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Two Tivos To Paradise 09.07.12: The Top Shows of the Summer
Posted by Al Norton on 09.07.2012

Hello friends. Two weeks of columns in a row, who can take this kind of nose-to-the-grindstone schedule?!?! I hope everyone had a happy and safe Labor Day weekend, celebrating in whatever way you saw fit. Ours included taking the twins to their four year old checkup; those of you with kids may remember just how pleasant that particular appointment is. Well, I always have the Red Sox to take my mind off of things…Oh, wait…Seriously; this is the worst pairing of players, management, and ownership in at least 15 years and reminds of the futility of the Sox of my formative years. Hey, maybe it's a good thing, letting those fans that have come on board in the last 10 years get a taste of what we've been dining on for decades.

We've got another giveaway for you; Homeland is a Golden Globe and Norty Award winner and is likely to add an Emmy or two to its resume when those awards are given out in a couple of weeks but before that you can win season one on Blu-ray!!! Go to the Al Norton's Two Tivos To Paradise Facebook page, click like (if you have not already), and then post "TTTP is my Homeland" on our wall and you'll be entered to win. Our standard rules apply; one entry per person, one win per six months, and only folks with US or Canadian mailing address are eligible. Good luck!!

Here's a teaser for Cinemax's new Banshee, with Alan Ball (True Blood, Six Feet Under) and Greg Yaitanes (House) as executive producers…

CBS' Hawaii 5-0 is back for season three in a couple of weeks…

The return of Downton Abbey is easily one of the more anticipated TV events of 2013…

Working hard to get my fill, everybody wants a thrill, paying anything to roll the news just one more time.

Nobody On The Road, Nobody On The Beach, I Feel It In The Air, The Summer's Out Of Reach
As we are, for the most part, done with the summer TV season and the fall premieres start up next week, I thought it a good time to take a look back at the series that stood out while the temperatures were high. In no particular order, here are the Top Summer Shows of 2012…

*Breaking Bad
The early frontrunner for the 2013 Best Drama Norty, Breaking Bad has somehow found a way to continually catch its audience off guard while never letting its foot off of the intensity pedal. This season, and the series as a whole, are an amazing artistic achievement.

*The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
The most fun I have watching TV right now, hands down. I laugh, I learn, I feel smart…Hell, if you added in some nudity I don't think I'd actually have to watch anything else, ever.

The first of ABC Family's two summer success stories, a warm comedy with snappy dialogue, a sharp acting troupe, and the most interesting set of small town characters since Everwood. Oh, and enough pop culture references to make Dennis Miller take note.

*Baby Daddy
It's just funny. Not ground breaking funny or razor sharp repartee funny but funny in a way that would have made it the top show in ABC's Friday night family comedy lineup from the late 90's. Yes, I actually laugh out loud watching Baby Daddy

My favorite show on TV right now, hands down, and it just keeps getting better. I know he has been and will continue to be very well recognized and applauded on these pages but I really hope the Golden Globes and SAG Awards find a place for Rick Hoffman in their nominations.

*3 Days to Open with Bobby Flay
I wrote about why I like the show last week, about how it's about Bobby helping people achieve their dreams instead of him taking something that was bad and turning it around with his ideas, and those feelings were totally reaffirmed when watching the Hotel Hell season finale on Monday, where you wonder how those places ever stayed open for a month in the first place and the only reason they'll do well now is that Gordon has totally Ramsay-fied the whole place. On 3 Days to Open it's not about Bobby, it's about how Bobby's knowledge and experience can guide folks through the process, and that's a huge difference.

*NY Med
Usually a show like this would be on cable but ABC has now stuck with three seasons of there …Med documentary series, aided by lower expectations for summer ratings and the lower budgets for an unscripted show. It's sad that more folks watch Bachelor Pad than NY Med, a show that gives a very real slice-of-life look at both Doctors and patients in 2012.

