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Friday, January 29, 2010

"Conchords" co-creator in talks to direct Muppet movie

UPDATE: Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Bobin has signed on. This freaky dream is now reality.

New York Magazine's Culture Vulture is reporting that "Flight of the Conchords" co-creator James Bobin is being offered the chance to direct the upcoming Muppets feature. Since he's not officially attached yet, is it too soon for me to hope for the addition of a new Muppet, say a politically incorrect dragon named Albi?

As we reported back in June of '08, the movie is being written by "How I Met Your Mother" star and Judd Apatow alum Jason Segel, and is being hyped as a relaunch of the Muppets franchise. "Involved sources" say the Disney-produced movie is looking to start shooting in late summer.

With "Conchords" officially over, this could be a chance for Bobin to break out with a hit for his first full-length directorial effort. Let's hope he's got a better manager than Murray advising him.

-- Adam Reinhard,

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The end is near: Let the "Lost" countdown begin!

When we last saw the "Lost" gang in May, Jack had been hit in the head with a flying toolbox, weaselly Phil impaled by a magnetically-drawn pole, and oh yeah, Juliet fell down a large hole in dramatic -- and rather noisy -- fashion.

Ben and Faker Locke (who would have been so much cooler with blue skin like the old He-Man character) traveled to Jacob's lair ... and the visit quickly turned a bit, shall we say, stabby? At the bottom of her hole, bloody and battered Juliet desperately slammed a rock against the hydrogen bomb, turning the screen white and presumably, erasing the entire Oceanic crash and the "Lost" world we've known for five previous seasons.

And now we're FINALLY four days away from finding out the destiny-filled fates of our fabled island-dwellers. A five-year investment in a show -- that let's face it, has swallowed up way more time than say, four years of studying for a bachelor's degree ever did -- is finally coming to a close.

We can't wait to enjoy the ride -- and honestly, there's no reason why you can't join us. Just watch this hilarious (yet seriously informative) video and get caught up in 8 minutes like every other slacker.

Back with us? Good.

If ABC can air a clip show before the Season 6 premiere at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Channel Surfing figured it could do a little archive digging, as well. In honor of five brilliant seasons on the island, here's an updated version of our 10 favorite "Holy Crap" moments from "Lost."

Got your own favorites? Leave us a comment. And let's get talking before Tuesday!

10. Not in Portland: Edmund Burke is killed by a bus.

It might seem minor. After all, who is Edmund Burke? But that it was set up by Juliet's wishful thinking in front of the enigmatic Richard Alpert, well, it's the rare non-cliffhanger that made the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Man, those creepy "Others" are gooooood.

9. Live Together, Die Alone: Desmond discovers what happened when he didn't push the button.

"I think I crashed your plane." Classic. And then the sky turned purple.

8. The Man Behind the Curtain: Jacob to Locke, "Hellllpppp meeeeeee."

Locke turns into a doubting Thomas as Ben puts on a "show" in front of an empty chair. And then the fireworks really begin.

7. The Man From Tallahassee: Anthony Cooper is shown tied up in a closet via Ben's "magic box."

Locke getting shoved out an eight-story window by his old man may have helped solve one of the show's longstanding mysteries. But that was only the opening act. How did Ben conjure up the real Sawyer/Locke's father via the "magic box?" No one saw it coming.

6. The Incident: Jacob revealed, along with the mysterious Man in Black.

Just an amazing, awe-inspiring opening since viewers had no idea who or what they were looking at when the Season 5 finale began on a secluded beach. It's rare to see a scene this pivotal, or be introduced to characters this grandiose, five full seasons into a series. But "Lost" can pull that kind of maneuver off, and the accompanying conversation between the two longstanding rivals -- with its end line, "Do you know how badly I want to kill you?" -- makes the Widmore-Linus chess match seem like tiddly winks.

5. The Man Behind the Curtain: Richard Alpert appears to Ben having never aged.

Ben’s arrival on the island is pretty nondescript — at least until he starts to see his dead mother roaming in the woods. In his child-like haste, he tries to track her down — only to bump into another familiar face — one that’s too familiar when you consider Ben’s age at the time. Alpert as Ponce de Leon? Believe it.

4. The Incident: Ben finally meets Jacob, stabs him in a fit of rage.

Ben had previously used the mysterious Jacob as a prop for power in his interactions with Locke. But when Locke (or at least Ben believing it was Locke) brought the subservient leader of the Others to Jacob’s lair for the first time, it was the soul-crushing rejection from one simple line — “What about you?”— that drove Ben to an act of pure anguish.

3. Through the Looking Glass: Charlie drowns, but not before warning Desmond of the freighter.

Perhaps the most poignant death in the show’s history. A heart-wrenching slo-mo scene for Driveshaft fans everywhere — Charlie accepting his fate and making one last sign of the cross. Lighters in the air, please.

2. The Constant: “I know about Eloise.”

Desmond episodes have always been fascinating, but “The Constant” bent the parameters of time beyond recognition. Daniel Faraday’s Eloise experiment added dramatic depth to the island's warped properties, but allowing viewers to flash in and out with Mr. Hume, well, it was (nose) bloody brilliant.

1. Through the Looking Glass: “We have to go back, Kate!”

THE ending that Season 6’s finale may never be able to top. That completely twisted, out-of-left-field, you’ve gotta be kidding me, “we have to go back to the island” game changer. Past, present, future — it completely flipped the script for our favorite fatally-flawed island inhabitants.

— Thomas Rozwadowski,

10. The Variable: Eloise shoots Faraday.

In search of the buried hydrogen bomb, which he intends to detonate to reset the past, Daniel Faraday infiltrates the Others' camp and confronts Richard Alpert, gun drawn. Unbeknownst to Faraday, however, his mother, Eloise (a younger version of Eloise, as this is all happening in the ‘70s), sneaks up behind him and shoots the belligerent stranger in the back, killing the son she didn't know she had.

9. The Man Behind the Curtain: Jacob's cabin freak-out.

Not only one of the scariest moments in "Lost" history, but it actually increased our interest in Jacob, the enigmatic island honcho whose "lists" determine the actions of the Others. Our brief glimpse of his profile, his wide, wild eye, and his plaintive cry of "Help me" were only the start of a long, fascinating relationship with his ghostly presence.

8. Deus Ex Machina: A light comes on in the hatch.

When Locke and Boone discovered a mysterious door in the ground, that was crazy enough. But it was this episode where, after Boone's accident, Locke pounds on the hatch in a fit of despair and doubt, only to be answered by a glowing, humming light, coming from inside.

7. Exodus: Arzt gets careless with the dynamite.

This moment has no bearing on island mysteries, offered no development of major characters, nor added to show canon in any way. But the sudden, explosive death of Dr. Arzt served as a reminder that anything can happen on "Lost" at any time.

