<p>ABC's &quot;Once Upon a Time&quot;</p>
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ABC's "Once Upon a Time"

Credit: ABC

TV Review: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'

Fairy tale whimsy makes ABC's new drama interesting, but not instantly compelling
Like many pieces of oral tradition, fairy tales are built heavily upon both structure and repetition. 
Stories begin with "Once upon a time" or "In the beginning." They end with "And they all lived happily ever after" or a moral of some sort. In between, they trade upon familiar character types -- Wicked queens, charming princes, trolls and dwarves, seemingly unbreakable curses and true love everlasting. 
Similar versions of the same fairy tales pop up across dozens of cultures without a clear common source binding them all together.
So really, it's amusingly appropriate that ABC and NBC are both premiering "Fairy Tales in the Modern World" TV dramas in the same week, that both dramas practically force pop culture-aware critics and viewers to compare them to Bill Willingham's comic series "Fables," and yet neither drama has any literal connection to "Fables" at all (or even a non-literal connection, since the "What if fairy tales were real?" hypothetical isn't a copyrightable premise). 
As I'll eventually get around to writing later this week, NBC's "Grimm" is too beholden to its structure, with an excruciatingly dull procedural format sucking all of the magic from its premise. 
ABC's "Once Upon a Time," in contrast, suffers from insufficient structure and from excessive repetition. Having "Once Upon a Time" air on the same network and "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" makes the show's banal romantic platitudes seem less magical than they would in a different context. Once an elementary school teacher believes that an evening making out with a douche-y pilot in a hot tub can be categorized as "a fairy tale," seeing the "real" ("fantastical") thing is an inevitable disappointment. 
In the head-to-head new series battle, "Once Upon a Time" is a clear winner over "Grimm," which is both dismal and doomed to swift failure on Friday nights on NBC. 
My biggest problem with "Once Upon a Time" is that I've seen two episodes and I don't quite know what the week-to-week series is and while that isn't always a problem on a new show, it's a problem on a show where I'm not instantly hooked and instantly prepared to commit to the journey without some reassurances.
More after the break...
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Watch: Nat Faxon and French Stewart discuss FOX's 'Allen Gregory'

Get to know Allen Gregory's two dads
Due to the World Series, the premiere of FOX's new animated comedy "Allen Gregory" is still a week away, with the Jonah Hill creation finally hitting the small screen on Sunday, October 30.
In "Allen Gregory," series co-creator Hill voices the title character, who could be most simply described as the world's most pretentious, over-enabled seven-year-old boy. When Allen, long home schooled, finds himself forced to face the indignities of public schooling, hilarity ensues.
I did a slew of video interviews with many of the "Allen Gregory" voices and I'll be posting them over the next week, starting with my conversation with Nat Faxon and French Stewart, who play the main character's two dads. 
You already know Stewart from "3rd Rock From The Sun" and animated work including "God, the Devil and Bob," while Faxon's FOX credits include the live-action "Happy Hour" and vocal turns on "American Dad" and "The Cleveland Show."
Check out the interview. 
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<p>Elyse of &quot;Survivor&quot;</p>
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Elyse of "Survivor"

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Elyse Umemoto of 'Survivor: South Pacific'

Latest castoff talks pork, pageants and her Ozzy mistake
Elyse Umemoto came closer to winning Miss America than she did to taking home the million dollar prize on "Survivor: South Pacific."
The former Miss Washington and Miss American second runner-up became the fourth person to head home on this latest "Survivor" season after dropping a shuffleboard Redemption Island Duel to the oddly unstoppable Christine on Wednesday's (Oct. 19) 
Elyse didn't really do anything wrong on "Survivor." She wasn't a physical liability and she situated herself in a strong alliance from the very beginning. Unfortunately, she aligned herself most closely with two-time "Survivor" loser Ozzy Lusth, which could have been an advantage, but became a mistake.
With their tribe unable or unwilling to vote Ozzy out -- he provides fish and coconuts, after all -- a reasonable alternative was to unexpectedly excise his best chum from the game. Farewell, Elyse.
To her credit, Elyse understands what motivated Jim and Cochran and Dawn to orchestrate her elimination. In fact, she probably has the best perspective on the game of any of this season's early bootees, a perspective that seems particularly impressive given that she claims not to be watching this season.
Click through for my full exit interview with Elyse...
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<p>Kelsey Grammer of &quot;Boss&quot;</p>
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Kelsey Grammer of "Boss"

