<p>The Cousins of 'Breaking Bad'</p>

The Cousins of 'Breaking Bad'

Credit: AMC

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 14

Daniel Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall discuss 'Breaking Bad,' 'Happy Town' and more

The

 
It's time for another Wednesday installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast. 
 
It's Alan Sepinwall and my 13th consecutive week of on-time podcasts, but our last week podcasting from different online venues because, as you've already read, I hope, Sepinwall is coming to HitFix.
 
In a lean-and-mean 30:20 podcast ("Lost" was a repeat and "American Idol" was too dull to be worth the time), we mostly discussed ABC's new drama "Happy Town" and gave a midseason report on "Breaking Bad."
 
Here's the breakdown:
 
Sepinwall's coming to HitFix -- 00:00 - 02:15
"American Idol" -- 02:35 - 04:20
"Happy Town" -- 4:25 - 11:40
Reader Questions ("Lost"-ish and "Survivor") -- 11:50 - 21:30
"Breaking Bad" -- 22:00 - 29:00
 
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 this week's podcast...
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<p>Sam Neill of 'Happy Town'</p>

Sam Neill of 'Happy Town'

Credit: ABC

TV Review: ABC's 'Happy Town'

Comparisons to 'Twin Peaks' and Stephen King do this self-consciously quirky drama no favors
Stephen King has taught me many things over the years. He taught me that if I'm suffering from serious obesity, the best diet plan is provoking an old gypsy woman. He warned me that no teenage girl likes having her prom interrupted with a pig-blood shower. He contributed the healthy reminder that the clown who lives in the sewer probably isn't friendly and I don't want to take his balloons, whether they float or not.
 
But if there's any lesson that Stephen King felt the desire to teach over and over again, and a lesson that I've taken to heart, it's this one: If a cultured, European man moves into your small town and opens a shop specializing in the sort of top-end merchandise nobody in your town would ever normally purchase, he's most likely either a vampire or Satan. And in either case, you may want to start investigating property values in a neighboring town.
 
I can't tell if Merritt Grieves, the character played by Sam Neill in ABC's new dramedy "Happy Town," will turn out to be more like Richard Straker from "Salem's Lot" or Leland Gaunt from "Needful Things," but I know that his arrival means that bad things are coming to the small town of Haplin, Minnesota.
 
But you *know* bad things are coming to Haplin because, not content with premiering a show with an ironic title, ABC has been advertising "Happy Town" with the 100 percent redundant tag line "Don't let the name fool you." 
 
I'd say that you also don't want to let ABC's advertising fool you. Just because teasers make "Happy Town" look like another "Twin Peaks," it's not. It's just another show that looks like "Twin Peaks." I'm not even sure it's another "Push, Nevada" (somewhere, a shiver just went down Ben Affleck's spine).
 
Full review of "Happy Town" after the break...
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<p>Geoff Stults</p>

Geoff Stults

HitFix Interview: Geoff Stults talks 'Happy Town'

'October Road' veteran discusses his mysterious new ABC series
Wednesday (April 28) night's premiere of ABC's "Happy Town" is a big deal for Geoff Stults.
 
The 32-year-old actor has been steadily acting for a decade on the big and small screen, playing supporting roles in shows like "7th Heaven" and "October Road" and in features including "Wedding Crashers," "The Express" and, most recently, "She's Out of My League."
 
"Happy Town," though, finds Stults in leading man mode as Tommy Conroy, a police deputy content to live in his father's shadow and enjoy the tranquility of a small town without any crime. When a bizarre set of circumstances unfold, Tommy finds himself having to investigate a series of crimes that may involve The Magic Man, the mysterious figure behind a rash of abductions years earlier.
 
Stults isn't just the lead in "Happy Town," though. The series comes from the team of Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec and Scott Rosenberg, who wrote the pilot specifically for their friend and former "October Road" star.
 
HitFix caught up with Stults to his quirky new series, the responsibility of stepping up as a star and how much closure viewers will be able to expect by the end of the first "Happy Town" season.
 
Click through...
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<p>&nbsp;This isn't Alan Sepinwall. It's Omar Little. All in the game, though. All in the game.</p>

 This isn't Alan Sepinwall. It's Omar Little. All in the game, though. All in the game.

Credit: HBO

HitFix welcomes Alan Sepinwall

What's Alan Watching blog will be relocating to HitFix. Huzzah!
I've been following Alan Sepinwall for the past 15 years. Literally.
 
When I arrived at the University of Pennsylvania, he was the managing editor at 34th Street Magazine, the arts & entertainment rag at the college newspaper. He graduated, but continued to encourage me and I eventually became 34th Street managing editor myself.
 
For my first summer internship, I was a nearly inept fact-checker at the now-defunct P.O.V. Magazine, the first college intern they'd had since Alan Sepinwall.
 
