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'The Daily Show' on fire

FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2012 file

(Credit: AP Photo Carolyn Kaster)

"The Daily Show" is on fire - not literally, but figuratively, possibly quantitatively (ratings!), absolutely qualitatively. Since returning from his film directing sabbatical, Jon Stewart has scorched a broad swath of earth, in part because he has had so much fuel to burn. The government shut-down....the fiasco...and now, the spying scandal. It's been a remarkable performance...

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NBC to reboot 'Murder, She Wrote' -- Good move or bad?

Actress Angela Lansbury attends the NY1 20th Anniversary

(Credit: Getty Images)

NBC has now confirmed an earlier report on "Deadline" that a reboot of "Murder, She Wrote" starring Octavia Spencer, has been ordered.  Not much else is known but some reports are indicating that it's a "put pilot," which means that at least one episode will air, elsewise NBC will owe substantial penalties. (Put pilots are a way to get a major talent to sign on the dotted line, knowing that their work won't go in the shredder...) 

 So debate among yourselves: Good move or bad move?  I'm inclined to the latter, and here's why. "Murder, She Wrote" worked for one reason and one reason only: Her name was Angela Lansbury  - the incomparable Angela Lansbury, one of the most beautiful, skilled, gifted film and TV actresses of the 20th century. You don't bottle that. You don't copy that. You certainly don't think there's some sort of formula that you can rip off. She was the show.

If you were CBS all those years ago - "Murder" finally ended in 1996 - you thank your lucky stars you could convince someone of Lansbury's stature to do a weekly serial. There were lots of reasons for that, some of them financial (she made a fortune off the series), some personal -- it seemed that "Murder"  ended up employing many of her family members, while her husband and manager Peter Shaw was central to the show's creative direction, if memory serves. I do clearly remember that Lansbury wouldn't do anything without Shaw's imprimatur - they were a real Hollywood team and a genuine power couple. 

He died a decade ago, but Lansbury, at 88, is still very much a life force and (I think - but please don't hold me to this) even lives in New York... (Bill Link and Richard Levinson - who died in 1987 - were among the original creators and showrunners.) 

I don't see what the appeal is for Spencer who, at 43, may not be considered "youthful" by brutal Hollywood standards but has a boatload of talent and an Oscar to prove it. Why not do more films? Get a series that you can put your own stamp on? Why do another one of these dismal NBC remakes that invariably seem to go nowhere? ("Ironside" as the most recent example...)

And if by some wild chance this is a success? Heed the words of one Angela Lansbury, whose glorious (film) career began all the way back in 1944 with "Gaslight": As she told the Times in a long-ago profile when discussing the success of "Murder, She Wrote:" 

“I felt terribly trapped in it for years,” she said, “but couldn’t get out because so many people were depending on me.”

'Duck Dynasty' fourth season wraps... Boo!

Based in Monroe, La., the Robertson family ?

(Credit: A&E)

Should a blog about TV fail to note even in passing that cable's top-rated reality series -- "Duck Dynasty," in this instance — ended the night before and may stand a chance of surpassing last season's record finale mark of nearly 10 million viewers?

No. And so noted. "Duck Dynasty" ended Wednesday night after a huge launch in August (nearly 12 million viewers). Now naturally the question is or should be before A&E: How much longer can this last?  "Dynasty" has grown almost too fast — if "too fast" can be considered a problem — leaving A&E in both an enviable position and a precarious one.  

Has it reached its maximum cruising altitude? And if not, how far is up? And when shows reach max cruising altitudes, especially hot unscripted ones, isn't the usual next part of this script, the descent? And if so, how fast a descent?

Ratings out later. More questions:  Will last night's finale surpass the 9.63 million mark for the closer last April? Or...?

Couple quick clips from last night...

And Newsday app viewers, please watch at, at least if you want to watch Willie beat Si with a severed human limb...

NBC brings back the American Comedy Awards

In addition to his 14 comedy specials for

(Credit: AP Photo)

Who remembers the American Comedy Awards? Thought so - we all have memories truncated and (largely) eradicated by the Internet. But back in the day, George Schlatter's "Awards" - not to be confused with Comedy Central's "Comedy Awards" - were the biggest awards ceremony for comics who (otherwise) had to hope for an Emmy or Oscar or at least a roast at the Friar's Club. ABC aired...

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Previewing Sunday's 'The Good Wife:' 'Hitting the Fan'

Behind the scenes with Julianna Margulies, left, Anna

(Credit: CBS)

Network TV promo departments have been known to hyperventilate hyperbole from time to time, but CBS's excitement over "The Good Wife" in recent days may have exceeded even normal decibel levels: The biggest episode of the year?!

So say the brief announcements -- a declaration that pretty much precludes the rest of the season at this point. But I have seen this Sunday's "Hitting...

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'CSI's' 300th episode...tonight

Actress Marg Helgenberger attends the opening night of

(Credit: Getty Images)

"CSI" has arrived at three hundred episodes, and to put this milestone in some perspective, only eight other network primetime dramas have hit that threshold, (including "Law & Order: SVU.") Marg Helgenberger returns for this one, and if you head to the jump, two little elements - CBS's most recent promotion for tonight's Big 300, and my piece from today's Newsday on What...

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'Sherlock' back in January

"Sherlock": Naturally, I am speaking of the Steven

(Credit: AP)

"Sherlock" - one of PBS's major success story of the past couple of seasons and incidentally the series that put Benedict Cumberbatch on the fast track to superstardom (not including "The Fifth Estate" - let's just call that a temporary career detour) - will begin its third season Jan. 19.

 The details via PBS: 

Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate, Star Trek Into Darkness) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, The Office UK) return as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in three new 90-minute episodes — “The Empty Hearse” (January 19), “The Sign of Three” (January 26) and “His Last Vow” (February 2) — of the contemporary reinvention of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic, written and created by Steven Moffat (Dr. Who) and Mark Gatiss (Game of Thrones). The Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated “Sherlock” has been a television sensation since the first season aired in 2010.

  As already announced, "Downton Abbey" is back Jan. 5. 

'Dancing With the Stars' tosses last week's results: Here's what happened

"Dancing with the Stars" host Tom Bergeron. (March

(Credit: AP)

In what's believed to be a show first, "Dancing With the Stars" Monday night tossed out the voting results from last week's edition. No one was therefore eliminated, which means all eight remaining couples live to dance another week.

Last week's edition, the fifth, mixed up on-screen numbers -- those 800 and text numbers that appear after the judges' votes are posted. For example, viewers on the East Coast saw Elizabeth Berkley's team number in place of Bill Engvall's, or Corbin Bleu's team number in place of Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi's. The possibility for vote distortion was reasonably high -- after all, Berkley is one of this season's leaders, while Engvall was trailing all contestants in judge totals this past Monday. In fact, it appeared either Engvall or Jack Osbourne was about to be eliminated when host Tom Bergeron stepped in to announce the show's decision.

Judges' scores and viewer votes from Monday's show will be combined with next week's totals.

Showtime's 'Masters of Sex' gets a second season

Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters and Lizzy

(Credit: AP)

And just like that, "Masters of Sex" -- based on Newsday investigative reporter Thomas Maier's standard biography of William Masters and Virginia Johnson -- has got a second season. Showtime just announced.

In addition, "Homeland" got a fourth season, too. Both renewals are for 12 episodes. Showtime says "Masters" is averaging 5.4 million weekly viewers.

'Homeland's' Carrie plot twist now officially a lightning rod

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Mandy Patinkin

(Credit: Showtime)

"Homeland's" Sunday episode, "Game On,"  is suddenly one of those "TV events" everyone has to have an opinion on, and I suppose that would include me. So, the choices before us are apparently this:

a.) A brilliant twist that completely catapulted "Homeland" into an intriguing new place (and best of all, ends all those Carrie Mathison crying jags)?



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