6. Raised By Another: Ethan wasn't on the manifest.

This episode marked the first appearance of an Other -- even though we had already been introduced to him as a castaway. Hurley's discovery that Ethan wasn't on the plane, followed by the immediate kidnapping of Claire and Charlie, began our ongoing adventure with the mysterious island originals.

5. Two For the Road: Michael shoots Ana Lucia.

We knew Michael, distraught over the loss of his son, would do anything to get Walt back from the Others. But his shooting of Ana Lucia was still shocking and brutal. Add blanket-seeking Libby to the body count and a desperate, cold-blooded hero-turned-villain suddenly emerged.

4. Catch-22: “They found the plane ... there were no survivors.”

There were always Internet rumors swirling around that the castaways never survived the plane crash and that the island was purgatory. But when parachuter Naomi revealed to Hurley that Flight 815 was found and that everyone on board was dead ... well, holy crap.

3. Walkabout: Locke was in the wheelchair.

Established knife-enthusiast and man of action John Locke is revealed to have been a bit of a loser pre-island. But it was all a distraction from the real surprise, that Locke couldn't even walk before Flight 815 crashed. A brilliant revelation that established the series as one deserving of total fan obsession.

2. There’s No Place Like Home: The island disappears.

The Oceanic Six head back to the island after Charles Widmore’s ship – and their hopes of rescue — are blown sky high. Just as they're about to land, Ben is in a secret chamber, pushing a mysterious wheel, and — POOF! — the island disappears, leaving only ripples in the water below.

1. Through the Looking Glass: “We have to go back, Kate!”

Until this, the third season finale, we only saw glimpses of the castaways’ pasts, and the struggles that led them to the island. But when Kate stepped out of the shadows and into what we had presumed was another Jack flashback, not only was it clear that they made it off the island, but in Jack’s case — “We have to go back, Kate! We have to go back!’’ – that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

— Adam Reinhard,


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pernell Roberts: An appreciation

Pernell Roberts died this past weekend. A relatively minor celebrity death after the year we just had, but it hit me especially hard. I guess that's what happens when your namesake dies.

Yes, I was named after Adam Cartwright, the character Roberts played on the still-popular 60s TV Western "Bonanza." My mother, it is safe to say, was and is the world's biggest "Bonanza" fan. Adam was her favorite character, and Pernell Roberts her earliest celebrity crush.

I grew up watching "Bonanza" reruns with her, and it was easy to see why she favored Adam over the show's more obvious teen idol, Michael "Little Joe" Landon. Adam was the oldest of the three Cartwright boys, meaning he was the responsible, mature one. He was well-read, musically inclined; a sensitive artsy type, basically. Little Joe, by comparison, was just a punk. (My favorite character, of course, was Hoss, because he was the funny fat guy. No kid's gonna like Adam more than Hoss, namesake be damned.)

As I grew up, I began to appreciate how talented Roberts really was. Besides being a good-looking dude (I wish he could have been my jawline-sake, too -- holy crap), Roberts was a pretty fine actor, to boot. (Get it? Boot? Western.) One of my all-time favorite "Bonanza" episodes featured Roberts and Lee Freaking Marvin in an epic battle of wills and scene-chewing. SPOILER ALERT: This clip is from the end of the episode, but it's a good example of Roberts' formiddable chops.

Roberts famously left "Bonanza" after six seasons, at the peak of its popularity. He got some bit roles here and there on shows like "Mission: Impossible," and eventually headlined another series, "Trapper John M.D.," in the 70s. But he never quite acheived the level of success both I, and especially my mom, thought he deserved.

Here then, in tribute, is another clip from "Bonanza": Adam and guest-star Hoyt Axton singing a fittingly appropriate song called "Endless Road."

-- Adam Reinhard,

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Catch Anthony Bourdain's live tour at the Weidner in June

When I told people I was seeing Anthony Bourdain -- host of the Travel Channel's "No Reservations" and bestselling author of multiple culinary-themed books -- in Milwaukee last week on his live tour, the obvious question arose: what exactly was he going to do?

Truthfully, I had no idea. Bourdain, the author of "Kitchen Confidential" and "A Cook's Tour" who has made a living in the past decade from traveling the world in search of the best local cuisine on the Food Network and now the Travel Channel, is a wealth of talent. If you've watched his show, you know he's articulate, literate, thoughtful and profane with a genuine curiosity about the world and a passion for food. But, heck, he could have done jumping jacks for half-an-hour on stage, and I still would have gotten my money's worth.

On Friday, Bourdain got a full house at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee to listen enraptured to a routine that would make both stand-up comics and Harvard professors proud and jealous. He eviscerated some of his favorite Food Network targets (Sandra Lee, Guy Fieri), waxed prosaic about some of his favorite foods (he would cook Italian food for the rest of his life if he could) and blasted the meat industry for their practice of putting ammonia in ground meat as per this NY Times article. "Top Chef" fans will be glad to know that Bourdain gave high praise to the Bravo show (and Channel Surfing favorite), saying he would probably not last past the sixth or seventh episode himself.

Aside from the Q&A portion -- which was dominated by people in love with their own voice and lame invites to get him out to the bars that night -- Bourdain made the audience laugh, cringe and occasionally groan at his series of off-the-cuff remarks and stories. He's every bit the personality he is on his show, and his tour isn't as much a rehash of things we've already read or seen as it is a private conversation with the man.

Lucky for Wisconsin, we get to invite Tony back to our state in June -- and get this -- he'll actually be IN Green Bay. Presale tickets go on sale today for his show at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts on June 11.

--Malavika Jagannathan,

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"Psych"-ed for the return of this ridiculous comedy-mystery show

While some of my fellow bloggers were eagerly counting down the days until "Lost" or "24," I've been awaiting the return of a slightly less... er... serious show for months now. That wait is finally over. Tonight "Psych" returns with its first new episodes since a hiatus in October, and, well, pardon the pun, but I'm psyched!

I've previously extolled the virtues of funny crime shows that are popular with viewers, but this USA Network show has a special spot on my list of favorites because of its utter ridiculousness. Sure, fake psychic detective Shawn (James Roday) and reluctant sidekick Gus (Dule Hill) solve mysteries, but they do it with style -- and lots of 80s references and a rapid-fire dialogue between the two that rivals "Gilmore Girls."

In no way should this be mistaken for a crime or cop show, although the mysteries are often interesting in their own quirky, bizarre way (but usually predictable). It's first and foremost a comedy. Shawn and Gus are a great team in an era of television that has sadly lost the "buddy mystery solving duo" archetype, and their love-hate-love relationship and brightly-colored shirts are reason enough to watch. Plus, they drive a tiny blue car, and everyone knows tiny cars = hilarity!

"Psych" is testing out new waters on Wednesday nights. It premieres at 9 p.m. on USA tonight (after the State of the Union, you'll need a little levity). Don't believe me? Check out Entertainment Weekly's list of 10 reasons to love the show.

--Malavika Jagannathan,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'Breaking Bad' pushes boundaries in billboard form

"Breaking Bad" has taken its dark humor to Times Square in a big way.

