<p>Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson of 'Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn'</p>
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Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson of 'Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn'

Credit: Summit

Comic-Con Live-Blog: Stewart, Pattinson, Lautner 'Breaking Dawn' press conference

The stars of newest 'Twilight' film and director Bill Condon meet the Press

Welcome dear friends to the "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" press conference with Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Bill Condon, taking place on Thursday (July 21) morning at the Bayfront Hilton at San Diego's Comic-Con.

In the past, wifi in this hotel has been a nightmare, but assuming it holds up, I'll be live-blogging up a storm.

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<p>After the recording of this podcast, things got violent between Dan and Alan at HitFix's Comic-Con Kickoff Party.</p>
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After the recording of this podcast, things got violent between Dan and Alan at HitFix's Comic-Con Kickoff Party.

Credit: LA Photo Party

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 85

Dan and Alan talk Comic-Con, 'Entourage,' 'Breaking Bad' and more
Happy Wednesday/Thursday, Boys & Girls. 
 
This installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast was recorded on Wednesday evening, but it's posting on Thursday morning, so the timing is all wonky.
 
Sorry about that.
 
It's a packed podcast with discussion of Comic-Con, "Entourage," CBS' "Same Name," the season premiere of "Breaking Bad" (with SPOILERS, obviously) and, of course, "Twin Peaks."
 
The breakdown:
Comic-Con -- 01:15 - 08:40
"Entourage" -- 08:40 - 18:30
"Same Name" -- 18:30 - 27:00
"Breaking Bad" -- 27:15 - 42:15
"Twin Peaks" -- 42:30 - 52:00
 

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>Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia of 'Alcatraz'</p>
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Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia of 'Alcatraz'

Credit: James Dittiger/FOX

Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'

Midseason drama has a clunky pilot, intriguing premise

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "Alcatraz" (FOX)
The Pitch: I guess it's just "Escape from Alcatraz" meets "Lost" with a little "Reaper," but not the funny parts or the Devil parts of "Reaper."
Quick Response: This is another of those midseason dramas -- like "The River" -- that I'm writing about ahead of a slew of fall pilots simply because it's going to be screened at Comic-Con in a few days, so I might as well get my reaction up. If I complained that "Person of Interest" might not be J.J. Abrams-y enough, nobody is going to have that concern with the Liz Sarnoff-scripted "Alcatraz." I thought the pilot was clunky -- lots and lots of dialogue that either repeats things we were already told or articulates things totally self-evident from the visuals -- but I respect its forward-looking clarity. After seeing the pilot, I know exactly what "Alcatraz" is on a week-to-week procedural basis: Which hardened criminal who disappeared in 1963 (complete with flashbacks) will magically appear in 2011, what will his agenda be and how will our team of heroes stop him? [They're kinda collecting lost souls, "Reaper"-style. But only kinda.] And I also know exactly what the ongoing questions of "Alcatraz" are: Where did these criminals go? Who's bringing them back? And why are they being brought back? And which of our characters have altruistic agendas and who's harboring darkness? I can't guarantee that any of the answers to those questions will be worth the effort, but at least this isn't one of those pilots that has me writing, "I liked the first hour, but I don't see what the series is." Here, I was tepid on the pilot, but I have no doubt of how the series should be structured going forward. That's a good thing and a bad thing. The "Alcatraz" pilot feels spectacularly pilot-y, in that it cares more about setting a foundation and getting it set in 43 minutes than it cares about smoothing out the seams, covering up the cracks and finessing characters. I know what "Alcatraz" is going to be as a series because the pilot focuses on *that* over telling a good story in its opening hour. Director Danny Cannon strives to cover a lot of those gaps with flash and nicely rendered production design, especially when depicting both the operational Alcatraz of 1960 and the current tourist attraction. It looks like an expensive pilot. There are people in "Alcatraz" who I really like. As a genius professor with a specific interest in The Rock, Jorge Garcia gets to be funny and amiable without even a trace of Hurley popping up. It's a great role for him. There's an intriguing role for Sam Neill and I'm always happy to have Parminder Nagra on my TV (except when it required me to watch "E.R." in the later years). In the pilot, Robert Forster is utterly wasted, but hopefully somebody will realize that their show somehow landed one of the best character actors in the business and that failure to use him would be a crime. Leading lady Sarah Jones has been really good in disparate roles in the past (compare "Big Love" to "Sons of Anarchy" to "The Riches"), but she's saddled with the worst of the "Well, duh" dialogue in the pilot. She'll be fine if the material is fine. All of the actors will. Having thrown all of these nuts and bolts on the table in Episode 1, "Alcatraz" will have to start building.
Desire To Watch Again: I covered the disadvantages of this kind of premise-driven pilot, but the advantage is that since I know what the series is, I have no nervousness about sustainability in Episode 2. So sure... count me in for another week or two.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

