<p>Michael Cristofer and James Badge Dale on &quot;Rubicon.&quot;</p>

Michael Cristofer and James Badge Dale on "Rubicon."

Credit: AMC/Craig Blankenhorn

'Rubicon' - 'The Outsider': Tie game

Mr. Travers goes to Washington, and his team has a permanent decision to make

A review of tonight's "Rubicon" coming up just as soon as I come up with a formula for collateral damage...

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<p>Laura Linney in &quot;The Big C.&quot;</p>

Laura Linney in "The Big C."

Credit: Showtime

Review: Showtime's 'The Big C'

Laura Linney has cancer, in a familiar but effective new series

“You’re going to be real popular this summer,” Cathy Jamison’s brother Sean tells her in the second episode of Showtime’s “The Big C.” (The first debuts Monday at 10:30.)  

“I have no idea who I’m going to be this summer,” Cathy tells him.

Though Cathy’s mood and persona change frequently over the three episodes of “The Big C” I’ve watched, I have a pretty good idea who and what she’s going to be. As played by the always-fabulous Laura Linney, she’s another in a long line of movie and TV characters (recent TV ancestors include Mary-Louise Parker on “Weeds” and Bryan Cranston on “Breaking Bad”) who respond to a life-altering - or, in this case, life-threatening - piece of news by deciding to alter that life even further.

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<p>Michael (Jeffrey Donovan)&nbsp;and Simon (Garret Dillahunt)&nbsp;have a walk-and-talk on the beach on last night's &quot;Burn Notice.&quot;</p>

Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) and Simon (Garret Dillahunt) have a walk-and-talk on the beach on last night's "Burn Notice."

Credit: USA

'Burn Notice' - 'Hard Time': Prison break-in

Garret Dillahunt's return as Simon is all too brief

A quick review of last night's "Burn Notice" coming up just as soon as I'm murdered over a parrot...

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<p>George Pelecanos did provide better fates for &quot;The Wire&quot;&nbsp;characters like Cutty (Chad. L. Coleman).</p>

George Pelecanos did provide better fates for "The Wire" characters like Cutty (Chad. L. Coleman).

Credit: HBO

'The Wire': George Pelecanos talks about 'Middle Ground'

"I didn't particularly enjoy" all the destruction he wrote, season after season

This week marks the next-to-last time I'll be doing any kind of significant writing about "The Wire" for a very long time, since I've already exhaustively covered seasons 1, 2, 4 and 5 at my old blog and am one episode away from completing season 3 here. I wanted to do something special here as we get close to the finish line, and since this week marks one of what I call the "George Pelecanos Episodes" - penultimate chapters of a season where very bad things happen to the characters we care most about - I thought I would reach out to George Pelecanos himself to get his perspective on playing the role of the writing staff's hatchet man.

George - who's also a terrific crime novelist (if you're a "Wire" fan who hasn't sampled his work, I'd suggest starting with "Drama City," but he writes a mix of series and standalone books) - was actually on vacation with his family this week, but he was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk about the process of writing this week's episode, "Middle Ground" (my review of it is here), as well as all the other penultimate episodes.

We do touch on the penultimate chapters of seasons 4 & 5, so if you're reading my reviews at the newbie pace, you may want to save this to read much later. After the jump, we get down to it.

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<p>Stringer Bell (Idris Elba)&nbsp;faces down his past on &quot;The Wire.&quot;</p>

Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) faces down his past on "The Wire."

Credit: HBO

'The Wire' Rewind: Season 3, Episode 11 - 'Middle Ground' (Veterans edition)

George Pelecanos scripts another penultimate episode masterpiece

And now we're almost to the end of our trip back through season three of "The Wire." As always, we're doing this in two versions: one for people who have seen the series from beginning to end and want to be able to discuss it all, and one for people who are only as far along as these reviews (or maybe a bit further) and don't want later episodes and seasons spoiled for them. This is the veteran version; click here for the newbie-friendly one.

This week's episode is "Middle Ground," written, as each season's penultimate episode was, by George Pelecanos. As a bonus feature, I interviewed Mr. Pelecanos about the experience of writing this one (and the series' other gut-punching penultimate chapters, so newbies may not want to read it just yet). My "Middle Ground" review coming up just as soon as I steal a badminton set...