In a brilliant promotional move as Season 3 of the AMC drama premieres March 21, the network mounted a billboard next to one of President Barack Obama that had generated some minor controversy these past few weeks.

Long story short, Weatherproof outerwear purchased the rights to an Associated Press photo of Obama wearing its jacket in front of the Great Wall of China. They put up the billboard with a campaign tag line of "A Leader in Style" -- prompting a White House lawyer to contact the company and demand they take the billboard down (which has yet to happen.)

AMC struck fast with its own billboard, this one with Bryan Cranston as unlikely meth kingpin Walter White sporting a gas mask on his head. The word "Weatherproof" is replaced with "You Got No Proof" and instead of "A Leader in Style," the "Bad" billboard boldly declares: "A Dealer in Style."

"We saw that first billboard, and we thought, wouldn't it be great if we were the ones to replace it?" AMC president Charlie Collier told the Associated Press.

Having the audacity to place one of TV's most notorious drug dealers next to the Prez? Now you know why "Breaking Bad" is one of the brassiest shows ever aired.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Conan's 'Freebird' farewell scores big

Unlike that Brett Favre guy (sorry, Vikings fans), Conan O'Brien really is going out on top.

Preliminary Nielsen ratings suggest that O’Brien won a hefty audience for his final hour hosting “The Tonight Show.” Coco scored a 7.0 rating for Friday night's farewell appearance on NBC, compared to a 2.5 rating for CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman."

Slight vindication perhaps, but it'll be interesting to see whether Conan's audience remains loyal in whatever new venture he chooses to pursue later this year. And not just for the first couple of episodes, mind you.

Despite NBC bungling the entire late night situation, perhaps this is a lesson to Conan's devoted followers that you can't take anything for granted. Better ratings might have led to Leno's ouster, instead.

As for Conan's final show, the hour zipped by with a few nice touches -- Steve Carell conducting an exit interview, Tom Hanks being his typical wacky self and a quick montage of best "Tonight Show" moments. But Conan saved his best for last, particularly during a heartfelt, classy closing monologue where he asked the audience to not be cynical about his predicament -- or anything else for that matter.

"I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen."

That segued into a jammin' "Freebird"-for-all alongside Will Ferrell, Beck, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and Ben Harper. Unexpected, awesome and with more cowbell than you could ever want.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Late night scorecard: Conan reaches exit deal

With NBC finally announcing it has reached a $45 million deal with Conan O’Brien to exit "The Tonight Show," we can't help but feel a little upset that all this drama is going to end soon.

After all, we haven't been this excited about late night television
since "Thicke of the Night," but hey, there's always Conan's next career move to look forward to.

If that day on a rival network comes, late night TV will be cutthroat as ever, but for now, we're going to enjoy these last two episodes of inspired "Tonight Show" revelry as Conan uses everything in his arsenal to mercilessly mock and further bankrupt his soon-to-be ex-employer.

Under the just announced deal, Conan will get more than $33 million, while the rest will go to his staff in severance. Conan's final show will be Friday, and Leno will return to “Tonight” on March 1. Conan is free to return to TV as soon as September.

What should you, dear viewer, make of the fallout? Well, we have a convenient (and admittedly biased) scorecard in case you've been watching "George Lopez" reruns on Nick at Nite instead.

Jay Leno

Why he wins: Leno not only gets his old show back -- the one he successfully helmed for 17 years -- but he also gets to retire on his terms. Despite his "gracious" words for Conan, there's nothing like being the last man standing in a bitter showbiz mess, and twice, Leno has proved the victor. Leno also can work with a chip on his shoulder since chief rival, David Letterman, reclaimed the late night ratings throne in his absence. Plus, "The Jay Leno Show" is such a black mark, and having been told by NBC that he couldn't maintain his grip on the top spot, the workaholic Leno has a lot to prove now.

Why he loses: Blue-collar, car-rustlin', jean-shirt wearin' Jay won the late night ratings battle in large part because he comes across as a humble everyman -- a persona Letterman repeatedly has tried to poke holes in this week by insinuating Leno's phoniness. It's hard to deny that Jay has a Brett Favre-ian charm that way. But just like Favre, the public relations battle hasn't been so easy to manipulate this time around. Leno has taken several hits throughout the course of this all-too public NBC debacle, with the comedy community and Hollywood rallying wholeheartedly behind Conan. That's not to say anyone has outwardly called Leno a "bad guy" -- Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser certainly love him -- but if one were inclined to pick sides, sympathy would overwhelmingly be in Conan's court. Leno's stab at tilting the scales this week by noting that NBC has fired him twice and that he's not responsible for the overall mess may have curried some favor, or could even have grains of truth to it. But for the most part, it was seen in critical circles as a largely transparent attempt at damage control. Much like Letterman has pointed out on his show, Channel Surfing believes Leno is being viewed as a manipulator who had his chance in the spotlight and should have gone away to another network instead of hovering in the background to the detriment of Conan.

Where does he go from here: NBC executive Dick Ebersol all but confirmed in his "chicken-hearted" screed against Conan that late night hosts are expected to play ball. And no one plays ball better than Leno, who has long been accused of sacrificing comedy for broader mass appeal -- which of course, helps catapult you in the ratings. Here's a bet that "Tonight" will get a huge bump from its returning audience of "Jaywalking" fanatics and eventually topple Letterman's show again. When he does retire -- with Jimmy Fallon perhaps waiting in the wings this time -- Leno will be No. 1, but he won't ever be as respected as Johnny Carson or Letterman. So basically, we're back to where we were last year before Conan took over. Ho-hum.

Conan O'Brien

Why he wins: Conan refused to buckle under pressure twice -- the first time when Ebersol all but let it leak that he didn't tailor his show to be more like Leno's version of "Tonight," and best of all, when he issued his fantastic statement about not contributing to the destruction of a hallowed institution. This past week of brilliant, bittersweet comedy has also confirmed that Conan could have been a major player given more time and support. The ratings rise alone is a huge moral victory. Also, Conan's online army via Twitter and Facebook further affirms that his audience skews young, which will be advantageous in the long term if someone like Fox chooses to snatch him up. In the end, Conan comes out the martyr and can eventually get back to doing a show on his terms (more "Late Night"-style musical guests, please) without the pressure of both the "Tonight" banner and Leno's heavy ratings shadow hanging overhead. Oh, and it might be nice to be appreciated by one's bosses.

Why he loses: Though NBC is trying to spin this latest blow by saying that Conan is the one walking away from his contract, he's literally and figuratively the red-headed stepchild in all of this. Leno won the popularity contest with NBC brass -- first by getting heavy promo time and A-listers in the 9 p.m. slot, and again with a renewed half-hour presentation in the old "Tonight" spot. Bottom line: Leno's the proven commodity. So regardless of Conan's settlement and the respect he's gained for his handling of the unfair treatment, Leno gets the prize inside the cereal box and Conan looks like the kid in the corner with a dunce cap. If Leno does as expected and bests Letterman again, that'll only continue to reflect poorly on Conan's short-lived "Tonight" reign. Still, seven months on the job and a very public ouster doesn't do a whole lot for the ol' self-confidence. Though he earned the "Tonight" reins, Conan's legacy is tainted simply because he couldn't outlast Leno's bionic chin.