*The Glee Project
A group of young people putting aside their fears to pursue their dreams, something very few of us would ever have the guts to do, let alone in a venue that would mean millions of people would be watching, is likely to always be entertaining to me, regardless of what said dream is, but the prize on the show being a role on Glee makes it even more perfect for me, and perfect for me it was. I mean it as high praise that I disagreed with who they chose as the winner and still loved the show.

*The Burn with Jeff Ross
If the question is, "what current show makes me laugh the most?" the answer is quite easily, "The Burn with Jeff Ross", a show that works so well one wonders why it took so long for Comedy Central to get it on the air. Yes, much of it is offensive and crass (wait, do you think I mean that as a pejorative?), but the real reason the show works to me is how much fun the comedians are having; so much of comedy these days is about darkness – and I do love me some dark comedy – but these are folks thrilled to be getting the opportunity to ply their trade (namely, making live audience laugh hysterically) in front of cameras.

*Food Network Star
Or, as I think of this past season, the show where I finally realized just how talented and smart Alton Brown is. While hesitant about the switch to the teams concept (a la The Voice) at the outset, I was quickly won over by how invested the judges got in their contestants, how much it clearly meant to them. While I still wonder about how roughly 25% of the contestants made the final cut (this is the same every year, when it always seems folks find out they got picked for the show and then don't spend the weeks/months leading up to when filming begins practicing in front of a camera every day), this was as talented a bunch as they've had and also a group where the person who should have won was obvious from roughly week two, and then that person ended up winning.

I thought the Longmire pilot was good enough to watch episode two but I had no idea that by hours 3 and 4 the show would be hitting a stride some series take years – if ever – to find, a mix of crime of the week stories with very complex and well acted characters along with a pace that puts the emphasis on who is doing something and why as much as it does what it is they are doing, and that is a major rarity.

I am continually shocked by how into the show I am this season, but I think it's no small coincidence that it's the Gordon Ramsay show that features the least amount of what we've come to expect from a Gordon Ramsay show; the contestants all seem to know what they are doing and really seem to be among the best home chefs out there (as opposed to Hell's Kitchen, where you scratch your head about why they couldn't find higher quality chefs), there is very little screaming and yelling for no reason, and Ramsay is a supporting player instead of being the star. He, the show, and the audience are all the better for it.

And there you have it. Hit the comments section below to share your picks for the summer's most entertaining shows.

I Wish I Could Fly From This Building, From This Wall
The 2012-2013 TV season is upon us!!! For the next few weeks this will be a regular feature in the column, let you know which new series are premiering and which favorites are returning over the next seven days…

The Voice (NBC) 8pm
NBC is feeling pretty confident about The Voice as its premiere is really a premiere week, with two hours on Monday, and hour on Tuesday, and an hour on Wednesday. The blind auditions are always the most popular part of the show and with very little, if any, new network programming as competition, I expect huge numbers for Monday.

Go On* (NBC), 9pm
I greatly enjoyed the Go On pilot, finding the March Sadness segment a particularly inspired bit of writing, acting, and directing, and am quite curious to see where it goes from here. As long as they develop the supporting cast fully, this could be a very interesting and funny show. There is certainly a lot of fresh material to work with here, so if it's a failure it should be a new kind of failure, and that alone makes it worth watching.

The New Normal* (NBC), 9:30pm
Some loved The New Normal pilot more than I did (I thought it was suffering from a bit of trying-to-hard-itis) but there is no doubting the talent of the cast and that, much like it's Go On lead-in, this shows a network that has been struggling for some time now trying to shake things up a bit, going with subject matter and stories that are anything from standard fare.

Parenthood (NBC), 10pm
The best drama on network TV is back for a fourth season with an episode that is a little too jam packed as they try to remind the audience of what was going on in everyone's lives last spring. The best part of the hour is the introduction of Ray Romano's character Hank, who gets more interesting in each of his scenes. Much better is the second episode of the season that airs on 9/18 and will feature more fine work from Romano and likely find you crying a bit at the end.

