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Hey, girl! Whatcha doin’? As of today, the answer is, “I’m sticking around through May 2012.”

Fox has officially granted a full season to  Zooey Deschanel‘s comedy “New Girl,” making it the first pick-up of the 2011-2012 freshman class.

The network ordered 11 additional episodes of “New Girl”.  That means Jess and her new roommates will be entertaining viewers for 24 half-hours as opposed to the usual 22 episode season.

Considering the robust ratings and positive morning-after reviews for “New Girl’s” second episode, a full season order for the show – the second-place recommendation on our list of Ten Shows to Watch – was inevitable.

“New Girl’s” premiere became Fox’s strongest comedy bow in a decade. More than 10 million viewers tuned in for it, making it that night’s highest-rated program in the network’s target demo of adults 18-49. The second episode retained about 92 percent of the premiere’s viewership.

Early sampling of the series premiere via Hulu, iTunes, and Deschanel’s blog as well as live viewing parties in select markets, seems to have worked to “New Girl’s” benefit.  Expect more networks to employ similar strategies as new series premiere in midseason.

Dorky Jess is the most popular girl on TV, so look for the high-profile guest star announcements to start racking up.  Natasha Lyonne guest stars in next week’s “New Girl,” and  Lake Bell has a significant role in an upcoming episode. Fox previously announced that Justin Long will be playing a love interest (or as Schmidt would say, a “nice rebound”) for Jess.  That sounds nice.


Unless watching pilots, or making them, is part of your job description, odds are you have not seen the first episode of “Boss.” That fact has not stopped Starz from greenlighting season two.

Although Kelsey Grammer‘s drama does not officially premiere for three more weeks, the premium cable channel that is not Showtime or HBO has signed on for a 10-episode second season of the show.

Risky? Of course. Unwise? Not necessarily. Here are the reasons that this could be either the best decision Starz execs could make or, shall we say, an interesting lesson waiting to learned. Notice we did not call it the worst thing the channel could have done, because it isn’t. Let us explain.

Why an early renewal is a good thing: The Powers That Be at Starz could not give clearer vote of confidence in a series than telling the world it wants more before it even premieres. After all, they’ve seen the entire first season of “Boss,” which follows a fictional Chicago mayor who secures his political power through corrupt deals and backstabbing.  That could buy a certain amount of patience with viewers regardless of what reviewers say about the premiere. Most cranky critics will only have viewed the first few episodes before they weigh in on it, and what do they know?  Starz executives liked what they saw enough to secure season two. So there.

As a cable property in the midst of an aggressive growth spurt, Starz will probably never be in a better position to demonstrate such enthusiasm than it is now. Like Showtime was doing in the early aughts, Starz is building a stable of original content that is good enough to give people a reason to cough up additional bucks for a subscription. Yes, “Spartacus” is a success for the channel, but if Starz really wants viewers to take it seriously, it’s going to need a high profile show that doesn’t feature digitally-rendered geysers of blood and green screen-enhanced violence, one that will gain it wide critical notice and possibly even a few award nominations. (Current Starz president and chief executive Chris Albrecht, the man who made HBO synonymous with the finest content the medium has to offer, knows this.)

Enter Kelsey Grammer. “Boss” is his biggest opportunity yet to establish himself outside of the sitcom realm as a Great and Serious Actor. Grammer also earned a Tony nomination for his Broadway debut in 2010 and, one presumes, makes a nice living off of his production company Gramnet, which produced “Medium” and now, this meaty drama. All of which is to say, Grammer does not necessarily need this job.  Better to lock him in early than give him a reason to ditch if audiences take a while to show up for “Boss.”

Why early renewal is a risk: A show can be a hit with critics and still colossally bomb with audiences. One example that comes to mind is Showtime’s “Huff.“  In the summer of 2004, after seeing its pilot, critics granted so many early raves to “Huff” that the premium channel’s president at the time, Robert Greenblatt (the man currently in charge of righting NBC’s sinking ship), picked it up for a second season months before the first premiered. The reviews were strong. The cast, wonderful. Yet in November 2004, “Huff’s” series premiere attracted only about 456,000 viewers. The numbers did not get better, but fortunately for the actors, producers and crew – if not Showtime – “Huff” was locked in for a second season. That second go-round did not improve its fortunes, and the show crawled to cancellation with barely enough steam to peep goodbye.