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<p>Ashley Rickards of 'Awkward'</p>
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Ashley Rickards of 'Awkward'

Credit: MTV

TV Review: MTV's 'Awkward'

HitFix
B
Readers
A
MTV's raunchy new teen comedy is better than 'Teen Wolf'

Perhaps it's just my way of celebrating my last year in the network's core demographic, but I feel like I've been watching more MTV this summer than any time since college.

That isn't really saying all that much.

Mostly, in fact, it just means that against my better judgment, I've continued to watch "Teen Wolf" long past when any reasonable person would have thrown his hands in the air and stepped away.

In early interviews, series creator Jeff Davis promised that there would eventually be plenty of humor. On the assumption that he meant "intentional humor," that's a vow that hasn't come true. "Teen Wolf" remains leaden and mopey and I'm not sure that leading man Tyler Posey has more than one facial expression. Amazingly, we're seven episodes in and the main character hasn't fully wolfed out and, in fact, we've seen only the bare minimum of footage involving fully transformed werewolves (and what we've seen hasn't exactly been a tantalizing advertisement for more). There have been a lot of glowing eyes, growing claws and hormonal glowering. So much glowering. All anybody does on "Teen Wolf" is glower, with the possible exception of female leads Holland Roden and Crystal Reed, who flirt winningly and sometimes cry.

And yet "Teen Wolf" has exhibited a decent ability to deliver a vaguely suspenseful set piece, even if they're mostly generated by an aggressive and overbearing musical score. And nobody's played lacrosse for weeks, though there was some werewolf bowling a couple episodes ago.

It's still a bad show. 

It still shouldn't be called "Teen Wolf."

But the danger of the summer months is that I commit to shows like this and then I find it hard to shake them, even if I'm not enjoying them. 

The result of watching an hour of "Teen Wolf" each week -- other than the laundry I get folded or the Emmy photo galleries I was able to build -- is that I've tragically become able to identify at least one Teen Mom and I've seen the same one or two ads for "Awkward" over and over and over again, enough to get good and predisposed to dislike MTV's new 11 p.m. comedy.

The purpose of this introduction is two-fold: The first was to note that "Teen Wolf" hasn't gotten better and the second was to set the conditions under which I watched two episodes of "Awkward" and found myself pleasantly amused. If you can exactly reproduce those circumstances, you too could find yourself chuckling at this proudly lewd and rude and big-hearted comedy. If not? Your results may vary.

Full review after the break...

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<p>Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson of 'Person of Interest'</p>
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Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson of 'Person of Interest'

Credit: CBS

Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'

Jim Caviezel sleep-walks through a pilot that should be more intriguing

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "Person of Interest" (CBS)
The Pitch: "It's Jesus and Ben Linus in a CBS procedural version of Wim Wenders' 'The End of Violence.' The kids will love it!" Alternatively, "It's Batman, if Batman were catatonic and Benjamin Linus were Alfred." Alternatively, "It's a CBS procedural version of 'Midnight Cowboy' with Jim Caviezel as Joe Buck, Michael Emerson as Ratso."
Quick Response: Expectations are a bitch. Sit me down to watch something like "Unforgettable" and I don't expect it to be anything other than a garden variety CBS procedural and then when that's what it is? That's what it is. But if you sit me down in front of a J.J. Abrams-produced drama written by Jonah Nolan, I'm going to expect it to have a little heft. I'm going to expect it to have layers. I'm going to want it to be different from anything I've seen before. Instead, we've got something like the sort of procedural Philip K. Dick would have written, but only if he was in real economic trouble and he didn't want to waste any of his good ideas. This being an Abrams production, you keep waiting for the big mythology to set in, or for the Grand Questions to be asked. Nope. There a Machine. And it's spitting out future-crime data. And you're either going to be intrigued by The Machine or you're going to think The Machine isn't, on its own, enough to build a series around. You need characters. I can't tell you if Jim Caviezel is playing a big joke on viewers. He delivers every line, including a droning opening voiceover, in a flat, lifeless monotone and he sleepwalks through every second of the pilot, including his several action scenes. He's a black hole. He's dead air. But part of me thinks that this was a choice Caviezel made, an interpretation on playing a shell-shocked character with little to live for. If so, it's a bad choice and a director needed to coach sparks of life into the performance, at least one or two. Michael Emerson is twitchy and somewhat interesting as the mysterious Finch, but this isn't a character designed to be a series leading man and Caviezel forces that focus over to Emerson by default. The series needs somebody "normal," the counterpoint to the two oddball leads, even if it's just a prominent tertiary character. That is why Taraji P. Henson is so welcome for the three minutes she's on screen. She's just playing a cop who suspects there's something odd about Caviezel's character (because he's a zombie), but she's the only person in the pilot who speaks at a normal volume and in declarative, non-cryptic sentences. She's a human in a pilot that's lacking anything resembling a recognizable human. The series would be well advised not to waste too much time bringing Henson into the loop. Make her part of the team and then the weirdos can be as weird as they like. "Person of Interest" is yet another CBS drama pilot to make good use of New York City. And Natalie Zea, guest star in the pilot, makes all things better.
Desire To Watch Again: Oddly, my desire to watch "Person of Interest" again is high. But part of that is because I can't believe that the series could be as sterile and disconnected as the pilot was. I'm also gonna be mighty interested to see how audiences at Comic-Con respond to "Person of Interest" later this week.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

