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'The Blacklist' what, for Red, Berlin, Lizzy...?

James Spader is the star of NBC's hit

(Credit: AP / NBC)

"The Blacklist," the most successful new drama across all four major broadcast networks last season, returns Monday to a second season and lots of questions. Can the momentum continue? (Yes.) Will the show even add more viewers/fans this season? (Yes, and yes, especially after the Super Bowl next year, which it will follow.) Will the brief hiatus -- "The Blacklist" will go off the schedule this November to make way for newcomer "State of Affairs" --  hurt the show? (Seriously? No.)

OK, now that we've cleared up all the questions, shall we talk about the show. Series showrunner John Eisendrath did in fact juggle a few thoughts during the summer press tour, following the first season finale that saw the peremptory conclusion (read: violent) of characters Tom (Ryan Eggold) and Agent Meera Malik (Parminder Nagra) proving that anyone who stars on this show best not plan on sticking around until retirement. (Except, of course, James Spader and Megan Boone.) 

As fans know, a Blacklister named Berlin -- Peter Stormare, as frighteningly treacherous as ever -- wants Red. Why? No answer to that yet. Monday night, someone named "Lord Baltimore" is causing a problem.

Meanwhile, is Red Lizzy's father?

That's been the cat and mouse question here all along, and at the end of last season, Red turned around to the camera to reveal burn marks on his back (her father died in a fire, or so we were told, but Tom, before he expired, told Liz otherwise.) 

"It tells us that there’s a story yet to come about what the truth is about whether or not he is her father," said Eisendrath, continuing the cat and mouse. " And this season we’re going to take the opportunity to ask and answer that question in ways that I think will get us closer to the ultimate truth."

What will this new season bring?

Eisendrath said, "I think this year, we will explore more his life with his family, what that was like, and bring that into the present and sort of explore relationships with people who he was incredibly close with in the past who he hasn’t been with in a long time. And where Liz is concerned, while their relationship remains central to the show, she is now single and trying to sort of start her life again after the disaster of her marriage. And I wish that someone as talented as Jason could write some of the stories in the personal life of her as she tries to start her life again. But that, I think, will be central to the show as well."

Meanwhile, here's Spader -- excellent in this very violent series as the very violent protagonist -- speaking about the challenges of the role.

'The Big Bang Theory' on Mondays: Expect a big bang

"The Big Bang Theory," TV's most popular comedy

(Credit: Michael Yarish / Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

Of all the fall 2014 season moves -- dozens -- this may be the one that has the greatest chance of changing commercial network viewing habits, expressed in four little words: "The," " big," "bang," and "theory."

Yes, fans, "The Big Bang Theory," TV's most popular comedy, has a new night and time (Monday, 8), and suddenly television faces a significant re-ordering of the apple cart. "Bang" will move back to Thursdays in late October -- when the Thursday night football run ends -- but the damage may well have been done by then. "Dancing with the Stars" Monday faces a double-pump of TBBT" -- an hour block of two new episodes at eight. "Dancing" is already facing significant declines this season (blame it on the cast no one has ever heard of) and now it must deal with "Bang."

Under normal circumstances, a hit like "DWTS" might have an advantage opposite a scripted show -- which would get time-shifted viewing. But "Bang" viewers don't roll that way. They watch live, which means that "DWTS" will take the hit.

Meanwhile  "Bang" will push millions of viewers into the silly "Scorpion," which in turn will push more into the season finale of "Under the Dome." Yes, it will be a big night for CBS.

But we haven't even talked yet about the season premieres of "The Voice" or Fox newcomer, "Gotham." Risks for both of them are significant as well. "Gotham" needs a huge number Monday, if only to prove to Fox, DC Comics, and the rest of the TV industry that there's a real undercurrent of interest here. Instead, "Gotham" may well be heavily DVR'ed, as "Bang" fans opt for that show instead. That could dim the new season launch of "Sleepy Hollow," too.

"The Voice" may also open soft against "Bang" too, so that NBC -- which then launches the new season of "The Blacklist" at 10 -- could have challenges, too (although  "Blacklist" is expected to handily thump "Dome." ).

So, as you can see -- a lot is riding on Monday night. But here is one little caveat that may make a difference, too: TV viewing and fall launches are not what they were, even from a year ago. Many millions now do indeed time-shift, so it will be hard to get a read on anything after one day. Except ..."Dancing," which I don't believe has much of a time-shift base. Monday is a huge night for "DWTS."  Let the fall season games begin.

Here's a clip of the cast talking about the new season. Check out Penny's -- Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting -- new look.


Polly Bergen has died at 84; star of 'Winds of War'

Actress Polly Bergen, in a 2012 photo. She

(Credit: Getty Images / Larry Busacca)

Polly Bergen, an incandescent talent of stage, screen and television, has died. Reports say she was 84 and had been living at her home in Southbury, Connecticut. Natural causes were cited.