It also bears mentioning that as the 2011-2012 season is getting underway, sitcoms seem to be faring far better with audiences than new dramas. Even the second season premiere of the widely-acclaimed HBO series “Boardwalk Empire” was down some 40 percent in the ratings from its series debut a year ago.

Of course, the television landscape today is far different than it was seven years ago. Between downloads and various instant-viewing services that offer sampling opportunities galore, “Boss” has many more ways of building an audience over its first season. If viewers do not gravitate toward the drama during its initial run, then well-placed repeats, a swift DVD release and positive word of mouth could bring the show more viewers in season two.

Either way, this early renewal makes us very curious to see what happens over the course of “Boss’s” first term.

“Boss” makes its series debut at 10pm Friday, October 21, on cable’s Starz.


NBC’s Thursday sitcoms get a lot of (mostly digital) ink from critics and fans, in spite of being crushed in the ratings every week.

Yes, we know “Must-See Thursdays” is a long-dead idea. Nowadays there’s a lot of compelling competition, what with CBS’s potent line-up kicking off with a full hour of “The Big Bang Theory” tonight at 8. ABC, meanwhile, has the “Charlie’s Angels” reboot premiering at the same time. But if you’re planning to watch that instead of “Community” and “Parks & Recreation,” well… please keep that to yourself.

Then again we understand why many would choose cheap jigglevision over what’s on NBC in the 8 o’clock hour.  For many years, NBC betrayed viewers with terrible Zucker-fied choices on Thursdays.  We’ll even admit that  “Community” and “Parks and Recreation” were far from being at their best in their first seasons, so if you sampled them back then, coaxing you back to the fold now won’t be easy. Please trust us, though, when we say it’s time to give them another shot.  What follows are two relatively brief arguments as to why you should drop by Greendale Community College tonight, and stick around for a quick visit to Pawnee, IN., at 8:30.

“Community”: The New Version of the Family You Choose.

Although life at Greendale is funniest when it’s at its most unrealistic, creator Dan Harmon has said in many interviews that he plans to ease up on the thematic stunts and explore the motivations of his core characters much more throughout this third season. That pledge is sure to challenge viewers who loved the surreal, lightweight ridiculousness of episodes inspired by action flicks and zombie movies, but if done correctly it will strengthen the main reason we adore this show.

This may seem like a weird point of comparison, but “Community” is loved by its fans for the same reason people loved “Friends“: at the core of its formula is the idea that once you hit a certain age, your closest pals become just as important to you, if not more so, than the family you’re born in to.  You spend more time with them, and their concept of who you are is not informed by who you were during your formative years. “Community” hews to that idea, but adds a little more realism – yes, within those bizarre episodic plots, there is realism – by giving each person barely-tolerable qualities that the gang only overlooks because they genuinely care about each other. Like family, that bond gets strained to its limits,  as it was with Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), who left the study group at the end of the second season.

If that still doesn’t sell it for you, consider this: Michael K. Williams, better known as “The Wire’s” Omar, has a guest starring role as a biology professor, and John Goodman also guest stars as the nemesis to Greendale’s deeply odd Dean Pelton (Jim Rash).

“Parks and  Recreation”: It’s a Ron (Swanson)’s World, But He Wouldn’t Be Nothing Without His Leslie

“Parks and Rec” is ostensibly about the struggles and triumphs of Pawnee bureaucrat Leslie Knope, thereby making it Amy Poehler‘s series. Right? Well, by the third season, when the writers found the show’s comedic cadence and produced some of the funniest half-hours in primetime, it became clear that Nick Offerman‘s Ron Swanson, a solidly midwestern meat fetishist with deadpan delivery and a soft spot for his succubus ex-wives, was the beefy side dish “Parks” needed to take off.

