<p>Bruce Campbell of 'Burn Notice'</p>

Bruce Campbell of 'Burn Notice'

Credit: USA Network

This just in: Comic-Con audiences love Bruce Campbell, 'Burn Notice'

'Evil Dead' star holds holds court at the panel for his USA action-dramedy


Under normal circumstances, it isn't ideal for a TV show to make its big Comic-Con splash in the potentially cavernous Ballroom 20 without its leading man and leading lady in attendance.

But there was USA's "Burn Notice" filling the hall on Thursday (July 23), sans stars Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar. Comic-Con organizers were probably never worried, though, because they knew that "Burn Notice" has one very not-so-secret weapon. That would be Mr. Bruce Campbell.

If there's any crowd in the world capable of being held fully in the sway of actor, writer, director, pitchman and raconteur Bruce Campbell, it's the Comic-Con crowd. And nobody left disappointed.

"It's like watching a rock star work the crowd," said very talented (but unavoidably overshadowed) "Burn Notice" guest star Jay Karns. "It's like watching a comic and a rock star."

From the panel's beginning -- Campbell walked in to the sort of lengthy "Bruuuuuuce" chorus that only denim-wearing rockers from New Jersey -- to its end, the "Evil Dead" star was holding court, clearly appreciative of his appreciators. 

"Thank you for for watching," began Campbell's final statement. "If you didn't, we wouldn't be here right now. We'd be in the ballroom over there watching the new 'Twilight.'"

Some of the finer moments of wit and wisdom delivered by Campbell throughout the "Burn Notice" panel:

*** "'How was Comic-Con, Bruce?' 'Expensive.'" Through the panel, Campbell delivered cash to three people in the crowd out of gratitude for questions daring to probe the depths of his awesomeness. [Two of the payoffs went to the same person, much to Campbell's amusement and chagrin.]

*** What was "Burn Notice" doing at Comic-Con anyway? Well, Campbell explained that his character's last name -- Axe -- fulfilled the horror aspect. Plus, "Science fiction -- If you've ever been to Miami, you know there's lots of aliens there...  Fantasy -- What does 'Burn' Notice have to do with fantasy? Well my character, Sam Axe, sleeps with a string of rich Miami women and that's a heck of a fantasy for me."

*** Asked when it's time for him (not specifying between Campbell and Sam Axe): "Ask my wife of 17 years if it's time to settle down. As for Sam Axe, why would he? He's still laying the hammer down."

*** Despite the aforementioned wife of 17 years, when Campbell was asked about Sam's appreciation for mojitos and what he'd want on a date with her [the questioner], the actor replied, "A room and your naked body.... I can't see you out there. So I may change that. That's a good start. There's a Xena out there I want to boff. But there's a Pikachu who's hotter than hell."

*** Campbell's advice to aspiring filmmakers? "Don't copy anybody. Don't copy Quentin Tarantino. Don't copy Sam Raimi. Don't copy Martin Scorsese. Make people copy you."

*** Was Campbell offered a role in Sam Raimi's "Drag Me to Hell"? "No I was not offered a role in 'Drag Me to Hell.' That's the answer to your question. Amy I happy about that? No. Will Sam pay for that? Yeah. Because he's gonna have to put me in 'Spider-Man 4, 5 and 6.'"


It wasn't like Campbell was totally a one-man show, though. 


Some other, non-Bruce Campbell, "Burn Notice" panel highlights:

*** After a lot of joking about whether or not "House" veteran Michael Weston actual had to audition for his recent guest-starring role opposite the fictional Westen, Nix suggested that Weston had once been tossed out for the role of Weston, but "That would have been a little twee."

*** On the mystery/backstory involving Michael's father, Nix said, "To be honest, when you start out writing a television pilot, your expectation really is that your script will be put in a drawer and forgotten forever. And you don't think about the fact that if you write in a missing father in a show that contains a mystery element, the entire world will say, 'The father is a mystery.'" Nix then pronounced, in no uncertain terms, that Michael was not burned by his father.