Where does he go from here: Hey, if Magic Johnson can have a failed late night talk show, so can Conan, right? In the end, it's probably best for Conan to get rid of the burden that comes with Leno-like expectations on a fading network. Though NBC rightfully wanted him in the fold as their "future star," they clearly didn't realize that he brought a completely different, un-Leno-like comedy approach to the 10:35 p.m. slot. The honeymoon lasted seven months. That lapse in judgment and the subsequent pressure to deliver stellar ratings left a sour impression with NBC suits. Ultimately, Conan controls his own destiny. And though Fox appears to make the most sense from a competitive standpoint, with $33 million in walk-away dollars, I wouldn't be surprised if Conan chooses a different comedy path and stays away from the Leno-Letterman ratings fray. Whatever he does, he'll have a loyal following. And with youth on his side, he'll come out the long term winner when Leno and Letterman are both retired. You know, unless NBC decides Leno's propped-up corpse is still viable property at 10:35 p.m. It's not like dead, rotting Jay could be any less funny, right?

David Letterman

Why he wins: Dave gets to lob spitballs from the back of class and rag on Leno -- obviously a favorite pastime of his. Also, instead of coming across as increasingly bitter because he lost the "Tonight" battle all those years ago, Letterman is finally playing off public disdain for Leno. It puts Letterman in the position to be both funny, and in his estimation, honest about how he's long assessed his late night rival's phony, backstabbing behavior. Ever since Leno snatched the crown from Carson, Letterman has probably longed for this moment. The running commentary on his show this week shows why. He's savoring every last drop.

Why he loses: Letterman can't beat Leno. Maybe public opinion will shift following the Conan treatment, but if viewers didn't drop Leno for Letterman because of pure comedy in the past, why would it happen upon Jay's return? Trumping his rival again will only validate Leno's choice to stick around, and consequently make NBC feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Sure, it'd be nice if Letterman went out on top, but "Tonight" is still the late night franchise with the most cachet. And Leno is still probably going to be as likeable as ever, despite these few bumps he's endured the past few weeks. The Leno formula works just like the "American Idol" formula works, just like the Larry the Cable Guy formula works, so on and so forth. No reason to think anything changes now.

Where does he go from here: We'd love to see Letterman bring Conan on his show when all is said and done -- even if Conan signs some sort of agreement that prohibits him from ripping on NBC in public. You know Letterman won't abide by that gag order. And wow, what a ratings coup that would be. If Letterman could somehow swing that for Leno's first night back, it could be all the momentum he needs.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stuck in "The Middle" with the Hecks

ABC's "Modern Family" may have dibs on the critical and awards buzz, but there's another family on the network that's equally deserving of praise. True, the concept of "The Middle" isn't revolutionary: Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") and Neil Flynn (the janitor from "Scrubs") head up the middle-class family of slightly unhinged children and attempt to survive the trials of Midwestern life.

Channel Surfing bloggers Malavika Jagannathan and Adam Reinhard were surprised that this sort of, well, middling show could be so heartfelt, hilarious, and the season's most underappreciated new sitcom.

Malavika: To be honest, family-centric sitcoms always made me a bit uncomfortable. As much as I loved "The Cosby Show" and, yes, even "Growing Pains," I grew out of that phase pretty quickly. If I wanted to laugh at someone's family, well, I'd laugh at my own. So, I was pretty surprised at how much I liked "The Middle." Patricia Heaton has always been good at playing the harried mom type and Neil Flynn pretty much shines in anything he does. But, truly, it's their kooky kids -- teenage son Axl, almost always wandering the house in nothing but boxers; the eager but perennial failure at whatever she does Susan; and the totally weird youngest child Brick -- that pushes this past "Malcolm in the Middle" territory.

Families are weird, and the Hecks are no exception. But they don't treat the weirdness as something to be ashamed of. If there's a message you want to pass on to your kids, it's that being different is OK (unless, of course, you're in junior high), so it's nice to see a show doing that without getting all preachy about it.

The Hecks are also a middle-class family in a normal, suburban neighborhood like the ones most of us grew up in (no offense to "Modern Family" but the palatial houses the characters live in are a tad ridiculous, especially when it seems like none of them ever actually go to work). Instead, they live in a house that's often messy, where everyone has to fight over the bathroom and no one has any privacy. With dad Mike (Flynn) working at a quarry -- and recently losing the job -- and mom Frankie (Heaton) eeking out a living as a car saleswoman with almost no sales, the Hecks aren't rolling in dough. Undoubtedly many families can relate to that given the state of the economy. One could argue that television ought to be an escape from real life, but in a television landscape where the lives of the rich and wealthy are often extolled, it's nice to see an average, middle-of-the-road family given the same respect.

Adam: I totally agree. The Hecks are the most realistic, relatable family on TV right now; in fact, I'm having trouble thinking of any family in all of TV history that could give them a run for their money.

"The Middle" has obvious forebearers, like "Malcolm in the Middle," as you mentioned (although it is thankfully far less wacky), but especially the mother of all blue-collar comedies, "Roseanne." Whereas that undoubtedly classic sitcom served as a showcase for Roseanne Barr's standup routines, with her children little more than window dressing, "The Middle" is much more of an ensemble effort. Heaton is obviously the main character, but unlike Roseanne, she doesn't get the lion's share of laughs. In other words, she doesn't sit around the kitchen all day spitting wisecracks; on the contrary, Frankie Heck is almost constantly in motion, running from one family emergency to the next, and that's where the humor is derived from. That's what we can all relate to.

It's a near-miracle that "The Middle" is as funny as it is. Shouldn't all the jokes about family life be exhausted by now? Yet these are some deftly written characters. There have been shows with geeky teenagers before, but not one quite like Sue Heck (Eden Sher). With her boundless optimism that always -- and I mean always -- comes crashing head-on with her stunning social ineptitude, she's unique for a TV teenage girl. Take the episode where she stands up to some neighborhood bullies, challenging them to a fight after school. Unfortunately, her concept of "fighting" obviously comes from "You Got Served," and merely includes choreographed dance moves to "Kung Fu Fighting," which results in the bullies pushing her and her friend over and stealing their boombox. "They didn't even let us finish!" she cries to her parents later. "And we worked really hard on those moves!"

