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Verne Gay

Here's, briefly, who I am: I've been with Newsday since 1989, and have written about virtually every show, personality, development, controversy, and network over those years. Most of this has been sheer joy. Some of it has been sheer torture. And all of it, for better or worse, adds up to one thing: I know a lot more about the wonderful business of television entertainment than even I care to admit.

Maya Angelou's influence on Oprah Winfrey

Maya Angelou addresses a gathering on Dec. 9,

(Credit: Getty Images / Kris Connor)

Maya Angelou has died at the age of 86, and possibly mentioned or not among the many tributes today will be this: She had a huge influence on Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey has spoken long and often of Angelou, who was on OWN last year at this time.

And Winfrey may even be the first to suggest even this: No Angelou, no Oprah, or at least not the one millions have come to know.

Photos: Recent notable deaths | Shocking celebrity deaths

These clips, including Angelou's appearance on "Super Soul Sunday," explore that influence. Meanwhile, here's Winfrey's statement, posted on Facebook:

I've been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20’s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her. She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.​

'Mad Men' recap: Of Waterloo, the moon and Bert

Bertram Cooper, played by actor Robert Morse, died

(Credit: Frank Ockenfels / AMC)

We're not going to have a discussion (are we?) about whether Don Draper saw a ghost on the seventh midseason finale of "Mad Men." A ghost of Bert Cooper, or a moment of overwrought imagination ... or a dream?

Too late for the semi-obligatory "spoiler alert" by this point -- it has been two days after all -- but Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) has died, and not just died, but returned for one last...

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Lifetime plans a Whitney Houston biopic, Angela Bassett directs

Actress Angela Bassett

(Credit: Getty Images)

Now this: Angela Bassett will make her debut as director on a Lifetime biopic of Whitney Houston, the network announced a little while ago, and further indicated that the film will largely focus on the (infamously) tumultuous relationship of Houston and Bobby Brown. But a  quote from Bassett actually seems to indicate that Brown will even come out well here:

“I have such regard for both...

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Brian Williams interviews Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower

Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee

(Credit: AP)

"Nightly News" last night said Brian Williams was "on assignment" -- and some assignment, indeed: He has scored the first American media interview with Edward Snowden, who is essentially under protective custody in Russia.

NBC just confirmed this massive scoop and offered more details -- a full hour interview will air at 10 next Wednesday.

Williams' in-person conversation with Snowden was conducted over the course of several hours and was shrouded in secrecy due to Snowden's life in exile since leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs a year ago. Williams also jointly interviewed Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has reported stories based on the documents in media outlets around the world, about how they came to work together and the global debate sparked by their revelations.

Snowden released a vast trove of NSA "metadata" -- some of which revealed the NSA collection of phone and Internet traffic of U.S. citizens and the tapping into of personal phone communications of foreign leaders.  


Report: FNC's Gregg Jarrett arrested in Minneapolis

Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett in a photo

(Credit: AP)

Fox News' Gregg Jarrett -- who took a leave of absence from the network earlier this month -- was arrested at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Wednesday. The Star-Trib reported this first, while others have since confirmed. He obstructed a police officer at the terminal bar, and has been arraigned . . . Also: TV Newser picked up this statement from Fox:

"We were made aware late...

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HBO's 'The Normal Heart:' review

Mark Ruffalo, left, and Taylor Kitsch star in

(Credit: HBO / Jojo Whilden)

HBO's "The Normal Heart" arrives Sunday, and for the network - and director Ryan Murphy - this is a considerable undertaking not without risk, for these times are - in some regards - more polarized than '85, when the Joseph Papp production opened at the Public Theater. (The role of Ned Weeks - essentially the play's author Larry Kramer - was originated by "Midnight Express'"  Brad Davis - Billy...

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Seinfeld's 'Comedians' back June 19 with George Wallace, Aziz Ansari, Jon Stewart...

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld visits "Late Night With Jimmy

(Credit: Getty Images)

Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" - his finest series since "Seinfeld"  - returns June 19 with: Robert Klein, George Wallace, Sarah Jessica Parker, Aziz Ansari, Jon Stewart.. Sounds all good, and coffee's on Jerry. On Crackle...



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!

Stephen Colbert suggests 'Mad Men' ending to creator Matthew Weiner

Stephen Colbert at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards

(Credit: AP)

"Mad Men's" first half of the seventh season (got that?) ends on Sunday, and in celebration, or mourning, of the impending event, "Men" creator Matthew Weiner was on "The Colbert Report" on Tuesday night.

As expected, the segment was more about Stephen than "Men," but Weiner did offer a few closing thoughts on the series so far, while the host has an unusual suggestion of how to end the entire series. But you have to watch to the end of the clip.

PBS's 'Coming Back with Wes Moore' returns

Wes Moore hosts PBS doc on veterans and

(Credit: Courtesy of Stacy Pearsall)

Memorial Day approaches and TV approaches the day in its own way, too. But one particularly worthy effort in fact began last week - "Coming Back with Wes Moore," a PBS three-parter that returns Tuesday night (WNET/13, 8).

There's much to admire about this film, but Moore's specific take on veterans returning from the battlefield and re-assimilating is as good as any place to start: His approach...

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