<p>The three stars of MTV's &quot;Awkward&quot;</p>

The three stars of MTV's "Awkward"

Credit: MTV

TV Review: MTV's 'Awkward' returns for Season 2

HitFix
B-
Readers
A-
High school comedy makes a polished return, but is that a good thing?
MTV's "Awkward" premiered last summer as a diamond-in-the-rough.
 
On every imaginable level, Lauren Iungerich's comedy was ragged around the edges and that was part of its charm. Early storylines were without-a-net daring and the dialogue was laden with "Throw against the wall and see what sticks" jargon and neologisms. The performances were relaxed and natural and the production values weren't especially high, which all contributed to the appeal. Very few critics bothered to review those early episodes and that was OK, because MTV didn't have a clue what to do with "Awkward," burying it at 11 p.m. after airings of "Teen Mom," which was both a hilariously incompatible lead-in, but also the best the network could do under the circumstances.
 
In my review of "Awkward," I described it as a "proudly lewd and rude and big-hearted comedy." I gave "Awkward" a B-minus, but it was a fairly positive B-minus, as such things go and the write-up spoke of a fresh show with ample potential for growth and maturation.
 
"Awkward" returns to MTV on Thursday (June 28) night in a slightly more amenable 10:30 time slot and with a good deal more promotion and press.
 
And, having seen the first two episodes of the new season, I can confirm that "Awkward" is, indeed, growing and maturing. 
 
You'll notice, though, that the B-minus grade remains unchanged. It's still a positive B-minus, reflecting the copious amounts of talent and potential on display here. I'd still recommend the show and I'd strongly emphasize how "Awkward" is very close to doing the thing that I mentioned last week has been so seemingly impossible for ABC Family and The CW: It's a comedy that aims at young female viewers, is welcoming to older viewers of both sexes and actually manages to be funny.
 
So what's my problem? "Awkward" has grown and matured, but I don't think I love the direction that MTV and, presumably, Iungerich have chosen to push the show. The show that was once rough around the edges is, at times, too polished suddenly. And the show that was once daring is feeling a little too conventional at the moment. I don't think that "Awkward" Season 1 was the perfect realization of what the show was aspiring to be, but in many ways, its imperfections were admirable and felt like they weren't the result of careful reading and rereading of Twitter and message boards. 
 
The new "Awkward" episodes feel too crowd-sourced for my liking, but there's a strong chance that means that the crowd will embrace them. 
 
More after the break...
 
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Watch: Seth MacFarlane talks 'Ted,' Giant Chicken fights and going R-rated

Watch: Seth MacFarlane talks 'Ted,' Giant Chicken fights and going R-rated

Why was it important to the 'Family Guy' creator to make Ted real?
In film and television, it's hardly unusual for troubled guys to take solace in the company of furry friends. 
 
James Stewart hobnobbed with an overgrown rabbit.
 
Mel Gibson got confrontational with a British beaver.
 
Elijah Wood smokes up with a randy dog.
 
And Mark Wahlberg has a co-dependent friendship with a uncouth teddy bear.
 
Unlike "Harvey," "The Beaver" and "Wilfred," however, the foul-mouthed ursine companion in "Ted" is unquestionably real and not in any way a manifestation of his human chum's tormented psyche. Ted is capable of driving, having sex and fighting, while Wahlberg's John Bennett isn't crazy, unless you think it's crazy to occasionally prioritize a talking bear over intimacy with Mila Kunis.
 
Last weekend, I sat down with "Ted" writer-director-star Seth MacFarlane to talk about his first foray into live-action filmmaking after years of providing FOX with the bulk of its Sunday Animation Domination lineup. 
 
We chatted about using "Family Guy" and his FOX experiences for preparation, the decision to make "Ted" R-rated and why it was important to him that Ted not be a figment of anybody's imagination. 
 
Check back in the next two days for my conversations with Wahlberg and Kunis.
 
"Ted" opens on Friday, June 29.
Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 136
Credit: FX

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 136

Dan and Alan talk 'Anger Management,' 'Louie,' 'Episodes' and more
Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
 
Time for a comedy-filled installment of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast
 
This week's podcast includes reviews of BBC America's "Twenty Twelve," FX's "Anger Management" and "Louie," plus Showtime's "Weeds" and "Episodes."
 