It would be wrong to think “Parks” could succeed as The Ron Swanson Show, but given his outrageous appearance at the top of tonight’s episode – and subsequent absence for most of the scenes that follow – one realizes how much the show needs Offerman to maintain its magic. The premiere’s best scenes are the ones shared by Leslie and Ron, of course;  as longtime viewers know, Ron’s ex-wives may be his Kryptonite, but its his friendship with Leslie, and her cosmically wacky demonstrations of loyalty, that always pulls him back from the brink.

Next week’s episode compensates for the relatively Ron-light season premiere by having him face down a double dose of Tammy, as in his satanic first ex-wife, Tammy One (Patricia Clarkson) – yes, she’s worse than Tammy Two (Megan Mullally) – and Tammy Zero (Paula Pell), his mother. Do yourself a favor and tune in for both because, um, “Charlie’s Angels”?  C’mon.

By the way, you may be wondering why we have not mentioned “The Office” or “Whitney,” the other two entries in NBC’s Thursday comedy block.  That’s because a) “The Office” needs less assistance, given that James Spader‘s addition to the cast is bound to generate higher ratings for the premiere; and b) “Whitney,” um, could be better.

Check out our take on “Whitney” in IMDb’s Fall TV Preview by clicking here.

 


The complicated thing about guilty pleasures is the “guilty” part.

That guilt often prevents you from talking about said pleasure when, in fact, it deserves to be discussed. Celebrated, even. Once you finally work up the courage to cop to your secret shame, you’ll often find that you’re far from alone. The guilt fades, and all you’re left with is the pleasure.

Such is the case with ABC’s primetime soap “Revenge,” premiering tonight at 10pm ET/PT.

In “Revenge,” we meet Emily Thorne (Emily Van Camp) a lovely girl who appears in the Hamptons one summer, renting the beach house adjacent to the stately manor owned by the Grayson family and the exclusive community’s “queen,” Victoria (Madeleine Stowe).

With her looks, the right address and tasteful fashion sense, Emily immediately fits in. But what the social elite does not know is that when Emily was a young girl with a different name,  her father was framed for a horrific crime by many of the people welcoming her into their inner circle as a adult. And she has her sights set on destroying each of them.

Because of our programming  – “Must only praise the BEST shows! Must never reveal our ‘Pretty Little Liars‘ addiction!” – I suspect many critics who actually enjoyed the pilot (including yours truly) kept that opinion to themselves until just recently. Then a few bravely decided to come out of the shadows on Twitter and admit it might just be a show they’re looking forward to watching this season…and, well, here I am writing this review.

Not coincidentally, it seems that the late swell of praise only happened after the second episode was made available for review and proved itself to be just as delectable as the first.

“Revenge” is about as soapy as it sounds, and its setting, scandals and wardrobe might make viewers of a certain generation nostalgic for sweeping primetime soaps such as “Dynasty.” You know, another series many sensible viewers were once ashamed to admit to loving.

As nasty as the Colby and Carringtons could be to each other, it’s hard to recall whether there was a time when either clan was tangibly on the brink of utter financial and emotional ruin. Not so here.

“Revenge” opens with a Confucius quote: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge,  dig two graves”…followed by a murder occurring at a beautiful party, on a gorgeous night that should have been perfect for Emily. Obviously something went very wrong. Or did it?

With her innocent doll face and quiet demeanor, Van Camp is perfectly cast as the angelic girl hiding a knife in her skirt. But really, Stowe is the scene stealer, digging into her villain’s role with a regal relish. There’s a moment in the premiere, right before she destroys someone’s life, where she musters up a smile that could jump-start the next Ice Age. Yep, Stowe’s Victoria Grayson is going to be fun to watch.

Admittedly, “Revenge”  also happens to be imperfect. Both the pilot and second episodes are reliant on flashbacks that provide context for Emily’s vendetta of the week, but teeter towards being emotionally manipulative at times. There’s also a lot of cheesy romantic entanglement powering the plot, but remember what you’re signing up for here. You won’t mind much.

Let it be known: I liked “Revenge” from the first time I saw the pilot. When I watched a second time, I liked it even more.  So now that’s out there, you may be wondering why it isn’t among the Ten Shows to Watch in IMDb’s Fall TV Preview? Blame the guilt thing. (Besides, more people are curious about “American Horror Story,” which is not even half as enjoyable as “Revenge,” so after much contemplation that got the number 10 slot – a decision that I am now deeply regretting.)

