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How 'Homeland' got good again
Credit: Showtime

How 'Homeland' got good again

HBO 'bombshell' documentary to tackle Scientology

How “Homeland” got good again
"Homeland" is back to being good, not great, this season, says James Poniewozik. "It’s easy to get excited when a show makes a turnaround like this, but I wouldn’t call "Homeland" great," he says. "Instead, it’s simply tried to be good, and that’s been the show’s smartest choice of all." "Homeland" became good again, he says, by focusing on its best relationship (Carrie and Saul), making Carrie competent again, picking interesting enemies and making this season about ideas.

HBO "bombshell" documentary to tackle Scientology
Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning director behind "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and “Taxi to the Dark Side,” will explore the connection between the controversial religion and its relationship to Hollywood. It’s based on the book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & The Prison of Belief” by Lawrence Wright.

“The Mistress” is coming to Discovery Life Channel
Gordon Ramsay’s self-proclaimed former mistress, Sarah J. Symonds, will host this half-hour mistress intervention series, with each half-hour episode focusing on one mistress.

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American Music Awards down from last year
About 11.6 million watched last night’s awards show.

“SNL’s” Schoolhouse Rock parody was totally wrong about how gov’t works
The opening sketch sacrificed accuracy for comedy.

CNN taps Bill Weir to host “The Wonder List”
The environmental docuseries will examine “people, places and creatures that could be lost to future generations.”

NBC developing a comedy titled “#Winning”
The #Winning hashtag comedy has nothing to do with Charlie Sheen — it’s a comedy about friends.

Does TV have too many "Schmidts”?
Ashton Kutcher is a Schmidt on “Two and a Half Men,” Max Greenfield is a  Schmidt on “New Girl” and coming soon to Netflix is “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

Comedy Central developing “TripTank” spinoff "Jeff & Some Aliens"
The animated short about three extraterrestrials examining the world’s most average guy is poised to get its own series.

DirecTV unveils “Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe”
Rob Lowe is starring in yet another DirecTV ad.

What is it about “Gotham’s” Ben McKenzie that has made him so successful on TV?
The NY Times profiles McKenzie, now the star of his 3rd successful TV series, and notes: "There is a throwback quality to Mr. McKenzie, in both his polite manner and square-jaw looks, and it meshes with his roles so far. Antiheroes like Walter White and Don Draper may be all the rage on TV these days, but Mr. McKenzie’s characters, despite their imperfections, have been classic Hollywood-style idealists.” PLUS: Introducing “Gotham’s” Copperhead.

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<p>Ian McKellen in the third &quot;Hobbit&quot; film</p>

Ian McKellen in the third "Hobbit" film

Credit: Warner Bros.

Ian McKellen spends his last day as Gandalf on the 'Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies' set

Oscar nominee reflects on his journey to Tolkien/'X Men' franchise star

WELLINGTON, NZ. Perhaps it's the blustery winterish weather outside and the relative warmth and stillness inside the vast, canvas-covered tent/structure that give Sir Ian McKellen comfort.

Maybe it's the lure of craft services dessert that give him cause to stay.

Or maybe the venerable thespian is just in an introspective mood.

Whatever the cause, as wind howls outside and various members of the "Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" crew scurry in and out of the door, accompanied by chilly gusts and intruding drizzle, McKellen holds court with a small group of reporters for nearly 45 minutes. Some of that time is spent on The State of Gandalf and the events that may or may not be on-tap for the third installment of Peter Jackson's second Tolkien-based trilogy, but far more of the interview is dedicated to deep reflection, delivered in the same authoritative and sonorous tone McKellen might use to repel orcs or deliver Shakespeare. 

It's early June 2013 on the New Zealand sound stages housing the "Hobbit" movies, but it's not just another day for the actor. He's come to set just to talk with us, but he's one day away from something more momentous: Tomorrow will be Sir Ian McKellen's last day shooting on "The Battle of the Five Armies" and, thus, it will be his last day of production as Gandalf the Grey.

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<p>Peter Jackson</p>

Peter Jackson

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

'Hobbit' Set Visit: Peter Jackson stares down The Battle of the Five Armies

Oscar-winning director discusses CGI battles and the importance of pick-ups

WELLINGTON, NZ. On many films, directors build in a certain amount of time to do pick-ups after production is completed, a few weeks to return come back and lock down a few shots or even a few scenes that either didn't go perfectly originally or that they realized were integral to telling the story.