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<p>The cast of ABC's 'The River'</p>
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The cast of ABC's 'The River'

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'The River'

Pilots don't come much scarier, but is it sustainable?

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "The River" (ABC, midseason)
The Pitch: "Paranormal Activity" meets "Wild Kingdom" meets "Keep the River on Your Left"
Quick Response: "The River" isn't premiering until midseason, but ABC is sneaking the pilot at Comic-Con this week and it's going to get a ton of buzz, so I might as well have my gut reaction on the record ahead of time. It's my guess that people at Comic-Con are going to go nuts over "The River." It's 44 minutes of tense, visceral found-footage horror and its format and feel are pretty uncommon (if not nearly unprecedented), at least so far as I can think of, for TV. It's full of jump-in-your-seat moments and I think that watching "The River" in a big crowd of people who don't know what's coming next is probably the perfect way to experience it. It won't feel the same at home in your living room and -- this is the bigger concern --  it won't feel the same on a weekly basis. It can't, can it? CBS tried doing a slasher-film-per-week with "Harper's Island" and while that one-and-done dud produced occasional schlocky scares, it failed in its mission to sustain any kind of suspense over 13 weeks. "The River" packs a lot of frights into its pilot and I know why it intrigued ABC, but I finished the pilot wishing I could watch the next 44 minute installment, wrap up the story and be done. I didn't find myself thinking that these were characters I necessarily wanted to be with every week or that this aesthetic -- documentary-style, mixed film stocks, lots of shakiness, etc -- was going to be a rewarding one, especially once the directors become less gifted than Jaume Collet-Serra, the location settings become less distinctive and the folks in post-production realize how hard it is to make this mixture of formats pay dividends each and every week. But it's only partially my job to project forward. The rest is to admit that the sense of unease set in almost immediately on "The River" and it's mostly unrelenting. There are also very sturdy actors anchoring this drama, including Bruce Greenwood, Leslie Hope, Paul Blackthorne and Thomas Kretschmann, though my feeling was that this was largely a cast of actors and characters who would be first to die if this were a real horror film. In the female lead, I'm very pleased to welcome "Lone Star" veteran Eloise Mumford back to my TV, combining just the right amount of toughness, emotionalism and sexiness. I had a far bigger problem with the leading man, Joe Anderson, who is so badly hamstrung by his failed American accent that he makes the already tenuous and wooden dialogue -- "Science isn't a great big wonder anymore," his character stupidly observes early on. "There are no huge discoveries left." -- sound even worse. He could just have been uncomfortable in the pilot and he could improve, but he's a real stumbling block here.
Desire To Watch Again: There are enough mysteries introduced by the end of the pilot to string most viewers along. Me, I'm eager to keep up with this series for one reason: ABC is playing up the involvement of the suddenly TV-ubiquitous Steven Spielberg and "Paranormal Activity" creator Oren Peli, but I'm more intrigued by showrunner Michael Green, the man behind the all-too-quickly-canceled "Kings." Green gives me hope that in addition to the style that "The River" has aplenty, some substance might filter through eventually.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

