<p>Maggie Smith does not need to worry</p>
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Maggie Smith does not need to worry

Credit: PBS

What impact will 'Downton Abbey' shifting Emmy categories have?

If 'Downton' is no longer a miniseries, how will its hopes be impacted?
In a move that's almost shocking in its logic and truthfulness, PBS' "Downton Abbey" will reportedly depart the miniseries category for this fall's Emmys and move into the far more appropriate and competitive drama field.
 
The news first broke on GoldDerby.com, which got this somewhat confusing quote from TV Academy awards chief John Leverence.
 
"After starting out as a miniseries, 'Downton Abbey' caught fire and so now it moves over to drama series category as it plans for future TV seasons," Leverence tells Gold Derby. "It follows the trajectory of previous shows like 'The Starter Wife' that started out as a miniseries and then became a regular series."
 
Leverence's quote makes the confusing assertion that it was success that made "Downton Abbey" into a worthy entrant for the series field, rather than "Downton Abbey" simply being a TV series that was miscategorized last year and then moved into the correct category this year. 
 
It would be too much, presumably, for Leverence to say, "Yeah, British TV shows confuse us." After all, does the shift of "Downton Abbey" to the correct category mean that the TV Academy will also stop calling "Luther" a miniseries? And will this enforce a ripple effect that will cause the Golden Globes and the various guilds to also stop calling "Downton Abbey" (and "Luther" and "The Hour") a movie/miniseries or will it exist only in isolation?
 
The big question, and the reason I'm writing this as blog post rather than as a news story, is what impact moving "Downton Abbey" into the drama field will have on various category races that are already the most heated on Emmy night.
 
[More after the break...]
 
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<p>Nina of &quot;Survivor: One World&quot;</p>
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Nina of "Survivor: One World"

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Nina Acosta talks 'Survivor: One World'

The latest 'Survivor' castoff explains, again, why the Women blew it
Because Kourtney Moon's elimination in Week 1 was an injury-based decision, on Wednesday (Feb. 22) night, the women of "Survivor: One World" were required to vote somebody out for the first time.
 
The dysfunctional women of Salani, seemingly incapable of winning any kind of challenge, faced a choice: Either vote out giggling, farting, sheltered Kat, who almost single-handedly cost them the episode's Immunity Challenge,  or Nina, 51-year-old former police officer whose exact skills within the game had yet to be tested.
 
In the end, it apparently wasn't a hard decision. Kat had been part of a majority alliance of younger women established on the hike to camp, while Nina was on the outside trying to desperately to get anybody to listen to her plea that the tribe would be weaker with Kat remaining. Alliance trumped logic and Nina was sent packing.
 
In this week's "Survivor" exit interview, Nina Acosta talks more about Kat's liabilities, explains why Men vs. Women was her biggest nightmare and breaks down why only luck will prevent her former tribe from getting routed.
 
Click through for the full interview...
 
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<p>Your &quot;American Idol&quot; judges pass... judgement</p>
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Your "American Idol" judges pass... judgement

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' - Final Judgment, Part 2 - Live-Blog

The final 10 singers in the Top 24 are revealed

On Wednesday night, "American Idol" revealed the first 14 members of this season's Top 24. 

It took two hours.

On Thursday (Feb. 23), "American Idol" will knock out the remaining 10 singers in the Top 24 in what is sure to be a relatively brisk hour. 

Then, next week, "Idol" will finally begin the business of seeing if America cares enough to vote for a winner this season.

Click through to learn the identities of No.15-24...

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<p>Oscars host Billy Crystal</p>
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Oscars host Billy Crystal

Credit: ABC

HitFix Interview: Writer Carol Leifer discusses Billy Crystal's Oscars return

Seven-time Oscars writer explains the advantages of comfort food
The Return of Billy Crystal is one of the biggest stories of Sunday (Feb. 26) night's Academy Awards telecast, but behind the familiar face is a familiar returning voice.
 
Longtime stand-up favorite and "Seinfeld" and "Larry Sanders" veteran Carol Leifer, fresh off a WGA award as part of the "Modern Family" staff, is writing for the Oscars for the seventh time, her third time writing for and with Crystal as host.
 
Just days away from the Oscars, I chatted with Leifer about why viewers will treat Crystal like comfort food after last year's less-than-warmly-received telecast, whether the writers are concerned about the perception "The Artist" has the night's big awards in the bag and how she wants people to discuss the show on Monday morning.
 
Click through for the full interview...
 
