<p>The cast of FOX's &quot;New Girl&quot;</p>
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The cast of FOX's "New Girl"

Credit: FOX

TV Review: FOX's 'New Girl'

HitFix
B
Readers
B-
As you may have heard, Zooey Deschanel is a fine reason to watch this one
If you haven't already read Mo Ryan's excellently reported feature about the declining number of female writers and producers in Hollywood, you really should.
 
Ryan was writing in response to the annual study from San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film indicating a significant drop in the percentage of women writing for broadcast television. 
 
That study and its discouraging words pointed to the 2010-2011 TV season and while it's too soon to project how next year's study will pan out, I suspect there's cause for at least guarded optimism. 
 
I made my list of Fall TV Season's 10 Least Bad New Network Shows last night and of the 10 pilots I picked, seven were created or co-created by a female writer and the percentage of those standout shows to feature a female character or female characters in lead roles was even higher. You'd have to be a dreamer to think that in one year, there'd been a meaningful sea change in the industry, but I'm equally hesitant to think of it as a total aberration. 
 
I'm so darned peppy about this possible new semi-trend that I'm not going to quibble that three of the shows in my Top 5 -- "New Girl," "Hart of Dixie" and "Suburgatory" -- are mighty similar female-driven fish-out-of-water stories. Hollywood's creative laziness very rarely benefits women and it isn't really creative laziness if all three shows are also clever and likable, is it?
 
First out of the gates for this trio is "New Girl" -- No "The" no matter how many times I type it and have to delete it -- in which creator Liz Meriwether and star Zooey Deschanel fuse seamlessly in a way that sometimes  even the best of showrunners and stars take years to achieve. If you like Zooey Deschanel, this is Zooey Deschanel at her best. 
 
And if you don't like Zooey Deschanel? Well, you probably hate puppies, rainbows and unicorns as well. 
 
[I kid. I understand as well as anybody does that Zooey Deschanel is a polarizing figure. I can imagine "New Girl" converting a few doubters, but Zooey fandom and its antithesis are pretty entrenched positions. I'd add that this is not a Manic Pixie Dream Girl performance/character, but like so many good ideas Manic Pixie Dream Girl has lost enough meaning that detractors have decided that "Zooey = Manic Pixie Dream Girl" is a worthy formula, which it didn't used to be. But that's an entirely different article/review/meditation and I'm not going to get into it here.]
 
Full review after the break...
 
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<p>Zooey Deschanel</p>
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Zooey Deschanel

Watch: Zooey Deschanel talks 'New Girl,' weighs in on 'adorkable'

FOX's newest comedy star explains how she's like her character
There is a fine between asking Zooey Deschanel how she feels about being adorable and asking her opinion of "adorkable," a word accompanying her image on posters and billboards nationwide.
 
Or at least I hope there is. 
 
I sat down last week with Deschanel, star of the new FOX comedy "New Girl," to discuss the development of her free-spirited and zany character, what drew her to the small screen and the sensation of hearing that your face is stories high in Times Square. 
 
Oh and if you're curious, the "Elf" and "(500) Days of Summer" star doesn't mind the word "adorkable," though you're going to have to watch the interview to find out why not.
 
"New Girl" premieres on FOX on Tuesday (September 20) at 9 p.m. 
 
Check out my interview (and read Sepinwall's interview, which is longer, but features less Zooey imagery).
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<p>Ashton Kutcher of 'Two and a Half Men'</p>
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Ashton Kutcher of 'Two and a Half Men'

Credit: CBS

Ashton Kutcher debuts on 'Two and a Half Men' - Some quick thoughts

CBS comedy says farewell to Charlie Harper and hello to Walden Schmidt

Monday (September 19) night marked the long-awaited debut of Ashton Kutcher's Penis as the new co-star of CBS' "Two and a Half Men."

The long-running CBS hit comedy returned to start its eighth season with its first new episode since February. Everybody, of course, knows why "Two and a Half Men" has been absent and if you somehow missed the Charlie Sheen news, the premiere spent a solid 15 minutes urinating on the memory of poor, departed Charlie Harper just in case.
 
I have, at most, been a sporadic "Two and a Half Men" viewer over the years, only catching it on airplanes or when I accidentally left the TV on from an earlier program, but this auspicious changing-of-the-guard -- appropriate terminology since viewers, like Buckingham Palace Queen's Guard, probably didn't laugh -- was a fine cause to peek back in.
 
Some quick thoughts on the season premiere of "Two and a Half Men" after the break...
 
