Christina Ricci and Margot Robbie in "Pan Am."
Christina Ricci and Margot Robbie in "Pan Am."
Credit: ABC

Review: ABC's 'Pan Am' has a promising maiden flight

By far the better of this season's two new dramas set in the 'Mad Men' era

Every TV season brings with it a pair of somehow unrelated twins: shows developed at different networks, by different people, that are remarkably similar in subject matter and/or style, no matter how weirdly specific those things get. One year, the twins may be hospital dramas set in Chicago; another, it may be middle-aged men traveling back in time to relive their adolescence. Don't ask how/why this happens. It just does, always and always and always, and this year's unlikely twins are a pair of dramas set in the "Mad Men" era about women who have jobs that seemed glamorous at the time, that have seemed more demeaning through a modern lens, but are now the subject of shows that argue for them being liberating.

The first of those was NBC's "The Playboy Club," which debuted Monday night, was both terrible and terribly unconvincing in its feminist arguments, and which bombed royally. (Not that anyone should be shocked; the ratings "Mad Men" gets on AMC would get it canceled in a heartbeat by a network.) The second is ABC's "Pan Am," which debuts Sunday night at 10. It may not do any better commercially than "Playboy," but it's both a much better show and makes a much better case for women's lib.

Read Full Post
<p>Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester in &quot;Strike Back.&quot;</p>

Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester in "Strike Back."

Credit: Cinemax

Brothers in arms: Checking in on Cinemax's 'Strike Back'

The Friday night action series has turned out to be much better than it needs to be

Cinemax's "Strike Back" fell into an unfortunate scheduling nether-region in terms of reviewing, with the first episode debuting while I was recuperating from press tour (though Dan and I discussed it on the podcast), and the series really kicking into gear while I've been trying to stay afloat amidst the broadcast network premieres.

And that's a shame, because over the course of six episodes so far, I feel like the show has turned out to be far better than it needs to be.

Read Full Post
<p>Jennifer Ehle and Patrick Wilson in &quot;A&nbsp;Gifted Man.&quot;</p>

Jennifer Ehle and Patrick Wilson in "A Gifted Man."

Credit: CBS

'A Gifted Man' - 'Pilot': The ghost chatterer

What did everybody think of the new CBS medical drama?

Time constraints (on Dan's part) and a lack of enthusiasm (on mine) prevented either Fienberg or I from offering a written review of "A Gifted Man," but I did run my Margo Martindale interview this morning, and we discussed the show as the first segment on today's podcast. Not ideal, but premiere week is not an ideal time.

To sum things up, Dan really admired the way Jonathan Demme's direction of the pilot brought some grit and leavened the sap of the premise. I was less impressed by the direction and felt the show was tonally inconsistent, and didn't particularly believe Patrick Wilson in the scenes where he was playing his character as a cold bastard in need of change. (On the other hand, the scenes where he's with Jennifer Ehle or Mr. Noodle and opening himself up? He's terrific.) And both of us are skeptical about the show going forward.

Now it's your turn. For anyone who watched tonight, what did you think? You setting the season pass for this or not?

Read Full Post
<p>Walter (John Noble)&nbsp;has a sleepless night on &quot;Fringe.&quot;</p>

Walter (John Noble) has a sleepless night on "Fringe."

Credit: FOX

'Fringe' - 'Neither Here Nor There': It's the little things

Season 4 gets off to a bumpy start as the universe adjust to life without Peter

A quick review of the "Fringe" season 4 premiere coming up just as soon as I need to erase someone from time...

Read Full Post
<p>Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell and the rest of the &quot;House of Lies&quot;&nbsp;cast.</p>

Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell and the rest of the "House of Lies" cast.

Credit: Showtime

Exclusive: The 'House of Lies' cast gets down in a new promo

What's Don Cheadle making Kristen Bell wait for?

Premiere week for the 2011-12 TV season isn't officially over yet (it runs Monday-Sunday), but as you know if you've been reading my reviews, it hasn't been the most inspiring batch of new shows so far. Some hope will come in a week with the debut of Showtime's "Homeland" (which you can still watch the pilot of in its entirety here), but beyond that, most of the genuinely exciting shows seem to be coming at mid-season: NBC's "Awake" and "Smash: The Brian Williams Story," ABC's "Apartment 23" and "The River," etc.