*** On Michael's fantastic inventions, gizmos, gadgets and technological workarounds, Nix and Alfredo Barrios Jr. said that the show's ex-spy consultant came up with many of the ideas, but, as Barrios put it, "The bulk of it is just stuff you get on the internet. It's surprising what you can find. Kinda scary, too." Nix added that the show still has a safety policy, saying "Let's not teach anybody how to kill themselves, too specifically. It should require another step after the episode. You must go to the Internet."

*** Nix on why you rarely see Sam Axe showcasing his fighting skills: "He doesn't really go karate time on people... We imagine Sam having a very powerful right cross. Fights with Sam are usually over quickly."


Check out all of HitFix's Comic-Con Coverage.


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<p>Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson of 'Twilight Saga: New Moon'</p>

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson of 'Twilight Saga: New Moon'

Credit: Summit

Comic-Con Live-Blogging: 'Twilight Saga: New Moon' Press Conference

Before the panel, before the round-tables, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner meet the press, Plus: A brand new video interview with the s

9:29 a.m. PT Excitement is building for me and 50+ of my closest friends. We're all awaiting the start of Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart's joint Comic-Con press conference for "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." We all know that if we don't cover the heck out of this press conference, we won't have any chance to write about "Twilight" at this Comic-Con.

9:32 a.m. Well, no chance other than the Hall H panel -- for which HitFix's Greg Ellwood has been camped for hours -- and the roundtable press conferences -- set to be covered by HitFix's Katie Hasty. 

9:35 a.m. Don't worry. We're really going to have "Twilight" coverage aplenty.

9:46 a.m. The press conference has yet to start, but the throng of journalists milling around the microphones hoping to get the exact same pictures of Kristen, Robert and Taylor, is massive and growing antsy.

9:47 a.m. Just a warning that WiFi in this room is not what I'd like it to be. I'm going to try to update regularly, but if I can't, I'll just update the story post-panel...

9:51 a.m. Still no talent on the podium, but my tape recorder is there, meaning I'll probably have three or four minutes of white noise (if I'm lucky) before anything happens.

9:54 a.m. There are ground-rule. "We're here to talk about the 'Twilight Saga: New Moon.'" That means no personal questions.

9:56 a.m. Taylor, Kristen and Robert arrive on stage. Kristen is in full-on Joan Jett mode, rave hair tussled. I'm not sure I've ever seen Rob's hair look this conditioned.

9:57 a.m. "I think last year Comic-Con was the big eye-opener for us," Lautner says, expressing excitement at being back this year.

9:58 a.m. "It would look probably pretty cheesy if it were just my voice, so they've done these hallucinations, semi-visible apparitions," Pattinson says, explaining how he's able to be in the movie when Edward is largely absent from the book.

9:59 a.m. Proteins, good carbs and cut the sugars. That was Taylor Lautner's secret to become the buff Taylor we see before us. That and months and months and months with a personal trainer.

10:00 a.m. "There's more to think about. It's a more mature part. She's older. She has more to deal with. Yeah. That's it." That's how Stewart attempts to express how Bella is different this season.

10:01 a.m. "I'd like to think that I haven't changed that much. Within myself, I don't think I've changed. When I'm walking down the street, I look down a lot more often," Pattinson says, explaining how his life has changed. He adds, "It seems to keep building, the magnitutde of this franchise."

10:02 a.m. Lautner says he's been so busy working and publicizing. "It's crazy. None of us saw it coming. I don't think any of us saw it coming."

10:03 a.m. How has Stewart changed? "I cut my hair off."

10:04 p.m. Lautner's grateful to the fans, "It's awesome that we get to see them all waiting for us again a year later." 

10:05 a.m. "I pretty much live an almost identical life apart from being recognized and that's not necessarily the worst thing in the world." He adds, "I never did anything normal anyway. I just get other people to do it now."

