News, scoops, reviews and more from TV land.
"Portlandia," IFC's very funny/odd/eccentric/loopy/Portlandcentric comedy starring Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, is back. The fourth season arrives Thursday night at 10, but there's no reason to wait for everything until then because... we have a longish clip from the new season, titled "The Celery Incident." It stars Steve Buscemi as a celery man with a problem.
The video is too explicit for our site, but, be warned, and watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRQ-HnSIY2s
An interesting first, and potentially helpful first for those away from a TV set Sunday - ABC will stream the Oscars ceremony and preshow this Sunday on "Watch ABC." And yes, one does need to be a subscriber to one of the participating cable providers (which include Optimum, Verizon FiOS, and AT&T U-Verse.) The news release:
The Oscars preshow and full awards telecast will stream...Read more »
Jay Leno is back in late night TV! For just a couple of minutes...those specifically tonight, on "Arsenio." In a fun, unusual, relaxed (Jay owns a pair of jeans? Who knew...) appearance, he announces the second season pickup of Arsenio Hall's late night show - yes, that show that certain major news organizations don't even know exists...
In a bizarre coincidence, Gary Melius - the owner of Oheka Castle in Huntington who was wounded in a daytime shooting while he was in his car Monday - had also appeared on "Treasures of New York: Gold Coast Mansions" on WNET/13 just a few days before. (The WLIW/21 series, which premiered Feb. 17 on Channel 21, repeated last Friday on Ch. 13.) Melius, suffice it to say, is not a regular presence...Read more »
It's not all that often that I post individual interviews, but because I'm a fan of Jon Stewart and of Michio Kaku - the brilliant thinker long associated with CUNY Graudate school - I'll make an exception. This was on last night...really interesting...
(Newsday app readers please go to Newsday.com/tvzone):
Alec Baldwin -- who has given up, hates New York, is fed up with TV, will never watch MSNBC again, certainly never watch Anderson Cooper again, and...what am I missing? -- has one last role to play, on "Law & Order: SVU," as a...
Ready for this...
Oh right. Alec hates them too.
Details on the March 19 must-watch episode (must-watch to see if Alec becomes a victim) as follows (and not to bury the other lead, Katie Couric has a cameo too):
"Jimmy MacArthur, a controversial New York newspaper columnist who questions the SVU squad’s motives during the investigation of a potential hate crime/rape case. The episode also marks the directorial debut of “SVU” star Mariska Hargitay, whose character, Sergeant Olivia Benson, goes head to head with MacArthur. Katie Couric also makes a cameo appearance, playing herself as a talk show host who quizzes MacArthur about the headline grabbing case.
Here's "SVU" boss Warren Leight on his unusual guest star: “New York City has had a long history of high profile and controversial newspaper columnists, whose influence extends beyond the newsroom. In our story, ‘Jimmy Mac’s’ reporting interferes with the investigation, which has a ripple effect when the case goes to trial. We couldn’t ask for a better actor for Mariska [Hargitay] to work with in her directorial debut. Their chemistry on screen is palpable.”
"The Americans" returns tomorrow night, and because last season was such a winner, perhaps inquiring minds would like to know...another one?
"The Americans," FX, 10 p.m.
What it's about: The first season of "The Americans" ended last May with a wild chase involving Soviet spies, and "married" couple, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Phillip Jennings (Matthew Rhys). With FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) in too-close-for-comfort pursuit, Elizabeth is shot. Tonight's opener begins deep in the woods early one morning: Elizabeth has spent months recuperating at a safe house, and is set to return to active duty. Philip has been tending to family life, with Henry (Keidrich Sellati) and Paige (Holly Taylor) busy in school. But Paige is beginning to wonder: Why has her mother been gone so long, and where do her parents go in the middle of the night? Stan, meanwhile, is in much deeper -- mostly deeper under the sheets -- with double agent Nina (Annet Mahendru.)
My say: After nearly a year's absence, I'm happy to report that "The Americans" is still emphatically "The Americans" -- a superior television series by just about every measure: direction, story-telling, writing, plot and an immaculate performance by a pair of leads who fully inhabit not only their "real" selves but all the other selves that are part of their unusual daily grind.
Even so, "Americans" didn't fully break out last season, and the early episodes suggest this will remain a hard sell to a broader audience. Paige – trying to puzzle out her puzzling parents -- offers the best reason why: "It just feels like something is going on [and] I'd like to know what..."
