Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Lawrence

Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Lawrence

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Jennifer Lawrence and The Lumineers

What will be deadlier: the arena from "The Hunger Games" or Studio 8H?

After over a month off, “Saturday Night Live” is back with recent Golden Globes winner Jennifer Lawrence as 2013’s first host. That month hopefully recharged the batteries of all involved in this show. In greater likelihood, it gave the writers the opportunity to craft the longest version of “The Californians” in history. Along for the ride tonight is musical act The Lumineers, whose song “Ho Hey” I heard no less than five times in my car today. It’s possible that I’ve been incepted by the neo-folk pop music scene, is all I’m saying.

Let’s keep track of that throughout tonight’s proceedings. As always, I’ll be live blogging the show, giving grades to each individual sketch along the way. As always, you’ll take any difference of opinion from your own as a slight that can be only answered via a pistol duel at dawn. Why should 2013 be any different from 2012?
 
Come back starting at 11:30 p.m. EST, and we’ll get this party started.
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Joshua Jackson in tonight's "Fringe"

Joshua Jackson in tonight's "Fringe"

Credit: FOX

'Fringe' Recap - 'Liberty'/'An Enemy Of Fate'

The show wraps up its five-year run.

“It’s not about fate…it’s about changing fate. It’s about hope. And protecting our children.” September, to Walter Bishop

Here we are, at the end of the “Fringe” journey. It started with a mysterious incident on a plane and ended with a white tulip addressed to Peter Bishop. In between were some of the loveliest, most evocative, most affecting (as well as effective) genre storytelling on television in recent memory. It was far from a perfect show, as even the hardiest of fans would agree. But when it worked, it worked like gangbusters, and there was nothing else like it. Considering how downright strange, how openly earnest, and how narratively demanding it was, it’s no hyperbole to say that television as a whole was better for having “Fringe” in its ecosphere.
 
But it’s unfortunately also not hyperbole to say that tonight’s final two episodes proved this fifth and final season to be a huge misstep.
 
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Peter and Walter in this week's "Fringe".

Peter and Walter in this week's "Fringe".

Credit: FOX

'Fringe' Recap - 'This Boy Must Live'

The table is set for the series finale.

 

If one cannot remember a life lived, does that life matter at all?
 
That’s not merely a fundamental philosophical problem that has haunted humanity for thousands of years. It’s also the core question for the last few seasons of “Fringe”. The schism that formed in the aftermath of Peter stepping into the Doomsday Device cleaved fandom in two. Some argued that the characters that developed in the new reality were closely enough aligned with the original iterations that the discrepancies actually gave depth to the show’s analysis of human behavior. Others felt their connections to those onscreen severed, with all new work needed to find a way to emotionally bond with these new versions. While I fall on the side of the latter group, neither side is “right” or “wrong”. There are never such clearly shaded sides when it comes to questions such as the ones that “Fringe”, at its best, puts forth.
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"Donald, can you see me? Can you feel me near you?"

"Donald, can you see me? Can you feel me near you?"

Credit: FOX

'Fringe' Recap - 'Anomaly XB-6783746'

The show says goodbye to one character and hello, improbably, to another.

One thing that’s arisen in this final season of “Fringe” as a topic of debate is just how much needs to actually unfold onscreen to engage audiences on either a practical or emotional level. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach here, like anything else in a creative sphere. Through both conscious choice and external limitations, the show has skipped over large chunks of its overall storyline in order to get to its finish line. And the closer we get, the more than those gaps seem to be accentuated. “Anomaly XB-6783746” was an episode that nearly ground the season’s momentum to a halt only to kick things into major overdrive in the final moments. (I may need to adjust my neck from the whiplash, and not because it allows more sound waves to enter my ears.) To those still buying what the show is selling, filling in those gaps tonight might have been thrilling. To those less engaged with the show, filling them in might have been frustrating.

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The final three contestants of "The Voice". Oh, and Carson Daly.

The final three contestants of "The Voice". Oh, and Carson Daly.

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Tuesday - Top 3 Results

Who will be crowned the winner in tonight's final episode?

We’re here at the end of the road for this cycle of “The Voice”. NBC looked into it, but it couldn’t find a way to extend the season any further. (Lord knows the one-hour repeat hour before the finale proper demonstrates how badly this network is milking this franchise.) But that’s all for the best, as the outcome tonight looks pretty much preordained. I went on record saying this last night, but I’ll once again reiterate that it’s Cassadee Pope’s contest to lose at this point. Assuming they stagger the eliminations, we should have Pope and Terry McDermott standing alone in the final moments before the champion is crowned.

But who knows? That’s why we have to watch the show and find out how close those predictions match reality. All we knows is that tonight’s 2-hour finale will feature a slew of performances by the final three contestants, the coaches, and a parade of other artists taking advantage of the spotlight in order to spike record sales before the holidays are over. Even though we have 120 minutes to get through, I’ll be sparing in tonight’s liveblog when discussing things non-show related. I’m sure you’re dying to hear my thoughts about The Killers’ latest single, but there’s a top-notch team of music critics here at HitFix that can fill that role nicely.
 