Peter Jackson doesn't do things the way normal directors do. Since he has generated billions of dollars for his studio partners and basically constructed a production empire of his own down in New Zealand, he gets to create his own definition for "pick-ups," which most filmmakers would probably call "basically making the darned movie."

It's early June 2013 on the set of what will come to be known as "The Battle of the Five Armies," the third film in Jackson's adaptation of "The Hobbit." A group of reporters is on-set for what everybody is calling "pick-ups," but that's a term Jackson needs to clarify.

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<p>Cowboys QB Tony Romo</p>

Cowboys QB Tony Romo

Credit: AP

TV Ratings: NBC's Cowboys-Giants game outpaces ABC's AMAs on Sunday

NFL overrun boosts CBS to high numbers as well

Fast National ratings for Sunday, November 23, 2014.

NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage of the game between the Cowboys and Giants easily controlled primetime in all measures, while NFL overrun pushed CBS to second overall and the American Music Awards telecast put ABC in second in the key demographic.

CBS' numbers include 30 minutes of NFL overrun, but the overrun was actually closer to 40 minutes for much of the country, so expect plenty of shifting when Finals come in.

Meanwhile, without any sort of NFL boost FOX had a sluggish Sunday including a predictably weak time period premiere for the first 7:30 installment of "Mulaney."

On to the numbers...

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Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
Credit: Fox Searchlight

Carey Mulligan sings a sweet ditty in first 'Far From The Madding Crowd' trailer

Will she wind up with Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge or Michael Sheen?

Thomas Vinterberg’s "The Hunt" earned a Best Foreign Language Academy Award nomination at this year’s ceremony. Starring Mads Mikkelsen, the psychologically aggressive film focuses in on a town imploding after pedophilia accusations spread like wildfire. Like he did with his Dogme 95 film "The Celebration," Vinterberg’s film burrows straight to the gut, a moral play with physicality. Based on the trailer for his follow-up, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s "Far From The Madding Crowd," the director will adapt that audacious approach for sweeping romance. 

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NBC halts production on 'Constantine' after 13 episodes, but it may return for a 2nd season
Credit: NBC

NBC halts production on 'Constantine' after 13 episodes, but it may return for a 2nd season

Stephen Colbert, in conversation with Steve Carell, admits: 'I'm not that interested in politics'

NBC halts production on “Constantine” after 13 episodes, but it may return for a 2nd season
The DC Comics-based series’ 1st season will consist of 13 episodes. But the halting of production doesn’t mean the show is canceled. NBC had to make a decision on this season based on a few episodes.

Stephen Colbert, in conversation with Steve Carell, admits: "I'm not that interested in politics"
At a fundraiser Friday night, the alums of “The Dana Carvey Show” and “The Daily Show” talked about their TV pasts. And Colbert said “I can’t wait to find out” what he’ll be like on “The Late Show.” "I am not taking the character to CBS, and I'm curious what that really means…You'll notice when I don't do the character, how much of me will be familiar. Hopefully it'll only be the jokes and not the jerk,” he said, adding: "I'm not that political of a person. I like the behavior of people. I'm not that interested in politics and I get less and less interested in it every day."

Here’s the 1st look at “Harry Potter” author JK Rowling’s HBO/BBC miniseries “The Casual Vacancy”
Keeley Hawes, Julia McKenzie and Michael Gambon star in the social satire, based on Rowling’s book, which Rowling is producing herself.

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Review: 'The Comeback' - 'Valerie Is Brought to Her Knees'
Credit: HBO

Review: 'The Comeback' - 'Valerie Is Brought to Her Knees'

Seth Rogen comes to Valerie Cherish's rescue

A major, unanswered question this season of "The Comeback" has been what exactly is motivating Paulie G., why he created an HBO dramedy to depict his experience writing a short-lived sitcom. Episode three didn't answer that question, but it did underline it with a very disturbing scene that Paulie G. wrote into his new series: Valerie's character performing oral sex on Paulie G.'s character.

While that never actually happened, as Valerie Cherish and eventually Paulie G. acknowledge, it's written as Paulie G.'s fantasy, which may very well have happened. Either Paulie G. did once fantasize about Valerie in the past, or he's using that to humiliate her in the present; both are disturbing.