The X Factor (Fox), 8pm
Season one of The X Factor was nowhere near the failure many thought it was, with great demo numbers that most shows would have killed for. What it didn't have much of was buzz, which led to the housecleaning that took place this past spring when the host and two of the judges were let go. Britney Spears = buzz, so on that front alone they are ahead of the game, and Demi Lovato will likely bring in some new viewers as well. I predict even stronger numbers in season two for Simon and company.

Guys with Kids* (NBC), 10pm (This is a sneak preview, not the show's regular timeslot)
Remember what I wrote above about NBC breaking from standard fare? Strike that, reverse it, thank you. So very, very generic; 7 minutes of somewhat funny material surrounded by 14 and ½ minutes of run of the mill, seen it all before comedy. There's a good show in here somewhere, likely focused on Anthony Anderson's stay-at-home Dad, but GWK is not ever going to be a good show and is one of my nominees for show to get the quickest hook.

Glee (Fox), 9pm
I am not exactly sure if anyone new is watching Glee at this point but I do think fans that have stuck with it for the first three seasons like myself are looking forward to the them changing things up a bit, shifting the focus away from the high school sometimes as well as bringing new students into New Directions. One of the reasons I find the show as entertaining as I do is that even when the stories let me down, the music never does.

Sunny Day, Sweepin' The Clouds Away, On My Way To Where The Air Is Sweet
The Sesame Street video of the week…

But You Were Up To Your Old Tricks In Chapters Four Five And Six
All you need to know about the Nielsen's for the past 21 days…

Fox News was the most popular network to watch Thursday's coverage of the Republican National Convention, although overall viewership for all networks' covering it was down 31% from 2008…Saving Grace was down 17% in the demos…Rookie Blue dropped 10% in the demos…Wipeout was down 15% in the demos…The CW's music reality competition series The Next matched the previous week's demos, so in that sense it was a good week, although matching last week still meant finishing a VERY distant fifth in the time slot…

The 1.4 million viewers who watched Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night represented an 8 year high for the HBO series

The season premiere of Doctor Who was the most watched (Live + Same Day) program in BBC America history with 1.55 million viewers…

The Breaking Bad mid-season finale was up 47% in total viewers and 37% in the demos over last year's finale (last year was a season finale as opposed to a mid-season finale but both represented the last new episode of the show for a year) and that's despite losing 15% of its potential audience with Dish not carrying AMC anymore…

Labor Day didn't help the season finales of two reality shows on Monday, with Hotel Hell dropping 29% from last week's season/series high and Stars Earn Stripes down 10% to a new season/series low. Hell did win the night in demos…Grimm dropped to a season low…Bachelor Pad was up 8%...

Tuesday's season premiere of Live! with Kelly and Michael (where new co-host Michael Strahan was officially introduced) was up 24% from last season's opener…NBC was down 24% from 2008 but it still pulled in more than enough viewers to win the 10pm hour with its coverage of the 2012 DNC. ABC was down 36% and CBS dropped a huge 45%...MasterChef won the night in the demos while America's Got Talent was the most watched show of the evening…

NBC's coverage of the opening night of the NFL season (the Cowboys beat the Giants) was down 14% from last year (when it wasn't up against the DNC) but still crushed all comers for the night in totals and demos…ABC and CBS matched their 2008 coverage numbers…So You Think You Can Dance was down 7% in its final night of competition…