Forgive us, or not. Either way, do yourself a favor and watch the premiere. For more information, check out our shorter take on “Revenge” in our Fall TV Preview, or watch a few clips here.


The numbers are in: Nearly 28 million viewers showed up for Ashton Kutcher‘s debut on “Two and a Half Men.”

That’s a record high for the series, and a proud moment for CBS, regardless of the fact that much of the ninth season premiere’s humor hung from an array of jokes about penis size, sexually transmitted diseases, and a couple of farts from the half-man (Angus T. Jones). Executive producer Chuck Lorre not only reveled in his vengeance by making Charlie Sheen‘s character Charlie Harper die a rather horrible death, but he also made sure the audience will never forget that the jingle writer’s jangles housed a wide array of viruses. A number of Charlie’s previous sex partners offered up Too Much Information at his funeral, letting us know that although he kicked a lot of women out of his bed, he also sent them home with gifts that keep on giving. Har har.

In other words, it was a typical Monday night with “Two and a Half Men.” (The blow-by-blow recap of the episode is available here.)

The premiere also answered the question of whether Kutcher can keep the series going: yes, he can.  Honestly, that’s not exactly a revelation.  “Men” was never a particularly challenging comedy, and Charlie Harper was not a complex character. Though one can (and many will) argue that Sheen’s chemistry with Jon Cryer was what made the show a hit in its earliest seasons, the fact of the matter is Cryer literally propped up Sheen during the final episodes of the eighth season. If Lorre’s the gas in this reliable economy vehicle, Cryer is proving to be the engine.

But it’s the body that sells a car, and thus, we have  Kutcher.  Can he act? Not really. But he didn’t have to. Kutcher wasn’t challenged to deliver much emoting beyond fake-crying into a bar patron’s cleavage, and he spent a good portion of his time in the Harper household getting buck naked.  Walden Schmidt managed to score a pity threesome while Alan Harper was left lonely and pathetic in his plaid flannel pajamas.  The Artist Formerly Known as Kelso is fitting right in, ladies and gentlemen.

So, will “Two and a Half Men” continue to be the force it was with the Warlock at the helm? Why not. More than 14 million viewers watched the final episode with Sheen in it. That means next week’s continuation of the premiere – in which we discover the circumstances that will allow Alan and Jake Harper to continue living with Walden Schmidt, thus explaining why this series will continue to make Lorre a very rich man – can lose half of the premiere’s numbers and still not be in danger of facing the firing squad.

Remember, if you watched (as this writer did), you are partially responsible for this show’s continued existence. (Feel free to pat yourself on the back or hang your head in shame at that realization. It’s really up to you, we won’t judge.)

Nevertheless, we remain proud of you America. At least you expended your TV viewing energy on this and went on to ignore NBC’s gawdawful “Playboy Club” at 10pm; it only attracted about 5 million viewers, putting it in the running to be the season’s first unlucky recipient of cancellation papers.

Meanwhile “The Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen,” which also premiered at 10pm ET/PT, raked in around 6.4 million viewers — making it the most-watched roast in the cable channel’s history. Comedian Jeff Ross, who participated in the event, watched its network debut as well as the premiere of “Men” with Sheen and wrote this interesting report on what that was like for The Hollywood Reporter.

 

Winners, losers, predictions and bets aside, one thing you can count on when it comes to the Emmys is disappointment. It’s simple math – losers always outnumber the winners.  Indeed, the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards telecast yielded a few worthy winners – some of them wonderfully surprising – and one that had us scratching our heads.  (That would be the Emmy for Barry Pepper, who was not there to accept his Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie statuette for his work in the lukewarmly-received miniseries “The Kennedys“.  Maybe he didn’t see that one coming, either.)

For every emotional peak one may have experienced with each award announcement, one also had to slog through dry gulches of flat skits and strange production choices.  Some of the Emmy voters’ ultimate choices were inspired, but the alleged entertainment served up between each envelope’s opening was often brutal to endure.