Seth Rogen, playing Paulie G's character on "Seeing Red," is the only person who recognizes how demeaning this scene is for Valerie, and how much she really does not want to do it. He stops it by suggesting that he can sell the scene and it can be shot without her needing to be visible. (Because she's Valerie Cherish, she ends up in perhaps an even more embarrassing position, her head on his lap, out of the frame, as he fakes his own orgasm.)

Maybe he's the only person with the power to do that, since Val does ask Paulie G. how to play the scene, and ends up suggesting that she could do it "eager, reluctant, [or] not at all." She doesn't stand up for herself more than that, though, having previously acknowledged to Paulie G. how much she needs this show to work, just as he admitted to her the same thing.

Seth Rogen is not the only person who shows Valerie respect this episode -- Jane is particularly forthcoming about how exploitative she thinks all this is, which is very out-of-character for her -- but Seth Rogen is remarkably perceptive about everything while still being jokey. He notices Paulie G. giving Valerie a look and calls him on it, which puts him on the side of the audience/camera crew.

Rogen, the rela-life actor (not the actor-as-character), plays this version of himself remarkably well. So many of these types of cameos end up being exaggerated, obnoxious versions of an actor, who clearly has fun playing a jerky version of him- or herself. Here, it's the opposite, but Rogen plays himself with restraint and humanity so his character doesn't come off like as one designed to make the real-life actor look good.

It just feels real and genuine, like you could imagine Seth Rogen in this actual position. And there's fun interaction between his character and Lisa Kudrow's Valerie Cherish, who is, as usual, trying to impress others.

What didn't feel as real was the scene in which Valerie had to stand in her "Room and Bored" track suit between two fully naked porn stars, who were making orgasm sounds. That seemed to serve no actual purpose for "Seeing Red" other than to humiliate her and degrade the women; perhaps the same could be said for "The Comeback" using that scene. Do we really need to humiliate Valerie this much? Is this much awkwardness necessary? We get it.

Now that "The Comeback" season two has arrived on the set of "Seeing Red," the show felt more grounded than it did in the first two episodes -- but it also felt like it found very familiar territory to settle on for its themes. How much humiliation with Valerie Cherish subject herself to to earn some respect? Can she prove that she's more than who Paulie G. thinks she is? Will the ever-present camera crew undercut her efforts?

"The Comeback" season one did those things so well, I'm not sure why "The Comeback" season two is trying, unless it's trying to prove that nothing really changes. But like Paulie G., its motivations are still unclear.

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Katy Perry announces her Super Bowl halftime show via special video
Credit: Pepsi

Katy Perry announces her Super Bowl halftime show via special video

ABC scraps John Stamos 'Members Only' dramedy

Katy Perry announces her Super Bowl halftime show via special video
The NFL and Perry made it official with a video released by Super Bowl halftime sponsor Pepsi. “This halftime show is going to be crazy,” Katy Perry says while walking through "my halftime show testing facility.”

ABC scraps John Stamos “Members Only” dramedy
Stamos along with “Breaking Bad” alum Betsy Brandt, Boris Kodjoe and Natalie Zea were set to star in a country club drama that, at one point, had director David O. Russell attached.

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<p>The Affair</p>

The Affair

Credit: Showtime

Review: 'The Affair' - 'Episode 7'

The Soloways go back to Brooklyn, and Noah faces blackmail

A quick review of tonight's "The Affair" coming up just as soon as we go glamping...

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<p>Chad L. Coleman in The Walking Dead</p>

Chad L. Coleman in The Walking Dead

Credit: AMC

Review: 'The Walking Dead' - 'Crossed'

We check in with everybody before Rick and Daryl try to rescue Beth and Carol

A review of tonight's "The Walking Dead" coming up just as soon as I enjoy this yo-yo...

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Credit: Showtime

Review: 'Homeland' - 'There's Something Else Going On'

Carrie tries to get Saul back, while the enemy's plan reveals itself

A quick review of tonight's "Homeland" coming up just as soon as I send all the Marines...

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<p>Ed Helms and Andy Samberg in Brooklyn Nine-Nine</p>

Ed Helms and Andy Samberg in Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Credit: FOX

Review: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - 'USPIS'

Ed Helms stops by as an idiotic postal inspector

A review of tonight's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" coming up just as soon as I imagine a letter had unprotected sex with a phone...

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