Each character is given similar moments to shine. Youngest child Brick (Atticus Shaffer) at first seems like a clone of "Malcolm in the Middle's" Dewey -- he even looks like Erik Per Sullivan. Both boys are highly intelligent for their ages, and a bit withdrawn, Brick never seeks to be the center of attention. He favors sleeping under the table for a month unnoticed rather than telling his parents he doesn't want to share a room with his brother. Yes, his penchant for repeating some words as a whisper while staring at the ground seemed like it would get old after the first few episodes, it is used infrequently, and only as punctuation on other jokes.

"The Middle" will never be confused with edgier fare like "30 Rock" or "Community," but it's a show you can watch with the entire family.

"The Middle" airs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,; Adam Reinhard,

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Clip of the week: A Stern warning about Leno

Spied this on a Conan Facebook fan page this weekend and thought it was worth sharing. From Dec. 14, 2006, here's Howard Stern with an interesting perspective on Jay Leno given recent (ahem) headlines.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Golden Globes: Cable continues to dominate

The good thing about DVR's? You can whip past all the commercials and awards fluff to see exactly what you need from a given telecast.

The bad thing? Day-after commentaries tend to lose quite a bit of luster when you've skipped past three-fourths of the ceremony.

And with that, here are your TV winners from last night's Golden Globes.

In the short amount of time we saw host Ricky Gervais, he appeared comfortable and quite funny. Also, thumbs up to "Mad Men" for another sterling win in the Best Drama category. And since we're currently playing catch-up with Showtime's "Dexter" on DVD, we were happy to see Michael C. Hall (right) rewarded -- especially since he's being treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma. Coupled with John Lithgow's victory, we have high hopes for Season 4 when it's eventually released on DVD.

Series, drama: “Mad Men,” AMC.

Actor, drama: Michael C. Hall, “Dexter.”

Actress, drama: Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife.”

Series, musical or comedy: “Glee,” Fox.

Actor, musical or comedy: Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock.”

Actress, musical or comedy: Toni Collette, “United States of Tara.”

Miniseries or movie: “Grey Gardens,” HBO.

Actor, miniseries or movie: Kevin Bacon, “Taking Chance.”

Actress, miniseries or movie: Drew Barrymore, “Grey Gardens.”

Supporting actor, series, miniseries or movie: John Lithgow, “Dexter.”

Supporting actress, series, miniseries or movie: Chloe Sevigny, “Big Love.”

-- Channel Surfing staff


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Our picks: Best TV Show of the Decade

Asking TV junkies to not only pick but rank their favorite shows from the past decade feels a lot like asking Mike and Carol Brady to line up the Brady kids and choose the grooviest dresser.

Yet as unfair as it might seem to celebrate only 10 shows from the past 10 years, our Channel Surfing bloggers were up to the challenge.

Here are our Best TV Shows of the Decade. Feel free to respectfully disagree in our comments section ... or even better, go shopping for some new DVD sets today!

10. “Rome”: “Rome” was an overheated, uberviolent, supersexed potboiler of a historical melodrama, but great Caesar’s ghost was it pretty to look at. HBO basically rebuilt the entire ancient city out in the Italian countryside, down to the last aqueduct, to film this epic series that retold the lives of Julius, Brutus and the gang, along with some assorted fictional underlings. In terms of scale, TV has yet to see its equal.

9. “The Venture Bros.”: No other animated series of the 2000s — and almost no other series period — is as densely plotted and intricately layered as this Cartoon Network spoof on superheroes, spies and classic Saturday morning cartoons. Multiple viewings are required to take in every gag, reference, one-liner, and character turn, which fly by at a ridiculous rate. Now in its fourth season, it’s still going strong.

8. “Veronica Mars”: “Veronica Mars” gave modern television audiences its most endearing misanthrope in ages: the sassy, pint-sized teen detective for which the show is named. Shows just don’t come much more smartly written than this regrettably short-lived drama, and the roundly superb cast — who at every turn made the show as grounded and believable as anything else on TV — helped make this a cult sensation.

7. “Firefly”: A quirky sci-fi western that Fox canned after airing only 11 episodes, rabid fans nonetheless bought the DVD box set in droves. This happens often to cult TV shows, but rarely do they then get a movie made. But “Firefly” was no ordinary cult show: Visually inventive, each episode already looked like a feature film. It was exciting, funny, scary, romantic, and dangerous in ways many shows can only dream of.

6. “Gilmore Girls”: As far as shows geared toward the entire family go, the 2000s never topped the superior wit and whimsy of those darned “Gilmore Girls.” With more words per minute than a Mamet play, each episode of the WB dramedy sounded like a classic screwball comedy, with an extended cast of crazies that only gave the story of a young mom and her bookworm teen daughter an amazing emotional heft.

5. “The Colbert Report”: What started out as a joke, a one-off fake promo for a fake show during “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” quickly ballooned into not only it sister show’s perfect companion, but every bit its equal. Host Stephen Colbert’s exaggerated outrage at current events provides a perfect foible for the overtrumped sensationalism of today’s “real” cable news shows. “The Colbert Report” provides some of the most relevant social commentary that you’ll find in popular culture today.

4. “Arrested Development”: Every decade has a defining sitcom family; the Naughts, for all its dysfunction and mishaps, are a perfect fit for the Bluths. Not only were they a disjointed and bickering bunch, but their ongoing legal troubles regarding their real estate business predated our current predicament. Oh, and it was also the funniest, most eminently quotable sitcom of the decade, which helps.

3. “The Office UK”: The original — and still superior — sitcom about a documentary crew following the mundane doings of a struggling paper supply company, headed by a childish, dimwitted boss. The British “Office” was remarkable for its subtle study of everyday desperation and boredom, and its humor came from recognizing ourselves in the tedious existences of the show’s core characters. A pure television work of art.

2. “Lost”: Often imitated, never duplicated, “Lost” has a way of ensnaring its audience the way only great TV dramas can. What other show operates on so many levels, encompasses such a wide spectrum of genres, and juggles an ungodly number of plot threads, mythologies, red herrings and characters, without completely collapsing? Not only that, but “Lost” has been embraced by popular culture more than almost any other scripted drama this decade.

1. “The Wire”: This won’t be the only place you read this, but “The Wire” is the greatest television show ever made. The harshly realistic crime drama transcended every cliché, broke every boundary, supplanted every assumption, and never played out like a traditional television narrative. Watching it was like reading a great work of fiction; and like a literary classic, should be required viewing for all students of great TV.

-- Adam Reinhard,

10. “Desperate Housewives”: This ABC dramedy brought back the prime-time soap in style for the oughts. With a lead cast of women — some of them, gasp, past their Hollywood prime of 35 — “Desperate Housewives” immediately seduced its audience into its brand of wacky combination of romance and mystery. Even with a leap forward in time five years, a gimmick that rarely if ever works, never has life in the suburbs looked so good as it does on Wisteria Lane.

9. “Friday Night Lights”: Rarely does a show about sports transcend the x’s and o’s, but “Friday Night Lights” gave us a whole new perspective on football, family and the hopes of a small town. Based on a book and a movie of the same name, the NBC drama followed the high school football team of Dillon, Texas to the state championships and beyond. Still, it’s characters that play the biggest role, not the games, and the show’s portrayal of middle-class small-town America that’s at the heart of this winning drama.