10:06 a.m. "Sometimes it gets me nervous because I'm trying to live up to the fans expectations and represent Team Jacob in the right way." - Lautner on Team Jacob.

10:07 a.m. Don't worry. The stars all reassure us that Edward is in the movie plenty. You won't miss him.

10:09 a.m. "I thought they did a pretty good job with the wolf transformation... The werewolves definitely step up the action in this movie. There's double the action in this movie," Lautner promises. He adds, "There's also the beginning of a love triangle."

10:10 a.m. Taylor and Kristen both have fond memories of their "breakup" scene, which was shot in 35 degrees with artificial rain. "That was bad and I wasn't really wearing much," Taylor says.

10:12 a.m. "I think my breakup scene was my favorite scene," Pattinson says of the five-page dialogue sequence that's distanced from the other supernatural aspects in the story. "Hopefully it will come off as having quite a few more levels than the relationship in 'Twilight.'"

10:13 a.m. Why do people love "Twilight" so much? "I think a lot of the characters are very relatable," Taylor says. Stewart praises the first-person narrative. This isn't what the reporter wants. He wants to know why kids love vampires. "The problem is that when I look at it, I never look at it as a vampire story," Pattinson responds, saying he tries to ignore the vampire element as much as he can.

10:15 a.m. Which of the novels resonates best for the cast as readers? Taylor's favorite book is "Eclipse" -- "The action levels continue to build in this series," Lautner notes, also raving at the advancing love triangle. Stewart stands up for "New Moon," explaining "I feel like after 'New Moon' it's pretty smooth sailing for her." And Pattinson also salutes "New Moon." Kristen and Robert both remember the movie they're here to promote!

10:18 a.m. "Everyone looks at Edward as the hero and he's being continually saved by the damsel-in-distress," Pattinson says.

10:19 a.m. A reporter asks what question they never want to answer again. "What's it like kissing Taylor Lautner," Pattinson jokes.

10:19 a.m. "To growl... Actually, I'm asked that more by fans. They ask me to grown for them and I actually don't enjoy doing that," Taylor warns.

10:20 a.m. "You can ask me anything you want," Stewart says. It's true! She just won't answer.

10:22 a.m. Bob Stencil shows up. That's how you know nobody at Summit took the credentialing process all that seriously.  He asks if there are sparks between Kirsten and Robert off-camera. He's cut-off and told they were told not to ask those questions.

10:21 a.m. Pattinson says he has no musical contribution to "New Moon."

10:22 a.m. And that's it, sports fans. The Three Elvises have left the

NEW: Check out a brand new interview with Taylor and Kristen from our friends at MSN Movies.


<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-US&from=sp&vid=4d05ea1c-f85b-4460-aa3e-20fa35b89fa7" mce_href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-US&amp;from=sp&amp;vid=4d05ea1c-f85b-4460-aa3e-20fa35b89fa7" target="_new" title="Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner at Comic-Con 2009">Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner at Comic-Con 2009

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<p>'Torchwood: Children of Earth'</p>

'Torchwood: Children of Earth'

TV Review: 'Torchwood: Children of Earth'

Is it possible to enjoy 'Children of Earth' without caring about 'Torchwood'? Why yes!

I tend to be a due diligence sort of critic. If something's based on a book, I set out to read that book. If something's a remake, I try to see the original. I try to be as well-informed as I possibly can be. That's usually how I see my responsibility as a critic.

Sometimes, though, you just have to embrace your ignorance, since that's a point-of-view as well. Take, for example, BBC America's "Torchwood: Children of Earth," which airs as a five-night, five-part event starting on Monday, July 20.

Much of the early scuttlebutt on "Children of Earth" was that it was tremendous and that, most importantly, it was designed to be easily accessible to viewers without any interest in "Torchwood."

See what I mean about ignorance being a point of view? I've never watched a complete episode of "Torchwood" and, largely due to a childhood intolerance for cheesy British sci-fi, I've barely watched any of the two most recent incarnations of "Doctor Who."

