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Controversy in the 'Family Guy/Simpsons' crossover? Imagine that!

"The Family Guy/Simpsons? crossover episode Sunday, Sept. 28,

(Credit: FOX)

"The Family Guy/Simpsons" crossover episode this Sunday -- which has very nearly been overlooked by the vast republic of viewers out there more intent on checking out the new "NCIS: New Orleans" -- was handed a gift Wednesday by the AP's respected TV writer, David Bauder. He reported there is growing controversy over a line embedded in the sizzle reel released at Comic-Con: 

Stewie makes a prank call to Moe's tavern to one-up his new hero, Bart Simpson. The full transcript of that call: "Your sister is being raped." Click.

It is of course an awful, horrific line -- utterly characteristic of Stewie -- and is meant to underscore Stewie's pathetic attempt at matching Bart's attempt at humor. In other words, it is meant to be awful.


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But on it's own, it looks like another vile -- in this instance misogynistic -- "Family Guy" joke, which could underscore something else: There's real risk for "The Simpsons" by agreeing to this melding of sensibility and humor.

Who knows how many other bombs are in this thing, which threaten to blow up in "The Simpsons'" fans' faces?

I have, I think, an answer to that question right here and now: This is it, no more. (Fox declined to give this out for review -- but happily gave us "Red Band Society." Thanks, Fox.)

Show bosses Al Jean (and Matt Groening) have said repeatedly they have no beef with the show, no issues to speak of, although Jean did say at the recent press tour this: "We said, 'Can you cut one rape joke?' And they said, 'No.' And we said, 'OK.'"

(There was another line that was problematic and apparently the "Family Guy" guys agreed to making that adjustment.)

"The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" have an interesting and fraught history -- which I discuss in a column Friday (briefly). Everyone who knows both shows knows the history intimately -- embedded little missiles that fly back and forth between both series that castigates the target's relevance or Neanderthal sensibilities. "South Park" -- it seems to me -- has been a far more effective critic of "Family Guy" and its formula, but that's just one opinion.

Here's the brief outtake from my Friday piece which (briefly) discusses the old rivalry. In a 2007 episode:

"Guy's" Glenn Quagmire shot and killed every member of the Simpsons after having sex with Marge; Fox refused to air the bit, and it was cut (but was reinserted on the DVD set). The rivalry can seem a bit vicious -- "The Simpsons" have poked at "Guy's" habit of borrowing from it -- although both insist it's all been in good fun: "If anything, we have the same kind of competition that Pugsley Addams and Eddie Munster had in the old days," Groening once said.

Again, none of this is news to fans, but does beg the old question: Why are these two in bed together?

Another outtake from my Friday column:

In television, the answer to "why" is always "to make money," but there may be elements of homage here, too. "Guy" would simply not exist without "The Simpsons," and this is certainly a form of payback. Now, back to the money bit: As a Fox corporate asset, “The Simpsons” has skyrocketed in importance, as the foundation for FXX, while a vast new website, Simpsons World, is expected to bow in October. In a deal valued at $700 million-plus, FXX has full digital rights to 552-plus episodes of “The Simpsons.” With that kind of money on the barrel, the more exposure (and promotion), the better.

So there you have it, friends. Television is about money and cross-promotion is about making money. If it takes a bad joke by Stewie to underscore this point, so be it. The republic of television will continue.

Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn cast in 'True Detective'

Actor Colin Farrell attends the Closing Night Gala

(Credit: Getty Images)

The wait is over, for the casting announcement anyway: Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn are the leads in the second season of HBO's "True Detective," the network confirmed Tuesday.

HBO further said Justin Lin ("Fast & Furious") will direct the first two episodes. 

Here's everything I know and which you now know, from HBO:


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"Eight episode hour-long drama is set to begin production later this fall in California. Logline: Three police officers and a career criminal must navigate a web of conspiracy in the aftermath of a murder. The series is created and written by Nic Pizzolatto. Justin Lin will direct the first two episodes. Cast: Colin Farrell as Ray Velcoro, a compromised detective whose allegiances are torn between his masters in a corrupt police department and the mobster who owns him. Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon, a career criminal in danger of losing his empire when his move into legitimate enterprise is upended by the murder of a business partner. Additional casting will be announced as it is confirmed."

