<p>Wednesday's &quot;Survivor: Blood vs. Water&quot;</p>

Wednesday's "Survivor: Blood vs. Water"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Blood vs. Water' - 'Opening Pandora's Box'

Colton is Colton, but a fighting challenge adds real drama
Pre-credit sequence. I've already forgotten who the Newbies voted out at Tribal Council. Rachel, apparently. Instead, we're starting with the Returnees, where everybody is discussing Tyson's cupcake belt and Tyson and Aras are enjoying some homoerotic banter. Colton is frustrated. "I love the strategy component of this game and apparently that's threatening to people," Colton says, before Aras reassures him that he is, indeed, in trouble. Colton complains that he'd hoped to redefine himself in the game. "He doesn't get this game. He thinks this game's about creating chaos. He might have dug his own grave," Aras tells us, before telling Colton to relax and enjoy himself. Yeah. That's exactly what Colton wanted to hear. "Unless you've got people who are willing to roll with you, there's nothing you can do," Colton laments.
 
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<p>Malin Akerman of &quot;Trophy Wife&quot;</p>

Malin Akerman of "Trophy Wife"

Credit: ABC

Tuesday ratings analysis - 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' loses viewers, 'Trophy Wife' loses women

And has ABC cancelled 'Lucky 7' yet?
It's been a busy day and I meant to have some ratings analysis up earlier, since there was a lot to talk about stemming from the numbers for Tuesday, October 1
 
There are also several days of Live+3 ratings that I haven't gotten to. 
 
So it goes!
 
Click through for full discussion of the big "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." drop, which was slightly smaller than reported earlier; the dangerously low numbers for "Lucky 7," which were slightly lower than reported earlier; and the ongoing weakness of FOX's comedy lineup, which is every bit as weak as reported earlier.
 
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<p>Chloe Bennet of ABC's &quot;Marvel's Agents of 'S.H.I.E.L.D.&quot;</p>

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

Credit: ABC

TV Ratings: 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' plummets on Tuesday, while 'The Voice' and 'NCIS' lead

'The Mindy Project' beats 'Trophy Wife' in the key demo
Fast National ratings for Tuesday, October 1, 2013.
 
ABC's glow from "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." lasted only a week as the "Avengers" spinoff took a steep drop in its second airing. While the numbers for "S.H.I.E.L.D." were still OK out of context, the reduced lead-in also dropped "The Goldbergs" and sent "Trophy Wife" and particularly "Lucky 7" heading into the Danger Zone.
 
While ABC had the dramatic results, the network wasn't a factor in the night's big races. Also a non-factor was FOX, which saw its two-hour comedy block continue to slide, with "Dads" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" now low-rated twins.
 
"NCIS" and "Person of Interest" held onto most of their premiere audiences and led CBS overall, while "The Voice" and "Chicago Fire" helped NBC maintain its domination among young viewers. 
 
On to the numbers...
 
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<p>Simon Cowell&nbsp;</p>

Simon Cowell 

Credit: FOX

'X Factor' judges Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato tease Four-Chair Challenge, One Direction visit and more

How has Simon Cowell responded to this season's ratings?
I'm really intrigued by the Four-Chair Challenge, which starts on "The X Factor" this week.
 
Given the amount of skepticism I've been known to heap upon the FOX singing competition, that could perhaps cause you optimism as well. 
 
Thus far, "X Factor" and FOX promotions haven't done a great job of explaining this structural evolution for the Wednesday/Thursday show, which may explain why Simon Cowell and the network hosted a small group of reporters on Monday (September 30) afternoon to try teasing the Four-Chair Challenge.
 
Let me try to explain it a bit better than the teasers have done: Currently, all four judges/mentors have 10 remaining contestants in their respective categories. Starting on Wednesday, the process begins to winnow down to four per category. On the stage, there will be four seats or "chairs," if you will. One by one, the singers in each category will perform and their respective coach/mentor/judge will have to decide whether or not to give one of the chairs to a singer. For a while, it's pretty low-key. Yes or No. Easy peasy. But once all four chairs are filled, things get fun. As the four contestants sit in their chairs, briefly feeling comfortable with their positions, they have to watch as another contestant performs just feet away and their coach then has to give the "Yes" or "No" votes. If it's a "Yes," they have to execute a Switch, booting one of the singers from their chairs. It's like musical chairs or a Yankee Swap, only with young people sensing their dreams are about to get shattered instead of prettily wrapped presents.
 