8. “Coupling UK”: This BBC show was a raunchy, hilarious comedy about the dating adventures of six friends in London. All comparisons to “Friends” end there because “Coupling” was far more realistic and frank in its examination of relationships, sex and the battle of the sexes. With madcap characters and sidesplitting plots, “Coupling” was really a comedy of manners, not a traditional sitcom, and that’s probably why it failed to translate across the Atlantic in a hideous 2003 remake.

7. “Gilmore Girls”: This family-friendly WB drama gave birth to one of television’s coolest mom’s — the hip, young Lorelai Gilmore — but the pop-culture references, mile-a-minute dialogue and an endless group of bizarre but lovable characters made it a classic. Lorelai and daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel), a smart studious teenager, gave us seven seasons of laughter and tears, not to mention at least a thousand cups of coffee.

6. “Veronica Mars”: Sassy, intelligent Veronica Mars was an updated Nancy Drew for the new millennium. She endures the social demotion among her well-off peers after the murder of her best friend, but channels her cynicism into helping her ex-Sheriff-turned-private-investigator father solve crimes small and large. Well-written and filled with wonderful characters, the short-lived show succeeded thanks to its loyal fans and gave us one of televisions greatest female characters.

5. “Mad Men”: This retro love letter to the 1960s woos and wows with thoughtful pacing, brilliant characters and engrossing plots. Pencil skirts and skinny ties aside, the AMC drama plunges deep into marriage, relationships, gender, race and political turmoil with an artistic touch and deliberate narrative pace. The complexity of the characters — especially the three lead women — and the show’s use of silence to punctuate dramatic moments are but two of the myriad reasons why it dazzles.

4. “Freaks and Geeks”: Never has a show been so accurate in its reflection of the angst, joy or humiliation associated with being a teenager in high school. Instead of focusing on perky cheerleaders with unblemished skin, “Freaks and Geeks” chose to examine the awkward existence of two misfit cliques at suburban McKinley High School. The characters were real and the stories resonated because we all knew people like that or were people like that in high school.

3. “The West Wing”: This award-winning NBC drama came close to showing us how it should be done in Washington D.C. Whatever your personal politics, Martin Sheen’s President Josiah Bartlett was someone Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike could all respect, if not vote for. Though “The West Wing” suffered creatively from creator Aaron Sorkin’s departure after the fourth season, the show thrived on superior acting, realistic storylines and an idealistic hope that government could do good.

2. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”: Jon Stewart and his cadre of fake reporters became the definitive voice of satire in the last decade. Stewart skewers hypocrisy in media and politics with an enviable balance of gravitas and irreverence that real newsmen like NBC’s Brian Williams appreciate. But his genuine passion is evident, which sets him apart from his comic companions, and he continues to redefine newsworthiness with his half-hour late night show.

1. “The Wire”: David Simon’s epic HBO series is a literary masterpiece dressed up to look like a cop show. In five seasons, the show unpeeled the layers of institutional neglect and failures in Baltimore through the eyes of cops, drug dealers, working class laborers, children, politicians, and, yes, even junkies. “The Wire” was unflinching, unapologetic and absolutely riveting. Forget best of the decade, it’s the best television show ever.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

10. “Flight of the Conchords”: As original as the folk-digi-pop hybrid that would score the short-lived HBO show, “Conchordsisn’t terribly deep or even fully connected. Instead, it relied on catchy, quick-witted song parodies like “Business Time” and “Hurt Feelings” to get from plot point A to Z in absurd fashion (dogs with epilepsy, anyone?). Plus it had the world’s most incompetent underdog in Murray Hewitt, one of the truly great TV characters of the past 10 years. Non-stop hilarity? Definitely present.

9. “Curb Your Enthusiasm”: Before Larry David ventured on his own for a faux-day-in-the-life-of-series based on his post-“Seinfeld” travails, Jason Alexander received all the credit for his memorable turn as short, stocky rage-aholic George Costanza. But it turned out that Alexander was merely playing Larry David, a point that would become all-too clear as the “Seinfeld” co-creator used his HBO platform to develop an even more selfish, crass, oblivious version of Costanza as mad genius. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.

8. “Mad Men”: Slick and savvy, patient and pensive, “Mad Men” is the road TV should continue to head down in a new decade. While most shows are quick to boast of an immediate hook or ostentatious plot grab, this Emmy-award winning AMC drama about Madison Avenue ad executives refuses to be pigeonholed by the tumultuous ‘60s it dares to reflect. And how do they keep Don Draper so amazingly likeable despite all that philandering?

7. “Arrested Development”: It never got old hearing the familiar voice of Ron Howard introduce each episode of “Arrested Development,” even if the idea of the Bluths as a bottomed-out family with normal flaws and foibles grew increasingly absurd with each passing manipulation. Critically revered but ratings challenged in its three seasons, “AD” is so cerebral, so rapid fire with its inside joke telling, it really deserves its own comedy category.

6. “Breaking Bad”: As mild-mannered chemistry teacher turned unlikely meth kingpin Walter White, Bryan Cranston has developed a character who is both protagonist and antagonist thanks to a half-cocked/fully-cooked scheme that started with the best intentions. Though Cranston’s demented conversion as a slowly sinking cancer patient created an indelible mark after two seasons, “Bad’s” impeccable writing and stellar cast (most notably Aaron Paul as wayward junkie, Jesse) gives the gritty drama an emotional resonance that is all too fitting in these desperate, delusional economic times.

5. “Freaks and Geeks”: While most high school dramedies preferred to shine a light on beautiful cheerleaders and edgy James Dean-types played by 35-year-olds, “Freaks and Geeks” chose to mine humor from the grotesque popularity contest known as the high school clique system. Some scars never heal, but Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s brilliant reflection on adolescence at least made the acne-riddled torture tolerable.

4. “Lost”: A mystery wrapped inside a riddle wrapped inside an enigma wrapped inside a smoke monster, “Lost” has had so many "no F'n way" moments during its five season run (the sixth and final season begins next month), the show feels like it’s been on for fifty years. Though the intricate island mythology has dominated day-after discussion to the point where college courses could be taught on the Dharma Initiative's dealings, “Lost” will always be remembered as a character-driven drama first, philosophy-fueled sci-fi adventure second.

3. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”: Even to this day, Stewart and his team of Comedy Central crack-ups come off as the kids in the back of class shooting spitballs at the hypocritical dullards in the front. But just how smart and scathing they can be – while remaining so intensely rational and respected despite the brutality of partisan politics – remains “The Daily Show’s” most stunning achievement as it continues to make “real news” watching obsolete.

