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David Letterman's tribute to Robin Williams - a keeper

Robin Williams in Santa Monica, Calif. on June

(Credit: AP / Reed Saxon)

David Letterman and Robin Williams go way back, as fans of both know so well, and it was with genuine anticipation that I awaited Dave's tribute (the show was dark last night). He did not disappoint: It was warm and genuine and interesting and foremost brought to mind something that a few obits overlooked last week: Some of Williams' classic work was right here at “Late Show,” and at “Late Night” and “Tonight” as well. Dave didn't tear up — he's not a teary guy — but watching this you certainly knew that a major loss, indeed tragedy, just took place in his life too. A wonderful tribute, well worth watching.(If you are coming to this post via Newsday.com/tvzone, click on the headline to see the clip.)

Stephen Colbert keeping 'Late Show' in New York: Critic's analysis

Stephen Colbert, right, who will be staying in

(Credit: Comedy Central)

That Stephen Colbert would choose to keep "Late Show" in New York after succeeding David Letterman as host next year was perhaps not a foregone conclusion -- crazier things have happened, after all -- but it was as close to "foregone" as the word could possibly imply.

Colbert did not agree to undertake the enormous challenge of replacing a legend by uprooting staff and friends and relocating them 3,000 miles from family, hearth and home. A move to CBS' Television City -- which of course has a world-class facility for a late night talk show and has expanded the space for "The Late Late Show" too -- would have almost certainly meant losing key personnel -- possibly even the very people who have made "The Colbert Report" such a huge success.

No: He was going to stay in New York, and he was going to stay at the Sullivan, which is possibly the single most beautiful talk show studio on all of television. (Even better: It's haunted. Did you know that? Another post, another day.)  

Nevertheless, as foregone conclusions go, this is a very happy one. Not only will Colbert extend a tradition -- honestly the only late night tradition CBS has ever really had -- but it extends the tradition in the very city where late night TV was born, and where "The Tonight Show" is already proving, along with its host, that this really is the best place on the planet to mount a late night talk show. 

Los Angeles is fine -- I love L.A. (me AND Randy Newman). But it's just ... different, and it's not the sort of "different" that works well with a personality and style such as Colbert's: arch, intellectual and high velocity. His style was honed here, and here it must stay.   

Certainly this is a nice score for the city: Two hundred jobs will be saved, and while CBS did not specify how many of Dave's "Late Show" veterans will migrate over to Steven's "Late Show," the fervent hope is that many will. Dave's crew is excellent and understands the exigencies of mounting a late night show, night after night after night. Many are indispensable.   

And this is good for the New York production community overall. While average New Yorkers may have conflicted feelings about TV or movie production in New York every time they have to jump out of the way of a dolly or are nearly cold-cocked by a boom mic -- or are just sick and tired of having traffic backed up every time some chase scene for some cop procedural just has to shut down Madison Avenue between 23rd and 24th ... it's still all good. More jobs, more people in work, more everything.

Check out these very stats from the CBS news release announcing the deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo: During calendar year 2013, applications for 181 film productions were submitted and included 124 films, 31 television programs, 25 pilots and one “relocated” television show. The impact of these projects includes: Generating a direct spend of $2.09 billion in NYS; Collecting a projected $466 million in credits; Hiring an estimated 126,301 actors and crew for the 181 projects submitted.

Looking at it all this way, "Late Show" -- which began here more than 20 years ago -- is the gift that just keeps on giving.

TV Critics Tour: 'Downton Abbey,' Lady Mary, look ahead to the 5th season

Michelle Dockery portrays Lady Mary in a scene

(Credit: AP)

BEVERLY HILLS -- "Downton Abbey," which returns for a fifth season Jan. 4, promises big changes -- or perhaps, the better phrase in lieu of  "big" here would be "emotionally resonant and complex." So let's go with that insstead: "Downton" promises emotionally resonant and complex changes in the 5th season as one of TV's great hits continues to figure out how to keep that word "hit" firmly affixed to any discussion of "Abbey."  Of course, it's always hard to tell six months in advance just how resonant any "Abbey"  adjustments will be, and the series has rarely been in the habit of revealing too much going forward. (What's the fun in that anyway?)