All The Young Dudes, Carry The News
Industry News, Notes, and Hot Rumors…CBS won a multi-offer bidding situation for the Beverly Hills Cop series from Shawn Ryan and Eddie Murphy. The deal guarantees a pilot will be made…Fox picked up a second season of their summer hit Hotel Hell…Last week more adults 18-34 watched post RNC analysis on Comedy Central (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart & The Colbert Report) from 11pm – midnight than did Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC…Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, The Firm) will guest on Community as a fangirl Abed meets at an Inspector Spacetime convention…TTTP fave Steven Culp has signed on for a recurring role on the new season of Grey's Anatomy…Looks like William Peterson will not be returning to series TV with the Cinemax drama Hurt People; Peterson, who was on board as an executive producer, has left the project over creative differences…Is there anyone recurring on more seasons than Kate Burton? Currently seen on Grimm, Veep, and The Good Wife, Burton, who is best known for paying Meredith Grey's Mother, will be back for multiple episodes on Scandal this fall…After a season of less-than-stellar ratings The Biggest Loser is making some changes, bringing back Jillian Michaels as a trainer and for the first time the show will deal with the issue of childhood obesity by having kids ages 13 - 17 competing with the adults. The new cycle, the series' 14th, will premiere in January…Nickelodeon is staging a Sopranos reunion of sorts with the TV movie Nicky Deuce, based on the children's book co-written by Steve Schirripa. The story follows a nerdy teenager sent to live with his Uncle in Brooklyn for the summer. Schirripa plays the uncle and is joined on screen by his former co-stars James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli, Tony Sirico, and Vincent Curatola. The movie will air at some point in 2013…OWN has picked up the cable rerun rights to Rachael Ray and The Nate Berkus Show and will run them in a four hour block in the morning starting next week…FX's fall premiere dates include Ultimate Fighter Fridays (9/14), It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia/The League/Brand X with Russell Brand (10/11), and American Horror Story: Asylum (10/17)…Starz has ordered a 10 episode first season of The White Queen, based on the NY Times bestselling Cousins of War series…Lifetime has picked up two new series, Prank My Mom (hosted by Vivica A Fox) and My Life is a Lifetime Movie (a look at real people with some crazy stories)...Bravo ordered a 5th season of The Rachel Zoe Project...VH-1 has greenlighted an 8 episode first season of Model Employee, where young women compete to be the face of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Chrissy Teigen will host...BBC America's Chef Race: U.K. vs. US, executive produced by Jamie Oliver, premieres October 4th...Geoff Stults first TV gig since Fox cancelled The Finder will be to recur as a love interest for Kate on the network's new comedy Ben and Kate…The NFL and Nicktoons are teaming up for Rush Zone: Season of the Guardians, an animated series that hopes to turn young kids into football fans at an early age…Cougar Town co-creator Kevin Biegel has a new comedy in development at Fox about three quite different brothers who all work on the same air force base…Oscar winning writer Eric Roth is adapting his own screenplay for The Good Shepherd into a series for Showtime, with Robert De Niro signed on to direct the pilot…TNT has picked up an 8 episode first season of The Hero, a reality competition series executive produced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The show has 10 people living in a house together who undergo a series of mental and physical challenges to determine who among them is a true hero. Johnson will have an on-air role as a mentor and motivator. Look for The Hero in the summer of 2013…FX is working on Downtown Dragons, a martial arts drama about the secret underworld in modern day China Town, NYC…Stephen Merchant (The Office, Extras) just got some co-stars on his new HBO comedy Hello Ladies; Kevin Weisman (Awake, Alias) and Nate Torrence (Mr. Sunshine, Studio 60) will be Merchant's character's wing men in LA…Jimmy Fallon's Holiday Road production company has Slammed, a comedy set in the world of pro wrestling, in development at NBC…Dick Wolf is adapting the British legal drama Injustice for NBC…TBS has picked up a 10 episode second season of Sullivan and Son…Donald Sutherland and TTTP fave William Fichtner have signed on to Crossing Lines, a new series from former Criminal Minds showrunner Ed Bernero about a special crime fighting unit that hunts fugitives across Europe. No US network is attached yet…

Turns Out Not Where But Who You're With That Really Matters
(The Best of What's Around aka The Best Thing I've Watched In The Last 7 Days…)
I simply cannot get over how remarkable a job The Daily Show with Jon Stewart did in covering the RNC, putting together laugh out loud funny pieces that still had some serious bite despite airing almost a full day after everyone else had already weighed in on what had taken place.

