 94 years old, and he just said to Billy Bush and Kit Hoover, "I can't hear you, but you're all punks."

ROBBIE: Hahahaha, that's great. Especially since he's been dead for 10 years.

KENNY: So, basically, as I remarked on Twitter and to my wife, L.A. is a great city, but the people are terrible. And so is the food. Palm Springs is a weird retiree desert for active elders. The smog is ridiculous, and the only celebrity I encountered was a close friend of and former photog for Guns N' Roses. Which was, admittedly, kind of awesome. 

ROBBIE: Well, other than the Big Blizzard, the only other Big News you really missed, even though it dates back to last week, was gorgeous Anya Ayoung-Chee winning Project Runway. Did you see her sex tape? 

KENNY: Ha. I haven't yet. Although I did catch up on most TV. I was weirdly disappointed there wasn't more waiting for me in my DVR. It was like hoping you come home to a ton of phone messages. Haven't seen a ton of reality. Scripted TV is too good. Boardwalk Empire is soooooo good right now. I feel like people are totally missing it.

ROBBIE: Runway was worth it just for Anya. There were a number of particularly obnoxious, arrogant  male designers this year, and Anya, a former Miss Trinidad/Tobago/Miss Universe contestant, was a breath of fresh air, truly likable. (she also won fan favorite). It turns out she and her boyfriend and Miss Japan had a threesome which was filmed. Can Boardwalk Empire beat that? And did I mention she was drop-dead gorgeous?

KENNY: Did I mention Boardwalk Empire has had full-frontal pre-natal nudity, severed fingers, exploded faces, throats slit like cattle, incest and Dabney Coleman with severe, stroke-induced palsy? It's just phenomenal TV right now, and more gorgeous to look at than any Project Runway designs.

ROBBIE: Hey if you want severed hands, exploded faces, slit-up cattle and full-frontal pre-natal nudity, then The Next Iron Chef is for you. If you're a foodie, and a reality addict, this is the ultimate show. Some very impressive participants, and the quality of expertise is so high. Hahaha, that started off a little Stefon, didn't it? 

KENNY: That sounded very infomercial-ly actually. You going to announce the next contestant on The Price is Right too? Never been a food-reality guy. No idea why. Food TV in general rarely interests me. I'd rather just eat.

ROBBIE: That's cause all you eat is kale.

KENNY:  Don't forget my vegan Mediterranean tuna salad for lunch and bowls of multi-bran flakes and seven-grain wheat germ for breakfast. I have the colon of a stroke-victimized Dabney Coleman.

ROBBIE: I'm too busy finishing off the Halloween candy. Talk about a treat, Homeland was pretty solid this week. That show has had some astonishing moments (Brady suddenly praying in Arabic was perhaps the TV "moment" of any show this season), but this past week it was just wholly gripping, well-acted, strongly scripted drama. 

KENNY: Sometimes I don't love the writing, but it was a very strong bounce-back episode after two meandering weeks. And very riveting and entertaining, which is all you want. Sometimes that show is at its best when it doesn't try as hard to provoke, much as it had success on all fronts in its outstanding pilot. A big bounce-back week in general. Shows are finally gearing up to that crucial final third of their season. How to Make It in America, which I love, had a big return to form, and Dexter at least raised the stakes with Brother Sam, even if these are the weakest villains the series has ever had.

ROBBIE: Not sure Brother Sam is a villain. We'll see about that. I like Dexter this season. It's not as thrilling or out-there as previous seasons, but I like the Zen-like  contemplative tone. For some reason, out-of-the-box programming isn't appealing to me this season. I had to give up Luther and American Horror Story because they were just too creepy. I'm liking the escapist fun shows like the so-good Revenge and addictive Once Upon A Time

KENNY: I didn't mean Brother Sam was a villain. My remark about what happened to him was a separate thought. I just didn't want to be spoilery. He's great, and his (spoiler) shooting raised the stakes. But Olmos and Hanks are blah. And you bringing up Luther just enrages me, which you know. You missed an entire first season of intense psychological drama and character study and jumped right into its established world and jumped out. It's akin to diving right into a freezing pool instead of dipping your toes in slowly. And American Horror Story's two-part Halloween episode was unreal. I loved it. And Zachary Quinto was Emmy-worthy. So many shocks and jolts and creepy moments and so much twisted dialogue. Everyone on that show is twisted. Ryan Murphy is twisted. Haven't watched Revenge or Once Upon a Time yet, though I think I could like the latter. You're more into fantasy and period stuff than I am, even if that period is a land before time. Lol.

ROBBIE: I absolutely agree with you about Zachary Quinto. He is so much fun to watch on AHS. Especially since he used to really unsettle me as Sylar on Heroes. (You know how I hate being creeped out.) And I did see the scene in Boardwalk Empire where the dog stole the guy's face. (I liked writing that line.) As for Luther, sorry to bring it up. I know it's a sore point with you that I missed the first season. I do, however, really like the show's second season, but it just really gets under my skin and bothers my psyche deeply.

KENNY: Well, again, that's because you didn't allow the show to demonstrate its human drama first, but I can only bemoan this issue for so many moons and lifetimes. (i.e. forever). And that scene with the dog in Boardwalk is nothing. It's been BRUTAL this season, both in its relationships and in terms of sex and violence. As brutal as the era really was. Although on a lighter note, Modern Family made me laugh a fair amount, though you kind of wonder how many scenarios they can conjure without becoming just another sitcom. Not Luke and Phil's best story. Great Cam episode though.