Alan didn't get me my job at Zap2it, but he certainly made sure that the editor there scooped my resume and clips out of the garbage after I ignored a couple basic application requirements. Because of that gig, I was able tag along behind Alan into the Television Critics Association.
 
Perhaps all of that following is why I'm so pleased, excited and, darnit, honored to welcome Alan Sepinwall to the HitFix family. Since Sepinwall is so prone to mocking my anglophilia, I should probably say that I'm right chuffed.
 
[More puffery after the break...]
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<p>Morena Baccarin of 'V'</p>

Morena Baccarin of 'V'

Credit: ABC

An intro to HitFix's 2010 TV Shows on the Bubble

Upfronts season is only weeks away. Which shows are still in limbo and why?
The TV networks have taken a lot of the fun out of the annual TV Show BubbleWatch this year with some surprising and surprisingly early renewals.
 
NBC renewed "Parks and Recreation," "Community" and "Parenthood."
 
FOX renewed "Fringe."
 
The CW renewed nearly everything in its lineup, including potential bubble bait like "Smallville" and "90210."
 
ABC renewed "Cougar Town" while it was still in the "Fall Comedy Hit" stage and before it slipped into the "Lead-In Inflated Struggler" stage.
 
That doesn't mean, though, that there aren't mysteries aplenty, fortunately.
 
Fortunately (or unfortunately), the jury is still out on "Chuck," which logic (or passionate fandom) dictates ought to be a part of NBC's lineup at least until the network figures out a way to stop filling weekly time slots with stuff like "SVU" repeats and "Mercy."
 
Fortunately (or unfortunately), ABC still has to decide on the fates of "V" and "FlashForward," which seemed like they were going to be no-brainers after their premieres and have gradually become potential high profile genre albatrosses around the network's neck.
 
Despite being TV's most watched network, CBS has an amazing number of marginal offerings, including a trio of middling comedies and some long-running hit dramas finally showing their age.
 
And what's up with The CW not giving "Life Unexpected" a second season already?
 
I was able to find 24 shows in variable stages of limbo as network upfronts season approaches next month. I'm not going to claim nebulous "unnamed sources" whispering to me about "buzz" and "scuttlebutt." The gallery is compiled based on ratings information, network circumstances and a mixture of common sense and stubborn opinion. 
 
I put the gallery in alphabetical order by network and then by show title, because that's what makes sense to me, but if you want to skip to individual networks:
 
 
I don't think I included any shows that have already been renewed, but if I did, just let me know and I'll fix the gallery.
 
Also, if I left out any bubble shows that you're genuinely curious about, let me know and I'll add a page.
 
Otherwise...
 

Check Out HitFix's TV Shows on the Bubble 2010 Gallery 

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<p>J.T. of 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains'</p>

J.T. of 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains'

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: James 'J.T.' Thomas talks 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains'

J.T. explains his big risk and why he couldn't find a new Stephen this season
If you're truly going to make your mark on "Survivor," it helps either to do something memorably awesome or to do something memorably awful. 
 
Alabama native James Thomas has played the game twice and he's made his mark in both ways. 
 
In "Survivor: Tocantins," J.T. aligned with Stephen Fishbach, seemingly his polar opposite, on Day One and the two men carried each other for the duration of the season. It was maybe the strongest and most enduring alliance in "Survivor" history and left J.T. a million dollars richer after he won a unanimous jury vote. 
 
On "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains," though, J.T. orchestrated one of the game's epic blunders, misreading the power dynamic on the Villains tribe and giving away an Immunity Idol to the nefarious Russell. That gaffe set into motion Thursday (April 22) night's classic Tribal Council, in which Parvati was able to give Idols to two of her teammates, sparing Jerri and sending J.T. packing, a victim of his own bold move. 
 
HitFix caught up with J.T. on Friday morning to discuss giving away the Idol, misreading Russell, the untrustworthy women and his failure to find a Stephen this time around.
 
Click through for the full interview...
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<p>Al Pacino plays Jack Kevorkian in 'You Don't Know Jack'</p>

Al Pacino plays Jack Kevorkian in 'You Don't Know Jack'

Credit: HBO

TV Review: HBO's 'You Don't Know Jack'

HBO's Jack Kevorkian telepic is dominated by Al Pacino's larger-than-life performance

You think you know Jack Kevorkian. 

Dr. Death. The dark, deeply set eyes and distinct facial features and physical posture.
 
You maybe know, in broad strokes, about his court cases, about his time in prison. You probably have a sense of his stubbornness, of his defiance. 
 
If you have any advanced knowledge, perhaps you've seen his paintings, his creepy, evocative art.
 
Yup. You think you know Jack Kevorkian, or at least as much as you care to know about him.
 
Along comes HBO's new Jack Kevorkian telefilm with a title, "You Don't Know Jack," which makes a bold statement in implying a fresh perspective on the Father of Physician Assisted Suicide. 
 
Does "You Don't Know Jack" deliver on its promise? The answer is a qualified, "Yes." 
 
