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Two Tivos To Paradise 12.06.13: The Blacklist, Sons of Anarchy, The Simpsons, The Walking Dead
Posted by Al Norton on 12.06.2013

Hello friends. I am in shock that it's less than three weeks until Christmas and less than one month until 2014. I know it's a cliché to talk about how fast time passes but as you get older – I know at 42 I am significantly older than most of my readers – and especially once you have kids, it really seems like blinks = months.

A big giveaway this week – season 16 of The Simpsons on Blu—ray!!! Along with all 21 episodes you get a ton of extras, including deleted scenes, audio commentaries, and Easter Eggs. Guest voices for that season included Fantasia Barrino, Jason Bateman, Gary Busey, James Caan, Stephen Hawking, Eric Idle, Jane Kaczmarek, Lucy Liu, Liam Neeson, Amy Poehler, Ray Romano and plenty more! Go to our Facebook page (Al Norton's Two Tivos To Paradise), click "like" if you have not already, and then post "Best. TTTP. Ever." on our wall and you'll be entered to win. Standard rules apply – one entry per person, must have US or Canadian mailing address. We'll pick a winner at random on Monday night so good luck!

AMC's newest scripted drama Turn premieres next spring…

And here's the first ad for NBC's upcoming Chicago Police

Thanks for the joy you've given me, I want you to know I believe in your news.

I See The Girls Walk By Dressed In Their Summer Clothes, I Have To Turn My Head Until My Darkness Goes
NBC has picked up a 22 episode second season of The Blacklist. The action/drama is the #1 scripted show on the broadcast networks in the demos and is NBC's most watched freshman drama series since 1994. The show is also a beast when it comes to DVR viewership, with the largest total audience and demo gain average of any show on TV, holding the top three spots on the all-time list of single episode viewership gains in both Live + 3 Day and Live + 7 Day.

Think about that for a second; that means on TV right now (and by right now I mean current series, including those on hiatus) you've got The Walking Dead as the #1 drama in the demos, and second to that on all of TV is The Blacklist, and that doesn't factor in that, as stated, the show has the largest DVR audience on all of TV. Some of this can be credited to the show being good, some of it that it had a fantastic trailer, some of it is simply the genius that is James Spader, but there's also no doubt that this proves that the blind audition rounds of The Voice are the best lead-in on all of television. They helped launch Revolution last season, which was a massive hit until NBC shot themselves in the foot by pulling it off the air for three months, and now The Blacklist. If NBC is smart they will move The Blacklist to a new night next fall – Thursdays would seem to be their best shot at reclaiming that night's glory if that was their goal, and then use the Mondays at 10pm to launch a new series, with the idea being that that slot essentially guarantees them a new hit every fall (assuming some basic level of quality, of course).

Last week's episode was easily the best so far, with James Spader giving perhaps the best dramatic performance on network TV so far this season; those last 15 minutes were TENSE. I also loved that Keen did something that characters in TV shows/movies almost never do (and it drives me crazy when they don't) - the outnumbered/outgunned good guys take out a bad guy or two and yet don't grab their weapons to help the cause, but in this instance she did just that and it sold the authenticity. Also, considering how I voiced my frustration at her being portrayed as such a victim in the first few weeks, it's only fair that I acknowledge she's know kicking ass and also asking the right questions.

There was really no way this week's episode wasn't going to be a letdown after how incredible the previous hour had been so I wasn't particularly disappointed - there was some good action, and anything that puts Alan Alda on my screen (as a heavy!!!) is worth watching - but I also wasn't crazy about the introduction of another big mystery plot line (what is it that Red has and who is this group that Alda's character is fronting?) when we already have others floating around (what is Red's relationship with Keen?, what's the deal with Keen's husband?). Plus I am just not a big fan of the whole "group of powerful business people who secretly control the world's finances" conspiracy story that way too many show fall back on. An entertaining hour, don't get me wrong, but I much prefer character development to plot twists, so this week was more standard than stand out.

