<p>Will Forte of &quot;The Last Man on Earth&quot;</p>

Will Forte of "The Last Man on Earth"

Credit: FOX

Review: Will Forte and Lord & Miller steer FOX's inspired 'Last Man on Earth'

Minimalist comedy packs a maximum amount of humor and humanity

I've expressed my enthusiasm for FOX's new Sunday comedy "Last Man on Earth" in a number of different tweets and the responses tend to fall into a common mixed emotion that I'd describe as "excited skepticism."

It can be boiled down to, "It looks funny... But does it work as a series?"

On the eve of the Sunday, March 1 premiere of "Last Man on Earth," my own answer can now take one of two forms:

The first: I've seen three episodes -- or, rather, I've seen the hour-long block that will air on Sunday, plus an additional half-hour -- and "Last Man on Earth" works rather wonderfully for that duration, which is really all I can ask from a network TV show when I review it. I've reviewed comedies based on both more episodes and fewer episodes and while I can't say that I know that the 50th episode of "Last Man on Earth" will be funny, I also couldn't say that the 50th episode of "Fresh Off the Boat" would be funny, but I reviewed that off of three episodes as well and it has continued to be funny now for three subsequent episodes as well. TV shows are only funny until they're not, no matter how high the concept, and given how hard it is to hit the ground running with a sitcom, I'm not going to criticize a series that's this immediately and successfully inspired just because I don't know what Season 20 looks like.

The second: Go ahead and try telling Phil Lord and Chris Miller that you think the project they're working on is either a silly idea or an idea that seems better designed for a five-minute short than for long-form storytelling. At this point, the "21 Jump Street" and "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and "The Lego Movie" directors ought to have earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to successful elongation of premises that seem merely one-joke, but ultimately yield many more.

Lord & Miller's direction of the opening "Last Man on Earth" hour is a textbook lesson in precision comic timing and humorous use of physical space for the small screen. The Mark Mothersbaugh score and clockwork editing and a lively soundtrack make this one of the most formally successful network comedy pilots, or comedy pilots of any sort, in recent years and I hope that many of these formal and technical aspects are remembered come Emmy time.

But don't get the impression that construction of "Last Man on Earth" supersedes its heart, which comes largely courtesy of series creator and star Will Forte, who wrote the opening installments -- Emily Spivey wrote the March 8 episode, with Jason Woliner directing -- and gives a performance which follows his "Nebraska" work in underlining just how versatile he can be, even within the same projects.

More after the break, but that's probably enough of a review without saying anything more, eh?

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Remembering the Jewishness of Leonard Nimoy and the Vulcan salute

Remembering the Jewishness of Leonard Nimoy and the Vulcan salute

"Star Trek" premiered in 1966, which means that we're heading for an obscene amount of 50th anniversary coverage next year. It also means that  there have been nearly 50 years of Jewish children who grew up nudging their siblings and parents when the rabbi ended the service with the priestly benediction, because when the rabbi raises his hands to emulate the Hebrew letter shin, what he's doing is the Vulcan salute.

I grew up knowing that fictionally Leonard Nimoy was a Vulcan, but I also grew up knowing that he was in reality, Leonard Nimoy was Jewish and he'd brought his background to "Star Trek" in the form of the famous and familiar raised hand and spread fingers. Jewish culture has been disseminated into secular culture in countless ways, but this is one of my favorites.

This interview from the Yiddish Book Center is spectacular for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are that Leonard Nimoy is a glorious storyteller and there's something wonderful in hearing even snippets of Leonard Nimoy doing Jewish prayers. With that voice, he would have made a heck of a cantor. 

But if you didn't know the origin of the Vulcan salute? Now you do.

Say Kaddish for the late Leonard Nimoy.

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<p>Leonard Nimoy of &quot;Fringe&quot;</p>

Leonard Nimoy of "Fringe"

Credit: FOX

And don't forget 'Fringe' in your Leonard Nimoy tributes

Leonard Nimoy will always be remembered for "Star Trek" and that's entirely appropriate, because Spock is one of the iconic characters in television history. 

But I've already done one post reminding people that Leonard Nimoy also directed the top-grossing movie of 1987. 

So don't exclude that from your tributes.

And also don't forget "Fringe," which offered Nimoy one of his last major roles, playing the brilliant William Bell, colleague to John Noble's Walter Bishop. Bell maybe only appeared in a handful of episodes, including a voice-cameo in the show's trippy animated episode, but once the oft-discussed role became associated with Nimoy, his presence infused the rest of the series. Once you had him there once, you never really needed to have him there again on "Fringe" because knowing that William Bell was Leonard Freaking Nimoy meant that you knew William Bell was a force.

