Saturday, January 24, 2015

POSTED: Thursday, January 22, 2015, 10:07 AM

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Conan is in the DANGER ZONE.

Superspy Sterling Archer, from the FX animated comedy "Archer," stopped by Conan O'Brien's show Tuesday to pick up the latenight host for some espionage hijinks. The pair's animated jaunt proved Conan to be a surprisingly effective shotgun-seat spy companion, even if his general clumsiness did destroy Archer's car.

Along those lines, RIP Andy Richter.

POSTED: Thursday, January 22, 2015, 10:02 AM
Executive producer Ilene Chaiken attends the premiere of Showtime's 'The Real L World' Season 3 at Revolver on July 17, 2012 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - When Shonda Rhimes praises your show, you know it's a hit.

A huge series debut, plus a ratings boost in week two, raking in 10.3 million viewers, and an early Season 2 renewal doesn't hurt either -- and that's been the whirlwind premiere experience for "Empire" showrunner Ilene Chaiken who's admittedly a huge Shondaland fan.

"So fabulous" is the feeling Chaiken described of Rhimes' early support of her Fox hip hop drama, starring Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard. (The "Scandal" creator tweeted "Empire" kudos to her 800,000 plus avid followers.)

POSTED: Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 11:16 AM
Actor Bob Odenkirk, actor Jonathan Banks and actor Michael McKean speak onstage during the 'Better Call Saul ' panel at the AMC portion of the 2015 Winter Television Critics Association press tour at the Langham Hotel on January 10, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "I'm a lawyer, not a criminal," protests the protagonist in "Better Call Saul," a spinoff/prequel to "Breaking Bad" whose initial episodes ask, but don't fully answer, whether Bob Odenkirk's sleazy defense lawyer can carry a show on his own. Unlike its sire, this AMC series arrives both burdened by expectations and with a turbo-charged launch behind "The Walking Dead," virtually ensuring a decent amount of sampling. Essentially, "Saul" is an extended origin story, possessing "Bad's" flavor and black comedy but at least initially lacking its emotional core. While that dictates a mixed verdict, the creative auspices nevertheless bode well. 

Without giving too much away, "Saul" opens with a terrific framing device, using black and white to draw the viewer in. ("Bad" creator Vince Gilligan directed the pilot, which he co-wrote with Peter Gould.) 

From there, it's back to six years prior to the beginning of "Breaking Bad," as we meet Saul before the latenight ads and drug-dealer clientele. Instead, he's plain old James McGill, a struggling lawyer taking cut-rate public-defender cases to make ends meet, while trying to look after his brother (Michael McKean), who is on a vague health-related sabbatical from his partnership in a big corporate firm. (When James enters the firm's tony conference room he unleashes an imitation of Ned Beatty in "Network," which is greeted by blank stares.) 

POSTED: Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 11:07 AM
Actors Page Kennedy, Kristoffer Polaha and Genevieve Angelson speak onstage during the 'Backstrom' panel discussion at the FOX portion of the 2015 Winter TCA Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 17, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "Backstrom," it turns out, is just 2015-ese for "House," with Rainn Wilson's Dwight Schrute elevated to the leading-man role the character always thought he deserved in "The Office." A mildly defective detective (sorry, Monk) with a bad attitude, Wilson's title player is prone to offensive and outlandish utterances, while going about the business of deciphering quirky yet banal crimes in the tree-lined, rainy environs of Portland (actually Vancouver). Shepherded along by "Bones'" Hart Hanson, this is the sort of meat-and-potatoes drama that doesn't feel distinctive enough to do much more than tread water on Fox, even with "American Idol's" kick-start.

Granted, there's symmetry in putting this series (adapted from a Swedish book series, with almost nothing except the name to suggest those literary origins) in "The Office's" old timeslot; and something very specific about the gloomy Northwest setting, where Backstrom is introduced at a crime scene, chomping on a cigar and wearing a rain poncho. 

Politically incorrect and prone to insulting those around him, the lead character is a recovering alcoholic and has health issues -- his doctor's advice: "Make a friend." And presumably he's tolerated by his low-key colleague (Dennis Haysbert, underused in the early going) because he's so brilliant and driven, working for the special-crimes unit. So make that law & order, S.C.U. 

