<p>Viola Davis of &quot;How To Get Away With Murder&quot;</p>

Viola Davis of "How To Get Away With Murder"

Credit: ABC

TV Ratings: 'How To Get Away With Murder' tops Victoria's Secret on Thursday

'Big Bang Theory,' 'Odd Couple' give CBS a slim overall win

Fast National ratings for Thursday, February 26, 2015.

The two-hour season finale of "How To Get Away With Murder" did big numbers for ABC on Thursday, helping the network easily win the night among young viewers. But even though "Murder" more-than-doubled the "Victoria's Secret Swim Special," a new "Big Bang Theory" still allowed CBS win Thursday overall.

While CBS discovered the limits of the Victoria's Secret brand -- the star-studded annual Fashion Show special is a reliable annual smash -- the network saw respectable second week retention for "The Odd Couple" and an OK time period premiere for "Mom," which held onto all of its "Big Bang Theory" repeat lead-in. 

Over on NBC, the news was mixed, with "The Blacklist" getting a tiny bump in its first airing without "Scandal" competition, but both "The Slap" and "Allegiance" remained untenably low.

FOX's "American Idol" added a few viewers overall and was flat in the key demo and "Backstrom" did the same.

On to the numbers...

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<p>Kal Penn of &quot;Battle Creek&quot;</p>

Kal Penn of "Battle Creek"

Credit: CBS

Interview: 'Battle Creek' star Kal Penn on 'House' reunions and pot differentiation

'Harold and Kumar' and White House veteran talks about his career path

Kal Penn is walking a different beat in the CBS police dramedy "Battle Creek," but this is in many ways a return for him.

You might not necessarily remember, but Penn has been working in the CBS family steadily since he ended his sabbatical working for the White House. He followed a recurring arc on "How I Met Your Mother" with a regular role on the short-lived "We Are Men" before landing on "Battle Creek," which was created by Vince Gilligan, but is run by David Shore.

Shore, of course, worked with Penn during his multi-season run as the ill-fated Dr. Lawrence Kutner on FOX's "House," a series that appears on the resume of many of the "Battle Creek" scribes.

And when one of the first things we learn about Penn's Detective Fontanelle is that he's a user of medicinal marijuana, which ties Font in with Penn's long and beloved run as star of the "Harold and Kumar" franchise. 

Last week, I sat down with Penn to discuss reuniting with his old "House" colleagues, the necessity of differentiating his versions of acting high and the actor's interest in researching and experiencing both the most and least exciting parts of the jobs he places on screen. 

So how is Fontanelle's love of weed different from Kumar's?

How many orifices did perps have drugs in when he did his ride-alongs in the real Battle Creek?

And would he ever return to work in the Beltway?

Click through for the full Q&A... And check out "Battle Creek" on Sunday (March 1) night on CBS...

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<p>Jax</p>

Jax

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 14 - Top 12 Girls Perform

Get ready for a dozen frantically edited performances from Detroit

OK. Maybe Wednesday night's horribly paced performance night for the Top 12 Boys took me a bit by surprise.

Perhaps knowing what's coming for Thursday (February 26) night's Top 12 Girls performances will make it a bit easier to stomach.

Or maybe not.

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<p>Anna Faris of &quot;Mom&quot;</p>

Anna Faris of "Mom"

Credit: CBS

Interview: 'Mom' star Anna Faris on why it's fun to be a mess, hard to fall down

'Scary Movie' veteran discusses Christy's intelligence and legal future

Now it's time for your semi-regular reminder: Few comedies on network TV take more risks and offer more interesting rewards than CBS' "Mom" and CBS' "Mom" is shifting to a new time period at 9:30 on Thursdays. 

They've been having a rough go of things recently on "Mom," with the death of Kevin Pollak's Alvin. And rather than following the normal sitcom blueprint of letting characters grieve for a scene or two, "Mom" has kept those emotional wounds open.

Of course, as always on "Mom," it hasn't been all wallowing. Yes, her father just died and her mother may be cracking up a little, but Anna Faris' Christy got a promotion at work and with a new-found interest in the law, it's possible that Christy may have more direction than ever before. And that, of course, means that it'll soon be time for Christy to fall on her face again.

Last week, I dropped by the "Mom" set and was able to chat with Anna Faris, Emmy winner Allison Janney and a few guest stars. My conversation with Janney dropped a few spoilers, so I'm holding it for a few weeks, but she gave me some interesting insights before sitting down with Faris.

Thanks to the "Scary Movie" franchise and roles in films like "The House Bunny" and "Smiley Face" and "Just Friends," Faris came to CBS as a known comedic quantity, but "Mom" has let her expand on the dramatic range that sometimes appeared in small roles in "Brokeback Mountain" or "Lost in Translation." As she discusses, she didn't expect that when she signed on for a Chuck Lorre comedy, but she's loved the opportunities. 

