<p>Michael C. Hall of &quot;Dexter&quot;</p>
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Michael C. Hall of "Dexter"

Credit: Showtime

TV Review: Showtime's 'Dexter' Season 6

After a promising premiere, 'Dexter' gets bogged down in religion
Quick: Without going through episode-by-episode in your mind, tell me the overarching theme that unified Season 5 of "Dexter."
If you ponder long enough, you'll see ideas of forgiveness and reinvention and finding new ways to see yourself, often through the eyes of others, but you'd never be able to respond to my challenge with an instant one-word answer.
Now that you're in the mood, quick: Without going through episode-by-episode in your mind, tell me the overarching theme that unified Season 4 of "Dexter."
Again, there's no way you're going to shoot off an instant answer, but if you ponder the whole John Lithgow arc, I'm sure you'd notice musings on assimilation, on how successfully or unsuccessfully any of us can cover our inner monsters with a facade of civility. Or something. [I would accept "Fatherhood" as the season's theme.]
I could go on, but these weren't meant as Zen koans or as trick questions. Some TV shows do brazen season-long thematic arcs quite well. I'd point to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as a fine example of a show that, if you waited long enough, would always find a way to unify the Big Bad, Buffy's journey and many of the supporting journeys. But most shows, even highly serialized shows, either bury seasonal thematic arcs deep under the surface -- it's something that's on the board in the writers' room, but maybe not a literally articulated piece of every episode -- or they just don't bother at all. I'd generously say that "Dexter" fits into the latter category, especially since "identity" has always been the show's uber-theme, writ so large nothing else would even be necessary.
Well, somebody in the "Dexter" production team decided that this season would be a little different. They decided that the sixth season of "Dexter" was going to be about religion and not just in a casual way. "Religion" is at the heart of the core "Dexter" plotline for this season, but also at the center of the B-story and the C-story this season. It's been the center of the art/poster campaign and it's been the center of most on-air promotions.    
It's everywhere. 
And it's excruciating. 
"Dexter," as a series, does so many things so consistently well, but it turns out that bludgeoning viewers with issues of faith and spirituality isn't one of them. After a lively and appealingly hilarious premiere (airing on Sunday, October 2), "Dexter" goes entirely off the rails with two episodes hobbled by clumsy victims-of-the-week and then crushed with endless repetition of the core theme: Yes, "Dexter." We get it. This season is about religion, but if it's not going to be an intelligent or thoughtful treatise on religion, I'd kinda prefer the series return to just being gristly and entertaining, rather than ponderous and dogmatic.
More after the break...
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<p>Semhar of &quot;Survivor: South Pacific&quot;</p>
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Semhar of "Survivor: South Pacific"

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Semhar Tadesse of 'Survivor: South Pacific'

The season's first 'Survivor' castoff discusses what did her in
No matter how you feel about the overall impact of Redemption Island on the past two "Survivor" seasons, one thing you can't deny is that it has taken some of the anonymity away from being the first contestant eliminated from the game. 
It used to be that the person voted out initially would have only part of one episode to make an impression, but "Survivor: South Pacific" viewers got to spent three episodes seeing 24-year-old Semhar Tadesse, whose only mistake in the game was volunteering for a key role in the season's initial challenge and tiring out too soon. 
The spoken word artist may have failed at that task, but at least she got to perform three of her poems on national TV before being knocked out in a totem-balancing Duel during Wednesday (September 28) night's episode. 
Plus, she got to be immortalized in impressively sexist terms by fellow castaway Jim, who led the charge against Semhar, declaring, "Her body is mesmerizing, but it's not hypnotizing."
In our post-elimination exit interview, Semhar shared her thoughts on her elimination, her on-screen poetry and being mesmerizing, but not hypnotizing. 
Click through for the full interview...
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<p>Nicole Scherzinger of &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>
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Nicole Scherzinger of "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' - 'Auditions #4' Live-Blog

The auditions come to an end for Simon, L.A., Nicole and Paula

I have to acknowledge that that thing where I suggested that last Thursday's really awful episode of "The X Factor" might kill the show? I was wrong. I assumed that as a new show, its ratings might be vulnerable, but it turns out that just because "X Factor" had fewer initial viewers than "Idol" didn't necessarily mean that they were just dropping in to sample the show and might just as easily bail. Apparently not.

