<p>Al Jean</p>
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Al Jean

Watch: Al Jean talks Season 23 of 'The Simpsons'

Nedna and 500th episode talk with the 'Simpsons' vet

 Sunday (September 25) marks the premiere of Season 23 of "The Simpsons."

 
Ponder that number for a bit.
 
During this season, "The Simpsons" will air its 500th episode.
 
Ponder that number as well.
 
One man who's been there for an astoundingly large percentage of that run is longtime writer-producer-showrunner Al Jean.
 
In our conversation, Jean teases some of this season's guests and storylines, reflects on the show's longevity, speculates on the show's future and ponders audience reaction to last finale's Nedna pairing.
 
Check it out...
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<p>Michael Pitt of &quot;Boardwalk Empire&quot;</p>
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Michael Pitt of "Boardwalk Empire"

Credit: HBO

TV Review: HBO's 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 2

HitFix
B+
Readers
A
There's a lot happening as HBO's Prohibition Drama returns on Sunday
When I initially reviewed HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" last year, I was extremely enthusiastic. But I also included a somewhat strange caveat, writing, "I'll admit that a small part of me wonders if "Boardwalk Empire" is, in fact, too easy to embrace, too easy to be impressed by."
 
My odd compliment/complaint was that while "Boardwalk Empire" arrived fully formed -- thanks in large part to Martin Scorsese's Emmy-winning work on the pilot -- it was a show that wore its greatness (or at least its very-goodness) on the surface. Viewers with a little background in "The Sopranos" and "The Untouchables" and a few other clear predecessors could sit right down, enjoy the show tremendously and not worry about dwelling on or digesting "Boardwalk Empire," in a way that HBO classics like "The Wire" or "Deadwood" sometimes required. 
 
Sepinwall and some other fans have argued that the show found itself and made The Leap (as we like to say) in later episodes after starting off slow, but I personally found it instantly accessible and thought the first season was, qualitatively, a very flat line. That's not an insult, but I guess it could be an insult.
 
My desire for a slightly more rigorous, arduous "Boardwalk Empire" will be put to the test by the second season, which premieres on Sunday, September 25. 
 
I tore through the six episodes sent out by HBO in a single Saturday afternoon, which is unquestionably a good time. But as much as I loved individual scenes and continued to respect from the performances from the leads to the tiniest supporting players, this run of "Boardwalk Empire" left me holding back a little. It's perfectly common for a series to return by aligning the chess pieces for the season to come, sometimes over the course of a couple or a few episodes, but "Boardwalk Empire" is in the process of such a complicated piece of alignment that it remains a work-in-progress even through six episodes. Based on my respect for the "Boardwalk Empire" team, I have every confidence that this is part of a carefully designed season arc and that once things start to pay off, they'll pay off all over the place, but were this a show I happened to be less enamored with, the tiniest bit of concern might be setting in.
 
More after the break...
 
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<p>&nbsp;Reagan Gomez and Kevin Michael Richardson of &quot;The Cleveland Show&quot;</p>
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 Reagan Gomez and Kevin Michael Richardson of "The Cleveland Show"

Watch: Kevin Michael Richardson and Reagan Gomez talk 'The Cleveland Show'

Plus, a special guest appearance by... Larry King?
Larry King is a legend. And who wouldn't want a private sit-down interview with a legend? 
 
I didn't expect, though, that my opportunity to chat up Larry King would occur when I was expecting to be talking to "The Cleveland Show" stars Kevin Michael Richardson and Reagan Gomez.
 
Richardson, one of the contemporary titans of voice-over work (and a fine live-action actor as well), was in fine form when we met last week for a conversation that included tidbits on this season of "The Cleveland Show" as well as his apparent audition for one of the wackiest body-swapping comedies yet-to-be-created.
 
Check out the interview and remember that "The Cleveland Show" premieres on Sunday (September 25) night.
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<p>Steve Buscemi of &quot;Boardwalk Empire&quot;</p>
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Steve Buscemi of "Boardwalk Empire"

Credit: HBO

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 95

Dan and Alan review 'Pan Am,' 'A Gifted Man,' 'Boardwalk Empire' and more
Happy Friday, Boys & Girls. It's a late afternoon installment of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast
 
No time to dilly-dally.
 
In this installment, we review "A Gifted Man," "Pan Am" and "Boardwalk Empire" and we talk about the start of the new seasons in terms of ratings and a bunch of the shows that we talk about regularly. Let's get down to it!
 