But aside from a prominent new cast member -- Richard E. Grant ("Gosford Park") will join as one Simon Bricker, a guest of the Granthams -- stars and showrunners here Tuesday did promise an evolution that will especially impact one of "Downton's" signature characters, Lady Mary.

Gareth Neame, exective producer of "Downton," did indicate that at least one major story will develop next year -- Lady Mary Crawley's eventual move out of the shadows into a new emotional life. Which is to say: She's finally thinking of playing the field again.

She said as much at the end of season four; the question for her and "Downton" fans is an obvious one, however: Said Neame, "We’ve, all of us, have played these characters now for several years. We’ve all lived in this “Downton” world. And the more we’re immersed in the world, the more we feel that we get to understand these characters, the more that the stakes of the stories are higher. I think what Michelle [Dockery] was just saying about the relationships and what she’s going to do and the idea that Mary has now decided by the end of Season 4 she said, “I know I will marry again. I’m not now” “I’m turning to life, and I’m going to be married.” But I think that whole challenge of how do you make a new relationship when your partner has died, how do you make a second marriage as an older, more mature person is way more complicated than the first relationship decision you make. So I think for all of these characters, everything is just ratcheted up. Everything is much more complicated. He’s still the guy stuck in no man’s land between these two worlds, but as you saw with the scene with Hugh Bonneville, the stakes are just higher and higher every time."

Dockery had this to say about Lady Crawley: "She’s very she’s very complex. I think that she she’s impulsive. So she makes these decisions, and then, you know, once she goes through with it, she looks back and actually realizes it wasn’t quite the right decision. And I think this series, she is quite impulsive, and she’s embracing her new life really. I think she’s through the grief now. And I kind of see Series 5 for Mary as the new Mary, I guess, in a way. And so with that, she’s got a bit of her bite back that we had in Series 1, which I’ve enjoyed playing, you know. It was lovely to do Series 4 with playing all of that emotion and everything, but this series is a lot more fun. So I’m enjoying it."

TV Critics Tour: CBS 'Late Late Show' host could come from politics

TV personality Stephen Colbert at the 65th Annual

(Credit: Getty Images / FREDERIC J. BROWN)

Beverly Hills: All bets are off - or perhaps all bets are on - regarding the future of CBS's "Late Late Show," CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler told TV writers here a little while ago. The network's exploring new formats, new ideas for hosts, and possibly a whole new way of presenting something that - in basic outline - hasn't changed all that much on the broadcast networks since the era of...

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Viola Davis back on TV in ABC's 'How to Get Away with Murder'

Viola Davis arrives on the red carpet for

(Credit: AP / Jordan Strauss)

Beverly Hills: Two-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis will mark her return to TV this fall with a starring role in ABC's "How to Get Away with Murder." Or let's make that THE starring role, which is about to catapult her into rarefied company, as only the third African-American female lead on a major broadcast drama - the others, of course, are Kerry Washington, who just picked up another Emmy nod last week for "Scandal," and Halle Berry in CBS's new summer hit, "Extant."

Some perspective on this. Before "Scandal," the last time there was a black female lead on a primetime show was back in the mid-'70s, when Teresa Graves starred in the the long-forgotten "Get Christie Love!" Soon there will be three, and TV, and culture, will change ever so perceptibly. Or, in fact, maybe it already has...

Davis Tuesday met the assembled TV press here to explain the role, and why she chose it. But the woman who put here there,  Shonda Rhimes -- overseer of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal" -- first got the black-female-lead question, and dismissed it out of hand. Rhimes doesn't much like critics and doesn't much like their questions -- too many years of "Grey" bashing maybe? -- or maybe she just doesn't even think it merits attention: Let the show and material speak for themselves!

 But she was in no mood Tuesday to explore the Sociological Significance of it All: "There are no lessons" to be drawn,she said flatly. "I feel like the shows should speak for themselves." And so they should, but still...television hasn't always been known for breaking glass ceiling, and this particular one just got shattered.

That's just one reason why so much seems to be riding on this ABC mystery/thriller about a law professor and the students who may -- or may not -- abet her in the commission of a murder. The show will be written by a veteran writer on "Grey's," Peter Nowalk. And the other is Rhimes,  who will soon have three dramas on ABC. She has been called the new Aaron Spelling of the network -- or the black female one, in any case. (Rhimes Tuesday downplayed that too. "I'm feeling like I'm getting to go to work every day," but conceded that "It's exciting and a great vote of confidence fro ABC.")

