<p>Majandra Delfino and Raven-Symone of 'State of Georgia'</p>
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Majandra Delfino and Raven-Symone of 'State of Georgia'

Credit: ABC Fam

TV Review: ABC Family's 'State of Georgia'

HitFix
C
Readers
B+
Raven-Symone grows up a little, but does hilarity ensue?
I'm trying to think of a good reason why you should care about my opinion on ABC Family's "State of Georgia."
 
The new multi-camera comedy is ABC Family's third new series premiere in a month and if you're like me and you mostly think of Raven-Symone as a mugging moppet from the later years of "The Cosby Show," there's very little chance that you're anywhere near the audience being targeted by this one. 
 
I guess my best argument is this: I also wasn't the target demographic for "The Nine Lives of Chloe King" or "Switched at Birth," but I'm still enjoying the former and I have a qualified respect for the latter. Good TV is good TV. And good comedy is good comedy. I've watched mere minutes of ABC Family's way-too-broad "Melissa & Joey," but I often found amusement in "10 Things I Hate About You." So who knows?
 
While I don't have a demographic predisposition to heaping all of ABC Family's programming onto my TV plate, I'm not so snobby as to reject the full slate out of hand, especially if all that's required to make my own judgement is watching two quick half-hour episodes.
 
So when my review ends up coming to the not-even-slightly-surprising conclusion that "State of Georgia" isn't for me, you can either dismiss that with a causal, "Well, it was never going to be for you anyway" or you can accept that if it were a bit better, it could just as easily have been for me, but it isn't. Or, put a different way: If "State of Georgia" was intended for you, it may still be a show for you, but if it was never intended for you, it probably really isn't. 
 
[That previous paragraph can probably go for any negative review I happen to write of any ABC Family show until I somehow become a female viewer between the ages of... I dunno... 12 and 34?]
 
Full review of "State of Georgia" after the break...
 
Created by Jennifer Weiner and Jeff Greenstein, "Georgia" stars the aforementioned Raven-Symone as Georgia, who arrives in New York City with big acting dreams. She's accompanied by her socially awkward best buddy Jo (Majandra Delfino), who has academic aspirations, specifically getting into the Physics department at a local university. Georgia and Jo are crashing with Georgia's Aunt Honey, who provides them with free rent in her up-scale Manhattan apartment, in exchange for listening to her advice and stories about her active sex life.
 
The show's main hook is for viewers who are aging up with the "That's So Raven" star. [In this case, the "aging-up" process means that Raven-Symone's cleavage ought to be a prominently billed co-star, though it's treated with the dignity and detachment required by the ABC Family setting. It's so sterile that when a character nearly gets smothered by her breasts in Ep.4 (Yes, that really happens) nobody even comments on it.] The Disney-packaged Raven-Symone is the show's biggest draw, but also its biggest drawback in the pilot. The press notes call her character "brash" and "confident," but in the pilot, that translates as "hammy" and "way-over-the-top," past the point where it's grating. I watched the pilot and wondered how much of Jo's insecurity was caused by being forced into meek subservience by her obnoxious, over-bearing friend, which I really don't think was the intent. By the fourth episode, the other episode made available for critics, Raven-Symone had either figured out the different demands of a non-Disney sitcom, or else she was getting better direction, but her performance was of a more appropriate scale and the episode benefitted from  the down-shift. The grating studio audience (or laff-track) encouraged her equally in both episodes, so I don't know what sort of learning experience this will prove to be.
 
I vaguely remember liking Delfino back on "Roswell," but to my mind, she's the minor revelation of this pilot and the question of how or why she's been so off-the-radar since that WB drama ended is a mystery. She's beautiful and she has great comic timing, especially when she gets to move beyond the disingenuous "Woe is me, I'm such a wallflower" neurosis of the first episode. By the fourth episode, she's become a sexier, more assertive version of a "Big Bang Theory" character and, again, the episode benefited from the shift.
 
Nobody's going to tell Loretta Devine to tone down her performance, but she's playing the sort of TV figure who waltzes down a staircase once or twice per episode, says something outlandish, waits until the laughter or hooting die down and departs, having served her purpose. Devine has earned the right to take on a flamboyant paycheck role like this and I highly doubt it will be so taxing as to prevent her from doing whatever dramatic guest work she wants to do.
 
With the improved focus for Delfino's character and Raven-Symone's performance, "State of Georgia" is far better in the later episode I saw than in the pilot. There were a couple punchlines I laughed at that reflected both decent comedy writing and acting. What I still haven't gotten is a reason why this isn't just called "Untitled Raven-Symone Comedy Vehicle."
 
Were "State of Georgia" just rolling out off the production line with inexperienced creators at the helm, it would be easy to dismiss or maybe just accept how generic it is. Instead, there's a temptation to look at its pedigree and wonder why nothing that's happening here has any sort of distinctive voice or point of view. Greenstein's resume includes "Dream On," "Friends," "Will & Grace" and "Desperate Housewives," while Weiner is the best-selling, well-regarded author of "Good in Bed," "In Her Shoes" and other books that give chick-lit a good name. Greenstein knows sitcom cadences. Weiner knows how to write believable relationships between female characters. Perhaps that's why even though this is an ABC Family comedy, I wanted to see something different in it. 
 
Instead, "State of Georgia" just comes across as a straight-down-the-middle girls-in-the-city comedy that wouldn't have been out of place on ABC or NBC's lineup back in 1987. The two women might be Laverne and Shirley for a new generation, except that they do very little that the Laverne and Shirley of two generations ago couldn't do. Their Southern background is less-than-relevant and the sense that Georgia comes from genuine wealth strips the premise of any salt-of-the-Earth reliability. And in the episodes I've seen, the plotlines -- Georgia has an audition! Georgia dates an annoying guy! -- weren't really character-specific or situation-specific in any way. There's no question that many viewers will find this story of being pretty, young and rent-free in The City to be aspirational, but I guess I didn't.
 
Maybe "State of Georgia" started with its leading lady, found its rhythms by the fourth episode and maybe the characters and the relationships will be something that emerge later on? It's not a possibility I can rule out, but with a show where I'm so obviously outside of the intended demo, a couple episodes is really all I could spare.
 
 
"State of Georgia" premieres at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29 on ABC Family.
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<p>Dia &quot;Ramona Flowers&quot; Frampton of &quot;The Voice&quot;</p>
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Dia "Ramona Flowers" Frampton of "The Voice"

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' - Finale Performances

The Final Four sing for the Mentors and for America

Things I'm grateful for:

First off, I'm grateful for Ryan McGee's excellent fill-in recapping last Wednesday when I was Elsewhere.

Second off, I'm grateful that tomorrow night's "Voice" finale is only an hour long. I'm perfectly content to watch two hours of "The Voice" tonight, in the first part of the finale, but two hours tomorrow was gonna be too much...

Let's get down to recapping business...

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<p>Mary-Louise Parker of 'Weeds'</p>
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Mary-Louise Parker of 'Weeds'

Credit: Showtime

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 81

Dan and Alan talk 'Weeds,' 'The Big C,' 'Necessary Roughness' and more...

The

Happy Monday, Boys and Girls. It's time for another installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
We did two installments last week. This week it's only one but, once again, it's a long one. [That's what she said.]
 
We're covering the returns of Showtime's "Weeds" and "The Big C," doing reviews of "State of Georgia" and "Necessary Roughness," answering a wee bit of Listener Mail and, of course, chattering about "Twin Peaks."
 
As a warning: Next Monday is July 4th. Next Tuesday is The Day After July 4th. We won't be podcasting either of those days. We will, however, return on either Wednesday the 6th or Thursday the 7th.
 
Here's the breakdown:
 
"Weeds" -- 01:00 - 10:25
"The Big C" -- 10:30 - 21:00
"The Voice" -- 21:00 - 28:10
"State of Georgia" -- 28:20 - 34:00
"Necessary Roughness" -- 34:00 - 44:20
Listener Mail: Peter Falk -- 44:30 - 50:40
Listener Mail: TV Directors -- 50:45 - 56:40 
"Twin Peaks" -- 56:45 - 01:11:10

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>The 'True Blood' vampires are just vampires. That's all. Pretty, pretty vampires.</p>
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The 'True Blood' vampires are just vampires. That's all. Pretty, pretty vampires.

Credit: HBO

TV Review: HBO's 'True Blood' returns for Season 4

HitFix
C-
Readers
n/a
This season, it's witches stealing time from your favorite characters
In all of the frustration that some of my colleagues and podcasting partners have had with Veena Sud, AMC and the end of "The Killing," one of the most nefarious charges that's been thrown around is that viewers were lied to, either by the showrunner, the network or the promotion/structure/genre of "The Killing." They (we?) were allegedly sold a bill of goods and betrayed by a show that entailed a 13-hour investment of our hard-earned Sunday nights.
 
Leaving aside who did or didn't lie to whom in the "Killing" case, I want to make one thing clear here: Alan Ball never lied to me about "True Blood."
 
For years, Alan Ball has insisted that "True Blood" wasn't metaphorical or allegorical in any way and even if you felt that vampires were being used as vehicles to discuss any or all manner of potentially ostracized or misrepresented minority groups, they were just vampires to him. 
 
And for years, I always chucked and figured he was just being disingenuous or trying to keep from limiting the audience for "True Blood."
 
After all, I rationalized, how can a man who wrote the most over-literal critique of the sickening rot of suburbia in literary history -- Yes, "American Beauty," as much as I love it in places, makes "Stepford Wifes" and "The 'Burbs" look subtle in comparison -- and who tackled so many hot-button topics over the years on "Six Feet Under" be working in the horror genre without any attempts to create an undercurrent of anything meaningful within its storytelling?
 
I asked Ball about subtext on conference calls and on red carpets and I'll confess that I never actually believed his answers when he said things like "I think a lot of people read a lot of allegory into it that is not really that intentional."
 
After watching three seasons of "True Blood" and now the first three episodes of Season Four, I'm finally ready to tap out and give it up to Alan Ball...
 
"True Blood" really isn't about anything. 
 
Sure, characters may pop up on TV talking about vampire segregation or vampire/human marriage and you might be inclined to think, "That sounds like rhetoric borrowed from the Civil Rights movement or the Gay Rights movement." But that's all it is, borrowed rhetoric. Alan Ball isn't shy about stealing words and themes that have held political meaning for millions and slapping them glibly into the mouthes of vampires or werewolves as nothing more than disconnected, meaningless, fictional agitprop.
 
But Alan Ball never lied and claimed meaning where no meaning exists, intellect where no intellect exists, value where no value exists.
 
I am at fault for wanting "True Blood" to be more than it is. 
 
And maybe I've finally made my peace? Maybe I'm ready to stop trying to care about undead characters who can never be in any real physical or emotional jeopardy, because they're monsters. Maybe I'm ready to stop trying to care about human characters who, in almost all cases, are just repositories for abuse, sexual fetishism, violence and a never-ending string of stupid decisions. The vampires aren't anything more than vampires and the human characters aren't anything more than compilations of bad writing. 
 
And that's OK. 
 
Because "True Blood" is violent, gory, flippantly funny and a really great place for attractive actresses to go when they feel like a little on-screen nudity on a buzz-worthy show is worth permanent screenshot/mpg enshrinement in various corners of the Internet. It's a show that will never hesitate to sacrifice the integrity of any of its characters for a cheap punchline, a bit of torture or a relationship that only makes sense because the two characters haven't been paired up previously and don't immediately seem to share DNA. And it's a show that will never hesitate to abandon or abruptly jettison a plotline because things got too complicated or convoluted for the scribes to draft a plausible exit strategy. And it's a show that solves the problem of how to service a ridiculously good, ridiculously huge cast of talented actors not by becoming more focused and honed, but by becoming more and more populated and diffuse.
 
If I expect more than that, that's on me. If I dislike "True Blood" because it fails to live up to my hoity-toity ideas of what good television (or good fiction) should be, that's a problem with my standards and not with the show's ability to live up to its own aspirations. 
 
"True Blood" returns on Sunday (June 26) night with too many new characters, not enough time with the characters I like, a general evasion of the most prickly parts of last season's finale, some plodding hints at a lumbering dramatic direction for this season and some breasts. 
 
YAY!
 
[More after the break...]
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<p>Chris Evans of 'Captain America'</p>
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Chris Evans of 'Captain America'

Credit: Paramount

Set Visit: Helping 'Captain America' go to War

Details on the tone, costumes, effects and more from the next Marvel feature
"Reason for your visit?"
 
"I'm a journalist going to a movie set to observe production."
 
"On what movie?"
 
"'Captain America.'"
 
"I don't really know that one. And why is 'Captain America' shooting in London? You know what superhero movie I really like? 'Superman 4.'"
 
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<p>Chris Evans of 'Captain America'</p>
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Chris Evans of 'Captain America'

Credit: Paramount

Chris Evans and Hugo Weaving talk on the set of 'Captain America'

Who inspired the new Cap and Red Skull?
LONDON, ENGLAND. The casting short-list for "Captain America: The First Avenger" was an ironically long list indeed, as Marvel searched for many months to find the proper actor to embody one of the most venerable, upstanding characters in all of comic-dom.
 
Landing the role, practically at the last minute, was Chris Evans, who had already played a Marvel hero in two "Fantastic Four" movies and ventured into the world of comics for "The Losers" and "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." In no time, Evans had to begin reshaping his body to match the iconic Captain America suit and then he was thrust into production, after only a brief visit to San Diego's Comic-Con, where he was greeted with enthusiastic approval.
 