The breakdown:
"A Gifted Man" -- 01:35 - 11:15
"Pan Am" -- 11:20 - 20:00
"Boardwalk Empire" -- 20:00 - 29:30
Early Season Ratings -- 29:30 - 44:00
"How I Met Your Mother: -- 44:10 - 48:40
"Glee" -- 48:40 - 55:15
"Modern Family" -- 55:26 - 01:01:20
"Community" -- 01:01:25 - 01:05:35
"Parks and Recreation" -- 01:05:40 - 01:11:55
"The Office" -- 01:12:00 - 01:18:55
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<p>&nbsp;John Noble</p>
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 John Noble

Watch: John Noble teases 'Fringe' Season 4

How did the finale twist impact Walter and Walternate?
I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that John Noble is HitFix's Most Interviewed Man. 
 
Last fall, I chatted with the "Fringe" star on the show's Vancouver set (where we also shared a key scene together) and then one week later on video. We talked again via a weird video/sattelite/phone set-up in the spring and then Sepinwall gabbed with Noble (and Anna Torv) at Comic-Con in July.
 
It's a good thing that Noble is a spectacularly gracious and thoughtful interview and that when it comes to "Fringe," Walter Bishop and Walternate, 
 
We had plenty of new things to talk about when we sat down last week, including how Walter and Walternate are impacted by last season's big "Fringe" finale twist and how viewers can still catch up with "Fringe" in time for Friday's (September 23) premiere. 
 
Enjoy.
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<p>&quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>
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"The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' - 'Auditions #2' Live-Blog

Will Cheryl Cole make another appearance, or are we stuck with Nicole?

We're back again for another night of "The X Factor" live-blogging. I don't anticipate that I'll live-blog next week's show -- Rosh Hashanah, among other things -- but last night went OK, so I'm fine with making live-blogging a fun premiere week game.

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<p>&quot;Charlie's Angels&quot;</p>
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"Charlie's Angels"

Credit: ABC

TV Review: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'

HitFix
D-
Readers
C
Here's a flawless blueprint on how not to reboot a franchise
The "Charlie's Angels" brand has some value, but ABC has a few problems with that brand.
 
First: There certainly are people with warmth for the original TV series, which was a fairly earnest piece of Aaron Spelling cheese, elevated to glorious action eye candy by Farrah Fawcett (and, to possibly a lesser extent, by Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd).
 
The problem: If you watched "Charlie's Angels" when it premiered in 1976, even if you have fond memories of it, there's at least a possibility that you may be outside of the demographic ABC truly cares about. Also, you probably won't think that the beloved tone of the jigglefest has been well captured in this mannequins-on-parade interpretation.
 
Second: The 2000 "Charlie's Angels" film with Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu was a pretty big hit and although it wasn't exactly an Oscar movie, as tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top sexy action-comedies go, it was pretty superb.
 
The problem there: [We'll leave aside that 2003's "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" was a less big hit and far less well received.] Repeatedly mentioning Drew Barrymore's name in promotion and even bringing her out at the Emmys isn't going to obscure that no matter what the "Charlie's Angels" movie was aiming for, tone-wise, that's not what ABC's reboot is aiming for in any way and no matter what kind of trailer ABC cuts together, there's actually no way to make it look like there are similarities.
 
So, really, whether you loved "Charlie's Angels" in the '70s or you loved "Charlie's Angels" in the '00s, you aren't going to see your version of "Charlie's Angels" celebrated on ABC on Thursday (September 22) night. There are many ways to honor or respect "Charlie's Angels" and this version achieves none of them and, in the process, it doesn't honor or respect viewers who come in without a vested interest of any kind.
 
I thought "Charlie's Angels" was bad when I watched the original cut back in May, but watching it a second time in what was a barely tweaked revised pilot was utterly excruciating. "Charlie's Angels" is entitled to be interpreted so many different ways, but hitting this level of tedium is almost astounding.
 
Full review after the break...
 
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<p>Steve Jones</p>
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Steve Jones

Watch: 'X Factor' host Steve Jones introduces himself to HitFix

Why is the Welsh host determined to protect contestants against Simon?
I'll admit it: My first reaction to meeting "X Factor" host Steve Jones was "Compared to Ryan Seacrest, this guy is James Bond."
 
The 34-year-old former model from Wales made his debut as "X Factor" host on Wednesday (September 21) night, a gig he'll now take on solo after his original co-host, Nicole Scherzinger, was elevated to judge early in the audition process. 
 
Jones was only seen fleetingly in Wednesday's premiere, so he's still a bit of an unknown to American audiences, while British fans know him from hosting duties on shows like "Drop Zone," "As Seen on TV" and "Guinness World Records Smashed."
 