Hopefully we can add Showtime's "House of Liesto that list. I still haven't seen the pilot for the new comedy - in which Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell and Ben Schwartz are part of a team of cutthroat management consultants who will do anything in their pursuit of money - but that cast is great, Showtime president David Nevins promised it would be more overtly funny than most of the Showtime "comedies," and, well, the people involved with the show helped make this promo, which has made me laugh every single time I've seen it this week.

"House of Lies" may or may not pan out, but at least it's given the world Veronica Mars, Jean-Ralphio and Paul Rusesabagina getting down with their bad selves. Enjoy. 

Read Full Post
Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 95: 'A Gifted Man,' 'Pan Am,' 'Boardwalk Empire' & more

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 95: 'A Gifted Man,' 'Pan Am,' 'Boardwalk Empire' & more

Dan and Alan also break down early season ratings and the season premieres of many returning comedies


Time for the second of yet another multi-episode week for the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, in which Dan and I review a few more new network shows, check in on "Boardwalk Empire" and break down a lot of what we learned in the first week of the TV season. The rundown:

"A Gifted Man" -- 01:35 - 11:15
"Pan Am" -- 11:20 - 20:00
"Boardwalk Empire" -- 20:00 - 29:30
Early Season Ratings -- 29:30 - 44:00
"How I Met Your Mother: -- 44:10 - 48:40
"Glee" -- 48:40 - 55:15
"Modern Family" -- 55:26 - 01:01:20
"Community" -- 01:01:25 - 01:05:35
"Parks and Recreation" -- 01:05:40 - 01:11:55
"The Office" -- 01:12:00 - 01:18:55
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 and/or 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.
Read Full Post
<p>Margo Martindale and Patrick Wilson in &quot;A&nbsp;Gifted Man.&quot;</p>

Margo Martindale and Patrick Wilson in "A Gifted Man."

Credit: CBS

Interview: 'A Gifted Man' co-star Margo Martindale

How did the Emmy-winning 'Justified' actress wind up on a CBS medical drama?

One of the most satisfying moments on Sunday night's Emmys came when Margo Martindale won for her performance as hillbilly crime lord Mags Bennet on FX's "Justified." It was the role of a lifetime for a hardworking but largely anonymous character actress, and she played it brilliantly.

Read Full Post
<p>Rainn Wilson and James Spader on &quot;The Office.&quot;</p>

Rainn Wilson and James Spader on "The Office."

Credit: NBC

'The Office' - 'The List': Winners and losers

James Spader takes over, and the Scranton branch gets a new manager

"The Office" is back, with James Spader as the new CEO and a new branch manager, and I have a review of the season premiere coming up just as soon as I agree with your analysis of Elmo...

Read Full Post
<p>Jane Timoney (Maria Bello)&nbsp;surrounded by her male colleagues in the &quot;Prime Suspect&quot;&nbsp;pilot.</p>

Jane Timoney (Maria Bello) surrounded by her male colleagues in the "Prime Suspect" pilot.

Credit: NBC

'Prime Suspect' - 'Pilot': Hat in hand

What did everybody think of the new NBC cop drama?

I posted my review of NBC's "Prime Suspectthis morning. Now it's your turn. Whether you're familiar with the Helen Mirren original or not, how did you think Maria Bello did as Jane Timoney? Are you pro- or anti-hat? Will you be glad to see them tone down the blatant sexism, or do you think the show needed it? Most importantly, will you be watching another episode? 

Have at it.

Read Full Post
<p>Fat Mac (Rob McElhenny) goes shirtless on &quot;It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.&quot;</p>

Fat Mac (Rob McElhenny) goes shirtless on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

Credit: FX

'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' - 'The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore': Rum Ham!!!!

No Snooki or The Situation, but lots of silly and/or dark fun

A quick review of tonight's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" coming up just as soon as I get my scalp sewn back on...

Read Full Post