<p>Jeff Conaway as &quot;Taxi&quot;&nbsp;actor Bobby Wheeler.</p>

Jeff Conaway as "Taxi" actor Bobby Wheeler.

RIP, 'Taxi' and 'Grease' star Jeff Conaway

Drugs derailed his career and life, but the man had moments

Growing up, I had thought of Jeff Conaway's career as star-crossed. But in the final years of his life - which ended today when he was taken off life support after years of struggling with drugs - it became clear that some of the problems in Conaway's career lay not in the stars, but in himself.

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<p>Julie Bowen and Jesse Tyler Ferguson in the &quot;Modern Family&quot;&nbsp;finale.</p>

Julie Bowen and Jesse Tyler Ferguson in the "Modern Family" finale.

Credit: ABC

'Modern Family' - 'The One That Got Away': Birthday magic

The uneven second season closes on an effectively sweet episode

A quick review of the "Modern Family" season finale coming up just as soon as I use a baseball mitt to take this torte out of the oven...

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<p>What does &quot;Deadwood&quot;&nbsp;saloon keeper Al Swearengen (Ian McShane)&nbsp;have to do with this blog this summer?&nbsp;Plenty.</p>

What does "Deadwood" saloon keeper Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) have to do with this blog this summer? Plenty.

Credit: HBO

Are you ready for the summer? (2011 edition)

Lots of returning cable favorites to discuss, plus some DVD classics

Guess what, boys and girls? The TV season is over!

The 2011-12 network TV season officially ended last night at 11, and back in the ancient mid-90s days when I started covering TV for a living, that would essentially be time for TV critics and TV viewers alike to take a nice, relaxing (albeit at times tedious) three-month siesta. There was original summer programming, but not a lot of it, in part because the networks still made money on repeats in those days, in part because cable channels weren't producing original content at remotely the volume they are today.

Now, though, I look at the premiere schedule for the next few months and it's easy to imagine I'll be writing and watching nearly as much as I did when the season was in-season.

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<p>Dan Byrd and Busy Philipps in the &quot;Cougar Town&quot; finale.</p>

Dan Byrd and Busy Philipps in the "Cougar Town" finale.

Credit: ABC

'Cougar Town' - 'Something Good Coming': The Hawaii way

The gang goes on vacation for a terrific one-hour season finale

A review of the one-hour "Cougar Town" finale coming up just as soon as I'm not Coolio...

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<p>Oprah Winfrey said goodbye to her talk show - and her flock - today.</p>

Oprah Winfrey said goodbye to her talk show - and her flock - today.

Credit: AP

Review: The preachy farewell to 'The Oprah Winfrey Show'

Oprah delivers an extended sermon in her final episode

There were no guests on the final episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." There was, for that matter, no chair, nor a couch or any other piece of comfy furniture. There was only Oprah herself, standing and addressing her audience.

Of course that's all there was. Because this wasn't a talk show farewell episode, not really. Oprah got her big goodbye in the star-studded United Center episodes that aired earlier this week.

No, this was an occasion for which a guest, or the possibility of sitting, seemed inappropriate.

This was a sermon - the last sermon Oprah will ever deliver from the lofty, powerful pulpit of the talk show she hosted for 25 years.

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<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


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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