You Wait For A Silence, I Wait For A Word, Lying Next To Your Frame, Girl Unobserved
The nominations for the 2014 Writer's Guild Awards were announced on Thursday, with a nice mix of new shows and returning favorites as well as the recognition of the many ways in which content is now delivered…

Best Drama Series – Breaking Bad, The Good Wife, Homeland, House of Cards, Mad Men

Best Comedy Series – 30 Rock, Modern Family, Orange is the new Black, Parks and Recreation, VEEP

Best New Series – The Americans, House of Cards, Masters of Sex, Orange is the New Black, Ray Donovan

Best Individual Episode, Drama – Buried, Breaking Bad; Confessions, Breaking Bad; Episode 101, House of Cards; Granite State, Breaking Bad; Hitting the Fan, The Good Wife; Pilot, Masters of Sex

Best Individual Episode, Comedy – Career Day, Modern Family; Farm Strong, Modern Family; Hogcock, 30 Rock; Lesbian Request Denied, Orange is the New Black; Leslie and Ben, Parks and Recreation; Pilot, Orange is the New Black

Best Individual Episode, Animation – A Test Before Trying, The Simpsons; Game of Tones, Futurama; Hardly Kirk-ing, The Simpsons; Murder on the Planet Express, Futurama; Saturday Morning Fun Pit, Futurama, Yolo, The Simpsons

My initial reaction is to ask where the hell any recognition for Archer is as well as pointing out that the season finale of Mad Men had a brilliant script, as did multiple episodes of Ray Donovan. Happy that Parks and Recreation got some notice, a rarity for awards season.

How Fickle My Heart And How Woozy My Eyes, I Struggle To Find Any Truth In Your Lies
The current, and most likely penultimate, season of Sons of Anarchy comes to a close with a two hour episode this Tuesday night, one that history tells us will zig where we expect it to zag.

There really isn't a news item here but when one of the best shows, especially one known for fantastic finales, is set to wrap up a season, it's certainly worth noting. The current Sons run did not get off to the best of starts but I should have known better than to doubt Kurt Sutter; while I wasn't pulled into the intricate plans laid out by the key players this season, the emotional pull of the show was as strong as ever and understanding the characters motivations went a long way towards buying into the story.

I've praised Dayton Callie as one of the most underrated actors on TV and in some ways his Unser has become the eyes and voice of the audience, asking the sort of questions we might if we were in the middle of all chaos but with the wisdom of someone familiar with the life. Jimmy Smits will never get an Emmy nomination (which would be the TWELFTH of this career) for Sons of Anarchy because no one ever gets nominated for Sons of Anarchy but I'd put his work as Nero Padilla right up there with his previous roles as Victor Sifuentes, Bobby Simone, Matt Santos, and Alex Vega. Smits is an actor's actor and continues to add to his TV Hall of Fame career, which is now approaching 30 years.

Will Nero make it out of the finale alive? Will Juice? Will Tara? Can we end a season without someone being arrested/going to jail? One of the reasons I love Sons so much is that it's one of the few shows where I truly have no idea what's going to happen and as a veteran - and jaded - TV viewer, I find that experience to be exhilarating.

It's Time To Play The Music, It's Time To Light The Lights
The Muppets video of the week…

But You Were Up To Your Old Tricks In Chapters Four Five And Six
Ratings Notes From The Last Seven Days…

Lady Gaga and The Muppets Holiday Spectacular did not set the ratings world on fire Thursday night, losing 30% of the total audience and 40% of the demos from Charlie Brown Thanksgiving that aired at 8pm. Some of that is ABC's fault for putting a Modern Family rerun in between the two but some of it is that perhaps the bloom is somewhat off the Gaga rose; EW.com points out that her Thanksgiving night special two years ago performed 78% better in the demos. As another point of reference, Gaga and the Muppets only tied Thursday night's airing of Glee, which was a series low....NBC's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was up 17% to an eleven year high...In another measure of how disappointing the Lady Gaga & The Muppets special was, it was down 25% from last year's excellent documentary about the making of Michael Jackson's Bad (directed by Spike Lee)...NBC's football easily won the night…

CBS' Garth Brooks Vegas concert special easily won the night in totals and demos...ABC's pairing of The Grinch & Shrek the Halls was down from last year but still won 8pm...Raising Hope was down 25%...Nikita was up modestly in total viewers while matching last week's demos...

As expected, The Walking Dead put up some massive numbers, with total viewers (12.1 million) and demos that were a series high for a mid-season finale. Overall the first half of season for was up 29% from the first half of season three and the AMC series remains # 1 on all of TV for non-NFL programming in the demos…NFL overruns may be inflating the numbers a bit but as of the preliminary numbers, Amazing Race hit a season high in total viewers (+30%) as well as enjoying a sizable demo increase, while The Good Wife seems to have jumped 20+% in the demos as well...The Mentalist, which didn't start until 11pm, was down...Sunday Night Football won the night in total and demos for the broadcast networks, down in a big way from last week's Pats - Broncos matchup...Once Upon a Time matched last week's series low...