In our conversation, Faris talks about the importance of having Janney with her for this project, the fact that physical comedy never gets easy and Christy's new-found direction. She also says that she wouldn't mind getting to see Christy become more messy as well.

Remember the new 9:30 "Mom" time slot and check out my chat with Anna Faris below...

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<p>&quot;Secrets and Lies&quot;</p>

"Secrets and Lies"

Credit: ABC

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 269 - 'House of Cards,' 'Last Man' & more

Dan and Alan also discuss 'Secrets and Lies' and 'Battle Creek'

The

Happy Thursday, Boys & Girls!

Wait. Didn't we just give you a podcast yesterday? Aren't y'all lucky! It's a double-dose of Firewall & Iceberg this week.

In this podcast, we have reviews of "House of Cards," "The Last Man on Earth," "Secrets and Lies" and "Battle Creek."

One show we strongly endorse. Two shows we strongly reject. And the third? Well, you'll have to listen to find out. 

And then we had a few minutes, so we made fun of the Oscars a little.

It's not the longest of podcasts, but combined with the 80 minutes we did on "Parks and Recreation" yesterday? Yeah. Seems sufficient.

Here's today's breakdown:
"House of Cards" (01:00 - 13:15)
"The Last Man on Earth" (13:15 - 20:40)
"Secrets and Lies" (20:45 - 31:35)
"Battle Creek" (31:35 - 42:55)
The Oscars (43:00 - 51:20)

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 or subscribe on IHeartRadio.] 

 

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

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<p>Will Forte of &quot;The Last Man on Earth&quot;</p>

Will Forte of "The Last Man on Earth"

Credit: FOX

Exclusive: Behind-the-scenes shots of Will Forte as 'The Last Man on Earth'

There are more people behind the camera than in the fictional world

The world of FOX's "The Last Man on Earth" is a vast wasteland, a vast hilarious wasteland. 

It's "28 Days Later" only with fewer corpses. In fact, there are no corpses. At TCA press tour last month, I asked creator Will Forte and pilot directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller about how the world of "Last Man on Earth" smells.

"The world smells very nice," Forte told reporters amiably. "I think that the dead bodies have been sedentary for long enough that, as long as you don’t poke them you’re probably safe."

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<p>Wednesday&#39;s &quot;Empire&quot;</p>

Wednesday's "Empire"

Credit: FOX

TV Ratings: 'Survivor,' 'Amazing Race' premieres can't halt 'Empire' rise

'Modern Family' and 'The Goldbergs' are both up

Fast National ratings for Wednesday, February 25, 2015.

With "Survivor" coming in to seemingly inevitably take a bite out of "American Idol," this looked like a good week for FOX to finally suffer a tiny Wednesday night decline.

Nope.

While "American Idol" posted a very small drop against the latest "Survivor" premiere, "Empire" remained an unfathomable force-of-nature, rising yet again in both viewers and the key demo as FOX was up week-to-week in dominating Wednesday in all measures.

The "Survivor" finale was down in young viewers from the fall launch, but not by enough to even acknowledge. The "Survivor" audience is what it is -- actually up a hair overall -- and in Season 30, that's mighty impressive. On the sadder side, even on a better night and with a lead-in, "The Amazing Race" failed to get much for a bump for its latest premiere, before heading back to Friday.

There were nice Wednesday bumps for headily promoted episodes of "The Goldbergs" and "Modern Family," while in the always tight 10 p.m. race, "Chicago PD" was able to edge out "Nashville," in part because "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" grew without "Criminal Minds."

On to the numbers...

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<p>Josh Duhamel of &quot;Battle Creek&quot;</p>

Josh Duhamel of "Battle Creek"

Credit: CBS

Interview: 'Battle Creek' star Josh Duhamel on his character's secrets and lies

The 'Las Vegas' star wanted to work with people who would make him better

In a visual flourish courtesy of pilot director Bryan Singer, Special Agent Milton Chamberlain is introduced in the world of "Battle Creek" from a low angle. Above his head, a circle of lights forms a halo. 

Milt Chamberlain is an angel. Milt Chamberlain is a boy scout. Milt Chamberlain is a golden boy.

But Milt Chamberlain isn't exactly what he seems to be. Or at least Battle Creek PD Detective Russ Agnew (Dean Winters) is convinced that Chamberlain isn't what he seems to be. But every time Russ thinks he's uncover the dark secret that his new partner is hiding, we discover that the secret isn't really the truth. 

It's a reluctant partnership that forms the spine of "Battle Creek," a quirky, surprisingly funny procedural that was created by "Breaking Bad" maestro Vince Gilligan and then developed as a series by "House" maestro David Shore. 

