1. Tomorrow night is the season finale of the FX TV series Fargo, an “original adaptation” of Joel and Ethan Coen's 1996 film Fargo. The film was a dark comedy set in the wintry landscape of rural Minnesota which won Oscars for best screenplay and best actress.
The FX 10-episode TV series has a different story and characters, but critics agree that it captured the look and tone of the film, mixing eccentric characters and deadpan humor with sudden and savage violence. 
Series creator Noah Hawley and breakout star Allison Tolman  join Fresh Air to discuss their new series:

Hawley: Joel and Ethan [Coen] have described this region of the country as “Siberia with family restaurants.” I like the idea that these towns are sort of these islands in this frozen tundra and the highway runs through and the highway system has allowed these types of characters to float through and it’s this sort of stranger-comes-to-town story.


Photo via MPR by Chris Large/FX View in High-Res

    Tomorrow night is the season finale of the FX TV series Fargo, an “original adaptation” of Joel and Ethan Coen's 1996 film Fargo. The film was a dark comedy set in the wintry landscape of rural Minnesota which won Oscars for best screenplay and best actress.

    The FX 10-episode TV series has a different story and characters, but critics agree that it captured the look and tone of the film, mixing eccentric characters and deadpan humor with sudden and savage violence. 

    Series creator Noah Hawley and breakout star Allison Tolman  join Fresh Air to discuss their new series:

    Hawley: Joel and Ethan [Coen] have described this region of the country as “Siberia with family restaurants.” I like the idea that these towns are sort of these islands in this frozen tundra and the highway runs through and the highway system has allowed these types of characters to float through and it’s this sort of stranger-comes-to-town story.

    Photo via MPR by Chris Large/FX

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  1. Our TV critic David Bianculli reviews “The Maya Rudolph Show,” the latest rare attempt by network TV to revive the long-dormant variety show genre —

"On Monday night, NBC presented The Maya Rudolph Show, a one-hour prime-time variety special executive produced by Lorne Michaels and featuring many of their mutual Saturday Night Live cohorts: Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell. It also co-starred Kristen Bell, Sean Hayes and singer Janelle Monae. The Maya Rudolph Show was an intentional effort to bring back the old-school TV variety show, but with a new-school slant that bathed most of the show in a distancing self-awareness. Even the introductory number by Rudolph made fun of the genre rather than committing to it.
Despite all the guest stars and talent, most of The Maya Rudolph Show fell strangely flat. There was no continuity between segments, and, as on SNL, many comedy sketches just seemed to stop rather than conclude. And while the hostess sang comedy songs with many of her comedy guests, she didn’t share the stage with the hour’s featured musical guest — another missed opportunity.”


Photo of  Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph in The Maya Rudolph Show (Paul Drinkwater/NBC) View in High-Res

    Our TV critic David Bianculli reviews The Maya Rudolph Show,” the latest rare attempt by network TV to revive the long-dormant variety show genre —

    "On Monday night, NBC presented The Maya Rudolph Show, a one-hour prime-time variety special executive produced by Lorne Michaels and featuring many of their mutual Saturday Night Live cohorts: Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell. It also co-starred Kristen Bell, Sean Hayes and singer Janelle Monae. The Maya Rudolph Show was an intentional effort to bring back the old-school TV variety show, but with a new-school slant that bathed most of the show in a distancing self-awareness. Even the introductory number by Rudolph made fun of the genre rather than committing to it.

    Despite all the guest stars and talent, most of The Maya Rudolph Show fell strangely flat. There was no continuity between segments, and, as on SNL, many comedy sketches just seemed to stop rather than conclude. And while the hostess sang comedy songs with many of her comedy guests, she didn’t share the stage with the hour’s featured musical guest — another missed opportunity.”

