Inside TV+Movies with Daniel Fienberg

A few thoughts on the series finale of 'Greek'

ABC Family's college dramedy wraps its four-season run

<p>A scene from the 'Greek' finale</p>

A scene from the 'Greek' finale

Credit: ABC Family
For nature, spring is a time of renewal. For TV, spring is a time of renewals, but also of cancellations. Fans spend a lot of time saying "Good-Bye" each spring as favorite shows end their runs, sometimes abruptly and sometimes on their own terms. 
 
The result is that some shows get gala send-offs and other shows get more intimate farewells. We'll dedicates weeks of interviews and columns and podcasts to the departure of something like "Friday Night Lights." We'll devote introspection and discussion to the last episodes of something like "Big Love." We'll ponder the significance of the waning moments of a low-rated network show that hovers on the bubble, shows that may or may not return.
 
But not every show gets an extensive celebration. Not every show gets a parade. In certain pockets of the Internet, Monday's series finale of ABC Family's "Greek" received loving recognition. In other corners, it's something that never happened at all. 
 
And you know? That's probably fair. "Greek" was a show that served a key purpose in the evolution of the ABC Family brand, but it's also a show the network largely left behind several years ago, with fairly low ratings to match. You could argue that "Greek" probably had at least one bonus season, if not two and that, like "Friday Night Lights" to some degree, it ended several seasons and half-seasons with what could have just as easily been series finales if they'd needed to be. "Greek" was a fine show, but not a great show. But it was also never a show that I thought of as a guilty pleasure. 
 
I liked "Greek" and the finale that aired on Monday (March 7) matched the series perfectly: It broke no new ground, but it respected and rewarded loyal viewers, offering a few laughs and a couple sentimental sniffles along the way.
 
A few thoughts on the "Greek" finale after the break and then I'll open the floor to see if folks have any comments...

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 63

Dan and Alan talk 'The Event,' 'American Idol' and answer some mail

<p>Virginia Madsen of 'The Event'</p>

Virginia Madsen of 'The Event'

Credit: NBC

The

 

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
 
Time for another installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
We're a bit all over the place this week. We talk about the return of NBC's "The Event," the finale of "Greek" and spend a lot of time discussing "American Idol." We're both pretty confident y'all will think we spent too much time on "American Idol," but we aren't going to be doing it as a weekly segment this season, so it may be a while before we talk about "Idol" in any depth.
 
We also answered a quartet of Listener Questions.
 
Here's the breakdown:
 
The return of "The Event" -- 00:40 - 10:54
The finale of "Greek" -- 11:00 - 15:00
"American Idol" -- 15:05 - 34:00
Listener Mail - TV scores -- 34:30 - 39:30
Listener Mail - Detrimental supporting characters -- 39:30 - 46:00
Listener Mail - What interests us in pilots -- 46:10 - 50:15
Listener Mail - The fate of "Mad Men" -- 50:15 - 55:35

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 here's the podcast...

 

HitFix Interview: A couple questions for 'True Blood' creator Alan Ball

The vampire mastermind addresses witches and allegory

<p>Alan Ball</p>

Alan Ball

Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

Perhaps you've already read my newsy report from Saturday (March 5) night's "True Blood" panel at the William S. Paley Television festival and you know that I also perched on the press line and conducted a slew of very brief interviews with many of the show's stars.

It was a full house of reporters and a more-than-full-house of "True Blood" talent and I didn't talk to some of the stars and maybe only got a minute or 90 seconds with a few other the others.
 
I'll be transcribing and posting those interviews over the next couple days, probably pairing them as appropriate -- Deborah Ann Woll & Jim Parrack, Todd Lowe & Carrie Preston, Kevin Alejandro & Nelsan Ellis. I may post Joe Manganiello separately, just because I got a couple extra minutes with him. So stay tuned for that.
 
But I thought I'd start my "True Blood" interview coverage with my couple minutes with Alan Ball, who developed "True Blood" for HBO and remains its small screen driving force.
 
Click through for the first four questions I had time to ask before Ball had to rush inside to introduce the panel...

TV Review: A&E's 'Breakout Kings'

It takes a con to catch a con, but we're not sure why

<p>Serinda Swan, Jimmi Simpson and Malcolm Goodwin of 'Breakout Kings'</p>

Serinda Swan, Jimmi Simpson and Malcolm Goodwin of 'Breakout Kings'

Credit: A&E
A&E's "Breakout Kings" is a terrific log-line in search of an actual premise. 
 