POSTED: Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 9:42 AM
ost Larry Wilmore, hip-hop artist/activist Talib Kweli, and comedian Bill Burr appear on the debut episode of Comedy Central's 'The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore' at The Nightly Show Studios on January 19, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Comedy Central)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Stephen Colbert left some sizable shoes to fill, and "The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore" - having lost the right to use its much better name, "The Minority Report" - showed promise, while also displaying unwieldy elements that will likely require some fine-tuning. Mixing "The Daily Show's" opening with the panel format of Bill Maher's "Real Time," Wilmore exhibited a quickness and light touch about sensitive topics, yet struggled to bring much coherence or flow to the overpopulated discussion that took up most of the premiere. The unknowns, at this point, outnumber the knowns, making an unqualified tip of the hat premature.

An accomplished writer and often hilarious as "The Daily Show's" "black correspondent," Wilmore slid right into the opening segment with a series of clever jokes, many directed at the lack of diversity in this year's Oscar nominations, which were, he said, "so white, a grand jury has decided not to indict them." 

Behind the desk, Wilmore literally yawned at the Academy Awards slight to "Selma," in "What else is new?" fashion, then segued to Al Sharpton once again inserting himself into a controversy, quipping in regard to the activist/MSNBC host's shrinking physique, "You're literally stretching yourself thin."

POSTED: Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 9:36 AM
Senator Cory Booker appeared on the first episode of "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore."

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was one of Larry Wilmore’s first guests on his inaugural episode of “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.”

Wilmore, Comedy Central’s replacement for Stephen Colbert, hosted a panel called “State of the Black Protest” featuring Sen. Booker along with rapper and activist Talib Kweli, comedian Bill Burr, and correspondent Shenaz Treasury. The panelists were then subjected to the night’s game of “Keep it 100,” in which they had to give completely honest answers to Wilmore’s prying questions, known as keeping it 100. “I guess the white version is truth or dare except here we don’t have the dare,” Wilmore said.

When the time came for Sen. Booker to face Wilmore’s questions, he had only two options: give a good, honest answer and get a “I keep it 100” sticker like the rest of the panelists or give an answer the audience didn’t like, honest or otherwise, and get a handful of teabags thrown his way. Sen. Booker got the latter.


POSTED: Monday, January 19, 2015, 5:44 PM
Filed Under: Television
Fighters from the Islamic State in an undated photo posted on an extremist website.

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - According to reports in both Israeli and international media this week, the Islamic State has a 24-hour television channel in the works.

The station, which if launched will take ISIS' well-polished propaganda machine to an entirely new level, will feature round-the-clock news and commentary that supports its jihadist

The terror organization has waged a shockingly bloody campaign in recent months to seize large swaths of Iraq and Syria, and has utilized both Twitter and YouTube, as well as Iraqi radio bandwith, to spread its message and galvanize support among terrorist sympathizers. It has its own English-language magazine, Daqib, as well as a video series, on both YouTube and other content-sharing sites, dubbed "The Flames of War."

POSTED: Monday, January 19, 2015, 1:56 PM
Actor Ben McKenzie attends WIRED Store 10th Anniversary Party in New York City, Presented by BMW i. and Oakley in New York City on December 10, 2014 in New York City. (Getty Images for WIRED)

Ben McKenzie, the star of Fox's "Gotham," has just been added to Philadelphia's Wizard World, taking place May 9-10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (1101 Arch St.). McKenzie, a/k/a "The OC's" resident dream boat badboy Ryan Atwood, will be joined by fellow "Gotham" star Robin Lord Taylor, "Mystery Science Theatre 3000's" Joel Hodgson, "Gossip Girl's" Penn Badgley, "The Flash's" Kelly Frye, "Malcolm in the Middle's" Frankie Muniz, "Arrow's" Katie Cassidy and Big Bird himself, Carroll Spinney.

To buy tix, go to wizardworld.com/admission.html.

About this blog
Our Television blog is your go-to guide for everything that’s happening on TV: updates on your favorite actors and programs, reviews, ratings, rumors and some of the sharpest opinions on the web.

Nick Vadala Philly.com
Gabrielle Bonghi Philly.com
Ellen Gray Daily News TV Critic
Molly Eichel Daily News Staff Writer
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected