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'Fringe' series finale review

John Noble

(Credit: John Faier/ John Noble )

The end is near for "Fringe" - this Friday - and it's certainly not too early to extoll the virtues of  this remarkable series. So, for all the lovers out there - and this would not include observers, members of ZFT, or assorted bits of unpleasantness from either this or the alternate universe - here goes:

"Fringe," Friday, WNYW/5, 8

Catching up: It's 2036 and...

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Conrad Bain dead: 'Diff'rent Strokes' actor was 89

From left, Todd Bridges, Conrad Bain and Gary

(Credit: Getty Images, 1978)

This just in: Conrad Bain, the veteran actor of stage and screen -- and most prominently TV -- has died. He was 89. Bain, best known as Mr. Drummond, the starchy plutocrat of that long-ago hit “Diff'rent Strokes” that turned Gary Coleman into a TV star, was Canadian born, though headed stateside to appear on stage (Broadway, in O'Neill) and later TV. Here's a good overview of this wide and varied career.

Of course, it was television that made him into a household name of the '70s — specifically “Maude” (Dr. Arthur Harmon) and later “Strokes.” In fact, Bain got lead billing on “Strokes,” though Dana Plato and Coleman went on to become bigger TV stars.


INTERACT: New fall TV series | Greatest TV characters

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Lifetime's 'Drop Dead Diva' canceled

From left, Kim Kardashian and April Bowlby in

(Credit: AP)

One might say that even Kim Kardashian couldn't save “Drop Dead Diva" -- or one could say that she hastened its demise -- but whatever argument you chose, the result is the same: “DDD” will not return for a fifth season, Lifetime said Tuesday.

The show starred the especially talented (of considerable stage accomplishment) Brooke Elliott as a deceased model trapped in a lawyer's body, and did quite well for Lifetime over its four-year run. But obviously not well enough.

Kardashian was added last season, and there had been other gimmick casting moves over the years as well (Paula Abdul -- remember? Brandy, Joan Rivers...). At least one prominent website -- -- says the producer may try to sell the show elsewhere, so Jane may yet live again.

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Check out last summer's promo with KK. You are left to wonder whether this galvanized fans or turned them off.

'Fringe:' the finale trailer

"Fringe? is one of Fox's provocative sci-fi series.

(Credit: Fox)

"Fringe," the final frontier...or at least the final just two days away. Here's the trailer (and  this should have been posted yesterday but my ever-reliable blogging utility decided to take a winter's nap instead):   

Back from the dead, 'The Killing' is revived

Actors Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos in a

(Credit: Handout)

Once dead — or to be precise, killed off — AMC's "The Killing" is about to stage a comeback, on AMC. Just announced, fans no doubt will be exultant; critics no doubt will grouse. But this is still pretty good news for a host of reasons, notably when "The Killing" was good, it was quite good, and pretty much launched the U.S. movie career of Joel Kinnaman. It did take a kooky...

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Oprah: The first Lance Armstrong promo

In this Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 photo provided

(Credit: AP )

And so it begins — the first of what should be many TV promotions designed to plug the Interview That May Well Turn Around OWN (which, by the way, has already had some success with O's Sunday night interview series): Lance Armstrong.

Lance Armstrong confesses doping to Oprah Winfrey, but why O?

In going on Oprah Winfrey's OWN this Thursday and Friday — as part of an extended confessional taped in Austin Monday — Lance Armstrong has single-handedly given the Discovery-owned channel the biggest gift it could possibly have ever asked for — one of the great exclusives in sports history.

And of course, the logical question is: Why?

There are any number of possible reasons, and it's fair to speculate on all of them. Foremost this — Discovery Channel once sponsored Armstrong's racing team in the middle part of the last decade, at a point when he allegedly orchestrated the most sophisticated doping scheme ever to descend upon the sport. Is this interview — which is certain to be seen by hundreds of millions of people worldwide — both penance and payback for his betrayal of Discovery?

It's a reasonable question — and I've floated it by TDC; will get back to you when I get an answer  [see below] — but I think the answer is probably “no.” It seems too obvious, too far-fetched, to imagine he's absolving himself of financial penalty by helping TDC's somewhat-troubled-but-improving sister channel. But it is a fair question to ask whether his team is also in negotiations with Discovery, much as he reportedly is with the U.S. Post Office, over liabilities stemming from their sponsorship of his cycling teams. It's possibly just a fascinating coincidence that OWN is mostly owned by Discovery.

Per David Leavy, chief communications officer for DCI, he says there is no connection between Discovery and the interview. But “in terms of why Oprah, I think it's twofold: one, she's still the best interviewer and the having her own network ... she could do multiple hours for multiple nights, control all the editorial and it is a proof of a concept that the Oprah Winfrey network is a big noisy platform that can attract this kind of conversation and I think were just beginning to see the full potential of what OWN can be now and in the future. "

Here's another good reason to do OWN and Oprah: This kind of interview with this kind of meta-personality is a kind of absolution, and purification rite that can do wonders for an image, and relatively little harm. For, by associating oneself with Oprah, one is associating oneself with the world's most famous TV personality. It's a win-not-totally-lose proposition.

I also notice that a drumbeat has begun saying an interview with Oprah is like a free pass. But that's not true. Oprah is an excellent interviewer, always has been. Hers is a style of interviewing that is not akin to say) Mike Wallace's, but a vastly more subtle, more transparent — and under the right circumstances —  more productive approach. She comes extremely well-prepared, always has, and is rarely caught off guard. She approaches interviews like a journalist — but handles them like a world-beating celebrity, who just happens to be asking the right questions. She knows she is more famous than anyone she is interviewing — including Barack Obama during their first encounter — and handles this in a way that both disarms the subject and pulls something of substance out of them.

Most famous case in point was her Feb. 10, 1993, live interview with Michael Jackson. He hadn't spoken to the press — and for all intents and purposes, she was at that moment, “the press” — in well over a decade. His career had slowed, and rumors of lunacy had begun to supplant the story of an ineffable talent and child prodigy. That he had bought the Elephant Man's bones; that he had bought a cybernetic chamber that would preserve him for all eternity; that he had bleached his skin. Oprah asked about all of this, and asked it directly — this interview was not a free pass. She had no way of knowing about the most explosive charge of his life — reports of child molestation, which were to surface six months later.

What does Armstrong get from a no-holds-barred O treatment? He can convey the impression — indeed, even the illusion — that he has taken all the tough questions and has offered his complete contrition. He will get ample opportunity also to expand on his legend, to offer the counterspin to the doping charges — and the importance of it far beyond the field of sport — notably Livestrong, and its vast contributions to cancer research. He will attempt to take advantage of Oprah, and may well succeed.

But if he expected a soft landing yesterday, he likely did not get one. After Jackson in '93, this is the most important interview of her career — and she had no intention of blowing it.


Oprah: Lance Armstrong interview to air over two nights

Conceding — or pointing out the obvious — that the Lance Armstrong interview she conducted in Austin Monday was “the most important of my career,” Oprah Winfrey said on “CBS This Morning” a little while ago Tuesday that her eponymous network (OWN) will now air the TV-historic encounter over two nights instead of one. A 90-minute broadcast was — and remains — scheduled for Thursday night.

Winfrey did not say when the second part would air, although OWN just announced it will air Friday at 9.  In other comments on the morning program, Winfrey said both she and Armstrong had agreed beforehand that no content from the interview would be pre-released — and she kept to her word, saying virtually nothing about what Armstrong told her. She even declined to characterize his comments, although did not dispute Charlie Rose's question that she had secured a full confession about performance-enhancing drug use during his seven Tour de France victories — now stripped by the sport's ruling body. How comprehensive was the interview? Winfrey said she came in armed with "112 questions” and managed to ask most of them, while adding that he “did not come clean in the manner I expected.”

Oprah on 'CBS this Morning' Tuesday

So: whatever Lance Armstrong has to say to Oprah Winfrey today will presumably be revealed on "CBS This Morning" Tuesday," because...Oprah  will be on. Waiting to see what OWN releases tonight, by the way...And that could come any minute. It's widely expected, per news reports, that  the seven-time Tour de France champ - stripped of those titles - will partially reveal to O that he indeed used performance-enhancing drugs (and techniques, like blood doping) over his historic run. 

Robin Roberts of 'GMA' may return in 'weeks'

Co-host Robin Roberts during a broadcast of "Good

(Credit: AP)

Robin Roberts -- recuperating from a bone-marrow transplant -- told viewers of "Good Morning America" that she'll be back in "weeks" pending results of a "dry run" -- no specific date set, and echoing what she tweeted late last week. A key issue, naturally, is the flu -- she can't get a flu shot. Here are the details from the story posted a little while...

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