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Just a note to new readers (and old ones, in case you haven't jumped on board), you can follow me at Twitter at @kristapley and Guy can be found at @guylodge. We try to keep the masses entertained there. Operative word: try.

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<p>That look on Elijah Wood's face sort of says it all as Dominic Monaghan celebrates his victory at The Fantastic&nbsp;Debates 2011.</p>

That look on Elijah Wood's face sort of says it all as Dominic Monaghan celebrates his victory at The Fantastic Debates 2011.

Credit: HitFix/Drew McWeeny

Fantastic Debates with Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan, NASA, and the death of Tim League?

Have you ever wanted to watch an astronomer beat a stupid person stupider?

What are the Fantastic Debates?

Last year, I attended the Debates but didn't write them up.  It was just a fun evening out at the end of a long string of movies I saw and reviewed.  In the year since then, though, every time I've told someone about the Debates and the fight between Michelle Rodriguez and Tim League, they've been captivated.  They are fascinated that this event exists.  They want to know more.

And so this year, I'm dedicated to bringing you the same sort of breathless blow-by-blow account of the Debates that I could have expected to read in the papers the morning after an Ali-Frazier match-up as a kid.

Because these are not just about entertainment.  Oh, no.  No, these are battles over the most important ideas in our current cultural conversation.  These are life and death struggles, fought verbally first and physically second.  There is no more significant event during the week of Fantastic Fest.

And this year, we were ringside for every single punch that was thrown.

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<p>Al Jean</p>
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Al Jean

Watch: Al Jean talks Season 23 of 'The Simpsons'

Nedna and 500th episode talk with the 'Simpsons' vet

 Sunday (September 25) marks the premiere of Season 23 of "The Simpsons."

 
Ponder that number for a bit.
 
During this season, "The Simpsons" will air its 500th episode.
 
Ponder that number as well.
 
One man who's been there for an astoundingly large percentage of that run is longtime writer-producer-showrunner Al Jean.
 
In our conversation, Jean teases some of this season's guests and storylines, reflects on the show's longevity, speculates on the show's future and ponders audience reaction to last finale's Nedna pairing.
 
Check it out...
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<p>&nbsp;Michael Stipe</p>
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 Michael Stipe

Credit: AP

Music Power Rankings: R.E.M. says goodbye, Lady A says hello

Tony Bennett puts the younguns to shame

1) R.E.M.: Sometimes magnificent, often inscrutable, but always interesting, the durable Athens, Ga. purveyors of jangle pop call it quits after 31 years.  It’s not the end of the world as we know it, it just feels that way.

2) Lady Antebellum:
Country trio lands its second No. 1 album as “Own The Night” opens with sales of close to 350,000 copies. They own the charts too.

3) Universal Music Group and Live Nation: The two powerhouses partner up to blend their artist management companies, but the pact hardly ends there.  The deal has potential for an amazing array of synergies (or conflicts of interest, depending upon whom you ask). How much larger does Live Nation Entertainment have to get before it is officially too big to fail?

4) Tony Bennett:
This week Bennett became the oldest living artist  to chart on the Hot 100. The 85-year old may very well land the first No. 1 album of his career  and may very well possibly land the first No. 1 album of his career with “Duets ll.” Hey, he may have a future in this business we call show.

[More after the jump...]

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"The Lion King 3D" was king of the jungle once again.
"The Lion King 3D" was king of the jungle once again.
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Box Office: Disney's 'Lion King' roars (okay, squeaks) by Brad Pitt and 'Moneyball'

Other debuts include 'Dolphin Tale,' 'Abduction' and 'Killer Elite'

In Friday's Oscar Talk podcast I told Anne I thought "Moneyball" would struggle to beat out "The Lion King 3D" at the box office this weekend. I thought it would pull it out, but I just expected it to be a struggle. Well, turns out it was a struggle indeed, as Disney's re-release took the top spot ($22.1 million) for a second weekend in a row, inching past Bennett Miller's debuting Oscar hopeful ($20.6 million) in the process.

"Moneyball" was tops on Friday, but kid-friendly movies tend to get a big bump on Saturdays, so that's what happened for "The Lion King 3D." It'll be interesting to see if Brad Pitt -- who always does well overseas -- can make baseball play in foreign markets.

Also opening this weekend were "Dolphin Tale" ($20.2 million) and "Abduction." ($11.2 million) The former actually almost dropped "Moneyball" to third place. I haven't seen either (and likely won't), so, I won't comment.