Bingo. If they remain ciphers to their kids, how then must viewers feel? At times they are compassionate, other times vicious pre-programmed robots in abeyance to a regime and ideology rotting before their eyes. Who are they really? Good or evil? Or is that the wrong question altogether, and if so then what's the right one?
Surely that would offer the key to how we should think and feel about these two. But like their accessorized spywear -- wigs, glasses -- the personas continue to shift and shuffle, as chameleons who keep viewers off balance as much as their antagonists.
It's terrifically difficult to locate the heart, and without heart, love is hard to muster. "Like" -- or even "like very much" -- will do for now.
Bottom line: Still excellent, still hard to love.
Lena Dunham, start and creator of HBO's "Girls," finally has her "Saturday Night Live" hosting gig lined up: March 8. (Does this mean she's finally made it?") And for her maiden voyage, she also has a pretty good band: The National. Their "Trouble Will Find Me" of last spring was a big deal, and they now have a documentary coming up -- "Mistaken for Strangers" -- that will have a theatrical release in March.
"The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" had a particularly clever pre-taped sketch on last night's edition -- what the Beatles would have done had they been inflected with all the ephemera that goes with today's marketing-saturated world. (Or simply titled, "The Beatles Were Way Ahead of Their Time.")
But was it also a bit nefarious -- a commercial for no fewer than THREE PRODUCTS? (Red Bull, Instagram and another household name, which escapes me for the moment?) Or to rephrase: Was it on one hand a sendup of marketing overkill; on the other hand, part of the marketing overkill by selling the stuff it mentions, like Red Bull?
I am told...no. This was not a paid integration, per NBC. .
So score one for Jimmy. Product integration is out there and it's sneaky - but you don't really want it on shows like "Tonight." Simple as that.
It was a very good bit - take a look if you missed.
On the morning after Seth Meyers' safe, reasonable, unembarrassing, uninspirational "Late Night with Seth Meyers," two observations, in order of importance:
1.) Never a judge a "Late Night" by its opening night. Conan O'Brien's opener here was judged by the wise solons of the TV critical establishment to be an utter disaster and we know how that turned out. Jimmy Fallon's wasn't terrible, but his first guest -- puckishly picked by Lorne Michaels perhaps as an initiation to torture the newbie -- was Robert De Niro, who grunted his way through the interview. If memory serves (it doesn't), David Letterman's opener was terrific, but he had his successful morning run as a warm-up. He knew exactly what he was doing at the starting gate. But here's the point -- hosts grow along with their shows, and Meyers is a very talented host. Expect growth.
2.) Seth Meyers' opener was disappointing. Not massively disappointing (that would be ridiculous overstatement), but mildly so, and not for anything he did, but for what he seemed largely content to do: follow a charted path that was established deep in the last century without bringing anything particularly new or even mildly revolutionary to the format.
Poor Seth has been given lots of advice, no doubt much of it useless, but here's my advice and it's for him and you to adjudge just how useful or useless this is:
Be revolutionary. Be adventurous. Ignore the past. Forge a path into the future. Make this show your own -- not some some pallid reflection of those who have come before. Meyers -- that's you Seth -- has as much talent and moxie as anyone who's ever been on this show. You led "Saturday Night Live" creatively through a golden era. This is the second chapter -- make "Late Night" even better than "SNL."
Let me restate -- there was nothing bad about last night -- other than the set, but that's a secondary consideration for the moment.
It was competent.
It was professional.
It was pleasant.
But late night is war -- TV war, and pleasantness is not going to be a winning strategy. Late night really is late night -- with the only sentient beings watching inebriated college boys and insomniacs. This is the crowd that you want to be daring in front of, mostly because you have nothing to lose. (And they won't remember the next morning, anyway.) Plus, consider what you're up against in the overall genre - "The Daily Show," which is consistently excellent, and "The Colbert Report" too. You not only have to bring your game every night - but a better game
Make it wild.
Make it unique.
Make it a reflection of your own pure comic fantasies.
Do not make it into what it always was or what someone else thinks it should be. (There is no rule book after all, and if there is, burn it.) Leave the "tradition" to "Tonight" - establish your own tradition (which has long been expected of "Late Night" anyway.)
Go ahead -- keep the format, keep the monologue (that's expected).
Keep the guests. Keep EVERYTHING if you want.
But add that one element that no one else on earth could ever possibly bring, or no host ever has before: Bring your own deep well of talent and personality.
Then, success is assured.