You can see why a network would commission a script built around the bare bones of the premise, but along the line, somebody somewhere needed to recognize that writers Matt Olmstead and Nick Santora hadn't quite cracked the riddle of how to take that premise and turn it into a script, much less a series.
 
Perhaps that's why FOX passed on "Breakout Kings" after seeing the pilot? The pilot then found its way to A&E, a cable network anxious to get into the drama game, but with no clear development voice or mission. "The Cleaner" never reached the potential of its cast and backdrop. "The Beast" was intriguing, but never found enough of a hook to build an audience. And "The Glades" may be the most non-descript series on television.
 
So A&E is perfectly happy to have an easily marketable drama like "Breakout Kings," because that killer log-line lends itself to an easily marketing tag: "It takes a con to catch a con."
 
Well OK. And if "Breakout Kings" lived up to its marketing tag or its logline, it would be a series I'd watch again. It does not. And two episodes of this one will definitely be enough for me.
 
Click through for my review...

'True Blood' spoilers and teases from PaleyFest2011

Alan Ball and his cast offer Season 4 hints aplenty

<p>The cast of HBO's 'True Blood'</p>

The cast of HBO's 'True Blood'

Credit: HBO
Los Angeles residents: Did you notice that traffic was a little light on Saturday (March 5) evening? Did you make it from Point A to Point B in far less time than anticipated?

If so, you should send a nice note to the organizers behind the William S. Paley Television Festival and also to Alan Ball. PaleyFest2011 celebrated HBO's "True Blood" on Saturday night and in addition to Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills to squealing, exuberant audience capacity, the panel seemed to feature every actor in Hollywood who is either currently on "True Blood," or once stopped by Merlotte's to have a drink. 

In all, there were 16 actors on the Saban Theatre stage, plus Ball and the panel's moderator. Chairs stretched from one wing to the other, threatening to spill out into the parking lot with vampires, werewolves and various residents of Bon Temps.

The result was a somewhat peculiar panel where every question or round of questions functioned like a "True Blood" wave, beginning with Joe Manganiello [SQUEE!!!] stage left and rippling down past Nelsan Ellis [SQUEE!!!], through Deborah Ann Woll [SIGH!!!], by Ryan Kwanten [SQUEE!!!] and reaching a crescendo with Alexander Skarsgard, Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin. On one hand, it felt like only a limited number of Big Issue questions (the type of questions Alan Ball wouldn't have answered anyway) were even asked, but on the other hand, it was the rare 17-personal TV show panel on which no star, co-star or bit player left feeling like they'd been neglected or denied the opportunity to bask in the shrieking crowd's adulatory glow.

Click through for some highlights from the panel, including some minor spoilers about the show's upcoming fourth season. And come back to HitFix in the days to come for my brief, but frequently interesting pre-panel interviews with Ball, Woll, Manganiello and more...

HitFix Interview: Francesca Hogi talks 'Survivor: Redemption Island'

The season's first fully eliminated contestant explains what went wrong

<p>Francesca of 'Survivor: Redemption Island'</p>

Francesca of 'Survivor: Redemption Island'

Credit: CBS

Thanks to multiple All-Star installments, a long list of "Survivor" contestants have been eliminated multiple times over the years, a list that includes some of the most popular contestants in the show's history.

On Wednesday night, though, Francesca Hogi joined an exclusive (but sure to grow in the weeks to come) club of contestants eliminated twice in the same season. 
 
In the season's first week, Francesca was voted out at a contentious Tribal Council when Former Federal Agent Phillip upended a seemingly well-conceived plan to topple a key piece of Boston Rob's alliance. Although her torch was snuffed, Francesca was shuffled off to Redemption Island where, after spending an episode in isolation, she faced off against newly booted Matt and lost in the season's first Arena Duel. 
 
As I've done in seasons past, I'll be talking to each week's eliminated contestant. Thanks to the Redemption Island twist I didn't have exit interviews for the first two episodes and at least for the foreseeable future, each of my interviews will be with castaways who had to suffer the ignominy of two different eliminations.
 
Click through for my chat with Francesca...
 
HitFix: So we've now watched you be eliminated from "Survivor" two times in three weeks. What's it been like for you watching that?
 