The way I figured it, if ever there were a critic qualified to declare whether or not "Torchwood: Children of Earth" plays for the uninitiated, that somebody would be me. 

So keep that in mind when I say that I plowed through five hours of "Torchwood: Children of Earth" over two otherwise busy days. I've noticed a couple people I trust go overboard in their praise and that perhaps implies a different depth of understanding that they had as fans of the franchise, but I was consistently and thoroughly engaged, and the backstory I was constantly aware I was missing never hampered that interest..

[Full review, keeping spoilers to a relative minimum...]

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Clarification on the 'Futurama' recasting reports

Somebody may be looking to replace the 'Futurama' vocal stars, but it isn't FOX


OK. I hate to do this. I hate to get all lecture-y, but today's one of those days I have no choice, because there's a lot of misreporting going on on the Internet and it's important to clear at least a few things up.

I have no idea if the main vocal stars of "Futurama" -- John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Billy West, Tress MacNeille and Katey Sagal -- are going be recast. If they were, that would be a pretty ridiculous public relations blunder. 

First off, credit to Forces of Geek for breaking this story and providing the casting report that seems to prove that, indeed, a search is on for new vocal talents to play Philip J. Fry, Leela, Bender, Zoidberg and the rest of the "Futurama" gang. Kudos.

Much less credit to Forces of Geek for reporting that the entity attempting to undertake this recasting is FOX, an error which frankly throws the entire story under the bus.

To clarify, when reporters refer to "FOX" or "Fox" (without any additional words afterwards), they're referring to a television network, a distribution system for television programming owned by the good people at NewsCorp.

FOX, the television network, both aired "Futurama" for many seasons and cancelled "Futurama." 

FOX, the television network, has absolutely nothing to do with "Futurama" as of this exact second. 

The problem here stems from generally shoddy online reporting of the deal that resurrected "Futurama," a deal that was between Comedy Central and 20th Century Fox TV.

Here's where I have to clarify again: 20th Century Fox TV is a production company, the company that produces "Futurama." Although the same people own 20th Century Fox TV and FOX, they are not the same thing and they have completely different corporate structures and a deal with one is not a deal with the other.

So Comedy Central and 20th Century Fox are bringing "Futurama" back to TV. 20th Century Fox TV has the option to shop first-run episodes of "Futurama" to broadcast networks. That would include FOX. As of now, though, FOX has not acquired broadcast rights to new episodes of "Futurama." 

FOX *may* acquire broadcast rights to new episodes of "Futurama." In fact, it's expected that such a deal will be announced at Comic-Con next week. As of now, though, FOX is unconnected to new episodes of "Futurama" and the network has nothing to do with any recasting. In fact, the casting noticed published by Forces of Geek clearly says "Twentieth Century Fox Television."

This is the same confusion that led to the online freak-out over FOX not airing the "Epitaph One" episode of "Dollhouse," where many people chose not to note that the episode had been ordered by 20th Century Fox TV and not by FOX and therefore FOX had no plans or obligations to air said episode. Instead, people reported that FOX was choosing to cut short the "Dollhouse" order and that the series was cancelled.

It was not.

But back to "Futurama." 

The good folks at The Hollywood Reporter have confirmed that 20th Century Fox TV is attempting to recast the voices for "Futurama."

The trade paper has a statement from the production company that reads, "We love the 'Futurama' voice performers and absolutely wanted to use them, but unfortunately, we could not meet their salary demands. While replacing these talented actors will be difficult, the show must go on. We are confident that we will find terrific new performers to give voice to (creators) Matt (Groening) and David (Cohen)'s brilliantly subversive characters." 

The Hollywood Reporter story uses very clear use of the conditional tense. The story has the headline, "'Futurama' searches for a new voice" and it ends with the sentence, "Sources indicated that it is still possible that the two sides may come to an agreement."

But the story in Entertainment Weekly, posted just minutes after the trade story, with the same statement, uses the headline, "'Futurama' getting new voices for Fry, Leela, Bender, and others." Note the absence of conditional tense. Also, reading the article, note the absence of the possibility of an eventual agreement.