Anyway... Let's get down to business on the final Audition Night of the season...

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<p>Mikayla of 'Survivor: South Pacific'</p>
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Mikayla of 'Survivor: South Pacific'

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: South Pacific' - 'Reap What You Sow'

Brandon remains the center of attention, but at least there's a Duel
Sorry for the late recap. Rosh Hashanah, y'all!
Click through for the usual recap and a little day-late chatter...
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<p>Cheryl Cole of &quot;The X Factor&quot;</p>
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Cheryl Cole of "The X Factor"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' - 'Auditions #3' Live-Blog

Cheryl Cole makes a triumphant return in Chicago. Nothing else matters.
It's Erev Rosh Hashanah tonight and I'm live-blogging Wednesday's (September 28) night "The X Factor" for two reasons:
1) I want to be able to get dressed and head off to temple immediately after the episode ends... and...
2) If I give 100 percent of my attention to the Red Sox-Orioles game, I'm going to end up pulling my hair out. I need distractions...
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<p>Jane Levy of &quot;Suburgatory&quot;</p>
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Jane Levy of "Suburgatory"

Credit: ABC

TV Review: ABC's 'Suburgatory'

Jane Levy and Jeremy Sisto lead the cast of the fall's best new comedy
If you've been reading my reviews of new fall shows, you're aware that pilots often change between when critics (and advertisers) first see them in May and June and when they air in September or October.
Sometimes you start off with a pilot about empowered women in bunny suits and you end up with a boring political drama starring Eddie Cibrian.
Sometimes you start off with a main character working as a top-tier publicist and you end up with the main character working as a producer for an Oprah-esque talk show.
Sometimes even after three different attempts to make a compelling family adventure, you end up with an expensive series that's really just about dinosaurs.
That's just part of the process and it's why I end up watching the first episode of every single new show at least two times and sometimes more. What you see in premiere week can often feel like a whole different show from what you saw immediately after upfronts.
Something that's less common, though, is watching an episode two different times, a couple months apart, and coming away with an entirely different read on the theme and impact of the pilot despite the absence of any meaningful changes.
There were a couple cosmetic changes to ABC's "Suburgatory" between my two viewings, but nothing that would explain how what I first saw as a familiar-yet-clever satire on the suburbs became a funny, but also sweetly sad, story about a teenage girl without a female role model moving into a world of synthetic women with very different values. Viewed through either prism, I really enjoyed "Suburgatory" and the idea of a new network comedy with actual layers made me even happier. "Suburgatory" is the best new comedy of the fall, a fine pairing with the show Emmy voters believe to be the best comedy on TV.
Full review after the break...
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Watch: Max Greenfield and Lamorne Morris talk 'New Girl'

Meet the New Guy who isn't playing the same character as Damon Wayans Jr.
The comedy airing on FOX tonight at 9 p.m. is still called "New Girl," but more than a few viewers are likely to spend tonight's episode being just a bit distracted by the New Guy.
The story is pretty well repeated by this point, but here it goes again: Damon Wayans Jr. did the "New Girl" pilot in second position to ABC's "Happy Endings," which was considered on the bubble for renewal. But when ABC picked up "Happy Endings," the "New Girl" producers had a choice: Recast and reshoot the pilot or get rid of Wayans' Coach after the pilot and bring in a new character.
That's why tonight, there's a new roommate on "New Girl" and it isn't Zooey Deschanel anymore, it's Lamorne Morris.
Before watching tonight's episode, learn a bit about the New Guy from Morris and learn a little bit about one of the Old Guys from "Veronica Mars" (and "Happy Endings") veteran Greenfield.
Check it out...
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<p>Dot-Marie Jones and Jayma Mays</p>
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Dot-Marie Jones and Jayma Mays

Watch: Dot-Marie Jones and Jayma Mays talk 'Glee'

What are Beiste and Emma up to this fall?
Even after last week's uber-clarifying "Glee" premiere, I'll confess that I'm still not 100 percent sure which characters are actually graduating, which are seniors but candidates to be held back a year and which characters have suddenly become underclassmen. 
I do, however, know that two characters who aren't likely to be receiving diplomas at the end of the the season are Dot-Marie Jones' Coach Beiste and Jayma Mays' Emma Pillsbury.
The two characters, who really only have shared passing lunchroom scenes last year, are on a collision course this fall, when they're united as the unlikely directors of the McKinley High musical.
I sat down with the two co-stars to chat about their expanded responsibilities and what we'll be learning about their characters this season. Check it out...
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<p>Stephen Lang of &quot;Terra Nova&quot;</p>
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Stephen Lang of "Terra Nova"

