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<p>Jim Carrey</p>

Jim Carrey

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Jim Carrey and The Black Keys

The 'In Living Color' sketch veteran kicks off 2011 for 'SNL'

It’s a new year for everyone, including “Saturday Night Live.” But with Jim Carrey as its first host, perhaps that new year is 1997 for the show. Do two pop culture institutions both accused of having their best years behind them equal success for tonight’s episode? Quite possibly. “SNL” is never quite as dead as people like to proclaim, and Carrey’s recent work in “I Love You Philip Morris” received critical accolades if not box office gold. Throw in musical guests The Black Keys, and you have the makings of what could be a strong first episode of 2011.

(Can you tell one of my New Year’s Resolutions was “Treat ‘SNL’ kinder than I did last Fall?” I’m trying, everyone. I’m trying.)

Onto the show, starting here on the East Coast late after Nick Folk right foot just turned into Rex Ryan’s second favorite one on the planet…

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<p>Matt LeBlanc of 'Episodes'</p>

Matt LeBlanc of 'Episodes'

Credit: Showtime

TV Review: Showtime's 'Episodes'

Matt LeBlanc stands out in an otherwise flaccid Hollywood satire
When NBC premiered "Outsourced," a lot of people called the sitcom racist. I shied away from that. Saying "racist" implies ignorance or hostile intent and I don't really think the writers and producers on "Outsourced" are racist. Instead, "Outsourced" is lazy. Yes, sitcom laziness can fuel racism or be a product of racism (or several other -isms), but sometimes it's just what comes from writers and directors aiming for the easiest available punchlines, settling for broad and predictable over insightful and nuanced. 
 
It may sound harsh, but I can't get past my conviction that David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik's approach to Hollywood in the new Showtime comedy "Episodes" is every bit as lazy and complacent as the approach of the "Outsourced" team towards India. There are two clear distinctions I'd make that would make that possibly make "Episodes" even worse than "Outsourced": The first is that if you're lazy and superficial about a foreign culture, you'll get accused of racism and xenophobia, which makes it a dangerous pursuit, while nobody will ever do anything other than pat you on the back for making banal, surface judgements about Hollywood. The second is that the people behind "Outsourced" are not, for the most part, Indian, so their reliance on stereotyping is somewhat a product of not knowing any better, while Crane and Klarik are both industry veterans with decades of experience, meaning that it's fair to expect more from them. [On the flip side, there's no danger to viewers being ignorant about Hollywood, while India is the world's second most populous nation, so it really would be nice if people thought the country had more to offer than social awkward workers and diarrhea-producing food.]
 
"Outsourced" had a place on my Worst of 2010 list and I have little doubt that "Episodes" will hold a position on my 2011 list, although I'm similarly confident that it will have passionate defenders. After all, it's easy to cheer on the audacity of Hollywood heavyweights biting the hands that feed them, even if they're just regurgitating the same bloated satire that literally dozens of films and TV shows before them have already produced. If you love popular entertainment, but hate the system that produces it and don't want to waste time thinking about why you hate that system, "Episodes" is a show for you.
 
More after the break...
 
"Episodes" stars Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan as Beverly and Sean, a British couple behind the most popular and acclaimed comedy series Across the Pond. Their show is smart, funny and largely hypothetical, since series co-creators Crane & Klarik aren't confident enough to over-share their version of what a "good"  BBC comedy would sound like.
 
Like many before them, Bev and Sean get offered a deal from the Devil, in this case a buffoonish TV network head played by John Pankow. He wants them to bring their show to his network and he's such a fan that he promises them he doesn't want to change a thing. With very little hesitation, Bev and Sean are off to Hollywood, full of wide-eyed enthusiasm that suggests that even though they work in entertainment at the highest level, they have never seen "The Player," "Entourage," "Adaptation," "Wag the Dog," "The TV Set," "Bofinger," a dozen Woody Allen films, several Albert Brooks films, "The Big Picture," "The Comeback," "Sunset Boulevard," "Living in Oblivion," "Grosse Pointe," "Californication," "Network," "30 Rock," "Action," "8 1/2," "Get Shorty," "The Starter Wife," "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,"  "Joey" or any one of literally hundreds of TV and movie projects that show how Hollywood is a place where naive creative dreams are smashed by a machinery driven by blustery producers and twisty process that favors financial considerations over artistic goals.
 