You see, it isn't uncommon for 20th Century Fox to play hardball with its animated vocal talent and creative forces. Ask the voices from "The Simpsons." Ask Seth MacFarlane. Then again, Seth MacFarlane still works on all of his 20th Century Fox TV shows. And despite holdouts and protestations most of the voices on "The Simpsons" are the same voices who will always be there. 

The very real possibility exists that 20th Century Fox TV is negotiating, behind the scenes. Because of the specific deal between Comedy Central and 20th Century Fox TV, there is a timetable that has to be met. Given that writers are writing episodes and a studio is expecting to produce episodes, looking for a way to cover bases isn't fan-friendly, but it's logical business. It doesn't mean anything until the new voices have signed contracts, recorded episodes and those episodes are about to air.

"Futurama" will be at Comic-Con next Saturday. The exact tone of that panel may well be governed by further developments in this story. There may be a ridiculous amount of hostility from a fan community that's been teased too much already. If this specter is still hovering in the air, what ought to be an entirely positive panel celebrating a beloved show's return could become a public relations disaster.

My bet? Everybody eventually makes nice and the panel celebrates FOX acquiring new "Futurama" episodes and the return of the vocal cast. But I know absolutely nothing.

Stay tuned.

[Update #1: Variety has a good deal more information than the Hollywood Reporter.]


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<p>Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel of '500 Days of Summer'</p>

Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel of '500 Days of Summer'

Credit: Fox Searchlight

HitFix Interview: '500 Days of Summer' screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber

'Summer' scribes discuss their not-so-romantic comedy, breaking into Hollywood and 'The Pink Panther 2'

If your idea of a perfect relationship movie is a romantic comedy in which the perky ingenue -- think Kate Hudson, Katherine Heigl or, heaven help us, Jessica Alba -- has a hilariously contrived meet-cute with a square-jawed hunk -- think James Marsden, Eric Dane or, if you've behaved very poorly, Dane Cook -- and they bicker for 45 minutes, make out for five minutes, bicker for 15 minutes and then consummate their passions in a grand, rhapsodic climax, you may want to skip Fox Searchlight's "500 Days of Summer." 

Actually, scratch that.

Directed by Marc Webb, "500 Days of Summer" may be the most optimistically romantic movie you'll see this year. 

It may also be the most sardonically bittersweet and depressing love story making its way to your local cinema this summer 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star as Tom and Summer, an ill-fated couple whose love flows and ebbs in non-linear fashion through Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber's script, which makes a mockery of the conventions that Hollywood has foisted upon us in the genre. 

This is Neustadter and Weber's second produced screenplay of 2009, but if you missed a little film called "The Pink Panther 2," you can pretend it's their first.

Although I have at least one killer story dating back to our shared undergrad experience involving Neustadter and famously mustachioed President Chester Arthur, that incident never came up when HitFix chatted with the screenwriters about the semi-autobiographical (for Neustadter) film, which first earned rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in January. 

[Interview after the break...]

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<p>Emmy host and nominee Neil Patrick Harris</p>

Emmy host and nominee Neil Patrick Harris

Credit: CBS

Analysis: The 61st Primetime Emmy Awards nominations

Emmy voters jettisoned some old favorites -- Bye, Jeremy Piven -- and welcomed some fresh blood

You'll excuse me if this analysis piece took slightly longer to write than usual. I had my "Emmy voters keep nominating the same stupid stuff" column almost entirely pre-written, but then I had to pause, reevaluate my main thesis and change to "Emmy voters keep nominating much of the same old stuff, but this year's nominations included a number of pleasant surprises."

[Analysis after the break...]

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<p>Katherine Heigl</p>

Katherine Heigl

Credit: AP

My Emmy nomination prediction wrap-up

After weeks of predictions and gallery making, nominees will be announced on Thursday, July 16


We're only nine hours from the nomination announcement for the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards, which will be unveiled at 5:40 a.m. PT (a much more reasonable 8:40 a.m. ET) tomorrow morning.