Credit: FOX

TV Review: FOX's 'Terra Nova'

There's enough sizzle in this dino-drama to make up for the lack of steak
A fancy new restaurant opens up in your town.
The chef is a guy you've seen on countless Food Network specials, a true genius known for making every dish into a work of art.
The restaurant was also designed by an interior decorator who has been the focus of shows on Bravo and TLC, legendary for making the smallest space into a spectacle. 
But just days before the restaurant is ready to begin serving, you notice some interviews with the people behind the restaurant, the financial backers or whatever, and they're saying some weird things.
"Yes, people might talk about the food and design, but what we'd like to emphasize is our unobtrusive servers. There are lots of places people can go for a good meal and some fine ambiance, but we think diners will truly be impressed by how frequently their water glasses are refilled and the smooth removal of finished plates." 
That comment may make you stop and pause.
And it'd be similar to the reaction you might feel listening to the producers of FOX's "Terra Nova" talk about their new show.
You've heard about "Terra Nova" because of Steven Spielberg's involvement. You've heard about the ambitious shoot on locations down in Australia. You've heard about the motion-capture dinosaurs and special effects so special they've required months of extra development and implementation time in order to get "Terra Nova" on air at all. 
And then you see the "Terra Nova" producers at WonderCon or Comic-Con or you read or watch interviews with them from myriad media events. And over and over and over again, they seem to be saying the same thing: Well, sure there are dinosaurs and time-traveling. But really, what "Terra Nova" actually is, is a family story. We want people to come and stay for the family.
That's what the party line appears to be.
If this "Terra Nova" review gets one message across and one message only, it would be this: Do not watch FOX's "Terra Nova" because it's a family story. There are good family stories on TV and if you don't feel there are good family stories on TV, just start rewatching your "Friday Night Lights" or "Gilmore Girls" DVDs. But don't come to "Terra Nova" thinking you're going to get a gripping (or even marginally engaging) family drama and that anything else will be gravy. Tune in to "Terra Nova" because it really isn't like anything you've ever seen on TV before. The scope and special effects are exceptional and for all you've heard about the cost of the pilot, you won't wonder where the money went. Yes, there's a family story and that family story could improve as "Terra Nova" progresses, but it's the dinosaurs and the giant insects and the waterfalls and the lush scenery (real and digital) that will hook audiences.
And it's not like FOX doesn't know this. Note how advertising has focused more on marauding carnivores than dinner table conversations.
There's no particular shame in any of this, necessarily. "Terra Nova" does spectacle well. Why not own that? Why try to own "intimacy" and "domesticity," which it doesn't do nearly as well?
Full review after the break...
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<p>Claire Danes of &quot;Homeland&quot;</p>
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Claire Danes of "Homeland"

Credit: Showtime

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 96

Dan and Alan review 'Homeland,' 'Terra Nova,' 'Suburgatory,' 'Dexter' and more


Happy Monday, Boys & Girls. It's time for a regularly scheduled installment of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
We initially considered doing another two-podcast week, but there wasn't much chance the timing was going to work there, so we decided to cram a ton of stuff into an extra-long podcast today.
Because of technical issues and some of the rushing those usually cause, this podcast didn't end up being extra-long. It just ended up being extra-rushed, as we had to cover network premieres like "Terra Nova," "Hart of Dixie" and "Suburgatory," plus cable launches like "Homeland," the return of "Dexter" and the ESPN documentary "Catching Hell."

So here's the breakdown:
"Terra Nova" -- 01:50 - 12:30
"Hart of Dixie" -- 12:30 - 20:40
"Catching Hell" -- 20:45 - 25:55
"Suburgatory" -- 26:00 - 30:50
"How to Be a Gentleman" - 30:50 - 36:15
"Dexter" - 36:15 - 43:50
"Homeland" - 43:55 - 51:35
"Breaking Bad" - 51:40 - 01:06:55

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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