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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.

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: http://www.hulu.com/watch/689092

Barbra Streisand, Jimmy Fallon sing medley duet on 'Tonight Show'

Barbra Streisand and Jimmy Fallon sing a duet

(Credit: NBC / Douglas Gorenstein)

After a 50 year absence -- or specifically, 51 year absence -- from "The Tonight Show," Barbra Streisand returned Monday night in a way that would only be logical for the current host, Jimmy Fallon: to sing a medley duet with him.

And it worked for the most part.

The interview itself? Both disappointing and fascinating. Fascinating, as a unique thing in an of itself, which is to say:...

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Will 'Thursday Night Football' succeed on CBS?

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

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

"TNF" stands for "Thursday Night Football" and "CBS" stands for the most successful broadcast network in the United States (It actually stands for the "Columbia Broadcasting System" ... but who remembers that?). Thursday night, the acronyms get together to form a unique, potentially groundbreaking -- or air-breaking -- TV experiment that could change television, viewer habits, future network/cable rights fee negotiations, the NFL and (what the heck) life as we know it on Earth, too.

Or it could be a bust.

Highly unlikely that it will be a "bust" even if Thursday evening arrives at a karmically weird moment, with NFL commish Roger Goodell under fire for the Ray Rice video and the Ravens up first.

But do know this -- Thursday night's huge move is indeed an experiment, the outcome of which remains very much unknown. Will the NFL agree to hand this over to CBS after one year -- and this is just a one year deal, or in fact essentially a six-week deal? Or will it send Thursday games back to its NFL Network after getting a massive awareness boost from CBS? "TNF" will go back exclusively to the NFL Network on Oct. 30 -- that's when "The Big Bang Theory" comes back. Will people in fact, OK, not people, but guys, get used to football on Thursday?

And how will this impact the network's reliance on hugely expensive shows like "The Big Bang Theory" (back late October) -- which just got more expensive?

Let's go to the bullets to sort all this stuff out, if you don't mind:

* Will this succeed? Of course millions will tune in -- and a much larger number of humans will be tuning in to CBS tonight than tuning into NBC or ABC (combined.) But will that be enough? The real question is, what is the NFL's expectation? My hunch is that NBC has lifted that expectation dramatically and perhaps unreasonably -- 21 million on average watch the Sunday night games which indicated to the NFL that there's a massive amount of gold in them thar prime-time hills. But maybe not as much gold on Thursdays as on Sundays -- where Homes Using Television levels are higher than on Thursday. Plus this: the games will still be simulcast on the NFL Network. Maybe some viewers, the habit-bound ones, will stay with the NFL Network instead of CBS. That may have an impact, too. 

* Why only a year? Plenty of guesswork on this question, but the NFL is clearly hedging its bets. CBS chief Les Moonves had this to say about the question during the summer TCA press tour: "We knew going in, this was a one-year deal. It is our job to show the NFL what we can do and how great it’s going to be and how great the partnership is going to be. And we’re confident that at the end of the year, they’re going to feel like CBS did a tremendous job. As Roger [Goodell] said, this is a building process. This is the first year. But we’re confident that after this year is over, they’ll sit down and, hopefully, give us a longer deal than that.

* Will this lesson CBS's reliance on those hugely expensive series that just get more and more expensive? I've got to believe that "TNF" is, to a certain extent, a hedge against inflation -- entertainment series inflation -- as well as a hedge against the hard, cold, brutal fact that getting people to watch entertainment fare is harder and harder and harder, even for CBS. Football essentially is a sure bet, so that if this does work, at the very least CBS has a massive promotional platform to push new shows later in the fall. (NBC had a successful launch for "The Blacklist" in part because of relentless football promotion.) CBS will still need to develop entertainment series of course -- but with an ace like this in its back pocket, maybe not so many.

* How will this impact ABC and Fox? You've heard the old line that the rich get richer ... what happens to everyone else? ABC gave up "Monday Night Football" years ago for what I am sure were wonderful business reasons -- but in hindsight were terrible ones. "MNF" was one of TV's singular franchises -- it not only taught people to watch football in prime-time, but taught them to enjoy football in prime-time. It was Roone Arledge's singular insight (one of them), and now, it's hidden, so to speak, on ESPN. (Hidden? I kid: "MNF" is a vast success for ESPN, but I do think ABC's franchise was a cultural institution, while ESPN's is a sports institution.) Ever since, ABC has struggled to fill the vacuum, and with football heading to CBS on Thursdays, that vacuum just grew. Same with Fox -- which is having a terrific time struggling to make up ground lost by a diminished "American Idol." And judging by the early numbers, "Utopia" is not the answer. That's right -- the poor get poorer.

'The View' adds Rosie Perez, former Bush adviser Nicolle Wallace as co-hosts

Rosie Perez attends the Samsung Hope For Children

(Credit: Getty Images / Neilson Barnard)

If you may have missed Wednesday night's announcement: Rosie Perez and novelist and former adviser to President George W. Bush Nicolle Wallace will join "The View." 