The Blacklist was up double digits in total and demos to its best numbers since the series premiere, easily topping the night in both measures for a scripted series and dominating 10pm in both against all competition...Almost Human was down in totals and demos for the second week in a row, finishing fourth in the latter at 8pm...Charlie Brown Christmas was down double digits from last year...HIMYM and 2 Broke Girls were up in total viewers...Mike & Molly and Mom were down slightly in totals and demos...Hostages was down 20% in total viewers but matched last week's (low) demos...

The Originals hit a season/series high in total viewers while tying last week's season/series high in the demos, with lead out Supernatural posting their highest total viewer number since the season premiere and tying a demo season high - this was the networks most watched Tuesday night in five years...The Voice was up in totals and demos, winning the night in both...Chicago Fire was up in totals and demos, winning 10pm in the latter...Dads and Brooklyn Nine Nine were up in the demos...The Goldbergs dropped to a series low while Trophy Wife was down a smidge as well...

Arrow was up 19% in viewers to a season high (the most since February, actually) and was up in the demos as well (second highest number in that measure this fall)...Tomorrow People had modest gains in total viewers and demos...All of ABC's comedies were down, with Modern Family still winning the night in the demos...The Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting on NBC won 8pm in totals and demos...The X Factor was up in totals and demos...The second hour of the SNL Christmas Special won 10pm in totals and demos (with ease)...

All The Young Dudes, Carry The News
Industry News, Notes, and Hot Rumors…Mark your calendars now - the Veronica Mars movie (titled Veronica Mars) opens on March 14, 2014, and writer/director Rob Thomas tells EW.com that Warner Bros. is going with a larger launch than was originally planned (likely because of the overwhelming response to the project's Kickstarter campaign earlier this year)…Eli Roth is part of group developing a mini-series for History about the life of Jesus Christ from age 13 to 30, of which there is very little known/written. This project is based on an original idea from Scott Kosar (The Machinist, the remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre & Amityville Horror) that he worked on with Roth and Eric Newman (The Last Exorcism) and it's rumored to be focused on the idea that Jesus spent time as an exorcist…Syfy has officially ordered a first season of Dominion, an adaptation of the 2010 movie Legion. The show is set 25 years in the future as the world deals with the fallout from a war between earth and an army of angels, with the focus being on a soldier who finds he might be the key to peace and the survival of the human race. Chris Egan (Kings) is the lead and the cast also includes Anthony Stewart Head, Alan Dale (OUAT, Lost), Roxanne McKee (Game of Thrones), and Tom Wisdom (300). Scott Stewart, who directed and co-wrote Legion, will direct the pilot and serve as an executive producer. Look for the show in 2014…While The CW is still a distant fifth on the whole, it is making strides; for November sweeps it was the ONLY network up in the demos (+9%) and total viewers (4%), plus it was up 1% in their target 18-34 demo...TTTP fave Tim Daly has signed on for multiple episodes of TV Land's Hot in Cleveland, playing a recent contestant on The Biggest Loser (he dropped three bills) who works with Jane Leeves' Joy but is attracted to Valerie Bertinelli's Melanie (much to the former's chagrin). While Daly has been doing fine dramatic work for many years, his first big TV role was on the NBC comedy Wings… Victor Garber will play Ichabod Crane's Dad in at least one (flashback) episode of Sleepy Hollow this season…NBC is looking to stay in the monster game; the network has re-teamed with Dracula executive producer Daniel Knauf to develop an adaptation of the 2010 movie The Wolfman (which was a remake of the classic 1941 movie). NBC could be trying to put together a supernatural themed Friday night, anchored by their current hit series Grimm…Sam Champion is leaving Good Morning America as of Wednesday to become the host of a new morning show on The Weather Channel that will launch early next year... Me-TV will start airing reruns of the classic superhero series Wonder Woman on Saturday nights at 8pm as of 12/28…ABC Family is clearly VERY high on their new scripted drama series Chasing Life; the network has already picked up the back 7 episodes even though they haven't scheduled the series premiere yet. The show is an adaptation of a Mexican series and follows a young woman juggling her budding career and helping her family (her Mom, grandmother, and teenage sister) who finds out she has cancer. Aaron Kaplan (Terra Nova, GCB, The Neighbors, Back in the Game) is producing; his Instant Mom was just picked up for a second season by Nickelodeon…Netflix has partnered with DreamWorks Animation for Turbo FAST, a spinoff series from this summer's big screen movie Turbo featuring all the main characters (Turbo, Whiplash, Burn, Smoove Move, White Shadow, Skidmark and Chet). The first five episodes will be available on Christmas Eve (12:01 am on 12/24), with more episodes set for 2014…The HUGELY talented Eddie Izzard, most recently seen on Hannibal, has signed a one year development deal with NBC with the goal of putting him in the lead of a new show for next fall…BBC One has cancelled Ripper Street after a two season run. Season two is still set to air on BBC America in the first quarter of 2014…Constance Zimmer continues to be one of the most in-demand guest stars on all of TV; this year she had extended runs on Grey's Anatomy, Newsroom, and House of Cards, and her dance card is still full as she has signed on for multiple episodes of NBC's upcoming comedy Growing Up Fisher (VERY funny and charming pilot) plus she's guest star in the USA pilot Complications in a role that will become recurring if the show gets picked up…Showtime has renewed the Norty Award winning series Inside Comedy, with the third season premiering in February, with the guest list set to sit down with David Steinberg including Jimmy Fallon, Zach Galifianakas, Jonah Hill, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bette Midler, Adam Arkin, Dick Van Dyke, and Richard Belzer... Chris Elliott will guest on Community later this winter, playing the founder of Greendale Community College who hasn't been seen since a decades ago sex scandal. Elliott joins a list of guest stars for the NBC comedy's upcoming fifth season that includes Walton Goggins, Nathan Fillion, Vince Gilligan, Jonathan Banks, John Oliver, Mitch Hurwitz, David Cross, and Robert Patrick…John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood, Shaft) is writing and directing Club Life: Miami, a new drama in development at HBO that counts Russell Simmons among its executive producers. The story would follow a criminal who has turned his life around and finds success - and temptation - living in South Beach…Lance Reddick (Fringe, Lost, The Wire) will do multiple episodes of American Horror Story: Coven as Papa Legba, known in the world of voodoo as the gatekeeper between the living and the spirit world…