Let’s get the final running diary of the Fall underway!

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Nicholas David's fiery performance tonight on "The Voice".

Nicholas David's fiery performance tonight on "The Voice".

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Monday - Top 3 Perform

The last three contestants make their final case to the voting public.
Partially because high beings are potentially punishing us, but primarily because NBC wants to milk ratings as long as humanly possible, we have three and a half more hours of “The Voice” to get through before crowning a winner. Look for a big bag of delaying tricks to be unleashed over the night two nights: Guest performers! Old contestants! Casts of upcoming NBC shows! A lengthy debate over the merits of the “Homeland” finale between Christina Aguilera and her fan! Anything’s possible, except a tight, focused end to this season.
 
Going into tonight, it seems like Cassadee Pope is in the driver’s seat, with Nicholas David and Terry McDermott trying to play catch-up. That makes the song choices tonight key. All Cassadee has to do is “not screw up tremendously” and it seems like she’s the one to beat. But David and McDermott have pulled off surprising performances all season, so if they find just the right interpretation of just the right song, there’s certainly a chance for an upset tomorrow night.
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Martin Short and Paul McCartney on the 'Saturday Night Live' set.

Martin Short and Paul McCartney on the 'Saturday Night Live' set.

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Martin Short And Paul McCartney

How did the 'SNL' vet and the legendary rocker close out 2012?

Tonight’s “Saturday Night Live” host Martin Short is no stranger to the show. After all, he was a big part of the show’s 10th season cast. That cast is unusual in the show’s history: Made up of many seasoned comic veterans brought in by then-producer Dick Ebersol after the departure of Eddie Murphy led to a domino effect of other repertory players either leaving or being fired, it was as much a presence in the writer’s room as onscreen. As such, Short (alongside other cast members such as Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest) had tremendous power to help shape what they did each Saturday night. A lot of those elements were pre-produced, which gives that tenth season something in common with the current thirty-eighth installment. So it makes a sort of sense to have Short join this particular cast on this particular night. That’s a bit of a stretch, to be sure. But it’s something that also feels right as I look at the ratio of live-to-taped segments then compared with now.

Because of Short’s history with the show, combined with tonight being the Christmas episode, and further combined with the presence of musical guest Paul McCartney, and one can well assume many surprises are in store for tonight’s installment. A note about such surprises: because I’m liveblogging this episode tonight, I’m going to refrain from speculating about rumors swirling around Al Gore’s interwebs at the outset here. There’s one particularly juicy one that is intriguing not just because of the sketch in question, but what that sketch’s presence may mean for the immediate future of the program as a whole.
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The 'Fringe' crew look to find another piece of the puzzle.

The 'Fringe' crew look to find another piece of the puzzle.

Credit: FOX

'Fringe' Recap - 'Black Blotter'

Heading towards the finish line, the show indulges in its best and worst instincts side-by-side.

“Fringe” positioned tonight’s ninth episode “Black Blotter” as its final edition of “the nineteenth episode”. That’s been the slot for past episodes such as “Brown Betty”, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide”, and “Letters of Transit”. I don’t like the idea of arbitrarily assigning a slot in each season as “the completely off-the-wall trippy installment,” since that goes against what should be the organic process of telling a long-form narrative on the small screen. But that quibble isn’t a particularly big one, especially since I tend to like when the show gets even weirder than usual. “Black Botter” wasn’t particularly strange by the show’s standards (except for the Monty Python sequence, which made ME feel like I’d just taken a whole buncha drugs), and it wasn’t up to the standards of the three episodes just mentioned. But it was a solid, if wildly inconsistent, hour of television that gave us both the best AND worst of “Fringe” in sixty minutes.

 
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Cory Monteith, Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale on "Glee"

Cory Monteith, Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale on "Glee"

Credit: Fox

'Glee' recap: 'Glee, Actually'

'Glee's' third attempt at a Christmas episode is not quite a charm

Holiday episodes should be a cinch for "Glee." It's the perfect time of year to get all sentimental and romantic and musical.

But "Glee" never needs an excuse to celebrate great songs, the bonds of friendship and family, and warm and fuzzy feelings, and maybe that's why the show has paradoxically never produced a great Christmas episode. How do you make something seem special when it's what you do all the time?

"Glee, Actually" represents the third stab at a Christmas episode following Season 2's "A Very Glee Christmas" (with the sweet revelation that Brittany still believes in Santa and the infamous Sue Sylvester as the Grinch parody) and Season 3's "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" (which had some clever moments lost amidst an overall mess of an episode).

"Actually" is a definite improvement on "Extraordinary," if not quite a match for "Very." But I liked the idea and wish someone had thought of it back when the show was still working, and the characters were still worth caring about.

Since the episode was divided into five non-overlapping segments, it didn't feel so much like its supposed inspiration, "Love, Actually," than it did like a collection of short stories from the "Glee" universe. And that approach oddly made for one of "Glee's" more cohesive and consistent hours in quite some time.