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<p>This man isn't a Bunny and he isn't Don Draper, but he's the star of &quot;The Playboy Club&quot;</p>
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This man isn't a Bunny and he isn't Don Draper, but he's the star of "The Playboy Club"

Credit: NBC

TV Review: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'

HitFix
C
Readers
C
A refocused, revised pilot loses track of the Bunnys
Normally I like long and unwieldy introductions to reviews, but in the interest of time, I'm going to cut right to the chase here...
 
If you're a show that's already going to have a struggle to convince viewers that you're attempting to depict a period of female empowerment rather than exploitation, perhaps the best thing to do when reshooting large chunks of your pilot isn't to thin out the character moments that focus on your female stars in favor of giving more screentime to your bland Don Draper manque.
 
That's just my suggestion. 
 
And it should be pretty rudimentary, right? When making a show that wants to be feminist in nature -- or, at the very least, not overtly sexist -- one should always err on the side of your living, breathing leading ladies and not on the well-decorated masculine mannequin. It's just common sense.
 
Unfortunately, between the original pilot for "The Playboy Club" sent to critics in May and the revised pilot sent earlier this month, changes were made the tipped the balance. Whereas I kinda enjoyed the original pilot, about women at Chicago's Playboy Club in the early 1960s, I was significantly less enamored of the revised pilot, airing on Monday (September 19) night, which feels much more like the story of a handsome Chicago attorney in the 1960s who likes to spend a lot of time being admired by the Bunnies at the Playboy Club.
 
I was willing to go on the journey with that first version of the show. Did I totally buy its empowerment message? No. But I was willing to accept that what seems progressive to my 21st Century eyes wouldn't have any relationship to what would seem progressive to women in 1960-ish. 
 
I'm a good deal more cautious about the second version of the show, because it no longer feels like "The Playboy Club" itself is convinced by what it was formerly selling and has decided to gamble on a different horse. And when that horse takes the form of Eddie Cibrian, it's not that I'm fleeing the betting window in horror, but I've been fooled too many times for any confidence.
 
More after the break...
 
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<p>&nbsp;The judges on FOX's &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>
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 The judges on FOX's "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 94

Dan and Alan review 'Revenge,' 'Person of Interest,' the Emmys and more

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
 
It seems like only two or three days ago that we last podcasted, but Firewall & Iceberg is back with an installment that includes a post-mortem on Sunday night's Emmy telecast and the usual chatter about Sunday's "Breaking Bad," but then delves into a slew of reviews for new shows, focuses on Wednesday/Thursday offerings like "The X Factor," "Revenge," "Charlie's Angels," "Person of Interest," "Whitney" and "Prime Suspect."
 
We got a bit rushed toward the end, but such is life...
 
Here's the breakdown:
Emmy post-mortem -- 00:01:00 - 24:20
"The X Factor" -- 24:25 - 29:10
"Revenge" -- 29:10 - 36:20
"Charlie's Angels" -- 36:20 - 42:45
"Person of Interest" -- 42:50 - 51:20
"Whitney" -- 51:25 - 57:40
"Prime Suspect" -- 57:45 - 01:05:00
"Breaking Bad" -- 01:05:15 - 01:17:12

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>Nathan Fillion of &quot;Castle&quot;</p>
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Nathan Fillion of "Castle"

Credit: ABC

HitFix Interview: Nathan Fillion talks 'Castle' Season 4

Monday's premiere features a darker side of Richard Castle
"Castle" begins its fourth season on ABC on Monday (September 19) night, but the normally breezy crime dramedy picks up in a dark place in the aftermath of last spring's fairly shocking finale. 
 
Ruben Santiago-Hudson's Captain Montgomery? Dead.
 
Stana Katic's Beckett? Shot and seemingly barely clinging to life (not that anybody anywhere thinks Katic is done on the show).
 
This upheaval results in a brooding and introspective Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), a side of the normally witty and charming write-turned-police-groupie that viewers normally haven't experienced.
 
The busy Fillion carved out a few minutes to chat with HitFix about the temporarily somber Castle, the big answer he's hoping to learn this season and even a little bit about that new movie that sounds a lot like a FOX series he did a few years ago...
 
Click through...
 
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<p>Emmys host Jane Lynch</p>
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Emmys host Jane Lynch

Credit: Matt Sayles/AP

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards Live-Blog

All the winners, losers and fun, presented with ample snark

Happy Emmy Night, Boys & Girls. 

For 364 days out of the year, TV cowers in the shadow of feature films even though we all know that TV is better. But on one night, Emmy night, the biggest stars in television get to get together and honor the year's best... movie stars who deigned to do TV.

I kid.

But let's all sit down and count the minutes till Kate Winslet moves herself one step closer to EGOT.

Full Emmys live-blog after the break...

