<p>Kelli Garner in &quot;The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe&quot;</p>

Kelli Garner in "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

Credit: Lifetime

Review: Lifetime's 'Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe'

HitFix
B-
Readers
A-
'My Generation,' 'Pan Am' star shines in perhaps her best role to date

In our ever-more-fragmented media landscape, we're seeing fewer and fewer recognizable brand-name stars for *everybody*, but we're probably getting more and more recognizable brand-name stars for *somebody*. 

And that means that people who, to certain individuals, are clearly stars of a certain stature are virtual unknowns to great masses, possibly to majorities. And that's even the case with culture-watching professionals.

Take Britt Robertson. I didn't see many "Tomorrowland" reviews calling her an unknown or even a newcomer, thankfully, but plenty of critics are still bending over backwards to reference credits like "Dan in Real Life" or "Delivery Man" as if audiences may struggle to place her. I hear her name and I think of an actress who has been the unquestioned star of at least two network TV shows and one of the stars (if only for a for a season) of a bona fide hit. In the sphere of what I do, Britt Robertson isn't a rising star. She's somebody who TV networks have been banking on (without breakout success, mind you) for five-plus years. 

The same thing happened when "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" premiered at Sundance and movie critics had to strain to identify a lot of actors who had the temerity to only be familiar from the small screen

But that doesn't mean that I don't have blindspots. "Undateable," for example, added Bridgit Mendler to its cast for Season 2 and I'd never heard of her, but she has 4.5+ million Twitter followers. Mendler, like Ciara Bravo or the periodic YouTube personalities who pop up on the reality shows I watch, is proof that there are corners of the Internet and of my TV dial in which people I've never heard of are beloved by millions.

Lifetime's two-part telefilm or miniseries or whatever you call a four-hour program on TV these days "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" stars Kelli Garner and for most viewers, one of the pleasures of "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" will be watching a Marilyn Monroe biopic without the leading lady being weighted down by the burden of familiarity. 

But to me, Kelli Garner is a star, or at least an actress who I've wanted to see become a star for a pretty long time, going back to Larry Clark's "Bully" in 2001. After indies like "Thumbsucker" and "Lars and the Real Girl," ABC decided Kelli Garner was ready for stardom in both "My Generation" and "Pan Am," but America wasn't buying it. So for me, one of the pleasures of "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" is watching Kelli Garner finally earn a role that allows her to bring together many of the skills hinted at previously. 

It's nice that "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" works on those two levels -- either as an immersive performance in which an actress you don't know disappears into the iconography of one of the most famous women of the 20th Century or in which a long on-the-cusp actress finally fulfills her long-evident potential -- because four hours is a lot of time to watch what is a very, very, very conventional biopic of a woman who hasn't lacked for variably conventional biopics in the past.

If you come to "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" looking for biographical or psychological insights into Marilyn Monroe's life that you've never heard before, you're almost certain to be disappointed and, given the running time, you probably won't make it to Night 2 unless you're like, "I came for Joe DiMaggio and I'm not leaving until I get Joe DiMaggio." 

If you come to "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe," airing on May 30 and May 31, looking for a sexy, nuanced lead performance and a few other highlights? There are reasons enough to stick with the movie.

[That's my review in a nutshell, but more after the break...]

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<p>&quot;Dr. Ken&quot;</p>

"Dr. Ken"

Credit: ABC

DVR Gridlock 2015-16: Friday Nights

'Shark Tank' and 'Blue Bloods' will still probably rule the night

[As in years past, this week, I'm going to be glancing, night-by-night, at how the primetime schedules have changed after the network announcements at upfronts. I'll be looking at how the various changes will impact the ratings races on each night, as well as my own DVRing habits. Readers can chime in on how their own DVRs will be impacted. And yes, this brief series assumes that anybody still watches TV on their TVs. I'm old-fashioned. I'm also probably gonna ignore that I have a fancy new six-tuner DVR that means that I really don't have to make choices anymore. This will assume that I make choices for my own sanity.]

FRIDAY NIGHTS

8:00 p.m.
ABC: "Last Man Standing," "Dr. Ken"
CBS: "The Amazing Race"
The CW: "Reign"
FOX: "MasterChef Junior"
NBC: "Undateable," "People Are Talking"


9:00 p.m. 
ABC: "Shark Tank"
CBS: "Hawaii Five-0"
The CW: "America's Next Top Model"
FOX: "World's Funniest"
NBC: "Grimm"


10:00 p.m. 
ABC: "20/20"
CBS: "Blue Bloods"
NBC: "Dateline"

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<p>&quot;Halt and Catch Fire&quot;</p>

"Halt and Catch Fire"

Credit: AMC

'Halt and Catch Fire' showrunner on writing dynamic female characters

Jonathan Lisco teases the new season, starring this Sunday on AMC

AMC made "Halt and Catch Fire" sweat it out a little before giving the '80s-set computer drama a second season renewal last summer. The pick-up didn't come until several weeks after the first finale, far from standard operating procedure on cable, where renewals have been known to come after a big premiere, or sometimes even sooner.