The Highs

The biggest winners were the usual suspects. “Mad Men” took home the Outstanding Drama Emmy for the fourth year in a row – its only win of the evening – and “Modern Family” reeled in its second Outstanding Comedy statuette. It was a good night for the ABC comedy, which won a total of five Emmys including awards for directing and writing, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress Emmys for onscreen husband and wife team Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen.

More shocking were the actors, actresses and shows most people believed were locked-in for the prize, but went home empty handed. Steve Carell was widely expected to finally walk away with the Lead Actor in a Comedy Emmy that had eluded him for so many seasons. His character Michael Scott was widely liked, and this represented his last shot at the prize for this work on “The Office“.  But the award went to “The Big Bang Theory’sJim Parsons for the second time in a row, giving CBS one of four Emmys the network’s shows would go on to win Sunday night.

Julianna Margulies handled her entirely expected Best Actress in a Drama win for “The Good Wife” with grace. But if Margulies had a wonderful evening,  Melissa McCarthy must have been over the moon at winning a Best Comedy Actress Emmy for her work in BridesmaidsMike & Molly.”  Anyone ticked off that McCarthy won instead of Amy Poehler should probably to consider this: at least this year, the award went to an actress who is actually funny. And who didn’t love it when all of the Comedy Actress nominees, led by Poehler, took the stage and held hands like pageant queens, taking the bit to its natural denouement by crowning McCarthy with a tiara?

McCarthy’s was one of several pleasantly surprising wins, including one for “Game of Thrones‘” amazing Peter Dinklage for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama and, much to the relief of everyone who cherishes great television, Margo Martindale’s Best Supporting Actress clinch for her tour-de-force performance during the second season of “Justified.” (Had she not won, we suspect Academy of Television Arts and Sciences voters would have received gift baskets from anonymous senders containing at least one bottle of Apple Pie.)

(more…)


Let it be known that IMDb’s editors are fans of the Emmys. Want us to prove it?

Check our homepage at 4 pm PT/7pm ET to enjoy the red carpet spectacle. Then, beginning at 5pm PT Sunday, the IMDb homepage becomes the headquarters for all things Emmy, including a constant stream of photos as they become available and real-time updates of the winners. You can also join us on Twitter for real-time updates at @IMDb, and for snarkified commentary at @IMDbTV. Updates will also be posted to our IMDb and IMDbTV Facebook pages.

Yes, folks, we adore a good awards show. We’re also fans of this year’s host Jane Lynch. Nevertheless, we’re a tad concerned about what’s going to happen on Sunday’s telecast.

Mind you, we have great faith in Lynch’s ability to play the awards show’s ringmaster. She’s quick on her feet, one of the wittiest women in the entertainment industry and, according to earlier statements, plans to leave Sue Sylvester‘s track suit in the closet. (Please let that be true.) Nope, we’re not that worried about Lynch.

We’re a little concerned about executive producer Mark Burnett‘s influence on Sunday’s telecast, though.

We realize that, generally speaking, the reality television producer has fairly decent taste in terms of what works and what doesn’t.  It will be hard to sink to the nadir of one of most memorable moments of Fox’s 2007 Emmys telecast, when the Jersey Boys cheerfully sang Frankie Valli’s “Just Too Good to Be True” while viewers at home watched archival footage of a terrified Adriana La Cerva crawling to her death. (The Jersey Boys number happened to be a tribute to “The Sopranos,” understand. Just not a good one.)

Then again, check out this picture. It was taken to tease a skit from Sunday’s telecast. And it confirms one of our worst fears: “Jersey Shore” will be in the building, on a night that’s supposed to honor the best of what television had to offer during the 2010-2011 season .

At least we know we’ll have plenty to talk about.

We’ll be covering, um, this…and everything else Emmy-related leading up to event in our Road to the Emmys section culminating in our live coverage of the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards telecast, airing live at 5pm PT/8pm ET Sunday on Fox.

As for what Snooki plus Lynch plus Burnett equals…honestly, we haven’t a clue. But take our advice, ladies and gentlemen — gird your loins.