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<p>Amber Heard of &quot;The Playboy Club&quot;</p>
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Amber Heard of "The Playboy Club"

Credit: NBC

HitFix Interview: Amber Heard talks 'The Playboy Club'

NBC's new Bunny isn't shy about discussing her new show's message
It probably shouldn't have been surprising that last month's Television Critics Association press tour panel for NBC's "The Playboy Club" became an ongoing debate as to whether the period drama was empowering or exploitative.
 
While all of the show's stars and producers were closely on-message about the idea that employment at the Playboy Club in the early '60s was a progressive choice, leading lady Amber Heard was particularly passionate on the subject. [Read more from that panel.]
 
At the NBC party that evening, I caught up with Heard ("Hidden Palms," "All The Boys Love Mandy Lane"), who plays Maureen, the newest Bunny at Chicago's Playboy Club, for a few follow-up questions regarding her take on the show's message.
 
[Click through for the brief interview...]
 
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<p>Zooey Deschanel of &quot;New Girl&quot;</p>
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Zooey Deschanel of "New Girl"

Credit: FOX

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 93

Dan and Alan talk Emmys and review new shows like 'New Girl' and 'Playboy Club'

The

Happy Friday, Boys & Girls.
 
Here's a little Firewall & Iceberg Podcast action for your end-of-week commute. Assuming you have a looooong commute. If not? Apologies, because this isn't a short podcast.
 
In this week's installment, we cover Sunday's Emmys (a bit like the blog posts we did over the past 10 days, but hopefully with SOME new material), review the new shows premiering next Monday and Tuesday -- that would be "2 Broke Girls," "The Playboy Club," "New Girl" and "Unforgettable -- and also chatter about Sunday's episode of "Breaking Bad."
 
That's a lot of chatter. [Oh and the glitchiness in Alan's audio around the 41:30-ish mark? It gets better. Apologies. Blame Skype.]
 
And guess what? Time permitting, will be back on Monday for MORE!
 
Here's today's breakdown:
Emmys -- 00:40 - 41:45
"2 Broke Girls" -- 42:15 - 48:30
"The Playboy Club" -- 48:35 - 56:25
"New Girl" -- 56:30 - 01:04:05
"Unforgettable" -- 01:04:10 - 01:10:25
"Breaking Bad" -- 01:10:30 - 01:23:40 

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>&nbsp;The cast of &quot;The Secret Circle&quot;</p>
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 The cast of "The Secret Circle"

Credit: The CE

TV Review: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'

HitFix
B-
Readers
A-
Witchy teen drama makes a solid companion with 'The Vampire Diaries'
Robert Browning, who observed "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" would not have lasted very long running a broadcast television network.
 
Sure, it's easy to point to the huge risks that pay off hugely and change the fate of TV networks. A singing competition in which a British guy nobody has heard of insults the talentless? Airing in the summer? Crazy. A drama about plane crash survivors on an island with weird things in the woods? In the same season as you're airing a comedic soap opera narrated by a dead woman? Crazy.
 
But in most seasons and on most networks, "dice-rolling" usually takes a backseat to "managed risk." And this is even the case in circumstances where you'd think wild gambling might be the order of the day.
 
The CW did a little gambling with "Ringer" and the results weren't overwhelmingly successful, unless you think that an audience of 2.7 million viewers against zero scripted competition is likely going to hold up in Week 2, especially given reviews that I'll generously call "mixed."
 
And I guess The CW is even gambling a tiny bit on "Hart of Dixie," banking on another Old WB-style dramedy after similar offerings like "Privileged" and "Life Unexpected" had only brief runs.
 
But nobody anywhere is going to classify the Thursday drama "The Secret Circle" as a gamble.
 
Thursday 9 p.m. is one of TV's most crowded time slots, but on The CW, it's also the time slot after the network's biggest hit, "The Vampire Diaries." After giving "The Vampire Diaries" variably compatible lead-outs in "Supernatural" and then "Nikita" the past two seasons, The CW's approach this fall has been to put fish in a barrel and load up a rifle.
 
"The Secret Circle" comes from "Vampire Diaries" author LJ Smith and it has been adapted by "Vampire Diaries" producer Kevin Williamson. And although the star-making promotional legwork didn't necessarily pay off for Britt Robertson on "Life Unexpected," The CW is hoping that it at least laid the groundwork for a full-scale breakout with "Secret Circle."
 
There are many ways to design a show and "The Secret Circle" feels like it was developed with compatibility as a higher priority than creativity. But there are worse things than being compatible with what is The CW's most popular and also best series. "The Secret Circle" may be over-calculated and under-inspired, but that doesn't necessarily mean "The Secret Circle" is bad. There's something to be said for setting reasonable goals and largely succeeding, especially when there are plenty of shows that aspire to a good deal less and still fail.
 
More on "The Secret Circle" after the break...
 
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