    Photo of  Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph in The Maya Rudolph Show (Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

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  1. TV critic David Bianculli reviews two new horror shows: a remake of Rosemary’s Baby set in Paris and Penny Dreadful set in Victorian England.  While both attempt to “revisit old works of literature in the horror and suspense genre, and adapt them with new approaches for a new generation, Rosemary’s Baby "barely justifies the attempt."  Here’s what he says about Penny Dreadful: 

"I can recommend Penny Dreadful, which starts Sunday on Showtime, a lot more enthusiastically. John Logan, screenwriter of the movies Hugo and Skyfall, sets this new series in London, in 1891. Timothy Dalton, who once played James Bond, plays an intrepid explorer looking for his missing daughter. Eva Green, star of Tim Burton’s recent remake of Dark Shadows, plays Vanessa Ives, a strikingly stunning woman who dresses in black and has her own hidden agendas – and powers. They combine forces on a mission that takes them deep into London’s underworld, a place less natural than supernatural. And in the premiere episode, after seeing a traveling Wild West show, Vanessa visits the star sharpshooter, played by Josh Hartnett, to try and enlist his services. He’s eager to flirt, but she’s all business.”
View in High-Res

    TV critic David Bianculli reviews two new horror shows: a remake of Rosemary’s Baby set in Paris and Penny Dreadful set in Victorian England.  While both attempt to “revisit old works of literature in the horror and suspense genre, and adapt them with new approaches for a new generation, Rosemary’s Baby "barely justifies the attempt."  Here’s what he says about Penny Dreadful

    "I can recommend Penny Dreadful, which starts Sunday on Showtime, a lot more enthusiastically. John Logan, screenwriter of the movies Hugo and Skyfall, sets this new series in London, in 1891. Timothy Dalton, who once played James Bond, plays an intrepid explorer looking for his missing daughter. Eva Green, star of Tim Burton’s recent remake of Dark Shadows, plays Vanessa Ives, a strikingly stunning woman who dresses in black and has her own hidden agendas – and powers. They combine forces on a mission that takes them deep into London’s underworld, a place less natural than supernatural. And in the premiere episode, after seeing a traveling Wild West show, Vanessa visits the star sharpshooter, played by Josh Hartnett, to try and enlist his services. He’s eager to flirt, but she’s all business.”

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  1. Fresh Air’s TV critic David Bianculli reviews the new series  Fargo, based on the 1996 Coen Brothers cult classic. Here’s what he says: 



When the news arrives that FX has a new series called Fargo, the expectation is that it will be either a sequel to, or expansion of, that 18-year-old movie. And certainly, the previews have done nothing to discourage that.

But no. The TV version of Fargo tells a completely different story, with completely different characters. Only the snow remains the same. Yet based on the first four episodes, this new Fargo is a worthy companion piece to the film. The Coen brothers are on board as two of the executive producers, so they clearly approve – though that’s pretty much the extent of their involvement. Instead, FX’s Fargo is written and concocted by Noah Hawley, whose previous credits include working on Bones, and not much else. This is his step up to the major leagues – and in his first at-bat in the bigs, he swings hard, and hits a home run.

His Fargo – this first season, anyway – is envisioned as a stand-alone 10-part story. If it continues to a Season 2, it will be with a completely different plot, characters, and cast. That’s the way True Detective launched itself this season on HBO, and you know how brilliantly that turned out. By designing TV shows this way – longer and deeper than a feature film but not running for years – networks can get A-list movie talent to commit, and writers can craft stories with the end in sight from the start.
FX’s Fargo benefits from that, greatly.

Hear the full review HERE. 



 

image via FX  View in High-Res

    Fresh Air’s TV critic David Bianculli reviews the new series  Fargo, based on the 1996 Coen Brothers cult classic. Here’s what he says: 

    When the news arrives that FX has a new series called Fargo, the expectation is that it will be either a sequel to, or expansion of, that 18-year-old movie. And certainly, the previews have done nothing to discourage that.

