News, scoops, reviews and more from TV land.
"The Walking Dead" is back for the second half of its fourth season Sunday. Here, without further babble, is my review. Bottom line: I still love this show, rolling zombie heads and all.
"The Walking Dead," AMC, Sunday, 9 p.m.
What it's about: In the wake of the epic prison battle between "The Governor's" (David Morrissey) forces and those loosely led by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), there is only death and chaos. The survivors begin to scatter as the "walkers" overrun the prison, now completely abandoned. Nothing -- in other words -- is the same. Battered Rick and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) stumble away to who-knows-what-or-where. Michonne (Danai Gurira) and her trusty katana hack their way through the chaos, too. But what remains of the others -- Glenn (Steven Yuen) or of Maggie (Lauren Cohan) or Daryl (Norman Reedus) or Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson) or ANYONE? All questions awaiting answers as the second half of the fourth season begins Sunday.
My say: In the 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy, "The Road" -- later made into the movie of the same name with Viggo Mortensen -- a man and his son pick their perilous way through a post-apocalyptic landscape that is (initially) sculpted only with questions and no answers. That's your scene-setter for Sunday night, too, and quite possibly the balance of the season: Down that long, muddy road where Rick and Carl struggle is most certainly danger -- but what lies at the end?
AMC has said "The Walking Dead" could go on for years and years, so that metaphoric highway now extends to a vanishing point on the horizon. But that tension of not knowing what lies around the next corner, or behind that closed door, or in the shadow of the dark woods is what has always animated "Dead" at its best.
Yet the "not knowing" turns Sunday night into a joy ride of real terror. For, like the survivors, we are all now in an unknown world surrounded (paradoxically) by familiar things -- white picket fences, cans of pudding, spacious homes with spacious, airy porches.
(Carl looks on in joy and wonderment at a wide-screen TV alongside a huge stack of DVDs, then his face clouds over: Oh, right.)
Sunday is brutal, but is also another reset that allows just the briefest light of humor and humanity to penetrate the gloom. And it is terrific.
Bottom line: "Dead" brazenly reinvents itself once again, and the result will have you crawl under the living room couch for safety. (Ah, yes, couches, thank goodness for those.)
In a blockbuster deal that stands to reorder primetime television, CBS has won bidding rights to air eight NFL Thursday night games next fall. The NFL -- as NBC has so clearly established -- has been hugely successful in primetime, indeed TV's single most successful ongoing program. CBS -- already strong, indeed dominant in primetime -- now stands to score as well.
The release: CBS will air eight early-season games that also will be simulcast on NFL Network. NFL Network will also televise eight late-season games in the run-up to the playoffs. The mix of games will include 14 on Thursday nights and two late-season games on Saturday. The full slate of 16 regular-season games will be produced by CBS with its lead broadcasters and production team, including Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, on all Thursday night games. In a new twist, NFL Network hosts and analysts will be featured in the pregame, halftime and postgame shows along with CBS Sports announcers. The agreement is for the 2014 season with an additional year at the NFL’s option.
The deal marks the return of regularly scheduled NFL games to a weeknight primetime schedule for the first time since 2006, when ABC ceded its Monday night franchise to ESPN. The NFL Network has carried the Thursday night games, presumably with some success, but the NFL Network is no CBS, of course.
Meanwhile, as CBS's competitors surely know, this is a major game-changer, to use the old cliche. Thursday nights have been owned by CBS for many years now -- certainly a factor that went into the NFL's thinking -- and this deal simply makes the network more omnipotent. The regularly scheduled series, such as "The Big Bang Theory" -- TV's top comedy -- and "Elementary" will simply start their seasons later, most likely in November, when the games are over, but possibly even in the new year. Overall, there doesn't appear to be any downside for the network.
Billy Crystal's one-man play, "700 Sundays," is coming to the big stage - a really big one. HBO just confirmed an April 19 airdate at 9 The throughline: "The exclusive presentation is an original two-act play in which Crystal plays numerous characters who have influenced who he is today, dealing with his youth, growing up in the jazz world of Manhattan, his teenage years and, finally, adulthood."
This is of course of significant interest to Long Islanders because so much of it covers with his youth in Long Beach...
Jay Leno is rolling out of "The Tonight Show" in three days, and Jimmy Fallon is rolling in - starting Feb. 17 - and so last night came the obligatory entrance interview: Jimmy's. It was all nice and gracious and thank yous were exchanged. (No addresses - they know where to find each other.) If you happened to have missed...
(Newsday app readers please go to Newsday.com/tvzone...)
Here's the one clip you may wish to watch today - Bill O'Reilly and President Barack Obama in a good-natured dispute over the "fairness" of Fox News. Of course, one is left here to interpret both the meaning of "good-natured" and "fair," but that's your call.
This was the portion of Sunday's pre-Super Bowl interview that was taped beforehand, and was not televised. You can perhaps see why - given the president's pointed criticism of Fox. But it's an interesting exchange, and hardly hostile, although it does point up the fact that presidents - all presidents - hate their media coverage. (And...cue to what the Chicago Tribune and Joseph Medill wrote about Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, and they were Lincoln supporters! The Trib - which helped elect Lincoln - harangued him repeatedly, and when some editors and the boss came to D.C. to protest the draft, Lincoln rhetorically kicked 'em to the curb: "And you, Medill, are acting like a coward.... you cry to be spared at a moment when the cause is suffering. Go home and send us those men." )
And I've drifted seriously off-topic; sorry. But my point is that presidents and their press have a long and fraught history, as you know. The interview was posted in full this morning on Foxnews.com. For the presidential anti-Fox censure, scroll forward to the five minute mark.