Should Starz achieve its goal of becoming a premium cable destination on par with HBO and Showtime,  it will be “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” that will be credited for sending it on its way. The action series has been granted gravitas by a number of great performances – including that of its late star Andy Whitfield. To acknowledge Whitfield’s work, Starz announced on Friday that it will pay tribute to him on October 2, airing five back-to-back episodes including the season premiere and the finale. The mini-marathon starts at 9pm ET/PT.

Whitfield‘s career was just beginning to take off when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in March 2010. Although the Wales-born star had a few key movie and TV roles under his belt, it was his titular role  “Spartacus” that had him poised to break out as a major star.

Sadly, that was not to be. Whitfield passed away on September 11 in his home in Australia. He was 39 years old.

The actor’s passing shocked fans who had heard in the summer in 2010 that he was cancer-free and ready to return to acting. As late as September 2010, he had reportedly been prepping for the show’s second season (titled “Spartacus: Vengeance”) when it was announced that he was stepping away to resume treatment. The role of Spartacus then went to Liam McIntyre, who told reporters late this summer that Whitfield called to congratulate him and offer advice on the role.

Starz will repeat of the entire season of “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” on December 16, 2011  prior to the premiere of “Spartacus: Vengeance”  in January 2012.

 


Amid all the fuss over “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s” triumphant return tonight at 10pm on FX, we must not forget to mention that new episodes of “Archer” follow “Sunny”at 10:30.

Sure, “Archer” is only airing first-runs for three weeks, but are you going to complain about being served fresh half-hours of the funniest adult-themed animation on television?

Anyway, “Archer‘s” pairing with “Sunny” seems natural from the standpoint of maintaining ratings, but it also highlights what’s missing from FX’s schedule: more twisted animation.

Come January, that won’t be a problem. FX believes it has found a timeslot partner for Sterling Archer in “Unsupervised,” an animated series created by Rob Rosell, Scott Marder and David Hornsby, all writers and producers for “Sunny.”  It has an initial 13-episode order.

“Unsupervised,” according to FX’s press release, follows best friends Gary and Joel, a pair of teenagers unhindered (and unprotected?) by parental oversight. Justin Long, Kristen Bell, Romany Malco, Fred Armisen, Kaitlin Olson and Alexa Vega are all signed on to the voice cast, along with Rosell and Hornsby.*

Hornsby, by the way, is starring in what we hope will be the short-lived CBS series “How to Be a Gentleman.”

*FX issued a clarification late on Thursday: Although Armisen’s voice is in the pilot, he is not a member of the regular cast.


It was probably inevitable that Aaron Sorkin, one of the sharpest minds in the entertainment industry, would end up working under HBO’s roof.

The premium channel has picked up Sorkin’s yet-to-be-titled series about a cable news network team struggling to create solid journalism in spite of the corporate and commercial pressures influencing their work.  The pilot once known as “More As This Story Develops” stars Jeff Daniels as lead anchor Will McAllister and Emily Mortimer as his executive producer MacKenzie, with other staff played by Olivia Munn, Dev Patel, John Gallagher, Jr., Thomas Sadoski and Alison Pill. Their boss (and, one guesses, occasional nemesis) is played by Sam Waterston. The first season is expected to consist of a 10-episode order, according to trade reports.

Sorkin helming a drama about cable news is a very encouraging development, and not just due to the fertile storytelling possibilities the setting presents. True, it’s familiar territory for the “Sports Night” creator, and viewers familiar with Sorkin’s style know he’s at his best when he sticks to subjects befitting  his complex vision of politics and ethics, be they at work in the Oval Office (a la “The West Wing“), behind the scenes of an Internet giant (“The Social Network“) or in the entertainment industry.

Sorkin is a serious man who thinks a lot – a lot – about the high-wire acts involved in making entities work as well as the struggles to achieve greatness within those entities. When he really gets it, he has a knack for creating divine dialogue, and some of the best tete a tetes in television,  out of those situations.  When his social and political philosophies get the better of his vision, we’re left with “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” a behind-the-scenes drama about a sketch show that could be called  tepid at best.

But it’s not outrageous to have high hopes for this project. After all, if writers for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” can spin gold out of critiquing cable news coverage four nights a week over most of a calendar year, imagine what Sorkin can do with a few hours, a splendid cast, and none of broadcast television’s creative restrictions.