<p>Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski in &quot;The Office&quot;&nbsp;series finale.</p>

Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski in "The Office" series finale.

Credit: NBC

Series finale review: 'The Office' - 'Finale'

Dwight gets married and the staff revisits the documentary in a lovely farewell

A review of "The Office" series finale coming up just as soon as I sell ceramic tile out of Newark...

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<p>Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter.</p>

Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter.

Credit: NBC

Review: 'Hannibal' - 'Fromage'

Lecter becomes interested in a local killer, and Will begins hearing things

A few quick thoughts on tonight's "Hannibal" — and other recent developments on the show — coming up just as soon as I take a hammer to my chimney...

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<p>&quot;The Office&quot;&nbsp;formula was so delicate that Steve Carell could make it work as the lead, but Ed Helms couldn't.</p>

"The Office" formula was so delicate that Steve Carell could make it work as the lead, but Ed Helms couldn't.

Credit: NBC

'The Office': A look back at a brilliant, volatile comedy mix

A show that shouldn't have worked instead became a great, popular, influential one

In an early episode of "The Office," Michael Scott has a client meeting at a local Chili's, accompanied by his very skeptical boss from corporate (and unrequited crush) Jan. Jan understandably views Michael in the same way we do after a dozen installments of the young NBC series: as a buffoon who is painfully, erroneously convinced of his gifts as a boss, as a salesman and, especially, as a comedian. The early part of the meeting couldn't seem to be going worse, with Michael continually disrupting every one of Jan's attempts to talk about making what could potentially be a huge sale, telling off-color jokes, playing Truth or Dare and pressing Jan for embarrassing details about the end of her marriage. It's another obvious Michael Scott disaster in the making.

And then to our amazement, and to Jan's, Michael pulls it off. It turns out Michael understood the client better than Jan did and was expertly bonding with him long before he first mentioned business. He makes the impossible sale, and even winds up spending the night with an impressed (and very drunk) Jan.

That, in a nutshell, is the American version of "The Office," which ends tonight at 9. By almost any reasonable argument, it had no business working, creatively or commercially. It was messy. It was problematic. At times it could be mortifying. And all the odds were stacked against it from the start. Yet here we sit, hours away from the show ending its run after nine seasons, 200-odd episodes, and a long stretch of critical adoration (even if these last few seasons have been pretty rough). And like Jan watching Michael close that sale, it's not hard to sit back, marvel and ask, simply,

How the hell did that happen?

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<p>Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott in &quot;Hostages.&quot;</p>

Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott in "Hostages."

Credit: CBS

Upfronts 2013: CBS tinkers with playbook with 'Hostages,' single-camera sitcoms

Some experimenting, but mostly the same old, successful CBS

NEW YORK -- Every year at Upfront Week, CBS represents stability in an unstable business. Where the other networks at Upfront Week seem to be in a constant state of turmoil, swapping out executives and casting about for a workable business model, CBS has had the same management team in place for 18 years, is the one broadcast network left that actually operates like — and has the audience of — a broadcaster, and runs a very predictable, very successful playbook. This will be the first season since 1991-92 that the network will finish a season in first place among adults 18-49, the demographic advertisers care about most.

So going into the upfronts, you could have made some easy predictions about what CBS would do: another "NCIS" spin-off, probably airing after the other two; a "Beverly Hills Cop" sequel (with Eddie Murphy in a recurring role) to appeal to multiple generations of viewers; lots of crime procedurals that could comfortably air repeats throughout the year; and another freshman class of traditional multi-camera sitcoms that won't get the buzz of the stuff that NBC, FOX and ABC do, but will get ratings that those networks would kill for.

You also would have been wrong on pretty much every front.

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<p>It was the &quot;New Girl&quot;&nbsp;kiss between Jess (Zooey Deschanel)&nbsp;and Nick (Jake Johnson)&nbsp;that spared season 2's creative surge.</p>

It was the "New Girl" kiss between Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) that spared season 2's creative surge.

Credit: FOX

'New Girl' creator Liz Meriwether on Nick and Jess, Schmidt's choice, and the fun of season 2

Has the show solved Winston yet? What stories would she redo?