Francesca Hogi: Oh man. When you say it like that, you make it sound like I'm really bad at "Survivor," Dan. I actually didn't watch the first episode, nor did I watch the second episode, so I only actually watched last night's episode. So I only saw myself eliminated once. And that duel, it was a good duel, don't you think? My heart was racing a little bit watching it and I knew how it ended. It was a surreal experience.
 
 
HitFix: Did you choose not to watch the first two episodes, or did you just have better things to do?
 
FH: I chose not to watch. I was like, "Eh. I know what happens." Tribal Council, I knew what a fiasco it was. I didn't want to see it all played out again. You know how you don't even like to hear your own voice on an answering machine or something? It's like that times a thousand.
 
 
HitFix: You mentioned the Redemption Island duel. You got out to that big lead. Then what happened?
 
FH: That's why I was really curious to watch last night, because I kinda wanted to see what happened. It all happened so fast and before I knew it, it was like, "What? It's over? I lost? What? Really? No! That didn't really just happen!" Yeah. I don't know. I think the foundation of my stick was not as strong and probably the fact that I was able to get two keys off with it probably wound up hurting me. Then I just thought I could add onto it and it would hold, but it didn't. So I had to start over again and that gave Matt time to catch up. But if you're going to lose to anyone, Matt is the guy you want to lose to. He's such a sweetheart and he and I really bonded out there on Redemption Island. We were together for a couple days. As sad as I was for myself, I was that happy for Matt, especially after how  he was blindsided.
 
 
HitFix: So what was Redemption Island actually like?
 
FH: The night that I got there, it was rough. It was very late and I was extremely tired. We'd had an extremely long Tribal Council, like two-and-half-hours, two hours of which was me and Phillip fighting with each other. So I was extremely thirsty, dehydrated, tried. And I get there and there's a roof, but it's got gaping holes in it. There's a shelter, but it's filled with broken planks and rocks. So I had to clear all of that out and I had to make myself a bed and make myself a bit of a shell to protect me from the wind and the rain, because there were no walls and no protection from that. So it started out rough. The whole first day I was there, I was just trying to improve the shelter, collecting firewood and cooking rice. And doing all of that stuff by yourself, it's rough. It's not easy to do that when you're part of a tribe and everybody's working together. But having said that, the isolation... I think if I'd had a normal Tribal Council that didn't just devolve into such a fiasco, I might not have been as fed up with everyone and everything as I was feeling. Because I was feeling fed up, I was glad to be alone and I was glad to be away from everyone for a few days.
 
 
HitFix: How long do you think that would have lasted, that being glad to be alone? Did you have a coping strategy for what would have happened if you'd been there for two weeks or something?
 
FH: You know, I didn't. I was trying to take it one day at a time. Once Matt got there, he and I, we got along really well. We were like, "Hey, we could just stay here together and go back into the game together. That would be great." But yeah. It definitely would have been rough to stay out there. Probably after like a week or so out there, I probably would have been really fed up, but I hadn't gotten to that point yet. I was still doing OK after four or five days. But oh well. It was not meant to be. I've had time to recover from the trauma of it all.
 
 
HitFix: Plus, Matt and whoever came after had a nice camp because of all of the effort that you put into cleaning things up!
 
FH: It's funny, because before Matt got there, I was like, "When I leave, I'm gonna torch this place! Why should anyone else get the benefit of all of my work here?" But it was Matt, so I'm like, "OK. If Matt beats me, I don't want sabotage Matt, cuz I'm really gonna root for Matt." But I did tell him, I said, "If you win, you need to make sure that if you think you're going to lose that duel, you do not leave everything like this. You've gonna make whoever comes after you work for it." The thing is that I had no idea how long Redemption Island lasts, how many weeks or whatever, but by the end, Redemption Island could be a pretty cushy place. If everybody just keeps on improving it and improving it.
 
 
HitFix: You've made multiple references to the Tribal Council "fiasco." So everything was going perfectly well. Absolutely according to plan. And then it wasn't. Do you think there was something specific that set Phillip off, or was Phillip just Phillip?
 
FH: I think Phillip was just Phillip. I think Phillip had it in for me. He and I had already been clashing. Phillip just didn't like me. I don't remember exactly what set him off, but it was something I think pretty innocuous. I think it was just an excuse. I think Phillip just wanted to be heard and Phillip wanted to have his moment. And I wouldn't listen and I think that just set him off even more and it just turned into the fiasco that played out. But I don't think that had anything to do with why I was voted out. It was, in the end, all pretty unnecessary. But I guess it did make good television.
 