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<p>Tim Allen and Nancy Travis of 'Last Man Standing'</p>
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Tim Allen and Nancy Travis of 'Last Man Standing'

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'

Tim Allen returns to TV with a tired 'Woe is man' sitcom

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "Last Man Standing," ABC
The Pitch: Tim Allen is The Last Real American Man.
Quick Response: Well, it's better than "Hank." That was my key source of pleasure coming out of "Last Man Standing." The premises are so similar you'd have thought/hoped that somebody at ABC would have the sense to steer clear, but this is a new administration at ABC and they bring their own sense of hubris. So once again we have well-respected veteran of comedy hits returning to TV to play a family man struggling with a world he doesn't understand, specifically struggling with understanding the roles played by men and women in This Crazy Modern World of Ours. "Hank" was misguided because not only was it 100 percent unfunny, but the main character was actively detestable. Tim Allen is smarter than that. His "Last Man Standing" character isn't hatable, he's just confused by so many things in the world around him. He doesn't get soccer. He doesn't get fantasy sports. He doesn't know what "Glee" is. He doesn't get why teenage girls dress like harlots or why people spend so much darned time on the Internet. He hunts! He fishes! And he wants everybody around him to understand that things used to be better back when men were men and women were women. And he's got an attractive, long-suffering wife (Nancy Travis) who stands around with her hands on her hips giving her hubby "Oh, you!" eyes, because she's the wife in a multi-camera sitcom. The best thing Allen does is keep you from hating his character entirely. The best thing Travis does is keep you from pitying her character. Neither stands out as "good," but I absolutely respect the effort they had to put into those minor victories. The supporting cast is populated by people who deserve better, particularly Hector Elizondo and Kaitlyn Dever, who should have gotten an Emmy for "Justified" and instead gets to play the Ariel Winter (from "Modern Family") daughter on a much worse show. Every joke is telegraphed. Every punchline is predictable. This is the sort of comedy where the father says to his kids "Whoever said life was supposed to be fair?" and says it with utter earnestness. But I guess I'd compliment "Last Man Standing" as being broad, predictable, lazy and unamusing but not grating and shameful. And yes, ABC can take that as a pull-quote.
Desire To Watch Again: A cursory second viewing is likely. A third viewing is doubtful.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

 

 

 

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<p>Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs of '2 Broke Girls'</p>
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Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs of '2 Broke Girls'

Credit: CBS

Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' '2 Broke Girls'

Kat Dennings/Beth Behrs pilot improves after a weak first impression

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "2 Broke Girls," CBS
The Pitch: A Manhattan-based "Laverne & Shirley" for the 21st Century?
Quick Response: I went through a weird roller-coaster on "2 Broke Girls," all within 22 minutes. I hated the way all of the main characters were introduced, so the first five or 10 minutes were excruciating. Kat Dennings' Max is too stereotypically brassy and sassy and every joke seems to involve her breasts. Beth Behrs' Caroline is too stereotypically blonde and bubble-brained. I could find no way to work with the fairly racist portrayal of the owner of the diner where they work and the sleazy Russian chef and wise old black doorman were really more than I could handle. I found myself getting increasingly pissed off about CBS' claims that this was the highest testing comedy pilot in network history and what that meant about both the development and testing process. Then? "2 Broke Girls" got better. Past the "Let's introduce our characters in the broadest way possible" cliches of the opening, Caroline and Max both became much more appealing. I'm strongly predisposed to liking Kat Dennings and her expertly deadpan sensibilities are put to far better use as the pilot goes along. There's absolutely no reason why this show shouldn't be a huge launching pad for her. I didn't know Beth Behrs before and none of her initial choices were all that interesting, but Whitney Cummings' script eventually decides that it wants to disprove all of our expectations about the character. Granted that this desire undermines the performance decisions in those opening scenes, but it works to Behrs' favor to have Caroline as more than just a stupid Paris Hilton clone. By the end, when the show's ongoing conceit is finally introduced -- these two very different women set a business goal together and episodes will build towards that goal -- what "2 Broke Girls" was doing was finally rather charming. For this reason, I'm really hoping to get a second "2 Broke Girls" episode to watch before reviewing. If the second half is a reflection of the show's sensibility, this could be a decent little show, but I still need assurances that the first half was just clumsy foundation-laying. A side concern, and one you'd think would be bigger, is that I didn't laugh out loud a single time at "2 Broke Girls." When I was enjoying the show, I was smiling and even taking pleasure in some of the writing, but I wasn't laughing. [This is similar to the problem I had with the vaguely similar "Apartment 23," though I liked the totality of the ABC comedy somewhat more.] I wonder how much of my not-laughing came from the icky taste left in my mouth by the beginning, where the punchlines rely far too heavily on tone-deaf raunch, rather than writing quality and the appeal of its leading ladies. We'll see. We'll also see if the ethnic/racial caricatures in their primary place of employment either become more nuanced or get pushed away entirely. I'd hope for the former, but root for the latter.
Desire To Watch Again: I'll definitely watch a few more episodes, but the fate -- for me at least -- of "2 Broke Girls" may hinge on what happens with "How I Met Your Mother" this season. If "HIMYM" can't pull out of its tailspin and I can convince myself to drop a show I haven't really enjoyed for years, "2 Broke Girls" may be an unintended victim. Or maybe "2 Broke Girls" will become awesome and I'll stick with "HIMYM" just to complete the hour? Anything could happen.


Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

 

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<p>Rufus Sewell of 'Zen'</p>
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Rufus Sewell of 'Zen'

Credit: PBS

TV Review: PBS' 'Zen'

HitFix
B-
Readers
A+
Gorgeous Italian locations upstage the drama in this ongoing mystery
Even if I could afford to take a trip to Rome this summer, I probably couldn't spare the time, what with an unprecedented number of new TV shows premiering across broadcast and cable dials through months which once used to be quite fallow. 
 
Kudos to PBS, I supposed, for solving one problem while compounding another. 
 
"Zen," which premieres this Sunday (July 17), may have added a few hours of work to my weekend, but with its rather magnificent use of locations in and around Rome, it took the place of of a quick getaway to Italy. [Please, though, don't ask me what kind of vacation to Italy lasts only three hours, doesn't include a single strand of homemade pasta and forces me to take notes the entire time.]
 
Based on the novel series by Michael Dibdin, "Zen" unfolds in three mysteries airing over the next three Sundays and is it any good? Well, as whodunnit? It's not really all that involving. But as a low-cost getaway to Europe? It serves its purpose admirably. Temper your expectations accordingly and you'll find some value in "Zen," even if the thrills are lacking.
 
Full review after the break...
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<p>Christina Applegate and Will Arnett of 'Up All Night'</p>
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Christina Applegate and Will Arnett of 'Up All Night'

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'

Will Arnett, Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph shine

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

Show: "Up All Night," NBC
The Pitch: When you have Will Arnett, Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph, plus Lorne Michaels producing, you don't really need a pitch.
Quick Response: I don't have children, so I haven't been around an infant on a regular basis since my younger brother was born. But watching the Emily Spivey-scripted pilot for NBC's "Up All Night," I still got the feeling that I was in the hands of somebody who had a very clear sense of the trials and tribulations of first-time parenthood. I didn't laugh at "Up All Night" very often -- my only laughs came at Maya Rudolph -- but every second felt plausible and rang true. To my mind, that's a very good start for a series. If you have authenticity and a cast like this, it'll go far. Arnett is shockingly schtick-free here, without even a hint of Gob Bluth or Devon Banks from "30 Rock" or Steven McRunningWilde from his short-lived FOX dud. It's a wonderful change -- Arnett's usually Arnett-esque even in interviews -- and I felt like I was watching a real human here, rather than a character on a sitcom. I'm certain Applegate can be funnier than this -- I always thought she was splendid on the otherwise uneven "Samantha Who?" -- but she's still likable. And Rudolph remains one of those performers whose talents have barely begun to be tapped, but she has some line-readings here that are unique and send the material soaring. Because the premise is so basic -- first-time parents are shocked to realize that having a baby changes your life -- I have no worries about sustainability with this one. The pilot is loose-to-barely plotted and the single-camera aesthetic only enhances the relaxed formlessness. Again, that aids sustainability. The big litmus test for "Up All Night" has nothing to do with me, though. Will actual parents think that the things I assumed were authentic were totally bogus? Or will it prove too authentic and hit too close to home without being funny? Or will NBC actually successfully tap into a massive audience here and find a rare hit? 
Desire To Watch Again: I'll watch "Up All Night" again. Definitely. I may, however, watch "Up All Night" on OnDemand, since it's paired with a pilot I detested and I'll almost certainly have to dedicate the hour's DVR time to several other shows.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

 

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