<p>This year's &quot;American Idol&quot;&nbsp;finalists Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery have been unwilling or unable to change much over the course of the season.</p>

This year's "American Idol" finalists Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery have been unwilling or unable to change much over the course of the season.

Credit: FOX

How the 'American Idol' comeback season still suffers from same-old, same-old

If judges won't judge and contestants won't change, where's the fun?

I have complained often about "American Idol" over the last decade - about mediocre contestants, incoherent judges, lame theme nights, episodes running long, pointless filler, etc., etc., etc. - but I kept watching.

I learned to prune the amount I watched, ditching first the auditions, then the results shows, and eventually last season everything but the Hollywood episodes and then the performances and Simon's comments, but there was something irresistible about the concept itself to me. Even when I didn't much like the contestants (and Crystal Bowersox was the only person I cared about last year), I wanted to see these young men and women get on stage and sing, hoping against hope that this would be the week we'd get a performance akin to Kelly Clarkson doing "Stuff Like That There" or David Cook doing "Hello" - that feeling of being in on the ground floor of someone mastering their own prodigious talent.

This season, though, I kicked the habit.

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<p>Jennifer Beals in &quot;The Chicago Code&quot;&nbsp;finale.</p>

Jennifer Beals in "The Chicago Code" finale.

Credit: FOX

'The Chicago Code' - 'Mike Royko's Revenge': Go for the head

The show goes out with a bang as Teresa and Jarek look to take down Gibbons

A review of "The Chicago Code" finale coming up just as soon as I still have a working VCR...

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<p>Marshall (Keir Gilchrist)&nbsp;and Max (John Corbett)&nbsp;enjoy the sights of New York on &quot;United States of Tara.&quot;</p>

Marshall (Keir Gilchrist) and Max (John Corbett) enjoy the sights of New York on "United States of Tara."

Credit: Showtime

'United States of Tara' - 'Bryce Will Play': Go fish

On the night of cancellation, one of the best episodes yet

First thing's first, "United States of Tara" fans: if you missed the news earlier today, Showtime decided not to order a fourth season (while at the same time renewing "Nurse Jackie"). Go click the link for my thoughts on that - as well as my explanation for why cancellation in and of itself may not be such a bad thing for this show, given where I know the season is going.

But we still have four (very good) episodes to go, and I'm not abandoning ship, not when the really cool stuff is coming. Now that we're close to the finish line and I no longer have to stay mum on a certain major plot development that y'all learned about last week, I've got a more full-length review of "Bryce Will Play" coming up just as soon as I go to a museum dedicated to the manufacturing of baseball bats...

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<p>Matthew Fox in the final scene of &quot;Lost.&quot;</p>

Matthew Fox in the final scene of "Lost."

Credit: ABC

Review: The 'Lost' finale a year later

How you feeling in the other life, brotha?

A year ago tonight, "Lost" ended with a two and a half hour finale that some found brilliant, some found maddening, and others fell somewhere in between. I definitely was one of the in-betweeners, trending more towards the good than the bad. I loved the emotional reunions, Jack and Smokey's final duel, Jack passing the torch to Hurley and some other story and character moments while being largely frustrated with both the revelation of what the sideways universe was and the lack of answers from the series as a whole. I wrote a review that night, then another one a few weeks later that nudged even more towards the positive while still not being pleased about all the time spent on the sideways, the Temple, etc. At the time, I wondered whether my opinion would change in a few months, or years, noting that I still thought about the similarly-contentious "The Sopranos" finale the way I did the night it aired.

And re-reading those reviews, and thinking on "The End," my opinions are mostly unchanged. But in another way, I feel even more positive about both the finale and the series as a whole than I did 365 days ago.