Cowell explains that the Four-Chair Challenge was transplanted from "X Factor: Holland" and while he acknowledged that it's "possibly the worst title in the world," the results have the potential to be wonderfully sadistic and also entertaining. There's pressure on the performers in the spotlight. There's pressure on the judges. There's pressure on the squirming contestants in the "Yes" chairs, who are experiencing a really unpleasant roller-coaster. And this is all happening in front of a loud and vocal audience trying to sway the contestants and also (with some success) the judges. And it's an audience that includes the parents and family members of the contestants, loved ones with the potential to take heartbreak with even less grace than the singers themselves. Throw in pauses more pregnant than Catherine Zeta-Jones at the 2003 Oscars and you get a recipe to add suspense where none existed previously.
 
Indeed, the biggest thing working in favor of the Four-Chair Challenge is that it isn't really replacing anything of value. These next few episodes are taking the place of those forgettable installments in which the judges and a hand-picked celebrity friend sat in or around houses that may or may not have actually been theirs and listened to the singers perform in environments with dreadful acoustics and then made arbitrary decisions that featured little drama at all. Even if the entirety of the Four-Chair Challenge fails to live up to the 20 minutes I saw last night, it will still be an improvement over Judges' Houses.
 
After the presentation, I was able to grab a few minutes with Simon Cowell and also with Demi Lovato to discuss the Four-Chair Challenge and also to talk about the show's ratings, the inevitable One Direction appearance and more.
 
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<p>Dylan McDermott of &quot;Hostages&quot;</p>

Dylan McDermott of "Hostages"

Credit: CBS

Monday ratings analysis: 'Hostages' struggles, 'Blacklist' impresses

'We Are Men" drags '2 Broke Girls' down
Y'all may have noticed that I didn't do analysis for Sunday's ratings. 
 
The reasons were two-fold: There's nothing to say about Sunday Night Football, while football overrun wreaked havoc on both FOX and CBS' numbers. Then either I didn't get Final numbers, or I got them too late and I was on to other things. Apologies.
 
Some VERY quick Sunday hits: "Betrayal" is, predictably, DOA, coming in way below the launch for "Pan Am" and slightly below the launch for "666 Park Avenue." There were only two premiere week dramas that came in entirely stillborn -- "Lucky 7" and "Betrayal" -- and both were on ABC and both creative by David Zabel. Ugh. 
 
Actually, nothing else was meaningful. "Revenge" and "Once Upon a Time" were both below last fall, but above last spring. So that's OK. And "The Good Wife" and "The Mentalist" came in really low among young viewers. REALLY low. "The Mentalist" was almost certainly in its last season anyway. I'm not sure what CBS is supposed to do about "Good Wife."
 
But anyway, I'm actually here to give a quick look to the numbers from Monday, September 30, which feature a lot of good news actually. Unless you're CBS. In that case? Not-so-good news.
 
Bulletpoints after the break... 
 
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<p>James Spader of &quot;The Blacklist&quot;</p>

James Spader of "The Blacklist"

Credit: NBC

TV Ratings: 'Voice,' 'Blacklist' lead NBC Monday, while weak 'Men' hurts CBS

'Bones' rises, 'Sleepy Hollow' steadies for FOX
Fast National ratings for Monday, September 30, 2013. 
 
NBC's "The Voice" and "The Blacklist" held up reasonably well from last week's premieres to lead NBC to comfortable wins on Monday night in all key measures.
 
With most of the big premieres going last week, CBS had the night's lone launch. The 8:30 comedy "We Are Men" came in weak, under last year's "Partners" launch, and helped contribute to poor numbers for the rest of CBS' lineup, including "Hostages," which didn't get to enjoy the glow of solid DVR numbers for long. 
 
Nearly everything was down from last week, so it's notable to mention that FOX's "Bones" bounced back to its premiere level, perhaps helping "Sleepy Hollow" retain most of its Week 2 audience.
 
On to the numbers...
 
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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 204 - 'Breaking Bad' Finale Edition

Dan and Alan discuss the series finale of 'Breaking Bad' and nothing else

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls! Time for a special, limited-scope installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
There are lots of new shows premiering this week, including "Ironside" and "Welcome to the Family" and "Super Fun Night." But let's be honest: None of  this week's new premieres is especially good. 
 
So rather than trying to record an epic two-hour podcast and shoehorn in "Breaking Bad" finale discussion at the end when we're already exhausted, we decided to keep today's podcast nice and simple.
 
It's 40+ minutes on the "Breaking Bad" finale. PERIOD.
 