Simply put, it was a flawless piece of pie-in-the-sky casting for a show with a small-but-devoted fanbase to land this key guest appearance from the king of all shows with small-but-devoted fanbases and placing Nimoy in the "Fringe" universe benefited that universe tremendously.

As news of Nimoy's passing began breaking on Friday morning, John Noble tweeted this brief tribute:


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<p>Three Men and a Little Baby</p>

Three Men and a Little Baby

Don't forget 'Three Men and a Baby' in your Leonard Nimoy tributes

Leonard Nimoy passed away on Friday (February 27) morning at the age of 83.

Most obituaries are, for very logical reasons, concentrating on Nimoy's contributions to the "Star Trek" franchise and its fandom. 

And don't let me stop you/them!

But don't forget "Three Men and a Baby" in your tributes.

I mean it.

Perhaps because it's fun to make fun of Steve Guttenberg or because it's fun to make fun of baby-based farces, it's easy to overlook "Three Men and a Baby."


"Three Men and a Baby" is an enjoyable and well-paced farce and it'll never not be amazing to me that Leonard Nimoy transitioned as a director from "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" to "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" to a nimble comedy with Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and the aforementioned Guttenberg.  And he made the transition without skipping a beat.

The reviews for "Three Men and a Baby" were warm, if not rapturous, with many critics agreeing that all three leads were in very fine form. And I think that's a pretty good and accurate representation.

Never forget that "Three Men and a Baby" grossed $168 million, making it the top-grossing movie of 1987. If you adjust that for inflation, it's $346 million, putting it at No.151 on BoxOfficeMojo's list of All-Time Box Office Adjusted for Inflation.

Talk about living long and prospering. 

Rest in peace, Leonard Nimoy.

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<p>Chloe Bennet of &quot;Marvel&#39;s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.&quot;</p>

Chloe Bennet of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Credit: ABC

'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' star Chloe Bennet is ready and quaking to be Inhuman

How is being Daisy Johnson making things different for Skye?

MARVEL TELEVISION BLACK SITE, CALIFORNIA. For "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." star Chloe Bennet, the process of integration into the Marvel Universe has been gradual.

Bennet's Skye started out as a hacker thorn-in-the-side of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team and, if we've being honest, a lot of fans didn't really love her. 

But then an interesting thing happened and Skye became an increasingly integrated S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and proved herself capable of helping save the world and that, plus a new hairstyle, helped viewers begin to embrace the character, while also wondering about her potential secrets. 

Well, in the "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." fall finale, Marvel enthusiasts finally discovered who Skye truly is and let's just say that the excitement has grown exponentially. 

Of course, casual viewers who don't know what an "Inhuman" is and don't gain any insight at all from learning that Skye's name is really "Daisy Johnson" still don't know who or what Skye is and Skye doesn't realistically know who or what she is.

Early this week, Bennet sat down with reporters on the highly secretive and stealthy "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." set and discussed those revelations and what's coming when "S.H.I.E.L.D." returns next week.

But if you're still in the dark, you may not want to click through and read what Bennet had to say about her evolving character.

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<p>Viola Davis of &quot;How To Get Away With Murder&quot;</p>

Viola Davis of "How To Get Away With Murder"

Credit: ABC

TV Ratings: 'How To Get Away With Murder' tops Victoria's Secret on Thursday

'Big Bang Theory,' 'Odd Couple' give CBS a slim overall win

Fast National ratings for Thursday, February 26, 2015.

The two-hour season finale of "How To Get Away With Murder" did big numbers for ABC on Thursday, helping the network easily win the night among young viewers. But even though "Murder" more-than-doubled the "Victoria's Secret Swim Special," a new "Big Bang Theory" still allowed CBS win Thursday overall.

While CBS discovered the limits of the Victoria's Secret brand -- the star-studded annual Fashion Show special is a reliable annual smash -- the network saw respectable second week retention for "The Odd Couple" and an OK time period premiere for "Mom," which held onto all of its "Big Bang Theory" repeat lead-in. 

Over on NBC, the news was mixed, with "The Blacklist" getting a tiny bump in its first airing without "Scandal" competition, but both "The Slap" and "Allegiance" remained untenably low.

FOX's "American Idol" added a few viewers overall and was flat in the key demo and "Backstrom" did the same.

On to the numbers...

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<p>Kal Penn of &quot;Battle Creek&quot;</p>

Kal Penn of "Battle Creek"

Credit: CBS

Interview: 'Battle Creek' star Kal Penn on 'House' reunions and pot differentiation

'Harold and Kumar' and White House veteran talks about his career path

Kal Penn is walking a different beat in the CBS police dramedy "Battle Creek," but this is in many ways a return for him.