Rather than attending the announcement live, where the only advantage is reporting on which nominees have the most publicists in the room, I'll be sitting on my couch with an IV line running directly between a main artery and my main man Mr. Coffee, preparing to analyze the nominations as they come in, or as caffeine permits. 

So check back here when you wake up tomorrow morning, when you roll out of bed well-rested and alert and peppy. Check back here and marvel at all of the typos that slip through when I attempt to write before the sun has risen over the mountains to my East. [Yes, there are mountains. Yes, I can see the sunrise over them if I happen to be awake. No, I prefer not to.]

Of course, I've already spent the past month handicapping the eight major acting categories, running down between 10 and 20 candidates for each six-person nomination field. In theory, I laid out the galleries in order of their nomination likelihood. 

Here are those eight categories and those eight galleries and the Top Six names listed (by me) in each category. Perhaps I'll come back tomorrow and see how I did. 

It's my hunch that I'm most wrong on the supporting comedy categories... I made these galleries a few weeks back and I already don't know what I was thinking...


Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Jean Smart, Holland Taylor, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracey Ullman, Nicollette Sheridan, Elizabeth Perkins


Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Jeremy Piven, Neil Patrick Harris, Rainn Wilson, Jon Cryer, John Krasinski, Jack McBrayer


Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama: Marcia Gay Harden, Katherine Heigl, Dianne Wiest, Rachel Griffiths, Candice Bergen, Alison Pill


Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama: John Mahoney, William Shatner, William Hurt, Jeremy Davies, Michael Emmerson, Justin Chambers


Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy: Alec Baldwin, Steve Carell, Tony Shalhoub, Charlie Sheen, Jim Parsons, David Duchovny 


Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy: Tina Fey, Toni Collette, Mary-Louise Parker, America Ferrera, Julia Louise-Dreyfus, Christina Applegate


Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama: Glenn Close, Kyra Sedgwick, Holly Hunter, Mariska Hargitay, January Jones, Jally Field


Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama: Jon Hamm, Hugh Laurie, Bryan Cranston, James Spader, Gabriel Byrne, Kiefer Sutherland


Check HitFix tomorrow morning (early) for all of your Emmy nomination news and information.


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<p>Logan Marshall-Green of 'Dark Blue'</p>

Logan Marshall-Green of 'Dark Blue'

Credit: TNT

TV Review: 'Dark Blue'

Why so serious, Dylan McDermott and Logan Marshall-Green? Can't undercover cops have fun?

Although I can see why it still attracts writers and actors, the undercover cop genre has seemingly gone stagnant. This makes me sad because it's a genre I love on the big screen -- "Serpico," "Point Break," "Donnie Brasco," "The Departed" -- and on TV -- "The Mod Squad," "EZ Streets," "Sleeper Cell."

The major beats of the undercover genre are all crystalized. You await the scene where the stern authority figure threatens to pull our hero off the case because he's in too deep. You await the scene where the hero's wife/girlfriend complains that she doesn't know who she's sleeping with anymore, because he's in too deep. You await the scene where our hero has to cross that line and do something illegal, because he's in too deep to let his cover slide. In a movie each of things things can happen two or three times, but in a TV series, you can be stuck playing out the same beats multiple times in every episode.

No matter how bland the genre has become, it can still be a showcase for some terrific performances. I watched CBS' "The Handler" for Joe Pantoliano and Hill Harper. I watched A&E's "The Beast" for Patrick Swayze.

While some of the performances in TNT's new drama "Dark Blue" are solid, none of them are compelling enough to elevate what is otherwise an oppressively gloom, by-the-numbers entry that just pushes the genre deeper into its rut. 

[Full review after the break...]

Dylan McDermott stars as Carter Shaw, a street-wise cop so consumed with law and order that he's let his marriage, his family and his personal life slip away. Yes. He's that street-wise cop. 