ROBBIE: The straight-Cam scenario was hysterical, and the faux docu-ending with Phil and his new, black best friend was inspired. But you are correct, the show can easily swerve into generic sitcom territory the second someone's eyes are off the ball. Ed O'Neill is possibly my favorite comic actor on TV. His performance is so multi-layered and full of depth. Consider this the vanguard of the Emmy-for-Ed O'Neill Movement. 

KENNY: Interesting. I do love O'Neill, and felt his character's had a strong season, but sometimes Jay is also a thankless, perfunctory role. Although I have to say that the ending with Kevin Hart wasn't particularly inspiring to me. I actually liked the scene with them in their backyards as a better button. The whole reverse-racism ventriloquy thing on the couch, while clever, still felt a bit like a self-conscious and sort of cliched approach to racial humor on a show that's ultimately coming from fewer perspectives than it would like to think. Which is ultimately fine. I'm OK with the show being white-bread. It's funny. Similar to Bored to Death, which continues to satisfy me and subvert expectations.

ROBBIE:  Your vote for worst whow of the week? Mine is the unbearable X Factor.

KENNY: That's easy for me. Enlightened. Four (four!) episodes in, and it still hasn't gone anywhere, and it's actually shocking how poorly and unconvincingly Mike White's writing possesses Laura Dern and her awful, irritating, vapid, immature character of Amy. Just a soulless, unfunny, cliched black comedy parading as pathos and coasting on the pedigree of its star.

ROBBIE: Your must-watch? Since everyone is already watching Revenge, Good Wife and Once Upon a Time, I'd have to say Harry's Law is probably my fave. The acting is amazing (the insanely great Kathy Bates vs. recurring brilliant guest star Jean Smart is just pure gold), and the plots and writing are always top-notch. Now that House's Cuddy is irritatingly and singlehandedly ruining The Good Wife (and setting back feminism even more than The Playboy Club did), I'd say Harry's Law is the one to follow. 

KENNY: And I know how it enrages you that I haven't caught up with Good Wife. But at least I didn't jump in during Season 3! I do assume I'd agree with you on Harry's Law though.  Your and my tastes tend to meet in the middle on funny, well-acted, crisp procedural network shows like that. I guess I'll give a nod to The Walking Dead, which was as riveting as Homeland, and as gross as Boardwalk Empire, and has really improved this season as basic storytelling. And poor Otis.


IN OTHER WORDS: Even L.A. and kale can't get in the way of great TV.





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'Once Upon a Time' is the Fun TV Diversion We've Been Waiting For


TV REVIEW: ABC's Once Upon A Time, the brain-child of Lost writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, is just want you want to discover on TV months into the new season—something fresh, entertaining and promising.

By Robbie Woliver

See that kid holding the book? We love that kid. We're also way into Once Upon A Time. (Credit: ABC) 

Like most fairy tales, Once Upon a Time is a familiar story with a dark twist. It’s great fun to watch (Especially in HD)—the production is gorgeous and lush (even the long-ago, far-away costumes and sets leave no detail spared) and while it has some kinks (please, Emma Swan, stop calling the kid “kid.” This isn’t Prime Suspect), its shows even greater potential.

The soapy, fabulously escapist story follows Snow White (Big Love’s Ginnifer Goodwin), Prince Charming  (Josh Dallas) and the aforementioned tough-girl Emma (Jennifer Morrison, from House) who plays a bail bondsperson, who also happens to be Snow and Charming’s spawn. Fairy Tale Land is put under a spell by the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla, who you'll recall from 24), and that spell sends all our beloved fairy tale characters somewhere “horrible” (a weird word for a wicked witch to use, right?)—the present, Storybrooke, Maine, where time stands still (still haven’t figured that part out). Emma is brought to Storybrooke by the “Kid,” the adorable, scene-stealing, best-part-of-the-show Jared Gilmore who plays young Henry, the son Emma gave up for adoption 10 years prior.

Legend has it (said legend from creepy Rumplestiltskin) that Emma will save the fairly tale characters when she turns 28. Guess how the show starts? Hint: birthday cupcake! The Kid, oops, Henry, has taken it upon himself to bring his birth mom, the reluctant Emma, to Storybrooke to fulfill the prophecy and save all the clueless fairy tale characters. You should know that Henry was adopted by the reincarnated Evil Queen who is now Storybrooke’s bitchy mayor, Regina, who has a penchant for doping her guests on apple products. We’ve already met Gepetto, Little Red Riding Hood, Granny, the wolf, the Seven Dwarves, and Jiminy Cricket in both their long-ago and contemporary personas. Oh, Henry’s loving teacher, Mary Margaret Blanchard? Yep, Snow White.  The John Doe coma patient she cares for as a hospital volunteer? Yep, Prince C. But you know what, stop being so jaded—it’s all part of the fun.  These contemporary characters have no memory of their fairy tale past, and Henry is hoping his new-found mom will help provide the happy ending they all need. We need it too, but we'll be content to have them sweat it out for a couple of seasons.

Already the scenes between the two Moms—Snow White and the Evil Queen—tease us with the wicked Alexis/Crystal-type fun we’re now seeing between Emily VanCamp and Madeline Stowe on Revenge

This is pure entertainment with a dash of dark, but so far only as dark as Secret Circle. The darker it gets, however, the more fun it will be; and keep bringing on those fairy tale characters, we’ll never get tired of it. Old Rump looks like he'll be a great grimy character (As Mr. Gold, he owns Storybrooke).  All in all, Once Upon a Time, is a great diversion—Storybrooke's inhabitants appear as dysfunctional as the show it preceeds, Desperate Housewives, but with more magic.


IN OTHER WORDS: Move aside, Revenge, you now have competition as the best guilty pleasure on TV.





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