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<p>Alec Baldwin and Radiohead of &quot;Saturday Night Live,&quot; along with castmember Fred Armisen.</p>
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Alec Baldwin and Radiohead of "Saturday Night Live," along with castmember Fred Armisen.

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Alec Baldwin and Radiohead

A favorite host (and some guests) help 'SNL' launch its 37th season

“Saturday Night Live” is back, ladies and gentleman. And so am I, for my second year of “SNL” coverage here at HitFix. On tap for tonight’s premiere: one of the show’s favorite hosts and one of my favorite bands: Alec Baldwin and Radiohead, together at last. It is Baldwin’s 16th time hosting, which breaks Steve Martin’s all-time record. Look for Martin to show up in tonight’s broadcast, and look for a slew of “SNL” alums and big-named stars to drop by as well. No new faces in the cast this year, and no one was fired. Meet the new cast. Same as the old cast. This year, maybe they’ll remember Jay Pharaoh is actually IN said cast.

Let’s keep that continuity going here on Monkeys as Critics as well. I’ll assign relatively arbitrary grades to each sketch, you will get arbitrarily mad at those grades, and then we do it all again next week. Sound good? Good. Onto the 37th season of “SNL”!

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<p>Craig Owens (James Corden) and The Doctor (Matt Smith) in &quot;Doctor Who.&quot;</p>

Craig Owens (James Corden) and The Doctor (Matt Smith) in "Doctor Who."

Credit: BBC

'Doctor Who' - 'Closing Time': Partners in parenting

The Doctor spends his final day with ex-roommate Craig

A quick review of tonight's "Doctor Who" coming up just as soon as I excrete a gas that makes people love me...

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<p>Michael Pitt of &quot;Boardwalk Empire&quot;</p>
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Michael Pitt of "Boardwalk Empire"

Credit: HBO

TV Review: HBO's 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 2

There's a lot happening as HBO's Prohibition Drama returns on Sunday
When I initially reviewed HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" last year, I was extremely enthusiastic. But I also included a somewhat strange caveat, writing, "I'll admit that a small part of me wonders if "Boardwalk Empire" is, in fact, too easy to embrace, too easy to be impressed by."
 
My odd compliment/complaint was that while "Boardwalk Empire" arrived fully formed -- thanks in large part to Martin Scorsese's Emmy-winning work on the pilot -- it was a show that wore its greatness (or at least its very-goodness) on the surface. Viewers with a little background in "The Sopranos" and "The Untouchables" and a few other clear predecessors could sit right down, enjoy the show tremendously and not worry about dwelling on or digesting "Boardwalk Empire," in a way that HBO classics like "The Wire" or "Deadwood" sometimes required. 
 
Sepinwall and some other fans have argued that the show found itself and made The Leap (as we like to say) in later episodes after starting off slow, but I personally found it instantly accessible and thought the first season was, qualitatively, a very flat line. That's not an insult, but I guess it could be an insult.
 
My desire for a slightly more rigorous, arduous "Boardwalk Empire" will be put to the test by the second season, which premieres on Sunday, September 25. 
 
I tore through the six episodes sent out by HBO in a single Saturday afternoon, which is unquestionably a good time. But as much as I loved individual scenes and continued to respect from the performances from the leads to the tiniest supporting players, this run of "Boardwalk Empire" left me holding back a little. It's perfectly common for a series to return by aligning the chess pieces for the season to come, sometimes over the course of a couple or a few episodes, but "Boardwalk Empire" is in the process of such a complicated piece of alignment that it remains a work-in-progress even through six episodes. Based on my respect for the "Boardwalk Empire" team, I have every confidence that this is part of a carefully designed season arc and that once things start to pay off, they'll pay off all over the place, but were this a show I happened to be less enamored with, the tiniest bit of concern might be setting in.
 
More after the break...
 
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The Aero Theatre in Santa Monica
The Aero Theatre in Santa Monica

Cinejabber: 'Batman' back-to-back

Open thread. The floor is yours.

Well, that's one week in the books here at HitFix. I wanted to take a second to thank everyone for coming along with us on this huge change and for sticking with us through the growing pains. It's been a crazy week for all of this, with Guy on leave for much of it, a screening every day (including two on Friday plus an interview), four hours of sleep a night, etc. But I think we're roaring loud and strong here at the new digs.