    But no. The TV version of Fargo tells a completely different story, with completely different characters. Only the snow remains the same. Yet based on the first four episodes, this new Fargo is a worthy companion piece to the film. The Coen brothers are on board as two of the executive producers, so they clearly approve – though that’s pretty much the extent of their involvement. Instead, FX’s Fargo is written and concocted by Noah Hawley, whose previous credits include working on Bones, and not much else. This is his step up to the major leagues – and in his first at-bat in the bigs, he swings hard, and hits a home run.

    His Fargo – this first season, anyway – is envisioned as a stand-alone 10-part story. If it continues to a Season 2, it will be with a completely different plot, characters, and cast. That’s the way True Detective launched itself this season on HBO, and you know how brilliantly that turned out. By designing TV shows this way – longer and deeper than a feature film but not running for years – networks can get A-list movie talent to commit, and writers can craft stories with the end in sight from the start.

    FX’s Fargo benefits from that, greatly.

    Hear the full review HERE.

     

    image via FX 

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  1. This review discusses the plotline of Mad Men, up through the end of Season Six: 

Our TV critic David Bianculli was given the tricky task of reviewing the Season Seven opener of Mad Men, without giving too much away: 

When we last saw Jon Hamm as Madison Avenue advertising genius Don Draper, Draper had stripped off the façade he had worn as protection throughout the series. He confessed to his true past, as a boy raised in a whorehouse — not only to his children, but to his colleagues at work, during a pitch to an advertising client. Immediately, he lost his chance to move to the West Coast office his firm was opening — and there were bound to be other consequences. This final season, it appears, will be all about those consequences.
Don always has been resourceful, and resilient, and those traits are in full display in the season seven opener. His confession last season has altered him — in his behavior as well as his demeanor, he’s a noticeably changed man. You can tell that even from one of the few scenes from Mad Men that reveals no secrets about where the series is going — just that Don is going somewhere, on a plane.



Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC View in High-Res

    This review discusses the plotline of Mad Men, up through the end of Season Six: 

    Our TV critic David Bianculli was given the tricky task of reviewing the Season Seven opener of Mad Men, without giving too much away: 

    When we last saw Jon Hamm as Madison Avenue advertising genius Don Draper, Draper had stripped off the façade he had worn as protection throughout the series. He confessed to his true past, as a boy raised in a whorehouse — not only to his children, but to his colleagues at work, during a pitch to an advertising client. Immediately, he lost his chance to move to the West Coast office his firm was opening — and there were bound to be other consequences. This final season, it appears, will be all about those consequences.

    Don always has been resourceful, and resilient, and those traits are in full display in the season seven opener. His confession last season has altered him — in his behavior as well as his demeanor, he’s a noticeably changed man. You can tell that even from one of the few scenes from Mad Men that reveals no secrets about where the series is going — just that Don is going somewhere, on a plane.

    Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC

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    TV

  1. Congratulations to the winners of the 2013 Peabody Awards! 
The list includes Orange is the New Black, Key & Peele,The Bridge,  The Race Card Project, and our friends at This American Life. 
Two of our most talked about interviews of last year were with “the real Piper,” Piper Kerman, and Orange is the New Black show creator Jenji Kohan. 
Other interviews with Peabody winners include Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele of Key & Peele and the star of The Bridge, Demian Bichir.
We’ve also got reviews of Borgen and Six By Sondheim! View in High-Res

    Congratulations to the winners of the 2013 Peabody Awards

    The list includes Orange is the New Black, Key & Peele,The Bridge,  The Race Card Project, and our friends at This American Life

    Two of our most talked about interviews of last year were with “the real Piper,” Piper Kerman, and Orange is the New Black show creator Jenji Kohan

    Other interviews with Peabody winners include Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele of Key & Peele and the star of The Bridge, Demian Bichir.

    We’ve also got reviews of Borgen and Six By Sondheim!

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  1. From ‘Middle’ to ‘Bad,’ and the questionable stand-up comedy before it all—Bryan Cranston joins us tomorrow.