My own path to the "Captain America" stages at Shepperton Studios outside of London last fall was a good deal less rigorous and met with absolutely no opinion from the fanboy community, but it was no less abrupt, a 36-hour turnaround tacked onto the end of a family wedding in Toronto.
 
[More after the break...]
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<p>Wilfred, Frodo and FIONA GUBELMANN!</p>
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Wilfred, Frodo and FIONA GUBELMANN!

Credit: FX

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 80

Dan and Alan review 'Wilfred,' 'Suits' and the new season of 'True Blood'

The

Happy Thursday morning, Boys & Girls!
 
Welcome to the promised bonus installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
Due to some peculiarities in my schedule this week, Sepinwall and I ended up recording one chunk on Tuesday evening, one chunk on Wednesday afternoon and we're finally posting it on Thursday.
 
That means that folks who listen to us promptly will get barely early reviews of USA's "Suits" and FX's "Wilfred," plus the returns of "Burn Notice" and "Louie." And then we also discussed Sunday's return of "True Blood" to HBO.
 
Here's the breakdown:
"Suits" -- 02:35 - 15:10
"Wilfred" -- 15:15 - 26:45
"Louie" -- 26:50 - 36:30
"Burn Notice" -- 36:40 - 42:30
"True Blood" -- 42:30 - 50:00

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>Dia Frampton performs on Tuesday's &quot;The Voice&quot;</p>
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Dia Frampton performs on Tuesday's "The Voice"

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' - Semifinals Performances

After a round of results, the Top 8 singers perform

It's time for another week of "The Voice." Semifinals, or something. Woot!

We've already separated a lot of the wheat from the people who can't sing, so maybe "The Voice" is on the verge of becoming truly entertaining again? Or, at the very least, maybe I can be a bit less "acidic" this week.

Click through to find out...

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<p>Jason Momoa and Emilia Clarke of 'Game of Thrones'</p>
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Jason Momoa and Emilia Clarke of 'Game of Thrones'

Credit: HBO

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 79

Dan and Alan discuss the 'Killing' and 'Game of Thrones' finales

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls. It's time for a slightly delayed installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast. 
 
It may not seem like the episode is that late until you realize that Sepinwall and I sat down to record at maybe 10 a.m. Pacific. Roughly 45 Skype crashes later -- to say nothing of a few tangential and non-tangential interruptions, we ended up with a podcast that was a bear to edit and which somehow ended up being nearly roughly 86 minutes. 
 
And we'd already planned on doing two podcasts this week for fear that we might go on forever.
 
This podcast is just "Twin Peaks," the finals for "Game of Thrones" and "The Killing" and a review of ABC's "Combat Hospital."
 
Geez.
 
Here's the breakdown...
ABC's "Combat Hospital" -- 02:00 - 10:10
"Twin Peaks" -- 10:15 - 33:10
The "Game of Thrones" finale -- 33:15 - 53:30
The "Killing" finale -- 53:30 - 01:25:00

 

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>Noah Wyle and his TV kids on TNT's &quot;Falling Skies&quot;</p>
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Noah Wyle and his TV kids on TNT's "Falling Skies"

Credit: TNT

TV Review: TNT's 'Falling Skies'

HitFix
B
Readers
C
Solid alien drama is both familiar and distinctive
I suspect that one of the words you'll frequently see in reviews of TNT's "Falling Skies" is "solid."
 
That doesn't sound rhapsodic, does it? You'd never describe yourself as "solid" in an online dating profile. A publicist will almost never tout a new client as being a "solid" young actor. Even with things where you'd think "solid" would be the highest of compliments -- the foundation of a house, a well-boiled egg -- embellishments are still usually in order.
 
And yet... 
 
"Falling Skies" is a Frankenshow. My notes on the first seven episodes are filled with similarities and discrete nods to over a dozen different movies and TV shows and books, some so blatant as to be homages, some just the inevitable reality of doing a show that melds several well-traveled genres. Back in the early 19th Century, imitation may have been the sincerest form of flattery, but in the 21st Century, imitation isn't enough. Pastiche is the sincerest form of flattery and "Falling Skies" spreads its flattery around liberally. 
 
If you're a Frankenshow, cobbling together the pieces is the easy part.  The challenge is making them cohere. The challenge is crafting a spine or a through-line that's strong enough to hold all of the familiar bits together as something that probably won't be unique, but can still be distinctive. 
 
So for me, when I say that "Falling Skies" is solid, it's intended with a fair measure of respect. "Falling Skies" holds together and despite the myriad pieces you'll recognize from or associate with its predecessors, it stands on its own as a fun and, yes, solid summer action drama.
 
Click through for more...
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