Fargo vs. True Detective

September 16, 2014 Arthur Tiersky

What will be the water cooler topic of the coming years? If you work in my office, then Fantasy Football is, as always, the obvious answer. (Seriously, people, if it’s such a great sport, why do you need to gin it up with fantasies? But I digress.) In terms of episodic TV, the pickings are growing steadily slimmer, with Breaking Bad a brilliant but fading memory, Mad Men with but a half-season remaining, and Game of Thrones already starting to show its age, with many disappointed by this past season and (quite justifiably) concerned about the coming Hodor-less one. […]

Breaking Bad vs. The Sopranos

September 7, 2014 Bryce Zabel

Critics and audiences seem to agree in large numbers that the greatest continuing one-hour series ever to air on American television is either the recently departed masterwork Breaking Bad or the groundbreaking show that aired in the previous decade, The Sopranos. Both are gruelingly suspenseful and violent neo-noir crime stories interwoven with searing family drama, intense action and bizarre black comedy. Between them they’ve garnered numerous Emmy awards for their incredible casts, directors and writers. […]

Awake (NBC) -vs- Fringe (Fox)

April 30, 2012 Mark Sanchez

It’s the lucky ones among us who get the luxury of a “do over,” a chance to take the road less traveled. Poet Robert Frost isn’t the first person to actively wonder what lies on the other side of the life we’ve made. A pair of admired TV programs work that street of possibilities, although maybe not for long.

Let’s touch on the newer and more endangered series first. NBC announced Awake as a mid-season replacement for 2012. This is a cop show with a twist that marks it as a fresh entry in a tired, overplayed genre. Propelled by advance hosannas at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards, the series premiered on March 1 to more than six million viewers, but despite the healthy start, low ratings may put Awake to sleep before it gets a shot at Season 2. […]

Mike’s Turn: “I Just Don’t Get This ‘Mad Men’ Thing”

March 27, 2012 Movie Smackdown

I saw the scene where Jessica Pare sang Zoo-be-zoo-be-do or whatever that song was in the Season Five two-hour that everybody’s talking about. Sure, she looked straight-up awesome cleaning Draper’s apartment in her little black panties, but is that enough to make people watch a show? (By the way, this is not sour grapes. I love Jonny Hamm, and he deserves all the action he gets, both onscreen and off. We former bartenders always stick together — which is why he even helped me get my SAG card, thank you, Hamm-bone, and CSI Miami!) […]

Breaking Bad (AMC) -vs- Weeds (Showtime)

March 25, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

When tragedy strikes, what’s a mild-mannered suburban parent to do to support the family but dive headfirst into the illegal drug business? That’s the question posed by two controversial and critically lauded TV series, Showtime’s long-running, half-serious comedy Weeds, and AMC’s hour-long, half-funny drama Breaking Bad, whose legion of fans currently awaits its fifth and presumably final season. […]

The Walking Dead (AMC) vs. Falling Skies (TNT)

March 7, 2012 Bryce Zabel

There’s just something about ragtag teams of extended families trying to get by after an apocalypse. It feels like a particularly American fantasy — that when the chips are down, we’ll all put aside our petty differences, realize what’s truly important and come together to kick some ass, whether it be Nazi or Commie or even alien or zombie. The point is that our melting pot really doesn’t get cooking until the heat is applied and the burner’s on high.

These two series are flagship action pieces for their respective networks — The Walking Dead came first on AMC, followed within a year by Falling Skies on TNT. The former has its second season finale this Sunday and the latter comes back this summer for its sophomore year. Both are in their prime when it comes to the life of any TV series — enough of a run to fix some early mistakes but not so much as to render the week-to-week predictable. […]

The Monkees: Image -vs- Reality

March 7, 2012 Brad Markowitz

But then again, maybe there’s another way to view The Monkees phenomenon — as a clever, self-referential parody that may have been as much of a road map to “Spinal Tap” and Sascha Baron Cohen as “A Hard Day’s Night” was to The Monkees. After all, it wasn’t just a show about a rock band. It was a show about a rock band trying to make it as a rock band. If you look closely enough, you can see little, veiled digs at the music industry’s shallowness, the glam world of Hollywood, and the hypocrisy of society — all artfully buried in the silly, comedic plots. […]

Dark Skies vs. Dark Skies

March 1, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Our “Dark Skies” has established itself in the minds of a significant number of science fiction fans as a gripping piece of conspiracy drama set in the world of UFOs and abductions. It anchored NBC’s Saturday night “Thrillogy” concept in the 1996 season premiere and starred Eric Close (“Nashville”) and the late film character actor J.T. Walsh (“Sling Blade”). Its main title design won the Emmy award and its pilot screenplay received a Writers Guild nomination. The Syfy Channel aired the entire series multiple times. Since 2010 there’s been a Facebook page where thousands of fans from many different countries push Sony for a TV revival. […]

Smacked Around Emmys

September 20, 2011 Bryce Zabel

An awards show is really the ultimate Smackdown, I guess, given that there are clearly established winners and losers. Except that it’s not politically correct to use those words anymore. Notice that the when the envelope is opened the phrase is “And the Emmy goes to…” and not “The winner is…” Oh, presenters still slip from time-to-time and admit the truth but they are discouraged from this, believe me.

As the former Chairman/CEO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (including the 9/11 Emmy postponements of 2001), my wife Jackie and I go to the Emmys every year. I could certainly “cover” them or “review” them like the hundreds of other news organizations but, really, I’m just a guy with a camera standing on the Red Carpet and if you put me up against the massive armies deployed by Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Extra, The Insider, CNN, People, and everyone else, that’s not even a Smackdown, that’s a wipeout. […]

Hollywood in Wartime: Remembering the 2001 Emmy® Awards

September 4, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Since the Emmy Awards came into existence in 1949, they had never been postponed or canceled until 2001. In that year it happened twice.

I was elected Chairman/CEO of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in August 2001, almost a month to the day before 9/11. The Emmy broadcast was scheduled for September 16 of that year. Five days from the worst act of terrorism in history to a walk down the red carpet with Hollywood celebs was simply impossible to imagine.

As everyone re-plays the “Where were you?” moment that the horrific events became for all of us, my own memories combine the moral outrage at such a hideous act of mass murder with the POV of show business struggling to cope with this new reality of terrorism. It was a terrible time for the nation, one that I still think about often, and the most challenging professional moment in my career. […]

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