And with that, I'm taking the rest of the day off! But I thought I'd get the weekend Cinejabber posts going first. This Saturday feature -- for the uninitiated -- is simply a chance for you to discuss whatever is on your mind that hasn't really had a place elsewhere. Caught a movie that was released some time back and want to comment? Let us know here. Playing some awesome video game and you're dying to share? Let us know -- well, maybe don't let us know. The last thing I need is an excuse to go buy something else to eat up my time! Basically, it's an open thread and the floor is yours.

Usually I try to get things moving by offering up something that's on my mind as of late. Today, that would be last night's American Cinemateque double feature screening of Tim Burton's "Batman" and "Batman Returns" at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.

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<p>Kurt Cobain</p>

Kurt Cobain

Nirvana's 'Nevermind' 20th anniversary, R.E.M.'s demise and rock era mourning

The capitalization of death-iversaries

Nirvana thrived in contradiction: quiet and loud, passion and disassociation, melody and dissonance, clarity and obliqueness, pop-unfriendly and radio-baiting. Like their breakthrough single “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the grunge pioneers headed a revolution and simultaneously made a cruel farce of it. 

The re-release of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” features that same clashing nature. Today (Sept. 24) is the exact day 20 years ago that the album dropped; on Tuesday, “Nevermind” can be found in multiple re-released formats, like on a single, or 2- or 4-disc set, or vinyl; there’s video on the DVD of the Paramount show from 1991, a digital version; newly unearthed demos, old alternative takes, live takes, remixes. It smacks of exhaustive capitalization from the get-go, but a celebratory injection of nostalgia and remembrance doesn’t serve to merely restock the raided coffers of Geffen records.
 
As acclaimed rock writer Simon Reynolds wrote for Slate on the recent Nirvana revisitation, it “feels rote, the predictable upshot of the way that commemorative cycles have become a structural, in-built component of the media and entertainment industry. This revival is largely top-down, not grass-roots.” There’s something particularly inauthentic about capitalizing on a band lauded for its authenticity, and on its face never registered as a capital-generating band.
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<p>&nbsp;Reagan Gomez and Kevin Michael Richardson of &quot;The Cleveland Show&quot;</p>
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 Reagan Gomez and Kevin Michael Richardson of "The Cleveland Show"

Watch: Kevin Michael Richardson and Reagan Gomez talk 'The Cleveland Show'

Plus, a special guest appearance by... Larry King?
Larry King is a legend. And who wouldn't want a private sit-down interview with a legend? 
 
I didn't expect, though, that my opportunity to chat up Larry King would occur when I was expecting to be talking to "The Cleveland Show" stars Kevin Michael Richardson and Reagan Gomez.
 
Richardson, one of the contemporary titans of voice-over work (and a fine live-action actor as well), was in fine form when we met last week for a conversation that included tidbits on this season of "The Cleveland Show" as well as his apparent audition for one of the wackiest body-swapping comedies yet-to-be-created.
 
Check out the interview and remember that "The Cleveland Show" premieres on Sunday (September 25) night.
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Christina Ricci and Margot Robbie in "Pan Am."
Christina Ricci and Margot Robbie in "Pan Am."
Credit: ABC

Review: ABC's 'Pan Am' has a promising maiden flight

By far the better of this season's two new dramas set in the 'Mad Men' era

Every TV season brings with it a pair of somehow unrelated twins: shows developed at different networks, by different people, that are remarkably similar in subject matter and/or style, no matter how weirdly specific those things get. One year, the twins may be hospital dramas set in Chicago; another, it may be middle-aged men traveling back in time to relive their adolescence. Don't ask how/why this happens. It just does, always and always and always, and this year's unlikely twins are a pair of dramas set in the "Mad Men" era about women who have jobs that seemed glamorous at the time, that have seemed more demeaning through a modern lens, but are now the subject of shows that argue for them being liberating.

The first of those was NBC's "The Playboy Club," which debuted Monday night, was both terrible and terribly unconvincing in its feminist arguments, and which bombed royally. (Not that anyone should be shocked; the ratings "Mad Men" gets on AMC would get it canceled in a heartbeat by a network.) The second is ABC's "Pan Am," which debuts Sunday night at 10. It may not do any better commercially than "Playboy," but it's both a much better show and makes a much better case for women's lib.

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