He runs a team that includes Ty (Omari Hardwick), still trying to be the best husband he can be, in-too-deep Dean (Logan Marshall-Green) and newcomer-with-a-past Jaimie (Nicki Aycox). They're an elite off-the-books undercover squad with mostly unlimited resources, getting close to Los Angeles' biggest drug pushers, arms dealers and potential terrorists. 

But there's a catch.

As Shaw explains, "You start spending more time as an addict or a thief or even a killer than you do as yourself. Sooner or later, you're gonna forget which parts are the cover and which parts are you. How long can you pretend to be something before you become it?"

Whoa. That's deep. Or else it's just familiar. "Dark Blue" is just another show that suggests that as noble as police officers are, in general, the most noble cops of all are the cops who have to act for a living.

As I've said before, there's something patently absurd about the idea that undercover cops can balance enough different aliases to allow them to go undercover and solve a different case each week, but it's a lie that TV drama like to perpetuate. I prefer shows that acknowledge the ridiculousness of that premise, something like "Burn Notice," where Michael Westen just whips out a different silly accent and he can instantly ingratiate himself to all manner of crooks and thieves in no time at all and despite having cozied up to more than 30 Miami-based criminals in a year, he almost never runs into past associates or people he helped put away. Because "Burn Notice" is mostly a comedy, you don't sweat the plausibility. You can similarly suspend disbelief for "Leverage," which returns for its second season paired with "Dark Blue." The "Leverage" gang pulls off a different con every week, but they travel the country, wear funny costumes and make wisecracks. 

"Dark Blue," however, aspires to be gritty, real and intense and only gritty, real and intense. Because this is a Jerry Bruckheimer show, the strong production values are a foregone conclusion. Directed by Danny Cannon, who crafted the visual style for several of Bruckheimer's hits, "Dark Blue" is murky and cinematic and, like much of Cannon's work, characterized by a heavy use of filters and showy lighting. It's also a vision of Los Angeles that's nearly dystopic, an LA devoid of overly iconic palm trees and landmarks, but also devoid of neighborhoods and humanity. It's all abandoned warehouses, downtown lofts and sterile asphalt back-alleys. 

The cases in the first two episodes are similarly sterile and divorced from anything Los Angeles-specific. It just happens that LA is a likely hub for untouchable (but easily infiltrated) criminal masterminds. 

Bringing down said masterminds is such hard work that there's no room for levity and the characters only pause long enough for introspective monologuing on the nature of their jobs. There's a recent why shows like this, but not this, have a quirky computer guy or a lab tech, somebody to serve no purpose other than cracking a few jokes and leaving. Yeah, sometimes we end up hating those character, but in their total absence, they're missed.

If nothing else, McDermott is playing to his strength in "Dark Blue." That is to say that he delivers 80 percent of his lines in a growling monotone. He delivers another 10 percent like he's on the verge of bawling at a his own sincerity. And then for the other 10 percent, he bellows in righteous indignation. Everything we know about the character comes when Kyle Secor, as a meddling FBI agent, reads his file out loud to him. "Dark Blue" is that kind of show.

Of the supporting players, Logan Marshall-Green makes the strongest impression, continuing a career trend of being slightly memorable in unmemorable vehicles like ABC's "Traveler" and the feature "The Great Rave." Because he's the officer who's "in too deep," he has the showiest part, at least in the pilot. In the second episode, shifted to the background, he isn't so interesting. I did find myself thinking how much better A&E's "The Beast" would have been with Marshall-Green in the Travis Fimmel role, or else how much better "Dark Blue" would be with Patrick Swayze standing in for McDermott.

I also found myself thinking that Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie) and Trey Atwood (Marshall-Green) now both find themselves playing dedicated LAPD officers overcoming the obstacle of coming from good families on procedurals. 

That, in turn, lets me embed this clip:

I feel like I owe Logan Marshall-Green an apology, but not nearly as much of an apology as Marissa Cooper and Imogen Heap do.

