Inside Television with Alan Sepinwall

'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. the Kept Man': The spy who cared for me

Verbanski returns for Casey, Sarah has a scare, and Jeffster are onto something

<p>On &quot;Chuck,&quot;&nbsp;Casey (Adam Baldwin)&nbsp;doesn't appreciate Verbanski's gift.</p>

On "Chuck," Casey (Adam Baldwin) doesn't appreciate Verbanski's gift.

Credit: NBC
A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I drop some bombs on Edwardian convention...

Press tour analysis: NBC chairman talks 'Community,' 'Smash' and the benefits of cable

Greenblatt is blunt about the current state of the Peacock

<p>Donald Glover and Danny Pudi on &quot;Community,&quot;&nbsp;whose fate remains up in the air at NBC.</p>

Donald Glover and Danny Pudi on "Community," whose fate remains up in the air at NBC.

Credit: NBC

At press tours past, NBC executives have set new records for the amount of lipstick one can apply to a pig. Season after season, press tour after press tour, NBC's ratings dipped, but Jeff Zucker and then his various lieutenants found one way or another to come out and - usually with the help of bar graphs and eight dozen press releases - suggest that things were much better than we all thought, and that the Peacock was a half-step away from relevance again.

Friday morning at the tour, Robert Greenblatt came out and called the pig a pig.

"We had a really bad fall," he said without hesitation or embarrassment.

Alec Baldwin extends '30 Rock' contract, says NBC chairman

Despite earlier threats, Emmy winner will be back next season if comedy is

<p>Alec Baldwin will be back next season if &quot;30 Rock&quot;&nbsp;is.</p>

Alec Baldwin will be back next season if "30 Rock" is.

Credit: NBC

If "30 Rock" returns to NBC next season, Alec Baldwin will return with it.

Though the Emmy-winning actor has stated publicly in the past that he might want to leave the series after his contract finished, whether to return to movies or move into politics, NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour that Baldwin had already extended his contract through next season, pending renewal. The deal was closed in the fall, Greenblatt said.

"30 Rock" returns to NBC's schedule for its sixth season this Thursday night at 8. The show was held for mid-season because Tina Fey went on maternity leave, and because NBC had a comedy surplus and a timeslot deficit. Given its Emmy wins, critical praise and decent (by NBC standards) ratings, it is very likely to be back next season - and now will have Baldwin along with Fey and the others.

Why I'll miss 'Community': Because we are about to enter the darkest timeline

The show leaves NBC's schedule for a while after tonight, so let's get evil!

<p>Danny Pudi as Evil Abed on &quot;Community.&quot;</p>
<br />

Danny Pudi as Evil Abed on "Community."

Credit: NBC

Okay, tonight's the night, "Community" fans. NBC is about to rerun the last episode of the show that's currently scheduled to air on the network. While we know the remaining 12 episodes are going to air sometime, somewhere(*), for the moment, "Community" disappears from our televisions. 

Review: Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell are hustling in Showtime's 'House of Lies'

Comedy about management consultants has strong leads but needs to work on its perspective

<p>Josh Lawson, Kristen Bell, Don Cheadle,&nbsp;Dawn Olivieri and Ben Schwartz in Showtime's &quot;House of Lies.&quot;</p>

Josh Lawson, Kristen Bell, Don Cheadle, Dawn Olivieri and Ben Schwartz in Showtime's "House of Lies."

Credit: Showtime
A few years back, Matthew Carnahan created a series that couldn't have seemed more timely. In FX's "Dirt," Courteney Cox played the editor of a celebrity tabloid, and the show came on just as gossip was beginning to drive most entertainment news (and news, period, in some cases). But "Dirt" never seemed to know what kind of show it wanted to be when it grew up, and Cox's character wavered between villainous and virtuous.
"House of Lies," Carnahan's new Showtime dramedy (it premieres Sunday night at 10), also feels incredibly timely. In this age of Occupy Wall Street, it's a show ostensibly lampooning the 1%, as we follow a team of management consultants who travel around the country trying to fix - or, at least, hustle fees out of - one large, inhumane corporation after another.
And while it's more entertaining than "Dirt" - thanks primarily to the chemistry of a cast headed by Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell - it suffers from the same wobbly sense of tone and direction. It's in the right place and the right time, but it's not necessarily the right show.

Review: NBC puts Josh Lucas in 'The Firm'

Belated sequel to Cruise/Grisham legal thriller falls flat

<p>Josh Lucas as Mitch McDeere in the new &quot;The Firm.&quot;</p>

Josh Lucas as Mitch McDeere in the new "The Firm."