    From ‘Middle’ to ‘Bad,’ and the questionable stand-up comedy before it all—Bryan Cranston joins us tomorrow.

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  1. David Bianculli of tvworthwatching reviews the new NBC show Crisis:


Crisis pleasantly surprised me. It’s about a busload of high school kids – children of the very powerful, including the President,  in Washington, D.C. – whose field trip to New York gets detoured by kidnappers, who grab the kids and use them as leverage to get their parents to do their bidding.


 I know, this sounds so much like Hostages, it could almost be a rerun – except, this time around, the characters are painted with more depth, drama and surprises are a lot more plentiful, and Crisis starts out almost like a season of 24  — except without the ticking clock, and without Jack Bauer.
View in High-Res

    David Bianculli of tvworthwatching reviews the new NBC show Crisis:

    Crisis pleasantly surprised me. It’s about a busload of high school kids – children of the very powerful, including the President,  in Washington, D.C. – whose field trip to New York gets detoured by kidnappers, who grab the kids and use them as leverage to get their parents to do their bidding.

     I know, this sounds so much like Hostages, it could almost be a rerun – except, this time around, the characters are painted with more depth, drama and surprises are a lot more plentiful, and Crisis starts out almost like a season of 24  — except without the ticking clock, and without Jack Bauer.

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  1. When you are the only Indian-American female lead in a television show, you seem to be making sweeping statements about that person simply because you are that person and the only one whereas, for instance, Steve Carell — he’s not making sweeping generalizations about white American men on his show because there’s so many different white American men on different shows. …

    So I get worried by doing this character that people think that I’m saying that about all those people. And I just have the weight of that on my shoulders, which is something that I do envy other performers for not having.

    Mindy Kaling on being an Indian-American actress on TV

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  1. Game of Thrones starts up again on Sunday night. Peter Dinklage returns to the Lannister clan more influential than ever, thanks to a scroll that gives him power by proxy.

(via 'Thrones,' 'Killing' Return — And Revert To Old Habits : NPR) View in High-Res

    Game of Thrones starts up again on Sunday night. Peter Dinklage returns to the Lannister clan more influential than ever, thanks to a scroll that gives him power by proxy.

    (via 'Thrones,' 'Killing' Return — And Revert To Old Habits : NPR)

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  1. David Bianculli reviews the new Keifer Sutherland drama Touch which premieres tonight on Fox: Touch is created by Tim Kring, whose last TV series was NBC’s Heroes. That program, also, focused on seemingly ordinary people who turned out to possess extraordinary gifts — and whose gifts, in turn, tied them to some sort of important destiny. … Touch, though, is less like the story of Peter Parker turning into Spider-Man than of Helen Keller finding a way to communicate.” View in High-Res

    David Bianculli reviews the new Keifer Sutherland drama Touch which premieres tonight on Fox: Touch is created by Tim Kring, whose last TV series was NBC’s Heroes. That program, also, focused on seemingly ordinary people who turned out to possess extraordinary gifts — and whose gifts, in turn, tied them to some sort of important destiny. Touch, though, is less like the story of Peter Parker turning into Spider-Man than of Helen Keller finding a way to communicate.”

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  1. David Bianculli’s making a menu inspired by TV shows which was inspired by our donut post last Friday. If you have any suggestions, let him know.

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  1. Even at this early point in the latest, very welcome comeback by Bill Moyers, only one nagging question remains: How long will it be before he books Stephen Colbert?

    — David Bianculli talks about Bill Moyers’ appearance on The Colbert Report and his return to TV.

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  1. If there are water coolers and if there are offices, one person goes up and says, ‘Did you see Dexter?’ And they’re like, ‘No, shut up, I didn’t see it. Tell me in a year.’ This is not the way to have a conversation.

    — David Bianculli, on spoiler-culture.

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  1. Tomorrow: David Bianculli’s best and worst TV picks for 2011. [His complete archive]

    Tomorrow: David Bianculli’s best and worst TV picks for 2011. [His complete archive]

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