Turns Out Not Where But Who You're With That Really Matters
AKA The Best Thing I've Watched In The Last Seven Days…
Saturday was one for the history books, with the single most incredible ending of a sporting event I've ever watched live (as in not as part of a highlight package) that was part of a day with multiple incredible endings…

In a year with more last minute turns of fate in the world of sports, especially for a Boston fan, Saturday was the icing on the cake.

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…REALLY enjoying the freshman run of Restaurant Express. First off, Robert Irvine's criticisms are tough but very fair and he seems to genuinely want all the contestants to do well. Secondly, it's got a key component that I look for in all competition shows, a cool prize that would be tough to get otherwise (in this instance, the winner gets their own restaurant at a new Vegas hotel). And thirdly, the contestants are not the type we typically see, with the two front runners - Adam and Seonkyoung - being distinct and interesting talents that don't fit any sort of reality show mold. If one of the two of them wins, and frankly any other result would be both shocking and also just plain wrong, Food Network should start the cameras rolling immediately as I would totally watch a show about either of them trying to launch their new restaurant…A reasonable funny How I Met Your Mother this week; I mean, how can anything featuring Alan Thicke singing a Crash Test Dummies song with modified lyrics to reflect Barney & Robin's relationship history not be worth your 22 minutes, right?... So essentially The Mentalist went from being highly derivative of one USA series (Psych) to being highly derivative of another USA series (White Collar)... The last two MHomelands have easily been the best of the season, with a reminder of how amazing an actor Damian Lewis is and how incredible his scenes with Claire Danes are; I'd love to see the two of them pair up outside of Homeland, maybe to do some long lost Nora Ephron script or a remake of Same Time, Next Year. Meanwhile, I am not sure any actor in a supporting role is having a better season than Mandy Patinkin…One of the MANY things I love about Raising Hope is that the characters watch television. I know this seems like a pedestrian thing but most TV characters seem to be way too busy for such things and really, who do you know that doesn't watch some TV?!?! The Chance Family is as influenced by pop culture as you and me; witness last night's court case, which included a glorious amount of Law & Order references plus Burt trying the classic "throwing the briefcase" trick…Last week's Restaurant Impossible that took place at the Georgia Boy Cafe was remarkable in multiple ways - the incredible physical transformation of the restaurant, host Robert Irvine's emotional investment in the episode (a notch or two higher than usual, for sure), and the fact that we live in a time where an episode featuring a gay African-American couple on a prominent cable network drew nary a notice. Our country's social issues are still a long way from being solved but let's not fail to appreciate that 5-10 years ago that episode gets talked/complained about a lot, and not that much further back and maybe Food Network doesn't even choose the restaurant to be featured. Yes, there were still some hateful comments on FoodNetwork.com but it's the internet, where anonymity makes people brave/loud, so that didn't stop me from appreciating the lack of a big to-do. Fitting that I watched on Thanksgiving night, for sure…I'm fully caught up on Nashville and will sing a familiar tune for regular readers; I continue to be so very impressed with the work on Jonathan Jackson, whose character Avery is far and away my favorite on the show. The writers and Jackson have combined for a wonderful slow building maturation for the character, who we met as his ego trip began and have seem him come crashing back to earth before finally finding his footing and becoming comfortable in his own skin. If I gave a Norty Award for most natural performance (as in the one that seems the least like acting and most like a real person), Jackson would be smart to ready an acceptance speech…Watching this week's Major Crimes I was struck by two Esai Morales related thoughts; first, when I saw La Bamba back in 1987 I certainly didn't think 25 years later he'd be one of my favorite TV character actors and second, how is it that a show hasn't been smart enough to add him to their cast?!?!?! - he can convey toughness, intelligence, vulnerability, and he's more than a little easy on the eyes. Pilot season is coming up and I have my fingers crossed!