2. “The Sopranos”: While it’s hardly a surprise that a show centered on a New Jersey mob boss would deal with difficult moral quandaries and brutal retribution befitting the Mafia code of conduct, “The Sopranos” became more that a gritty guy drama thanks to its intricate portrayal of family. More than anything though, its landmark production and storytelling helped transform TV into a medium where important art could be created … and eventually ceased with a controversial cut to black.

1. “The Wire”: One of those shows that critics and discerning TV viewers obsessively talk about, you join a special club when all five seasons of “The Wire” are under your belt. In its most simplistic terms, “The Wire” is a cop drama about the Baltimore drug trade. But that’s kind of like saying the Grand Canyon is a rock formation with some big holes. That the show used the city of Baltimore as a central character helped it to make poignant observations about those left behind in drug-addled, dilapidated neighborhoods. Quite simply, “The Wire” will reach into your soul like no other show before it.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

10. “Lost’’: It seemed so simple in the beginning: a show about plane crash survivors who get stranded on an island. Then came the flashbacks, flashforwards, the DHARMA initiative, the Others and more cryptic, time-bending storylines than a mind can handle. Whether you watch it to dissect every background song and book cover or just for the Kate-Sawyer-Jack love triangle, it’s like nothing else network TV has ever seen.

9. “Ugly Betty’’: The last decade would’ve been a little less colorful – and a lot less catty – without the world of Mode magazine, where everything/everybody is high fashion, bright neon and rather plastic. As nasty good fun as it is to watch Willy, Amanda and Marc spew snotty insults, it’s ultimately America Ferrara’s adorably dorky, stubbornly sunny Betty who gives a show about inner beauty its heart.

8. “Late Show with David Letterman’’: It was a decade full of great Dave moments. He had heart surgery, became a father, got married and admitted to affairs. He egged on a whacked-out Joaquin Phoenix, interviewed his first sitting president and did a heartbreaking hour with his close friend, terminally ill musician Warren Zevon. But no moment was more meaningful or powerful than his eloquent and surprisingly comforting monologue on his first night back after 9/11.

7. “Survivor’’: A pioneer of the reality TV movement, it proved that not only was television’s newest genre here to stay but that it didn’t have to be embarrassingly bad (remember “Joe Millionaire’’?). The formula is relatively unchanged after 19 seasons: Take a bunch of strangers who look good shirtless and in bikinis, dump them in a remote, exotic locale and watch them outwit, outplay and outlast for $1 million. As host Jeff Probst might ask, “Worth tuning in for?’’ Yep.

6. “Everwood’’: A widowed surgeon leaves his practice in The Big Apple and takes his two kids and heads for the snow-covered hills of a small Colorado town where Main Street is quaint, the townsfolk are endearing and the adjustment isn’t always easy. In the realm of “nice’’ family shows, not as sugary as “7th Heaven’’ and not as emotional as “Party of Five,’’ but warmly nestled somewhere in between.

5. “Breaking Bad’’: The premise – a high school chemistry teacher with cancer hooks up with a former student to start making crystal meth to provide for his family – is only the beginning. It’s shocking, disturbing, violent, darkly funny, occasionally deeply touching and always incredibly well acted. No wonder Stephen King loves it.

4. “Once and Again’’: A family drama with the creative team of Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zick attached is like a chocolate bar with Hershey’s on the wrapper: You can’t wrong. Two divorced single parents find love – and all the real and messy heartaches and headaches that go with it. The forever-fabulous Sela Ward lit up the cast, and Patrick Dempsey turned in a gut-wrenching performance as her schizophrenic brother long before he got McDreamy-ized.

3. “Damages’’: Thought Glenn Close was scary in “Fatal Attraction’’? You wouldn’t want to get on her bad side in “Damages,’’ either. As ruthlessly driven corporate lawyer Patty Hewes on the tense, dense and complex F/X legal thriller, she can send a shiver up your spine -- and she doesn’t need to resort to boiling the family rabbit to do it. That Australian actress Rose Byrne as her protégé Ellen Parsons can hold her own against Close is a testament to not just the strong female leads but a cast that’s stellar top to bottom.

2. “Gilmore Girls’’: Lorelai Gilmore was the mom everybody secretly wished they had. Or at least her wardrobe. But what made the hip single mom-good girl daughter WB dramedy so endearing and charming without ever getting sappy was the witty, pop culture-peppered, rapid-fire banter between Lauren Graham’s Lorelai and Alexis Bledel’s Rory – usually over obscene amounts of caffeine, junk food and bad movies. Sometimes snarky, sometimes sweet, but always sincere.

1. “24’’: It not only broke the mold for the typical serialized drama, but as it would do with countless warehouses, helicopters and bad guys in the seasons to come, “24’’ blew it to smithereens. The real-time format and multiple screens were groundbreaking, leaving fans breathless as Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer raced to save the day in an America that reflected current headlines. In its early seasons – and as recently as the last -- an hour of “24’’ can still be better than every action-thriller in theaters, thanks to an amazing army of writers and the weight Kiefer Sutherland brings to our hero.

-- Kendra Meinert,


And the winner is ...

In a face-off between two of TV’s most caustic, cantankerous critics, it’s Dr. Gregory House over Simon Cowell by a slim margin.

Channel Surfing’s month-long journey to uncover the Best TV Show of the Decade from Green Bay Press-Gazette readers led to more than 1,000 votes in print and online.

Your top vote getter: “House.”

Created by David Shore in 2004, the Fox show straddles the line between medical drama and dark comedy thanks to Huge Laurie’s portrayal of acerbic, pill-popping Dr. Gregory House. Now in its sixth season, “House” has received several awards, including Emmys for writing and directing and two Golden Globes for Laurie as Best Dramatic Actor (2006-2007). It also consistently ranks among the Top 20 TV shows in the Nielsen ratings.

Here's the Top 20 in all its glory:

1. “House”
2. “American Idol”
3. “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”
4. “24”
5. “The Office" (US and UK)
6. “Lost”
7. “Survivor”
8. “The Amazing Race”
9. “The Sopranos”
10. “Desperate Housewives”
11. "How I Met Your Mother"
12. "The West Wing"
13. "Sex and the City"
14. "Scrubs"
15. "SpongeBob SquarePants"
16. "30 Rock"
17. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"
18. "Friday Night Lights"
19. "Dexter"
20. "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

Eligible shows that received the most write-in votes were “Two and a Half Men,” “NCIS,” “Family Guy,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Big Bang Theory, “Criminal Minds” and “Battlestar Galactica.” Also, a lot of people out there apparently still watch "America's Funniest Home Videos." I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Congratulations to “House” and all winners in our contest, including Ann Henrigillis of De Pere who won the grand prize La-Z-Boy. Also, thanks to everyone who voted and left comments.

Many of you provided great reasons as to why you love your favorite shows -- or scathing e-mails saying we were morons for leaving "Rescue Me" off the master ballot -- all but affirming that we knew what we were doing when pitching this contest in December.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Coming tomorrow: The winner revealed!