Hardwick gets the main arc in the second's second episode, while Aycox's secret may be interesting. They're both OK.

"Dark Blue" airs at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, following "Leverage." While I don't have the time to do a review of "Leverage," the show remains a respectable (if sometimes forgettable) mixture of well-meaning plotlines, likable characters and frequent fun. Maybe if the two are paired for long enough, some of the fun from "Leverage" will bleed into "Dark Blue." 



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<p>Adrian Grenier at Los Angeles premiere for the new season of 'Entourage'</p>

Adrian Grenier at Los Angeles premiere for the new season of 'Entourage'

Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

TV Review: 'Entourage' Season Six

HBO's Emmy-winning comedy returns for a new season that's a lot like the past couple seasons


There was a somewhat funny digital short that made the rounds a couple weeks ago called "Every Week on Entourage." The parody's subhead was "So many twists and turns you'll forget they've been using the same formula for five seasons." A couple of the actors in the skit did dead-on impressions of their "Entourage" counterparts, but the thing I found funniest about "Every Week on Entourage" was that the joke about the staleness of "Entourage" was pretty stale itself.

Critics and even fans have been complaining about the "Entourage" recycling for at least two seasons now, some longer. The creative forces behind the series have either been living in a cave or else they've heard the criticisms. 

Having watched the first two episodes of the sixth season of "Entourage," I can only draw one conclusion: The show's braintrust couldn't care less about your concerns. It's not that they hate the fans, but they obviously like "Entourage" as it was in Season One and they have no interest in tweaking the formula in the slightest. The unrelenting stream of product plugs, name-checking, wish-fulfillment, arrested development and goofball misogyny are unaltered as Season Six begins on Sunday (July 12) night. It's almost impossible to tell if the jokes and characters are less funny or if the punchlines falls flat because we've become desensitized through their sameness. You'd have to enlist the opinion of an "Entourage" neophyte to know for sure, which wouldn't be a problem since every episode of "Entourage" is designed to be equally accessible to somebody watching their first episode as to somebody who'd watched all 66.

Should a show be rewarded, though, for targeting amnesiacs as its core demographic?

[Review of the "Entourage" premiere after the break...]

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<p>Katie Cassidy of 'Harper's Island'</p>

Katie Cassidy of 'Harper's Island'

Credit: CBS

Thoughts on the 'Harper's Island' finale: Who did it? And why?

More bodies piled up before we learned more details about the Harper's Island Reign of Carnage

Back when it premiered, I reviewed "Harper's Island" on the basis of a single episode. I asked CBS for additional episodes, saying I needed figure out the show's direction a bit more before crystalizing my opinion, but I was politely turned down. On the basis of that pilot, I tore the show to shreds, but if I'd been able to see a few additional episodes, I might have tempered that judgment. 

At no point did "Harper's Island" ever fully figure out what it was supposed to be. It was an Agatha Christie mystery with the heart of a schlocky slasher film. By six or seven episodes in, it seemingly embraced that slasher core, but I'm not even certain that the producers would cop to that categorization. 

"Harper's Island" never really had the brains to become an involving mystery, but it absolutely had to guts to become an amusingly audacious splatter flick stretched over 13 hours. I'd hesitate to tabulate the total number of casualties on "Harper's Island," but they killed off at least 15 characters we cared about and maybe 10 others that we never got to know. Although those deaths had to be toned down for network standards, viewers never turned off the TV on Saturday night feeling short-changed for carnage. Sometimes we liked the people who were killed. Sometimes we hated them. And often we felt like we didn't much care. But people kept dying and since that was all that the producers and CBS ever promised, "Harper's Island" lived up to its potential.

We lost many more brave souls in Saturday (July 11) night's "Harper's Island" finale. We got a lot of answers, even if those answers didn't make any sense. And we got closure, even if there weren't many survivors around to enjoy it.

[Discussion of the "Harper's Island" finale after the break. Obviously, I'm spoiling everything, so just back away slowly, if you care.]

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