Artie's "It's a Wonderful Life"-style dream sequence imagining what would've happened if the glee club never existed was the most fun the show has had since the whole cast swapped characters when Tina knocked herself out in "Props." I never thought we'd see Jessalyn Gilsig again, but there she was, nailing her cameo and clutching a fake baby as Terri Schuester. And Damian McGinty's return as Rory was an even more welcome sight -- he's an actor and singer with greater natural charm than anyone "Glee" has added to the show since.

It's too bad that director Adam Shankman couldn't figure out a way to give Kevin McHale's "Feliz Navidad" solo at least half the creativity and energy of Artie's unforgettable "Safety Dance" from Season 1, but at least we got to see McHale perform *something* on his own for the first time this season. And let's just skip over the fact that this sequence totally ignored Santana ever existed (was Naya Rivera busy this week?) and totally went *there* with Quinn (you know if the writers knew Dianna Agron was never coming back they'd love to kill Quinn off for real, just to put a period on an endlessly tortured character arc).

Meanwhile, in New York, Rachel made a brief appearance in a ridiculous outfit to say a few lines and then disappear for the rest of the hour. (Remember when Rachel and Finn were the stars of "Glee," and some fans complained about how much screen time they had even though Lea Michele and Cory Monteith were never less than completely reliable and interesting to watch?)

The real focus in New York was on Kurt and his relationships with Burt and Blaine. This is the second time Mike O'Malley has appeared this season, and the second time the show has used him to try to manufacture the sort of tear-jerking emotion that used to flow naturally from Kurt and Burt's touching father-son bond.

Burt has cancer now! Sad! But he invited Blaine to see Kurt in New York! Sweet!

The only reason the silly storyline works at all is because O'Malley, Chris Colfer and Darren Criss play it completely real. Even in its best days, "Glee" often relied on talented actors to overcome sloppy writing, and this segment stayed true to that spirit. Colfer was especially good at silently conveying Kurt's mixed emotions at seeing Blaine again, and the conflicted feelings Kurt still has about their relationship. Colfer and Criss' "White Christmas" duet was a'ight, I guess, but there was nothing in the episode that came anywhere close to Rachel's "O Holy Night" in last week's not-Christmas episode.

What else?

Oh yeah, Sam and Brittany got married. In the episode's goofiest thread, the dim-witted "soulmates" decided to make the most of the few days they had left before the inevitable 2012 apocalypse and got hitched (by Coach Bieste!). Sadly, it turned out to be a ruse. No apocalypse. No wedding.

I have to admit, I was disappointed. Since "Glee" insists on forcing these two together -- and I can't complain about any screen time for Chord Overstreet and/or Heather Morris -- why not just go totally cuckoo in classic "Glee" style and get them involved in some kind of "What Happens in Vegas" rom-com mix-up where they get married first and fall in love later? At least it would give them a believable excuse to spend time together.

Also, there was another terrible subplot for Sue (I'm really losing patience waiting for the announcement that Jane Lynch is ditching this sinking ship for good) and believable enough bonding between the Puckerman half-brothers, which ended with the promise we'll be seeing more of Mark Salling in the future. (Yay? I guess? I've always liked Salling, and the show has generally done right by Puck, even when he's involved in stupid things like sleeping with Shelby, but is he really the character most in need of extra screen time at this point?)

We also met Aisha Tyler as Jake's mom and saw more of Puck's mom (Gina Hecht) than in her previous two appearances ("Mash-Up" and "Goodbye") combined. Both actresses were perfectly fine. Maybe we'll see them again. Maybe they'll vanish. You never know with "Glee."

But I do know this: This is my last "Glee" recap for HitFix. If you've been following along with me this season, I appreciate it and I feel your pain. I didn't want to take on the task of writing about "Glee" on a weekly basis just to complain about how terrible it is. The Internet has enough of that. But I had no idea what was in store for me this season. I've lost my connection with the show, and I need to reclaim the recapping time for other endeavors. I'm thrilled I had this opportunity, and I'm sure HitFix will have someone great to pick it up in 2013.

Assuming the world doesn't end next week.

Terry McDermott of "The Voice".

Terry McDermott of "The Voice".

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Tuesday - Top 4 Results

Which three will still be standing for the Finals?

Reality shows should get more dramatic as they approach the finish, not less. And yet, here we are in the penultimate week of “The Voice”. I’m not sure this is entirely the show’s fault. I think we could look back and see certain decisions that ultimately affected the final month of this season. (I still miss De’Borah and think she might still be around were it not for Christina Aguilera’s crazy decision during the Live Playoffs to save Adriana Louise instead.) But given the Final Four as presently constituted, and given the song selections this week, and given the chart placements of those songs overnight, it’s almost unfathomable that Trevin Hunte will make it past tonight.

CeeLo Green called Trevin “that dude” during the Blind Auditions, identifying him as a possible contender to win the entire thing. And even though it looks like he’ll come up short, the future seems fairly bright for him. With the exception of one or two numbers (“Vision Of Love”, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”), we never saw Hunte’s true potential realized, but rather blinding promise on display on a weekly basis. Part of that has to do with his age, part of it has to do with his experience, and part of that has to do with Green’s tutelage. But no matter. Even if Hunte has the strongest pure voice left in the competition, I’m not remotely convinced that will be enough tonight.
 
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