I know this may seem strange but I don't really think this is so much about politics – they are doing an equally good job going at the DNC this week – as it is a show articulating a point of view in a way that is clear, concise, consistent, and consistently funny. Agree or disagree but you have to admire and applaud the way they execute their vision on a nightly basis.

People Say I'm Crazy Doing What I'm Doing. Well, They Give Me All Kinds Of Warnings To Save Me From Ruin
What's flashed before my eyes the last seven days…While the number of Iron Chefs who have lost this summer on Iron Chef America is surprising – I think the challengers have won in 3 of the last 4 outings – what's not at all a surprise is that the episode that featured some of the best inter-judge conversations was one that found Queen of TTTP Ali Sweeney on the panel…I was greatly amused when seeing Willie Garson – White Collar's Mozzie – on an episode of Imagination Movers this past week, a show the twins have recently discovered/become obsessed with…I caught a few episodes of A&E's Storage Wars marathon on Monday and came away pretty entertained. The key to the success of any of these shows is the cast and the folks here are interesting while not seemingly like crazily over-the-top exaggerations of real people. Sure, some of them are full of bluster but I am confident they are like that when the cameras are off, too…Like the change on Great Food Truck Race this year to feature contestants who don't currently have their own truck as it puts everyone on semi-even footing, making it more of a fair fight. So far the competition has been dominated by one team but I think that happened in season one (or maybe it was two) and then that team lost in the finals…Covert Affairs really shook things up a bit this week with an episode that worked because it had taken the time to set everything up before pulling loose threads from seemingly unrelated storylines together and especially because USA didn't overhype the show with "SOMETHING HUGE HAPPENS THIS WEEK" ads that have hurt some of their other shows this year (yes, I am talking about the Burn Notice death)…If this week's episode of The Inbetweeners were the first I had watched I would never have gone back for more. I am not giving up on the show by any means, there were just WAY too many masturbation and dick jokes. The difference between this episode and the first two were in the first two, those jokes weren't the focus of the entire episode. I will say the bowling alley sequence made me laugh, as did the conversation with the guys about how they had to stop being total losers. Everything else was just forced…Major Crimes has gotten better each week since its debut, with this past Monday's episode giving us a highly entertaining performance from guest star Michael Weatherly (NCIS), the kind of comedic turn that was a highlight of The Closer's run…I tried to check back in with America's Got Talent the past two weeks but came away thinking they simply have too many acts. Sure, most shows start with a lot but then by the end they've whittled it down so you get more time with each one, but on AGT they bring back previously eliminated folks and it seems like we get the exact same amount of time each week with each person, meaning the bond between audience and performer never gets the chance to grow. Hell, I think they have SIX finalists going into the last week, which is just CRAZY. To me that's why most folks can't name a past AGT winner…I already sung the praise of Breaking Bad above but last Sunday's mid-season finale was another in a string of amazing hours of TV, one that leaves me in almost physical pain that I have to wait until next summer to see how all of this ends…

TV Pick Of The Week
Kurt Sutter knows how to do season premieres; the 90 minute episode of Sons of Anarchy that airs Tuesday is the fifth time the series has opened strong (I am including the pilot in there as well), with this one doing a wonderful job of both laying out the major players for the upcoming season as well as the storyline threads that will likely come to a head down the road and also leaving you with a bit of a "WTF?!?!" feeling as well (and I mean that in a good way).

It should come as no surprise to learn that Jimmy Smits is a strong addition to the cast – has the man ever not been the epitome of cool?!?! – and I can't wait to see him interact with more of the show's regulars. Other new cast members make equally as strong an impression.

Be warned; this episode contains perhaps the single most disturbing and difficult to watch scenes I have ever endured. It's well acted, for sure, but it's likely to stay with you for a long time.