 
HitFix: It absolutely did. And has it led to a dramatic rise in friends and loved ones calling you "Franchesqua"?
 
FH: Not my friends and loved ones. Just the fact that I was like, "Oh yeah. I'm on 'Survivor.' Don't tell anyone." Just the fact that I wasn't having a viewing party or anything... They were like, "You really hated that guy. I could really tell how much you didn't like him." I think they didn't want to tease me about it. But I've had a lot of other people calling me "Franchesqua." But it's OK. I'm getting immune to it at this point.
 
 
HitFix: Let's go back to the very beginning. You obviously had a sense of what game you wanted to play when you arrived. What was that strategy going to be and then what did the introduction of Boston Rob do to your plans?
 
FH: My strategy going into the game was just to try to get along with everyone, to try to be an asset to my tribe and work well with everyone. Obviously I think I shot myself in the foot by making whatever comment I made at the beach when Boston Rob and Russell arrived. I think it was misinterpreted as me not wanting to play with Rob, which was not how I felt, not what I said and certainly not what I meant. I would have been happy to align with Rob. That was actually my plan once Rob was on my Tribe. I was like, "OK. I want to be in an alliance with Boston Rob." I mean, I would have voted him out eventually, but I certainly wasn't gunning for him from the get-go. He's an asset to have around. But that's not how it worked out and I think it was a combination of things. It was probably the comment I made and him interpreting it how he did and just the other people on my tribe who didn't say anything like that and were very doe-eyed and happy to really just do whatever Rob said. It's not that I didn't. Rob and I got along really well. He and I didn't clash at all, in terms of our interaction at camp. It was just not meant to be.
 
I ended up in an alliance with Kristina and Phillip by default. I thought that I would have more time to get myself in a better position. I thought that my relationship with Andrea and Matt and Ashley and Rob -- I got along with them really well, had a good rapport with them -- I thought that was going to be enough to keep me safe for a little bit, but in the end, it was not.
 
 
HitFix: As a last question, a game of "What if..." So Kristina finds an Idol and comes to you and lets you know about it. From that point, how could you have played things differently to turn the tide of the game from the beginning?
 
FH: I think there was nothing I could have done except for to try to get her to give it to me. Once Kristina had that Idol, she became very determined to vote out Rob. She saw this as her big opportunity. She saw how devoted his alliance was to him and I don't think she felt like she would ever have another opportunity to get them to turn on him before they would vote her out. I can understand her having that position, but I still thought that it was short-sighted and not good for the tribe and that it would just make everyone hate her and vote her out next and it would be like, "What's the point?" But she was determined to do that. I tried to talk her out of voting Rob. I thought that I successfully had talked her out of voting Rob. And she'd go away and she'd come back and she'd say, "I want to vote out Rob" and I'd be like, "We talked about this! We're voting out Natalie." She'd be like "You're right." And then she'd come back and she said, "I told Phillip about the Idol." And I'm like, "Why did you do that?!?" The whole thing just spun out of control. But I didn't have a lot of options at that point, so all I could do was hope that Rob's alliance was going to vote Kristina and I could convince Kristina to vote Natalie and if Rob's alliance had all voted Kristina and Kristina had played her Idol and she and I had voted Natalie, then that's all we would have have needed. But obviously things didn't turn out that way.
 

 

PaleyFest2011 crowd devours 'The Walking Dead'

What zombie spoilers greeted the opening night fans?

<p>'The Walking Dead'</p>

'The Walking Dead'

Credit: AMC
The 28th Annual William S. Paley Television Festival -- PaleyFest2011 for those who like to save characters -- kicked off in Beverly Hills on Friday (March 4) night with a packed house to celebrate AMC's "The Walking Dead."
 
For those seeking information about the zombie drama's 13-episode second season, details were decidedly scarce. After all, the show's writing staff -- Yes, sensationalistic rumors aside, "Walking Dead" will have a writing staff, featuring a number of returning scribes -- only returned to work a week ago.
 
So what do we now know? Well, production on "Walking Dead" will begin in May or June. The series will return to AMC in October. 
 