Anchored by a loony-yet-committed performance by Al Pacino, "You Don't Know Jack" delivers a nuanced and pragmatic portrait of Kevorkian, simultaneously deifying his ideology, while acknowledging his all-too-human foibles. 
 
If "You Don't Know Jack" succeeds as a character study, though, it often stumbles as a piece of drama, suffering from bland supporting characters and poor narrative focus.
 
Full review of "You Don't Know Jack" after the break...
 
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<p>Krysten Ritter and Ivan Sergei of 'Gravity'</p>

Krysten Ritter and Ivan Sergei of 'Gravity'

Credit: Starz

TV Review: Starz' 'Gravity'

It's possible to do a comedy about suicidal losers, but this isn't how it's done
Because Starz is premiering two shows on Friday (April 23) night, there's an initial instinct to review the second season of "Party Down" and the debut of "Gravity" in the same post.
 
I briefly considered that space-saving plan and decided to put the time into separate reviews for a pair of reasons:
 
Firstly, he qualitative discrepancy between the two shows is too great. "Party Down" is one of cable's comedy treasures, a little ratings-starved show that deserves as much exposure as I can possibly provide for it, since its future hinges largely on how fast it comes out of the gate this spring. "Gravity" is just about as unpleasant an unlikable a show as you're likely to see this year and if dedicating a little extra space to tearing it to shreds gives it extra publicity as well, hopefully I'll also be able to steer away a few people who are on the fence.
 
Secondly, it's bad enough that Starz is pairing the two shows in the same one-hour block, no critic should do the same. I get that Starz doesn't exactly have myriad choices when it comes to combining original programming, but "Party Down" and "Gravity" are are almost tonal opposites. One's Los Angeles, one's New York. One's funny, the other's a heap of affectations and poorly arced neurosis. One's likable and human, featuring an ensemble of characters with different personalities and voices, while the other is the series creator and a half-dozen characters who all sound exactly like the series creator. "Party Down" isn't a hit, but the people who watch it, love it. "Gravity" only looks more leaden in comparison.
 
So I already posted my "Party Down" review. Even without Jane Lynch, it's still one of TV's funniest shows.
 
And as for "Gravity"? Full review after the break...
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<p>Adam Scott, Ryan Hansen and Lizzy Caplan of 'Party Down'</p>

Adam Scott, Ryan Hansen and Lizzy Caplan of 'Party Down'

Credit: Starz

TV Review: Season Two of 'Party Down' on Starz

Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan and company return for more cater-waiter hilarity
A strange thing is happening with "Party Down."
 
The second season of the beloved Starz comedy hasn't even premiered, but fans have already moved past the 10 unaired episodes and begun to lament the show's future. That's not a totally inappropriate reaction. "Party Down" has already lost Jane Lynch to "Glee" and while Adam Scott is still in the second season, he's departed for "Parks and Recreation." Depending on how the vagaries of the pilot process go, Lizzy Caplan and Ryan Hansen could possibly be gone as well.
 
I'm not worried. Well, I'm plenty worried. "Party Down" wasn't a hit in its first season and it's the product of a previous creative administration at Starz, so renewal was never going to be a sure thing. I happen to think, though, that as fantastic as the "Party Down" cast is, the show's renewable star is the simple premise created and orchestrated by John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge and the rest of the creative team. As long as Los Angeles has dreamers stuck in dead-end jobs and as long as Los Angeles has filthy rich nutjobs willing to pay them for services rendered, "Party Down" will always have a creative kernel in place.
 
And putting aside the future of "Party Down" for just a second (or, perhaps, for a full review), it's a relief to say that the present of "Party Down" is on solid footing. Part of the upper echelon of TV comedies last spring, "Party Down" returns to Starz on Friday (April 23) with its quality mostly intact, no easy feat when you lose a co-star as talented as Lynch.
 
Full review of the start of the "Party Down" second season after the break...
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<p>Adam Scott of 'Party Down'</p>

Adam Scott of 'Party Down'

Credit: Starz

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 13

Daniel Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall discuss 'Lost,' 'American Idol,' 'Party Down' and 'Gravity'

The

 

 Happy Wednesday and time for another Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.

 
In this week's installment, I suffer 34 minutes of brain-freeze and apparently decided to let Alan Sepinwall carry me through a conversation that includes Starz' "Party Down" and "Gravity," HBO's "You Don't Know Jack" and last night's "Lost." Oh well. It happens sometimes.
 
Here's the minute-by-minute breakdown:
 
"Idol"/"Glee" -- 01:00 - 6:30
"Party Down"/"Gravity" - 6:35 - 15:20
"You Don't Know Jack" - 15:25 - 21:00
Reader Mail --  21:10 - 24:40
A minute on "Chuck" -- 24:45 - 26:00
"Lost" -- 26:00 - 34:00 
 
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 this week's podcast...
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