Don't miss the season premiere of Sons of Anarchy, Tuesday at 10pm on FX.

Hope You Need My Love, Babe, Just Like I Need You
Other noteworthy viewing options from the next seven days…

*ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and a ton of cable networks will all air Stand Up to Cancer tonight at 8pm, a commercial free broadcast to raise money and awareness for cancer research that features live musical performances plus a host of big name folks answering phones and taking pledges.

*Monday is reality competition show finale night, with Bachelor Pad (8pm, ABC), Hell's Kitchen (8pm, Fox), and MasterChef (9pm, Fox) all crowning new champions.

*Survivor fans will want to check out the one hour Survivor: Philippines Preview Monday at 9pm on TVGuide Network, with interviews with all 18 contestants plus a sneak peak at the season premiere.

*Criminal Defense (Tuesday, 10pm) is a new reality series from Nat Geo where Brooklyn legal aides do their best to get their clients off.

*America's Got Talent has a big week; the final six acts perform Wednesday at 9pm, with the winner announced in a two hour outing the next night.

*Damages ends its five season run Wednesday at 9pm on DirecTV's Audience Network.

*Family Guns is a new reality series from Nat Geo about a father and son team who work together to restore antique guns.

*The Real Housewives craze shows no signs of slowing down, much to my surprise/chagrin; the new season of the Miami edition debuts Thursday at 9pm on Bravo.

Two Tivos To Paradise
3 Days to Open with Bobby Flay, 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, 30 Rock, After the Catch, American Idol, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Antiques Roadshow, Archer, Around the World in 80 Plate, Auction Hunters, Baby Daddy, The Big C, Boardwalk Empire, Being Human, Bent, Betty White's Off Their Rockers, Bones, Breaking Bad, Bunheads, Burn Notice, Cake Boss, Cake Boss: Next Great Baker, Chopped, Comic Book Men, Community, Cougar Town, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Deadliest Catch, Destination Truth, Don't Trust the B- in Apt 23, Fact or Faked, Falling Skies, Fairly Legal, Family Guy, Fast Food Mania, Flipping Out, Food Feuds, Food Network Challenge, Food Network Star, The Franchise, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters Academy, Ghost Hunters International, Ghost Lab, Glee, Gossip Girl, Great Food Truck Race, Grey's Anatomy, Happy Endings, Haunted Highways, Haunted Treasure, Hawaii 5-0, Hell on Wheels, Hollywood Treasure, House of Lies, How I Met Your Mother, Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis, Iron Chef America, Justified, Key & Peele, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Law And Order: Special Victims Unit, Longmire, Lost Girl, Louie, Mad Men, Major Crimes, Men at Work, The Middle, Mike and Molly, Modern Family, Monster Man, Necessary Roughness, New Girl, Next Iron Chef, The Office, Outside the Lines, Parks & Recreation, Private Practice, Project Accessory, Project Runway, PSYCH, Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook Off, Raising Hope, Real Time With Bill Maher, Restaurant Impossible, Revenge, Royal Pains, Rules Of Engagement, Saturday Night Live, Shark Wranglers, Shear Genius, So You Think You Can Dance?, Sons of Anarchy, The Soup, Suits, Suburgatory, Supernatural, Texas Multi Mammas, Top Chef, Top Chef Just Desserts, Top Chef: Masters, Top Design, Tosh.0, True Blood, Up All Night, The Vampire Diaries, The Voice, The Walking Dead, Warehouse 13, Wilfred, Worst Cooks In America,

People Love You When They Know You're Leaving Soon
Here ends another Two Tivos To Paradise.

We'll be back next week with a big Emmy preview, a guide to the week in season/series premieres plus all the headlines from the last seven days!

Sources for this week's column include Daily Variety, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, and Hollywood Reporter (plus the web sites for those publications) as well as Aintit.cool.com, TVline.com & Deadline.com.


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