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9 big questions to ponder as the Oscars hit the home stretch

9 big questions to ponder as the Oscars hit the home stretch

Voting officially begins today

We're in the home stretch, everyone. Voting for the 86th Academy Awards is finally underway and you can feel the tension in the air from Culver City to Burbank.

(Actually, that could just be allergies, but I digress…)

The point is, this year's show has the potential for more upsets or unexpected winners since "The Departed," "Little Miss Sunshine" and "The Queen" battled it out in 2007. Every studio is nervous and thanks to some unexpected controversies almost nothing is guaranteed. With that in mind, ponder these nine questions that are on the minds of many awards season watchers.

Be careful out there, Academy members.

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<p>Jason Isaacs</p>

Jason Isaacs

Credit: Axel Schmidt/AP

Jason Isaacs will 'DIG' for USA, Jane Krakowski joins FOX's 'Dead Boss'

Two casting stories... One blog post!
Time for a pair of casting notices that have nothing in common, but are still getting stuck together in one blog post just because:
Jane Krakowski has landed the lead in FOX's comedy pilot "Dead Boss," while Jason Isaacs is set to topline USA's event series "DIG."
More details below...
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<p>Jennifer Lawrence</p>

Jennifer Lawrence

Credit: AP Photo

'Hunger Games' star Jennifer Lawrence to present at the Oscars

Oscar winner is nominated for 'American Hustle'

Oscar fave Jennifer Lawrence will return to present at this year’s Academy Awards.

Show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron made the announcement today.

Lawrence is the first presenter to be announced, but you can expect a deluge of similar announcements over the coming days.

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<p>Ari Graynor of &quot;Bad Teacher&quot;</p>

Ari Graynor of "Bad Teacher"

Credit: CBS

CBS sets 'Bad Teacher,' 'Unforgettable' premiere dates

'Crazy Ones' and 'Two and a Half Men' will swap time slots
We may already be well into midseason, but CBS had some scheduling moves to make on Friday (February 14), including a pair of premiere dates and some scheduling experimentation ahead of upfronts in May.
The announcements include premiere dates for the new comedy "Bad Teacher" and the returning drama "Unforgettable," plus a Thursday comedy shakeup.
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CBS swaps 'Crazy Ones' and 'Two and a Half Men,' schedules 'Bad Teacher' and 'Unforgettable'

CBS swaps "Crazy Ones" and "Two and a Half Men," schedules "Bad Teacher" and "Unforgettable"
"Men" is moving to 9 pm and "The Crazy Ones" is going to 9:30. Meanwhile, "Bad Teacher" will take over "The Crazy Ones'" timeslot on April 24 (after the Robin Williams' comedy ends its first season). Also, CBS has set the return of "Unforgettable" for April 4.

Mary-Louise Parker is in talks to star in NBC's "Feed Me"

She's being eyed for a comedy about a dysfunctional family that runs a restaurant together.

Meredith Vieira will likely host Saturday's primetime Olympic coverage
Matt Lauer is expected to celebrate his first night off after many hours of work with lots of sleep. "Sleep, sleep, sleep, that's my night tonight," he said. PLUS: NBC's Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan documentary may air on the final night of the Olympics, why aren't the ratings higher?, and why hasn't Vladimir Putin sat down with NBC?

Meagan Good joins NBC zombie pilot "Babylon Fields"

The "Anchorman 2" star will play a doctor in a town where residents come back from the dead.

Jimmy Kimmel & Alex Pettyfer sing a duet of "Endless Love"

Watch their performance from last night's show.

Jason Isaacs to star in USA action-adventure miniseries "Dig"
The "Brotherhood" alum will play an FBI agent in the drama from "Heroes" creator Tim Kring and "Homeland's" Gideon Raff.

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Richard E. Grant

Richard E. Grant 

Richard E. Grant to join 'Downton Abbey' for season 5

The 'Gosford Park' star isn't the only one who will be joining in

While some of us will forever remember Richard E. Grant from "Withnail and I," he's moving into far tonier role. The actor (who has also appeared in classy stuff like "Gosford Park" and "The Age of Innocence") is set to join the cast of "Downton Abbey" for the show's fifth season. He's not the only one, either. 

While Grant will be playing the role of Simon Bricker, who visits Downton Abbey as a guest of the Granthams, Anna Chancellor ("The Hour," "Four Weddings and a Funeral") will be taking on a role as Lady Anstruther. Also on deck will be Rade Sherbedgia ("Eyes Wide Shut," "24") as a Russian refugee. 

Returning guest cast member Dame Harriet Walter will reprise her role as Lady Shackleton,
along with Peter Egan, returning as Lord Flintshire.
"Masterpiece" Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton says, "We look forward to introducing these new characters to our 'Masterpiece' audience. They will make a wonderful addition to the beloved Downton Abbey ensemble." In other words, no clues as to what the new characters will be doing. 
Downton Abbey’s Executive Producer Gareth Neame, the Managing Director of Carnival Films, says, “We are delighted to welcome these talented actors to the world of Downton. The characters they play are set to bring yet more excitement and intrigue to the show.” 
The good news is that all our favorites will be back (so, hopefully, no horrible car accident or postpartum deaths). The new season will feature returning stars Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Penelope Wilton, Phyllis Logan, Samantha Bond, Laura Carmichael, Lily James, Allen Leech, Brendan Coyle, Joanne Froggatt, Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, Rob James-Collier, Ed Speleers, Kevin Doyle, Raquel Cassidy, David Robb, Tom Cullen, Julian Ovenden, Daisy Lewis, Douglas Reith, Jeremy Swift and Andrew Scarborough.
The fourth season of Downton Abbey, which concludes on February 23, hit a new record high in the U.S. with its Season 4 opener, averaging 15 million viewers, an increase of 39 percent from the Season 3 opening episode. The show’s third season became the highest rated TV drama in PBS’ history and reached over 24 million viewers, a 7 million increase on Season 2. Downton Abbey is now one of the highest rated dramas on American Television.
Are you excited about Richard E. Grant joining the show? 
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Jane Krakowski to star in Fox's 'Dead Boss'

Jane Krakowski to star in Fox's "Dead Boss"

The "30 Rock" alum is set to play a career-driven woman who is wrongfully convicted of killing her boss.

"Conan" is coming to Dallas for the NCAA Final Four

Conan's TBS show will tape in Dallas for four days, from March 31 to April 3. PLUS: Conan will remember Sid Caesar Tuesday with special guest Mel Brooks.

Watch the new, explosive "Scandal" promo
"Gladiators, hold on tight."

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Jimmy Fallon is recovering from a virus he got from his daughter as he preps for Monday's 'Tonight' launch

Jimmy Fallon is recovering from a virus he got from his daughter as he preps for "Tonight" launch
Fallon expects to be in fighting shape for Monday despite ailing all week. PLUS: Fallon's "Tonight Show" will feature a GE-sponsored kids' invention segment.

"The Simpsons" is getting a LEGO-themed episode
A full-length LEGO episode will air in May.

Here's your 1st look at Fox's "Broadchurch" remake, with Anna Gunn and David Tennant

The "Breaking Bad" alum and former "Doctor Who" are co-starring in "Gracepoint."

Obama didn't tweet his support for "House of Cards" -- a nonprofit organization did

Turns out neither the president nor his people control the @barackobama Twitter account, the one that tweeted "No spoilers, please" yesterday in regards to the Netflix series. It is actually run by a nonprofit called Organizing For Action, which rents the account from Obama's presidential campaign.

Howard Stern called Kathie Lee to apologize when he rejoined NBC 2 years ago
The shock jock had taunted Kathie Lee for decades, but Kathie Lee revealed on "Watch What Happens Live" last night that they made amends when he signed on for "America's Got Talent."

Joel McHale reacts to his selection as White House Correspondents Dinner headliner
"This is very cool & the website to apply to host it worked perfectly," he tweeted.

Piers Morgan interviewed by police in Britain in newspaper hacking case
Scotland Yard interviewed the CNN star in early November, it was revealed today.

Syfy sets premiere dates for "Warehouse 13," "Continuum" and Jim Henson reality show

"Warehouse 13's" final season kicks off April 14, "Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge" debuts March 25 and "Continuum" returns April 4.

Matt Lauer & Al Roker went luging together
Watch the "Today" stars crash in Sochi. PLUS: How will Roker's feud with NYC's mayor impact "Today"?

Winter Olympics doesn't hurt "Rake"

Greg Kinnear's drama managed to stay steady this week.

"Downton Abbey" adds 3 actors, including Richard E. Grant and Anna Chancellor
Rade Sherbedgia will also be part of next season's cast.

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<p>Yuzuru Hanyu's record-breaking performance capped off NBC's Olympics primetime</p>

Yuzuru Hanyu's record-breaking performance capped off NBC's Olympics primetime

Credit: AP

TV Ratings: Figure skating gives NBC's Olympics coverage a small Thursday bump

'American Idol' dips, while 'Rake' stays low-and-steady for FOX
Fast National ratings for Thursday, February 13, 2014.
A smattering over coverage from the men's figure skating short program helped NBC's Thursday Sochi Winter Olympics coverage rise slightly from Wednesday's block. The Sochi numbers were still well below what NBC was drawing earlier in the week, but still easily dominated Thursday primetime.
The night's only other original programming came on FOX, where "American Idol" dipped below 10 million viewers and also dipped below a 3.0 in the key demo. While "Idol" edged out CBS' "Big Bang Theory" repeat among young viewers, the "Big Bang" repeat dominated overall. It's the tiniest of silver linings for FOX, but "Rake" didn't slip any further in its latest airing. 
Oh. Wait. ABC's "The Taste" is also original programming. It drew "Oops, we left the TV on to ABC" numbers on par with Tuesday's "Killer Women."
On to the numbers...
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Bethenny Frankel's talk show canceled

Bethenny Frankel's talk show canceled
The Ellen DeGeneres-produced "Bethenny" was set to get renewed, but many of her affiliate clearances went to Meredith Vieira's new talk show.

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Joel McHale is this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner host

Joel McHale is this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner host

"The Soup" and "Community" star will follow in the footsteps of Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Wanda Sykes, Jay Leno and Jon Stewart.

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<p>Helen Mirren in Peter Greenaway's &quot;The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.&quot;</p>

Helen Mirren in Peter Greenaway's "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover."

Credit: Miramax Films

Roundup: Peter Greenaway to receive honorary BAFTA

Also: On the foreign domination of the short film races, and Cuaron swoons for 'Her'

Long the standard-bearer of avant garde British cinema, Peter Greenaway -- director of such unhinged works as "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover," "The Draughtsman's Contract" and "The Pillow Book" -- has never even been nominated for a BAFTA. (Nope, not even in the days before they tried to out-Oscar the Oscars.) As of Sunday, however, he'll have one, as he's been named the recipient of this year's Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema Award at the ceremony. Says Greenaway: "Everyone agrees that cinema is changing its characteristics very fast and to be awarded a BAFTA for trying to contribute to that change is a pleasure and a delight, an encouragement and an acknowledgment that the effort is valuable, certainly for myself and certainly for all those numerous collaborators who have assisted me in this effort over more than 30 years.” [BAFTA]

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