This is not the promised All-"Breaking Bad" podcast. That'll be a regular-length podcast and it'll be some future time in the fall. This is just a slightly expanded version of our normal end-of-podcast discussion of the show. And nothing else to spoil it or get in the way. 
 
We'll try to do another podcast in the next day or two with the other reviews. But whatever!
 
So today's breakdown is easy:
"Breaking Bad" finale (00:00:00 - 00:41:20)

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.] 

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

 

 

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<p>The New England Patriots held on for victory on Sunday</p>

The New England Patriots held on for victory on Sunday

Credit: AP

TV Ratings: Patriots-Falcons action leads NBC Sunday, while 'Betrayal' tanks for ABC

ABC's 'Once Upon a Time' and 'Revenge' are up from spring numbers
Fast National ratings for Sunday, September 29, 2013.
 
NBC's Sunday Night Football game between New England and Atlanta easily drew the highest ratings on a Premiere Week Sunday driven by delays and preemptions.
 
As will frequently be the case throughout the fall, in addition to NBC's ratings being subject to change due to football, CBS' ratings are also inflated by 15 minutes of NFL overrun, pushing "60 Minutes" and the rest of the schedule for much of the country. And even with that boost, CBS' "Amazing Race," "The Good Wife" and "The Mentalist" came in on the low side. FOX's ratings also were inflated by long-running football.
 
Ultimately, in fact, the only network with numbers unimpacted by football was ABC, which got OK -- better than spring numbers, but worse than last fall's premieres -- returns for "Once Upon a Time" and "Revenge," though "Betrayal" launched to much smaller returns than such recent Sunday luminaries as "Pan Am" and "666 Park Avenue."
 
[Ratings for the "Breaking Bad" finale and also for the "Homeland" and "Masters of Sex" premieres will be out this afternoon and we'll report on them when they're available.]
 
On to the numbers...
 
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<p>The start of the &quot;Amazing Race&quot; season</p>

The start of the "Amazing Race" season

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' Season 23 Premiere - 'We're Not In Oklahoma No More'

The 11 teams head to Chile for paragliding and rowing
Well, at least we know what the lesson of Sunday (September 27) night's "The Amazing Race" premiere was: 
 
Get your sorry butt off of Twitter, or else people will post "Breaking Bad" spoilers and you'll have no one to blame with yourself. 
 
What? That wasn't your takeaway? 
 
I'm sure you got something much simpler, but no less correct:
 
Just read the freaking clues.
 
Sometimes you can go on "The Amazing Race" without knowing how to drive stick and you'll squeak through for a while. Sometimes your fear of heights or inability to swim can be properly managed. But everybody has to read clues and as we were reminded on Sunday's season-opener, failure to read clues can mean the difference between first place and a major game advantage and second place, or between 10th place and still being in the Race and 11th.
 
More on Sunday's premiere, plus quick handicapping of the 11 teams, after the break. 
 
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<p>Michael Sheen of &quot;Masters of Sex&quot;</p>

Michael Sheen of "Masters of Sex"

Credit: Showtime

Interview: Michael Sheen discusses the delicate balance of 'Masters of Sex'

Actor discusses the process of crafting his version of William Masters
I've interviewed Michael Sheen twice in the past 10 months, but it also feels like I've interviewed two different Michael Sheens.
 
Last November, I sat down with a gregarious, mustachioed, wild-haired Michael Sheen, wearing a red smoking jacket, to talk about his final time playing Volturi ringleader Aro in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2." In that interview, Sheen was full of quips and laughter.
 
This August, at the Beverly Hilton, I chatted with a clean-shaven Michael Sheen, hair neatly coiffed, dark suit perfectly fitted. In this interview for Showtime's "Masters of Sex," Sheen was erudite, introspective and effusive on his craft. 
 
Probably it makes sense to find light amusement when you're talking about an ageless, telepathic vampire in a blockbuster YA franchise. 
 
And probably it makes sense to be thoughtful and, at times, fiercely protective when you're promoting a high-minded Showtime drama about pioneering human sexuality researchers William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson. In the drama, which dazzlingly avoids coming off as exploitative despite the titillating subject matter, Sheen plays the intriguingly internalized Masters opposite Lizzy Caplan's more outgoing Johnson.
 
For Sheen, it's a performance crafted from precise line-readings, precise mannerisms and brief moments of telling openness. In our conversation, Sheen sets me straight on the differences in playing internalized and externalized characters. He talks about the challenges of setting the right tone on the set and the role that he played in establishing that tone.
 
I think it's a fascinating interview, even when Sheen was telling me I was confused about things.
 
Click through for the full Q&A.
 
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