While she began as a popular singer, became a studio contract player, worked alongside Martin and Lewis in a few films, and had considerable success on Broadway over a few decades -- including "Love Letters,"...

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E!'s 'Fashion Police' to return in 2015; Friday special to celebrate Rivers

Joan Rivers and daughter Melissa Rivers attend the

(Credit: AP / Evan Agostini)

E! says the show will go on: "Fashion Police" will return in 2015. Meanwhile,  the series Friday will celebrate the one woman who so commandingly dominated this show — and in the process wrote another chapter in a long career full of new chapters, left turns, right turns and any other metaphor you can think of that designates "reinvention." Yes, Joan Rivers reinvented often, and "Fashion Police"...

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Billy Crystal on 'Tonight Show' recalls Robin Williams

Billy Crystal, left, with Robin Williams prior to

(Credit: AP / Alex Brandon)

Billy Crystal -- who gave a reasonably perfect tribute to his friend Robin Wiliams during the 66th Annual Primetime Emmys telecast -- spoke Thursday to Jimmy Fallon during "The Tonight Show" about his own feelings during and before the speech.

Among them: "I was afraid I wasn't going to get through it ..." In this clip, he and Fallon share memories of a bus trip to Washington, and Williams' comment to him during a speech by a former presidential candidate. (It's all very funny, but some of the language here is a little blue -- a warning to those who might be offended.) Readers on mobile devices can find the clip here:

Review: 'Boardwalk Empire' episode 3, 'What Jesus Said'

Steve Buscemi in "Boardwalk Empire" season 5, episode

(Credit: HBO / Macall B. Polay)

Just eight episodes long and two episodes in, “Boardwalk Empire” has already made a compelling case for another Best Drama nod for this, its fifth and final season. Sunday's third episode — “What Jesus Said” — continues to make the case, only less slightly. All in all, this remains a particularly fine season so far. 

Quickly, an overview without spoilers: Chalky (Michael K. Williams)...

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Darrell Hammond named Don Pardo's replacement on 'Saturday Night Live'

Darrell Hammond appeared on "Saturday Night Live" from

(Credit: AP / Wilfredo Lee)

Darrell Hammond, the veteran "Saturday Night Live" cast member whose world famous impressions have ranged from Donald Trump to Bill Clinton, will soon fill one of TV's most iconic roles — as the man who will replace Don Pardo. 

The news broke earlier Thursday morning, on USA Today's website, and "The Today Show" just confirmed the appointment. Hammond, 58, will become the voice of "SNL" when the new season begins — a job that essentially means the recitation of cast members' names at the show's open, along with various other in-show announcements throughout. Pardo, who died recently at the age of 96, held the job of announcer for 39 seasons; the baton, so to speak, will be handed to Hammond for the 40th which begins Sept. 27.

Hammond's appointment was certainly expected — he's almost literally part of the set at Studio 8H: A nearly continual presence there for many years, and where he set the record for the longest tenure of any repertory player (14 seasons) when he left at the end of the 34th season. Hammond, arguably, was the best-known cast member of the '90s.

Bill Hader - maybe Stefon - back to 'SNL' Oct. 11

Bill Hader (2005-13): Notable characters include flamboyant "Weekend

(Credit: AP / Victoria Will)

Bill Hader - gone from "Saturday Night Live" since 2013, and yes, the absence has been keenly felt - is coming home, for a day.  He'll host the Oct. 11 edition of "Saturday Night Live," with Hozier as musical guest. Hader has had a successful post-"SNL" run, currently starring in the well-reviewed "The Skeleton Twins," with Kristen Wiig, Ty Burrell, and Luke Wilson. Will Stefon make an appearance on Oct. 11? (Please . . . do we really have to ask?) 

'Joan Day' celebrates Joan Rivers on E! Friday

E! will devote its entire schedule to Joan

E! will clear its decks Friday to devote a full day of programming to Joan Rivers, the network just announced. It's been dubbed "Joan Day," and the news release does indicate All-Joan-all-the-time. It starts at 7 a.m.

 To the news release: 

E!’s “Joan Day” programming will include an all-day marathon that showcases some of Joan’s best jokes from “Fashion Police” beginning at...

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Craig Ferguson to Seth Meyers: You will go 'crazy'

Craig Ferguson at the Cool Comedy's Hot Cuisine

(Credit: AP / Chris Pizzello)

Craig Ferguson exits "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" in early December, and so it is not too early to begin the eulogies: His has been one of the better runs in all of late-night TV history — which is something probably only truly ardent fans have come to appreciate.

Even CBS hasn't paid much attention to it, bestowing the occasional promotion to announce that it's even on the air (apparently...

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