And other than that? Well... Not too much. The show's producers and stars were already tight-lipped last fall when they'd shot a full first season and knew exactly where the story was going for six episodes, so it wasn't surprise that Friday night's PaleyFest2011 event wasn't long on specifics, but thanks to fine moderation by TV Guide's Mike Schneider and perhaps thanks to a very sick Frank Darabont's consumption of Theraflu, it was still a spirited, entertaining and obliquely informative panel.
 
Click through for some "Walking Dead" PaleyFest highlights...

Watching the 'American Idol' Top 24 from the audience

HitFix was in the crowd for the season's first two tapings...

<p>The 'American Idol' Top 24</p>

The 'American Idol' Top 24

Credit: FOX
I'm not saying it's been a long while since I was able to attend an "American Idol" taping, but the last time I was in the audience for TV's most popular singing competition, the director wore puffy pants and used a hand-cranked camera. The contestants all starred in a Union Pacific Railroad commercial that featured Simon Cowell tying a contestant to the tracks and twirling his mustache. Ryan Seacrest asked audiences to Morse Code in their votes for dot-dash-dash-dash or dot-dot-dash-dash-dash and the judges all sipped on sarsaparilla. 
 
Even though I live a 30-minute drive from the CBS Studios stage where "Idol" films, I realized the corporeal limitations that would prevent me from recapping the show on East Coast time, while simultaneously attending the show live. So although that initial paragraph may have been a tiny bit hyperbolic, the reality is that I haven't been in the "Idol" audience since Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken were waging their epic war for the hearts and souls of the American people back in 2003.
 
With Season 10's first two episodes taping early -- live shows will begin next week -- I was able to catch the Top 12 Men performing on Friday and the Top 12 Women performing on Monday, while simultaneously watching and blogging on their performances on Tuesday and Wednesday. It's the sort of technological dexterity that would astound our caveman ancestors. 
 
Back in the Simon Cowell Administration, The Lord High Judge would often comment that he got a very different impression of performances after watching them back on TV that night. He's right, of course. And experiencing the unique energy of an "Idol" taping doesn't improve or depreciate the value of the on-air performances, it just gives a different perspective. As a result, my blog recaps over the next two nights will be peppered with little observations that came from seeing things live, sides that maybe viewers didn't see at home, glimpses at how the "Idol" sausage was squished into its 90-minute primetime casing.
 
This post will contain no spoilers about song selection or the actual performances themselves, which guys and gals installed themselves as early favorites, and which pre-coronated entertainers went down in flames. But I still want to offer a few teases of what viewers can expect from Tuesday and Wednesday's shows.
 
Click through for lots and lots of bullet points...

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 62

Dan and Alan talk Oscars, Charlie Sheen, 'The Good Wife,' 'Breakout Kings' and more

<p>Charlie Sheen</p>

Charlie Sheen

Credit: CBS

The

 

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
 
It's time for an exhausted and vaguely punch-drunk Firewall & Iceberg Podcast in which Sepinwall and I battle through a collective lack of sleep to attempt to chat about a slew of exciting things, including Sunday's Oscars telecast, The Charlie Sheen Circus, the current state of CBS' "The Good Wife" and the Sunday premieres of "Taking on Tyson," "The Next Great American Restaurant" and "Breakout Kings."
 
I think we stayed awake for most of it.
 
Here's the breakdown:
The Oscars -- 00:53 - 19:20
Charlie Sheen -- 19:25 - 27:00
A few quick words on "American Idol" -- 27:00 - 31:00
"The Good Wife" -- 31:00 - 39:15
"Breakout Kings" -- 39:25 - 47:40
"America's Next Great Restaurant" -- 47:50 - 53:10
"Taking on Tyson" -- 55:15 - 01:03:45

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 here's the podcast...

 

Live Blogging the Taped 2011 Independent Spirit Awards

How did Joel McHale do hosting indie film's big night?

<p>Joel McHale hosting Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards</p>

Joel McHale hosting Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards

Credit: AP

Hey y'all...

Wanna play pretend?

Let's pretend that the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards weren't held five hours ago in Santa Monica and that the Winners weren't already posted to this site and that all of the evening's best moments weren't already spoiled by dozens of on-site tweeters. 

Let's pretend that since we weren't actually there (HitFix's Gregory Ellwood was), everything that happens under The Big Tent is fresh and new...

And with that in mind... Let's live-blog the darned thing! Click through...

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