  Yes, the second season is much anticipated considering how much love was heaped on the first by fans and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (which did not in the end bestow any major awards.) Today's announcements will likely whet anticipation: Lin is one of Hollywood's top action directors, while Farrell's a major talent who has deployed his gifts in interesting places ("Saving Mr. Banks")... Elisabeth Moss of "Mad Men" has also been rumored - but not word on her yet.

HBO did not offer an airdate but is another January launch possible? ("TD" 1 launched mid-January of this year.) Maybe but later in the year would seem more likely.  

New fall season scorecard: 'The Big Bang Theory' runs the board

Johnny Galecki, from left, Kaley Cuoco and Jim

(Credit: AP / CBS)

It appears that despite dire predictions, sad tales of decline, and predictions that  the sky is falling (because of time-shifting)... people are still watching TV. The start of the 2014 season on Monday night was a boffo one, especially for "The Big Bang Theory," seen by nearly 18 million viewers. 

In addtiion, Fox newcomer "Gotham" had an excellent start too, with eight million total viewers, and a 3.2 rating among young adults. That may well have even exceeded Fox's own internal predictions. 

As expected, "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Voice" took hits opposite "BBT" at eight, but nothing to be hugely concerned about at their respective networks: "DWTS," which began the season soft anyway, was seen by 12 million viewers -- way off from last season. "The Voice" was seen by 12.7 million, but had a very good 3.9 rating among young adults. (So yes, "DWTS" was officially in fourth place among younger viewers, but then "younger viewers" don't really watch this all that much anyway.) Meanwhile, CBS newcomer "Scorpion" opened strong (14 million) thanks to the lead-in, while "Sleepy Hollow" had a reasonable start. (5.5 million.)

How did ABC's "Forever" fare? Not bad either (8.3 million) despite a more-than-solid open for "The Blacklist" (12.3 million, meaning it held on to virtually its entire "Voice" lead-in.)

All in all, a very good night for network TV.

NBC denies Kenan Thompson is leaving 'Saturday Night Live'

Kenan Thompson (Getty)

(Credit: Kenan Thompson (Getty))

Kenan Thompson -- king of "Saturday Night Live" if royalty is measured in terms of seasons (eleven and counting) -- is leaving the show at the end of next season, according to a report on TMZ that suddenly got quite a few people's attention.

Except..he's not. Or nothing has been decided. Or, to be precise: NBC is denying the report.

SNL's top spokesperson just told me via email: "This...

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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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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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'Joan Day' celebrates Joan Rivers on E! Friday

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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Key & Peele explain their name game on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live'

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, shown here portraying

(Credit: Ian White)

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele — among two of the funniest people on the planet (excepting their extended cameo on "Fargo") — were on Tuesday's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (the host of which is also funny) to answer various questions about their long and fruitful collaboration.

Among these questions: Where did the name bit come from, exactly? It's the famous and hugely popular sketch in which...

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Michael Che named new 'Saturday Night Live' 'Weekend Update' anchor

Michael Che, former "SNL" writer and correspondent with

(Credit: Peter Kramer/NBC))

Michael Che was named "Saturday Night Live" "Weekend Update" on Thursday, and -- just like that -- he's about to become one of the most famous comics in the world.

But who is he? Where did he come from? And how did this happen so suddenly?

Che replaces Cecily Strong, in the role only one season, who, according to The New York Times (through which the appointment was announced late Thursday),...

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'Rival Survival' reality show: Senate Democrat and Republican, on a deserted island

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., leaves the Senate Chamber...

(Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite)

On Thursday, Discovery Channel announced a novel and gloriously nutty new show, "Rival Survival," in which a Senate Democrat and a Senate Republican are abandoned on a remote island where they proceed to... fight it out, then hug it out, then get out.

Who knows, maybe "Rival Survival" is on to something. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Az.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) will be stranded for a week on the island, Eru. The show launches Oct. 29 at 10. 

Here are the details: 


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In RIVAL SURVIVAL, our senatorial adversaries turned survival teammates are given a modest choice of items from which they can select only three. Using only these limited resources and their wits, the pair must work together as they attempt to spear fish, build shelter and find enough water to survive for one week. There is no natural source for fresh water on Eru, and what lives in the ocean will be their major food source. This unusual pairing will leave behind the daily life of congressional staff, senate hearings and committee meetings to navigate the rigors of surviving on an isolated island with no contact with the outside world to call upon for help.

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