Now some (many) of those TV shows and movies were commercial disappointments, or even disasters. And some of those TV shows and movies were pretty awful. But all of them exist. My imagination may be limited, but I can't accept a semi-fictional universe in which Matt LeBlanc is still a recently unemployed actor best known for "Friends," but nobody in history has ever made Hollywood satire.
 
But Bev and Sean arrive in Los Angeles and they're amazed by all the sunshine, shocked by the affluence of their network-provided digs and then they're even more shocked to discover a string of previously unfathomable things about Hollywood: Sometimes network executives are assholes who lie to your face! Sometimes networks ask you to change things for reasons that might not actually improve things! Sometimes actresses lie about their age and undergo plastic surgery to appear younger! Also? Matt LeBlanc has a gigantic penis. Would they be as shocked to learn that Matt LeBlanc had larger-than-normal endowment? Doubtful. But the revelation that Matt LeBlanc is packing a 10-foot Burmese python in his pants leaves Bev and Sean with almost nothing else to discuss for a full episode.
 
Oh, did I forget to mention that when Bev and Sean are shocked to learn that networks sometimes tinker with good ideas, the biggest piece of tinkering is bringing in Matt LeBlanc to play the character played by an overweight British man (Richard Griffiths, who isn't famous enough to be playing Richard Griffiths) in the original series. There are many more compromises that have to be made and they're exactly the same compromises you'd expect might be made.
 
A fun game: Once you realize the level of satire at work, see how early you can guess the ending of the first season. My notes say I was there at the fourth episode, but I suspect I was a bit slow to the punch.
 
A problem: Crane & Klarik keep having our main characters insisting that their version of the series was better, but nothing they're capable of putting on-screen *shows* that their version of the show was better. The scenes we see from the rejiggered pilot aren't very good, but it's almost impossible to tell them apart from the one or two scenes we get from the unadulterated original. Because we're only being told that things are getting worse, without any real evidence, there's no point at which we feel either sympathy or empathy for Bev and Sean. Viewers need to have a rooting interest and the natural instinct is to have us root for the crusading artists trying to protect their visions. But Bev and Sean aren't written smarter than anybody else, nor is their vision written as a notable vision. Is that a joke that Crane & Klarik are intentionally playing? Are they tweaking audience expectations that things with British accents are inherently more literate and urbane and the joke is that it turns out that Bev and Sean aren't all that good at what they do? I don't believe it is. That would be perceptive and cheeky. It's not what they do.
 
A second problem: Crane & Klarik spent many years watching the sausage get made in Hollywood, but they have no desire at all to give a truthful depiction. "Episodes" isn't all that "Inside Hollywood" at all. It's not a system or an industry that's trying to ruin Sean and Bev's script. It's one stupid TV executive, written without any humanity. Crane & Klarik show almost nothing about the pilot process other than that people in Hollywood lie and people in Hollywood have bad taste. That's a bore. Jake Kasdan's script for "The TV Set" is also far too self-satisfied, but in 90 minutes, it does a better job of showing the way an artist compromises a vision than seven episodes of "Episodes." Crane & Klarik don't try to depict the tiers of the industry otherwise of generalities, as if they're trying to say, "No really, Hollywood. We love you, it's just that one guy we hate." That's toothless satire.
 
A third problem that's really a subset of the second: Part of why "The Player" is such a terrific movie is that even though Michael Tolkin's novel and script are overflowing with bile, he's aware that despite the bumbling and tunnel-vision, Hollywood is still a place where great movies and great TV shows are capable of being made. You need that contrast or else you're not making a point, even if your point is "Here is how good things get made despite the system." In "Episodes," Hollywood is a joke and it's inconceivable that anything good could ever get made in this environment. Hollywood is just a villain twirling his mustache and crushing British people.
 
Those are thematic, universe-creating problems. They're far from the biggest issues plaguing the show.
 
Crane & Klarik have been working in multi-camera comedy for many years. That's what their rhythms are. For at least four episodes, the actors are practically screaming every punchline and then waiting for laughter, despite "Episodes" being a single-camera comedy (and none of the punchlines being funny). The complete ineptitude with the single-camera tone makes me wonder what involvement producer Jimmy Mulville and director James Griffiths -- both veterans of British, single-camera comedies -- actually had in the process. I've been told repeatedly that if I knew Greig and Mangan from their British comedies, I'd love them. Instead, I now know them from their "Episodes" work, where they've been asked to mug relentlessly in every scene. There isn't a natural, relaxed moment between them. Whatever their comedic strengths are, Crane & Klarik have written around them. 
 