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<p>Kat of &quot;Survivor: One World&quot;</p>
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Kat of "Survivor: One World"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: One World' - 'Total Dysfunction'

The Women tire of Colton and have new problems of their own
Pre-credit sequence. The Women return to camp after skating through Tribal Council without voting anybody off. Mike greets them by making it clear that he kept their fire going in their absence. Kat isn't impressed by his generosity, plus she's also terrified by bugs. Before bed, Christina takes Alicia aside and tries to set things right. To the camera, Alicia claims that Tribal Council went exactly the way she planned. After Christina vents and Alicia ignores, they shake hands. They hug. You'd think Alicia wants Christina out next, but you'd be kinda wrong. "Nina looks like a bag of rocks and I don't even know what that analogy means," Alicia teases. Interesting. And confusing.
 
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<p>FOX had no pictures from Wednesday's &quot;Idol,&quot; so I'm going to assume these four people were involved.</p>
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FOX had no pictures from Wednesday's "Idol," so I'm going to assume these four people were involved.

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' - Final Judgment, Part 1 - Live-Blog

The contestants perform one last time and the judges deliberate

Is everybody ready for tonight's 12-hour "American Idol"?

Oh, I kid. It's only six hours.

I kid again!

Wednesday's (Feb. 22) "American Idol" is only TWO hours.

See? It doesn't sound so bad anymore, does it? 

You're welcome.

On to the recap, after the break...

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<p>&quot;Suburgatory&quot;</p>
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"Suburgatory"

Credit: ABC

HitFix Interview: Creator Emily Kapnek talks 'Suburgatory'

Alicia Silverstone, ensemble building and other ABC comedy issues
Viewers still have eight more episodes of "Suburgatory" to look forward to this season, but the ABC comedy actually wrapped production on its first season early last week. 
 
Series creator Emily Kapnek and her creative team still have many weeks of post-production ahead of them, but it seemed like a good time to discuss the evolution of what has been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2011-2012 season.
 
"Suburgatory" started as the story of George (Jeremy Sisto) and Tessa (Jane Levy), a father and daughter who flee New York City for what was initially a very, very, very heightened version of the suburbs. 
 
Months later, "Suburgatory" continues to be anchored by Sisto and particularly Levy, but the supporting cast of Chatswin scene stealers has become one of the deepest on TV, drawing terrific performances from co-stars and recurring players like Cheryl Hines, Ana Gasteyer, Chris Parnell, Carly Chaikin, Alan Tudyk, Allie Grant, Maestro Harrell, Rex Lee and Parker Young. Stick around later this season and Alicia Silverstone will reunite with "Clueless" chum Sisto.
 
In our conversation, Kapnek discusses the challenges of making time for the full ensemble, keeping George and Tessa believable, figuring out the right number of "Clueless" in-jokes for Silverstone, why we may not see many more flashbacks and why characters keep dancing by themselves.
 
Click through for the full interview. And no... Not a word about the "Suburgatory" alt-narrative...
 
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<p>&nbsp;</p>
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Credit: HBO

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 116

Dan and Alan talk 'Downton Abbey,' 'On Freddie Roach' and answer mail

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
 
The banks may be closed for some alleged holiday, but The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast remains in business.
 
This week, we talked about the full season of "Downton Abbey" following its premiere on Sunday, we caught up with HBO's excellent "On Freddie Roach" and we answer a lot of Listener Mail (and we've collected a lot more for the weeks to come). Good times!
 
Here's the breakdown:
"Downton Abbey" (00:01:30 - 00:21:00)
"On Freddie Roach" (00:21:00 - 00:29:30)
Dan's Reality Roundup (00:29:30 - 00:44:10)
Listener Mail - Pilots (00:45:55 - 00:59:10)
Listen Mail - Linsanity and Asian Representations (00:59:10 - 01:07:00)
Listener Mail - Critically acclaimed shows we don't acclaim (01:07:00 - 01:13:45)
Listener Mail - The Ann Perkins Problem (01:13:50 - 01:18:40)
Listener Mail - FOX's truncated schedule (01:18:50 - 01:22:25)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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<p>A scene from the finale of ABC's &quot;Pan Am&quot;</p>
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A scene from the finale of ABC's "Pan Am"

Credit: ABC

ABC's 'Pan Am' finale looks to a future that may never come

Will 1964 be a good year for these fictional stewardesses? Probably not.
Because of Kurt Cobain's suicide note, "It's better to burn out/Than to fade away" is the most remembered line of of Neil Young's "Hey, Hey, My, My (Out of the Blue)," but the variation "It's better to burn out/ Than it is to rust" is every bit as evocative.
 
My favorite network pilot of the fall of 2010 was FOX's "Lone Star." It died spectacularly after only two airings, doing the sort of inconceivably low ratings that have taken their place as the stuff of industry legend.
 
On one hand, that failure was a TV-level tragedy (not to be confused with actual tragedy) because I like to see good things succeed, especially when those good things suggest different storytelling avenues from the ones normally followed on network primetime.
 