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<p>Stringer Bell (Idris Elba)&nbsp;faces down his past on &quot;The Wire.&quot;</p>

Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) faces down his past on "The Wire."

Credit: HBO

'The Wire' Rewind: Season 3, Episode 11 - 'Middle Ground' (Newbies edition)

George Pelecanos scripts another penultimate episode masterpiece

And now we're almost to the end of our trip back through season three of "The Wire." As always, we're doing this in two versions: one for people who have seen the series from beginning to end and want to be able to discuss it all, and one for people who are only as far along as these reviews (or maybe a bit further) and don't want later episodes and seasons spoiled for them. This is the newbie version; click here for the veteran-friendly one.

This week's episode is "Middle Ground," written, as each season's penultimate episode was, by George Pelecanos. As a bonus feature, I interviewed Mr. Pelecanos about the experience of writing this one (and the series' other gut-punching penultimate chapters, so newbies may not want to read it just yet). My "Middle Ground" review coming up just as soon as I steal a badminton set...

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<p>Kyle Chandler will be back for one last season as&nbsp;&quot;Friday Night Lights&quot;&nbsp;Coach Taylor.</p>

Kyle Chandler will be back for one last season as "Friday Night Lights" Coach Taylor.

Credit: DirecTV

'Friday Night Lights' fifth and final season to premiere Oct. 27

The DirecTV/NBC deal kept the show alive three years longer than NBC would have

That the fifth season of "Friday Night Lights" would be the show's last is one of those things everyone's understood for a long time, going back to when NBC and DirecTV extended their deal for two more years at the end of season three. But that ending was never official until today, when DirecTV announced that "the fifth and final season" will premiere on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 9 p.m. on The 101 Network.

(As it's been for the past few seasons, DirecTV has an exclusive window to air the episodes in the fall and early winter, and they likely won't turn up on NBC/Hulu/iTunes/etc. until until next summer. That was the plan for season 4, and only NBC's desperate post-"Jay Leno Show" need for primetime content got it on the air sooner.)

"FNL" showrunner Jason Katims has always been the one voice trying to suggest that the show could have life beyond that fifth season, but even he acknowledged that this was it in the DirecTV press release:

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<p>Alison Brie as Annie on &quot;Community.&quot;</p>

Alison Brie as Annie on "Community."

Credit: NBC/Harper Smith

Interview: 'Community' co-star Alison Brie on romance, comedy and 'Mad Men'

How much do Annie and Trudy Campbell have in common?

Back at Comic-Con, I attended the triumphant panel for "Community," then spent a while interviewing various people associated with the show, then spent some time hanging out on the set and in the writers' office while I was at press tour. You've hopefully already seen the very funny(*) video interview I did with Donald Glover and Danny Pudi, and I published a small piece out of the interview I did with Dan Harmon, about John Oliver's expanded role this season.

(*) All credit for the funny business goes to Glover and Pudi, of course.

I'm going to publish the other interviews - including more from Harmon, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown and some thoughts from the directing Russo brothers - from time to time over the next few weeks to hopefully whet your appetite for the return of one of the funniest and most inventive comedies on television on Sept. 23. First up: a Comic-Con chat with the versatile Alison Brie, about Jeff and Annie's unexpected sexual chemistry, playing a bad cop, finding time to run over to "Mad Men" to play Trudy Campbell, and more.

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<p>Louie has some problems the morning after he smokes pot.</p>

Louie has some problems the morning after he smokes pot.

Credit: FX

'Louie' - 'Dogpound': Because I got high

Things go bad for Louie without his daughters around

A review of last night's "Louie" coming up just as soon as I'm too busy wearing those shorts...

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<p>Eriq La Salle guest-starred on last night's &quot;Covert Affairs.&quot;</p>

Eriq La Salle guest-starred on last night's "Covert Affairs."

Credit: USA

'Covert Affairs' - 'In the Light': Everytime I think I'm out...

How's the Piper Perabo spy drama doing?

Now that I'm mostly recuperated from my Comic-Con/press tour odyssey, it's time to start getting back into the episodic reviewing groove by checking in on some shows I had to skip while I was out in California. First up: "Covert Affairs," which I hadn't written about or watched since the pilot. I spent a few hours on Monday catching up on the episodes that aired while I was out west, then I watched last night's episode live. Some thoughts on the series so far, and "In the Light" in particular, coming up just as soon as I change a tire in heels...

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