You get no points for correctly guessing which show we liked most.
 
Due to the 4th of July holiday and a paucity of new programming, we won't be podcasting next week, but we'll have a couple jam-packed weeks after that, with Comic-Con and TCA Press Tour and whatnot. So... Whee!
 
Here's today's breakdown:
"Twenty Twelve" (00:01:20 - 00:07:45)
"Anger Management" (00:07:50 - 00:21:30)
"Louie" (00:22:00 - 00:32:00)
"Weeds" (00:32:00 - 00:40:05)
"Episodes" (00:40:10 - 00:53:00)
Listener Mail - Comedies ready for The Leap (00:53:20 - 01:02:20)
Listener Mail - Wives of Anti-heroes (01:02:25 - 01:12:45)
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (01:12:45 - 01:25:00)
'Brave' interview wrap-up and Fien Print Archery

'Brave' interview wrap-up and Fien Print Archery

How many civilians would perish when Dan takes up the bow-and-arrow
EDINGBURGH, SCOTLAND - I've been teasing this for a week now, so I can't put it off any longer. It's time to celebrate the wonder of Dan and his ineptitude at archery.
 
Earlier this month, I was at the junket for Disney/Pixar's "Brave" in Edinburgh, Scotland and, on the first night, the assembled press descended upon Prestonfield House for dinner and a slew of stand-up opportunities. Stand-ups are usually for TV reporters to give a little more color to otherwise basic interview opportunities. One of the stand-ups involved archery, a skill I haven't utilized since I was 10 at Camp White Pine in Halliburton, Ontario. And even when I was utilizing said skill -- maybe once or twice per summer, maximum -- I wasn't actually very skillful, a lack of coordination that has only intensified in the subsequent decades. 
 
With the help of Jim, an endearingly patient man in a kilt, I reminded myself why my life is best lived weapon-free.
 
Kudos to HitFix's James Jhun for the ace job of crafting eight or nine minutes of awkwardness into a well-crafted three minutes of self-mockery!
 
And, meanwhile, check out the other "Brave" interviews I did on the junket.
 
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Watch: John Lasseter talks 'Brave,' Steve Jobs and Marvel prospects

Watch: John Lasseter talks 'Brave,' Steve Jobs and Marvel prospects

Pixar chief talks about the studio's storyteller-driven focus
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - At the dinner that opened the recent press junket for "Brave" in Edinburgh, John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studio, made a huge sartorial sacrifice on behalf of his companies' newest venture. 
 
Lasseter stood up and greeted a room of press and luminaries from the film without the Hawaii shirts that have been his trademark for years. Befitting the bagpipers that led us into the hall, the haggis on the menu and, of course, "Brave" itself, Lasseter was fully decked out in a kilt. 
 
Less than 12 hours later, sitting at the Balmoral Hotel, Lasseter was back in his Hawaiian finery for interviews. After all, he's been chatting with reporters in Hawaiian shirts through 12 Pixar films and by any imaginable standard, the Hawaiian shirts and Pixar have done pretty well together. 
 
As has been mentioned previously, "Brave" is the 13th Pixar feature and the first toplined by a female character. In our conversation, Lasseter discusses that milestone, talks about the tribute to the late Steve Jobs that comes at the top of the closing credits and talks in a quick circle around my question about a Pixar/Marvel team-up.
 
By now, you've had the chance to watch my interviews with the charming Kelly Macdonald and the spirited Kevin McKidd. plus my interesting and energetic chat with director Mark Andrews and producer Katherine Sarafian. I'm thinking my humiliating archery video will go up on Saturday.
 
"Brave" opens on Friday, June 22.

 

Watch: Mark Andrews and Katherine Sarafian explain why 'Brave' is no Disney fairy tale

Watch: Mark Andrews and Katherine Sarafian explain why 'Brave' is no Disney fairy tale

Director and producer also discuss Merida's hair and voice
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - Pixar's "Brave" arrives with prominent Disney billing, but it is, in many ways, an inversion of the studio's classic animation formula.
 
There are no talking animals or cute sidekicks. Nobody bursts into song. 
 
Arrow-slinging heroine Merida, is technically something of a princess, but she isn't a Disney princess waiting for her prince to come. She's in no hurry to wed, however regal her suitors may be. 
 
Merdia is also, somewhat remarkably, the first female character to topline a Pixar film. Somehow, Pixar branched into male rats, male fish and male robots before human females.
 
"Brave" director Mark Andrews and producer and Pixar lifer Katherine Sarafian emphasized that they didn't let Merida's trailblazing status impact their conception of the character. She's a Pixar character primarily, rather than a boundar-breaking young woman and then a Pixar character.
 
In a wide-reaching interview, conducted at Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel earlier this month, I chatted with Andrews and Sarafian about approaching "Brave" as the Anti-Disney Disney film, about the "labor of love" that was Merida's ultra-complex hair and about what leading lady Kelly Macdonald brought Merida. 
 
By now, you've had the chance to watch my interviews with the charming Kelly Macdonald and the spirited Kevin McKidd. Stay tuned tomorrow for my chat with Pixar head honcho John Lasseter. And maybe Friday or Saturday will be a good time for that embarrassing archery video.
 

"Brave" opens on Friday, June 22. 

<p>FOX says this is a picture from Wednesday's &quot;So You Think You Can Dance&quot;</p>

FOX says this is a picture from Wednesday's "So You Think You Can Dance"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'So You Think You Can Dance' - Vegas Callbacks

The auditions are over and now it's off to Sin City

I haven't been to Las Vegas for a long time.

But you know who is in Las Vegas? The "So You Think You Can Dance" hoofers.

It's time for the most intense Vegas Week ever. Or what I assume will be the most intense Vegas Week ever. Because reality TV shows rarely pimp episodes by saying, "Next week... Our most exciting Vegas Week in a couple years... since at least Season 4 or something."

Pity that. Click through for my recap of the toughest cuts of all...

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<p>The cast of ABC Family's &quot;Baby Daddy&quot;</p>

The cast of ABC Family's "Baby Daddy"

Credit: ABC Family

TV Review: ABC Family's 'Baby Daddy' births few laughs

HitFix
C-
Readers
B+
It's 'Raising Hope,' minus the things that make 'Raising Hope' good
If the late English actor Edmund Kean had worked as a 21st Century programming executive, his last words may well have been, "Dying is easy... Developing comedies for young women is hard."
 
Oh, it's easy enough to do comedies for teen and tween female viewers. Disney Channel has been doing it with wild amounts of success for years, launching the careers of starlets like Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. 
 
But what happens when those viewers get a little older? Do they stop wanting to laugh? 
 
That might be a logical supposition if you look at the comedy slates of the two networks that target women 18-34.
 
The CW has surrendered entirely on comedy. When The WB (which also had comedy issues) merged with UPN, a slew of sitcoms stuck around as part of the latter network's commitment to African-American viewers. As soon as The CW's demographic focus shifted, those comedies were pushed out the door. You think The CW might want those 7-ish million viewers who watch "The Game" now on BET? Sure, but that was never going to happen on The CW. It's been years since The CW last aired a half-hour comedy series.
 
ABC Family, in contrast, keeps trying and trying and trying to do comedy, without any real success. "Melissa & Joey" does reasonably well allegedly, but calling it "generic" would be almost unsustainable hyperbole. "10 Things I Hate About You" was on-brand and well-received by some critics, but it was cancelled after a season. "State of Georgia" had a solid pedigree with Jennifer Weiner creating and Raven-Symone starring, but it also barely rose to the level of mediocre and was cancelled after a season. 
 
It's notable that ABC Family can't do comedy, because the network does drama reasonably well by several standards. It has populist successes like "Secret Life of the American Teenager," young-skewing social media "buzz" hits like "Pretty Little Liars" and with "Switched at Birth" and "Bunheads," it even has a few shows that critics say nice things about.
 
But comedy.
 
Oy.
 
So difficult. 
 
ABC Family's latest comedic whimper is "Baby Daddy," which premieres at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday (June 20) night and will be forgotten by 9:15. And maybe ABC Family views that as progress, because the pilot for "State of Georgia" was bad enough that it took well over 15 minutes to forget. 
 
"Baby Daddy" has no real point of view, no real comedic voice and one very cute infant. Somebody at ABC Family probably, in fact, views that as a net gain.
 
A few more thoughts, somewhat more specific than "Meh-minus," after the break...
 
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Watch: Kevin McKidd discusses his 'Brave' voices and why animation is like being a spy

Watch: Kevin McKidd discusses his 'Brave' voices and why animation is like being a spy

'Grey's Anatomy' star also discusses another killer Shonda Rhimes finale
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - Like his "Brave" co-star Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd was first introduced to most viewers in Danny Boyle's "Trainspotting" and, also like Macdonald, McKidd makes his primary living covering up his native Scottish accent for a successful television show.
 
On ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," McKidd plays tightly wound, periodically traumatized, entirely American Owen Hunt. Emotional repression aside, it's a strong role for McKidd, but when we sat down at Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel for the junket for "Brave," he admitted how fun it is to just let loose in the recording booth.
 
In "Brave," McKidd plays Scottish clan leader Lord MacGuffin, as well as his seemingly dim-witted son, one of three suitors to Macdonald's Merida. On the surface, Young MacGuffin seems to almost completely incoherent, but as McKidd explains, the character is actually speaking a specific dialect that runs in the actor's bloodlines.
 
Neither role is huge, but McKidd told me that he's been working on "Brave" for four years, a project that he compares to being a secret agent. 
 
[We also discussed "Grey's Anatomy" just a wee bit and what that conversation isn't in the "Brave"-centric interview above, it's excerpted below!]
 
Hopefully you've already watched my interview with the charming Kelly MacDonald. And stay tuned over the next couple days for my conversations with Pixar chief John Lasseter and with "Brave" director Mark Andrews & producer Katherine Sarafian. And yes, I'm still planning on posting the embarrassing video of my archery attempts in Scotland. 
 
"Brave" opens on Friday, June 22. 
Watch: 'Brave' star Kelly Macdonald discusses her plucky Pixar heroine

Watch: 'Brave' star Kelly Macdonald discusses her plucky Pixar heroine

Is her 'Boardwalk Empire' character beginning to emulate Merida?
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - Leave aside the prospect of Oscars or overflowing box office coffers. Pixar's latest feature, "Brave," will have fulfilled its destiny if children across the United States begin to inject Scottish accents into their playground adventures.
 
Sure to be leading that charge will be destiny-defying red-headed firebrand Merida, who is the first female focal protagonist in a Pixar film. An ace archer, Merida resists her mother's entreaties that she tame her unruly hair, set aside her beloved bow and accept responsibility, adulthood and marriage.
 
Much of Merida's spirit comes from her determined eyes and a fiery mane that took Pixar years to develop, but it would be hard to undersell the value of the vocal contribution from Glasgow-born Kelly Macdonald, who wins audience adoration with every exasperated grunt, spunky exclamation and crisply delivered zinger. 
 
In live action form, Macdonald has been embodying feisty heroines dating back to 1996's "Trainspotting" and following through features like "Gosford Park" and superb TV work like "State of Play," an Emmy-winning turn in "The Girl in the Cafe" and her current Emmy nominated role on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."
 
And, in person, Macdonald is every bit as feisty. 
 
At Disney and Pixar's junket for "Brave" in Edinburgh, Scotland, I sat down with Macdonald and we discussed Merida's place among Pixar protagonists, what aspects of Teenage Kelly made it into Merida's voice and whether, in the upcoming third season of "Boardwalk Empire," Margaret Schroeder finally gets to become a little Merida. 
 
As the stand-up introduction to this interview indicates, I've got a lot of "Brave" interviews coming over the next few days. After Macdonald, I'll have interviews with co-star Kevin McKidd, Pixar chief John Lasseter, and director Mark Andrews & producer Katherine Sarafian. And, you got a snippet of this in the intro, I'll probably be posting a really embarrassing video of my attempts to master archery, Merida style. 
 
"Brave" opens on Friday, June 22.