In other words: No more silly speculation in various magazines and websites about who is going to join "The View" as it attempts to remake itself and make itself relevant and interesting and noisy and newsy again. 

So...

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Jimmy Fallon's 'Tonight' turns 100

Jimmy Fallon was spotted shopping with 1-year-old daughter

(Credit: Getty Images / Slaven Vlasic)

Jimmy Fallon turned one hundred Monday night. (Congrats, Jimmy: Not easy. Even with vitamins.)

One hundred episodes of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Otherwise known as one hundred chances to make NBC really regret one of the most momentous decisions in the network's long history. Or one hundred chances to prove NBC right ... over and over and over again.

The answer lies behind...

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Allison Williams cast as Peter Pan in 'Peter Pan Live'

Allison Williams, in an undated photo, will be

(Credit: Pascal Le Segretain)

NBC has its Peter Pan and her name is Marnie -- or that's who you probably know her as. Allison Williams is the one.

Just announced, and here are the canned quotes: Check out Williams' first ... amusing: 

“I have wanted to play Peter Pan since I was about three years old, so this is a dream come true,” Williams said. "It’s such an honor to be a part of this adventure, and I’m very excited to get to work with this extraordinarily talented team. And besides,” added Williams, "what could go wrong in a live televised production with simultaneous flying, sword fighting and singing?"


INTERACT: New fall TV series | Greatest TV characters

MORE: Best shows to binge-watch | TV Zone blog


“We couldn’t be happier that Allison Williams is our Peter Pan,” said Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment. “She’s a lovely rising star on the award-winning show ‘Girls’ -- where she occasionally shows off her incredible vocal talent -- and we think she will bring the perfect blend of ‘boyish’ vulnerability and bravado to save the day against Christopher Walken’s powerful Captain Hook.”

"Allison Williams is a major find," said executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. "She will reinvent the iconic role of Peter Pan with her wit, her warmth, her dynamic flying and her wonderful musical abilities. The score will be sung beautifully and introduced to a whole new generation of families."

The show arrives early December. Do you have to be told that Allison is the daughter of Brian -- but the obviously much more talented of the two?

TV Critics Tour: 'Downton Abbey,' Lady Mary, look ahead to the 5th season

Michelle Dockery portrays Lady Mary in a scene

(Credit: AP)

BEVERLY HILLS -- "Downton Abbey," which returns for a fifth season Jan. 4, promises big changes -- or perhaps, the better phrase in lieu of  "big" here would be "emotionally resonant and complex." So let's go with that insstead: "Downton" promises emotionally resonant and complex changes in the 5th season as one of TV's great hits continues to figure out how to keep that word "hit" firmly affixed to any discussion of "Abbey."  Of course, it's always hard to tell six months in advance just how resonant any "Abbey"  adjustments will be, and the series has rarely been in the habit of revealing too much going forward. (What's the fun in that anyway?)

But aside from a prominent new cast member -- Richard E. Grant ("Gosford Park") will join as one Simon Bricker, a guest of the Granthams -- stars and showrunners here Tuesday did promise an evolution that will especially impact one of "Downton's" signature characters, Lady Mary.

Gareth Neame, exective producer of "Downton," did indicate that at least one major story will develop next year -- Lady Mary Crawley's eventual move out of the shadows into a new emotional life. Which is to say: She's finally thinking of playing the field again.

She said as much at the end of season four; the question for her and "Downton" fans is an obvious one, however: Said Neame, "We’ve, all of us, have played these characters now for several years. We’ve all lived in this “Downton” world. And the more we’re immersed in the world, the more we feel that we get to understand these characters, the more that the stakes of the stories are higher. I think what Michelle [Dockery] was just saying about the relationships and what she’s going to do and the idea that Mary has now decided by the end of Season 4 she said, “I know I will marry again. I’m not now” “I’m turning to life, and I’m going to be married.” But I think that whole challenge of how do you make a new relationship when your partner has died, how do you make a second marriage as an older, more mature person is way more complicated than the first relationship decision you make. So I think for all of these characters, everything is just ratcheted up. Everything is much more complicated. He’s still the guy stuck in no man’s land between these two worlds, but as you saw with the scene with Hugh Bonneville, the stakes are just higher and higher every time."

Dockery had this to say about Lady Crawley: "She’s very she’s very complex. I think that she she’s impulsive. So she makes these decisions, and then, you know, once she goes through with it, she looks back and actually realizes it wasn’t quite the right decision. And I think this series, she is quite impulsive, and she’s embracing her new life really. I think she’s through the grief now. And I kind of see Series 5 for Mary as the new Mary, I guess, in a way. And so with that, she’s got a bit of her bite back that we had in Series 1, which I’ve enjoyed playing, you know. It was lovely to do Series 4 with playing all of that emotion and everything, but this series is a lot more fun. So I’m enjoying it."