It's like there's an unspoken conviction that we'll root for Bev and Sean, because Pankow's network head has been written with even less shading. He's loud, he's shrill and nobody bothers trying give any suggestion how a man like this could hold his current occupation, much less how he could have reached such heights. In a show of one-note characters, I found myself appreciating the two notes played by both Mircea Monroe and Kathleen Rose Perkins.
 
The show's only nearly-developed character is Matt LeBlanc and even that's an illusion. As written on "Episodes," the character of "Matt LeBlanc" isn't especially complicated or rich, but he's designed to play off of our perceptions of "Real Matt LeBlanc TV Star." That means Crane & Klarik don't have to write a multi-dimensional character, just one who's counter-intuitive. Every punchline or dramatic moment from Matt LeBlanc's character  comes from a "Wouldn't it be funny if 'Friends' star Matt LeBlanc was like *this*?" If you didn't know "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc as a celebrity construct, there wouldn't be anything memorable about the "Episodes" character of Matt LeBlanc. And yes, it's ridiculous to imagine anybody watching "Episodes" who didn't know Matt LeBlanc, but no more ridiculous than Bev & Sean's Hollywood naivete.
 
And yet? LeBlanc is effective on "Episodes." Almost nothing else is. Especially in the last two or three episodes, where Crane & Klarik finally seem to realize a studio audience won't help them get laughs, LeBlanc forces you to care about him, if only to feel sorry that an actor with his gifts reached such a fallow career period that he'd be eligible for this kind of lampooning. 
 
"Episodes" is supposed to be a portrait of what happens when the creative vision of two apparently brilliant people gets diluted by the soulless, idiotic machinery of Hollywood. But every episode of "Episodes" is credited to Crane & Klarik, leading me to exactly the opposite conclusion: Maybe sometimes two apparently brilliant people need a few more checks and balances, because if this is what happens when they're given total control, I'm woefully unamused.
 
For years, Showtime has been challenging viewers with half-hour dramedies that don't give clear indications on when viewers are supposed to laugh and when they're supposed to feel emotions. Those shows, while successful with critics, may have hit a certain ratings ceiling. Maybe with its lazy familiarity and comforting emotional vacuousness, "Episodes" will help shatter that ceiling.
 
"Episodes" premieres on Sunday (Jan. 9) night on Showtime.
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<p>Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield in &quot;The Social Network.&quot;</p>

Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield in "The Social Network."

Credit: Sony Pictures

National Society of Film Critics pick 'Social Network' for best picture

Jesse Eisenberg wins best actor and David Fincher director

Showing little appetite to deviate from their fellow critic's groups, The National Society of Critics announced their year end awards in New York today and "The Social Network" was the big winner.  David Fincher's drama won best picture, best director and best actor for Jesse Eisenberg.

In something of a surprise, "Vincere" star Giovanna Mezzogiorno won best actress.  Geoffrey Rush won best supporting actor for "The King's Speech" and Olivia Williams best supporting actress for "The Ghost Writer."

THe NSFC is made up of approximately 60 critics from across the country including well known names such as Roger Ebert, the LA Times' Kenneth Turan, Time's Richard Corliss, EW's Lisa Schwarzbaum, Newsweek's David Ansen and the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern.  The entire membership is listed here.

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<p>Holts McCallany in &quot;Lights Out.&quot;</p>

Holts McCallany in "Lights Out."

Credit: Frank Ockenfels/FX

Review: FX's 'Lights Out' offers compelling boxing drama

Revelatory performance by Holt McCallany as struggling ex-champ

We start "Lights Out," FX's terrific new boxing drama (which debuts Tuesday at 10 p.m.), in the dressing room after Patrick "Lights" Leary has just been dethroned as heavyweight champion of the world. He is unconscious and looks like his face just collided with a freight train that was covered in barbed wire, sandpaper and bits of broken glass.