Check out my interview with Jones, in which he discussed his relationship with the judges, his relationship with contestants and why he actually doesn't want audiences to know too much about it.
 
 
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<p>Whitney Cummings and Chris D'Elia of &quot;Whitney&quot;</p>
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Whitney Cummings and Chris D'Elia of "Whitney"

Credit: NBC

TV Review: NBC's 'Whitney'

HitFix
D+
Readers
C-
It's not that we dislike multi-cam comedies, it's that we dislike bad comedies
If "Whitney" is bad -- and it is, at least in pilot form, bad -- you have to give the new NBC sitcom credit for coming off the blocks as belligerently bad.
 
Check out this interview with series executive producer Betsy Thomas, in which she blasts the "comedy snobbery" regarding NBC's Thursday comedy lineup, saying, "Somehow it became cool to stop trying to be funny." In the article, Thomas raises the perfectly valid point that as much as I/we/smart-people love NBC's Thursday single-cam comedies, with the exception of "The Office," they're not hits. They'd all basically be considered failures if they were on ABC or CBS. [So maybe audiences don't love single camera comedies. Except audiences love "Modern Family."]
 
Or catch the opening to "Whitney" itself, in which Whitney Cummings tauntingly declares, "'Whitney' is taped in front of a live studio audience... You heard me." Dontcha be confusing "Whitney" with a single-camera comedy and dontcha be accusing "Whitney" of using a laff-track, y'all.
 
Yup, "Whitney" is defiant and the pre-premiere party line appears to be simple: Critics who don't like "Whitney" don't like "Whitney" because it's not "cool" to like multi-cam comedies anymore, but that human beings (i.e. non-critics) love multi-cam comedies so, without using exactly these words, we can all suck it. 
 
I don't have an immediate defense to that, since I can't look at the network comedies that I liked this year or last year or any time in the recent past and say, "Ha! There's the multi-cam comedy that I love, so you're wrong," though "The Big Bang Theory" is a regular part of my viewing rotation and "Mike & Molly" also isn't a series I ever go out of my way to mock.
 
But regarding "Whitney," there's only one truly important rejoinder and it goes a little like this: Disliking "Whitney" isn't reflective of a dislike for multi-cam comedies, it's reflective of a dislike for unfunny comedies and complaining that "Whitney" doesn't mesh with NBC's other Thursday comedies isn't a coded way for criticizing it as multi-cam, but rather a coded way for saying it isn't good. 
 
And if it's snobbery to say, "I prefer good comedies to bad comedies," I guess I'll just have to cop to that. [As if I've somehow ever disputed charges of snobbery in the past.]
 
More on "Whitney" after the break...
 
There's a tendency to shy away from the word "sitcom," which has become as much of a bad word or an antiquated word as "multi-cam," but if "Whitney" is going to take pride in being filmed in front of a live studio audience, it should also feel pride in being a sitcom of the most retro type imaginable.
 
Whitney Cummings plays Whitney Cummings, but not the Whitney Cummings who's a successful stand-up comic, but a slightly different Whitney Cummings who's a photographer. [Why was this the professional choice they made? I don't know.] This Whitney Cummings is in a long-term relationship with Alex (Chris D'Elia), who made a lot of money selling an Internet something of some sort. [Neither main character's professional background actually has anything to do with anything in the pilot.] Whitney and Alex have been together for a long time (five years in the original pilot, but three years now, because somebody must have told somebody this would sound less dire, or maybe just make them seem younger), but they aren't married and they aren't engaged, in part because Whitney's mom (Jane Kaczmarek) has left her terrified by the entire institution.
 
They've got some wacky sitcom friends, too. Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Neal (Maulik Pancholy) are dating and although the NBC press description has lots of details about each character, in the pilot at least, she's a harpy and he's whipped. There's also bitter, cynical Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn) who's mostly there to lament about dating and the state of contemporary masculinity. And finally there's sexist cop Mark (Dan O'Brien) who says obnoxious and chauvinistic things and waits for the audience to pretend that it's 1984 and them laugh.
 
A lot of "Whitney" is actually about pretending that it's 1984. Or maybe 1993. And the weird part is that I can't tell if it's intentional. The original pilot had a couple vintage 2009 punchlines about Vajazzling and a character asking not to be CC-ed on something conversational, but they were trimmed. The current "Whitney" pilot is stripped of most pop culture references and even a "Dr. Quinn" reference has to be followed by the question "Medicine woman?" as if the joke needed additional clarification to be funny.
 
