<p>&nbsp;Jessica 'Sugar' Kiper of 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains'</p>

 Jessica 'Sugar' Kiper of 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains'

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Sweet words from the first 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains' castoff

The first contestant eliminated from the current All-Star season discusses her rollercoaster ride

Jessica "Sugar" Kiper didn't have a very long journey on CBS' "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains."

The "Survivor: Gabon" finalist and occasional pin-up model was the first person voted off in the Thursday (Feb. 11) night premiere of the new All-Star season.

What Sugar's run lacked in duration, though, it made up for in memorable moments. She started the episode as a star, shedding her top and two would-be tacklers to key her tribe's victory in the season's initial Reward Challenge. But in the Immunity Challenge, Sugar was part of a quartet of Heroes who squandered a big lead on a climactic puzzle. Coupled with an unfortunate night trying to snuggle with Colby, it was no surprise when the Heroes opted to write down Sugar's name at Tribal Council.

Or at least that's how the episode made things look. HitFix caught up with Sugar on Friday morning to discuss editing, toplessness and whether she thinks of herself as a Hero.

Click through for my full conversation with Sugar...

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<p>&nbsp;Matthew Fox of 'Lost'</p>

 Matthew Fox of 'Lost'

Credit: ABC

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 3

Daniel Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall talk 'Chuck,' 'Lost' and 'Friday Night Lights'

Welcome to another week's Firewall & Iceberg podcast, a podcast characterized as much by its technical difficulties as its content.

Last week, if you'll recall, Sepinwall and I didn't like our first podcast and we recorded a second one completely from scratch.

That didn't feel necessary this time around, but we had to pause twice due to Skype issues and I sound as if I'm in a lead-lined coffin. Alan sounds great, though! So there's that. It's possible we're actually backsliding, technically, but Sepinwall's researching new techniques as I type.

We talked a bit longer this week and covered a wide variety of topics. If you're looking to catch some things and avoid others, here's a brief breakdown:

The "Chuck"-pocalypse: 1:00 - 9:30
"Lost": 10:20 - 17:10
"American Idol": 17:15 - 20:10
"Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains": 22:00 - 26:30
"How to Make It in America": 26:30 - 30:40
"Friday Night Lights": 31:30 - End

We talk about a few other things in there as well, but that's the basic outline.

And now, enjoy Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 3:

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<p>&nbsp;'Past Life'</p>

 'Past Life'

Credit: FOX

TV Review: FOX's 'Past Life'

It's reincarnation-made-boring on FOX's new crime-solving procedural

If you were TV creator and you set out with the expressed goal of taking the daffiest premise imaginable and turning it into the most mundane series possible, you probably couldn't achieve that goal more successfully than FOX's new drama "Past Life."

Previewing on Tuesday (Feb. 9) night after "American Idol" before migrating to Thursday, "Past Life" dulls down the field of reincarnation and regression therapy into the kind of leaden drama that recalls the less inspired works from the Jerry Bruckheimer procedural family. I'd tell you to to think "Cold Case" meets "Medium," but both of those comparisons might be too complimentary.

Shuffling into a nearly impossible time slot in an Olympics/Sweeps month and with an already reduced episode order, "Past Life" may only last long enough for its stars to get a quick showcase before being resurrected on other pilots.

[Full review of "Past Life" after the break...]

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<p>&nbsp;Tracy Porter takes it to the house for the New Orleans Saints</p>

 Tracy Porter takes it to the house for the New Orleans Saints

Credit: Charlie Riedel/AP

Live Blogging Super Bowl XLIV - Commercials, football and more

Watch all the big commercials: Alice in Wonderland, Prince of Persia, Last Airbender, Jay/Oprah/Leno, Betty White's Snicker's Ad, Simpsons drinks Coke, Google searches Paris and more

3:00 p.m. PT Welcome to HitFix's live blog of Super Bowl XLIV. Mostly, of course, that means a live blog of the commercials, but that doesn't mean that I plan on ignoring the football game. 

Click through...