His physician's assistant wife Theresa comes in and begins sewing up the hideous cut over his eye, and as Lights starts talking about how the rematch, she lays down the ultimatum:

"Please, Patrick, I love you too much to watch you die. Either you stop, or we stop."

So Patrick stops. For five years, he plays dutiful househusband. He puts Theresa through med school, makes breakfast and drives their three daughters to school, sets up his father in his own boxing gym, puts his brother in charge of managing his fortune, and tries to enjoy a life where he's not getting his brains beaten in.

But the ring has a gravitational pull on him, especially as his retired life falls apart. The economic crash wipes out most of his fortune. His brother's in a variety of jams. The gym is a sinkhole without a champion-level fighter operating out of it. The boxer who dethroned him keeps calling him out in public for a rematch.

And then there's this: though it's not polite to say in most company, Lights Leary enjoys hitting people.

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<p>Peter Dinklage of 'Game of Thrones'</p>

Peter Dinklage of 'Game of Thrones'

Credit: HBO

Press Tour: First impressions on 15 minutes of 'Game of Thrones' footage

The Fien Print details what HBO showed critics
George R. R. Martin hasn't seen the premiere for "Game of Thrones," HBO's adaptation of his "A Song of Ice and Fire" literary fantasy series, so I can't be too disappointed that the premium cable network presented the project to critics on Friday (January 7) without showing us the pilot.
 
In lieu of screening the pilot, which will premiere on April 17, HBO presented a 15-minute clip package -- Part sizzle reel, part extended trailer, part proof-of-concept, part proof-of-execution.
 
I saw the clips on Friday before small roundtable interviews with Martin and with series developers David Benioff and Dan Weiss and before watching the different (shorter) trailer that preceded the "Game of Thrones" formal TCA panel.
 
The idea of reviewing a 15-minute clip package is silly. The idea of generating any sort of concrete initial impressions is probably futile. But the idea of typing up the notes I took while watching the clips, notes that give my under-formed first impressions, is probably acceptable.
 
Click through for those impressions (*clearly* not a review)...
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<p>Lena Headey in &quot;Game of Thrones.&quot;</p>

Lena Headey in "Game of Thrones."

Credit: HBO

Press Tour: 'Game of Thrones' ready for its HBO closeup

Producers and George R.R. Martin feel confident they got it right

"Fantasy and science fiction fans are very intense," said George R.R. Martin early in the press tour session for "Game of Thrones," the adaptation of his popular "A Song of Ice and Fire" series of fantasy novels. "I think part of it is the fact that there is relatively little of it out there. Television is full of lawyer shows and medical shows and situation comedies. Fantasy is something that has largely been restircted to books for a long time. The readers of those books, who have their favorite series, are really hungry to see some good fantasy brought to television."

David Benioff, one of the two writers in charge of bringing "Game of Thrones" to the screen, suggested Martin was selling himself short: "It's not just the genre, but it's George's books that are being brought to television."

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<p>'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work'</p>

'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work'

Press Tour: Joan Rivers is displeased with 'Piece of Work' Oscar snub

Rivers also poked fun at Oprah Winfrey

While an inferiority complex is a key part of Joan Rivers' comedy schtick, the legendary funny-woman has an Daytime Emmy for her syndicated talk show  and hasn't exactly been in position to scoop up piles of other awards.

 
This, however, seemed like a year Rivers might get an invitation to the Oscars.
 
Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg's "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" was an adored prizewinner at Sundance and made $2.93 million at the domestic box office, a solid figure for a documentary. Most pundits expected "A Piece of Work" to at least be in the Oscar conversation, not that a nomination would have included Rivers, who was just the subject of the film.
 
Instead, "A Piece of Work" failed to even make the 15-film short-list.
 
Chatting with TV critics on Friday (Jan. 7) morning, Rivers was distracted from her WEtv series "Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?" to talk about the Oscar snub and left little doubt about her feelings.
 
[Click through...]
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<p>Trent Reznor, seen here with Atticus Ross, his collaborator for the 'Social Network' soundtrack, will also compose the score for David Fincher's 'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'</p>

Trent Reznor, seen here with Atticus Ross, his collaborator for the 'Social Network' soundtrack, will also compose the score for David Fincher's 'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'

Credit: Trent Reznor

Trent Reznor set to score Fincher's 'Dragon Tattoo'

Can you imagine what the Lisbeth Salander theme will sound like?

This is one of those stories where no one's going to act terribly surprised by the news, but it's nice to get it confirmed and official.

Trent Reznor will be scoring David Fincher's next film, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo."

That's one of those sentences that just plain makes sense.  I was surprised when they hired him for "The Social Network," but his score for that film is great, and a real confirmation of Reznor as someone who should be working on films.  If he knocked an unlikely fit like the story of a bunch of Harvard kids inventing Facebook out of the park, imagine what he's going to do with a story about criminal conspiracy and missing persons and old mysteries and murder and blackmail and rape and darkness.  Trent Reznor composing the Lisbeth Salander theme is one of the reasons to look forward to a movie theater this year.  I look at Lisbeth, and I imagine that she's always hearing something in her head that sounds like a Trent Reznor album anyway.  It's perfect.

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<p>Eve Myles will be back for &quot;Torchwood:&nbsp;Miracle Day.&quot;</p>

Eve Myles will be back for "Torchwood: Miracle Day."

Credit: BBC

Press Tour: 'Torchwood' on Starz gets a subtitle, a premise and some co-stars

On 'Miracle Day,' death takes a holiday

"Torchwood" has a new network, a new country and new castmembers, and on Friday at press tour, we learned that the new Starz version of the show has a different subtitle.

When Starz acquired the "Doctor Who" spin-off from the BBC, the new season (which is set to begin filming next week) was tentatively titled "Torchwood: The New World," but creator Russell T. Davies explained that that was always a working title. The actual title will be "Torchwood: Miracle Day."

After the jump, some explanation from Davies on what that title means, the plot of the new season, the roles for Mekhi Phifer and Bill Pullman, and other semi-spoilery things...

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<p>Andrew Garfield, Jesse Eisenberg and Armie Hammer at the &quot;Social Network&quot;&nbsp;DVD and Blu-ray launch event.</p>

Andrew Garfield, Jesse Eisenberg and Armie Hammer at the "Social Network" DVD and Blu-ray launch event.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake celebrate 'Social Network' once more

Just in time for the DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday

This all might be a bit much for Jesse Eisenberg.

"The Social Network" star has never been one to enjoy too much of the spotlight and the requirements of a non-stop awards campaign can be somewhat overwhelming the first go around.  Last night, Eisenberg joined his director, David Fincher, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, producer Scott Rudin (making a rare L.A. appearance) and co-stars Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Armie Hammer to celebrate the early awards and box office success of "Network," schmooze media (including a lot of awards press) and help promote the film's DVD and Blu-ray releasing Tuesday. 

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<p>Snoop Dogg</p>

Snoop Dogg

Watch: Snoop Dogg's NSFW video 'Wet' for Prince William's bachelor party

We bet the Royals are not amused

Just in case Enrique Iglesias’s video for “I’m Fucking You Tonight” wasn’t enough to get you going, here’s another NSFW clip featuring lots of scantily -clad ladies who just can’t get enough of a rock star. In this case, it’s Snoop Dogg who’s getting all the sexed-up loving in his clip for “Wet.” As you know, Snoop, being the big Royal lover that he is, has offered his services to Prince William in planning the king-to-be’s bachelor party prior to his marriage to Kate Middleton. He’s a giver, that Snoop.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>A still from &quot;Fight for Your Right Revisited&quot;</p>

A still from "Fight for Your Right Revisited"

UPDATED: Is Beastie Boy Adam 'MCA' Yauch bouncing back at Sundance?

'Fight for Your Right Revisited' will feature a visit from the cancer-battling MC

Every year, a new crop of films and events focused on music make its way to Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. 2011 may shine a light (as it were) on some newsworthy appearances from Lou Reed, a new song from The National and, excitingly, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch.

MCA was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and news has trickled out in bits and bobs since. However, as previously reported, Yauch may be bouncing back: with the news that the Beastie Boys will be dropping "Hot Sauce Committee Part 2" this year, they included a note from Yauch, emphasizing his involvement.

Then, It was confirmed that his short film "Fight For Your Right Revisited" would make its way to Sundance this year. And, according to a Sundance spokesperson, he will be attending its premiere and conducting a Q&A at the end of the shorts program. No doubt, he'll be fielding questions about his health, and the plans of the group going forward in 2011.

[More after the jump...]

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