But there's a fine line between being intentionally retro and evergreen and coming across as dated and "Whitney" is mostly in the latter category. Cummings' comedy -- I don't claim to be an expert, but I've seen my share of Roasts, YouTube clips and late-night appearances -- doesn't tend to be reference driven and, I'll confess, I've always felt like she tends a bit too much towards obvious "women are different from men" punchlines, so I can see how this would be a logically network de-raunchified version of what she does. But as predictable as I usually find Cummings' stand-up, I can also respect that her writing is somewhat sharp and her delivery usually hits well.
 
In "Whitney," however, the writing isn't sharp and the delivery doesn't tend to hit well. For a sitcom with a love for traditional sitcom conventions, "Whitney" doesn't have a very good grasp on ideal sitcom pacing and scene tend to drag in ways that are inexcusable in the high-punchline-per-minute-ratio world of the multi-cam sitcom. The wedding sequence that makes up most of the pilot's first half seems to go on forever and very few of the punchlines either hit or flow organically into the marriage-based-insecurity that fuels the rest of the episode. Too many punchlines are just jokes repeating themselves, rather than the kind of escalated humor this branch of the genre thrives on. If "Whitney" ever decides to let D'Elia be funny, that would help, since too many scenes are Whitney saying ostensibly funny things loudly and then waiting for D'Elia and the audience to laugh and then gracelessly hammering home another ostensible punchline. For now, there's no back and forth and Cummings' is trying way too hard, which is a bad match for D'Elia's low-key, bemused charm.
 
I'll say this again: Exactly one scene in "Whitney" worked for me, but at least it worked for me well. Worried that their sex life is on the rocks, Whitney decides to role-play as a naughty nurse. This sequence, mostly spoiled already by NBC promos, works because it's the one time in the pilot that suggests or proves that Whitney and the creative team are aware of the way a good multi-cam scene should start from character, escalate, escalate and close strong (though this scene also includes the gratuitously repeated "Dr. Quinn" joke, so it's far from perfect). I'm not saying that "Whitney" should be composed entirely of scenes featuring Cummings in a naughty nurse outfit, just to note that it seems counterproductive and wrong to claim that every scene in "Whitney' is a total dud.
 
And I could generously agree that Jane Kaczmarek is an improvement over Beverly D'Angelo as Whitney's mom, but in terms of actual resemblance and ability to be intentionally funny on cue.
 
And, heck, I'll even agree that the revised ending to the new pilot is markedly less bad than the original ending and that several of those cut punchlines were cut for viable reasons, meaning that the producers are not unaware of some things not being funny.
 
I don't know why I'm inclined to such generosity toward a pilot which is, naughty nurse scene aside, completely without mirth. It could be that I don't think NBC and CBS are necessarily wrong in feeling like Cummings is a star of sorts. I just feel like this is a pilot which, despite Emmy winner Andy Ackerman directing and the punchy Betsy Thomas (also an Emmy winner) producing, exhibits a weird discomfort with the form it's so proud to be trying to reinvigorate. That's why, like I said in my original Take Me To The Pilots post, NBC should have let them scrap the pilot entirely and try again, rather than just tinkering with a few random scenes and pretending that was a solution. It wasn't a solution and this is a bad pilot and that's what my grade reflects, but I can somehow imagine it getting better. By next week, I may have discarded that hope as well.
 
"Whitney" premieres on Thursday (September 22) night on NBC at 9:30 p.m. ET.
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<p>L.A. Reid</p>
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L.A. Reid

Watch: L.A. Reid discusses 'The X Factor'

Music mogul tells HitFix why he bet on Simon Cowell
On Wednesday (September 21) night, viewers were introduced to L.A. Reid, "X Factor" judge.
 
Music fans didn't really need an introduction to L.A. Reid, record industry power-player since founding LaFace Records back in 1989. In the subsequent 20-plus years, with LaFace, Arista and The Island Def Jam Music Group, Reid has been credited with signing, developing or shaping the careers of artists ranging from Pink to Usher to Justin Bieber to Rihanna and more. 
 
Back in March, Reid made the decision to exit his position as Chairman and CEO at The Island Def Jam Music Group to come join Simon Cowell on "The X Factor" (and then taking over the Epic Label Group in July).
 
In my recent interview with Cowell, he praised Reid for his taste and for their similar backgrounds, but on Wednesday's premiere, a lot was made of the two men bumping heads when evaluating potential "X Factor" talent. 
 
The day before chatting with Cowell last week, I sat down with Reid to talk about his big job switch, about his "X Factor" judging approach and his overall approach to judging talent.
 
Check out the interview...
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