"New Girl" was one of my favorite comedies on TV in 2012 (as I've said, if I had to make my top 10 list even a week later, it would've made the cut). It was actually even better in 2013, as a romance that I once was dreading when the show began hinting at it instead became the magnetic center of a series that had been satisfying but often uneven. I reviewed the season finale here, and I spoke with "New Girl" creator Liz Meriwether about how the show really found itself thanks to the Jess/Nick relationship, whether she feels they've solved Winston yet, what she'd like to do in season 3, and more, all coming up just as soon as the plan is to drop a badger on a priest...

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<p>Jess (Zooey Deschanel)&nbsp;and Nick (Jake Johnson)&nbsp;in &quot;New Girl.&quot;</p>

Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) in "New Girl."

Credit: FOX

Season finale review: 'New Girl' - 'Elaine's Big Day'

A badger gets loose at Cece's wedding, and Nick and Jess ponder their future

"New Girl" just concluded what's been a terrific second season. I spoke to creator Liz Meriwether about the finale, and about some big decisions along the way, and I have a quick review of the finale coming up just as soon as we make some pasta and really listen to my Coldplay bootleg from Rotterdam...

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 181: Upfronts, 'Community,' 'How I Met Your Mother' & 'Mad Men'

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 181: Upfronts, 'Community,' 'How I Met Your Mother' & 'Mad Men'

Dan and Alan break down the first batch of fall schedules


It's Upfront Week here at the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, which means the first of what should be two installments. In this one, we discuss NBC, FOX and ABC, then get into the "Community" and "How I Met Your Mother" finales before breaking down the latest "Mad Men." Speaking of which, here is the promised photo of a young Cloris Leachman that we discussed during the "Mad Men" segment: 

The lineup:

NBC, FOX and ABC Upfronts (00:03:10 - 00:51:30)
"Community" finale (00:51:45 - 01:00:40)
"How I Met Your Mother" finale (01:00:45 - 01:16:20)
"Mad Men" (01:16:55 - 01:44:20)
In theory, we'll be back with another one on Friday to talk about CBS, the CW, and some more finales (including "New Girl" and "The Office").

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, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.

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

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<p>Clark Gregg, Brett Walton and Chloe Bennett in a scene from &quot;Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.&quot;</p>

Clark Gregg, Brett Walton and Chloe Bennett in a scene from "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Credit: ABC

Watch the full-length 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' trailer

Agent Coulson puts together a team that's 'not exactly a team'

ABC just finished its upfront presentation, and it saved the best — or, at least, the show everyone around here cares about the most by far — for last, concluding the show by bringing Joss Whedon on stage with Clark Gregg and the rest of the cast of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Joss described the show as about "what it's like to be an ordinary person in an increasingly extraordinary and unreal world," and warned his actors that they were about to be the subjects of "some really inappropriate fanfic," then introduced the 3-minute trailer for the series. 

Again, these are trailers and not actual pilots, and it's easier to make a quippy action show look good than to, say, try to make a riveting pilot for "Tremé." But as my first even slightly extended look at what Whedon (and Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen) intend to do with the Marvel universe on the small screen, it's an excellent start. Enjoy: 

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<p>&quot;The Goldbergs.&quot;</p>

"The Goldbergs."

Credit: ABC

Upfronts 2013: ABC counting on 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' for next season

Will the fanboys come in big numbers for Agent Coulson? And why is the 'Once Upon a Time' spin-off airing on Thursdays?

Every year at upfront time, ABC seems to be in the same situation, doing the same things. They're a network with a number of genuine hits ("Modern Family," "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal"), and yet that struggles in the overall ratings (this season, they'll again finish fourth among adults 18-49). And each year they respond with a ton of high-concept new series — next season will feature a dozen new sitcoms and dramas, including "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and the "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" spin-off — that will be placed into problematic timeslots and/or left to fend for themselves. 

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<p>Cristin Milioti in a scene from the &quot;How I&nbsp;Met Your Mother&quot;&nbsp;finale.</p>

Cristin Milioti in a scene from the "How I Met Your Mother" finale.

Credit: CBS

After 'How I Met Your Mother' finale, what comes next?

A reaction to comments from the 'HIMYM' creators about the structure of the final season

I already reviewed the "How I Met Your Mother" season finale last night, but I have some morning-after thoughts — including words from Carter Bays — on what the episode means for the show's final season, coming up just as soon as we watch a movie that doesn't start with a desk lamp jumping on top of a capital I...

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