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 75: Season finale mega-podcast

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 75: Season finale mega-podcast

Alan and Dan break down the finales for 'The Office,' 'Castle,' 'Chuck' and many, many more

The

Upfront Week is over, and the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast is back on a Monday schedule, which Dan and I use to preview one finale ("Idol") and dissect a whole bunch of other ones. Spoilers galore, so you may want to keep this week's run-down especially handy if your DVR is backed up: 

The cancelation of "United States of Tara" -- 01:30 - 06:45
"American Idol" finale preview -- 06:50 - 12:10
"Survivor" finale -- 12:15 - 18:20
"The Office"/"Community"/"Parks and Recreation" -- 18:30 - 32:00
"The Big Bang Theory" -- 32:05 - 37:15
Listener Mail regarding cliffhangers -- 37:30 - 44:30
"Chuck" -- 44:30 - 51:00
"Castle" -- 51:00 - 56:30
"How I Met Your Mother" -- 56:30 - 01:03:20
"The Good Wife" -- 01:03:20 - 01:07:14
"Grey's Anatomy" -- 01:07:15 - 01:11:35
"The Simpsons" -- 01:11:35 - 01:17:25
 
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 at sepinwall@hitfix.com and/or dan@hitfix.com if you have questions you want answered on the show. Please put the word "podcast" in your subject line to make it easy to track them down amid the hundreds of random press releases we get every day.
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<p>&quot;United States of Tara&quot;&nbsp;will end its run in a few weeks.</p>
<br />

"United States of Tara" will end its run in a few weeks.


Credit: Showtime

Showtime cancels 'United States of Tara,' renews 'Nurse Jackie'

Bye-bye to bold 'Tara,' get ready for more repetitive 'Jackie'

This morning, I was having a conversation with another TV critic who had just finished watching the third season of "United States of Tara," and we came to two conclusions:

1)As great as this season of the show has been (the 9th of 12 episodes airs tonight at 10:30), it was going to be very hard for the show to both top it and keep telling interesting stories about the characters, given how the rest of the season plays out. And given that, maybe it might be for the best if the show ended after this season.

and

2)If Showtime canceled "Tara" and renewed "Nurse Jackie," we were going to be very, very unhappy.

Guess what just happened this afternoon, boys and girls?

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<p>William Hurt in &quot;Too Big to Fail.&quot;</p>

William Hurt in "Too Big to Fail."

Credit: HBO

Review: HBO's 'Too Big to Fail'

Curtis Hanson, William Hurt and company turn dry subject matter into compelling drama

On one level, the new HBO film "Too Big to Fail" (which debuts tonight at 9) has no business being as suspenseful as it is. Nearly every character is either an investment banker or a financial policy wonk. The subject matter - the mortgage crisis of 2008 - is so complicated that several times the movie has to stop so characters can explain things in layman's terms (usually to people who'd already be able to do the same). And everyone going into the movie will know roughly what happened with that crisis, and that our economy is still a mess.

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<p>Janette (Kim Dickens) learns in a new kitchen on &quot;Treme.&quot;</p>

Janette (Kim Dickens) learns in a new kitchen on "Treme."

Credit: HBO/Paul Schiraldi

'Treme' - 'Slip Away': Time to rally

Characters have to start over from scratch as we near the season's mid-point

A review of tonight's "Treme" coming up just as soon as I do window treatments...

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<p>Mireille Enos in &quot;The Killing.&quot;</p>

Mireille Enos in "The Killing."

Credit: AMC

'The Killing' - 'Undertow': Physical graffiti

Bennet Ahmed hears it from all sides, while Richmond takes his shot

Even if I wasn't forced to trim some of my usual reviewing workload this week due to upfronts coverage, I imagine I would give short shrift to tonight's "The Killing." We're at the point in the season where I'm just repeating the same complaints over and over again, and that's a waste of my time as much as it is yours. If upcoming episodes are substantially different from what we've seen of late, perhaps I'll check back in with a longer take. Otherwise, we're close enough to the finish line that it might be wiser for me to just reserve my thoughts for a long review of the finale in a few weeks.

But as for "Undertow," what did everybody think? Do you like where the story took Bennet Ahmed? Are you struggling to feel sympathetic towards Mitch Larsen? Did you roll your eyes at most of what Darren Richmond did and said? Have at it in the comments.

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<p>Robb Stark (Richard Madden)&nbsp;in action on &quot;Game of Thrones.&quot;</p>

Robb Stark (Richard Madden) in action on "Game of Thrones."

Credit: HBO

'Game of Thrones' - 'A Golden Crown': You are the last dragon

The rules get upended in a terrific episode

A review of tonight's "Game of Thrones" coming up just as soon as possession is an abstract concept...

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