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<p>&nbsp;Larry O'Donnell of 'Undercover Boss'</p>

 Larry O'Donnell of 'Undercover Boss'

Credit: CBS

TV Review: CBS' 'Undercover Boss'

CEOs learn that life is hard for their employees, earning an hour-long commercial for their pains

There's a theme that runs through CBS' populist-skewing advertisements for "Undercover Boss": In these troubling economic times, there's something cathartic about watching CEOs and CFOs brought down to the level of their lowest employees, something liberating about watching the boss of a mega-corporation humbled and forced to see how the other 99 percent live.

CBS is counting on the universality of that statement ring true for Super Bowl viewers when "Undercover Boss" has its special premiere on Sunday (Feb. 6), because nothing in the show itself feels even vaguely truthful.

"Undercover Boss" is manipulative, exploitative and meretricious to its very core and, given those attributes, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if it's a big hit for CBS.

[Full review of "Undercover Boss" after the break...]

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<p>&nbsp;'Temple Grandin' star Claire Danes</p>

 'Temple Grandin' star Claire Danes

Credit: HBO

TV Review: HBO's 'Temple Grandin'

Expect Claire Danes to get Emmy buzz for this based-on-fact telefilm

One of the most interesting trends currently making its way through the small screen collective consciousness is an embrace of normalized, unacknowledged autism. Whether we're talking about Sheldon on "The Big Bang Theory" or Brick on "The Middle" or Dr. Brennan on "Bones," TV is full of characters who almost certainly fit somewhere on the autism spectrum, even if none of them will ever utter the A-word. Without knowing it, casual viewers are being educated that autism is more than just Rainman counting toothpicks.

That education takes a big leap forward in HBO's "Temple Grandin," a glossy and glorified movie-of-the-week that takes an unblinking look at living with autism. The drama isn't about beating or curing an unbeatable and incurable condition, so much as learning to work with autism and nurture those who live with autism to meet their full potential which, in the case of Temple Grandin herself, turned out to be nearly limitless.

It's a beautiful and inspirational story turned into a movie that becomes increasingly formulaic as it goes along.

[Full review of "Temple Grandin," which premieres on Saturday (Feb. 6) on HBO, after the break...]

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<p>&nbsp;John Noble and Joshua Jackson of 'Fringe'</p>

 John Noble and Joshua Jackson of 'Fringe'

Credit: FOX

Tune-In Reminder: 'Fringe' winter finale and 'Sarah Silverman Program' premiere

There's a lot of TV to watch this Thursday. HitFix looks at a few of the options

Thursdays are a pain, aren't they?

I have a dual tuner DVR and a magical East Coast Slingbox and I still find myself scurrying to Hulu and OnDemand on Friday morning making sure that I've caught everything that needs to be seen.

Tonight, for example, we have new episodes of "Burn Notice," "Community," "Parks and Recreation," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Bones." We get Kathy Bates guesting on "The Office," more time-travelling on "Vampire Diaries," plus a "Survivor" special on CBS to whet our appetites for next week's "Heroes vs. Villains" premiere. That doesn't even touch on shows that I don't watch regularly, but which draw big audiences, dramas like "CSI," "The Mentalist" and "Private Practice."

Fortunately, I got a handful of screeners for Thursday offerings, which helped me get a little viewing clarity and maybe it'll help you as well.

If you click through, I have a few spoiler-free thoughts on the "Fringe" midseason finale, a "Saturday Night Live" legend guesting on "30 Rock" and the season premiere of "The Sarah Silverman Program."

Like I said... Minimal spoilers...

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<p>&nbsp;The 'Fringe' gang</p>

 The 'Fringe' gang

Credit: FOX

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 2a

Daniel Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall talk 'Lost,' 'Fringe' and the Super Bowl

Wednesday (Feb. 3) was a long morning of attempting to put up the second Firewall & Iceberg (wt) Podcast. Our first recorded version was well over 45 minutes long, covered a wide range of topics and, in addition to technical problems, neither Sepinwall nor I felt happy with it.

Verson 2.1 is shorter (just under half-an-hour), more topically limited  (we discuss "Lost," "Fringe" and the Super Bowl) and still suffers from some of the same technical issues. 

We're posting it, because not all podcasts can be perfect and if you want to have a regular podcast, you have to make it regular, even if not every podcast is a total winner. Let's just say we're still working out the kinks, especially since we weren't in the same room, like we were for Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 1.

The most important thing I want to note: The discussion of the "Lost" premiere -- complete with spoilers -- runs from the 2:00 mark to the 12:15 mark. If you haven't seen the premiere yet, you probably want to skip that part.

With that all in mind, sit back and try to enjoy Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 2a...

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<p>&nbsp;Sendhil Ramamurthy of 'It's a Wonderful Afterlife'</p>

 Sendhil Ramamurthy of 'It's a Wonderful Afterlife'

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Review: 'It's A Wonderful Afterlife'

Gurinder Chadha's latest is no 'Bend It Like Beckham'

One of the great stories of this Sundance Film Festival, perhaps the biggest story in my book, has been the proliferation of female directors. From first-timers like Kate Aselton to established veterans like Nicole Holofcener and Lisa Cholodenko, from documentaries to thrillers set in the Ozarks, it's been impossible to categorize or compartmentalize the variety of films coming from distaff directors. It's an amazing trend and, given the youth of some of these helmers, a hopeful sign for the future of an industry that has yet to see a woman win a Best Director Oscar (knock on wood for Kathryn Bigelow).

My favorite film of the Festival (with two to go tomorrow) remains Debra Granik's "Winter's Bone," but that doesn't mean that female directors have had a perfect record at this Sundance. On Wednesday (Jan. 27) alone, I saw the lackluster "The Romantics," from Galt Niederhoffer, as well as the broad and silly "It's a Wonderful Afterlife," from Gurinder Chadha, both from the fest's Premieres roster.

Since my colleague Gregory Ellwood has already reviewed "The Romantics" -- he liked it more than I did, though I enjoyed Anna Paquin's performance and all of the beautiful people in the film (I'm already calling it "Sookie Getting Married") -- I'll hold off on that one for one of several digest review posts later in the week.

But a full review of "It's a Wonderful Afterlife" -- Think "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" meets "The Frighteners" by way of "Bend It Like Beckham" -- is after the break...

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<p>'Casino Jack and the United States of Money'</p>

'Casino Jack and the United States of Money'

Credit: Sundance

Sundance Reviews: '8: The Mormon Proposition' & 'Casino Jack and the United States of Money'

Two docs preach to the choir with very different results

Documentary filmmakers want to believe that documentaries can change the world, or at least that they can change opinions and reshape public perception. The reality is as muddled as the very definition of "documentary" itself, which is to say that the wider you expand your net -- Are "60 Minutes" or "Frontline" segments documentaries? -- the more likely you are to find an instance or two of tangible global impact.

But the reality is that for every "Thin Blue Line," which actually sprung an innocent man out of prison, you're looking at hundreds of films like "Fahrenheit 911" or even "Paradise Lost," where the film was meant to change things, but either made things worse or found that a film can only do so much.

The issue is that because documentaries are a niche art form (they shouldn't need to be, because documentaries are awesome), most ideologically inclined documentaries preach to the choir to such a degree that the people with oppositional viewpoints will either never see the docs in the first place, or else will be instantly turned off by unmassaged strident polemics. It's a truly great ideological documentary -- something like "Fog of War" -- that can be persuasive in a manner that offers enlightenment to people on both sides of the aisle. "Fog of War" made $4 million at the domestic box office.

I've had those thoughts before, writing essays on the subject in grad school doc courses, but they really hit home the past couple days, when I watched a pair of preach-to-the-choir Sundance docs, "8: The Mormon Proposition" and "Casino Jack and the United States of Money." Both docs are wildly partisan and, frankly, both espouse themes I agree with completely. One, however, is a solid film, the other is an amateurish mess and neither, alas, has much chance to reach a wide audience and "change the world."

[Brief-ish reviews of "8: The Mormon Proposition" and "Casino Jack" after the break...]

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