Fox

Fox’s ‘Backstrom’ Is Another Lazy Procedural About an Unlikable Genius Antihero

Backstrom is so similar to House that comparisons between them are unavoidable. Both Fox shows revolve around an obnoxious and irascible male protagonist prone to making racist and sexist remarks, who get off on being offensive for the sake of being offensive, and who often alienate those who are dumb enough to try to help them. Dr. House and Detective Backstrom are characters who we are supposed to love to hate, and who we must root for simply because they are good at their jobs. Yes, they are assholes but they are brilliant assholes. They solve unsolvable cases — police cases, medical cases — and that makes up for them being terrible people. But what was once fun about House became tired toward the end of the medical drama’s run. With Backstrom, it is exhausting before the series even gets going. … Read More

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The 50 Most Surreal Premises in Reality-TV History

Reality TV now walks a fine between being weirdly complicated and utterly basic — yesterday, on Discovery Life, for example, 50 Ways to Kill Your Mother and Outrageous Births: Tales From the Crib debuted! And just last weekend, you’ll recall, it was My Husband’s Not Gaythe show about Mormons keeping their marriages together despite the male component being, er, “not gay.” With spinoffs of spinoffs and ripoffs of ripoffs, no matter how many syllables it takes to describe a new subculture a show’s seeming to invent or the byzantine rules the show’s imposing, as long as reality TV focuses on “real people” but eschews their real problems, which it notoriously does, it remains nauseatingly simple. Because sometimes it’s not even what’s being portrayed, so much as the exploitative way it’s portrayed, that leaves you with the dizzied sense of living in a reality that’s crumbling due to the sheer fact that such shows exist. … Read More

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‘New Girl’ Season 4 Episode 13 Recap: “Coming Out”

Like most other single-camera, niche-audience TV comedies in this age of the serialized drama, New Girl‘s challenge is to make every episode laugh-out-loud funny while also advancing the multiple season-long storylines that ensure the growth of its characters and the progression of their relationships. Whereas Seinfeld and Friends could thread two dozen self-contained 22-minute stories together with little more than a few in-jokes or one on-again-off-again romance (you know which one I mean), now we expect every major player to have his or her own compelling trajectory. (Imagine if we’d demanded that of Kramer!) And while New Girl often does a great job seamlessly integrating character development and big laughs, last night’s episode was almost entirely devoted to the former — and forgot to give us almost any of the latter. … Read More

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Fox’s ‘Empire’ Is an Addictive, Shakespearean Soap Opera Set in the World of Hip Hop

Empire is a hip-hop soap opera, an updated version of King Lear focused on a rap mogul, and a family drama with musical interludes. Taken together, those elements make the Fox series, which debuts Wednesday at 9pm, the most intriguing premiere of the winter television season. Add in a few more promising elements — an exemplary cast that includes Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, and Gabourey Sidibe with future appearances by Courtney Love, Naomi Campbell, and Macy Gray; original music from Timbaland; and the writing duo of Danny Strong and Lee Daniels (who also directed the pilot) — and it seems like everything is in place for a stunning and infectious drama. The question, then, is whether all of these elements can work together, of if Empire will feel overstuffed and implode the way most soapy dramas do. … Read More

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‘MasterChef Junior’ Lost Some Magic — But Remained Adorable — in Season 2

Last night, MasterChef Junior aired the finale of its too-short, seven-episode second season. MasterChef Junior is the most joyous reality show currently on television, a weekly treat in which viewers get to watch tiny and adorable wunderkind chefs create extravagant dishes worthy of a five-star restaurant. The first season was nothing less than spectacular, a surprising entry into the cooking competition genre that won over everyone who watched it — even those who aren’t big fans of cooking shows (or children). Season 2 started off strong, but seemed to lose a bit of its magic along the way. … Read More

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‘New Girl’ Season 4 Episode 10 Recap: “Girl Fight”

In many ways, “Girl Fight” is indicative of just how successful the New Girl writers have made this show during these past four seasons. It’s an episode that only works because of what we previously know about the characters but also because of what we like about the characters. Watching Jess and Cece fight would be just plain weird if we weren’t at least somewhat enamored of their friendship but because we are, that makes “Girl Fight” one of the better episodes this season. … Read More

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‘New Girl’ Season 4 Episode 8 Recap: “Teachers”

First things first: If, prior to watching this episode, someone said that “Teachers” would feature a roommate who doesn’t know how to do laundry and doesn’t know how to use a ruler, who would you guess? Nick, right? Right! Instead, it’s Schmidt and Winston, respectively, and it’s two character decisions that throw me off but… Read More

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‘New Girl’ Season 4 Episode 7 Recap: “Goldmine”

By rearing back on the Nick/Jess drama that took over much of Season 3 of New Girl, Season 4 has mostly returned to form — it’s been weird as hell, sure, but it’s been goofy, funny, and emotional as well. It has also, definitely, been helped by this season’s commitment to focusing on all of the roommates instead of just our two main characters. This latter development is in play in “Goldmine” as Winston, Coach, Cece, and Schmidt all get fun little storylines but the former has taken a step back with a A-plot that’s a little too focused on Nick and Jess. … Read More

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