(Newsday app viewers please go to Newsday.com/tvzone):
Harold Wheeler, the longtime band leader for "Dancing With the Stars," was fired by the show Monday, earning both the show and the network a rare rebuke from the American Federation of Musicians. ABC did not name a replacement, while trade reports late Monday indicated that the show, which has relied on Wheeler and his 28-piece orchestra since the first season in 2005, could in part rely on canned music -- or "pre-existing sound recordings," in the parlance of the trade.
Ray Hair, chief of American Federation of Musicians, said in a statement: “People who love Dancing with the Stars also love the superb performances of the orchestra because it is such an integral part of the show. The tight, elaborate musical productions that catapulted the show into the top 10 in 17 countries can’t be duplicated by recordings and a small combo. Viewers, whether they are young or old, will reject that as artistic fraud.”
Wheeler, 70, has a long and distinguished career in Hollywood music circles, beginning in the early '60s as musical director for Burt Bacharach. He -- and his players -- are an integral part of the show: Their sound is a versatile pop one that ranges across genres but is clearly most comfortable with the oldies/goldies standards that have tended to characterize so many "DWTS" numbers over the years and which obviously appeal to the audience.
Which may be the problem here: That audience, which is very nearly the oldest in all of television, topping out at an average age of 62.1. Last fall, "DWTS" had the second-oldest average audience on television, which for ABC represents a massive sales problem. While "DWTS" may still be hugely popular, it is not hugely popular among young viewers.
Which of course is an understatement: People under 30 don't even know what "Dancing With the Stars" is.
In his statement, Hair continued: “It’s not like ABC and Disney don’t have any money and can’t afford an orchestra. It’s about the insatiable thirst for profits at the expense of music, art, and those who create it. Firing the band, using recordings, and hiring fewer musicians won’t boost ratings. It will kill the show.”
ABC and BBC Worldwide released this statement: "Our talented band leader and composer, Harold Wheeler, will not be joining us for season 18 of 'Dancing with the Stars.' Since season one, Harold and his band have performed brilliant live music in our ballroom for our dancers and the American viewers at home. We are grateful to him and his band for their amazing work and years of collaboration. We wish him the best of luck."
"DWTS" returns March 17.
Fox's telecast of Super Bowl XLVIII was a hit -- a major hit, a great hit, and in fact, the biggest TV hit of all times.
The number: 111.5 million viewers. (The previous record holder was the 2012 game (111.3 million.) Some reports have indicated Sunday night was a TV record -- and I am checking, but that does appear to be true.
So while this was the most viewed Super Bowl, it was also the most viewed TV program. Fascinating, considering both teams were smaller market ones and the game wasn't particularly good; but the point is, the Super Bowl is a meta-event, seemingly independent of matters like game quality or market size.
As Philip Seymour Hoffman fans and lovers of cinema continue to grapple with the actor's tragic death yesterday, I figured it would be valuable to look at a few of his TV interviews over the last few years. Not that these will help with "understanding" -- impossible -- but they at least will let you watch him explain his craft, and how it related to his life.
Hoffman was not a regular...Read more »
"24: Live Another Day," which will arrive on a TV set near you May 5, got an extended look during last night's telecast of Super Bowl XLVIII: Not quite a tease, but enough of a look to make everyone realize that Chaos and Destruction Happens Here. Some fans will probably (and are probably) intrigued by Chloe O'Brian's -- Mary Lynn Rajskub -- stylish new look: Sort of downtown punk chic. Quite obviously, she's out from behind all those terminals at CTU headquarters.
Newsday app watchers please head to newsday.com/tvzone to see Jack yell convincingly.
We have a winner and the winner is Jerry. Jerry Seinfeld stole the ad bowl of Super Bowl XLVIII, and that, my friends, is a wrap.
Why did I love this ad, which almost didn't seem like an ad -- which may have answered my own question? Clip below. In part because I'm a fan of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" -- which this promoted -- and because "Seinfeld" remains TV's greatest comedy 75 years in, so a nice little minishow in the big show, which happened to have been set in New York (or New Jersey, but you get the point) made it even better.
The top of my piece for the best Super Bowl ads in Monday's Newsday:
1.) "Seinfeld Reunion/Crackle:" That old tease, Jerry Seinfeld, told listeners of WFAN last week that his "Seinfeld" reunion wasn't a Super Bowl commercial, then amended that by saying it was "not not" one either. The dead giveaway there. But as it appeared last night, at Tom's Restaurant, with Jerry and George, and Newman supplying the kicker, this was the Super Bowl ad we all live for -- a fun, well-executed surprise that made us (me) miss "Seinfeld" all over again. Plus, his "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" is worth the plug.
And here's more. Seinfled has sent out this quote, which I suppose is his way of wiggling out of saying he wasn't doing a Super Bowl ad:
“Fox approached Larry and me about doing some kind of ‘Seinfeld’ reunion for the halftime broadcast because of the New York connection. So we thought throwing Jerry, George and Newman into a 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ was a fun way to do it. Larry and I wrote the script in one sitting, just like old times, and working with him, Jason and Wayne was a total blast as it always was.”
(Newsday app readers please go to newsday.com/tvzone.)