Credit: Starz

TV Review: Starz' 'Boss'

Kelsey Grammer is the hook, but the new Starz drama may have more to offer
Episodes of the new Starz drama "Boss" open with Robert Plant's version of the traditional gospel standard "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down."
In all of its incarnations (I'm partial to the Uncle Tupelo cover), "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" is a pretty simple song and the core lyrics boil down to basically what you see in the title. 
I'm suspecting that it's no coincidence that whenever I hear "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down," my mind immediately goes to Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole," which has a similar message about the allure and power of Beelzebub and the saving capacity of [Christian] faith.
The magnetic power of our baser instincts and the way those baser instincts run through the broader institutions of the American City were central to David Simon's exquisitely woven "Wire" tapestry and they're not far removed from what Farhad Safinia is tackling in "Boss."
In "The Wire," The Devil was in the institutions, the forces the prevented even the best of individual instincts and aspirations from breaking through the complacency of the system. While Simon had pockets of hope -- sometimes wide swathes of hope -- he was ultimately profoundly pessimistic. Good cops. Good teachers. Good union organizers. Good politicians. Good journalists. They all fought to keep The Devil way down in the hole, but Old Scratch kept getting out a wreaking havoc. "The Wire" was about the way an American city functions, but doesn't work.
Having seen two episodes of "Boss," I can't instantly tell you Safinia's world-view. I know he's nowhere near as overtly political as Simon and, in turn, I also suspect he's nowhere near as pessimistic as Simon. The series may be about the fall of a Great Man, but I don't know if Safinia wants us to view Kelsey Grammer's Tom Kane, longtime mayor of Chicago, as the symbolic "Satan" referred to in the opening song. It's entirely plausible that the political system in Chicago, long entrenched and long variably corrupt, is meant as Satan. But through two episodes, I don't know if Safinia is wanting viewers to root for Kane and/or the system to collapse, or if he's showing a landscape in which the evil that men do is capable of leading to a collective good for the community.
I sense that the opening songs are meant to tie "Boss" and "The Wire" together in some sort of collective meditation on the evil inherent in the urban space. Although I don't feel like "Boss" is anywhere near that "Wire" level of discourse -- literally nothing else in the history of the small screen is -- I admire its willingness to dive into the sort of terrain that TV ought to be well-suited to explore, but so rarely does. I can't even say that "Boss" is on the same level as Shawn Ryan's "The Chicago Code," which used the police as a pivot for delving into all aspects of the Windy City, but "Boss" is what's on TV right now and if it lives up to even some of its ample potential, it could become a series of some substance. That's a rare thing and one worthy of investing in.
More after the break...
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<p>&nbsp;Rick of &quot;Survivor: South Pacific&quot;</p>
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 Rick of "Survivor: South Pacific"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: South Pacific' - 'Free Agent'

Ozzy pouts, Brandon hunts and shuffleboard determines elimination
No "X Factor" tonight, so "Survivor" recapping gets to be early again. Click through for my recap of the Wednesday (October 19) episode of "Survivor: South Pacific."
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<p>Paula Abdul and Pharrell of &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>
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Paula Abdul and Pharrell of "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' - 'Judges' House #3' Live-Blog

The judges cut the field down to the Top 16

"The X Factor," FOX's favorite Wednesday, Thursday, sometimes Sunday and sometimes Tuesday drama is back. On tonight's episode, we're going to see lots and lots and lots of clips from earlier episodes, but we may also learn the identity of the season's Top 16.

Click through for all of the live-blogging excitement!