TV Critics Tour: The next 'Fargo' will forgo big stars (maybe)

Beverly Hills -- "Fargo" will return for a second season — no surprise — and will be written (along with assists by a number of top writers) by Noah Hawley — also no surprise — and will eventually be a huge magnet of commentary, bloviation and gaseous analysis by critics (like me.)

Again, no surprise. But here is the surprise: FX chief John Landgraf said Monday that fans should not expect...

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Emmy nominations 2014: 'True Detective' scores big

Woody Harrelson, left, and Matthew McConaughey in HBO's

(Credit: HBO / Jim Bridges)

"True Detective," HBO's first-year anthology series that was expected to make a showing at the 66th prime-time Emmy nominations announcement Thursday morning, made a showing -- and then some. The series scored a nod for best drama, catapulting it instantly into a rarefied orbit with multiple nominees "Breaking Bad," Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," "House of Cards" and "Mad Men" -- each of which also received a best drama nod.

In addition, both Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson -- the series' leads -- scored best actor nominations. That was a bit of a surprise, in that only McConaughey was considered an absolute lock. McConaughey is, by the way, almost certainly the favorite to win going into the August ceremony.

Meanwhile in terms of sheer numbers, FX's "Fargo" and "Game of Thrones" ended up in the winner's circle. "Fargo" got a total of eighteen nominations. "GoT" got nineteen.  


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The list of comedy award nominees was virtually a mirror of last year's list, with one notable exception: HBO freshman "Silicon Valley" also made the cut. Yes, indeed, it was a very, very good morning for HBO -- much less so for Showtime which got shut out for "Masters of Sex," but which did score one very big hit: Lizzy Caplan in the best actress category.

Meanwhile, "Modern Family" -- nominated of course -- now has a chance to win five best statues in a row. Here's your list... and do check back for more analysis, and head here for the snub list.

Drama series:

"Breaking Bad," "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," "House of Cards," "Mad Men," "True Detective"

What it means: That the strong remain strong. This list was absolutely predicted by everyone on the planet with a Twitter account and love of good-to-great TV. Certainly "TD" will have a few detractors -- HBO managed to get it into the prestigious drama category as opposed to the much less prestigious miniseries one. "TD" deserves to be here but "Fargo" fans would argue that it does as well. "Fargo" did well this morning - both Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton got nods - but it was still relegated to the mini cat. Will "TD" upset "Bad," which is looking to repeat? I kind of doubt that -- in Emmys, advantage usually, but not always, lies with the incumbent. But, of course, we shall see.   

Comedy series: "Big Bang Theory," "Louie, "Modern Family," "Orange is the New Black," "Silicon Valley," "Veep"

What it means: "Orange is the New Black" is a comedy? Did voters happen to see a different version from the one I saw? "Orange" is not a comedy, but it is a drama, although Netflix -- now a powerhouse in this industry -- managed to convince voters and the Emmy management apparatchiks otherwise. "Bang" certainly has the advantage here. 

Lead actor in a drama: Bryan Cranston, Jeff Daniels, Jon Hamm, Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey

What it means: Clearly it means just one thing -- will Jon Hamm finally win for crying out loud? I mean enough already. 

Lead actress in a drama:

Lizzy Caplan, "Masters of Sex"; Claire Danes, "Homeland"; Michelle Dockery, "Downton Abbey"; Julianna Marguiles, "The Good Wife"; Kerry Washington, "Scandal"; Robin Wright, "House of Cards​"

What it means: As always, the lead actress is the most hotly contended category is all of Emmydom; this extremely strong list still managed to leave out other quality candidates, yet no one can really argue with what's here. Caplan's inclusion is not a surprise but given the tough competition, a real achievement nonetheless. My hunch is that this race will come down to Wright and Margulies. 

Lead actor in a miniseries or movie:

Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba, Martin Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, Billy Bob Thornton

Lead actor in a comedy:

Louie CK, "Louie"; Don Cheadle, "House of Lies";  Ricky Gervais, "Derek";  Matt LeBlanc, "Episodes"; William H. Macy, "Shameless"; Jim Parsons, "Big Bang Theory"

What it means: Gervais is the huge upset here. I certainly didn't see this coming. But again, Parsons remains the fave.  

Lead actress in a comedy:

Lena Dunham, "Girls"; Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"; Melissa McCarthy, "Mike and Molly"; Amy Poehler, "Parks and Rec"; Taylor Schilling, "Orange is the New Black"

What it means: Without knowing just yet which episodes were submitted, it's hard to know how this will shake out. But I very much like Dunham's chances here. Nevertheless, this is Louis-Dreyfus's to lose -- which she pretty much has not yet. She's won the last two lead actress awards, and has to be absolute favorite to win again. Under normal circumstances, I would complain bitterly about the Emmys' utter predictability -- except that she is excellent and so is her show. No crime at all if she does win again. But still, Dunham is your dark horse.  

Lead actress in mini/movie: Helena Bonham Carter, "Burton and Taylor"; Minnie Driver, "Return to Zero"; Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, both "American Horror Story"; Cicely Tyson, "Trip to Bountiful"; Kristen Wiig, "The Spoils of Babylon"

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