Will it be surly Simon Cowell? That curmudgeonly Dr. House? How about Locke and the "Lost" gang or Tony's crew at the Bada Bing? Do the paper pushers at Dunder Mifflin or Jack Bauer's counter terrorism unit stand a chance?

More than 1,000 votes in print and online were tallied for Channel Surfing's Best TV Show of the Decade contest. Tomorrow, we'll reveal the winner right here.

As they say in the TV business, stay tuned ...

-- The Channel Surfing staff

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Ebersol takes up for Leno, calls Conan "an astounding failure"

Just to show that not everyone is in Conan's corner, Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports and a major player in the network's late night development, took up for Jay Leno in a revealing interview with the New York Times.

While it's been rumored that NBC's embattled CEO Jeff Zucker is trying to play hardball with Conan by keeping him off the air for the duration of his contract (a little over three years), the rest of the crusty executives club has been pretty silent at the network. Until now.

Ebersol did his best Jack Donaghy impression by protecting the peacock brand as he promptly rolled Conan under a giant bus with a "Biggest Loser" logo emblazoned on it.

Referring to Conan's on-air jabs at Leno, Ebersol called the lame-duck "Tonight Show" host “chicken-hearted and gutless to blame a guy you couldn’t beat in the ratings." He added that “what this is really all about is an astounding failure by Conan" and that while he likes Conan personally, "he was just stubborn about not being willing to broaden the appeal of his show.”

So basically, because Conan isn't dumbing down his comedy for a "broader" audience, he's a complete and utter failure after seven months on the air. Either that, or he had the audacity to turn down comedy advice from a guy who probably kills with his Dick Cheney impression at country club dinners.

I mean, how awesome is it to have the super-hilarious Dick Ebersol note you to death when you've just started a job? How could you not turn into a yes man like Jay Leno, Conan? How?

Nicely played, NBC execs. You all just admitted that you never watched "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." May Triumph poop all over your network from here to the end of time.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Kimmel destroys Leno in front of Leno

Days after adopting a fake chin and prancing around as Jay Leno throughout his entire show, Jimmy Kimmel took it up a notch last night.

In what Leno's people must have thought would be a savvy booking (and it appears to have worked since this is the first time we've chosen to embed a clip from the now-cancelled "Jay Leno Show" on Channel Surfing), the ABC host gleefully answered questions during Leno's "10 at 10" segment.

While we're not huge fans of Kimmel, he earned our respect last night by staying firmly in Conan O'Brien's corner as Mr. Big Jaw lobbed lame questions his way via satellite. After all, it's easy to do a scathing impression of Leno in front of your audience, but to go after Leno on his home turf took a certain amount of stones. Also, while Leno has justifiably been vilified for pulling a Favre on our beloved Coco, to his credit, he was a good sport on air.

But really, what could he do as Kimmel eviscerated him about the NBC situation? Be funny in return?

Yeah, that's what we thought.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Project Runway" returns tonight, but will it return to its former glory?

I don't mean to sound like a doubter, but "Project Runway" better make it work this season or I may have to say Auf Wiedersehen to the hit fashion reality show.

Last season -- which featured a move from Bravo to Lifetime, a transcontinental location change to L.A. and an overload of celebrity guest judges -- just didn't cut it. To paraphrase Papa Gunn, it greatly worried me.

But Season 7 returns to familiar grounds in New York and promises regular appearances from judges extraordinaire Michael Kors and Nee-nah Gah-cia, who were MIA for much of last season to the show's detriment. In fact, Garcia told TV Guide that the show is "back to normal" and has the best crop of aspiring designers in the show's history. Even returns as a sponsor (YAY!).

I'm not ready to call it quits, but if tonight's premiere hints at being a repeat of last season's hot mess, then I'm out!

But ease your "Runway" fears with this clip of Tim Gunn's recent appearance on the 100th episode of "How I Met Your Mother" as Barney's (Neil Patrick Harris) personal tailor:

Season 7 of "Project Runway" premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,


The gloves are coming off between Leno and Conan

ABC's Jimmy Kimmel threw the first roundhouse rights on Tuesday, but you knew it was only a matter of time before the very public airing of grievances ("I gotta lot of problems with you people!") began to get more personal between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien.

Having directed most of their anger at NBC executives since the network announced it wanted to move Leno back into the 10:35 p.m. slot, both Conan and "Big Jaw" Jay mixed it up with some body blows during their Wednesday night monologues.

Leno noted Conan's complaint that his NBC bosses gave him only seven months to establish an audience at the “Tonight” show.

“Seven months!” Leno said. “How did he get that deal? We only got four.”

O’Brien swiftly returned Leno's volley, saying that the “Tonight” show had been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

“And I just want to say to the kids out there watching: You can do anything you want in life,” he said. “Unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too.”

Now, as one of the 85,000 strong showing support on the "I'm with Coco" Facebook page, Leno suggesting that he didn't get "enough time" -- even in jest during a monologue -- is about as empty and shallow as another recycled "Jaywalking" bit. I hate to keep harping on the Brett Favre analogy (hey, this type of inner turmoil is old hat to us in Green Bay!), but the whole, "Aw shucks, I just wanna play ball" scenario is garbage when promises are made -- and as Conan said last night by noting how his entire staff moved to California -- other people's livelihoods are involved.

Sorry, but just like Favre couldn't walk off a plane and interrupt the Packers team scrimmage only to assume his old throne, the Leno move isn't small potatoes like Jerry Seinfeld would have you believe. NBC screwed up big time by going back on its word and attempting to placate Leno, who clearly is the bigger name at the network. How is Conan supposed to react when Leno not only won't go away, but openly pines for his old position even though network bosses sealed his fate years ago?

Yeah, that Jay Leno: he's a real team player.

Unable to resist, David Letterman also chimed in during CBS’ “Late Show," saying, "Isn't it lousy cold outside today? You know, they say, from the weather bureau, it’s caused by an Arctic chill between Jay and Conan.”

NBC still hasn’t commented on O’Brien’s refusal to move "The Tonight Show," and a negotiated exit seems likely, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, that same report cited a study illustrating just how damaging Leno’s prime-time show was to NBC’s local stations.

The research firm Harmelin Media said local NBC stations saw their late news audience drop by an average of 25 percent in November compared with the previous year among 25- to 54-year-old viewers. The decline was particularly steep in some of the largest markets: 48 percent in New York, 43 percent in Los Angeles and 47 percent in Philadelphia.

Harmelin used data on the number of ads run in late local news programs and their cost to calculate that over a three-month period, the Leno experiment would cost these stations collectively $22 million.

Anyway, say what you want about the drama at NBC, but the ongoing tug-of-war is making "The Tonight Show" must see TV as Conan continues to throw sharp barbs at his bosses and use it as fodder for his own shattered legacy as an NBC also-ran. Last night's "Classic Tonight Show" bit was priceless, but since I can't find that online, here are two clips of Coco in top form.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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