"There's so much scripted material right now that to break through and find an audience that can frankly support of the metrics of a TV show is hard. So I was not sure. I thought it was 50-50," "Halt and Catch Fire" showrunner Jonathan Lisco told me when we sat down in January.

It was a slightly strange time to talk about "Halt," since the second season hadn't even begun production and at the TCA press tour panel earlier in the day, Lisco had teased a time jump taking the show from the uncertain events of the finale -- Donna and Cameron plotting Mutiny, Joe heading out into the wilderness -- to an even more nebulous place.

So while there are some teases for the new season -- hints about a couple added characters make a lot more sense having subsequently seen the first four episodes, which are really good -- we talked at least as much about aspects of the first season, including the evolution of Donna, introduced misleadingly as another disapproving cable wife, as one of the show's most loved characters.

"When we got what you might call 'critique' of the first couple of episodes, we all just said, 'Guys, do you need your whole dinner served up to you right now? We can't thwart your expectations unless we're going to mislead you a tiny bit at first,'" Lisco laughed. "So we were lulling people into that belief. But then the level of aggression came out and the path I think was influenced more by what people perceived to be the flaws in other shows than the flaws in our own, which is perfectly understandable and I don't begrudge anyone. But I'm glad that now people see how dynamic the female characters are."

We also discussed the legal stickiness of featuring a Macintosh last season and the historical stickiness of wanting to depict their fictional characters as brilliant, without letting them be part of discoveries made by real people.

"Halt and Catch Fire" begins its second season on Sunday (May 31). Check out my full Q&A with Jonathan Lisco below...

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<p>David Duchovny of &quot;Aquarius&quot;</p>

David Duchovny of "Aquarius"

Credit: NBC

Thursday Ratings: 'Aquarius' premiere, 'Wayward Pines' split hour

'Bones' is up and 'The Big Bang Theory' repeat is the night's top show

Fast National ratings for Thursday, May 28, 2015.

In their head-to-head hour, the third week of FOX's "Wayward Pines" topped NBC's "Aquarius" in the key demographic, but the premiere of the David Duchovny drama led overall. And that's the way the Thursday primetime race broke down as well, with NBC winning overall and FOX eking out a victory in the key demo.

The two-hour "Aquarius" premiere ended up at The Mulaney Line in the key demographic and, boding ill for NBC and for the drama's binging possibilities, the audience dropped with each half-hour.

"Wayward Pines," meanwhile, lost a chunk of overall viewership from last week, but was flat week-to-week in the key demo.

And, of course, Thursday's top show was actually a repeat of "The Big Bang Theory."

Let's get to the numbers...

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'T.rex Autopsy' Exclusive: A heart-y clip from NatGeo's dino-dissection

'T.rex Autopsy' Exclusive: A heart-y clip from NatGeo's dino-dissection

Crawley Creatures produced the life-sized tyrannosaurus rex

I've been on a wide variety of movie and TV sets over the past decade and I've seen some intriguing things. I've watched Avengers fight off alien invaders, Greek warriors setting sail for conquest, Freddy Krueger on the prowl for nubile teenage victims, marauding pirates, misunderstood evil queens and undercover police officers playing football.

There's nothing I can really compare to the experience last month of standing in an observation room at London's Pinewood Studios watching a quartet of trained paleontologists and veterinarians digging into the blood-spewing, organ-bursting corpse of a life-size tyrannosaurus rex, designed under the auspices of a slew of dino-experts and realized with foam, latex, rubber and all manner of other surprising ingredients by the team at Crawley Creatures under the watch of Jez Gibson-Harris, one of the men credited with bringing Jabba the Hutt to life.

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<p>&quot;The Player&quot;</p>

"The Player"

Credit: NBC

DVR Gridlock 2015-16: Thursday Nights

Shonda Rhimes and CBS' football and "Big Bang Theory" will still rule

[As in years past, this week, I'm going to be glancing, night-by-night, at how the primetime schedules have changed after the network announcements at upfronts. I'll be looking at how the various changes will impact the ratings races on each night, as well as my own DVRing habits. Readers can chime in on how their own DVRs will be impacted. And yes, this brief series assumes that anybody still watches TV on their TVs. I'm old-fashioned. I'm also probably gonna ignore that I have a fancy new six-tuner DVR that means that I really don't have to make choices anymore. This will assume that I make choices for my own sanity.]