Credit: NBC

Watching the two-hour pilot episode of NBC's "The Firm" (Sunday at 9 p.m.), my mind was filled with many questions, such as:

Review: 'Downton Abbey' returns to PBS for season 2

Class barriers start to come down, but the storytelling gets soapier

<p>Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle)&nbsp;and his Anna (Joanne Froggatt)&nbsp;in season 2 of &quot;Downton Abbey.&quot;</p>

Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) and his Anna (Joanne Froggatt) in season 2 of "Downton Abbey."


Credit: ITV
It happens all the time: someone will ask me to suggest a new show to watch, and I'll name a title and start describing it, and about 10 seconds in, the other person's face will curl up and they'll say, "Oh, I'm sure it's great, but I don't want to watch a show about high school football," or "I don't want to watch a show about a guy who cooks crystal meth," or "I don't want to watch a show with spaceships and robots and clones." And I'll shake my head and lament that they won't be able to see what I saw in "Friday Night Lights," "Breaking Bad" and "Battlestar Galactica."
But even I'm not immune to that line of thinking, as I discovered last year when PBS' "Masterpiece Classic" debuted "Downton Abbey," a drama about the masters and servants at a large English country estate in the years leading up to World War I. The social mores and problems of the landed gentry have never held any interest for me, and when faced with a crush of other material to watch with more appealing subject matter, I passed on "Downton" and moved on. Even rapturous reviews from most of my fellow critics wasn't enough to sway me, and I imagine they would have looked at me the same disappointment I feel at the people who didn't want to get to know Coach and Mrs. Coach.
Then on a whim one sleepless night a few months after the series debuted in America, I put on the first episode just to see what I was missing. And I kept watching all through the night and into the next day, eventually coming to three conclusions:

Wednesday night TV open thread, pre-press tour edition

What did everybody think of Wednesday's sitcoms?

<p>Max (Adam Pally)&nbsp;wears an embarrassing outfit on &quot;Happy Endings.&quot;</p>

Max (Adam Pally) wears an embarrassing outfit on "Happy Endings."

Credit: ABC

Last night was mostly devoted to packing for press tour, and the only TV show I even half-saw was "Happy Endings," where Max's outfit for the bet gave me a prolonged, loud laugh.

I'll have reviews of some upcoming shows posting throughout the day today, but if anybody wants to discuss last night's "Happy Endings," "Modern Family," "Suburgatory" or "The Middle," here is the place. Just do me a favor and mention the name of the show you're going to talk about before you start talking about it, for the benefit of people who might have seen some but not all just yet.

Review: Showtime's 'Shameless' returns confidently for season 2

Dramedy finds better balance while still making great use of Emmy Rossum and family

<p>Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher on &quot;Shameless.&quot;</p>

Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher on "Shameless."

Credit: Showtime
In one episode of the new season of Showtime's "Shameless" (it returns Sunday night at 9), Emmy Rossum's Fiona Gallagher finds herself on the run from someone who wants to beat her up with a baseball bat, and winds up cowering under a table next to her despicable alcoholic father Frank (William H. Macy). As Fiona realizes that she's now in the same position Frank has been in so, so, so many times in the past, a giddy Frank declares, "I have waited for this day!" And as much as he wants to just seem smug about the daughter who has lectured him so often in the past about his own bad behavior, there's a sense of perverse pride here, too - that this is the first time in a long time Frank has truly been able to relate to his eldest child.
And that, boys and girls, is "Shameless" in a nutshell. It is messy. It is vulgar. It is crude and loud and low-class. And it takes great joy in being all of those things.
It is also, despite being an hour each week and featuring dramatic moments - many of them heart-wrenchingly good - funnier than pretty much all of the half-hour shows Showtime tries to pass off as comedies, and it's a pleasure to have it back.

A couple hundred TV critics walk into a bar...

The Television Critics Association winter press tour starts today

<p>Among the questions I&nbsp;intend to ask at press tour:&nbsp;why would&nbsp;&quot;Scandal&quot; boss Shonda Rhimes make Henry Ian Cusick ditch his Scottish accent for the show?</p>

Among the questions I intend to ask at press tour: why would "Scandal" boss Shonda Rhimes make Henry Ian Cusick ditch his Scottish accent for the show?

Credit: ABC
It's that time of year again, TV fans, when the a couple of hundred TV critics and reporters from the U.S. and Canada descend on a single Los Angeles area hotel for the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

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