Meanwhile, Davis, who plays lead Prof. Annalise Keating, was a bit more expansive on her reasons for being here: "The attraction was the material, yes. I think the day of choosing TV over film and TV somehow diminishing your career as an actor or actress, I think, has changed. I think people migrate towards material, especially after they reach a certain age, certain hue, certain sex.

"And I have to say, and I will be bold enough to say, that I have gotten so many wonderful film roles, but I’ve gotten even more film roles where I haven’t been the show. It’s like I’ve been invited to a really fabulous party, only to hold up the wall. I wanted to be the show. I wanted to have a character that kind of took me out of my comfort zone. And that character happened to be in a Shonda Rhimes show in “How to Get Away with Murder.” And so I did the only smart thing that any sensible actress would do, and I took it. I dove at it. And I love the fact that she’s messy and mysterious and you don’t know who she is. She’s not necessarily nurturing and “Come sit on my lap so I can talk to you, baby.”

Is the show actually any good? It is certainly promising (and intriguing) and I'll get into more detail about that later. But Davis is particularly good. This newcomer and its lead -- to use the old line -- appear to have legs.

 ABC, by the way, announced yesterday that "Murder" will launch Sept. 25.

'Game of Thrones' fourth season finale, 'The Children,' recap: Valar morghulis

Charles Dance in season 4 of "Game of

(Credit: HBO / Macall B. Polay)

With the rip-roaring fourth season of "Game of Thrones" now history, best to begin at the end of last night's finale, "The Children":

"Valar morghulis," Arya says to the initially reluctant captain, and with this High Valeryian phrase secures passage to Braavos - the "free city" on the edge of Essos, the vast unknown land across the seas where Arya's story moves next season.

He responds:...

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Will Dave Chappelle return to TV?

Dave Chappelle dropped by the ?Late Show? on

"Why did Dave Chappelle leave?"

Aren't you sick of that question, too? (Chappelle is, I would imagine.) It's one of those evergreen queries permanently embedded in the Internet hivemind -- and if you don't believe me, type in "why did Dave ..." and let Google complete the question for you.

It's obnoxious, tiresome, a reflection on our world's fixation on the trivial and the over-and-done-with....

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Ann B. Davis, a career in clips

Ann B. Davis backstage at the 5th annual

(Credit: Getty Images / Kevin Winter)

Ann B. Davis died yesterday, at age 88, and that name, that voice ("anybody want a hotdog?") and career are largely associated with but character over a long run that began in the early '50s: Alice - or the center square in the opening credits of "The Brady Bunchy."

But she was also Schultzy, in a long-ago-and-far-away sitcom headlined by Bob Cummings, a hugely popular star of the late '40s...

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NBC telecast of 'World Music Awards' postponed (but why...?)

Singer Mariah Carey was born in Huntington and

(Credit: Getty Images, BET / Michael Buckner)

And now this: Some viewers, probably many viewers, tuning in to NBC Wednesday night for a telecast of the "World Music Awards," taped Tuesday in Monte Carlo, instead saw a repeat of "Last Comic Standing." Reasons? Unclear. NBC's more or less official explanation is that technical difficulties beset the taping, although what those could be beggars the imagination.

As widely reported, Mariah...

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Iggy Azalea on 'Dancing with the Stars' -- and a winner named, too

U.S. ice dancing Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis

(Credit: EPA / Christian Charisius)

The 18th season of "Dancing with the Stars" ended last night, and what a shocker: The Olympic ice dancing gold medalist won.

Who saw that coming? I mean, really?

Of course I'm disappointed, but this is not about me, is it? No, it's about Amy Purdy being robbed. She'll get over it -- after all, who's got the room in their closet for a glitter-ball trophy that big anyway? 

But the winners, Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy, were certainly extraordinary. No doubt they were this season's best, but that doesn't make this larceny any easier.

Speaking of extraordinary, how about that appearance by Iggy Azalea last night? I could hear millions of conversations all over America ... "Mabel, what's an Iggy ... Mabel, what's she saying ... Mabel, turn off the sound, I'm confused ..."

In "DWTS'" almost comical ongoing efforts to build a young audience, Iggy got the call. Hey, why not: She's got a big hit. Certainly the most interesting part of this finale, and of many finales ... To the clips!

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