On the other hand, I'll always have a pristine memory of the "Lone Star" pilot, which I loved, and the second episode, which I quite enjoyed. I never had to worry about the predictable, hypothetical lag from episodes four through six. I never had to twiddle my thumbs through hypothetical episodes seven though 10 as the producers responded to low ratings by tinkering and stunt-casting. I never had to sit through the desperation of episode 13 with its hypothetical absurd cliffhanger to try to force FOX into renewal.
 
"Lone Star" burnt out, but it did so with authority. Kyle Killen lit the match and America and FOX licked their collective fingers and snuffed it out.
 
Poof.
 
My favorite network pilot of last fall was ABC's "Pan Am." I didn't love it, but I marveled at its high production values, stellar direction and charismatic cast and perhaps because I was comparing it directly to NBC's "Playboy Club" and indirectly to a lackluster crop of new fall shows, I admired its aspirations and its potential scope.
 
Unlike "Lone Star," "Pan Am" didn't instantly burn out. In fact, it premiered to nearly 11 million viewers and a robust 18-49 rating. It wasn't an instant hit, but ABC got people in the door, which seemed like a minor miracle.
 
Instead, "Pan Am" rusted. The show changed. Viewers tuned out. ABC kept airing the show opposite powerhouse dramas and major events and it kept getting clobbered.
 
Five months later, "Pan Am" is probably done. Sunday (Feb. 19) night's episode was only the season finale, but barring some sort of overhaul of what constitutes "success" and "failure" on network TV, it will also be its series finale.
 
Given what "Pan Am" has been for most of its truncated season, I'm not going to mourn the show's passing for very long. The cast never ceased to be charismatic and talented and the production values remained pretty admirable, but "Pan Am" lost any sense of its identity many months ago. The jumble of half-hearted Season 2 pitches in Sunday's finale only confirmed that lack of direction moving forward. 
 
Neither "Lone Star" nor "Pan Am" will see a back-nine, much less a second season, but with "Lone Star" we saw only the fall, but with "Pan Am," there was a complete decline and fall, all in accelerated motion.
 
More on the "Pan Am" finale after the break...
 
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<p>Kerri and Stacy of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>
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Kerri and Stacy of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' Season 20 Premiere - 'Tears of a Clown'

The teams head to Argentina to begin the race and to start making mistakes
This recap initially began with a celebration of the fact that Sunday (Feb. 19) night's premiere of Season 20 of "The Amazing Race" began promptly at 8 p.m. ET. It was pre-written and I made the assumption that after a fall of remaining glued to the vagaries of a dreadfully played NFL game that just happens to have remained close deep enough into the fourth quarter for time outs and passing plays to elongate the action, the relief of spring would be that you could set your clock by the starting time for CBS' primetime.
 
Then the Northern Trust Open went into a sudden-death playoff and suddenly it was yet another night of delays for the right side of the country.
 
Ugh. Sorry about that.
 
Of course, if I'm being honest, I didn't tune in for the "Amazing Race" premiere live (via Slingbox), as I do most weeks, but I would have appreciated the prompt start-time on all of your behalf. No, I watched the premiere -- titled "Tears of a Clown" -- on a screener, which is always a pleasure for a premiere, since it's virtually impossible for me to learn the identities of 11 teams and 22 players, while also keeping up with the in-game action and keeping track of the twists of fate that lead to the typical Race elimination. 
 
That's why I need a screener for "Amazing Race" premiere recaps (my Slingbox lacks rewinding capabilities, I should add), but more importantly -- and regular readers know where I'm going with this -- that's why "Amazing Race" premieres should always be two-hour premieres. I know I say this every season, but if you only give us 44 minutes of TV time for a "Race" premieres, there's a strong chance you're going to eliminate a team featuring two players viewers I never bothered to learn to tell apart and therefore a team that viewers never invested in for a second. That leaves us -- or me at least -- yelling and screaming at the TV and ultimately disappointed by one team of icky caricatures that *didn't* get eliminated, but not caring about the duo that went home. 
 
As with all things that I'll complain about all season long, it's a matter of Race architecture: Elongate things on the first Leg however you have to. Make sure there's a Roadblock plus a Detour plus two or three or four team challenges if necessary. Just stretch it to two hours so that the editors can give time to all teams and I can more accurately compile my list of Teams I Like, Teams I Hate and Teams in the Middle, which I do every season in my premiere recaps and which proved rather difficult this season.
 
But hey, at least a team went home on Sunday and after the Non-Elimination-heavy start of the fall cycle, that's a huge relief.
 
Click through for my recap of Sunday's episode, which'll begin with a breakdown of the episode and then continue with my usual early impressions of the teams, however nebulous those impressions are thus far...
 
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