Our first impression of Chamberlain, all flash and polish, is a good match for most viewers' preconceptions of star Josh Duhamel, who moved from modeling to soap opera to the glitz and gloss of NBC's "Las Vegas," before moving on to a number of films including the "Transformers" franchise. But part of the fun of "Battle Creek" is watching Duhamel take a character who begins as a Ken doll and start to play around with his rough edges, culminating in a number of interesting reveals, each of which could be true or else another fiction.

I sat down with Duhamel last week to talk about his first regular TV role since 2008, the attraction of playing a character built on a foundation of lies and perhaps redemption and whether or not he feels like he truly gets Milt Chamberlain after 13 episodes.

"Battle Creek" premieres this Sunday (March 1) at 10 p.m. on CBS.

Check out my full chat with Josh Duhamel below...

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<p>&quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>

"The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' Premiere - 'Great Way To Start a Relationship'

Six couples and five pairs of blind daters head off to Tokyo

"The Amazing Race" giveth and "The Amazing Race" taketh away. 

Following a season that saw ratings drop on Fridays, "The Amazing Race" got a special Wednesday showcase after the "Survivor: Worlds Apart" premiere and with both long-running favorites instituting format twists this season, CBS was able to spare 90 minutes apiece for the two launches. 

Longtime readers know that I'm pretty insistent that you need to have at least a 90-minute premiere for "The Amazing Race," because the effort to establish 11 teams of 22 players while also giving the necessary exposure to navigating around international locations and 
for various challenges is almost impossible in only 60 minutes. I don't think "The Amazing Race" has ever had an entirely satisfying hour-long premiere.

And the 90 minutes given to Wednesday's (February 25) "Amazing Race" premiere were enough to help me see some of the merit to the Blind Dating twist that gave us six teams of established couples, plus five teams of semi-compatible strangers on an extended bid for both romance and a big chunk of money. Over 90 minutes, I was able to see how it might be interesting to watch the interactions between the fake couples, how they could offer at least variations on the typical "Amazing Race" relationships and how that couple be worthwhile. At the same time, it was hard to deny that the show loses something when each and every relationship is couple-y, as opposed to the usual "Amazing Race" mixture of friends, lovers, siblings, spouses, co-workers, parents-and-children, etc. The show is about how different types of pairings interact in a stressful environment, rather than how different types of the same pairings interact in a stressful environment. The sameness of the couplings kept the results from being as shocking or revelatory as the show wanted us to think they were. 

But I'm interested.

The problem, though, was that in the process of making sure that we spent a lot of time watching how the 10 various strangers were flirting or relating or just trying to co-exist took type from the standard things that an "Amazing Race" episode needs in order to truly sing. 

So when we eliminated a team that we barely saw at all for reasons that verged on baffling, I couldn't get excited about what was still edited to look like a somewhat back-and-forth race to the final mat. 

Some basic details after the break, followed by my usual season-opening handicapping of the teams...

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<p>Vince of &quot;Survivor: Worlds Apart&quot;</p>

Vince of "Survivor: Worlds Apart"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Worlds Apart' Premiere - 'It's Survivor Warfare'

Jeff Probst spends a long time explaining the Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar thing

Pre-credit sequence. The teams are arriving in trucks, practically "Wages of Fear" style. Are they trying to say that this season's contestants are combustible? They're TNT, dyno-MITE? The 18 castaways have been divided semi-arbitrarily into three tribes based on occupation and outlook on life, whatever that means. Up first? The White Collar tribe. "They're used to being in charge," Jeff Probst says. So admits she might be the Devil, says that she's demanding and makes her underlings cry. Max, who everybody I follow on Twitter knows from his "Survivor" teaching days, says that he's willing to use people to succeed. Carolyn compares this to her corporate experiences. The Blue Collar tribe is next. "They're used to hard work and physical labor," Probst says condescendingly. He resists calling them "salt of the earth" and "just folks." Mike is used to being covered in oil and mud and wants to get his hands filthy. Lindsey is a single mom and hair stylist and tells us that mentally, there's no one on this Earth who is as strong as she is, which is absurd, but amusingly so. Monkey! Dan is living his dream and he hopes to being remembered. For something. As for the No Collar Tribe? It means nothing! "They use their free-spirit mentality to further themselves in life," Probst says. Jenn does what she wants to do when she wants to do it and she wants a million bucks. Hali is a law student, but she's in it for "like the poor, broken down people." How freely spirited! And Vince seeks truth as a coconut vendor. "My personality's a lot like surfing a wave," Vince promises. Whoa. Lord, this is so silly. Joaquin is in this for the bling. Joe wants people to think he's there to enjoy the beaches, but he's not. "When it comes to the competition, I'm filet mignon and they're a bunch of Steak-umm," opines alleged meathead Rodney. This reminds me that I'm hungry.

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