You might not necessarily remember, but Penn has been working in the CBS family steadily since he ended his sabbatical working for the White House. He followed a recurring arc on "How I Met Your Mother" with a regular role on the short-lived "We Are Men" before landing on "Battle Creek," which was created by Vince Gilligan, but is run by David Shore.

Shore, of course, worked with Penn during his multi-season run as the ill-fated Dr. Lawrence Kutner on FOX's "House," a series that appears on the resume of many of the "Battle Creek" scribes.

And when one of the first things we learn about Penn's Detective Fontanelle is that he's a user of medicinal marijuana, which ties Font in with Penn's long and beloved run as star of the "Harold and Kumar" franchise. 

Last week, I sat down with Penn to discuss reuniting with his old "House" colleagues, the necessity of differentiating his versions of acting high and the actor's interest in researching and experiencing both the most and least exciting parts of the jobs he places on screen. 

So how is Fontanelle's love of weed different from Kumar's?

How many orifices did perps have drugs in when he did his ride-alongs in the real Battle Creek?

And would he ever return to work in the Beltway?

Click through for the full Q&A... And check out "Battle Creek" on Sunday (March 1) night on CBS...

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Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 14 - Top 12 Girls Perform

Get ready for a dozen frantically edited performances from Detroit

OK. Maybe Wednesday night's horribly paced performance night for the Top 12 Boys took me a bit by surprise.

Perhaps knowing what's coming for Thursday (February 26) night's Top 12 Girls performances will make it a bit easier to stomach.

Or maybe not.

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<p>Anna Faris of &quot;Mom&quot;</p>

Anna Faris of "Mom"

Credit: CBS

Interview: 'Mom' star Anna Faris on why it's fun to be a mess, hard to fall down

'Scary Movie' veteran discusses Christy's intelligence and legal future

Now it's time for your semi-regular reminder: Few comedies on network TV take more risks and offer more interesting rewards than CBS' "Mom" and CBS' "Mom" is shifting to a new time period at 9:30 on Thursdays. 

They've been having a rough go of things recently on "Mom," with the death of Kevin Pollak's Alvin. And rather than following the normal sitcom blueprint of letting characters grieve for a scene or two, "Mom" has kept those emotional wounds open.

Of course, as always on "Mom," it hasn't been all wallowing. Yes, her father just died and her mother may be cracking up a little, but Anna Faris' Christy got a promotion at work and with a new-found interest in the law, it's possible that Christy may have more direction than ever before. And that, of course, means that it'll soon be time for Christy to fall on her face again.

Last week, I dropped by the "Mom" set and was able to chat with Anna Faris, Emmy winner Allison Janney and a few guest stars. My conversation with Janney dropped a few spoilers, so I'm holding it for a few weeks, but she gave me some interesting insights before sitting down with Faris.

Thanks to the "Scary Movie" franchise and roles in films like "The House Bunny" and "Smiley Face" and "Just Friends," Faris came to CBS as a known comedic quantity, but "Mom" has let her expand on the dramatic range that sometimes appeared in small roles in "Brokeback Mountain" or "Lost in Translation." As she discusses, she didn't expect that when she signed on for a Chuck Lorre comedy, but she's loved the opportunities. 

In our conversation, Faris talks about the importance of having Janney with her for this project, the fact that physical comedy never gets easy and Christy's new-found direction. She also says that she wouldn't mind getting to see Christy become more messy as well.

Remember the new 9:30 "Mom" time slot and check out my chat with Anna Faris below...

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<p>&quot;Secrets and Lies&quot;</p>

"Secrets and Lies"

Credit: ABC

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 269 - 'House of Cards,' 'Last Man' & more

Dan and Alan also discuss 'Secrets and Lies' and 'Battle Creek'


Happy Thursday, Boys & Girls!

Wait. Didn't we just give you a podcast yesterday? Aren't y'all lucky! It's a double-dose of Firewall & Iceberg this week.

In this podcast, we have reviews of "House of Cards," "The Last Man on Earth," "Secrets and Lies" and "Battle Creek."

One show we strongly endorse. Two shows we strongly reject. And the third? Well, you'll have to listen to find out. 

And then we had a few minutes, so we made fun of the Oscars a little.

It's not the longest of podcasts, but combined with the 80 minutes we did on "Parks and Recreation" yesterday? Yeah. Seems sufficient.

Here's today's breakdown:
"House of Cards" (01:00 - 13:15)
"The Last Man on Earth" (13:15 - 20:40)
"Secrets and Lies" (20:45 - 31:35)
"Battle Creek" (31:35 - 42:55)
The Oscars (43:00 - 51:20)

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 or subscribe on IHeartRadio.] 


And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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