TV Pick Of The Week
It's not often – or EVER – that you see a project getting the push that the two part, four hour mini-series Bonnie & Clyde is, televised on THREE different channels (Lifetime, A & E, History) at once in an epic feat of corporate synergy.

Don't miss Bonnie & Clyde, Sunday and Monday at 9pm on A&E, Lifetime, and History.

Hope You Need My Love, Babe, Just Like I Need You
Other noteworthy programming from the coming week…

*Fox airs the Big Ten Football Championship Saturday at 8pm.

*We Are Marshall (Saturday, 8pm, AMC) is a HIGHLY underrated movie featuring some great performances and a true story that is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes.

*The TWENTY THIRD cycle of Amazing Race comes to an end this Sunday at 8pm on CBS.

*The Sing Off returns Monday at 9pm on NBC…

*Six by Sondheim (Monday, 9pm, HBO is a documentary about the life of the famed composer told through interviews as well as his songs....

*Melissa & Joey (8pm) and Baby Daddy (8:30pm) are back for holiday themed episodes this Wednesday on ABC Family.

*Just because you haven't watched TV Land's The Exes, back for a new season this Wednesday at 10:30pm doesn't mean it's not funny or that it's too late to jump in…

Two Tivos To Paradise
3 Days to Open with Bobby Flay, 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, @Midnight, After the Catch, American Idol, Antiques Roadshow, Archer, Arrow, Around the World in 80 Plates, Auction Hunters, Baby Daddy, Back in the Game, Boardwalk Empire, Being Human, Bones, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Burger Land, Cake Boss, Cake Boss: Next Great Baker, Chicago Fire, Chopped, Comic Book Men, Community, Cougar Town, Counting Cars, The Crazy Ones, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Dancing with the Stars, The Deadliest Catch, Deon Cole's Black Box, Destination Truth, Fact or Faked, Falling Skies, Family Guy, Feed the Beast, Flipping Out, Food Network Challenge, Food Network Star, The Fosters, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Lab, Ghost Mine, Glee, Graceland, Great Food Truck Race, Grey's Anatomy, Haunted Collector. Haunted Highways, Haunted Treasure, Hawaii 5-0, Hollywood Treasure, Hostages, House of Lies, How I Met Your Mother, Inside Comedy with David Steinberg, Inside Amy Schumer, Iron Chef America, The Jeselnik Offensive, Justified, Key & Peele, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Law And Order: Special Victims Unit, The League, Longmire, Lost Girl, Louie, Mad Men, Major Crimes, Men at Work, The Michael J Fox Show, The Middle, Mike and Molly, The Mindy Project, Modern Family, Monster Man, Nashville, Necessary Roughness, New Girl, The New Normal, Next Iron Chef, The Originals, Outside the Lines, Parks & Recreation, Project Runway, Psych, Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook Off, Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook Off, Raising Hope, Ray Donovan, Real Time With Bill Maher, Rectify, Restaurant Impossible, Revenge, Revolution, Royal Pains, Rules Of Engagement, Saturday Night Live, Shark Wranglers, So You Think You Can Dance?, Sons of Anarchy, The Soup, Suits, Suburgatory, Supernatural, Top Chef, Top Chef Just Desserts, Top Chef: Masters, Tosh.0, Trophy Wife, The Vampire Diaries, The Voice, The Walking Dead, Warehouse 13, 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 in seven days with all the latest in TV news, including next Thursday's SAG Award nominations.

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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