THURSDAY NIGHTS

8:00 p.m. 
ABC: "Grey's Anatomy"
CBS: Thursday Night Football/ "The Big Bang Theory," "Life in Pieces"
The CW: "The Vampire Diaries"
FOX: "Bones"
NBC: "Heroes Reborn"


9:00 p.m. 
ABC: "Scandal"
CBS: Thursday Night Football/ "Mom," "Angel from Hell"
The CW: "The Originals"
FOX: "Sleepy Hollow"
NBC: "The Blacklist"


10:00 p.m.
ABC: "How To Get Away With Murder"
CBS: Thursday Night Football/"Elementary"
NBC: "The Player"

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<p>The series premiere of &quot;The Briefcase&quot;</p>

The series premiere of "The Briefcase"

Credit: CBS

Wednesday Ratings: 'Briefcase' premiere, 'MasterChef' lead Wednesday split

CBS sweeps primetime overall, while FOX leads in the key demo

Fast National ratings for Wednesday, May 27, 2015.

The series premiere of "The Briefcase" was Wednesday night's most watched show and led CBS to primetime victory overall, while "MasterChef" grew week-to-week and helped FOX eke out a slim nightly win in the key demographic. 

Wednesday notables also included a so-so debut for FOX's "Bullseye," a so-so second week for ABC's "Celebrity Wife Swap" and another night of steady-if-not-exactly-impressive returns for "500 Questions," which concludes on Thursday.

Let's get to the numbers...

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<p>Taraji P. Henson of &quot;Empire&quot;</p>

Taraji P. Henson of "Empire"

Credit: FOX

DVR Gridlock 2015-16: Wednesday Nights

Only 'Rosewood' and 'Code Black' interrupt the night's stability

[As in years past, this week, I'm going to be glancing, night-by-night, at how the primetime schedules have changed after the network announcements at upfronts. I'll be looking at how the various changes will impact the ratings races on each night, as well as my own DVRing habits. Readers can chime in on how their own DVRs will be impacted. And yes, this brief series assumes that anybody still watches TV on their TVs. I'm old-fashioned. I'm also probably gonna ignore that I have a fancy new six-tuner DVR that means that I really don't have to make choices anymore. This will assume that I make choices for my own sanity.]

WEDNESDAY NIGHTS

8:00 p.m.
ABC: "The Middle," "The Goldbergs"
CBS: "Survivor"
The CW: "Arrow"
FOX: "Rosewood"
NBC: "The Mysteries of Laura"


9:00 p.m. 
ABC: "Modern Family," "Black-ish"
CBS: "Criminal Minds"
The CW: "Supernatural"
FOX: "Empire"
NBC: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"


10 p.m. 
ABC: "Nashville"
CBS: "Code Black"
NBC: "Chicago PD"

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<p>&quot;America&#39;s Got Talent&quot;</p>

"America's Got Talent"

Credit: NBC

Tuesday Ratings: '5th Grader' returns low, 'I Can Do That' helps NBC lead

'America's Got Talent' is Tuesday's top show in all measures

Fast National ratings for Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

The 10th installment of "America's Got Talent" was down 13 percent from last year's premiere, while the launch of "I Can Do That!" came in below last year's launch for "The Night Shift," but NBC still dominated Tuesday in all measures.

Tuesday was a night of summer roll-outs, as FOX got a lackluster time period premiere for "Hell's Kitchen" and a weak return for the long-absent "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader," while ABC's "Extreme Weight Loss" return failed to make a dent. 

Over on The CW, in only its second airing without a new "Flash" as lead-in, The CW's "iZombie" was impressively stable.

Let's get to the numbers...

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<p>Priyanka Chopra of &#39;Quantico&#39;</p>

Priyanka Chopra of 'Quantico'

Credit: ABC

DVR Gridlock 2015-16: Tuesday Nights

Rob Lowe and John Stamos won't dethrone CBS' 'NCIS' duo

[As in years past, this week, I'm going to be glancing, night-by-night, at how the primetime schedules have changed after the network announcements at upfronts. I'll be looking at how the various changes will impact the ratings races on each night, as well as my own DVRing habits. Readers can chime in on how their own DVRs will be impacted. And yes, this brief series assumes that anybody still watches TV on their TVs. I'm old-fashioned. I'm also probably gonna ignore that I have a fancy new six-tuner DVR that means that I really don't have to make choices anymore. This will assume that I make choices for my own sanity.]

TUESDAY NIGHTS

8:00 p.m. 
ABC: "The Muppets"/"Fresh Off The Boat"
CBS: "NCIS"
The CW: "The Flash"
FOX: "Grandfathered"/"The Grinder"
NBC: "The Voice"


9:00 p.m.
ABC: "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
CBS: "NCIS: New Orleans"
The CW: "iZombie"
FOX: "Scream Queens"
NBC: "Heartbreaker"


10:00 p.m. 
ABC: "Quantico"
CBS: "Limitless"
NBC: "Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris"/"Chicago Fire"

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