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<p>Kathleen Robertson of &quot;Boss&quot;</p>
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Kathleen Robertson of "Boss"

Credit: Starz

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 99

Dan and Alan review 'Boss,' 'Once Upon a Time,' 'Man Up' and more


Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
Time for Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 99.
We have no "Breaking Bad" to discuss this week. So sad.
We do, however, have reviews for a slew of new shows, including Starz' "Boss" and ABC's "Man Up" and "Once Upon a Time." We also answer mail and some of that mail touches on... "Breaking Bad." Whew.
Here's the breakdown:
"Man Up" -- 02:15 - 13:15
"Pearl Jam Twenty" -- 13:15 - 21:35
"Boss" -- 21:40 - 32:45
"Once Upon a Time" -- 32:45 - 42:40
Listener Mail: Showrunners winging it -- 42:50 - 48:30
Listener Mail: Unintended meaning -- 48:40 - 52:45
Listener Mail: Critic aggregator sites -- 52:50 - 57:15
Listener Mail: Baseball's impact on FOX -- 57:20 - 01:04:00

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...
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<p>&nbsp;Liz and Marie, or perhaps Marie and Liz, no definitely Liz and Marie of &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>
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 Liz and Marie, or perhaps Marie and Liz, no definitely Liz and Marie of "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' - 'This Is Gonna Be a Fine Mess'

The teams head to Phuket and face a difficult Detour
I guess I should give thanks to Wednesday's baseball rain delay for pushing "The X Factor" to Sunday and allowing me the rare opportunity to check out "The Amazing Race" in HD for the first time this season (and maybe only the second or third time in total).
"The Amazing Race" still looks fantastic in HD and I wonder if the HD shift was at least partially responsible for bringing Jerry Bruckheimer back into the winners' column at the Emmys last month. This week's episode included a scratching monkey, beautiful floating cities and fetching (but still indistinguishable) sunburnt Twins Liz and Marie, all in HD. The Detour task with the windblown rainbow umbrellas was also made for high definition.
So yeah, either this recap is going to be all about the beauty of "The Amazing Race" in HD, or I'm going to be force to spend a while grumbling, because we've had four episodes this season and only two of them have ended with a team (or teams) going home.
Yup. It was another Non-Elimination Leg. Even if it saved a team that I like looking at, you'll have to forgive me if I'm not enthused.
Full recap after the break...
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<p>Enrique Iglesias and Nicole Scherzinger of &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>
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Enrique Iglesias and Nicole Scherzinger of "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' - 'Judges' House #2' Live-Blog

More performances from France, Malibu, The Hamptons and Santa Barbara

FOX really isn't making it easy to keep up with the schedule for "The X Factor." Sunday (October 16) night's episode is the episode that was really supposed to air on Thursday, except that Thursday's episode was really Wednesday's episode due to playoff baseball. But you know how "X Factor" really airs on Wednesdays and Thursdays? Well, this week it'll air on Tuesday, because the World Series is airing on Wednesday and Thursday. 

Does that all make sense? Don't worry. Expect oodles of reminders during Sunday's episode, which'll be live-blogged after the break...

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<p>Stacey and &quot;Survivor&quot; host Jeff Probst</p>
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Stacey and "Survivor" host Jeff Probst

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Stacey Powell of 'Survivor: South Pacific'

Straight-talking mortician has more to say about Benjamin and his alliance
Before her Duel on Wednesday (October 12) night's "Survivor: South Pacific," Stacey Powell must have sensed she was heading home, so the 44-year-old Texas mortician decided to go out with a bang.
In the latest in which has become a quickly established tradition of Pre-Duel Rants, Stacey exposed her tribe's core alliance, revealing Coach as the strategic ringleader. But Stacey refused to refer to "Coach," repeatedly calling him "Benjamin," much to Jeff Probst's amusement. [Coach's subsequent in-camp temper tantrum proved that Stacey had smartly targeted a sore spot.]
Stacey's actual loss in the Duel with Christine wasn't nearly as memorable, but perhaps Stacey is best remembered for an admirable effort in the strength competition that preceded her eventual elimination, an effort that remains a clear point of pride.
In our exit interview, Stacey and I discussed Benjamin, Brandon and the failings in her social game.
Click through for the full interview...
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